Wow! What a morning. The usual stops really paid off. Take, for example, my visit to the Weylchem/Corden Pharma booth, housing two groups of companies owned by the voraciously acquisitive International Chemical Investors Group (ICIG) based here in Frankfort. I came by at the invitation of Andrea Missio, business development director for WeylChem International. We had a great talk, but while I was there I also caught Laura Coppi, managing director of Farchemia, a Milan area company in the Corden group. Then, I ran into the Achim Riemann, the managing director of ICIG!
Laura, you will recall, is late of Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici (FIS), where she came in as commercial director with the departure of Roger LaForce two years ago. She explained that she is now leading a profit center that operates rather autonomously within a conglomerate. One of her first tasks is to prepare a “strategic growth plan.” I asked for more details on the plan: “Hey! I’ve only been here two weeks!” she said. “Come on!”
Missio and Coppi discussed how companies within ICIG and its two chemical subdivisions synergize and autonomize. Missio begged off questions about a recent ICIG acquisition, that of Allessa, the German fine and specialties chemicals group. Both WeylChem and Allessa are composed of former Hoechst chemical businesses and have assets in the Frankfurt area. The operational synergies for these sites are obvious. Not so the synergies between WeylChem’s and Allessa’s operations elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.
ICIG’s press release highlighted the reuniting of the Hoescht businesses.
I asked Reimann if ICIG, which most recently purchased DNF, a former Clariant detergents business, is attempting to build a large German chemicals conglomerate. No, he said, the firm is looking to create two integrated global businesses—one, Corden Pharma, focused on APIs, and the other, WeylChem, focused on non-cGMP fine chemicals. He concedes that operations are still centered in Europe with some U.S. sites and none in Asia. The company continues to look at China, but finds the cost of setting up operations prohibitive, says Reimann.
Sources with other companies are skeptical of ICIG’s approach, viewing the deals as largely financial in nature. David Simmonet, president of Axyntis, says his firm recently purchased a French API plant in Calais, France, which had gone into bankruptcy—it was originally part of Tessenderlo, another company acquired by ICIG. Simmonet says Axyntis, which already has a plant with R&D assets in Calais, hopes to integrate and revive the Calais facility.
Day three ended with the European Fine Chemicals Group’s annual dinner, at which keynote speaker, Utz-Hellmuth Felcht, showed a slide (yes, another PowerPoint presentation at the EFCG dinner!) illustrating all the pieces spun off in the break-up of Hoechst. Felcht, whose long resume includes a run on the management board at Hoechst, noted that this slide looks like an explosion in a pharmacy. It does. I don’t think anyone could put that back together.
Reimann shrugs off any contention that ICIG is implementing a sink-or-swim culture among it’s holdings. The firm has been at it for some time, and certainly WeylChem and Corden Pharma are going ventures. Is the autonomous business portfolio approach working for ICIG and its holdings? Or is Calaire a casualty (one that may be revived) of rampant acquisition? Everyone is still watching to see.
At Allessa, folks are also waiting. One executive I asked about the future there said he could not comment. “It gets political,” he said.
Cultural Note: I resume illustrating Fine Line this week with some of my favorite paintings from The Städel, Frankfurt’s great art museum. No editorial tie-in intended.
Cultural Note II:
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