Clariant re-launches pigments unit sale, with multiple bidders: sources

FILE PHOTO: A woman stands next to a logo of Swiss specialty chemicals company Clariant ahead of a news conference to present the company's full-year results, in Zurich, Switzerland, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Moritz Hager

FRANKFURT/ZURICH (Reuters) - Clariant CLN.S is relaunching the sale of its pigments unit, after putting the auction on hold as the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world and disrupted talks with prospective buyers, the Swiss speciality chemicals company said on Thursday.

The Muttenz-based company is expected to send out information packages to prospective buyers of the unit this month, and people familiar with the preparations added that buyout groups including PAI, Lone Star, Triton and SK Capital are expected to express interest.

The potential bidders declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.

“We are continuing our transformation programme, which has so far seen the successful divestment of the Healthcare Packaging and Masterbatches businesses, by resuming the process for this planned divestment,” a Clariant spokesman said.

Before the company said in April the sale process was delayed, the unit which makes dyes including for the car and building industries was expected to fetch up to 900 million Swiss francs ($984 million), or around 8 times core earnings.

The impact of the pandemic has weighed on the business and it may now fetch less, one of the people said. Clariant said the business has successfully mitigated the pandemic’s impact as well as boosted efficiency.

“As a result, Clariant Pigments remains a leading global player in the industry and as such, any convincing offer will have to reflect this leading position,” the spokesman said.

Clariant's failed merger with Huntsman HUN.N, in the face of activist investor resistance, and the joint venture it abandoned in August with Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) have led to asset sales beyond what the Swiss company originally envisioned.

Clariant is concentrating on its faster-growing segments including catalysts, ingredients for shampoos, and chemicals for the oil and gas industries, while divesting commoditised operations.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt and by John Miller and Oliver Hirt in Zurich; Editing by Michael Shields