The 2008 ICIS Top 40

08 December 2008 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Correction: in the story headlined The 2008 ICIS Top 40, please read, in entry 21 (James O'Brien, Ashland) "This summer, the company signed a memorandum of understanding to combine its global metal casings and foundry chemical operations," instead of "This summer, the company combined its global metal casings and foundry chemical operations." A corrected story follows:

The ICIS Top 40 Power Players highlights the most influential people impacting the global chemical industry. From CEOs to politicians to government officials, see who's made the cut and who's on the way up

ICIS reporters

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THEY SAY it's lonely at the top. But the ICIS Top 40 Power Players have plenty of company. It is often a team effort that propels an individual to the top, and those in positions of power will hopefully flex their muscle to the benefit of many.

We have a stellar group this year in our third installment of the special series. These people have changed the face of the global chemical industry - through mergers and acquisitions, policy leadership, innovation, or financial performance.

A purely subjective exercise, we asked our reporters, numbering more than 100, around the world in North America, Europe and Asia for candidates, and then put them up for debate. A special thanks to the entire worldwide ICIS team for their efforts. The result is our ICIS Top 40 Power Players. Get to know them if you haven't already.

THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE

For the first time, we also invited readers to vote for the "People's Choice" on ICIS connect at www.icis.com/icisconnect, our online discussion forum.

Throughout November, we presented the Top 10 finalists on ICIS connect and asked people to choose their top pick.

After more than 480 votes, LyondellBasell CEO Volker Trautz was the overwhelming favorite, with more than 83% of the vote, followed by Dow Chemical chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris, with over 7.4%. BASF chairman and CEO Jurgen Hambrecht came in third, with 2.7%. Thanks for voting!

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1 JURGEN HAMBRECHT, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, BASF

Under his leadership, the German chemical giant BASF's stellar growth has continued in 2008, consolidating the company's position as the world's largest and possibly, best managed, chemical company.

Most recently, Hambrecht showed how decisively he can act during these unprecedented times of economic turmoil. In the face of collapsing demand in important end-use markets such as automotive and construction, in November he announced production cuts at about 100 plants worldwide in an attempt to curtail overcapacity.

Scheduled maintenance was brought forward, and Europe bore the brunt of the shutdowns, with 50 of the total planned closures in the region, compared with 20 in Asia and 10 in North America.

Perhaps Hambrecht's biggest coup in 2008, though, was BASF's acquisition of Swiss specialty firm Ciba for Swiss franc (Swfr) 6.1bn ($5.1bn, €3.6bn), due to close in 2009. BASF plans to merge the Ciba plastic additives, coatings effects and water and paper treatment chemical businesses into its performance products segment. They will add about 7% to BASF's sales, taking the 2007 pro forma figure to €62bn ($78m).

This move, together with the earlier acquisitions of US catalyst maker Engelhard and Germany-based Degussa's construction chemical business, increase BASF's presence in truly specialty businesses.

Hambrecht has also capitalized on the political clout he has as head of an $85bn (€67bn) company. He has been particularly vocal about the EU's plans to introduce buying of emissions rights under the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) after 2012. In October, he declared this could seriously harm the competitiveness of the European chemical industry. "I would like to see an end to the systematic attempts to deindustrialize Europe," he declared.

To the envy of many, Hambrecht's team has also cleverly negotiated with Russia to gain access to the natural gas Europe so desperately needs. BASF subsidiary Wintershall has long-standing relationships there, which he has been keen to exploit.

In October, the company officially launched natural gas production at its Achimgaz joint venture (JV) in Siberia with Gazprom. The JV plans to recover up to 200bn m3 of natural gas and 40m tonnes of condensate from the Achimov formation over more than 40 years.

The two companies are planning to make additional investments worth several billion euros in European natural gas infrastructure in the coming years.

One thorn in Hambrecht's side, however, is BASF's failure so far to sell its underperforming styrenics business, which has been on the market for well over a year.

Despite adding its styrenic copolymers units to the carve-out, then splitting the package into a number of subsidiaries to attract investors, BASF has still not found a buyer.

The new subsidiaries - with total annual sales of about €4bn - will now include styrene copolymer plants in Ludwigshafen and Schwarzheide, Germany, as well as global marketing, sales and logistics activities.

Although the new subsidiaries are not planned to be launched until January 2009, in August, BASF said it was already in negotiations with a bidder for the carve-out businesses. These talks do not appear to have been fruitful, however.

2 ANDREW LIVERIS, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, DOW CHEMICAL

The CEO of the largest US-based chemical company since 2004 and chairman since 2006, Liveris is making his mark with two of the most transformational deals in industry history.

