Ashland to Acquire Hercules
Ashland Inc. and Hercules Inc. recently announced they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Ashland would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Hercules for $18.60 per share in cash and 0.093 of a share of Ashland common stock for each share of Hercules common stock. The total transaction value is approximately $3.3 billion, or $23.01 per Hercules share based on Ashland's July 10 closing stock price and including $0.7 billion of net assumed debt. The transaction, which would create a major global specialty chemicals company, is expected to close by the end of calendar 2008.
With sales in more than 100 countries, Ashland is a manufacturer of specialty chemicals, a leading distributor of chemicals and plastics, and a provider of automotive lubricants, car-care products, and quick-lube services. Hercules is a leader in specialty additives and ingredients that modify the physical properties of water-based systems and is one of the world's leading suppliers of specialty chemicals to the pulp and paper industry.
Upon the transaction's close, Ashland will have pro forma combined revenue for the 12 months ended March 31, 2008, of more than $10 billion, including approximately $3.5 billion generated outside North America. For the same period, Ashland generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $365 million excluding certain items, while Hercules reported ongoing EBITDA of $392 million excluding certain items. Specialty chemicals, which on a pro forma basis represents approximately 75 percent of total EBITDA, will serve as Ashland's primary platform for future growth.
Ashland Chairman and CEO James J. O'Brien said, "The acquisition of Hercules fulfills our objective to become a leading specialty chemicals company. It creates a defined core for Ashland composed of three specialty chemical businesses with strong market positions and promising global growth potential: specialty additives and ingredients, paper and water technologies, and specialty resins. In addition, we expect our financial profile to be enhanced significantly through reduced earnings volatility, improved profitability and stronger cash flow generation."
Hercules President and CEO Craig A. Rogerson said, "We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to combine Hercules with Ashland. Our companies share proud and similar histories of nearly 100 years of innovation, dedication, and service. Hercules shareholders will receive a significant premium over the current trading price for their shares and, through their ownership of Ashland shares, the opportunity to participate in the upside potential of the combined company. We look forward to working with Ashland to bring these two great companies together."
In specialty additives and ingredients, Hercules' Aqualon business is one of the most recognized and admired specialty chemical brands in the world and brings Ashland a significant market position in rheology modifiers, which alter the physical properties of water-based systems. These additives are used across a wide range of industries to make everything from adhesives and paints to foods, pharmaceuticals, and personal-care products. Nearly all of Aqualon's additive products are water soluble polymers derived from renewable materials. The combined company generates, on a pro forma basis, approximately one-third of EBITDA from bio-based or renewable chemistries.
Ashland expects to realize annualized run-rate cost savings of at least $50 million by the third year following the transaction's close by eliminating redundancies and capturing operational efficiencies. In the first year following the transaction's close, while the combination is modestly dilutive to earnings per share on a reported basis, it is expected to be significantly accretive to Ashland's earnings per share, excluding merger costs and non-cash depreciation and amortization charges resulting from the transaction.
The merger is conditioned upon, among other things, the approval of Hercules' shareholders, the receipt of regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Assuming the satisfaction of these conditions, the transaction is expected to close by the end of calendar 2008.
The cash portion of the consideration will be funded through a combination of cash on hand and committed debt financing from Bank of America and Scotia Capital, subject to customary terms and conditions. Ashland plans to use the cash flows of the combined organization to pay down debt with a goal of attaining investment-grade credit ratings within two to four years after closing the transaction.
Under the terms of the definitive merger agreement, Hercules would be required to pay Ashland a fee of $77.5 million under certain circumstances including if Hercules terminates the merger agreement to accept a superior offer, and Ashland would be required to pay Hercules a fee in the same amount if the transaction is not completed due to a failure to obtain financing at the time the conditions to the merger have been satisfied.