Solvay kicking off disposals of two units, say sources: Reuters

Belgian chemicals group Solvay is pressing ahead with the sale of two non-core units as part of its efforts to streamline operations and refocus on specialty materials, sources familiar with the situation said.

The world’s largest producer of soda ash is close to kicking off a process to sell its fibre business Acetow, which was initially put under review in late 2014, the sources said.

It also plans to sell its polyamide business in a separate process, they said.

Solvay was not immediately available for comment.

Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are leading efforts to identify a buyer for the Acetow business which supplies cellulose acetate tow, the material used in cigarettes filters and some textile and plastic packaging products.

Solvay and its advisers have spent over a year trying to carve out the Acetow unit and create a standalone entity with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of about 200 million euros ($227.10 million), the sources said cautioning that no deal was certain.

The unit, which ranks as one of the top European providers of cellulose acetate, could be valued at about 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion), one of the sources said. It posted net sales of 542 million euros last year.

Solvay, backed by the Solvay family which has roughly 30 percent, has steadily shifted over the years from a base chemical and plastics company to one making speciality materials used by the oil and gas sector or in cosmetics and high-performance polymers.

Some of the largest European and U.S. private equity funds have signalled their interest in making an offer, one of the sources said, pointing to strong appetite from investment firms for chemicals assets.

Recent private equity deals in the chemicals industry include CVC Capital Partners’ purchase in 2015 of a 65 percent stake in two chemicals subsidiaries held by Dutch supplements maker DSM.

On June 3 Reuters reported that French oil and gas producer Total had begun preparations for the sale of its specialty chemicals and equipment division Atotech.

As the industry continues to consolidate, Solvay hopes to attract takeover interest for its polyamide unit and has asked Goldman Sachs to run a parallel process, the sources said. Polyamides, which can take the form of nylon, are used in textiles, carpets, clothing and car seats.

The functional polymers division, of which polyamides is by far the largest component, posted sales of 1.9 billion euros in 2015.

Solvay’s refocusing on speciality materials was further enhanced last year by its $5.5 purchase of U.S. peer Cytec.

The deal, completed in December, has made Solvay the world’s second largest player in aerospace composite materials.