Clariant, Ashland put foundry chemical venture up for sale
* Clariant, Ashland each hold 50 pct in ASK Chemical
* Divestment comes as co-owners focus on less cyclical ops
* Unicredit to run the sale, Permira to take look-sources
By Arno Schuetze and Ludwig Burger
FRANKFURT, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Swiss chemicals maker Clariant and U.S. peer Ashland are putting their German foundry chemicals venture up for auction as both companies restructure their operations, two people familiar with the plans told Reuters.
The sale of ASK Chemicals, which has about 25-30 million euros ($33-$40 million) in annual core earnings and relies on volatile demand from steel and metal makers, comes as both Clariant and Ashland try to focus on products that are more profitable and less exposed to cyclical swings in the economy.
Ashland, owner of the Valvoline motor oil brand, said last month it might sell its water treatment unit. Activist investor Jana Partners pushed for the company to do more to boost value for shareholders.
Clariant, for its part, sold businesses including textile and paper chemicals to U.S. private equity firm SK Capital last year and is trying to divest its leather chemicals, detergents and intermediates units.
Hilden, Germany-based ASK, which has 1,800 staff, is under operational control of Clariant, even though the venture partners each hold a 50 percent equity stake. Its main rival is unlisted Huettenes-Albertus GmbH, also Germany-based.
The sources said Unicredit has been mandated to run the sale, which the owners hope will yield about 5-7 times annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA). That would value the group at 125-210 million euros.
Information packs on ASK are to be sent out by late September, the sources said.
Rival Asian foundry chemical makers are seen as prospective buyers and Permira, among other buyout firms, will also take a look at the business, the sources said.
Clariant, Permira and Unicredit declined to comment. Ashland and ASK were not immediately available for comment.
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