Novozymes M&A Chief Videbaek Makes Mark With Bio-Products Deal

Thomas Videbaek made his mark on strategy as chief dealmaker at Novozymes A/S with an $80 million purchase of a Canadian supplier of paper and textile enzymes.

Videbaek, 52, a trained chemist who joined Novozymes from Novo Nordisk in 1998, led a successful bid by the world’s largest enzyme maker in an auction of Bio-Products by biofuel company Iogen Corp. His new role, which includes heading up mergers and acquisitions, marks a period of change at Novozymes after the departure of Steen Riisgaard after 12 years as CEO.

The purchase from Ottawa, Canada-based Iogen brings enzymes that cut the need for chlorine and other harsh chemicals when processing natural fibers into clothes and paper. Videbaek, who constructed Novozymes’ BioBusiness from a series of startup takeovers, said the Danish company will use its global network to bolster sales, and there’s potential to improve efficiency.

“We’re very happy that this came along, it’s a good addition,” said BioBusiness head Videbaek in a phone interview.

Novozymes is paying an initial C$67.5 million for Bio-Products and potential payments of as much as C$12.5 million depending on performance. The deal will add about 0.5 percentage points to sales growth this year, with a “slightly” negative impact on earnings and margins, it said, adding that full-year goals remain intact.

DuPont, BASF

Sales of biotechnology companies have been hotly contested, with DuPont Co. and BASF SE among the chemical businesses seeking to reinvent themselves by shifting away from commodity chemicals, increasingly the domain of low-cost manufacturers in Asia and the Middle East. Monsanto Co. yesterday announced the acquisition of microbe technology of Agradis as it pursues biological solutions to crop control.

Bio-Products will bolster Novozymes’ offering of products to the paper and animal-feed industries.

Videbaek, who will switch roles to group business development chief on April 1, is being given greater management scope following Riisgaard’s exit and the appointment of Peder Holk Nielsen as his replacement. Mergers and acquisitions will get a more prominent role after previously being included in BioBusiness. Novozymes’ bacteria-based cultures unit will now be merged into the main enzymes operation after Videbaek consolidated acquired startup firms into a cohesive division.

BioBusiness’ margins still have a “little way to go” to reach Novozymes’ 58 percent, though the unit has enough “critical mass” and research and development ties for it now to be combined, said Videbaek.

Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based Novozymes increased 0.2 percent to 180.90 kroner in Copenhagen today. The stock has gained 5.2 percent since the management reshuffle was announced on Jan. 21. The benchmark KFX index is up 1 percent.