Lubrizol is a smooth operator -- the company is the world's #1 maker of additives for lubricants and fuels. The manufacturer operates through two business segments: Lubrizol Additives and Lubrizol Advanced Materials. The Lubrizol Additives segment includes engine oil additives that fight sludge buildup, viscosity breakdown, and component wear; fuel additives designed to control deposits and improve combustion; and additives for paints, inks, greases, metalworking, and other markets. Lubrizol's Advanced Materials segment (performance coatings and chemicals) delivers its products to the personal care and rubber and plastics markets.
Investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway acquired Lubrizol in 2011 for about $9.7 billion in cash.
The additives maker markets nearly 3,000 products in more than 100 countries. It has sales and technical offices around the world and manufacturing facilities in 17 countries.
Lubrizol, as part of Berkshire Hathaway, no longer details the breakdown of its revenues (which in 2011 totalled $6.1 billion, up 13% over 2010, thanks to increased demand and production and higher commodity prices). In 2010 its sales were up 18% due to stronger global customer demand across all geographic zones and product lines. Sales were strongest in the driveline and industrial additives unit, which was up 26%. Both reporting units, Additives and Advanced Materials, were up about 17% for the year. Net income was up 46% for 2010, due to an improved product mix and greater use of manufacturing capacity.
The company's strategy is to optimize its product mix while closely aligning production capacity with product demand, using a combination of internal growth and acquisitions. Because of the large costs involved in maintaining its infrastructure (about $180 million a year), Lubrizol seeks to operate efficiently, periodically restructuring its operations, reducing costs, and eliminating products that perform poorly in the marketplace. The acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway secured deeper financing for Lubrizol's future expansion activities.
To meet regulatory requirements for improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions, as well as to meet the demands of their customers, Lubrizol also invests heavily in its R&D operations. The company evaluates some 300 new essential chemistries a year.
Lubrizol is also readying for growth in Asia, building a new plant and research lab in Zhuhai in China, and investing in an existing lab in India. To secure a customer supply in Asia, it is moving assets into Asia, including shifting some additive components and materials made in Texas to Zhuhai for blending.
It is also expanding in Europe. In 2012 the company acquired Spanish company Lipotec, which makes personal care ingredients using three core technologies: peptide-based active cosmetic ingredients, delivery systems, and biotechnology products. Lipotec, part of the Lipotec Group, adds to Lubrizol's growing biotechnology ingredients business for personal care. Lipotec became part of Lubrizol Advanced Materials.
That year the company also decided to grow its engineered polymers business by acquiring Spanish company Merquinsa, which makes specialty thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs). TPUs are used in various applications, including automotive, sports, and furniture and textile coatings.
In 2011 Lubrizol acquired Nalco's Performance Products Group, a supplier of specialty polymers and formulation additives for the personal care and household care industries, in a deal valued at $45 million. The asset sale will expand Lubrizol's Noveon Consumer Specialties Home and Personal Care product line. In another 2011 deal to boost its line of personal care products, the company acquired Active Organics. The Texas-based company produces botanical extracts and other naturally derived specialty ingredients.
Still on a buying spree in late 2011, Lubrizol agreed to acquire Illinois-based lubricating grease manufacturer Chemtool to broaden its Lubrizol Additives Custom Solutions unit's product lines.
In a move expand its chlorinated polyvinyl chloride business, in 2012 the company announced plans to invest $125 million to build a resin and compounding plant in Deer Park, Texas. The facility is expected to be operational by late 2014.