US specialty chemicals firm Rockwood sells clay business to Germany's Altana Group for $635 mn

Rockwood Holdings Inc, a leading global provider of specialty chemical products, has agreed to sell its clay-based additives business to Germany's Altana AG for approximately $635 million.

Princeton, New Jersey-based Rockwood focuses on global niche segments of the specialty chemicals, pigments and additives and advanced materials markets.

The company's chairman and chief executive officer Seifi Ghasemi said, ''The sale of clay based additives is another step forward in the implementation of our long term business strategy to maximise shareholder value.''

The clay-based additives segment is part of Rockwood's Performance Additives business. It develops and manufactures a range of rheology modifiers and additives which are used in a wide variety of applications to modify viscosity, thickness and flow characteristics, and keep solids in suspension. The end products include oil and gas drilling fluids, household care products, inks, paper and composites.

Rockwood has a worldwide employee base of about 10,200 people and annual net sales of approximately $3.5 billion in 2012.

The clay-based unit employs about 340 workers at four sites in the US, UK and Germany and reported sales of $191 million in 2012.

Wesel, Germany-based Altana, owned by the country's richest woman Susanne Klatten, develops and produces high-quality, innovative products in the specialty chemicals business for use by a variety of industries including, coating, paint and plastics, printing, cosmetics, electrical and electronics.

Altana is a true global player in the field with about 85 per cent of its sales generated internationally. The company has 42 production facilities, over 50 service and research laboratories and 5,360 employees worldwide. Its 2012 sales were around $2.3 billion.

In a separate statement, Altana said the acquisition will expand its existing additive portfolio and bring growth opportunities particularly in Asia. Sales are expected to reach €1.9 billion from the current level of €1.7 billion, the statement said.

Altana's CEO Matthias Wolfgruber said, ''The acquisition of Rockwood's rheology business is fully in line with our focus on true specialty chemicals and opens up new growth opportunities.''

It will further enhance the company's financial profile and create long-term value, he added.

The acquired business will be integrated with Altana's BYK Additives & Instruments division.

The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

Last month, Rockwood agreed to sell its advanced ceramics business CeramTec to European private equity firm Cinven Ltd for about $1.5 billion to focus on its other businesses and return cash to shareholders.

Five years ago, Altana made an attempt to acquire Rockwood and now the company looking at buying a part of it.

Lazard acted as Rockwood's financial advisor on the deal