Gulf Oil Bags Houghton for $1 Billion

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Gulf Oil, part of Indias Hinduja Group, will acquire U.S. metalworking fluids maker Houghton International from equity firm AEA Investors for $1 billion. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2012.

Gulf Oil will operate Valley Forge, Pa.-based Houghton as a separate company. According to Gulf, it will utilize both companies capabilities to expand geographic coverage, increase sales and distribution networks, and strengthen manufacturing to improve service and support to Gulfs customer network.

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Frank Rutten, international vice president for Gulf Oil, said the company looks for both organic and inorganic growth, including takeovers, acquisitions and mergers. A takeover was on our agenda for a long time, Rutten told Lube Report. But we are also very proud to see very healthy organic growth figures of almost 10 percent per year. The combination between Houghton and Gulf is as close to perfect as there is. He noted there was hardly any overlap in product strengths/portfolio or geographical overlap. So it is a very synergetic match.

Gulf said the acquisition fits well with its lubricants portfolio, and that Houghtons industrial portfolio complements Gulfs position in the automotive lubricants sector. Gulf will be able to leverage Houghtons extensive base of industrial customers to offer them its complete range of lubricants and, in addition, leverage opportunities to improve global manufacturing, sales and distribution capabilities, the company stated in a press release.

Houghtons leading status in metalworking fluids was important to Gulf. We are also very inspired by Houghtons R&D capabilities and the pipeline of new products, Rutten noted. The most important thing about Houghton is quality from the staff – outstanding professionals who have proven that they know how it gets done. There are very interesting cross-sell opportunities, and we hope that there will be good technical synergy too.

In its Nov. 7 announcement, Gulf alluded to what it can achieve in manufacturing, strategic sourcing and distribution, which according to Rutten would include sourcing base oils, additives and packs. We have a nice size and will go in the market for a global base oil contract, he said. Also, we have now a size that allows us to optimize the selection of additives, and so we look forward to the next steps whereby we will be selecting global partners on how much they will support us in our growth journey.

By press time, AEA did not respond to Lube Reports request for comment.

According to its web site, Houghton was established in 1865. The company moved its headquarters to Valley Forge in 1979, and changed its name to Houghton International Inc. in 1992. The company has 12 manufacturing facilities in 10 countries and reported sales of $858 million for the year ended Sept. 30, and an adjusted EBITDA of $132 million, the Gulf Oil statement said.

An affiliate of New York-based private equity investment firm AEA Investors LLC acquired Houghton in 2008. Houghton acquired D.A. Stuart in 2008, later selling that companys aluminum hot rolling oil business to Quaker Chemical. In 2011, Houghton acquired Shells metalworking and metal rolling oils business.

Consultancy Kline & Co. estimated the 2011 global metalworking fluids market at 2.2 million to 2.3 million metric tons. By region, Asia Pacific accounted for 42 percent of consumption, North America for 28 percent, Europe for 26 percent, and the rest of the world for 4 percent. Removal fluids accounted for 50 percent of the market, followed by forming fluids with 30 percent, protecting fluids at 11 percent and treating fluids at 9 percent.

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