Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) was a British chemical company and was, for much of its history, the largest manufacturer in Britain. It was formed by the merger of leading British chemical companies in 1926. Its headquarters were at Millbank in London, and it was a constituent of the FT 30 and later the FTSE 100 indices.
|Fate||Acquired by AkzoNobel|
|Headquarters||London, England, UK|
|Alfred Mond (first CEO)|
Sir Paul Chambers
Sir John Harvey-Jones
|Products||Paints & speciality chemicals|
|Revenue||£4.85 billion (2006)|
|£502 million (2006)|
|£295 million (2006)|
Number of employees
ICI made paints and speciality products, including food ingredients, speciality polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavourings. In 2008, it was acquired by AkzoNobel, which immediately sold parts of ICI to Henkel, and integrated ICI's remaining operations within its existing organisation.
Development of the business (1926–44)Edit
The company was founded in December 1926 from the merger of four companies: Brunner Mond, Nobel Explosives, the United Alkali Company, and British Dyestuffs Corporation. It established its head office at Millbank in London in 1928. Competing with DuPont and IG Farben, the new company produced chemicals, explosives, fertilisers, insecticides, dyestuffs, non-ferrous metals, and paints. In its first year turnover was £27 million.
In the 1920s and 30s, the company played a key role in the development of new chemical products, including the dyestuff phthalocyanine (1929), the acrylic plastic Perspex (1932), Dulux paints (1932, co-developed with DuPont), polyethylene (1937), and polyethylene terephthalate fibre known as Terylene (1941). In 1940, ICI started British Nylon Spinners as a joint venture with Courtaulds.
Postwar innovation (1945–90)Edit
In the 1940s and 50s, the company established its pharmaceutical business and developed a number of key products, including Paludrine (1940s, an anti-malarial drug), halothane (1951, an anaesthetic agent), Inderal (1965, a beta-blocker), tamoxifen (1978, a frequently used drug for breast cancer), and PEEK (1979, a high performance thermoplastic). ICI formed ICI Pharmaceuticals in 1957.
ICI developed a fabric in the 1950s known as Crimplene, a thick polyester yarn used to make a fabric of the same name. The resulting cloth is heavy and wrinkle-resistant, and retains its shape well. The California-based fashion designer Edith Flagg was the first to import this fabric from Britain to the USA. During the first two years, ICI gave Flagg a large advertising budget to popularise the fabric across America.
In 1960, Paul Chambers became the first chairman appointed from outside the company. Chambers employed the consultancy firm McKinsey to help with reorganising the company. His eight-year tenure saw export sales double, but his reputation was severely damaged by a failed takeover bid for Courtaulds in 1961–62. In 1962, ICI developed the controversial herbicide, paraquat.
In 1964, ICI acquired British Nylon Spinners (BNS), the company it had jointly set up in 1940 with Courtaulds. ICI surrendered its 37.5 per cent holding in Courtaulds and paid Courtaulds £2 million a year for five years, "to take account of the future development expenditure of Courtaulds in the nylon field." In return, Courtaulds transferred to ICI their 50 per cent holding in BNS. BNS was absorbed into ICI's existing polyester operation, ICI Fibres. The acquisition included BNS production plants in Pontypool, Gloucester and Doncaster, together with research and development in Pontypool. Early pesticide development included Gramoxone (1962, a herbicide), the insecticides pirimiphos-methyl in 1967 and pirimicarb in 1970, brodifacoum (a rodenticide) was developed in 1974; in the late 1970s, ICI was involved in the early development of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides such as lambda-cyhalothrin.
Peter Allen was appointed chairman between 1968 and 1971. He presided over the purchase of Viyella. Profits shrank under his tenure. During his tenure, ICI created the wholly owned subsidiary Cleveland Potash Ltd, for the construction of Boulby Mine in Redcar and Cleveland, North Yorkshire. The first shaft was dug in 1968, with full production from 1976. ICI jointly owned the mine with Anglo American, and then with De Beers, before complete ownership was transferred to Israel Chemicals Ltd in 2002.
