BASF axis shifts slightly to US
Becker Underwood acquired, Pharma Ingredients & Services moves
BASF has agreed to acquire US-based seed treatment firm Becker Underwood from Norwest Equity Partners for €785 million. This acquisition, BASF’s largest since that of Cognis in 2010, is expected to close by the end of the year. Separately, the company’s Pharma Ingredients & Services business unit is to move its headquarters to the US.
Based in Ames, Iowa, Becker Underwood is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of technologies for biological seed treatment, seed treatment colours and polymers. It is also active in biological crop protection, turf and horticulture, animal nutrition and landscape colorants and coatings. It has ten production sites and 479 employees and should have sales of about €185 million in the fiscal year to September 2012.
BASF’s Crop Protection division will create a strategic global business unit called Functional Crop Care, uniting its activities with Becker Underwood’s in seed treatment, biological crop protection, plant health, as well as water and resource management Becker Underwood’s animal nutrition business will likewise be integrated into BASF’s Nutrition & Health division.
The company announced that the global headquarters of its Pharma Ingredients & Services business unit would move from Evionnaz, Switzerland, to Florham Park, New Jersey at the same time as naming Scott Thomson as senior vice president in charge of it. Thomson replaces Martin Widmann, who will now head up the Fuel & Lubricant Solutions unit in Germany.
This move will take place in stages over six months and will involve both Thomson himself, hitherto VP of market and customer development in North America, and three other worldwide management functions. It was characterised in terms of “strengthening our presence in one of the world’s largest and most innovative markets for pharma products”; no mention was made of cost issues.
The relocation will not affect the regional business and production units in Europe or production in Evionnaz itself, BASF added. The Pharma Ingredients & Services business unit makes APIs and excipients and carries out exclusive synthesis services for the pharmaceutical industry. It is also part of the Nutrition & Health division
Separately, BASF has opened a new global dermatology laboratory at its site in Tarrytown New York state. This will focus on topical formulations for the pharmaceutical market, from basic research on skin irritation and allergy reactions to full formulations using solubilisers and excipients, while also carrying out custom formulation. The investment involved was not disclosed.
Acquiring Cognis’s pharmaceutical grade excipients gave BASF a much wider range of lipid-based emollients, surfactants, emulsifiers, gelling agents, waxes and solubilisers in addition to its existing capabilities in liquid and semi-solid formulations for skin applications. The new portfolio, the company said, “allows BASF to become a partner in human and animal dermatology, and topical, transdermal and liquid medicines”.
Back on home turf, BASF and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) opened their joint R&D platform, the Carbon Materials Innovation Centre at Ludwigshafen, which is the first research platform to be operated by BASF jointly with a scientific partner on one of its sites. Representing a total investment of €10 million, this collaboration should run for three years initially, employing 12 chemists, physicists and material scientists in a 200 m2 laboratory.
They will be looking at the scientific principles and potential applications of “innovative carbonised materials”, notably graphene, which BASF and MPI-P have been researching jointly since 2008. Activities will include synthesising and characterising new materials and evaluating their potential uses in energy and electronic applications.