• Bankers said summoned to headquarters to pitch credentials
  • Evonik’s recent Air Products deal sparked BASF soul-searching

BASF SE has assembled a core group of financial advisers primed to pounce on potential deals after losing out last month on a coveted acquisition target, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The world’s largest chemical company summoned bankers to its headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany in recent weeks to assess their expertise and availability, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the meetings were private. None of the people said BASF made the bankers aware of a specific, imminent target, and the meetings were independent of its agreement unveiled earlier this month to acquire coatings business Chemetall from Albemarle Corp. for $3.2 billion.

A spokeswoman for BASF declined to comment.

BASF’s move to strengthen its M&A hand follows German rival Evonik Industries AG’s successful $3.8 billion deal last month to acquire a chemical-coatings unit belonging to Air Products & Chemicals Inc. The business, desired by BASF, made up one-half of Air Products’ broader materials technologies division for which BASF unsuccessfully offered about $6 billion last year. Evonik’s winning swoop prompted a period of soul-searching at BASF, the people said, as has an intensifying wave of consolidation among chemicals companies.

Beauty Parade

In a type of beauty parade typical of the industry, bankers traveled to BASF’s sprawling chemicals complex on the Rhine River to pitch their services, the people said. The move was designed to avoid a last-minute scramble for advisers if it decides to pursue another acquisition after Chemetall, the people said.

For more on BASF’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Chemetall, click here

During his five years at the helm, Chief Executive Officer Kurt Bock has signaled an aversion to overpaying for assets and has been a cautious buyer. Chemetall was on its radar screen for a couple of years, the people said. The deal sends a signal to sellers that BASF is prepared to splurge on higher-valued assets and should be included on their lists of potential bidders when sale processes are being planned, said the people.

Deal Frenzy

Apart from the $1.25 billion that BASF spent on oil-and-gas assets from Statoil ASA, Bock’s only other purchase that surpassed the billion-dollar mark prior to Chemetall had been seed-treatment supplier Becker Underwood Inc. in 2012. That legacy contrasts with the more than $170 billion worth of chemical industry deals in the pipeline including China National Chemical Corp.’s planned $43 billion purchase of Syngenta AG of Switzerland and the planned mega-merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co.

BASF’s purchase of Chemetall was greeted by analysts as a good strategic fit, although it raised eyebrows for its valuation at about 15 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. BASF’s willingness to pay that price is a symptom of the deals frenzy, according to analysts.

“Chemetall will enhance BASF’s coatings market position but is an expensive deal,” Markus Mayer, an analyst at Baader Helvea, said in a note. “The acquisition underpins our worries that BASF will acquire growth expensively.”

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