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C&EN’s Global Top 50 chemical companies of 2016

Strong chemical industry performance continues as profits rise despite declining sales

by Alexander H. Tullo
July 24, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 30



To read the current Global Top 50 Chemical Companies article, please click here

If C&EN’s annual ranking of the Global Top 50 chemical companies is any indication, the industry remains strong. The industry repeated the same unusual pattern in 2016, the year on which the survey is based, as it did in 2015. Sales declined, yet profits rose.

Click here for an interactive look at the Global Top 50 with complete data going back to 2007. Be sure to also check out our US Top 50 information presented in the same interactive format.

Combined sales for the chemical businesses of the 50 companies fell 4.4% in 2016 to $744.3 billion. Sales shrank for 38 of the companies.

Credit: Shutterstock/C&EN
Click here for a PDF download of the full Global Top 50 story
A graphic that reads "Global Top 50."
Credit: Shutterstock/C&EN
Click here for a PDF download of the full Global Top 50 story

However, for the 47 companies that post earnings figures, combined profits increased 2.6%, to $98.2 billion over the same period. Only 17 of these firms posted earnings decreases, and no company suffered a loss. It appears that for chemical companies, which are in business to make money, 2016 wasn’t such a bad year.

The pattern was even more pronounced in 2015, when sales dropped 10.8% while profits increased 15.1%. Declining prices for oil, a key input, plus a strong economy explain the results for both years.

Few structural changes are evident in this year’s survey. Two firms, Honeywell and PotashCorp, slipped from the ranking. Honeywell left because it spun off much of its chemical business. PotashCorp is gone because of declining sales.

Joining C&EN’s Global Top 50 are Tosoh and Clariant.

Next year’s ranking should see bigger changes. Notably, Dow Chemical and DuPont are set to become DowDuPont next month, leaving an empty slot near the top.



2016 Chemical Sales: $60.7 billion

BASF is once again the largest chemical company in the world. But Dow Chemical and DuPont expect to merge next month. With combined 2016 sales of nearly $68 billion, the merged firms will likely edge out the German chemical giant. BASF’s management doesn’t seem to feel pressured to react. Last year’s $3.2 billion purchase of the Chemetall metal surfaces business from Albemarle wasn’t small change, but it was no blockbuster deal either. Last November, BASF Chief Executive Officer Kurt Bock told a small gathering of reporters he didn’t want to make acquisitions merely for the sake of getting bigger. Indeed, Bock has been discriminating. Analysts had expected BASF to buy agricultural businesses that are divested so that the big mergers—such as Dow/DuPont and Bayer/Monsanto—can pass regulatory hurdles. But the company passed on picking up the large piece of DuPont’s agrochemicals unit that ultimately went to FMC.

Credit: BASF
A worker at a BASF-Sinopec joint venture in Nanjing, China.
A photo of a worker at a BASF joint venture in China stopping his bicycle to answer the phone.
Credit: BASF
A worker at a BASF-Sinopec joint venture in Nanjing, China.

2 Dow Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $48.2 billion

Dow Chemical’s merger with DuPont has been cleared by antitrust authorities around the world, and DowDuPont will soon be a reality. But the new firm will occupy a top slot in future C&EN rankings for only a year or so. DowDuPont will split into three separate firms—in agricultural chemicals, specialty products, and material science—18 months after the merger is complete. Meanwhile, an old Dow antagonist, activist investor Daniel S. Loeb, has resurfaced. His hedge fund, Third Point, has picked apart the DowDuPont split-up scheme. Some of its critiques are minor. For instance, it says Dow’s food ingredients business should dovetail with DuPont’s food-related business in the specialty products firm instead of going to the material science company. Others are bigger. Loeb thinks silicones, the old Dow Corning business earmarked for the material science firm, would be better off in specialty products. Third Point opines that the specialty products company could eventually be broken into four stand-alone firms making silicones, electronic materials, nutritional ingredients, and specialty materials. After the prodding, Dow and DuPont hired the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to give the breakup plan a second look.

3 Sinopec

2016 Chemical Sales: $42.8 billion

Sinopec had a great 2016. The Chinese firm bucked a petrochemical industry trend of declining sales with a modest boost in revenue. Profits also improved. Sinopec has meanwhile been making strategic moves. It is buying BP’s 50% interest in Shanghai Secco Petrochemical, a joint venture ethylene complex the two firms completed in 2005 at a cost of $3 billion. Sinopec also signed deals with Saudi Aramco and SABIC to study projects in China and Saudi Arabia. Sinopec may develop a coal-to-chemicals project with Aramco and expand a joint venture with SABIC in Tianjin, China.


