UPDATED: Lubrizol acquires Merquinsa creating a TPU titan

November 03, 2011

Lubrizol has acquired Merquinsa in a move the creates a global thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) powerhouse, joining the Estane and Pearlthane brands and market strength in several key sectors, including medical tubing. Lubrizol spokesperson Julie Young told PlasticsToday that her company targeted Merquinsa for three primary reasons: broadening its product portfolio, increasing global reach, and boosting manufacturing capacity. The company declined to comment on its total TPU capacity after the acquisition, or its global market share as a combined entity.

Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain and established in 1964, Merquinsa is a family-owned company with its strongest market penetration in Europe and Asia. The company established an initial sales presence in North America in 1997, with the incorporation of Merquinsa North America, but "reintroduced" itself to the market in 2006, starting with a booth at that year's NPE. It opened its first China office in June of this year. Merquinsa's sales are dominated by Europe (40%) and Asia (33%), with 25% into the Americas.

Merquinsa's TPU chemistry is based on polycaprolactone, which it says results in a faster cycling, lower weight polymer. In addition to some proprietary production technologies and formulations, the company also brings a partially biobased TPU into Lubrizol's portfolio through its Pearlthane ECO. That product line, which has three grades and originally launched at K 2007, has renewable content of up to 60%, according to ASTM D6866 methods for determining bio-based content.

Lubrizol noted that it will take on approximately 100 Merquinsa employees, which Yound said constitutes basically the company's entire staff, with most of those based in Spain. Once the transaction closes, all Merquinsa products will be integrated with Lubrizol, combining the product offerings under the Lubrizol Engineered Polymers business. Young said that at this time, the plan is to maintain the acquired products' brand names. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Lubrizol itself was acquired in March by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway for $9.7 billion. Young noted that Lubrizol has been in an acquisitive phase for some time, purchasing Noveon in 2004, Dow's TPU business in 2008, and Nalco earlier this year. Lubrizol's TPU portfolio is extensive, including reinforced alloys; medical grade aliphatic, polycarbonate-based TPUs; aromatic polyether-based rigid TPUs; and aliphatic, polyether-based TPUs.

The TPU market is now consolidated into a few key players and brands, including BASF (Elastollan, Elastogram), Bayer MaterialScience (Desmopan), Shin-Etsu (Exelast), and Huntsman (Irogran, Avalon).


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