Blackstone readies partial Celanese exit

The private equity group plans to raise up to $750m from selling shares in the chemicals group it acquired seven months ago.

New York-based The Blackstone Group is planning to raise up to $750 million (€582 million) from selling shares in Celanese, the German chemical maker it invested in seven months ago.
 
According to a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the firm plans to use the proceeds of the sale to pay itself a dividend and to pay off some of Celanese's debt. The company's shares, which have not yet been priced, will trade on the New York Stock Exchange. The news was reported by Bloomberg News earlier today. 
 
Blackstone currently owns an 83.6 percent stake in Celanese which it acquired in April in a public-to-private transaction. The deal valued the company at €3.1 billion, the largest such transaction in Germany to date.

Blackstone had originally hoped to acquire the company outright. But several shareholders refused to tender their shares, leaving Blackstone with the 83.6 percent interest.

A domination agreement meant that Blackstone was able to take control of the company despite the fact that a portion of its equity continued to be traded on the Frankfurt stock exchange. The domination agreement is currently subject to legal challenges from dissident shareholders in Germany.  
 
In the SEC filing, Blackstone said: “Minority shareholders may interfere with Celanese AG's future actions, which may prevent us from causing Celanese AG to take actions which may have beneficial effects for our shareholders.”
 
Celanese owns 24 production plants and six research centres in North America, Europe and Asia. Its products include acetates, technical polymers ticona, sweeteners and food ingredients. It reported sales of €4.1 billion in 2003 and last month acquired Canada's Acetex Corporation for $261 million of debt.
 
Last May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the German stock market regulator BaFin was investigating possible insider trading in Celanese shares in the period leading up to the initial offer.