Imerys knows the ins and outs of mining rare resources. The company extracts and processes minerals into various industrial materials used to produce myriad goods in a range of industries. Operations are split into four groups: Pigments for Paper is the world's #1 producer of kaolin, a mineral in papermaking. Market leaders too, Imerys' Minerals for Ceramics, Refractories, Abrasives & Foundry group offer minerals for porcelain, floor tile, electronics, and metallurgy; Performance & Filtration Minerals provide the basics for breathable polymer films and diatomite-based products; and Materials and Monolithics support bricks, roof tiles, and kiln furniture. About 20% of sales are in developing regions.
Imerys focuses both on business acquisitions that offer new, complementary activities and on fueling internal growth via product and operational upgrades. Over the last several years, the company has made more than 40 acquisitions; businesses in developing countries account for 20 of them.
Although its financial momentum slowed during the economic downturn, Imerys rebounded in 2010, more than doubling its earnings on a 20% increase in sales over 2009. Repositioned for growth, in 2011 the company spent $340 million for Rio Tinto's talc business (and the world's largest talc producer) Luzenac. Luzenac adds a workforce numbering about 1,000, plus two dozen sites dotting North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The deal enables Imerys dominate opportunities in the polymers, paints, ceramics, and paper industries. In 2010 it purchased an 86% stake in one of Vale's kaolin businesses, Brazil-based Para Pigmentos, giving Imerys an edge in the market for paper and packaging.
Reaching into Asia, its Minerals Ceramics, Refractories, Abrasives & Foundry business group acquired Astron China in 2008. The deal netted a giant China-based manufacturer of zircon products and three production sites, deepening Imerys' footprint in a strategic region and its foundry capacity. On its heels, Imerys acquired the European leader in fused- zircon, UCM Group PLC, in 2007. The importance of minerals and abrasives (renamed fused minerals) to the group extends back to 2000 when Imery took over Treibacher Schleifmittel, one of the world's largest producers of fused alumina and bauxite (corundum).
Acquisitions in Imerys' Performance & Filtration Minerals business group have included two mica mining and processing companies, Kings Mountain Minerals and Suzorite Mining. The deals reinforce the company's #1 industry position in technical applications for plastics and coatings.
The Materials & Monolithics business group has gained market share, as well. Imerys' international alumino-silicate monolithic refractory business, Calderys, bought Svenska Silika Verken AB. Svenska Silika Verken's two monolithic refractories boost Calderys' capacity to serve a swath a Scandinavian industries, from steelmaking to cement, petrochemicals, and incineration.
Investment firms Pargesa and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert collectively hold over a two-thirds stake in Imerys. – less