Brenntag Eyes Takeover of Rival Univar

28.11.2022 - Brenntag and Univar Solutions have both confirmed reports from late last week that they are in talks about the German-multinational chemical distributor acquiring its US rival. Both companies stress that the negotiations are at a preliminary stage.

If a deal is agreed and approved by regulatory authorities, it would cement Brenntag’s position as the world’s biggest chemical distributor and create a company with more than $30 billion in sales, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Separately, the two companies have grown steadily over the past several years, mostly through bolt-on acquisitions. In 2022 alone, Brenntag has acquired companies in the US, UK and Australia.

Univar also has not been inactive. In 2018, for example, it bought Nexeo Solutions and in 2019 sold that company’s plastics distribution business to One Rock for $640 million.

Should Brenntag succeed in taking over Univar, it would be its biggest move so far. Earlier this month, the Essen-based German distribution giant sketched out a forward-looking strategy, saying that M&A would be an “enabler of future growth” and command annual spending of €400-500 million – a figure the acquisition of Univar would clearly exceed.

Analysts currently value Brenntag at around $11 billion and Univar at $5 billion. The German company’s shares have declined 14% this year, they calculate, while those of Downers Grove, Illinois-headquartered Univar have gained more than 9%.

According to Bloomberg, the potential deal would rank among the “top three” transactions in the chemical industry this year and would be a “late bright spot” for big cross-border deal-making. By its count, global mergers and acquisitions are down almost 30% across 2022 to $2.4 trillion, hurt by economic headwinds and difficult financing markets.

Brenntag’s current annual sales revenue, of just over $20 billion, is almost twice the $11.4 billion reported by Univar, according to data compiled by the news agency. The German company is regarded as the global market leader in chemical and ingredients distribution with an international workforce exceeding 17,000 people. Univar has one of the distribution sector’s largest private transportation fleets.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist