Monday, October 29, 2007

ADM Enters Chemicals

Did not see this one coming but that does not mean it is a bad thing...

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the world's largest biofuel producer has formed an industrial chemicals group with a focus on exponentially increasing ADM's presence in industrial markets. The new business will take advantage of ADM's processing expertise and global distribution network to expand ADM's product offerings in industrial chemicals. The goal is for ADM to commercialize additional chemicals from renewable feedstocks.

"Renewable, biobased industrial chemicals fit into two major trends that we're seeing in the marketplace: the desire to improve a product's environmental footprint and the desire to reduce the use of petroleum-based products. In the short-term, we see opportunity to commercialize direct replacements for typically petroleum-derived chemicals. And in the longer-term, we see even more opportunities to develop new chemicals which provide increased functionality and are better for the environment. As one of the world's largest processors of renewable feedstocks, ADM has a unique opportunity to succeed in this area," said John Rice, executive vice president, Commercial and Production.

Interesting Hire:
To head the new business, ADM has hired Janet Mann as general manager, Industrial Chemicals, reporting to Rice. Mann joins ADM from Chemtura (CEM) where she was vice president and general manager, Performance Specialties. Mann previously served as business director for Dow Chemical (DOW) and executive vice president of Dow's ANGUS Chemical subsidiary. She received a Master of Business Administration degree in finance from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bradley University.

"The demand for biobased solutions is growing rapidly in the industrial segment. ADM has the assets and knowledge to commercialize many chemicals from renewable agricultural feedstocks, and I am very excited to join the team," said Mann.

"Janet brings a deep understanding of the chemical and plastics industry to the ADM team. She has expertise in developing and implementing successful business strategies focused on growth in the chemical industry," said Rice.

Now, two weeks ago I blogged on what Dow would find attractive in Chemtura's portfolio and this move may be a sign that Mann is getting out before Dow takes over the specialties business there. Stay tuned...

As for ADM, this is great because it is opening yet another bio-based market for its products. Currently the leader is bio-fuels and bio-plastics, ADM now will enter the bio-chemicals arena. Any "bio" is a sure winner today and ADM is the first and largest player in that market. It will muddle the field for investors though. How will we value ADM? Is is a Ag Company? Energy? Specialty Chemical? What? The answer will be determined by the composition of earnings. One thing is for sure. They cannot be just lumped in with ethanol producers or food processors anymore. That valuation inadequacy will provide great opportunities at times so be both opportunistic when it is mis-valued and do not despair when the like happens.

They are entering a category of one here and that almost always is a very good place to be.

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