French chemicals company Rhodia SA is selling its Tergal Fibres PET resin and polyester fibers operation at Gauchy, France, to the plant's management along with Cie. Europeenne de Polyester SA, for an undisclosed sum.
Meanwhile, Rhodia is ``studying some offers'' for its Brazilian offshoot Rhodia-Ster SA of SÃo Paulo, which is South America's leading producer of PET packaging resins. One potential buyer is DuPont, which last year bought the global PET operations of Britain's Imperial Chemical Industries plc.
The sales would finalize Rhodia's pullout from the polyester business. It expects to finalize the sales by early next year, according to a Rhodia spokesman in Paris. Rhodia already has sold seven polyester units.
The Gauchy plant has a PET resin capacity of 100 million pounds per year, and can produce as much as 68 million pounds a year of polyester fibers.
PET resin from Gauchy is used in mineral-water bottles, while the fibers have uses in the automotive and textile sectors, Rhodia said. Tergal employs 210 and expects record 1998 sales of 500 million French francs ($89 million).
Earlier Rhodia polyester deals involved the November sale of Rhodia-Ster's Bidim nonwoven fibers business at Sao Jose dos Campos to London-based BBA Group plc; the sale of its PET bottle subsidiary Braspet Industria e Comercio de Embalagens Plasticas Ltda. of Sao Paulo to Schmalbach-Lubeca AG of Ratingen, Germany, in December; and the purchase of Rhodia's polyester films operations in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, near Recife, Brazil, and in Bloomfield, N.Y., by New York-based private equity company Rhone Capital LLC in March.
The company also has sold acrylic fiber and metalized-film converting operations in Europe and South America.
This latest sale is in line with Rhodia's expressed strategy of switching its focus to the specialty chemicals sector.
The Tergal purchase was arranged by Alain Eudubert, chairman of French investment firm O & C Partners SA of Paris, which brought together CEP with the plant management, said a Rhodia spokesman.
CEP is owned by three European financial institutions, Financiere Natexis SA, EPF Partners and ABN Amro. Rhodia of Paris is a subsidiary of French chemical giant Rhone-Poulenc SA, also of Paris.
``These new shareholders, brought together by O & C Partners SA, should provide Tergal Fibres with the means, and financial means in particular, to continue to develop its two key businesses,'' Rhodia announced in a news release.
Rhodia Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Pierre Tirouflet said: ``These recent divestments, together with the sale of other businesses accounting for a total of FFr 10 billion ($1.78 billion) between 1994-97, are concrete examples of our strategy to focus our activities on added-value specialty sectors.
``The sale of our stake in Rhodia-Ster, which is currently under negotiation, will constitute the final step in our decision to cease dealing in polyester,'' he said.
Last year, Rhodia-Ster recorded a loss of Brazilian 155 million reis ($131 million) on sales of 383 million reis ($324 million). A report in London's Financial Times newspaper suggested that Rhodia wants to sell the unit for around $250 million.
DuPont's interest was confirmed by Gilberto Perez, packaging and polyester director of DuPont do Brasil SA. He was quoted by the Brazilian financial daily Gazeta Mercantil as commenting: ``There will be excess PET for two years, but strategic interest does not allow us to simply miss an opportunity like the one presented by Rhodia-Ster.
``Our interest is in leading the business we are in,'' he added.
Rhodia has a 68 percent stake in Rhodia-Ster in which its Brazilian partner, the Sinasa Group, holds a minority share. Rhodia and Sinasa, a producer of PET resins, PET packaging, polyester fiber and acrylic fiber, originally formed the venture to take advantage of economies of scale.