Global chemicals giant Hoechst AG plans to sell its industrial chemicals businesses, including its North American polyester and technical polymers divisions, by 2000.
Hoechst's North American operations are run by Hoechst Celanese Corp. of Summit, N.J. The firm's Trevira arm produces polyester fibers and films and PET resin, while its Ticona branch makes engineering resins including acetal and nylon.
Several buyers might be interested in portions of Trevira's PET holdings, according to Joel Talley, a consultant with Houston's DeWitt & Co. consulting firm, but Hoechst might have a hard time finding a buyer for the entire unit.
Talley identified several potential buyers for Trevira, including:
Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., which could use Trevira's PET works as well as its purified terephthalic acid and dimethyl terphthalate holdings.
``Dow has made no secret that PET is the last major polymer they're not involved in,'' Talley said.
In Dow's 1996 annual report, PET is described as a ``new product platform'' for the company. Dow currently has a PET operation in Italy with plans to expand into Germany and China.
Shell Chemical Co. of Houston, which is without its own PTA production source.
Koch Refining Co., a paraxylene maker in Wichita, Kan., could use Trevira's DMT assets as a downstream outtake for its paraxylene product.
Multikarsa Investama, a Jakarta, Indonesia, firm that recently purchased Trevira's European textile fibers business. Multikarsa, which operates fiber and textile machinery businesses in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina through various subsidiaries, could make use of Trevira's fiber operations.
Dow and Shell officials declined to comment on acquiring any of Hoechst's holdings. Koch and Multikarsa officials could not be reached for comment.
Antitrust concerns probably would prevent Eastman Chemical Co. of Kingsport, Tenn., the global and North American market leader, from looking into acquiring any of Hoechst's PET businesses. Eastman has worldwide PET capacity of about 2.5 billion pounds.
Eastman officials declined comment.
Trevira, with sales of $4 billion in 1996, ranks in the top three in both global and North American PET production, with global capacity of about 1.4 billion pounds. Its North American PET plants are in Spartanburg, N.C.; Kingston, Ontario; and Queretraro, Mexico.
Trevira operates Hoechst Diafoil, a joint venture with two Japanese companies, Mitsubishi Plastic Industries Ltd., and Mitsubishi Kasei Corp. Hoechst Diafoil was 36th in Plastics News' 1996 ranking of North American film and sheet manufacturers, with estimated sales of $160 million.
Ticona, with sales of $2.3 billion last year, controls 11 percent of the global market for high-performance resins. The company claims to control 47 percent of the global acetal market.
Hoechst's decision also will affect its polyethylene and polypropylene holdings, most of which are in Europe. The firm operates 2.9 billion pounds of PP capacity in a joint venture with BASF and 1.7 billion pounds of PE.
The Frankfurt, Germany-based company will focus on growth in its pharmaceutical and agricultural products businesses with the goal of joining the ranks of such firms as Monsanto Co., DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co.
``Concentrating on life sciences means a shift from cyclical, high-volume, low-margin products to stable, low-volume, high-margin products,'' Hoechst AG Chief Executive Officer Jurgen Dormann said Sept. 24 at a news briefing in New York. ``In a word: from bricks to brains.''
Globally, Hoechst posted profit of about $1.4 billion in 1996, but carried about $7.8 billion in corporate debt.
Dormann said Hoechst has established separate identities for its industrial businesses in recent years ``to prepare these businesses for mergers, joint ventures or disposals so as to open up growth opportunities and increase their value.''