Chinese state-owned firms Sinochem and ChemChina have finally received merger approval from the state-owned assets supervision and administration commission (SASAC), kicking off a long-awaited consolidation of the two companies with a combined asset value of $245bn.
The merged company's leading business will be chemicals, covering biosciences, materials science, basic chemicals, environmental science, rubber and tires, machinery equipment, urban operations and industrial finance, Sinochem and ChemChina said in a joint statement.
A new, unnamed entity wholly owned by Sasac will be created, with the Sinochem and ChemChina groups as two separate subsidies.
Energy was not even mentioned in the announcement, leaving it unclear whether the sector will retain a core position in the merged company's strategic blueprint. Sinochem has built up a broad presence in the domestic storage and retail sectors and global crude trading, while the two companies operate combined refining capacity of 670,000 b/d in China.
Ning Gaoning, who was appointed chairman of both Sinochem and ChemChina in 2018 as part of merger plans, has been working to change the core business approach of both companies to focus on higher value-added chemicals and materials. This followed several overseas chemical acquisitions by ChemChina in recent years, including the $43bn purchase of Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta.
ChemChina's 2017 acquisition of Syngenta led to an increase in its debt burden, complicating the planned tie-up with Sinochem but providing an incentive to lower overall debts through the merger.
Total assets at Sinochem and ChemChina were 710.5bn yuan ($109.9bn) and Yn874.1bn ($135.2bn) respectively at the end of September last year, according to the most recent company figures from the Shanghai Clearing House. ChemChina's debt-to-asset ratio was 79.6pc, higher than Sinochem's 70.7pc. ChemChina's long-term borrowing and bonds rose to Yn325.5bn as of September from Yn80.4bn at the end of 2015, before the Syngenta acquisition.
Sinochem and ChemChina started work on merging their agricultural and chemical assets in 2019 but have made little progress combining oil assets, where there appear to be fewer synergies in operations or location. ChemChina and Sinochem have consolidated their remaining agriculture-related business units under the Syngenta group umbrella.
Sinochem Energy, the trading and refining arm of Sinochem, said in February it is making another attempt to list on the mainland Chinese A share market to raise funds for an expansion of refining and storage operations, around 2½ years after it started planning for a previous initial public offering in Hong Kong. The listed assets cover the company's crude and oil product trading, refinery, product sales and storage assets, while its upstream operations are excluded and will remain under its parent company Sinochem group.
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