(From the Dec. 12, 2011, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
RED BANK, N.J.—Ansell Ltd. has acquired a minority interest in Yulex Corp. and signed an exclusive pact with the firm that will give it a prime source for hypoallergenic rubber latex.
The agreement with Chandler, Ariz.-based Yulex calls for the global development, manufacturing and distribution rights for medical gloves, personal protection equipment gloves and condoms made from guayule rubber latex, according to an Ansell spokesman.
Both deals were finalized in late November, he said. The size of the acquisition was not disclosed nor the terms of the purchase.
The global manufacturer of rubber latex gloves and condoms bought a minority interest in Yulex—the producer of biopolymers derived from guayule, a small desert shrub that's native to the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico—to expand its protective products portfolio and operations, Ansell CEO Magnus Nicolin said.
“Our agreements with Yulex are an important step in our strategy to accelerate the development of new innovative products while reducing our usage of rubber tree latex,” he said.
Ansell currently is reviewing its options on which products will be made with guayule latex, the spokesman said.
Since rubber latex allergies became a global concern in the late 1980s, virtually every manufacturer of protective gloves has worked to circumvent allergies by removing proteins from latex, eliminated powder on gloves or used alternative materials. Guayule does not contain the proteins found in Hevea rubber.
Getting exclusive manufacturing and marketing rights, along with a minority ownership of Yulex, should not only boost Ansell's product portfolio but broaden its reach, another Ansell official said.
The biggest benefit in making the deals for Yulex is that Ansell “is a premier global manufacturer of medical gloves, condoms and protective personal equipment” and will exclusively manufacture, promote and market Yulex products in those segments on a global basis, said Yulex CEO Jeff Martin.
Red Bank-based Ansell will invest in product development, clinical testing, global regulatory management, educational programs, and sales and marketing, Martin said.
The collaboration “will advance the acceptance of guayule rubber as a U.S. bio-based alternative for natural rubber and petroleum-based rubber products,” he said.
Yulex, which was founded in 1997 as a start-up company and exclusive licensee of the patented process for making hypoallergenic guayule latex developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is committed to developing green technologies for the consumer and health care markets, Martin said.
The company is currently in the midst of expanding its operation. Earlier this year, it took over two facilities that span 60,000 square feet in Chandler, one of which has become its new headquarters.
It plans to produce latex and bioenergy feedstocks on five acres of nearby land. The firm has the potential to expand across as many as 20 acres in Chandler.
Although the company is occupying offices at the site, the plant is not scheduled to open until early 2012, Martin said. The firm's other production facility is located in Maricopa, Ariz.
Meanwhile, Ansell has grown organically and via strategic acquisitions during the last few years to keep it among the top global producers of gloves and condoms.
In its 2011 fiscal year-end report, the company's top executives said Ansell expects to build on its strong 2011 performance, maintain its rapid emerging markets growth, take advantage of acquisition opportunities and continue to reshape itself into a more agile and growth-oriented operation.
The purchase of a minority interest in Yulex along with the exclusive product development and manufacturing pact with the firm ties in with those goals, the Ansell official said.
The same holds true for the company's acquisition of Sandel Medical Industries L.L.C. for $13.5 million in mid-2011. That deal gives it access to health care goods outside of its primary glove and condom lines.
Sandel, with annual revenues in the $10 million range, develops and produces products that deal with and prevent safety problems for patients and medical personnel.
In addition, Ansell made significant investments to upgrade its manufacturing and product development capabilities while accelerating growth in emerging markets with other investments, the firm said.
During fiscal 2011, which ended on June 30, the firm achieved double-digit sales and profit growth, with sales climbing 11 percent from the previous year to $1.2 billion while earnings jumped 15 percent to $122 million.
Ansell was hit with significant increases in raw material costs throughout the fiscal year, which were partially offset by higher volumes, price increases and improved efficiencies at all levels, according to the company. Those cost pressures remain, it said, but the firm is continuing to take actions to mitigate them.