By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Covington's Ashland Inc. said Monday that it agreed to sell its Electronic Chemicals business, its largest divestiture since announcing a profit improvement program in October.
The highway construction, specialty chemical and car-care products provider said Air Products & Chemicals Inc., an Allentown, Pa., supplier of gases and chemicals, agreed to pay $300 million in cash for the electronic chemicals business, which provides ultra pure chemicals, products and services to the semiconductor market.
The Electronic Chemicals unit, part of Ashland's Dublin, Ohio-based Specialty Chemicals company, has annual revenues of $200 million and 800 employees at plants in Pueblo, Colo.; Easton, Pa.; and Dallas, Texas.
Ashland's Specialty Chemicals unit had operating profit of $87 million on revenues of $1.3 billion last year.
Air Products had revenues of $5.4 billion last year.
James J. O'Brien, Ashland's chairman and CEO, said the asset sale furthers the eight-point profitability improvement plan he outlined last fall.
That plan included the divestiture of non-core assets, cost-cutting and internal growth to increase revenues and profitability among other things.
"The transaction moves us significantly closer to our goal of reducing debt to 35 percent of total capital (from 45 percent)," O'Brien said in a statement.
Ashland stock closed at $30.68, down 34 cents.
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