The first, a $15bn (€11.9bn) in sales commodity chemical joint venture (JV) with Kuwait's Petrochemical Industries Co. set to close by January 1, 2009, marks the centerpiece in Dow's "asset-light" strategy, where it lightens its capital footprint in large-scale projects. The JV will have access to advantaged feedstock from Kuwait.

The second, the pending acquisition of US-based specialties giant Rohm and Haas for $18.8bn, represents the largest buyout ever in chemicals and will solidify Dow as a specialty chemicals player.

Liveris has also taken a leadership role in helping to create a comprehensive and sustainable US energy policy, unveiling "Dow's Energy Plan for America" in November.

The plan calls for higher energy efficiency, speeding renewable energy development, boosting oil and gas production, optimizing the carbon efficiency of coal and accelerating use of nuclear energy.

3 MOHAMED AL-MADY, CEO, SABIC

SABIC goes from strength to strength, ably assisted by its CEO and vice chairman, Mohamed al-Mady. Al-Mady has overseen spectacular growth for the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-headquartered petrochemical major and helped secure the company's place in the chemical world.

SABIC is widely recognized as a petrochemical leader. The audacious purchase of US-based GE Plastics helped flesh out its portfolio. The deal has given one of the fastest-growing producers in the sector even more room to grow and access to a deeper understanding of important customer markets for materials and polymers.

Al-Mady remains ambitious and is seeking investment opportunities not only in the Middle East/North Africa region, but in China, the fastest-growing chemical market in the world. His greatest challenge is to make the Fujian-located complex work, particularly with the relationship with state oil company and project partner Saudi Aramco. The two rivals must work together effectively if Saudi Arabia is to take the next steps in the development of its chemical industry.

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4 MAHA MULLA HUSsAIN, Chairman and MD, Petrochemical Industries Co.

The head of Kuwait's Petrochemical Industries Co. (PIC) is on the verge of closing a $15bn (€11.9bn) in sales commodity chemical joint venture (JV) with US-based Dow Chemical. The deal thrusts PIC directly into the global spotlight, and will strengthen existing ties with the largest US-based chemical company, including the Equate, Equipolymer and MEGlobal JVs. The new JV, which will include Equipolymer and MEGlobal, will have full integration, from advantaged feedstock to derivatives. Hussain will have the opportunity to further expand in emerging economies, taking feedstock from current and future refineries. Hussain's PIC reportedly beat out a number of other contestants for Dow's assets, including India's Reliance Industries.

5 Su Shulin, Chairman, Sinopec

Sinopec, China's largest petrochemical producer, had a net profit in 2007 of $7.17bn (€5.55bn). The sudden departure of its previous president, Chen Tonghai, placed Su at the helm. This could be an indication that the state-owned corporation is expanding its focus on upstream operations, with Su's previous experience as the former senior executive president of PetroChina. Despite natural disasters, slowing demand and a credit crunch, Sinopec is still well positioned to execute its petrochemical expansions. Su started his career as a senior engineer, with his first appointment as the Assistant to the Director of CNPC Daqing Petroleum Administration Bureau. He was previously appointed to the standing committee and head of the organization department of Liaoning Provincial Committee.

6 Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries

Under Mukesh Ambani's leadership, India-based Reliance continues to dominate the Indian petrochemical scene and to push forward with diversification and globalization plans. At home, construction of subsidiary Reliance Petroleum's new worldscale refinery-cum-polypropylene (PP) complex at Jamnagar progressed ahead of schedule though perhaps unsurprisingly, given the slump in markets, start-up has been delayed. Despite taking the inevitable financial hit from the current downturn, Reliance is planning further export-focused units at the site and is gearing up for further diversification into carbon black and lube oils. Abroad, while this year has seen no major deals, Reliance has joined with GAIL to explore setting up gas cracker projects in feedstock-rich countries.

7 hans wijers, CEO, AkzoNobel

Hans Wijers has overseen the transformation of Netherlands-based AkzoNobel in 2008 into the world's largest coatings producer and a leader in decorative paints. Integrating the UK's former ICI has been the key task of 2008 for this former Dutch minister of economic affairs. Wijers has driven change at the coatings-to-chemicals producer and a steep rise in efficiencies. AkzoNobel has a great deal to gain from the ICI purchase in market, geographical and operational terms. The more broadly based coatings portfolio the CEO has helped create also looks better placed to weather the steep downturn. Wijers has also shown he is quick to respond to the downturn, announcing in September the company will cut 3,500 jobs by 2011 and defer its share buyback program.