Jack Callard was appointed chairman from 1971 to 1975. He almost doubled company profits between 1972 and 1974, and made ICI Britain's largest exporter. In 1971, the company acquired Atlas Chemical Industries Inc., a major American competitor.
In 1977, Imperial Metal Industries was divested as an independent quoted company. From 1982 to 1987, the company was led by the charismatic John Harvey-Jones. Under his leadership, the company acquired the Beatrice Chemical Division in 1985 and Glidden Coatings & Resins, a leading paints business, in 1986.
Reorganisation of the business (1991–2007)Edit
In 1991, ICI sold the agricultural and merchandising operations of BritAg and Scottish Agricultural Industries to Norsk Hydro, and fought off a hostile takeover bid from Hanson, who had acquired 2.8 percent of the company. It also divested its soda ash products arm to Brunner Mond, ending an association with the trade that had existed since the company's inception, one that had been inherited from the original Brunner, Mond & Co. Ltd.
In 1992, the company sold its nylon business to DuPont. In 1993, the company de-merged its pharmaceutical bio-science businesses: pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, specialities, seeds and biological products were all transferred into a new and independent company called Zeneca. Zeneca subsequently merged with Astra AB to form AstraZeneca.
Charles Miller Smith was appointed CEO in 1994, one of the few times that someone from outside ICI had been appointed to lead the company, Smith having previously been a director at Unilever. Shortly afterwards, the company acquired a number of former Unilever businesses in an attempt to move away from its historical reliance on commodity chemicals. In 1995, ICI acquired the American paint company Grow Group. In 1997, ICI acquired National Starch & Chemical, Quest International, Unichema, and Crosfield, the speciality chemicals businesses of Unilever for $8 billion. This step was part of a strategy to move away from cyclical bulk chemicals and to progress up the value chain to become a higher growth, higher margin business. Later that year it went on to buy Rutz & Huber, a Swiss paints business.
Having taken on some £4 billion of debt to finance these acquisitions, the company had to sell off its commodity chemicals businesses:
- Disposals of bulk chemicals businesses at that time included the sale of its Australian subsidiary, ICI Australia, for £1 billion in 1997, and of its polyester chemicals business to DuPont for $3 billion also in 1997.
- In 1998, it sold Crosfield to WR Grace and bought Acheson Industries Inc., an electronic chemicals business.
- In 2000, ICI sold its diisocyanate, advanced materials, and speciality chemicals businesses at Teesside and worldwide (including plants at Rozenburg in the Netherlands, and South Africa, Malaysia and Taiwan), and Tioxide, its titanium dioxide subsidiary, to Huntsman Corporation for £1.7 billion. It also sold the last of its industrial chemicals businesses to Ineos for £300 million.
- In 2002, the ICE wholly transferred ownership of Boulby Mine to Israel Chemicals Ltd.
- In 2006, the Company sold Quest International, its flavours and fragrances business, to Givaudan, for £1.2 billion and Uniqema, its oleochemical business, to Croda International, for £410 million.
Having sold much of its historically profitable commodities businesses, and many of the new speciality businesses which it had failed to integrate, the company consisted mainly of the Dulux paints business, which quickly found itself the subject of a takeover by AkzoNobel.
Takeover by AkzoNobelEdit
Dutch firm AkzoNobel (owner of Crown Berger paints) bid £7.2 billion (€10.66 billion or $14.5 billion) for ICI in June 2007. An area of concern about a potential deal was ICI's British pension fund, which had future liabilities of more than £9 billion at the time. Regulatory issues in the UK and other markets where Dulux and Crown Paints brands each have significant market share were also a cause for concern for the boards of ICI and AkzoNobel. In the UK, any combined operation without divestments would have seen AkzoNobel have a 54 per cent market share in the paint market. The initial bid was rejected by the ICI board and the majority of shareholders. However, a subsequent bid for £8 billion (€11.82 billion) was accepted by ICI in August 2007, pending approval by regulators.
