UK fine chemical company Ultrafine is to be acquired by Sigma-Aldrich of the US in a move aimed at strengthening the latter's offerings for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.
The marriage bolsters Sigma's presence in Europe, adding additional UK manufacturing facilities to its current plants in the UK and Switzerland. The US firm said it would add about 1 per cent to its target growth (around 10 per cent in local currencies) in the remainder of 2004.
Ultrafine is located in Manchester and provides contract chemistry services for all phases of drug development, ranging from drug discovery research to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standard manufacturing. One of its specialisations is the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for clinical trials.
The company's life science catalogue currently includes more than 130 products used in drug discovery and development.
Frank Wicks, president of Sigma-Aldrich Fine Chemicals, said that the acquisition broadens its capabilities so it can offer a full spectrum of products and services to the drug development industry.
"Combining Ultrafine's medicinal chemistry skills and ability to rapidly provide preclinical and early clinical phase GMP material with Sigma-Aldrich Fine Chemicals' capabilities in process development and scale up, we are now better positioned to meet the demands of the pharmaceutical industry," he commented.
Tough times in the chemicals sector caused by weakening demand and high raw material prices have led to a period of reorganisation, marked by an increase in merger & acquisitions activity, downsizing across the major players and spin-outs of chemicals divisions.
For example, BASF, Akzo Nobel, Rhodia, Lonza and DSM are among those companies that have made swingeing restructuring and downsizing efforts, while Dynamit Nobel, Callery Chemical, Avecia's Biocides division and Selact have all been sold or put on the block in the last few months. Meanwhile, Bayer has signalled its intention to spin out its chemicals activities into a new company called Lanxess.
Meanwhile, Sigma's fine chemicals operation has agreed to be the exclusive North American distributor of products of Suparna Chemicals of Mumbai, India.
The agreement covers the distribution of all Suparna products in the US and Canada. Its products include sodium potassium alloy, potassium tert-butoxide and other potassium metal alkoxides used in a variety of chemical reactions. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.