8 Volker trautz, CEO, LyondellBasell

Which would you prefer? A seat on the board of the world's largest chemical producer, or to be CEO of the world's No. 4? Volker Trautz has enjoyed both in his successful career. He was a board member of Germany-based BASF in the 1990s for Asia (twice) and then for plastics and fibers, and is now CEO of Netherlands-based LyondellBasell, the $44bn (€35bn) turnover company created when Basell and Lyondell merged in December 2007. In the interim, he ran Basell from its creation in 2000 as a joint venture between BASF and Shell Chemicals, and remained in charge when it was sold in mid-2005 to Len Blavatnik's US-based Access Industries. In November, Trautz idled an olefins plant, reduced operating rates and shut down polymer plants as a result of the economic slowdown.

9 Jon Huntsman, Chairman, Huntsman

Chairman and founder of US-based Huntsman, he is steering the company's difficult $3bn (€2.3bn) lawsuit in Texas against US-based Apollo Management and its principals, Leon Black and Joshua Harris, for fraud in Hexion's busted merger attempt. Having won an order in a Delaware court that Hexion proceed with the merger on the original terms, Huntsman is now pressing the Texas case, and suing banks Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank for pulling the financing for the deal. Jon Huntsman's interest in charitable pursuits, especially the Huntsman Cancer Institute, give him plenty of options after his long career in the chemical industry. Huntsman donated nearly 22m shares of the company's stock to his charitable foundation the day before the sale was announced.

10 abdallah jum'ah, President and CEO, Saudi Aramco

After 40 years with the Saudi state-owned oil giant, Jum'ah has packed a lot into the last 12 months before he retires in December. In May, he inked a deal with French major Total to build a 400,000 bbl/day refinery in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Next, he formed an alliance with SABIC to market polyolefins made by Saudi Aramco's Fujian joint venture (JV) in China. He said the project was "considered to be the first ever refining and petrochemical industries integrated project to be established with a foreign company in China." But all is not well at the giant Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical (PetroRabigh) mega refinery-petrochemical project, a $10bn (€7.7bn) JV between Aramco and Japan's Sumitomo Chemical. An extra $300m will have to be spent due to technical problems.

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11 Axel heitmann, Chairman and CEO, LANXESS

Axel Heitmann kept the company's shareholders happy this year - not because of a blockbuster acquisition, but because the Germany-based company was able to keep its 2008 financial target on track amid the current global financial turbulence. The company was also on track with its investment strategies in emerging markets, spending €400m ($563m) on a butyl rubber plant in Singapore and acquiring Latin America's largest rubber producer, Petroflex. In September, Heitmann said LANXESS would enter the Russian market in January 2009 by launching a new sales branch in Moscow. No major acquisitions are in Heitmann's calendar for now, but the company does plan to expand its portfolio with research and development projects, as well as selective investments.

12 Stephanie burns, Chairman and CEO, Dow Corning

One of the very few female CEOs, Stephanie Burns has led US-based Dow Corning on a rapid top-line growth path since it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-2004. Sales have doubled to over $5bn (€3.9bn), driven by her focus on innovation and geographic expansion into regions including China, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam. In 25 years at Dow Corning, her career has spanned scientific research (she has a PhD in organic chemistry) issues management science and technology leadership and business management. Burns joined Dow Corning's board in 2001, became president in 2003, CEO in 2004 and chairman in 2006. She is said to have a passion for innovation and a vision for combining the scientific and social benefits of chemistry.

13 feike sijbesma, Chairman, DSM

As chairman of DSM's managing board since May 2007, Feike Sijbesma has had his hands full keeping the Netherlands-based firm's forward momentum going. DSM won this year's ICIS Innovation Award for its groundbreaking collaboration with the UN World Food Programme. Together they are helping to fight world hunger with the development of a novel micronutrient powder that can be used conveniently in food fortification at home in developing countries. Sijbesma has also been busy implementing DSM's Vision 2010 strategy, initially announced in 2005, which aims to generate €1bn ($1.3bn) in new sales from innovation by 2010. Over the past few years, DSM has followed Vision 2010 to build on its strengths as a life sciences and material sciences company.

14 hiromasa yonekura, President, Sumitomo Chemical

The head of one of Japan's largest chemical companies, Yonekura was behind the 2005 watershed deal between Sumitomo Chemical and Saudi Arabia's state oil firm Saudi Aramco to build the $10bn (€7.7bn) PetroRabigh refining, petrochemical and plastics project. Due in the first quarter of 2009, PetroRabigh represents the first overseas investment by a Japanese chemical company in the Middle East. Yonekura is vice chairman of the Japan Petrochemical Industry Association and has been a major proponent of the Japanese government's "Cool Earth 50" plan, which calls for the reduction of greenhouse gases worldwide by 50% by 2050 through technological innovation and boosting energy efficiency. He is putting the spotlight on the chemical industry as a leader and catalyst in this effort.

