The chemical manufacturing industry converts raw materials such as gasses and oils into chemicals such as ethylene, propylene, methanol, benzene, chlorine, and paraxylene. These chemicals are feedstocks for value chains that produce a wide array of intermediates, plastics, and performance materials that are used to create more than 70,000 registered productsaround the world. It is an extremely diverse and complicated industry. Because many of the industry’s products are intermediates, the customers of chemical companies are often other chemical companies.
Among the many factors that influence multi-billion dollar investment decisions include energy market trends, global economic growth, and regional trade dynamics. Investors seek sustainable competitive advantages regarding the costs of energy and feedstock, technology and scale, proximity to markets, and degree of integration.
Mergers and acquisitions have been a long-time tactic used among chemical companies to create growth, change strategic course, and consolidate segments. In an industry that has seen major expansion, certain factors can complicate M&A. This includes the substantial size of some transactions and merger-of-equals deals that are more complex to carry out.
Key drivers of M&A in the chemical manufacturing industry include:
- The pace of organic sales growthin sub-segments
- Consolidation driven by a need for innovation and fewer opportunities to differentiate from competitors in high-value and specialty-chemical areas
- The state of capital-markets returns and a campaign for higher valuations
- An abundance of capital and private equity interest and access to low-cost finance
Digitization & Optimization
Technology continues to transform all industries in the modern world, and the chemical manufacturing industry is no different. Data management through advanced analytics is enabling plant optimization across sites, improved supply chains, and infrastructure synergies. Digital solutions reduce downtime and costs as a result of maintenance and repairs. Sensors monitor plant and warehousing conditions, improving logistics. Also, a vast amount of field operator workload can be transferred to automation and robotics, allocating people resources elsewhere in the business and creating more opportunities for up-skilling. Implementation of these technologies results in revenue improvements.
The Circular Economy of Plastic Waste Recycling
Plastics production accounts for more than one third of the chemical industry’s manufacturing activities. But only a small percentage of these plastics are being recycled, resulting in resources that are lost forever into landfills. Global plastics waste volumes are expected to reach 460 million tons per year by 2030. Public outcry for sustainability is rising and raw material supplies are growing tighter, forcing the chemical industry to adapt on this issue. New plastic recycling methods offer new opportunities for value-creating growth for petrochemicals companies. Instead of focusing on the problem that plastic waste creates, companies are starting to recognize the billion-dollar profit pool it represents through new types of businesses, resulting in an entirely new landscape for M&A activity.
Additionally, activist investors are playing a larger part in the chemicals sector. Activist investors attempt to create change within a company by purchasing a large number of shares or board seats. These players are emerging influencers of M&A activity and they have an ever-increasing role in the chemical industry through restructuring initiatives. This creates new challenges for industry executives because long-term strategic planning is not a typical priority of activist investors. Although activist investors are capable of delivering solutions that add value, they usually are more interested in shorter-term, higher valuations and results. This often results in cost-cutting measures, shareholder buybacks, and the splitting off of company divisions.
Successful Chemical Industry M&A
Deals that employ proven M&A best practices will yield higher total returns to shareholders. Capturing the full value potential of a deal requires specific industry knowledge and expertise. To craft a successful deal in the chemical sector, sellers should enlist the advice and methodologies of dedicated M&A experts such as those at Benchmark International. They should also:
- Monitor the field to identify potential opportunities
- Review their portfolios to ensure current assets fit their core business
- Look for gaps that may need to be filled for fast action when opportunities arise
- Prepare non-core businesses in order to maximize value from a deal
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