By CASEY JUNKINS
NATRIUM - Nearly 70 years after starting chemical production at its local site, the PPG Industries Natrium plant now operates under the Axiall Corp. banner, following a $2.1 billion deal with Georgia Gulf completed earlier this year.
"This merger of two industry-leading organizations creates an integrated chemicals and building products company well positioned to benefit from North America's natural gas cost advantage as well as the recovery of the U.S. housing market," said Paul Carrico, president and chief executive officer of Axiall Corp.
The newly formed company trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker AXLL. PPG Industries will continue as its own business with headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh. The merger with Georgia Gulf only affected PPG's chemical division.
Axiall is expected to be the third-largest chlor-alkali producer and second-largest vinyl chloride monomer producer in North America.
Earlier this month, Axiall reported net sales of $3.3 billion for 2012, 3 percent higher than the net sales of $3.2 billion reported for 2011. Axiall reported net income of $120.6 million, or $3.45 per diluted share for 2012, compared to net income of $57.8 million, or $1.66 per diluted share, for the previous year.
"Our results exceeded our expectations for 2012, in large part due to the most profitable fourth quarter we have had in decades," Carrico said.
"This strong performance was achieved in a year when many people in our organization were investing considerable time and energy to make the merger of Georgia Gulf and PPG's commodity chemicals business a reality. I want to thank our employees for their contributions in completing the merger while remaining focused on safety and execution. The merger enhances Axiall's scale and integration across the chlorovinyls chain and expands the benefit we gain from low-cost natural gas in North America and growing global demand for our products."
Axiall's Natrium plant - located south of Moundsville along W.Va. 2 - manufactures chemicals, primarily chlorine, caustic soda, muriatic acid and calcium hypochlorite. These chemicals have a wide variety of end-uses including water purification, paper and plastics production and as key building blocks for pharmaceuticals.
"The new name is the result of more than five months of effort and creativity by a group of employees from both Georgia Gulf and PPG," said Carrico. "The new and distinctive brand represents a clear break from the legacy names of the two businesses, and gives us the flexibility to enter new markets, make future acquisitions, and diversify our portfolio without the need to rebrand our organization."
Despite the name change, Natrium Plant Manager Jim Rock said the approximately 500 workers on site should expect business to continue as usual.
The plant also is located right in the center of the burgeoning Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas boom. As part of this, PPG in 2011 signed a drilling lease with Gastar Exploration to gain about $50 million for Gastar drilling 30 wells on 3,300 acres of PPG land near the Natrium site.