At 8 a.m. on 2 January 2008, completion of the takeover of ICI plc by AkzoNobel was announced. Shareholders of ICI received either £6.70 in cash or AkzoNobel loan notes to the value of £6.70 per one nominal ICI share. The adhesives business of ICI was transferred to Henkel as a result of the deal, while AkzoNobel agreed to sell its Crown Paints subsidiary to satisfy the concerns of the European Commissioner for Competition. The areas of concern regarding the ICI UK pension scheme were addressed by ICI and AkzoNobel.
ICI operated a number of chemical sites around the world. In the UK, the main plants were as follows:
- Billingham (in Stockton-on-Tees) and Wilton (in present-day Redcar and Cleveland): ICI used the Billingham site to manufacture fertilisers in the 1920s and went on to produce plastics at Billingham in 1934. During World War II it manufactured Synthonia, a synthetic ammonia for explosives. The Wilton R&D site was built to support the plastics division with R&D and chemical engineering facilities. The ICI Billingham Division was split into the ICI Heavy Organic Chemicals Division and ICI Agricultural Division in the 1960s. From 1971 to 1988 ICI Physics and Radioisotopes Section (later known as Tracerco) operated a small General Atomics TRIGA Mark I nuclear reactor at its Billingham factory for the production of radioisotopes used in the manufacture of flow and level instruments, among other products. The Agricultural Division was noted for the development of the world's largest bioreactor at the time - the 1.5 million litre Pruteen Reactor, used for the cultivation of animal feed. This had limited economic success but was followed by the much more successful development of Quorn.
- Blackley (in Manchester) and Huddersfield: ICI used the sites to manufacture dyestuffs. The dye business, known as the ICI Dyestuffs Division in the 1960s, went through several reorganisations. Huddersfield was tied in with Wilton with the production of nitrobenzene and nitrotolulene. Huddersfield also produced insecticides. (Syngenta still manufacture insecticides at Huddersfield). Proxel Biocide was made at Huddersfield from the 80's onwards. Additives also made at Huddersield. Huddersfield became Zeneca then AstraZeneca, in 2004 Huddersfield was Syngenta, Avecia, Arch and Lubrizol running what were all ICI plants at one time. Through the years it was combined with other speciality chemicals businesses and became Organics Division. Then became ICI Colours and Fine Chemicals and then ICI Specialties.
- Runcorn (in Cheshire): ICI operated a number of separate sites within the Runcorn area, including Caster-Kellner site, where ICI manufactured chlorine and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). Adjacent to Castner-Kellner site was Rocksavage works, where a variety of chemicals based on chlorine products were manufactured, including Chloromethanes, Arklone dry cleaning fluid, Trichloethylene degreasing fluid and the Arcton range of CFCs. Also on that site were PVC manufacture and HF (Hydrogen fluoride) manufacture. At Runcorn Heath Research Laboratories, technical support, research and development for Mond Division products was carried out, and the support sections included chemical plan design and engineering sections. Just to the north of Runcorn, on an island between the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey could be found the Wigg Works, which had been erected originally for producing poison gas in wartime. In Widnes could also be found several factories producing weedkillers and other products. For many years it was known as ICI Mond Division but later became part of the ICI Chemicals and Polymers Division. The Runcorn site was also responsible for the development of the HiGEE and Spinning Disc Reactor concepts. These were originated by Professor Colin Ramshaw and led to the concept of Process Intensification; research into these novel technologies is now being pursued by the Process Intensification Group at Newcastle University.
- Winnington and Wallerscote (in Northwich, Cheshire): It was here that ICI manufactured sodium carbonate (soda ash) and its various by-products such as sodium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda), and sodium sesquicarbonate. The Winnington site, built in 1873 by the entrepreneurs John Tomlinson Brunner and Ludwig Mond, was also the base for the former company Brunner, Mond & Co. Ltd. and, after the merger which created ICI, the powerful and influential Alkali Division. It was at the laboratories on this site that polythene was discovered by accident in 1933 during experiments into high pressure reactions. Wallerscote was built in 1926, its construction delayed by the First World War, and became one of the largest factories devoted to a single product (soda ash) in the world. However, the decreasing importance of the soda ash trade to ICI in favour of newer products such as paints and plastics, meant that in 1984 the Wallerscote site was closed, and thereafter mostly demolished. The laboratory where polythene was discovered was sold off and the building became home to a variety of businesses including a go-kart track and paintballing, and the Winnington Works were divested to the newly formed company, Brunner Mond, in 1991. It was again sold in 2006, to Tata (an Indian-based company) and in 2011 was re branded as Tata Chemicals Europe. The Winnington plant closed in February 2014, with the last shift on 2 February bringing to a close 140 years of soda ash production in this Northwich site.