15 Alexei miller, Chairman, Gazprom

Miller has a PhD in economics from the Leningrad Finance and Economics Institute and served for five years in the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office under Vladimir Putin. He became deputy minister for Energy in the Russian Federation and chairman of Gazprom in 2001. Gazprom is strongly positioned with discoveries in the Yamal Peninsula, pipelines and a number of overseas ventures. Closer to home, Miller has spearheaded the company's plans for a number of gas-chemical hubs in the Russian far east by 2020, which should position the firm well to meet growing demand in Asia. Gazprom aims to produce 563bn m3 of gas this year, a rise of 14.4% on 2007, with gas exports worth $64bn (€51bn)this year, up from $39.5bn in 2007.

16 hans udo wenzel, CEO, Azelis

Despite the credit crunch putting pressure on financing from its UK-based private equity owner 3i, under Wenzel's leadership, Switzerland-based Azelis has continued to grow strongly in 2008, cementing its position as Europe's fourth largest chemical distributor. The company has nearly completed its portfolio in Europe, but Wenzel still wants a foothold in Portugal, and to further strengthen Azelis's position in Turkey, following its purchase of Tara Kimya in January. As well as filling holes in the company's portfolio, the acquisition in October of Austria-based Weinzierl's distribution business gives a boost to Azelis's life science offering. Azelis is also on the brink of completing another purchase in India on top of its September 2007 buyout of a 49% stake in distributor Marigold International.

17 GEert dancet, Executive director, ECHA

Anyone taking the top job at ECHA just as the EU's chemical regulation Reach kicked in was never going to be in for an easy ride. Although he is essentially a civil servant, Dancet's profile has grown steadily and he started to engage more vocally with the chemical industry as it struggled with the preregistration period for Europe's chemical regulation Reach. As this process drew to a close at the end of November, and its Reach-IT website packed up, Dancet had to deal with howls of protest from industry players who were struggling to preregister their chemicals in time. Dancet suggested they should use the site at night and the weekends. In October, Dancet announced the first list of 15 named chemicals for which safety data will have to be supplied when they are sold in the EU.

18 vitor mallmann, CEO, Quattor

Formerly vice president of Unipar, Vitor Mallmann has been instrumental in the long and complex creation of Quattor, the new Brazilian polyolefins major that from the middle of the year has brought together the nine production plants of Petroquimica Uniao, Polietilenos Uniao, Rio Polimeros and Suzano Petroquimica. In his new role as Quattor's CEO, Mallmann has ambitious plans for the company to compete with domestic rival Braskem as well as on the global stage. Creating a unified results-oriented culture, boosting exports to neighboring Mercosur countries and analyzing opportunities for further investments in Brazil are among his top priorities. When Quattor completes its investment program at the end of 2008, it will have 2.8m tonnes of basic petrochemical capacity.

19 Bernardo gradin, CEO, Braskem

The new CEO at Brazil's leading thermoplastic resins producer intends to position the firm in the top 10 global petrochemical players, in terms of stock market value, by 2012. A string of proposed new investments in Brazil and Venezuela, coupled with Brazil's relative resilience to the global economic crisis, should help the new incumbent. However, these investments face possible delays as a result of the global financial crisis and falling oil prices. This year Braskem has continued to dominate Latin America's chemical sector, with double the revenues of the No. 2 player, Mexico's Pemex Petroquimica. The Brazilian restructuring enabled Braskem to boost its market share by gobbling up petrochemical producers Ipiranga Petroquimica and Copesul.

20 klaus engel, Chairman-elect and CEO, Evonik Industries

CEO since 2007, Engel will take over as chairman of the major German chemical and industrial group on January 1, 2009. Engel aims to sharpen the chemical business's focus on innovation and macro societal trends such as energy efficiency. On this front, the company is aiming to develop catalysts for the next generation of biofuels, and investing in photovoltaics and materials to produce batteries for plug-in electric vehicles. In China, Engel is directing growth with the phased start-up of Evonik's €250m ($321m) integrated methyl methacrylate (MMA) complex in Shanghai. In September, Evonik owner RAG sold a 25% stake in Evonik to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for €2.4bn. Engel aims to boost profitability to the point where the company can launch an initial public offering by 2012.

21 James o'brien, Chairman and CEO, Ashland

Under O'Brien's guidance, US-based Ashland has expanded considerably, topped off by its $2.6bn (€2.1bn) buyout of compatriot water and paper chemical producer Hercules. This summer, the company signed a memorandum of understanding to combine its global metal castings and foundry chemical operations with those of Germany-based Sud-Chemie in a 50:50 joint venture. Later, Ashland bought US-based Air Products' pressure sensitive adhesives and atmospheric emulsions business for $92m. The Hercules deal is expected to position the company to deliver more stable earnings. In addition to its consumer line, which includes Valvoline, and its distribution unit, Ashland will run three specialty businesses: paper and water technologies, specialty resins and specialty additives and functional ingredients.

