LONDON—The impact of the potential sale of PolymerLatex GmbH & Co. K.G. is a big unknown at this time, according to various latex industry observers.
“This could be huge, especially for polychloroprene used to make breathing bags,” said William L. Howe, vice president of sales for DipTech Systems Inc. of Kent, Ohio, and president of Canal Fulton, Ohio-based PolyTech Synergies L.L.C. “They're a big player in that industry and they're big in nitrile production, as well.”
Howe, who is also a prominent latex industry consultant and a long-time veteran of the manufacturing sector, said that when a possible sale like this surfaces, it cries out for companies to have a backup plan in place.
TowerBrook Capital Partners L.P. placed PolymerLatex on the selling block in late July as it studies a variety of options for the chemical maker.
It's very early in the process, an official associated with both firms said. But TowerBrook, based in New York and London, wants to explore every possibility, although it's unlikely anything will happen until late 2010, the spokesperson said.
Basically, the official said, TowerBrook is trying to determine existing interest in the Marl, Germany-headquartered business. Once that's established, it will take steps accordingly.
PolymerLatex, which was founded in 1996 and now has more than $500 million in annual sales, was acquired by TowerBrook in 2003. It converts butadiene and styrene into dispersions and other materials used to produce gloves, adhesives, condoms and other products.
Latex industry observers for the most part are simply taking a wait-and-see stance to see how the process plays out.
PolymerLatex has been in a growth mode for the last three years. In September 2009, it completed construction on a 269,000-sq.-ft. plant on a 538,200-sq.-ft. site in Johor Baru, Malaysia, dedicated to the production of nitrile latex.
A research and development center also was built adjacent to the factory.
The production complex was the first global-scale nitrile latex plant in Asia, according to R. Vinny Bhalla, managing director and CEO of the Malaysian operation, called PolymerLatex Sdn. Bhd.
The plant's capacity was estimated at about 100,000 wet tons of nitrile, the largest for the material anywhere. “And we can easily expand capacity by another 25 percent any time we need to,” he said in a 2009 interview.
Construction of the facility began in August 2008.