Akzo Said to Seek Buyer for Unit With $340 Million Sales

Akzo Nobel NV, Europe’s largest paintmaker, is seeking a buyer for paper-chemical operations with about 250 million euros ($340 million) in annual sales, according to people familiar with the matter.

Initial information on Akzo’s so-called EKA retention and sizing agent business that protects paper and packaging from water has been sent to prospective buyers, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public. A representative for Amsterdam-based Akzo declined to comment.

Chief Executive Officer Ton Buechner is focussing the Dutch maker of specialty chemicals and paint brands on fewer and more profitable businesses. Akzo retreated from the U.S. decorative paint market, and is facing increased competition in areas such as marine coatings and wood finishes. Akzo also overhauled its Compozil-brand of polymer-based retention agents to improve profitability and offset a slowdown in sales.

The stock gained 0.5 percent to 59.95 euros in Amsterdam trading as of 9:03 a.m., valuing the company at 14.5 billion euros. Before today, the stock had gained 5.8 percent this year while the Dutch benchmark AEX Index declined 0.9 percent.

Jeremy Redenius, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said a sale of some paper-chemical operations would fit into Buechner’s strategy. “The CEO has continued to say he’s looking at both bolt-on as bolt-off acquisitions,” he said.

The paper-chemicals industry is consolidating as chemical makers and private-equity firms are looking to merge assets to cut costs and target a wider range of customers.

Industry Consolidation

Kemira Oyj, Europe’s largest water-chemical company, yesterday announced the purchase of a paper-emulsions business from BASF SE to build out the sizing agents operation of the Helsinki-based company. The asset, which generates 10 million euros to 20 million euros in annual sales, was acquired for less than 10 million euros, a person with knowledge of the situation said. A Kemira representative declined to comment.

Other competitors in paper-sizing additives include Archroma, a company forged from SK Capital Partners LP’s purchase of three units of Swiss chemical company Clariant AG.

The disposal of Akzo’s paper chemical operations would be the latest in a string of smaller asset sales by Buechner. An additional divestment is being prepared, as the company this month reported a 139 million-euro writedown for an unidentified business that’s held for sale.

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