2016 Chemical Sales: $31.0 billion

The biggest recent developments for SABIC are outside its home country of Saudi Arabia. In what would be its first major U.S. petrochemical project, the company is studying whether to build an ethylene cracker with partner ExxonMobil near Corpus Christi, Texas. The site would see an estimated $10 billion investment from the firms that includes a 1.8 million-metric-ton-per-year ethylene cracker, billed as the world’s largest. It would also have ethylene glycol and polyethylene plants. The plan faces opposition from residents of Portland, Texas, who say the plants would be inappropriately situated near a residential neighborhood. SABIC is also planning a coal-to-chemicals facility in China with the Chinese coal firm Shenhua.

5 Formosa Plastics

2016 Chemical Sales: $27.1 billion

Formosa Plastics affiliate Formosa Petrochemical hopes to have required air pollution permits in place next year for the $9.4 billion ethylene cracker complex it is planning in Louisiana. Formosa Plastics is already building its own ethylene complex in Texas. Formosa is also investing in smaller projects closer to its home base of Taiwan. Formosa Petrochemical and Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan are building a $50 million plant in Taiwan to make hydrocarbon resins used in hot melt adhesives. Formosa’s joint venture Formosa Mitsui Advanced Chemicals is expanding capacity for battery electrolyte solutions in Ningbo, China.

6 ExxonMobil

2016 Chemical Sales: $26.1 billion

In a rare move for the firm, ExxonMobil inked an acquisition this spring. It is buying Jurong Aromatics, a Singapore-based p-xylene maker that declared bankruptcy in 2015. The purchase wasn’t completely out of the blue. ExxonMobil has operated refineries and petrochemical plants in Singapore for decades. Otherwise, ExxonMobil has been expanding robustly. This year, the company completed a pair of polyethylene plants in Mont Belvieu, Texas. It will soon finish a cracker in Baytown, Texas. ExxonMobil is also planning a polyethylene unit in Beaumont, Texas, and eventually, a $10 billion petrochemical joint venture with SABIC near Corpus Christi, Texas.

7 LyondellBasell Industries

2016 Chemical Sales: $24.6 billion

Credit: ExxonMobil
ExxonMobil’s new polyethylene plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas.
A photo, taken from a tailing pool’s perspective, of a new ExxonMobil polyethylene plant in Texas.
Credit: ExxonMobil
ExxonMobil’s new polyethylene plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

LyondellBasell is the rare major chemical company that isn’t building a U.S. ethylene cracker, but that isn’t stopping it from spending on new petrochemical capacity. The company’s capital expenditures topped $2 billion in 2016, a more than 50% increase from the year before. It wrapped up an expansion at its Corpus Christi, Texas, ethylene plant, the cornerstone of its plan to boost production at existing facilities quickly and at low cost. In all, the company expanded its ethylene plants by 1.1 million metric tons of production per year, a figure that is larger than the capacity of many of the crackers currently under construction on the Gulf Coast.

8 Ineos

2016 Chemical Sales: $23.5 billion

New ethylene capacity based on shale gas brings to mind gleaming crackers on the U.S. Gulf Coast. But last year Ineos started using ethane, brought in by sea, to run its ethylene plants in Grangemouth, Scotland, and Rafnes, Norway. Now, thanks to the new feedstock, the company plans on expanding those facilities by 900,000 metric tons per year. Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe points out that the amount is “the equivalent of building a new world-scale cracker in Europe.” He is also considering a propane dehydrogenation plant in Europe. The billionaire wants to bring more than just chemical manufacturing back to Europe. He plans on spending hundreds of millions of dollars to resurrect the discontinued Land Rover Defender off-road vehicle, which he would produce in the U.K.

9 Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings

2016 Chemical Sales: $23.4 billion

Mitsubishi has had a big appetite for small acquisitions over the past 12 months. The Japanese company bought out the 49% it didn’t already own in Nippon Gohsei, a producer of ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymers and polyvinyl alcohol films, for $425 million. Affiliate Mitsubishi Chemical bought the 35% of specialty chemical supplier Nippon Kasei it didn’t already have. Another affiliate, Mitsubishi Rayon, made a modest acquisition with its purchase of a carbon fiber plant in Evanston, Wyo., from Germany’s SGL.

