Petronas to join fray for RM16.2b Lonza chemical arm

LONDON • Malaysian state oil producer Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) is among suitors vying for a chemicals business being sold by Lonza Group AG, people with knowledge of the situation said.

Petronas is working with an advisor as it considers a second-round bid for the Lonza Specialty Ingredients business, according to the people.

Switzerland-based Lonza has asked for offers by early February, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

German chemical producer Lanxess AG and a crop of top private equity firms have also been shortlisted for the next round of bidding for the business, which could fetch around 3.5 billion Swiss francs (RM16.16 billion), Bloomberg News has reported.

A representative for Petronas said it “regularly evaluates potential business opportunities”, declining to comment further.

A spokesperson for Lonza said the company is in discussions with potential buyers of the unit, without identifying them.

Lonza, a maker of drug ingredients, is timing the sale of the biocide business with a surge in demand for hygiene chemicals.

Use of antibacterial hand gels and disinfectants is expected to remain high beyond the peak of the coronavirus pandemic due to a deep-seated change in consumer habits.

Petronas already produces chemical staples including ammonia and methanol, a colourless liquid used to help make antibacterial agents and disinfectants.

Shares of listed unit Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd have fallen 1.1% in Kuala Lumpur trading this year, giving the company a market value of about RM58.8 billion.

The Malaysian group joins other energy companies seeking to diversify by building out their chemical operations as they grapple with the long-term switch away from oil and gas.

State-owned Saudi Aramco last year took over Saudi Basic Industries Corp, the kingdom’s flagship chemical producer.

Carlyle Group Inc and a separate consortium of Bain Capital and Cinven have also been preparing second-round bids for Lonza Special Ingredients, Bloomberg News has reported.

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny is seeking a trusted partner to buy the business, which is located right in the heart of the Visp, Switzerland site where the company makes critical ingredients for drugs.

Lonza is helping to produce Moderna Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine at its facilities in Europe and the US. — Bloomberg