Dow-DuPont deal wins conditional antitrust approval from EU

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. won European Union approval for a USD77 billion merger, overcoming regulators’ concerns with hefty concessions, including the sale of large parts of DuPont’s global pesticide business, said Bloomberg.

The takeover, announced a year ago, is the first to win EU approval out of a trio of mega-deals that would reshape the global agrochemicals industry. The transactions, including Bayer AG’s plan to buy Monsanto Co. and China National Chemical Corp.’s agreement to buy Syngenta AG, would whittle down six industry players to three behemoths in America, Germany and China.

Dow and DuPont still need to win approval from the U.S., where the Justice Department is also expected to require divestitures to approve the tie-up, according to a person familiar with the matter. Timing on that decision, or what assets will need to be sold, isn’t yet clear. The EU and the U.S. are in "very close contact", EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters in Brussels on Monday. She didn’t know if the U.S. requirements "will completely match" hers.

EU approval was the biggest regulatory hurdle for the deal and the concessions required there “will likely be sufficient to appease U.S. regulators with respect to any concerns in the crop chemicals sectors,” said Jennifer Rie, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence in New York. "Some seed assets may need to be sold for approval, including corn and soybeans."

The EU said the combination could have halted work on new chemical products in areas where Dow and DuPont currently compete head-to-head. There was "specific evidence" that the pair would have cut back on the amount they spent on developing products, the European Commission said in an emailed statement. Only Bayer AG, BASF SE and Syngenta match the two firms in discovering, developing and selling agrochemicals.

"We always look at what a merger would change not just today but also tomorrow," Vestager said. "It is just as important to make sure" mergers don’t "reduce innovation for new and better products."

DuPont has agreed to divest "a significant part" of its existing pesticide business, including R&D activities. That covers herbicides for cereals, oilseed rape, sunflower, rice and pasture as well as insecticides used for fruit and vegetables. The sale includes plants where the products are made and relevant personnel. DuPont’s "global R&D organization" will mostly be sold too. Dow will sell two plants in Spain and the U.S. that make acid co-polymers.


AkzoNobel to outline strategic options for specialty chemicals business in April

MOSCOW (MRC) -- AkzoNobel will hold an investor update on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 to outline plans for the creation of two focused businesses and enhanced long-term value creation, said the producer on its site.

This investor update follows the recent announcement to review strategic options for the separation of its Specialty Chemicals business.

The company will provide updated financial guidance and growth plans, demonstrating the benefits of two focused businesses. Further details regarding the strategic options for the separation of its Specialty Chemicals business will be provided.

AkzoNobel will also publish results for the first quarter 2017 on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. This date has been brought forward to shorten the close period, enabling the investor update to take place.

Ton Buchner, CEO, AkzoNobel said: "We have, during recent years, achieved record performance levels for AkzoNobel in terms of profitability and a range of operational measures, generating value for shareholders. We are delivering on our commitments. AkzoNobel is now a leaner, more agile company with a solid financial and operational foundation and a focus on accelerating growth.

Our new strategy will further unlock the value within the company, including the creation of two focused businesses. We are convinced we have a strong platform to build further on our leadership positions to deliver improved profitability and additional long-term value creation for shareholders, employees, customers, the communities where we operate and other stakeholders.

We are best placed to deliver these plans ourselves, building on the existing momentum we have within the company. We look forward to sharing more details on our vision of the future for AkzoNobel."

As MRC wrote earlier, in December 2016, AkzoNobel finalized the acquisition of BASF’s global Industrial Coatings business, which supplies a range of products for industries including construction, domestic appliances, wind energy and commercial transport, strengthening its position as the global number one supplier in coil coatings. The transaction included relevant technologies, patents and trademarks, as well as two manufacturing plants in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Akzo Nobel N.V., trading as AkzoNobel, is a Dutch multinational, active in the fields of decorative paints, performance coatings and specialty chemicals. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company has activities in more than 80 countries, and employs approximately 55,000 people.

Neste Jacobs technology to be implemented at the production site of Haltermann Carless in Germany

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Neste Jacobs, a global solution provider of high-quality technology, engineering and project services and Haltermann Carless, a well-established HCS Group brand and leading provider of high value specialty hydrocarbons, have agreed to plan and engineer an upgrade and expansion of the Haltermann Carless' production site in Speyer, Germany, as per Neste Jacobs' press release.

The parties have also signed a Letter of Intent for the EPCM services to be provided by Neste Jacobs.

A versatile hydrogenation unit, based on Neste Jacobs' NExSAT technology, will enable Haltermann Carless to process larger feedstock volumes and respond to the increasing demand for very low aromatic oils and specialty hydrocarbon chemicals, thus opening a wider range of possibilities for its customers. Neste Jacobs' proprietary NExSAT technology is developed to produce high-quality hydrocarbon products that meet today's stringent standards for low impurity, aromatic, and olefin content.

"This investment is an important milestone in implementing our Strategy 2020 by bringing next generation technology to our production sites for the next chapter of the HCS Group's development. We are convinced that Neste Jacobs is the right engineering partner to implement this state-of-the-art technology in production. We are pleased to work with Neste Jacobs on this project and we trust their excellent project management skills and in-depth process knowledge to complete this project successfully", says Dr. Uwe Nickel, Chief Executive Officer, HCS Group.

