Brenntag and Univar Call off ’Engagement’

04.01.2023 - German distribution giant Brenntag is retreating from plans to acquire US rival Univar. The company said in an ad hoc statement that it is “no longer pursuing these discussions.”

Univar also confirmed that the talks had ended and said it was evaluating “other indications of interest” in acquiring the company.

Stock market reports showed that Brenntag’s share gained nearly 6% in early trading following the announcement – its biggest intraday gain since June – after slumping on news of the negotiations in late November 2022.

Bloomberg initially broke the news of Brenntag’s interest in Univar, saying the negotiations would cement the German company’s place as the world’s biggest chemical distributor with more than $30 billion in sales.

The Univar takeover would have marked the Essen-based distributor’s largest purchase by far after a series of bolt-on acquisitions.

Though none speculated on the potential price for the deal, in November analysts pegged Brenntag’s value at around $11 billion and Univar’s at $5 billion.

Commenting on the end of discussions, Bloomberg speculated that although a merger could have boosted growth and cut costs, a takeover of those dimensions would likely have faced a tough antitrust review.

In December, the Reuters news agency reported that an activist investor, private equity group PrimeStone, had urged Brenntag to end its talks with Univar and instead buy back shares and prepare for a break-up into two separate units.

PrimeStone published its demands in an open letter to Brenntag's management, while simultaneously disclosing that it owned 2% of the German company’s shares. In a subsequent statement, the distributor said it valued open and constructive dialogue with all of its shareholders.

In the three weeks between confirming the talks and the open letter, Reuters said Brenntag’s shares had dropped by 17% .

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist