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October 22, 2001
Volume 79, Number 43
CENEAR 79 43 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347
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IMC sells a business and Astaris closes one down in basic streamlining efforts


High debt and a production technology shift have spurred two inorganic chemicals firms to action.

Fertilizer producer IMC Global has signed a definitive agreement to sell its salt and potassium sulfate businesses to a unit of Apollo Management, a New York City-based private investment company that last November acquired Shell's epoxy resins business.

IMC Salt is the world's third largest salt producer. Together, the salt and sulfate businesses had sales of $515 million in the 12 months ending June 30 and pretax earnings of $125 million. IMC will receive about $600 million--money it desperately needs for debt reduction--and will retain a minority equity position in the businesses.

IMC continues to try to sell its IMC Chemicals business, which includes soda ash plants in California and Australia and a sodium bicarbonate facility in Colorado. A spokesman says the plants are being offered separately and that the Australian unit could be sold by year's end.

Meanwhile, Astaris, the phosphorus chemicals joint venture of FMC and Solutia, will cease elemental phosphorus production in Pocatello, Idaho, by the end of the year. In April, Astaris significantly cut output at the plant because of the high cost of electricity.

Jerry C. Sibley, Astaris' president and CEO, says the shutdown will continue the company's move to lower-cost purified phosphoric acid (PPA) as its chief feedstock. Feed for products that are dependent on elemental phosphorus, such as phosphorus trichloride, will come principally from a Monsanto plant in Soda Springs, Idaho, that will be the last of its kind in the U.S.

Astaris has also signed an agreement with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan to receive a long-term supply of PPA. The deal will start early in 2003 following completion of an expansion at Potash's Aurora, N.C., facility. Astaris recently opened its own PPA plant in Soda Springs.

SUNSET Astaris' Pocatello, Idaho, phosphorus plant will close by year's end.

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