The wheeling and dealing that goes on in the international plastic films business almost overshadows the complexities of the actual manufacturing processes. The latest example involves Celanese AG in Kronberg, Germany, which was recently given the legal go-ahead to sell its Trespaphan biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) business. The buyer was a strong consortium led by Dor Film International, which paid around E200 million.
Celanese was formed in 1999 as a result of a demerger from Hoechst, the German chemicals giant. It absorbed the Hoechst-Trespaphan business, which manufactured Eticourt-branded BOPP films for filmic labels, shrink wraps, film wraps and in-mold labels, as well as specialized PP films for industrial uses. In 2001 they generated sales of E281 million, with 1,400 employees at four production sites in Germany, France, South Africa and Mexico. Some readers may remember that Hoechst had originally acquired the Eticourt business in the early 1980s from UK-based Courtaulds Films. In mid-1988 Hoechst-Trespaphan was involved in a high profile merger with ExxonMobil’s Mobil Plastics Europe, but this fell through.
As for the new owners, the holding company, Dor-Moplefan, previously acquired the OPP film activities of Moplefan and Shorko (Australia). At the end of last year when the bid became public, its chairman Zvi Mor said: “Trespaphan is a well established company with the potential for further growth in its field. It has the right people, know-how, and equipment to be a growing and a major player in the field of BOPP.”
The combined entity of Moplefan, Shorko and Trespaphan makes it one of the top three players in the fast-growing BOPP market. Its total annual polypropylene production capacity of over 250,000 tons from plants in seven countries is said to represent about 10 percent of global consumption.
As to why Celanese decided to sell Trespaphan after only three years of ownership, Claudio Sonder, chairman, says: “It is another step in our strategy to divest non-core businesses and to concentrate on the internal and external growth of our core businesses.” It certainly needs some growth and fresh capital. The company reported a year-end net debt for 2002 of around E700 million.
[The European Union Commission is currently investigating a proposed joint venture between Celanese and Degussa AG, one of the world’s oldest chemical businesses. A preliminary examination has shown competition concerns in several European markets involving products for chemical intermediates, solvents and plasticizers.]