Specialty chemicals is the term used to describe a particular part of the chemical industry. It deals with special chemical products that are not intended for a mass market, require a high degree of research and development, and can usually only be produced using complex processes. Here is an overview of the five largest speciality chemicals suppliers in Germany. They are also part of our list of the 600 largest chemical companies in Germany.
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1st place: BASF SE, Ludwigshafen: 59.3 billion sales (2019)
In terms of sales, BASF is Germany’s largest chemical company and one of the largest in the world. The company employs almost 119,000 people in more than 80 countries and has over 390 production sites worldwide. The BASF site at the headquarters in Ludwigshafen is also a world leader in the field of chemicals, covering an area of 10 square kilometres.
Speciality chemicals are only one part of BASF’s broad production program, which is divided into the Chemicals, Materials, Industrial Solutions, Surface Technologies, Nutrition & Care, and Agricultural Solutions segments. Speciality Chemicals – part of the Performance Materials segment – primarily includes polyurethanes, thermoplastics, foam specialities, and industrial applications.
2nd place: Evonik Industries AG, Essen: €13.1 billion sales (2019)
Evonik Industries was founded in 2006 and the company name Evonik was changed in 2007 to reflect the spin-off of the non-coal business of RAG Aktiengesellschaft (formerly Ruhrkohle AG). The RAG Foundation is Evonik’s principal owner. The Group has over 32,000 employees and operates worldwide.
Speciality chemicals and high-performance materials make up Evonik’s business model. Speciality chemicals are primarily located in the Evonik Degussa subgroup (formerly Degussa AG). The Performance Materials Business Unit produces polymer materials and intermediates, particularly for the agrochemical, rubber, and plastics industries. Evonik is one of the world’s leading suppliers of speciality chemicals.
3rd place: Helm AG, Hamburg: €8.3 billion sales (2019)
Helm AG in Hamburg is primarily a chemicals dealer, not a manufacturer. The family-owned group, which developed from an import and export business founded in 1900, now trades worldwide in chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers.
Helm has about 1600 employees and is present in about 30 countries with over 100 subsidiaries. The chemical trade accounts for about 80 percent of the turnover and includes a wide range of products, including speciality chemicals. Europe accounts for the majority of trading turnover and about a quarter of it comes from America and a sixth from Asia.
4th place: Wacker Chemie AG, Munich: 4.9 billion euros in sales (2019)
Wacker Chemie has existed since 1914 and is owned by the Wacker family. Today, the company is a global player with nearly 15,000 employees. Wacker Chemie has 23 production sites worldwide and sells its products in more than 100 countries.
Wacker’s chemical production is based on silicon and ethylene. Polysilicones are produced for the solar industry, while silicones are used in the construction and automotive industries and in the production of paints, coatings, textiles and paper. In the Polymers division, Wacker-Chemie produces ethene-based VAM (vinyl acetate) and VAE (vinyl acetate-ethylene) as intermediates for the construction industry.
5th place: Altana AG, Wesel: EUR 2.3 billion sales (2019)
Altana was created in 1977 by separating divisions from the Varta group. Since 2007 when the pharmaceuticals division was sold, Altana has been a pure speciality chemicals company. The company has around 6,500 employees and 47 production sites worldwide. The main owner is SKion GmbH owned by Quandt heiress Susanne Klatten.
Altana offers special chemical products for paint manufacturers, paint and plastics processors, the cosmetics, printing, and electrical industries. Altana produces a wide range of speciality chemicals for these industries, including additives, sealing and casting compounds, effect pigments, impregnating agents, metallic printing inks, speciality coatings, and adhesives.
Picture source: Bill Oxford
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