10 DuPont

2016 Chemical Sales: $19.7 billion

DuPont’s planned merger with Dow Chemical—taken with Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto and ChemChina’s buyout of Syngenta—alarmed antitrust regulators, who felt it represented too much concentration in agricultural chemicals and seeds. The European Commission weighed in earlier this year, seeking concessions before it would bless the creation of DowDuPont. To satisfy regulators, DuPont is selling a big chunk of its pesticide business to FMC. The sale includes insecticides Rynaxypyr and Cyazypyr, which together generate $1 billion in annual sales. DuPont is also selling most of its agricultural R&D operations to FMC. DuPont is getting something in return. In addition to $1.6 billion in cash, FMC is giving DuPont its nutrition and health business. The unit, which supplies texturing agents such as carrageenan and alginates, should align well with DuPont businesses in probiotics and pectin.

11 Air Liquide

2016 Chemical Sales: $19.6 billion

Air Liquide’s acquisition last year of U.S. player Airgas helped the French industrial gas firm expand sales by 13% in a year when most chemical companies posted declines. Air Liquide is the world’s largest industrial gas firm, but probably not for long. Its chief rival, Germany’s Linde, has inked an agreement to merge with U.S.-based Praxair.

12 LG Chem

2016 Chemical Sales: $18.1 billion

LG Chem is spending $350 million to build an olefin elastomers plant at its site in Daesan, South Korea. The unit will more than triple LG’s capacity for ethylene-1-octene and ethylene-1-butene copolymers and make it a more formidable competitor in that business to giants such as Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil. Separately, last year LG Chem acquired pharmaceutical manufacturer LG Life Sciences, which has $400 million in annual sales.

13 Toray Industries

2016 Chemical Sales: $16.5 billion

Toray’s major capital investment program is its carbon fiber expansion in South Carolina, which could potentially see $1 billion in spending. But the Japanese company isn’t only about aerospace materials. It will spend more than $320 million over five years to roughly double capacity for synthetic suede at its Italian subsidiary Alcantara. It also formed a joint venture with Mitsui Sugar to use water treatment membranes to help process 15 metric tons of bagasse per day into sugar, polyphenols, and oligosaccharides at a plant in Thailand.

14 Linde

2016 Chemical Sales: $16.5 billion

In June, Linde and Praxair signed a definitive agreement to merge and become far and away the world’s largest industrial gas maker, ahead of Air Liquide. The two firms will combine for $29 billion in annual sales. However, because of the market concentrations a complete merger would cause, Linde and Praxair will probably need to make divestitures to clear antitrust hurdles. When the deal is completed in the second half of 2018, the new company will have headquarters in Ireland, not Germany or the U.S.—the respective homes of Linde and Praxair—making it the first Irish firm in C&EN’s Global Top 50.

15 AkzoNobel

2016 Chemical Sales: $15.7 billion

After walking away from an early-2017 acquisition offer from PPG Industries worth more than $28 billion, AkzoNobel’s plan now is to sell or spin off its chemical business and become a paint maker only. The business contains AkzoNobel’s chlorine chemicals, bleaching, surfactants, and polymer chemistry businesses and has annual sales of about $5 billion. Divesting it will fetch the Dutch firm between $8 billion and $12 billion, analysts say. Some shareholders are skeptical that the plan is better than selling out to PPG. The most vocal among these, hedge fund Elliott Advisors, even appealed to a Dutch court to allow a vote to remove AkzoNobel’s chairperson.

16 PPG Industries

2016 Chemical Sales: $14.3 billion

PPG provided this year’s takeover drama in chemicals. In March, it made an offer to buy Dutch paint rival AkzoNobel for $22 billion. It was rejected. PPG sweetened the bid to more than $28 billion, a 50% premium over AkzoNobel’s value in March before anyone heard of the overtures. Still, AkzoNobel management refused to negotiate. It is notoriously tough to buy Dutch firms. Many, including AkzoNobel, have a stitching, a foundation of people who hold a special class of shares and act as a fire wall against hostile takeovers. The Dutch financial market authority didn’t extend PPG’s deadline to make an offer for AkzoNobel past June 1. On that day, PPG walked away.

