Lanxess AG has bought plasticizer maker Unitex Chemical Corp. of Greensboro, N.C., marking the German firm's first U.S. manufacturing acquisition.
No purchase price was disclosed in the deal. Privately owned Unitex employs 40 at a plant in Greensboro with about 110 million pounds of annual capacity for phthalate-free plasticizers and other specialty products, such as flame retardants. The 38-year-old firm has annual sales of about $30 million.
Lanxess — based in Leverkusen, Germany, with a U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh — already produces phthalate-free plasticizers under several trade names at two plants in Germany. Officials with the firm said the global market for phthalate-free plasticizers is growing at a rate of 7 percent per year.
Regulators are requiring that only phthalate-free plasticizers be used in flexible PVC resin for consumer products such as toys, food packaging and cables, officials added.
For Lanxess, buying Unitex “underlines our technology leadership in specialty chemicals and strengthens our relationship with our customers in the USA — the world's largest chemical market,” board member Rainier van Roessel said in a news release.
Lanxess and Unitex had competed in some plasticizer markets, Lanxess spokesperson Bridget McCourt said by phone. Lanxess now is looking at possible expansion facilities at the Unitex site in Greensboro.
Unitex owner George Page, who had served as the firm's president, will not remain with the company.
The Lanxess-Unitex deal marks the second time in two months that a specialty chemicals maker has bought a non-phthalate plasticizer firm. In September, Eastman Chemical Co. purchased Scandiflex do Brasil SA Indústrias Químicas — a plasticizer maker in São Paulo — for an undisclosed price.
Eastman also is expanding its own plasticizer production capacity at its headquarters in Kingsport, Tenn., as well as at sites in Maryland and in the Baltic nation of Estonia.