ICI reinvents itself as speciality firm

ICI’s plans to raise £3bn over three years by divesting chemicals businesses could see the company transformed from a low-margin bulk chemicals company into a more profitable coatings, materials and speciality chemicals firm. Last week it revealed its planned £5bn acquisition of Unilever’s speciality chemicals business bringing in another 2,500 UK staff, and 15,000 worldwide. […]

ICI’s plans to raise £3bn over three years by divesting chemicals businesses could see the company transformed from a low-margin bulk chemicals company into a more profitable coatings, materials and speciality chemicals firm.

Last week it revealed its planned £5bn acquisition of Unilever’s speciality chemicals business bringing in another 2,500 UK staff, and 15,000 worldwide.

The £4.935bn purchase will be funded by a $8.5bn loan, pushing gearing up to 80%, said Sir Ronald Hampel, ICI chairman.

ICI hopes to raise £500m-£700m with the sale or flotation of its Tioxide business, which has been on the market since February.

Another £1bn could come this autumn with the sale of 62.4% of ICI Australia, probably excluding its paint business, although a bid for the whole group could emerge. Analysts see DuPont Chemical, Dow Chemical and Hoescht as potential bidders in Australia.

The four Unilever businesses have operating margins over 20%, with 1996 revenues of £2,932m and operating profits of £357m.

James Kennedy, National Starch chief executive, will join the ICI board, recently bolstered by the appointment of Alex Trotman, the chief executive of Ford.