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Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) is a British chemical group and one of the largest chemical producers in the world. It is based in Manchester Square, London. It produces paints and speciality products (including ingredients for foods, specialty polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavours). It employs around 32,000 people and had a turnover of just over £5.8 billion in 2005.
Additional recommended knowledge
Competing with DuPont and IG Farben (which was subsequently split up in 1952 into BASF, Agfa, Hoechst AG, Bayer and other companies), the new company produced explosives, fertilisers, insecticides, dyestuffs, industrial chemicals, printing materials, and paints. In its first year turnover was £27m.
Until 1937, the Sunbeam motorcycle business, which had come with Nobel Industries, was part of ICI.
ICI played a key role in the development of new products, including the dyestuff phthalocyanine (1929), the acrylic plastic Perspex (1932), Dulux paints (1932, co-developed with DuPont), polyethylene (1937), sulfamethazine (the first sulfonamide antibiotic), 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). Because of their success in the pharmaceutical industry, ICI formed ICI Pharmaceuticals in 1957.
Always innovative, in 1974 ICI Mond division created its Works Record System, a robust general-purpose tool implemented under CICS. It successfully monitored the numerous chemical production plants within the scope of the company. The system was highly successful and remained operational for 27 years without a change to the underlying software, which was intentionally designed to allow the plant operators to make updates and create new applications with no knowledge of computer programming – the same trend that led to the timesharing industry and the development of personal computers. See technical comments below.
One of the main plants was at Billingham, Teesside. From 1971 to 1988, ICI operated a small General Atomics TRIGA Mark I nuclear reactor at its Billingham factory.
Unsuccessful Hanson takeover
In 1988, the company successfully fought off a hostile takeover bid from the Hanson plc conglomerate.
In 1993 the company decided to demerge its chemical business from the pharmaceutical bioscience divisions. Pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, specialities, seeds and biological products were placed into a new and independent company called Zeneca Group (which merged with Astra AB in 1999 to form AstraZeneca PLC, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world). The company also moved away from bulk and industrial chemicals towards speciality chemicals during the 1990s in the hope of making its income less dependent on the business cycle, earning higher profit margins, and developing businesses with long term growth potential. However its financial performance so far in the 21st century has been erratic.
ICI sold its Australian subsidiary, ICI Australia, in 1997 and the following year the former subsidiary changed its name to Orica.
Works Records System
The ICI "Works Records System" went into production use in 1974. It was designed by Robert Mais, then an employee of ICI Mond Division in the UK, and was implemented in 1974. The system was implemented under IBM's CICS transaction processing platform, and used the then-new IBM 3270 display terminal, with limited local processing and storage capabilities. It had several interesting technical characteristics:
Although the system does not appear to have been described in the literature, nor resold commercially, it was evidently an early testbed for many interactive system concepts that became important for commercial timesharing and personal computing.
Dutch firm Akzo Nobel (owner of Crown Berger paints) bid £7.2 billion (€10.66 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. The initial bid was rejected by the ICI board and the majority of shareholders. 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 Akzo Nobel. In the UK, any combined operation without divestments would have seen Akzo Nobel have a 54% market share in the paint market. However, a subsequent bid for £8 billion (€11.82 billion) was accepted by ICI in August 2007, pending approval by regulators.
As of 8.00am on 2 January 2008 ICI PLC became a subsidiary of Akzo Nobel NV. Shareholders of ICI will receive either £6.70 in cash or Akzo Nobel loan notes to the value of £6.70 per 1 nominal ICI share. The adhesives business of ICI has been tranfered to Henkel as a result of the deal, while Akzo has agreed to sell on its Crown Paints subsidiary to satisfy the concerns of the European Commissioner for Competition.
The areas of concern regarding the ICI UK pension scheme have been addressed by ICI and Akzo.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Imperial_Chemical_Industries". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.