Huntsman Corp. is ending a run of nearly four decades in commodity plastics by selling its U.S. business to Flint Hills Resources LLC in a deal valued at more than $750 million.
The deal includes polymers and olefins plants in Port Arthur, Odessa and Longview, Texas; Peru, Ill.; and Marysville, Mich. Those units posted annual sales of $2.3 billion in 2006.
FHR, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., will make an initial cash payment of $456 million and an additional cash payment equal to the value of the plants' inventory at the time of closing. On Dec. 31, that inventory was valued at $286 million. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2007 - after Huntsman completes repairs to a Port Arthur ethylene unit that was damaged in a fire last year.
In the plastics area, the Odessa site has annual capacities for 440 million pounds of low density polyethylene, 350 million pounds of linear LDPE and 120 million pounds of polypropylene. Annual PP capacities in Longview and Marysville are 750 million and 185 million pounds, respectively. The Peru plant can make 200 million pounds of expanded polystyrene per year.
The plants employ a total of 900. The deal does not include a Huntsman ethylene unit in Port Neches, Texas.
FHR is a wholly owned unit of Koch, a privately held chemicals giant that also operates PET resin and fibers maker KoSa and packaging firm Georgia-Pacific. Both FHR and Koch are based in Wichita, Kan.
Jeff Ramsey, FHR's chemicals vice president, will manage the newly acquired business. FHR was established by Koch in 2002 as a vehicle to focus on growth opportunities. The unit operates oil refineries in Alaska, Minnesota and Texas and a chemical intermediates plant in Illinois. FHR employs 2,600 and also is part owner of Excel Paralubes in Westlake, La. FHR officials declined to provide an estimate of the firm's annual sales.
In a Feb. 16 phone interview, FHR spokesman Marc Palazzo said the Huntsman deal is the largest in FHR's five-year history.
``This will allow us to grow our existing chemical business,'' he said. ``As a private company, we're uniquely positioned to make decisions on a long-term view. We can absorb market fluctuations and position the company for long-term success.''
Huntsman Corp. - founded as a PS packaging firm by Peter's father, Jon, in 1970 - flourished by turning around unwanted plastics and chemical assets, but teetered on the edge of bankruptcy in 2002 before it sold a 49 percent stake to New York investment firm Maitlin Patterson Global Opportunities Partners. Huntsman's financial woes were caused by drastic increases in prices for energy and raw materials.
The firm then went public - with the Huntsman family and Maitlin Patterson retaining large stakes - in early 2005.
Life as a public company has not been kind to Huntsman. The firm's per-share stock price debuted around $24, but fell as low as $16 in mid-2006 and was under $21 in late trading Feb. 15.
Huntsman also released full-year 2006 financial results Feb. 15, showing an annual profit of $230 million after losing $35 million in 2005. The firm's sales were flat at about $10.6 billion.
In late 2006, Huntsman sold its European plastics and base chemicals business to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for $700 million. That deal included PE, ethylene, propylene and aromatics facilities in Wilton and North Tees, England.