Continuing the slow start to 2013, deal flow within the chemical sector is proving to be just about as lackluster as it was a year earlier.

There was a 22 percent surge in M&A deal value in the first half of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012, reports consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc. But, while value was up, actual transaction volume was down. (See table).

A.T. Kearney predicts a 55 percent jump in deal value for 2013, compared with 2012, but just a 1 percent increase in the number of transactions.

Despite the lull in activity, private equity firms are pouncing on attractive targets, says A.T. Kearney partner Andy Walberer who worked on the report.

"There hasn't been a lot of strategic deals," Walberer adds. "They're mostly PE firms on the buyside because they are willing to do deals in spaces that are more cyclical and strategics don't see an obvious place to place a bet right now."

Walberer cites a few high-value deals as the reason for the spike in value. In February, the Carlyle Group LP (Nasdaq: CG) boasted the largest chemical deal when it completed its acquisition of DuPont Co. (NYSE: DD) performance coatings for $4.9 billion. In January, Georgia Gulf Corp. wrapped up the $2.5 billion purchase of PPG Industries Inc.'s (NYSE:PPG) commodity chemicals business. In April, Ecolab Inc., a cleaning, food safety and pest-control services company based in St. Paul, Minn., finalized a deal to buy Champion Technologies from Permian Mud Service Inc. for $2.16 billion in cash and stock. 

Another issue facing the chemical industy is the volatilty of certain subsectors, such as titanium-dioxide, or TiO2, says Walberer. 

DuPont, for example, is looking to unload its TiO2 business, which makes a chemical pigment used for making white paint. The company is opting instead to focus on the food and agricultural sectors, which have displayed more potential for growth in recent months.


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