With a 71.43 per cent majority share in the US-based maker of thickeners and additives, the sale of the Lehman stake in CP Kelco leaves the game open for current ingredients players looking to consolidate their position in the competitive hydrocolloid market.
In January this year the minority shareholder in CP Kelco, US chemicals firm Hercules, sold its three-year old 28.57 per cent chunk of the pie to emerging carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) player Huber, sparking speculation as to when Huber might take full control of CP Kelco.
As such, Huber, with ambitions in the hydrocolloid market, is a probable contender for the Lehman stake now on offer. Keen to build on the hydrocolloid business, Huber dramatically boosted its position in 2001 with the acquisition of Finnish company Noviant, the world's biggest producer of CMC with a 30 per cent slice of the world market.
Rumours afoot pitch the Lehman sale in the region of $1 billion. CP Kelco formed in September 2000 from Hercules' Food Gums division and the Kelco Biopolymers division of Monsanto Pharmacia. Industry spectators had anticipated that Hercules would in time opt to take full control of CP Kelco - a leading producer of pectin, carrageenan and locust bean gum - with the investment group selling its stake on the crest of the wave. But ideas changed with the Hercules sale earlier this year.
"Following the Hercules' divestment, there is now speculation as to when Huber might acquire the remaining slice of CP Kelco," hydrocolloid specialist Dennis Seisun told FoodNavigator.com at the time.
Competing for the Lehman slice could be other top tier global suppliers of xanthan, pectin and carrageenan to include FMC Corp, acquisitive Irish firm Kerry Group, and Danish ingredients leader Danisco - that recently extended its xanthan gum position in the emerging Chinese market, linking up with one of the largest xanthan gum suppliers in China, the Henan Tianguan group. In addition, the Danish firm last month cleared the purchase of Rhodia food ingredients, to include a slice of the xanthan gum market.
Used to thicken, gel, bind and stabilise, CP Kelco supplies hydrocolloids for a range of food segments, namely confectionery, dairy, processed meats, water desserts, bakery, dressings and sauces, spreads and beverages.