ICIS names biggest chemical players of the 'noughties'

22 December 2009 14:02  [Source: ICIS news]

Since the new millenium several power players have emergedLONDON (ICIS news)--Ten years ago we stood on the cusp of a new millennium, one where innovation and development looked likely to rule; where the old powers were ceding some of their strength to emerging economies; and where environmentalists’ calls were starting to carry weight.

It was a time of change and volatility for the chemical industry. Early in the decade, chemical companies faced a downturn, which was followed by huge growth in the middle of the noughties” – a term referring to the 2000-2009 decade – and then plunging profits over the last 18 months.

Through it all there have been people, who have led, influenced and had an impact on the industry, for better or for worse. ICIS news takes this opportunity to reflect on those whom we have identified as having played a large role in chemicals during the last ten years.

Several business leaders in chemicals spring to mind for the part they have played in growing their companies and weathering the challenges that the new decade brought.

BASF board chairman Jurgen Hambrecht, who topped the ICIS 2008 Top 40 Power Players list, has led the world’s largest chemical company since mid-2003. In that time, the company’s share price has more than doubled and now sits around the €43 mark.

Hugh Grant has led Monsanto since 2003 (previously he was the company’s chief operating officer) and has been instrumental in its market capital growing to $45bn (€31.5bn) as it outpaced Dow Chemical and DuPont in terms of growth.

Stephanie Burns, CEO of Dow Corning, managed the company out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004 and has seen it move from strength to strength, with reported adjusted net income for 2008 at $738.7m. She was listed Number 91 in Forbes' 2009 World's 100 Most Powerful Women.

Raj Gupta, who was CEO of Rohm and Haas at the time of its sale to Dow Chemical, must be included for his ability to pull off a major deal by selling the company at the market’s peak for $18.8bn.

The difficulties that Dow faced following its acquisition of Rohm and Haas exclude its CEO, Andrew Liveris, from our list.

This leaves the way for his predecessor, Bill Stavropoulos, to be included for his own merits. Stavropoulos was reappointed chairman of Dow at the end of 2002 after the company’s former leader left due to an unsatisfactory performance. In the next two years, Stavropoulos managed to get the company back on track through a tough cost-control programme.

As the head of one of Japan's largest chemical companies, Sumitomo Chemical, chairman of the Japan Chemical Industry Association (JCIA) and a member of the International Council of Chemicals Association, Hiromasa Yonekura has had a role with national and international scope over the last decade. He became president of Sumitomo in 2000 and chairman of the board this year.

The growth of chemical companies in the Middle East, China and India has had a huge impact on the industry globally, which has resulted in the emergence of several leaders from those regions.

SABIC's vice chairman and CEO, Mohamed al-Mady, has become a staple of the ICIS Top 40 Power Players, topping the list in 2007 following the company’s $11.6bn acquisition of GE’s plastics business. Under his leadership, SABIC has seen spectacular growth and is now widely recognised as a petrochemical leader.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd, has made the news headlines in recent weeks after the company made an offer for troubled LyondellBasell. If successful, this would make Reliance the largest plastics producer in the world. Even without this, though, Reliance has continued to dominate the Indian petrochemical scene and to push diversification and globalisation plans.

Antony Leung, senior managing director of The Blackstone Group and chairman of the company’s Greater China arm, was behind the Chinese government's $3bn investment in Blackstone in 2007. He also led Blackstone's purchase of a 20% stake in China National Bluestar.

Leung could have been included as one of a number of private equity players who have changed the funds behind chemical firms for the foreseeable future.

Blackstone’s Chinh Chu is perhaps the most important of these players, as he showed just what private equity could do with a chemical company. He was behind Blackstone's acquisition of Celanese and was responsible for the financial engineering that saw Blackstone's backers more than quadruple their investment in the deal.

INEOS’ Jim Ratcliffe also rates a mention. He topped ICIS’ first Power Player list in 2006 following his acquisition of BP's Innovene petrochemicals business for $9bn. However, it is Ratcliffe's growth from a small, fine-chemicals player in the mid-1990s to his position as head of the seventh-largest chemical producer at the end of the noughties that cements his position in our list.

The man behind the LyondellBasell’s merger might be a controversial addition, as the company is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but Len Blavatnik’s ability to purchase Basell in the face of competition from INEOS and the Iranian government, which created the world’s largest plastic producer, means he warrants inclusion.

Often the players who influence the industry the most come from the outside rather than within. And our list wouldn’t be complete without an honorary mention of some of the campaigners.

Margot Wallstrom is often seen as the woman behind the European chemical registration programme Reach. As the commissioner-designate for environment, she pushed for the programme, which has left chemical companies scrambling (often at great cost) to register products.

Jack Gerard may have only been at the helm of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) for three years, but when he left in 2008 he was widely credited with reinvigorating the influence of the broader chemical sector. During his time with the ACC, Gerard brought about robust restructuring, a successful public education campaign, many advocacy successes and he became one of the most respected lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

($1 = €0.70)

ICIS accepts that this is not an exhaustive list of those who have played a large role in the industry over the last 10 years. We challenge you to tell us who we have missed and why they should be included. If you want to comment, please tell us in the news section of ICIS connect


By: Lucy Craymer
+44 20 8652 3214



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