DETROIT - Huntsman Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon M. Huntsman, rejected by Rexene Corp. this summer in an unsolicited takeover bid, isn't necessarily taking no for an answer. ``The jury's still out on Rexene,'' he said. ``I wouldn't write that off by any means.''
Huntsman was interviewed in Troy, Mich., on Oct. 14 as he was preparing to address a meeting of the Detroit Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers. In a wide-ranging speech, he discussed topics including the growth of Huntsman Corp., consolidation in the petrochemical and plastics business and the importance of the auto industry to his company.
Huntsman said Rexene shareholders were feeling ``terribly unsettled'' by the board's rejection in August of his $462 million offer. Huntsman offered $15 per share and agreed to assume $175 million in Rexene debt. Before Hunts-man's offer, Rexene was trading for $9.25 per share.
When the Rexene bid stalled, Huntsman said another run at Rexene wasn't ``worth the aggravation'' and he would drop any further negotiations. Since then, however, Huntsman said he has maintained cordial relations with officers and managers of Rexene.
Rexene spokesman Neil J. Devroy noted that Rexene, as a publicly held company, has a responsibility to review all potential acquisition offers, including any new bids from Huntsman.
``If he made another offer, we would consider it,'' he said.
In a related move, a group of Rexene shareholders announced last week that it will seek to remove a majority of the company's directors because of the rejection of the Huntsman bid. The investor group, which holds a 7.4 percent stake in Rexene, said it wants to elect directors who will explore ways to increase shareholder value.
Huntsman, who recently announced the acquisition of South Deerfield, Mass.-based films producer Deerfield Plastics Co., is projecting sales of $5 billion this year for his Salt Lake City chemicals concern.
Huntsman said he expects the current consolidation in the basic chemical and plastic production industries will continue at a tremendous pace for the next two to four years. He said the consolidation activity also is accelerating in Europe and will be apparent in the next six months to a year.
``I've never seen a time when more major companies want to exit this industry, but where many people like us see it as a dynamic and positive industry,'' Huntsman said.
In his speech to the Detroit SPE group, Huntsman expressed some concern about the Canadian Auto Workers strike against General Motors Corp., noting that the auto industry ``touches every part of our business and it concerns us a great deal for the potential of strikes and slowdowns.''
He was also optimistic about the continued growth of plastics in the auto industry and Huntsman Corp.'s relation with its customers in Detroit.
``I don't think we've had better customers, as a group, than the auto industry,'' Huntsman said.