BASF Joins Chemical Deal Rush, Buys Albemarle Unit

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BASF SE agreed to acquire a metal-coatings business from U.S.-based Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB) for about $3.2 billion, as the German company joins the throng of chemical makers currently pushing the volume of dealmaking to new heights.

The world’s biggest chemical maker will pay cash for Chemetall, which provides coatings to prevent metal corrosion in car- and plane-chassis prior to spray painting, the Ludwigshafen-based company said in a statement Friday. The asset generated $845 million in sales last year, with the purchase price implying a multiple of 15.3 times earnings through March, Albemarle said separately.

“Chemetall offers a strong strategic fit for our coatings business,” BASF board member Wayne Smith said in the statement.

The acquisition is the largest under BASF chief executive officer Kurt Bock, who in his five years at the helm so far had advocated caution and value for money. Until now, BASF had sat out big consolidation moves, even as competitors Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. opted to merge, and leading players in the agrochemical industry sought alliances. Evonik, Germany’s No. 2 chemical maker after BASF, agreed to pay $3.8 billion for a chemicals business from Air Products & Chemicals Inc. that BASF itself had coveted.

For Albemarle, the deal is a means to pay down debt from its acquisition of Rockwood Holdings Inc. for $6 billion in 2015. With that deal, Albemarle obtained Rockwood’s lithium business to take advantage of demand for the lightweight metal used in rechargeable batteries in smartphones and electric cars.

The BASF takeover of the Frankfurt-based Chemetall is expected to close by year end, Albemarle said in the statement. Bloomberg News reported in May that Albemarle was considering a sale of the business.

"The sale of Chemetall reflects Albemarle’s continued commitment to maximizing shareholder value by investing in the future growth of our high priority businesses, reducing leverage and returning capital to shareholders,” Albemarle CEOr Luke Kissam said in the statement.

The transaction value may be reduced for underfunded and unfunded pension obligations and other reasons, Albemarle said. BofA Merrill Lynch is advising Albemarle while Shearman & Sterling LLP is legal adviser. BASF didn’t identify an investment bank or law firm that advised it on the deal.

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