"We are very excited to be the preferred partner for Haltermann Carless' next generation technology project. This is yet another great example of how partnership and vision can be successfully combined with our abilities to provide and adapt our top-notch process technologies to market demands. NExSAT technology is a flexible aromatic and olefin hydrogenation technology for high-quality hydrocarbon products", says Jarmo Suominen, Chief Executive Officer of Neste Jacobs.

Neste Jacobs is a preferred solution provider of high-quality technology, engineering and project services for a wide range of industries in the fields of oil and gas, petrochemicals, chemicals, biorefining, biochemicals, biopharma and industrial infrastructure. The company has 60 years of experience in technology development and industrial investment projects as well as maintenance and performance improvement in Europe, North and South America, Asia and the Middle East.

The HCS Group is a leading manufacturer of high-quality hydrocarbons and specialties. The company employs 500 people worldwide. The products are marketed worldwide through the well-established brands Haltermann Carless, ETS Racing and EOS. The HCS Group is part of H.I.G. Europe, a subsidiary of the US private equity firm H.I.G.

As MRC reported before, in October 2016, technology, engineering and project management company Neste Jacobs and Borealis signed an agreement for Neste Jacobs to perform an energy screening for all production units at Borealis’ site in Porvoo, Finland. Neste Jacobs will utilize its unique NJe2 technology, part of Neste Jacobs proprietary NAPCON offering for the project. The project will start in autumn 2016 and the recommendations will be implemented in the upcoming projects.

Nippon Shokubai acquires US Sirrus

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Nippon Shokubai Co., LTD has announced it has signed an agreement to acquire Sirrus, Inc., an advanced reactive technology platform monomer company, as per the company's press release.

The transaction is to be completed in March 2017, subject to customary closing conditions. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Sirrus, based in Loveland, OH, USA and founded as Bioformix in 2009, has developed cost advantaged processes to produce reactive monomers at high purities. Its leading target monomer, diethyl methylene malonate, or DEMM, together with its derivatives, or MM-D, can be used in a variety of applications where customers in a broad range of markets value faster cure times, lower solvent usage and are faced with legislation restricting the use of incumbent formulation components. Sirrus has developed a robust patent portfolio, consisting of over 25 global patents that address process technologies, methods of application, initiation, formulation and stabilization, as well as composition of matter for certain homopolymers, copolymers and hybrid polymers.

Masanori Ikeda, President of Nippon Shokubai, said "It is rare to find a platform monomer company like Sirrus to provide best in class reactive monomers and materials to its customers. Combined with Sirrus’ intellectual property position, track record of innovation and access to a broad range of customers and applications, the transaction is a strong strategic fit for Nippon Shokubai".

As a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Nippon Shokubai, Sirrus will have access to additional resources to accelerate the development and commercialization of DEMM and MM-D, including in the areas of manufacturing, regulatory, capital planning and sales and marketing. As part of the transaction, the management team of Sirrus will continue in their current roles. Moving forward, both companies will conduct collaborative operations for early establishment of supply chains and market entry, targeting the start-up of the first commercial plant in 2019.

As MRC informed before, in October 2015, Nippon Shokubai Europe awarded a detailed engineering, procurement and construction management contract to Jacobs Engineering for the planned expansion of a superabsorbent polymer (SAP) plant and the construction of a new acrylic acid (AA) facility at Nippon's site in Zwijndrecht, Belgium. The EUR350-million project involves increasing SAP production capacity by 100,000 t/y and building a new 100,000-t/y AA unit. Expansion of the SAP plant will raise Nippon's total SAP capacity in Belgium to 160,000 t/y. Mechanical completion is expected in October 2017 and commercial operations are planned for May 2018.

Formerly known as Bioformix, Sirrus was founded in 2009 to commercialize efficient, high-performance monomers and derivatives. Sirrus technologies result in the reduction or elimination of energy consumption and improved product performance for advanced manufacturing and assembly industries.

Nippon Shokubai produces one fifth of the global volume of superabsorbent polymers and it is one of the world's biggest makers of acrylic acid, the main ingredient of a resin called SAP, which is used in diapers

EU top court upholds sanctions against Rosneft

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Europe's top court on Tuesday upheld European Union sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict, including on its largest oil group Rosneft, in a ruling that asserts the court's jurisdiction over the bloc's foreign policy, said Reuters.

The EU slapped sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and stepped them up as Moscow went on to support a separatist rebellion in Ukraine's industrial east.

Rosneft's head, Igor Sechin, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said "restrictive measures ... in response to the crisis in Ukraine against certain Russian undertakings, including Rosneft, are valid."

With the ruling, the ECJ established its jurisdiction to rule on matters of the EU's common foreign and security policy, an area of fierce contention between Brussels and national governments seeking to maintain sovereignty.

A lawyer for Rosneft told reporters he was disappointed with the outcome. "I would also say it is a setback for judicial protection in the EU in the area of sanctions because the court accepts (...) the fact that a company is partially state-owned is sufficient for it to be a target of sanctions," Lode van den Hende said.

The court said it believed encroaching on Rosneft's right to do business was in proportion with the severity of sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

"The Court holds that the importance of the objectives pursued by the contested acts is such as to justify certain operators being adversely affected," it said in its judgment. Rosneft called the decision "illegal, baseless and politicized."

"The ruling shows that the rule of law in Europe is being replaced by the rule of political situation," it said in a statement.

"Rosneft continues to insist that it has not committed any illegal actions in any jurisdictions where it conducts its business, including Ukraine, and has nothing to do with the Ukrainian crisis."