Rockwood revives sale of titanium unit Sachtleben -sources

FRANKFURT Tue Feb 5, 2013 10:08am GMT

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FRANKFURT Feb 5 (Reuters) - Specialty chemicals producer Rockwood and its Finnish partner Kemira are renewing their efforts to sell German titanium dioxide unit Sachtleben, people familiar with the deal said.

After yielding little interest in earlier auctions, they have lowered their price expectations, the people said.

Sources had told Reuters almost a year ago that Rockwood and Kemira were looking at selling or floating Sachtleben, which has about 835 million euros in annual sales.

One source said Sachtleben's owners were now eyeing a price tag of $875 million or five times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) expected for 2013, compared with a previous aim for seven to eight times EBITDA.

"That is still sky high," one person close to a possible buyer said.

Strategic players as well as private equity firms such as CVC and Bain Capital are expected to look at the asset.

At an investor day in January, Rockwood said it was considering all strategic options for Sachtleben, of which it owns 61 percent.

"Based on what we said last month, it is natural to assume that we would be consulting with advisors, one of whom is Lazard," a spokeswoman for Rockwood said. Lazard declined to comment and Kemira was not available for comment.

The titanium dioxide industry - with Dupont, Saudi Arabia's Cristal Global, Tronox and Huntsman as the largest players - has suffered a roller coaster ride in recent years.

Producers slashed capacity in 2009 during the economic crisis, only to see demand rebound and product prices soar in 2010 and 2011, driven by automotive demand. As idled plants came back on stream, prices came under pressure again 2012.

Titanium dioxide particles are used to reflect light, creating the whiteness in paints and car coatings. It is also used to protect wood or plastic surfaces from bleaching out, as sunblock in skin cream, and to take the shine out of synthetic fibres.

They accounted for a quarter of Rockwood's 2011 group sales of $3.67 billion.