22 Zhou JIPING, President and vice chairman, PetroChina

Formerly executive director, Zhou was appointed president and vice chairman in May, succeeding Jiang Jiemin as president in a broad management shake-up. Zhou will direct a number of PetroChina projects underway in China, including a $1.9bn (€1.48bn) refinery and petrochemical facility in Ningxia province. PetroChina met the challenges of dealing with natural disasters such as icy snow in parts of China, as well as the earthquake in Sichuan province, ensuring stability in production. However, its $5.5bn joint venture (JV) Sichuan project may be delayed beyond 2010 as a result of the earthquake. The company is also mulling a $5bn petrochemical JV in the Middle East. Talks with Middle East producers may conclude at the end of this year or early next year.

23 Mark Garrett, CEO, Borealis

Since taking over as CEO of global polyolefins producer Borealis in January 2008, Mark Garrett has set up a science and technology advisory board to help bring plastics innovations to the market. With the integration of Agrolinz Melamine complete, a base chemical division has been formed to provide a second leg to the polyolefins business. Garrett has also launched the Water for the World program to find ways in which plastics can provide sustainable solutions to preserving and managing water and sanitation. The goal is to foster local knowledge and partnerships to provide safe water and sanitation for poor urban communities. Completion of the company's 350,000 tonne/year low density polyethylene (LDPE) plant in Sweden is on track for completion in 2009.

24 Brian ferguson, Chairman and CEO, Eastman Chemical

Under Ferguson's tutelage, US-based Eastman Chemical is, despite increasing raw material and energy costs and the impact of the global banking crisis, still making money and investing for the future. Eastman will continue to press ahead with its $1.6bn (€1.3bn) coal-gasification project in Beaumont, Texas - the largest new chemical project in the US. Projected to be operational in 2011, the plant will produce methanol, hydrogen and ammonia from coal or petroleum coke. If successful, it would mark a sea change for the US chemical industry in competitively producing certain commodity chemicals. Ferguson has also overseen the development of Eastman's new IntegRex polyethylene terephthalate (PET) technology, which will lower the cost of production.

25 Ben VAN BEURDEN, Executive vice president, Shell

Promoting carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been a major concern for van Beurden this year. Earlier in the year, he called for a push from governments to help stimulate its economic viability: "Carbon capture needs to be part of the solution on climate change," he said. And while CCS technology would continue to become more efficient, "we need incentives from governments to move ahead on the learning curve," he said. Van Beurden is also looking at innovative solutions for adding new petrochemical capacity possibly using new feedstocks, and has signed a deal to extend the Anglo-Dutch firm's presence in China. In April, Shell started building an $80m (€63m) CCS demonstration project in Alberta, Canada, next to its refinery and oil sands upgrader unit.

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26 Steve Holland, CEO, Brenntag Europe

Steve Holland rose from distribution manager at Albion Chemicals, the company created for the 2001 buyout of the Hays chemical distribution business in the UK, to be its managing director. He subsequently sold the business to Germany's Brenntag in 2006, only to rise rapidly to head the German distribution giant's European business as CEO. He is now overseeing its continued advance in Europe through selected acquisitions and a strategic investment program. Holland, a graduate in polymer chemistry, has 25 years experience in chemical manufacturing and distribution. Despite the downturn, Brenntag Europe has been on a spending spree this year. Most recently, in September the company purchased Rhodia's $400m (€316m) sales Asia-Pacific specialty chemicals distribution business

27 Francois Cornelis, Vice chairman, president of chemicals, Total

The two-year reign of French energy giant Total's Francois Cornelis as president of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) ended in October 2008, when he was succeeded by Belgium-based Solvay's CEO, Christian Jourquin. Despite the end of his tenure, Cornelis waded into the growing debate supporting the phased-in auctioning of EU emissions permits, rather than the energy-intensive chemical sector having to buy most of its allowances from 2013. He aired his concerns about full auctioning, noting that it would not be possible to pass the additional costs on to customers. Cornelis also hit the headlines when pledging his continued support for quarterly olefins pricing rather than a monthly system, a debate which has been raging for years.

