CHEMICAL: BP a year after the disaster

It’s been a year since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and a lot has happened. BP is arguably a shadow of its former self, its reputation severely damaged. The BP share price is down by about a third compared with one year ago. The company has reported losses running into billions of US dollars as a result of fines and clean up costs. And the names at the top have changed.

But the company has survived, despite much hyperbolic speculation that it would go under. To do this, it has sold assets, and according to the commentators generally won good prices for its offerings. 

Now, BP is looking to its long term future. What company will it be? The new chief executive, Bob Dudley, has struck deals with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and Indian group Reliance. The Rosneft deal, which relates to Arctic exploration, has stalled because of existing BP commitments in Russia, and it has drawn some criticism from commentators who think the company is overextending itself.

Much still depends on the final cost of the disaster, which remains unclear. BP has paid and set aside $40 billion (£24 million) to cover fines and clean up costs, but some say this amounts to no more than two thirds of what is needed. A lot has happened in the last year, but BP is by no means back to business as usual.

PHARMACEUTICAL: Positive EU opinion for Bydureon

The pharma industry has moved a step closer to a drug for the treatment of diabetes that would be injected just once a week – a boon for patients with diabetes and an attractive proposition in a lucrative market. A European Medicines Agency committee has given a positive opinion of Bydureon (exenatide), making EU marketing approval highly likely. Bydureon is under development at biotech Amylin and pharma major Eli Lilly. The biodegradable microsphere technology that provides the sustained release was developed by US pharma company Alkermes.

Exenatide is already marketed as Byetta, a twice per day treatment approved in the US in 2005 and Europe in 2006. The companies are now expecting a European Commission decision on marketing in the EU in two to three months.

Exenatide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. It can help patients with diabetes by affecting blood sugar levels after they eat.

Bydureon was turned down for US approval in 2010. 

…and Pradaxa

Similar things are happening in a related area. Oral anti-clotting drug candidate Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate) has also received a positive opinion from a European Medicines Agency committee.

Specifically, Pradaxa, made by German drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim, was considered for marketing approval for the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in adult patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AF). The positive opinion makes EU marketing approval extremely likely. Pradaxa was approved in the US for the treatment of AF in October 2010. 

CHEMICAL: Evonik agrees sale of carbon blacks

Chemical company Evonik is going to sell its carbon blacks business to private equity firm Rhône Capital in a transaction valued at over €900 million (£800 million).

Carbon blacks are used in a wide variety of products including car tyres. The Evonik carbon blacks business generated sales of €1.2 billion in 2010, and it employs 1700 people. Evonik signalled its intent to offload the business in September 2010.

The move is part of a wider plan to focus on speciality chemicals. The company says it wants to concentrate on areas with above-average growth potential in the wake of the economic downturn. Sales fell 18 per cent to €13 billion in 2009. But a €500 million per year cost cutting programme to ‘weatherproof’ the company meant operating profits fell only 8 per cent to €1.2 billion. 

‘This represents another major step toward a more clear-cut profile for Evonik,’ says Evonik chairman Klaus Engel.

In February, Indian group Aditya Birla agreed to buy the Columbian Chemicals Company – a carbon blacks manufacturer based in the US – from merchant banking firm One Equity.

Andrew Turley

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