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Chemical firm LyondellBasell collapses

Friday, January 9, 2009

 
Correction — January 17, 2009
 

LyondellBasell did not collapse. Although the United States units and an affiliate registered in Germany filed for voluntary bankruptcy protection, the rest of the group, including the Netherlands parent, is operating normally.
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Global chemical manufacturer LyondellBasell — the third-largest private chemical company in the world — has collapsed. The firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, as well as the Dutch equivalent. They had failed to meet a January 4 deadline on postponed debt payments, and talks with creditors failed.

Headquartered in The Netherlands, LyondellBasell is owned by private equity tycoon Len Blavatnik, who had already refused the company a loan to help deal with debt resulting from a $12.7 billion merger between Basell International Holdings and Lyondell Chemical to create LyondellBasell Industries.

The company had already appointed Kevin McShea from Alix Partners to restructure the firm. McShea was assigned speculatively prior to the bankruptcy filing. Access Industries, Blavatnik's company, refused to extend credit as part of a loan deal brokered in March, a decision Lyondell Chemicals Company, a subsidiary of LyondellBasell, stated they were unhappy with.

LyondellBasell had postponed $280 million worth of interest payments, which Standard & Poor said placed it in "selective default" with a "rapidly weakening liquidity position". S&P also said that LyondellBasell have debts of $26 billion in a report on the company prior to the firm's collapse.

LyondellBasell responded with a press release, issuing the following statement: "Standard & Poor's definition of 'selected default' related to our corporate credit rating should not be misinterpreted to suggest that LyondellBasell is currently in default of its bank agreements. As they stated in their press release, 'This is a default in our opinion according to our definitions and criteria.' LyondellBasell is not currently in default according to its agreements with its lenders."

The company met with high oil prices shortly after the expensive merger. This was followed by a general tail-off in demand caused by the ongoing financial crisis. Investors were continuing to bet before the collapse that the firm would restructure under bankruptcy protection, leaving lenders with big losses, potentially over 90% of their investments. The cost of credit protection for LyondellBasell bonds had soared. The creditors include Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, ABN Amro and UBS.

On Thursday, an interim allowance was made by a judge for LyondellBasell to seek up to $2.167 billion of loans. There is also an emergency loan paid out of $100 million. As well as LyondellBasell, 79 affiliates have become insolvent. Citigroup has said the collapse will set them back $1.4 billion in unpaid debts.


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