28 ren jianxin, President, ChemChina

The head of China National Chemical (ChemChina) is creating an international chemical company with global financial management and environmental standards. The company is poised to acquire more assets and has secured investment from private equity firm Blackstone Group. Ren is also president of subsidiary China BlueStar, which he founded with a loan from his employer in 1984 as a teapot and boiler cleaning company. ChemChina has made a series of acquisitions in recent years, including France-based Rhodia's global silicone business, France-based animal nutrition firm Adisseo and Australian cracker operator Qenos. It has bought 100 chemical companies from the Chinese ­government since 1990 and has won a $600m (€474m) investment from US private equity firm Blackstone.

29 zhou shengxian, Minister State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA)

SEPA's upgrade to a full ministry gave it more muscle on existing production facilities and chemical projects approvals, showing a significant shift in Chinese priorities toward sustainable development. SEPA had forced plants to shut or scrap projects in order to help keep to pollution targets, with new project approvals under strong scrutiny for better emission standards. SEPA under Zhou has even rejected projects that may push a city, region or province over emission targets. Looking ahead, Zhou and SEPA's new granted authority will have to manage China's sometimes competing interests of the environment and industrial growth, as it battles to shake up the current chemical plants in China toward greener standards.

30 francois vleugels, CEO, Unipetrol

In 2008, Vleugels continued making excellent progress with the challenge of transforming Czech chemical producer Unipetrol from a nontransparent holding company into a single, dynamic company. When he started at Unipetrol in April 2006, the company had been acquired by Poland's PKN Orlen and was in desperate need of modernization. The transition has not been helped by frequent changes in leadership at the parent company. Veugels has had to work single-mindedly, without a huge amount of direction from Orlen. Having divested noncore assets in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) player Spolana and styrene and rubber producer Kaucuk, Vleugels has stabilized the company and is now focused on creating a strong player in the high growth region of Central and Eastern Europe.

31 John paul broeders, Chairman and CEO, Vopak

Dutch tanker and terminal giant Vopak and its CEO, John Paul Broeders, have enjoyed a pretty fruitful year to date, including a 17% year-on-year rise in net profit for the first half of 2008, and an 18% increase in its third-quarter group operating profit. What's more, he oozed confidence in September that the global financial woes would actually benefit plans for expansion, removing some of the competition when looking at potential acquisitions. Broeders said Vopak's growth had been driven by the need for infrastructure in Asia and the Middle East, to match the increased output in those regions. Biofuel storage capacity has also been key for the company, with revenues climbing rapidly. The firm's main hub of Rotterdam is also undergoing significant expansion to accommodate the surge in biofuel use.

32 stefan borgas, CEO, Lonza

In his tenure as CEO of Lonza since June 2004, Stefan Borgas has overseen the compelling growth of the Swiss firm into the world-leading fine chemical manufacturer it is today, particularly in the area of biologics manufacturing. In July 2008, the company strengthened its global position in life sciences by acquiring German cell culture technology company amaxa. The acquisition gave Lonza cutting-edge technology in cell discovery. The company also opened a new business unit in China, Lonza Engineering, in 2008. Borgas came to Lonza following an impressive career at Germany's BASF, where he worked since the early 1990s. Lonza reported an 82.9% year-on-year surge in net income during the first half of the year, at Swiss francs (Swfr) 267m ($259m, €164m). Sales were 6.5% higher year on year at Swfr1.46bn.

33 joe acker, President, SOCMA

Having led the US-based trade group Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) for six years and being a former chemical industry executive, Acker brings a wealth of knowledge to the challenge of representing the interests of batch and custom producers in a recessionary economy and a sea change in federal policymaking. Though often small firms, specialties producers face the same daunting challenges as majors, such as energy costs and ever-widening environmental requirements. A year before it appeared in Congress, Acker anticipated eco-labeling legislation and is poised to guide specialties through that and other looming changes. He is now pushing for proper inspections of active pharmaceutical ingredient plants in countries such as China.

34 james prokopanko, Chairman and CEO, Mosaic

James Prokopanko has overseen spectacular recent earnings growth at US-based phosphate fertilizer producer Mosaic and a strengthening of its financial position. A former Cargill executive, Prokopanko took the helm at Mosaic as president and CEO in January 2007. He took the top jobs at the start of an auspicious time as fertilizer prices rose on the back of revitalized agricultural production and booming biofuel demand. Mosaic mines, manufactures, markets and distributes fertilizers around the world. Prokopanko needs a clear world view: Mosaic is the largest processed phosphate producer with significant equity interest in the rapidly growing markets of China and Brazil. Mosaic was named the ICIS 2008 chemical company of the year but the company has not proved immune to the downturn.

