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Shell sale poised to set record

The Independent: Shell sale poised to set record

“Analysts say that Shell would use the proceeds to invest in its upstream operations, in particular to boost its flagging oil and gas reserves.”

12 September 2004

Private equity firms ready to splash out for €6bn plastics venture. Tim Webb reports

The sale by Shell and BASF of their €6bn (£4.1bn) plastics joint venture is set to turn into Europe’s largest private equity deal to date.

Bankers expect private equity groups to figure prominently in the auction for Basell. The sale, one of the biggest ever seen in the chemicals industry, is being formally launched this week. Trade buyers could face competition issues, making a private equity buyout more likely, industry sources said.

Investment banks Credit Suisse First Boston and Lazard are acting for the co-owners. This week they are sending out financial information memoranda to potential bidders who have signed confidentiality agreements.

First-round bids are expected to be tabled at the end of next month. The business is valued at up to €6bn. Because of the size of any sale, interested companies are expected to form bidding consortia.

Blackstone, the US private equity group that bought German chemicals business Celanese for €3.1bn earlier this year, is expected to be one bidder. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and BASF, the German chemicals company, announced at the end of July they were reviewing the business’s options, which also include a demerger. The co-owners expect to decide whether to sell or spin off the business by the end of the year.

Basell has manufacturing operations in 20 countries across five continents. It makes polyolefins, the building blocks for many plastics used in packaging, consumer goods and vehicles.

Other oil majors, including BP and Total, are also reviewing their chemicals businesses. While global demand for products using polyolefins is picking up, higher commodity costs are keeping a lid on profit growth.

Oil companies are taking the view that their chemical businesses are non-core. Analysts say that Shell would use the proceeds to invest in its upstream operations, in particular to boost its flagging oil and gas reserves.

Andrew Archer, an oil analyst at Commerzbank, said: “Shell can’t add a lot of value to Basell, which is why it is reviewing the business. It has taken the view that with the current capacity levels and demand for the products it makes, there will not be big returns.

“The acquisition risk for Shell is high, so there are question marks over what it may do with the proceeds from any sale.”

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