FMC Said to Expect Offers for Soda-Ash Unit This Week

FMC Corp. has asked potential bidders for its soda-ash business to hand in final offers this week after holding talks with private-equity firms and rival companies about a deal that may fetch about $1.5 billion, people with knowledge of the situation said.

Advent International Corp., Compass Minerals International Inc., Bain Capital Partners and Poland’s Ciech SA have expressed interest in the business, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details of the process are private.

FMC, based in Philadelphia, has forecast improved margins from its alkali division, which includes the world’s largest deposit of trona ore used for soda ash, as both prices and production increased last year. The mineral is used in detergents and water treatment as well as glass and chemical manufacturing. Belgium’s Solvay SA, the world’s largest supplier of soda ash, last year announced plans to increase output of natural soda ash to meeting growing demand.

Representatives for Compass Minerals, Ciech, FMC, Advent and Bain declined to comment.

FMC Chief Executive Officer Pierre Brondeau said in October that a sale process was about to start and a decision would probably be made in the first half of this year.

Like DuPont Co. and Royal DSM NV, the company is seeking to transform into a so-called lifesciences company focused on ingredients for agrochemicals, nutritional products and biopolymers used in cosmetics and food.

FMC agreed to acquire agrochemical maker Cheminova for $1.8 billion last year, and also entered an alliance with Chr. Hansen Holdings A/S to develop biological crop-care products.

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are advising FMC on the sale of its alkali business, one of the people said.

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