35 Andris Piebalgs, Energy Commissioner, EU

Piebalgs has taken on the challenge of ensuring a stable energy supply for Europe, while setting binding targets to reduce the region's carbon footprint. Key decisions have to be made on what extent the chemical industry will be burdened by the emissions trading scheme (ETS), which could cost the sector as much as €5bn ($6.4bn). Piebalgs, who has resisted calls from the UK to suspend controversial Europe-wide biofuel quotas, supports biofuel development as a way to offset emissions. To satisfy business in Europe, he must also try to build international consensus on combating climate change to create a level global playing field. Piebalgs was also entering talks with Turkey regarding the €8bn Nabucco natural gas pipeline project, which could end Europe's over-reliance on Russian gas.

36 Avraham bigger, Chairman and CEO, Makhteshim Agan

In January 2007, Avraham Bigger began his tenure as CEO of Israel's Makhteshim Agan with a mandate to transform the world's leading producer of generic agrochemicals from a rambling collection of about 40 autonomous operating entities into a cohesive integrated business. He merged operations, replaced much of the management team and streamlined staff, with his immediate objective being to cut costs by $100m (€77.9m) by the end of 2008. To judge from the company's financial results, his efforts are paying off. Sales rose by 26% in the second quarter (Q2) of this year to $682m, while the company posted a 28% rise in its net profit to $69m from $54m. Makhteshim Agan then reported $640.1m in sales for Q3, 28.8% more than the same period a year ago, and net profit rose by 160% to $50.6m.

37 John Bresland, Chairman, US Chemical Safety Board

The new head of the US government agency Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board (CSB), appointed in March, is pushing to make dust explosions a thing of the past. Calling combustible dust "an insidious workplace hazard," Bresland recommended that Congress pass a sweeping law on dust standards that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would be required to enforce. The CSB's Combustible Dust Hazard Study, a report published in November 2006, showed that in the previous 15 years, there had been 280 dust explosions in the US that had killed around 120 people and caused extensive injuries. Bresland is also expanding the CSB's geographic reach beyond Washington, D.C., opening an office in Denver, Colorado.

38 Paul anastas, Yale, and John warner, Warner Babcock Institute

Twenty years ago, "green chemistry" was barely a concept, but today it is a well-developed practice of growing importance. Paul Anastas, director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale, and John Warner (pictured above), president and chief technology officer of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, have played a central role in this sea change, publishing a seminal guide, Green Chemistry: Principles and Practice, in 1998. Arguing that it is better to consider waste prevention during design and development than to dispose or treat waste during production, the authors provided a systematic approach to the problem by identifying 12 fundamental principles, now widely accepted.

39 Michael chertoff, Secretary, US Department of Homeland Security

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff managed to restore some credibility to the federal government's Gulf Coast disaster planning by taking the initiative during hurricanes Gustav and Ike. With Houston paralyzed by power outages and around 100 petrochemical plants halted in the heart of the petrochemical industry, Chertoff inspired confidence with informed, reasoned pronouncements and a vastly improved coordination with state and local authorities. Although the federal effort subsequently came under fire as local leaders sought to transfer blame for bureaucratic delays, the DHS secretary helped create a more positive example of disaster management to overlay the lingering bitter memories of the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

40 Judith hackitt, Chairman, UK Health and Safety Executive

Hackitt has been campaigning hard on health and safety in the chemical and process industries this year. She organized a conference bringing together leaders from the UK's hazardous industrial sector. One of her key themes was "corporate memory loss." She said firms failed to take on board the results of investigations after incidents. Many of these had been repeated in the past. Hackitt highlighted the fact that as experienced staff retire, and with constant leadership changes, there is a danger that lessons learned from incidents are then lost. She was also a keynote speaker at Europe's main Responsible Care conference. She became chair of the UK's Health and Safety Executive in April this year when it merged with the Health and Safety Commission.

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Most influential politicians

These statesmen have had a powerful impact on global politics, economics and the chemical industry. How will they play their hands in 2009?

Gordon Brown, UK prime minister

Brown has been at the forefront of global economic rescue attempts, including bank bailouts and fiscal stimulus moves with the G20 group of industrialized and developing nations.

Barack Obama, US president-elect

The 44th president of the US faces the challenge of dealing with the worst recession in a generation. Many fear he will rewrite US energy policy with potentially expensive alternatives and increase regulations. He is already calling for immediate action to curb emissions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California governor

He has rallied world leaders to call for action on global warming. In November, he convened the Governors' Global Climate Summit, where 12 other US governors and regional leaders in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, India and Indonesia pledged to work together.

Vladimir Putin , Russian prime minister

Continues his influence on Russia in his new role as prime minister, and keeps a firm grip on the country's oil and gas resources. Shook up the world with Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Wen Jiabao, Chinese prime minister

From snowstorms to earthquakes from the UN General Assemblyto the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Wen has shown the world that China is workingto cope with the natural disasters andthe global economic crisis.

