It isn't quite like the wheeling, dealing days of the early to mid-1980s, but the carbon black business is going through a shakeup of sorts. In September J.M. Huber Corp. announced it is seeking a buyer for its Engineered Carbons Division, which operates three carbon black plants in Texas. Now Witco Corp. has put its Concarb Division on the block.
Huber said its black division hasn't gained market share in the past seven to 10 years, and the company wants higher growth from its operations. Meanwhile, Witco used the ``returning to our core businesses'' explanation for why it is selling a division it bought less than a decade ago.
Neither operation ranks among the largest black producers-Cabot Corp., Degussa Corp. and Columbian Chemicals Co. control 40 percent of the world black capacity. But if a current black supplier acquires either or both of the companies that are on the block, that would reduce the number of producers, which could lead to capacity consolidation at some point in the future.
Legislative activity in Washington next year should prove interesting to the rubber industry.
With the Republicans set to hold sway in both the House of Representatives and the Senate after their mid-term landslide victory, proponents of several business-oriented proposals are hoping for their own victories.
Among these are an end to the lengthy struggle for a uniform product liability law, reform of Superfund and cuts in taxes.
At the same time, the future of scrap tire legislation is uncertain, since the two biggest congressional proponents of the issue-Reps. Jim Slattery of Kansas and George Hochbrueckner of New York-lost their seats.
While a spate of legislation should occur next year, it will be short-lived; 1996 will be an election year, when everything but campaigning grinds to a halt in Washington. Republicans and conservatives have a one-year window to push their agenda forward, and to make sure they aren't the rascals the voters decide to throw out in 1996.