The SF 32 million (€21m) transaction is part of Clariant's strategy to sell businesses that are no longer core activities, and takes Lancaster into a company far more compatible with its focus on research chemicals and organic synthesis.
Within Clariant, Lancaster operated as part of the life science and electronic chemicals division, with a product range consisting mainly of organic chemicals sold to industrial and academic research institutions.
The UK firm has catalogue sales and small-scale bulk manufacturing operations in Morecambe and additional distribution facilities in the US, Germany, France and India. Last year, it started operating in China through an agreement with Shanghai Chemical Reagent Co. The business had sales of approximately SF 45 million in 2003 and employs 225 people worldwide.
Clariant, like many of its peers in the European chemicals industry, has been selling non-core businesses and cutting costs as it deals with a difficult operating environment. Escalating oil prices and a resulting increase in the cost of raw materials, the weak Euro and softening demand due to the international economic downturn of the last couple of years have all taken their toll on the company.
Lancaster's operations will complement those of Johnson Matthey's existing research chemicals business, according to Clariant, and its acquisition provides "opportunities to improve market share and increase operating efficiencies."
This transaction is pending approval by the relevant competition authorities. Neither Johnson Matthey nor Lancaster were available for comment on the transaction.
Lancaster's product range includes 14,000 compounds, with main lines including reagents for synthesis, boronic acids, heterocyclics, fluorinated organics, isocyanates and isothiocyanates, chiral molecules, organophosphorus intermediates, iodoaromatics, and acyl and sulphonyl halides.