17 Evonik Industries

2016 Chemical Sales: $14.1 billion

Evonik has been aggressive about pursuing growth over the past year. The German company completed its $3.8 billion purchase of Air Products & Chemicals’ specialty chemical business in January. It will also soon close on its smaller purchase of J.M. Huber’s silica business. In addition to acquisitions, the company has been growing organically. For example, it recently formed a joint venture with DSM for making omega-3 fatty acids from marine algae. The partnership, called Veramaris, plans to build a plant in Blair, Neb.

Credit: Linde
Linde helium canisters.
A photo of metal canisters of Linde brand helium gas.
Credit: Linde
Linde helium canisters.

18 Reliance Industries

2016 Chemical Sales: $13.8 billion

Reliance rocketed up C&EN’s ranking from 22 to 18 this year, and it intends to get even bigger. The company upgraded its cracker in Dahej, India, to allow it to import and process cheap, shale-based ethane from the U.S. Reliance is making similar renovations to two other crackers in its home country of India. With Russia’s Sibur, Reliance is building a halogenated butyl rubber plant in Jamnagar, India. The plant will be adjacent to a butyl rubber unit the two companies are also constructing.

19 Braskem

2016 Chemical Sales: $13.7 billion

Braskem had a pretty good 2016 with a strong, 24% increase in profits on flat sales. The company is also building a polypropylene plant in La Porte, Texas. Despite the commercial success, the Brazilian firm hasn’t been able to insulate itself from corruption at home. In an investigation linked to the country’s massive “Car Wash” scandal, officials found that Braskem paid bribes to individuals in the Brazilian government. The company is on the hook to pay $1 billion in penalties to U.S., Swiss, and Brazilian authorities. Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, facing financial pressures of its own, may sell its 36% stake in Braskem.

20 Sumitomo Chemical

Credit: AkzoNobel
AkzoNobel’s headquarters building in Amsterdam.
A photo of AkzoNobel’s tower in the Amsterdam sky.
Credit: AkzoNobel
AkzoNobel’s headquarters building in Amsterdam.

2016 Chemical Sales: $13.4 billion

Sumitomo has emphasized high-tech expansions recently. The Japanese firm plans to triple its capacity at a South Korean subsidiary to make film-based touch-screen panels for organic light-emitting diode displays. Also in South Korea, it is expanding output of aramid-polyolefin separators for lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, it plans to build a plant in Chiba, Japan, to make the high-performance engineering polymer polyethersulfone.

21 Covestro

2016 Chemical Sales: $13.2 billion

Spun off from Bayer in 2015, Covestro is growing ever more independent. Last month, Bayer reduced its stake in Covestro from 53% to 45%, raising $1.2 billion. Covestro has made plenty of strategic moves on its own. In the lab, it recently demonstrated a process to make the methylene diphenyl diisocyanate raw material aniline from sugar. It is also working on a 50% capacity increase for polycarbonate in Shanghai.


22 Solvay

2016 Chemical Sales: $12.6 billion

The past six years have seen Solvay buying firms including Chemlogics, Cytec Industries, and Rhodia. However, more recently, the Belgian company has concentrated on specialties by divesting unwanted commodity chemicals businesses. In June, Solvay sold its business in acetate tow, which is used to make cigarette filters, to the private equity firm Blackstone. At the turn of the year, the company completed the sales of majority stakes in South American and Thai vinyl businesses.

23 Yara

2016 Chemical Sales: $11.6 billion

Yara has carved a niche for itself as a technological powerhouse among fertilizer makers. The Norwegian company spent $37 million on R&D in 2016, not much money for this purpose by one of the world’s largest chemical companies but still an unusual amount for a fertilizer maker. The figure is also nearly double the company’s 2015 technical budget. The spending has delivered results. Yara licensed technology to Bayer that allows farmers to determine the amount of crop nutrients they need to apply to their fields. The system involves an optical device mounted on a tractor and a smartphone app.

24 Lotte Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $11.4 billion

The chemical arm of the South Korean food and financial services conglomerate Lotte has gotten hefty through acquisitions in recent years, including Malaysia’s Titan and parts of South Korea’s Samsung SDI. However, Lotte hasn’t been able to connect on deals for the past year or so. The company tried to rescue the U.S. vinyls maker Axiall from a hostile bid by Westlake Chemical, but it failed. Lotte also made a bid for Jurong Aromatics in Singapore, but it lost out to ExxonMobil. Earlier this month, Lotte Chemical Titan raised $880 million in an initial public offering in Malaysia.

25 Mitsui Chemicals

2016 Chemical Sales: $11.2 billion

Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals may soon be participating in the U.S. shale boom. Chiba Chemicals, its joint venture with Idemitsu Kosan, is upgrading an ethylene cracker in Chiba, Japan, to allow it to process imported propane. The companies won’t say where they are getting the propane, but the U.S., which is flooding the international market with cheap shale-derived propane, is a good bet. Although the cracker upgrade isn’t yet complete, Mitsui is still doing well. Crediting higher productivity, it posted a 44% increase in earnings during its most recent fiscal year.

26 Bayer

2016 Chemical Sales: $11.0 billion

Bayer joined the agrochemical and seed merger fray last September with its $66 billion merger agreement with Monsanto. Shareholders were lukewarm in their reception. And given regulatory hurdles, Jeremy Redenius, a stock analyst at Bernstein, gave the deal only a 50% chance of completion. Since then, South African authorities have weighed in. They are telling Bayer it must divest its LibertyLink glufosinate herbicide because Monsanto sells the industry-leading Roundup glyphosate herbicide. After this indication of the concessions that will be required plus regulatory approval of the similar Dow Chemical-DuPont merger earlier this year, the odds for the deal may be improving.

27 Praxair

Credit: Covestro
Two Covestro scientists discuss polyurethane chemistry.
A photo of two Covestro scientists drawing pictures of molecules on a window.
Credit: Covestro
Two Covestro scientists discuss polyurethane chemistry.

2016 Chemical Sales: $10.5 billion

After a long journey, Praxair is merging with Linde. The journey began in August of last year, when the U.S. and German companies announced they were in merger talks. The following month, the pair walked away from the table when they couldn’t come to terms. One reported dispute was over the country in which corporate functions would be housed. Praxair and Linde resumed discussions and tentatively agreed to a deal in December. They didn’t sign a definitive agreement until last month. They now expect to clinch their transaction, which would create the world’s largest industrial gas supplier, in the second half of 2018.

28 Shin-Etsu Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $9.8 billion

Despite a decline in sales, the Japanese producer of polyvinyl chloride, silicones, and electronic materials posted a strong 10% increase in profits in its last fiscal year. The company is also investing. It will spend about $44 million to double rare-earth magnet capacity in northern Vietnam. At its flagship facility in Naoetsu, Japan, the company will lay out $23 million for a functional silicones plant. And Shin-Etsu hopes to open an ethylene plant in Louisiana next year.

29 Huntsman Corp.

2016 Chemical Sales: $9.7 billion

In the chemical industry’s most recent megamerger, Huntsman is combining with Swiss specialty chemical maker Clariant. Together, the two will have more than $13 billion in annual sales and be the world’s second-largest specialty chemical maker, behind Evonik Industries. This won’t be the first time Huntsman attempts a large specialties merger. A decade ago, Hexion agreed to purchase Huntsman, but it later backed out of the deal. Huntsman is still planning to spin off its pigments business, Venator Materials, later this year.

Credit: Yara
Yara fertilizers are used in Ghana.
A photo of a man in Ghana riding with a bag of Yara brand fertilizer on the back of his bicycle.
Credit: Yara
Yara fertilizers are used in Ghana.

30 Syngenta

2016 Chemical Sales: $9.5 billion

ChemChina completed its $43 billion purchase of Syngenta last month. Not much will change if ChemChina keeps its promise to run the Swiss crop protection chemicals maker like a stand-alone company. However, Syngenta hopes to grow after the deal. In particular, Syngenta managers expect that with the Chinese conglomerate’s backing, they will make inroads into China, where farmers and consumers have been notoriously shy about adopting genetically modified crops.

31 Eastman Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $9.0 billion

Eastman has been innovating in one of its oldest businesses: fibers. Last year, it launched Avra fibers, polyester fibers so thin that they cannot be woven into a fabric unless bound together by a polymer that is washed away once the fabric is made. It also rolled out Naia, an acetate fiber made out of wood pulp sourced from sustainable forests. Lately, the company has been mixing a little politics with its business. It resigned from Industrial Energy Consumers of America because the trade group backed the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. Otherwise, Eastman CEO Mark J. Costa has supported President Trump’s attempts to ease regulations.