- Ardeer (in Stevenston, Ayrshire): ICI Nobel used the site to manufacture dynamite and other explosives and nitrocellulose-based products. For a time, the site also produced nylon and nitric acid. Nobel Enterprises was sold in 2002 to Inabata.
- Slough (in Berkshire): Headquarters of ICI Paints Division.
- Welwyn Garden City (in Hertfordshire): Headquarters of ICI Plastics Division until the early 1990s.
An ICI subsidiary called Duperial operated in Argentine from 1928 to 1995, when it was renamed ICI.
Established in the city of San Lorenzo, Santa Fe, it operates an integrated production site with commercial offices in Buenos Aires. Since 2009 it has made sulphuric acid with ISO certification under the company name Akzo Nobel Functional Chemicals S.A.
The subsidiary ICI Australia Ltd established the Dry Creek Saltfields at Dry Creek north of Adelaide, South Australia, in 1940, with an associated soda ash plant at nearby Osborne. In 1989, these operations were sold to Penrice Soda Products. An ICI plant was built at Botany Bay in New South Wales in the 1940s and was sold to Orica in 1997.
The subsidiary ICI New Zealand provided substantial quantities of chemical products - including swimming pool chemicals, commercial healthcare products, herbicides and pesticides for use within New Zealand and the neighboring Pacific Islands.
A fire at the ICI New Zealand store in Mount Wellington, Auckland, on 21 December 1984, killed an ICI employee and caused major health concerns. Over 200 firefighters were exposed to toxic smoke and effluents during the firefighting efforts. Six firefighters retired for medical reasons as a result of the fire. This incident was a major event in the history of the New Zealand Fire Service and subject to a formal investigation, led by future Chief Justice Sian Elias. The fire was a trigger for major reforms of the service; direct consequences included improved protective clothing for firefighters, a standard safety protocol for major incidents, the introduction of dedicated fireground safety officers, and changes to occupational health regulations. 
- Smith, David; O'Connell, Dominic; Dey, Iain; Ashton, James; Goodman, Matthew; Lyons, Teena; Kay, William (6 July 2008). "Falling into the abyss". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008.
- "Akzo Nobel ICI merger completed". BBC News. 2 January 2008. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- "Akzo Nobel to Focus on Fast and Effective Integration in 2008" (Press release). Akzo Nobel U.K. 7 January 2008. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
- "ICI: History". Archived from the original on 17 October 2008.
- "Tomorrow's Answers Today – The History of AkzoNobel since 1646" (PDF). Akzo Nobel International. p. 235. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
- The Times. 3 January 1940. p. 12. Missing or empty
- "Why the BSA badge? A brief history". Classicglory.com. 6 May 1916. Archived from the original on 16 May 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "British Mission - History of the Atomic Age - atomicarchive.com". www.atomicarchive.com. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- Sneader, Walter (2005). Drug discovery: a history. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-89979-8.
- Strudwick, J. P.; Mark Pottle (2004). Chambers, Sir (Stanley) Paul (1904–1981). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
- Taylor, Robert (2009). The State of Myanmar. p. 297.
- Keesing's Record of World Events (formerly Keesing's Contemporary Archives). 10. United Kingdom. July 1964. p. 20162.
- Adeney, Martin (2004). Allen, Sir Peter Christopher (1905–1993)'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Adeney, Martin (2004). Callard, Sir (Eric) John (1913–1998). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Owen, Geoffrey (2000). From Empire to Europe: The Decline and Revival of British Industry Since the Second World War. HarperCollins. p. 347. ISBN 978-0-00-638750-3.