Vaclav Klaus, Czech Republic president

Czech President and Euroskeptic Klaus blocked adoption of the EU's Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (Reach) legislation by the Czech Republic's parliament in August, claiming implementation of the stringent environmental regulations would be too expensive for companies when held up against the likely health and safety benefits for consumers in his country.

FACING HEADWINDS

The global financial crisis is hitting everyone, but some harder than others. Can those on the ropes make a comeback?

JIM RATCLIFFE INEOS Chairman Jim Ratcliffe's is facing the toughest period in the company's history. The highly leveraged group has asked its banks for headroom on earnings related covenants in the face of the current chemicals slump.

LEON BLACK The Apollo Management principal and cofounder, along with partner Joshua Harris, is the target of a $3bn (€2.3bn) lawsuit filed in Texas by US-based Huntsman. Huntsman alleges Black and Harris, as well as Apollo Management, committed fraud in the busted merger between Apollo-owned Hexion Specialty Chemicals and Huntsman.

PETER HUNTSMAN In his eight years as presidnet and CEO of the US company, Huntsman has faced a near bankruptcy, a successful initial public offering, and now a busted merger with Hexion. He faces the challenge of navigating the highly leveraged company through the global financial crisis and into an uncertain future.

ROBERT WOOD The Chemtura chairman and CEO faces an uphill battle to conserve cash in the face of the downturn. Wood continues to evaluate strategic options for the company, including divestitures and changes in capital structure. The company suspended its dividend after announcing third quarter results.

New to their top positions, will these head honchos sink or swim in what will no doubt be choppy economic waters?

ONES TO WATCH

New to their top positions, will these head honchos sink or swim in what will no doubt be choppy economic waters?

Ellen Kullman, President and CEO-designate, DuPont

Kullman has been picked to head the US-based specialty chemical giant. Her leadership of two business platforms and two corporate functions put her in the running to become one of the most powerful people in the chemical sector.

HARIOLF KOTTMANN, CEO, Clariant International

The former Hoechst executive took the top spot in October, following the ousting of Swede Jan Secher. His appointment was taken as suggesting "unresolved issues" at the struggling Swiss specialty chemical firm, considered by many to be an acquisition target.

RUDOLF STAUDIGL, President and CEO, Wacker Chemie

Rudolf Staudigl has taken over from Peter-Alexander Wacker at a time when numerous projects were being commissioned from a €700m ($880m) investment program. He also faces integrating two polymer businesses acquired from US-based Air Products.

STEVE PRYOR, President, ExxonMobil Chemical

The new president will oversee major investments in Singapore and China when original planning assumptions have gone out the window as a global recession kicks in. His background on the refining side of the business should help.

CAL DOOLEY, CEO, American Chemistry Council

He took command of the American Chemistry Council in September 2008 amid recession conditions and just ahead of Democratic sweeps in the White House and Congress. The former seven-term Democratic Congressman knows well the workings of Capitol Hill.

CHRIS PAPPAS, CEO, NOVA Chemicals

He has been overseeing good financial results, but now needs to manage through a petchem downcycle. Olefins earnings have come off the boil and styrene margins are expected to compress even further, with US export markets under threat.

CHRISTIAN JOURQUIN, President, Cefic

The newly elected president outlined his focus on addressing the unprecedented problems of climate change and scarcity of raw materials.

SHANE FLEMING, Chairman and CEO-elect, Cytec Industries

The newly-apointed head of the US-based aerospace material and specialty chemical group will have to pilot the company through turbulence in the commercial aircraft market and the overall economy.

JORGEN OLE HASLESTAD, CEO, Yara

He became the CEO of Norwegian Yara in September, when Thorleif Enger retired. Haslestad has a lot to live up to with tough times ahead.

MICHAEL LEFENFELD, President and CEO, SiGNa Chemistry

Although some might consider him rather young to be the CEO of the New York, US-based advanced materials company he cofounded, the 28-year-old is blazing a trail in green chemical processing.

in memoriam

Out tribute to three industry titans who passed away in 2008. Through their organizations and the many people they affected, their legacies live on

Ting Tsung Chao, Westlake Chemical

Founder and former chairman Chao (1921-2008) pioneered petrochemicals in Southeast Asia, and entered the US market with what is today Westlake Chemica.

Carolyn Merritt,  US Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigations Board (CSB)

former chairman Merritt (1947-2008) was a crusader on chemical process safety. Merritt led the government agency from 2002-2007.

WangANG YUNG-CHING

Formosa Plastics founder and former chairman Wang (1917-2008) started building his business empire from scratch in 1954 when he founded Formosa Plastics as a producer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

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