32 Asahi Kasei

2016 Chemical Sales: $9.0 billion

Battery separator films are big business for Asahi Kasei, the world’s largest producer of the materials. The Japanese company is expanding its plant in Moriyama, Japan, by about a third. The $80 million investment is meant to meet growth in demand for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. Separately, with China National Bluestar, Asahi Kasei plans to build a plant in China for modified polyphenylene ether, a heat-resistant engineering polymer.

33 DSM

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.8 billion

Founded by the Dutch government in 1902 as Nederlandse Staatsmijnen (Dutch State Mines), the one-time coal mining concern is now heavily focused on biology. DSM is investing $25 million in farnesene specialist Amyris, with which it hopes to develop a biotech alternative to chemically synthesized vitamin A. DSM also formed a joint venture with Evonik Industries to make omega-3 fatty acids from algae.

Credit: Bayer
The Bayer cross illuminates the skies above Leverkusen, Germany.
A photo of the Bayer cross, like the ones embossed on aspirin pills, illuminating the skies above Leverkusen, Germany.
Credit: Bayer
The Bayer cross illuminates the skies above Leverkusen, Germany.

34 Air Products & Chemicals

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.6 billion

Air Products CEO Seifi Ghasemi has wrapped up the business disposals he needed to make Air Products a player solely in industrial gases. The company spun off electronics materials supplier Versum Materials last fall and sold its specialty chemical unit to Evonik Industries early this year. Air Products won’t necessarily pursue a megadeal like its peers Linde and Praxair or Air Liquide and Airgas have done. “Consolidation only creates bigger companies, which are more difficult to run,” he recently told C&EN. “I am not a big fan of size for the sake of size.”

35 Lanxess

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.5 billion

Germany’s Lanxess made the largest acquisition in its history with the $2.5 billion purchase this year of U.S. specialty chemical maker Chemtura. The deal is adding about $1.7 billion to Lanxess’s top line. Chemtura is one of the world’s largest producers of brominated flame retardants. CEO Matthias Zachert says this business and Chemtura’s lubricant additives business align well with Lanxess’s Rhein Chemie rubber additives unit. Influential U.S. investor Warren Buffett appears to like the deal. This year, the company he controls, Berkshire Hathaway, bought a 3% stake in Lanxess.

36 Chevron Phillips Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.5 billion

Credit: Chevron Phillips
Chevron Phillips’s new polyethylene plants in Old Ocean, Texas.
A photo of two new polyethylene plants.
Credit: Chevron Phillips
Chevron Phillips’s new polyethylene plants in Old Ocean, Texas.

Chevron Phillips (CP Chem) recently completed two polyethylene plants in Old Ocean, Texas, part of a $6 billion Gulf Coast investment program. An ethylene cracker in Baytown, Texas, will be finished later this year. As part of the program, CP Chem spent more than $500 million on logistics, including 3,000 hopper cars and polyethylene packaging facilities in Charleston, S.C., and Fort Worth. CP Chem is also getting a new CEO. Executive Vice President Mark Lashier is taking the reins next month from Peter Cella, who led the company for more than six years.

37 Arkema

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.3 billion

Arkema declared earlier this month that it wants to derive more than 80% of its sales from specialty chemicals by 2023. To that end, the French company is spending $350 million on a nylon 11 plant in Asia. Its Sartomer photocure resins affiliate plans a 30% capacity increase at a plant in China. And it intends to double production of methyl mercaptan in Malaysia. Arkema also says it wants to “participate in the consolidation” of the adhesives industry, meaning it will likely pursue acquisitions along the lines of its 2015 purchase of Bostik.

38 Borealis

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.0 billion

Austria’s Borealis and Canada’s Nova Chemicals are sister firms owned by Mubadala Investment Co. of Abu Dhabi. Now the companies will also be partners. They are forming a joint venture with France’s Total to build an ethylene cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, near an existing Total refinery and petrochemical plant. The partners will also build a polyethylene plant using Borealis’s Borstar technology. On its own, Borealis is studying a massive propane dehydrogenation plant for its site in Kallo, Belgium.