- "From bullying to the top of industry". icWales. 12 January 2008. Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2008.
- "New Chairman of ICI praises planned agenda". The New York Times. 9 March 1987. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "Norsk Hydro acquires Britag Industries". Alacrastore.com. 5 September 1991. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Prokesch, Steven (18 May 1991). "Often-ravenous Hanson takes a taste of ICI". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "Capitalism" (PDF). Columbia University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 December 2012.
- Owen, Geoffrey; Harrison, Trevor (1 March 1995). "Why ICI Chose to Demerge". Harvard Business Review. Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- Ipsen, Erik (25 February 1993). "Will bad timing spoil ICI's plan to split in two?". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Reuters (23 May 1995). "Imperial Acquires Grow Group As It Outbids Sherwin-Williams". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
- "National Starch sold to ICI". 1 June 1997. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "ICI buys Swiss Paints Group".[dead link]
- "ICI Australia shares drop sharply". The New York Times. 9 May 1997. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "ICI sell off raises $3 billion".[dead link]
- "ICI buys Acheson for $560 million in move to strengthen specialties". Allbusiness.com. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "ICI sells Crosfield and buys Acheson in portfolio reshuffle". Archived from the original on 14 September 2013.
- Milner, Mark (15 April 1999). "Bayer and ICI sell-offs to boost balance sheets". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 7 May 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "ICI Sells Its Last Industrial Chemical Operations to Ineo".[dead link]
- "History". The World's Only Polyhalite Mine | ICL Boulby. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- "ICI sells flavours business Quest". BBC News. 22 November 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
- Marriner, Cosima (30 June 2006). "ICI to slash debts with £410m Uniqema sale". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Armitstead, Louise (5 August 2007). "Dutch poised to clinch £8bn ICI takeover". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
- "ICI snubs second offer from Akzo". BBC News. 30 July 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2007.
- "ICI rejects £7.2bn bid approach". BBC News. 18 June 2007. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
- "ICI agrees to be bought by Akzo". BBC News. 13 August 2007. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
- "Henkel to pay $5.5 bln for ICI units: Akzo". Reuters. 6 August 2007. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
- "Akzo Nobel to sell Crown paints". BBC News. 14 December 2007. Archived from the original on 16 December 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
- "ICI Pension Fund Web Site". Icipensionfund.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "The white heat of new technology". BBC. 14 September 1949. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "History of Billingham". Thisisstockton.co.uk. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "British Dyestuffs Corporation and ICI". ColorantsHistory.Org. 17 March 2006. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "ICI cuts 1,000 jobs". BBC News. 4 January 1999. Archived from the original on 2 December 2002. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "Process Intensification". Ccdcindia.com. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Dick, W.F.L. (1973). A Hundred Years of Alkali in Cheshire. Birmingham.
- ICI Magazine, Kynoch Press. 1963.
- "Japanese firm buys ICI's nitrocellulose business". Chemical Week. 22 January 2003.
- "Review sparks fears for future of ICI Paints site". Maidenhead Advertiser. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "Welwyn Garden City, a town in Hertfordshire". Geton-thenet.co.uk. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Hough, J.K. (September 2008), "Salt production in South Australia" (PDF), MESA Journal, 50, archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015, retrieved 8 February 2014
- Gibson, Jano; Huxley, John (1 April 2005). "Botany pollution fears grow". The Sydney Morning Herald. ISSN 0312-6315. Archived from the original on 6 November 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- Elias, Sian; Bandaranayake, D R; Edwards, I R; Glass, W I (1 January 1990). "The Health Consequences of the ICI Fire" (PDF). New Zealand Ministry of Health. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
- Reader, W. J. (1970). Imperial Chemical Industries: A History, vol. I: The Forerunners, 1870-1926. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192159373.
- Reader, W. J. (1975). Imperial Chemical Industries: A History, vol. 2: The First Quarter-Century, 1926-1952. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192159441.