Albemarle Corporation may have its roots in the US south, but its business is very much on the move around the world.

 Encompassing three business segments (polymer additives, catalysts and fine chemicals), the company serves customers in approximately 100 countries, 42% of which are in the Americas, 40% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 18% in the Asia-Pacific region.

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 Last year, Albemarle Corporation moved its headquarters from Richmond, Virginia, where it had been based since 1887, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The company has had a significant Baton Rouge presence for 50 years.

 Making the move attractive was a $6.9m enticement that included $3.2m in relocation expenses from Louisiana’s Rapid Response Fund; $1m from East Baton Rouge’s city- parish government and $2.7m in payroll tax credits from Louisiana’s Quality Jobs Program. That programme provides 5% to 6% in cash rebates on annual gross payrolls for new direct jobs for up to 10 years.

 Corporate executives had contemplated Miami and Houston – the latter regarded as the epicentre for petrochemical jobs – for the headquarters, but decided on Baton Rouge because of its pro-business attitude and the incentives offered by the state.

 Cementing Albemarle in Louisiana was especially attractive to the state. Albemarle has experienced rapid growth since 2003. Between 2007 and 2008, its annual revenue more than doubled to $2.24bn. The company recently reported third-quarter 2009 earnings that showed net sales at $515.3m and earnings of $52.1m.

 “Albemarle had also been a part of Baton Rouge’s economy for decades, going back to its predecessor Ethyl Corp,” says David W DeCuir, director of Albemarle’s fine chemistry segment.

Paper origins

 The company originally started its business in paper in 1887 in Virginia. In the 1920s, it entered into a joint venture with General Motors and Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) to make additives for leaded gas to stop engine-knocking.

 “Research for the next additive spawned our activity in the chemical world,” remarks Mr DeCuir.

 Chemistry is the cornerstone of Albemarle’s business, with its main strengths in bromine, phosphorus, aluminas, zeolites, metal oxides and organometallics. The company also possesses expertise in orthoalkylation, amination and bromination.

 It is a leader for safe handling and processing of highly reactive chemicals, and a global developer, manufacturer and marketer of highly engineered specialty chemicals.

 Albemarle’s specialty chemicals are used in consumer electronics; petroleum and petrochemical processing; transportation and industrial products; pharmaceuticals; agricultural products; and construction and packaging materials.

 Over the years the company has been slowly diversifying its holdings. Today it has regional operations offices in Baton Rouge, Tokyo and Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. It also has US manufacturing and R&D operations in Dayton, Ohio; Magnolia, Arkansas; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Pasadena, Texas; and Tyrone, Pennsylvania; as well as overseas operations in Avonmouth and Teesport, UK; Bergheim, Germany; Louvain-la-Neuve; and Thann, France. The company maintains sales offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Seoul.

 Currently, the company is seeking a strategic partner in India. “We are looking at a merger or acquisition in India,” says Ron Gardner, vice-president of fine chemicals at Albemarle. While Europe represents a larger market for the company than Asia, Mr Gardner points out that Asia is where the rapid growth is. “Consequently, we are increasing our head count there,” he says.

 Last year, Albemarle opened a new production unit in Nanjing, China, to make one of the world’s best performing phosphorus flame retardants.

 “This new plant will improve Albemarle’s flexibility to supply our Asian customers as well as the rest of our global customer base for this important and growing flame retardant,” says Luc Van Muylem, vice-president of polymer additives.

 The initial capacity of the new flame retardant plant will be 4000 metric tonnes per year with options to expand at a later date.

 Albemarle’s existing NcendX P-30 flame retardant unit in Orangeburg, South Carolina, was converted to other uses following start-up of the Nanjing plant in mid-2008.

Global sourcing and alliances

 The company is involved in a host of joint ventures around the world. One that is very successful, Mr Gardner says, is in Jordan, formed in 2000 with joint venture partner Arab Potash Corporation (APC) in Jordan. The business involves extracting bromine from the Dead Sea.

 “Jordan is one of our best sources for bromine in the world,” he says.

 On top of that, the project was under budget and exceeded corporate goals. “It is the largest FDI project in Jordan, although it is not one of our largest sites,” Mr Gardner remarks. “The portfolio involves six to seven products and is important to our

 overall bromine operations.”

 Middle East connections Albemarle continues to expand its footprint in the Middle East.

 In October, corporate executives announced that the company will form a 50/50 joint venture with Ibn Hayyan Plastic Products Company, an affiliate of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), called Saudi Organometallic Chemicals Company (SOCC). Under the terms of the agreement, the two parent companies will build a world-scale organometallics production facility in Al Jubail Industrial City on Saudi’s Gulf coast.

 SOCC will be the first company of its kind to produce these products in the region. The construction of the plant is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2009 with start-up anticipated by early 2012.

 The new facility will have the capacity to produce 6000 metric tonnes of tri-ethyl aluminium equivalents annually and will ensure delivery of tri-ethyl aluminium to the region’s growing customer base.

 “We are excited to bring this enabling technology to the Middle East and we are equally pleased to be doing so in partnership with SABIC, one of the world’s leading chemical companies,” says Mark C Rohr, Albemarle chairman and CEO. “This new world-scale production unit will help us safely and efficiently serve our customers while also providing a foundation for Albemarle to capitalise on other opportunities emerging in the region.”

 Albemarle is a recognised leader in innovative organometallics technology with a long-standing reputation for superior product quality and reliability. The new SOCC joint venture and organometallics facility will further Albemarle’s mission to expand its global footprint and promote the highest standards in health, safety and environmental practices while delivering value to its all of its stakeholders.

 “The new joint venture facility will feature Albemarle’s state-of-the-art technology, proprietary safety expertise and premier logistical stewardship that are trademarks of our reputation as a respected leader in the global organometallics market,” says Amy Motto, division vice-president of Albemarle’s polyolefin catalyst group.

COMPANY PROFILE

ALBEMARLE CORPORATION

Headquarters

Baton Rouge, LouisianaFounded

1887, in VirginiaAnnual revenue 2007-08

$2.24bnCEO

Mark C RohrMarkets

Serves customers in 100 countries: 42% of which are in the Americas; 40% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; 18% in the Asia-Pacific region