Credit: Syngenta
A Syngenta scientist examines a pest.
A photo of a Syngenta scientist grabbing a bug with tweezers.
Credit: Syngenta
A Syngenta scientist examines a pest.

39 Hanwha Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $8.0 billion

The South Korean firm has been steadily moving up C&EN’s ranking in recent years, owing largely to growth in petrochemicals and photovoltaics. The expansion might continue. In June, the company announced that it has begun production of the nonphthalate plasticizer diethylhexyl cyclohexane at a plant in Ulsan, South Korea.

40 Ecolab

2016 Chemical Sales: $7.7 billion

Ecolab suffered a 3.8% decline in sales in 2016, but in announcing the drop in February, CEO Douglas M. Baker Jr. expressed no displeasure. “We have performed well over the past two years through a very challenging business environment,” he said. Ecolab is a major supplier of oil-field chemicals, a market that was hit hard by the decline in oil prices and the slump in North American drilling activity. It is recovering, and Baker expects 2017 to be a better year.

41 Indorama

2016 Chemical Sales: $7.2 billion

Credit: Indorama
Indorama is a major producer of polyethylene terephthalate.
A photo of bits of polyethylene terephthalate flake.
Credit: Indorama
Indorama is a major producer of polyethylene terephthalate.

The Thai polyester chemical company is serious about integration. This year it will restart an idle ethylene cracker in Lake Charles, La., that Equistar—now part of LyondellBasell Industries—shuttered in 2001. The ethylene will be used to make the polyethylene terephthalate raw material ethylene glycol. Similarly, Indorama has agreed to buy m-xylene from a plant in San Roque, Spain, that will be expanded by the Spanish oil and chemicals firm Cepsa. Indorama will use the m-xylene to make the PET modifier isophthalic acid.

42 Mosaic

2016 Chemical Sales: $7.2 billion


The slumping fertilizer market hasn’t been kind to Mosaic. The company suffered a nearly 20% decline in sales in 2016. Mosaic has fallen to number 42 in the Global Top 50, after placing 35 last year. This hasn’t stopped the company from going on the offensive. It is buying the fertilizer business of the Brazilian mining firm Vale for $2.5 billion. After the deal, Mosaic will be Brazil’s largest producer of phosphorus and potassium fertilizers.

43 Sasol

2016 Chemical Sales: $7.1 billion

Sasol’s cost of building a massive ethylene cracker and derivatives complex in Lake Charles, La., keeps rising. Last year, the South African company bumped up its cost estimate by another $2.1 billion, bringing the total for the project to $11 billion. The company blamed poor subsurface conditions at the site, which meant it needed additional labor and materials to lay the groundwork. Sasol officials hope to begin commissioning the facility next year.

44 DIC

2016 Chemical Sales: $6.9 billion

The Japanese pigments maker announced a modest acquisition earlier this year, purchasing a nearly 20% stake in Taiyo Holdings for $229 million. Taiyo, a circuit board materials supplier, has annual sales of about $440 million. Last year, DIC announced a $13 million expansion of a California plant that extracts natural blue food colorant from spirulina. Confection companies such as Mars are using the natural dye as they phase out artificial colors.

45 Tosoh

2016 Chemical Sales: $6.8 billion

Japan’s Tosoh is placing a bet on the developing world by spending $37 million to build a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in the Philippines. The resin will be used to make the PVC pipe needed to improve the country’s water infrastructure. Tosoh also recently started up a silica zeolite facility in Malaysia, its first plant in the country.

46 SK Innovation

2016 Chemical Sales: $6.6 billion

The up-and-coming South Korean chemical maker is playing a role in helping the Dow Chemical-DuPont merger close. After the European Commission expressed concern about the combined strength of Dow and DuPont in packaging polymers, SK Global Chemical inked an agreement to purchase Dow’s ethylene acrylic acid business. The acquisition strengthens SK international presence in packaging resins.

47 Johnson Matthey

2016 Chemical Sales: $6.5 billion

The British firm is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Percival Norton Johnson, who had a knack for determining the precious metal content in metal samples, founded the company as a gold assaying business. The company went on to become famous for its gold and silver bars. To chemists, Johnson Matthey is better known as a catalyst supplier, a field that often puts precious metals to practical use.

