January 8, 2019 / 4:48 PM / a year ago

BASF plans to shed assets to try to salvage Solvay deal: sources

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BASF (BASFn.DE) is looking to shed a sizeable portfolio of assets to try to salvage a deal it struck in 2017 to buy Belgian chemicals group Solvay’s (SOLB.BR) polyamide business, people close to the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: The chemical company BASF building in Levallois-Perret, near Paris, France, is seen at sunset, November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The German company is working with investment bank Lazard (LAZ.N) to find a buyer for the plastics assets, which could be valued at about 450 million euros ($515 million), including debt, the people said.

Information packages were sent out to potential buyers just before Christmas, and first-round bids are expected by the end of the month, they added.

BASF and Lazard declined to comment, while Solvay was not immediately available for comment.

To try to allay concerns raised by European Union antitrust regulators, BASF offered in October to exclude parts of Solvay’s European polyamide business, including innovation capabilities, from the list of assets it plans to acquire.

It also offered to exclude manufacturing assets of Solvay’s intermediate and engineering plastics business.

The European Commission has set a provisional deadline of Jan. 25 for its ruling on the planned deal.

According to people close to the matter, BASF is marketing the assets to companies that also took part in the 2017 auction for the Solvay business, including South Korea’s SK Innovation (096770.KS), China’s KingFa (600143.SS), and private equity group SK Capital, which owns peer Ascend.

The assets, with estimated core earnings of about 60 million euros and an expected enterprise value (equity plus debt) of 7-8 times that, also include engineering plastics that have whet the appetite of peers such as Lanxess (LXSG.DE), they added.

BASF is seeking to strengthen its nylon business and enhance its access to key growth markets in Asia and South America with the Solvay deal. The purchase would boosts its activities in nylon, or polyamide 6-6, a heat-resistant engineering plastic that is used in textiles and also industrial parts such as tube fittings, cooling fans and engine air ducts.

For Solvay, the sale is part of its drive to divest high-volume products and focus on specific applications in aerospace, automotive and the oil and gas industries where it can achieve higher margins.

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last year that as only a few manufacturers provide essential inputs to produce different nylon products, a careful assessment was needed whether the proposed acquisition would lead to higher prices.

A main precursor material for polyamide 6-6 is ADN. The main suppliers of this material are Ascend as well as Butachimie, a joint venture of Solvay and Invista, a former DuPont business now held by Koch Industries.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Mark Potter

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