A chemical giant has upped the ante for one of its offspring, but stock market players keep raising the stakes even higher.
Ashland Inc. reported Aug. 15 it has offered $14.75 per share for the roughly 77 percent of Melamine Chemicals Inc. it does not already own.
In an earlier announcement, Ashland offered $12.50 per share on the Nasdaq market, about 50 cents higher than the shares' previous trading level. In the weeks after Ashland's first offer, Melamine stock had been trading near $14.50 per share. With the latest news, Melamine's stock shot up to nearly $16.
``The market has demonstrated more of an interest in Melamine, so we felt it was appropriate to raise our offer,'' Ashland spokesman Stan Lampe said of his company's latest move. ``We'll see how things play out in coming days.''
The increased bid would push the total value of non-Ashland shares to roughly $65 million, compared to the $55 million of Ashland's initial offer. At $16 per share, Ashland would have to pay close to $70 million to buy out all the other shareholders.
Ashland, Ky.-based Ashland co-founded Melamine Chemicals in 1968 as a 50-50 joint venture with ChemFirst Inc. of Jackson, Miss. Melamine Chemicals went public in 1987, eventually leaving both original parents holding a 23.1 percent share.
Two Ashland executives sit on Melamine Chemicals' eight-member board, although they have excused themselves from voting on the buyout offer, according to Wayne DeLeo, vice president and chief financial officer of Melamine Chemicals.
Ashland has characterized its effort to acquire Melamine as a ``friendly negotiated transaction,'' Lampe said.
``We know the company,'' he said. ``We know its products and we know its customers.''
Melamine Chemicals of Donaldsonville, La., is the second-largest U.S. producer of melamine, and the third-largest worldwide. The firm reported a record $60 million in sales for the 12 months ended June 30.
DeLeo said the biggest problem his firm has is ``keeping up with demand'' for its product, which is used in coatings, high-pressure laminates like Formica, and molding compounds — most commonly used to make dinnerware.