48 Lubrizol

2016 Chemical Sales: $6.5 billion

Owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the deep-pocketed conglomerate run by U.S. investor Warren Buffett, Lubrizol has been steadily acquiring small chemical companies. However, Lubrizol beat a rare retreat earlier this year. The firm is exiting the oil-field chemicals business, most of which it acquired in a $750 million deal with Weatherford International in 2014. Low oil prices made for rough times in the industry.

49 PTT Global Chemical

2016 Chemical Sales: $6.2 billion

PTT is still considering plans to build a petrochemical complex in Ohio that would run on cheap shale gas. It would be a 1 million-metric-ton-per-year ethylene cracker with downstream polyethylene and ethylene glycol plants. The Thai company expects to make a decision later this year. The project may get a lift from a new report by the American Chemistry Council that calls for a $10 billion petrochemical pipeline and storage hub in the Ohio River Valley.

Credit: Clariant
A Clariant worker examines an oil-field facility.
A photo of a Clariant worker taking a sample of a liquid from a pipe at an oil facility.
Credit: Clariant
A Clariant worker examines an oil-field facility.

50 Clariant

2016 Chemical Sales: $5.9 billion

Clariant is merging with Huntsman Corp. in an effort to get bigger. “When we look at the competitor landscape, we see highly specialized companies like Croda and big players like Evonik—and ourselves stuck in the middle. That’s not where we want to be!” CEO Hariolf Kottmann exclaimed in a letter to employees. However, Clariant investors Corvex Management and 40 North don’t share Kottmann’s excitement. They think Huntsman is more of a basic chemicals maker and that the deal would dilute Clariant’s specialty chemical focus. 


Reliance Industries and Sasol are stepping up capital spending.

Air Liquide $2,408 11.1% 12.3% $319 2.2% 1.6%
Air Products & Chemicals 1,056 -34.6 12.3 132 -5.0 1.5
AkzoNobel 702 -2.6 4.5 402 4.6 2.6
Arkema 493 -9.7 5.9 245.8 6.2 2.9
Asahi Kasei 434 -17.5 4.8 na na na
BASF 6,801 46.6 11.2 2,019 -4.2 3.3
Bayer 856 4.9 7.8 1,289 6.9 11.7
Borealis 369 -0.9 4.6 127 -0.1 1.6
Braskem 815 -30.0 6.0 na na na
Clariant 302 -20.6 5.1 209 0.0 3.5
Covestro 464 -17.7 3.5 287 0.8 2.2
DIC 288 0.2 4.2 103 -7.9 1.5
Dow Chemical 3,804 2.7 7.9 1,584 -0.9 3.3
DSM 457 -9.8 5.2 342 -9.1 3.9
DuPont 704 -8.9 3.6 1,412 -16.1 7.2
Eastman Chemical 626 -4.0 6.9 219 -12.7 2.4
Evonik Industries 1,050 3.5 7.4 485 0.9 3.4
ExxonMobil 1,945 -22.0 7.5 na na na
Huntsman Corp. 421 -36.5 4.4 152 -5.0 1.6
Indorama 380 30.4 5.3 10 -0.2 0.1
Johnson Matthey 265 16.4 4.0 272 6.8 4.2
Lanxess 486 1.2 5.7 145 0.8 1.7
LG Chem 345 34.4 1.9 585 21.8 3.2
Linde 1,838 -11.7 11.1 84.1 -8.4 0.5
LyondellBasell Industries 2,006 52.1 8.1 99 -2.9 0.4
Mitsubishi Chemical 1,536 15.0 6.6 na na na
Mitsui Chemicals 409 3.6 3.7 283 -2.2 2.5
Mosaic 843 -15.7 11.8 na na na
PPG Industries 402 -15.5 2.8 466 -4.1 3.3
Praxair 1,465 -4.9 13.9 92 -1.1 0.9
Reliance Industries 3,211 378.5 23.3 na na na
Sasol 3,682 111.9 51.5 na na na
Shin-Etsu Chemical 1,300 9.3 13.3 na na na
Sinopec 1,333 -49.8 3.1 na na na
Solvay 978 -7.2 7.7 338 10.1 2.7
Sumitomo Chemical 961 24.9 7.2 na na na
Toray Industries 1,336 12.9 8.1 na na na
Tosoh 347 35.2 5.1 133 5.1 1.9
Yara 1,534 33.7 13.2 37 93.8 0.3

Note: Figures are for companies on page 33 reporting capital and/or R&D expenditures. na = not available.


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