Imperial Chemical Industries

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Imperial Chemical Industries
HeadquartersLondon, England
Key peopleHans Wijers (CEO AkzoNobel), Sir John Harvey-Jones
ProductsPaints & speciality chemicals
Revenue£4,845 million (2006)
Operating income£502 million (2006)
Net income£295 million (2006)
Employees29,130 (2006)
WebsiteImperial Chemical Industries
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Imperial Chemical Industries
HeadquartersLondon, England
Key peopleHans Wijers (CEO AkzoNobel), Sir John Harvey-Jones
ProductsPaints & speciality chemicals
Revenue£4,845 million (2006)
Operating income£502 million (2006)
Net income£295 million (2006)
Employees29,130 (2006)
WebsiteImperial Chemical Industries

Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) was a British chemical company and the largest manufacturer in Britain for much of its history.[1]

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.

It produced paints and speciality products (including ingredients for foods, speciality polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavours). ICI was acquired by AkzoNobel in 2008, who immediately sold off parts of ICI to Henkel, and integrated ICI's remaining operations within its existing organisation.[2][3][4]


Development of the business[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.[5] It established its head office at Millbank in London in 1928.[5]

Competing with DuPont and IG Farben, the new company produced chemicals, explosives, fertilisers, insecticides, dyestuffs, non-ferrous metals, and paints.[5] In its first year turnover was £27 million.[5]

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),[5] Dulux paints (1932, co-developed with DuPont),[5] polyethylene (1937)[5] and polyethylene terephthalate fibre known as Terylene (1941).[5] In 1940 ICI started British Nylon Spinners as a joint venture with Courtaulds.

ICI also owned the Sunbeam motorcycle business, which had come with Nobel Industries, and continued to build motorcycles until 1937.[6]

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),[5] halothane (1951, an anaesthetic agent), Inderal (1965, a beta-blocker),[5] Tamoxifen (1978, a frequently used drug for breast cancer),[7] and PEEK (1979, a high performance thermoplastic).[5] ICI formed ICI Pharmaceuticals in 1957.

ICI developed a fabric in the 1950s known as Crimplene. Crimplene is a thick polyester yarn used to make a fabric of the same name. The resulting cloth is heavy, 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.[8] Chambers employed the consultancy firm McKinsey to help with reorganising the company.[8] His eight year tenure in charge saw export sales double, but his reputation was severely damaged by a failed takeover bid for Courtaulds in 1961-2.[9]

ICI was confronted with the nationalisation of its operations in Burma on 1 August 1962 as a consequence of the military coup.[10]

In 1964 ICI acquired British Nylon Spinners (BNS), the company they had set up in 1940 jointly with Courtaulds. ICI surrendered its 37.5 per cent holding in Courtaulds and paid Courtaulds two million pounds 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.[11] BNS was absorbed into ICI 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),[5] 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.[12] He presided over the purchase of Viyella.[12] Profits shrank under his tenure.[12]

Jack Callard was appointed chairman from 1971 to 1975.[13] He almost doubled company profits between 1972 and 1974, and made ICI Britain's largest exporter.[13] The company acquired Atlas Chemical Industries Inc., a major American competitor, in 1971.[5]

In 1977 Imperial Metal Industries was divested as an independent quoted company.[14]

During the 1980s (from 1982 to 1987) the company was led by the charismatic John Harvey Jones.[15] Under his leadership the company acquired the Beatrice Chemical Division in 1985 and Glidden Coatings & Resins, a leading paints business in 1986.[16]

From 1991 to 2007: reorganisation of the business[edit]

In 1991 ICI sold the agricultural and merchandising operations of BritAg and Scottish Agricultural Industries to Norsk Hydro.[17]

In 1991, ICI fought off a hostile takeover bid from Hanson, who had acquired 2.8 percent of the company.[18] However the move pressured the company to split-off its pharmaceuticals arm.

It also divested its soda ash products arm to Brunner Mond. This ended 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.[19]

In 1993, the company de-merged its pharmaceutical bioscience businesses: pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, specialities, seeds and biological products were all transferred into a new and independent company called Zeneca Group, which subsequently merged with Astra AB to form AstraZeneca PLC.[20]

Charles Miller Smith was appointed Chief Executive Officer in 1994. This was 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 the company's historical reliance on commodity chemicals.

In 1997 ICI acquired National Starch & Chemical, Quest, Unichema, and Crosfield, the speciality chemicals businesses of Unilever for $8bn.[21] 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.[5] Later that year it went on to buy Rutz & Huber, a Swiss paints business.[22]

Having taken on some £4 billion of debt to finance these acquisitions, the company had to sell off its commodity chemicals businesses.

Having sold off 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.

2007: takeover by Akzo Nobel[edit]

A former ICI plant in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, now owned by Syngenta.

Dutch firm AkzoNobel (owner of Crown Berger paints) bid £7.2 billion (€10.66 billion or $14.5 billion US) 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.[31] 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.[32] The initial bid was rejected by the ICI board and the majority of shareholders.[33] However, a subsequent bid for £8 billion (€11.82 billion) was accepted by ICI in August 2007, pending approval by regulators.[34]

At 8.00am on 2 January 2008 completion of the takeover of ICI plc by Akzo Nobel NV was announced.[2] Shareholders of ICI received 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 was transferred to Henkel as a result of the deal,[35] while Akzo agreed to sell its Crown Paints subsidiary to satisfy the concerns of the European Commissioner for Competition.[36]

The areas of concern regarding the ICI UK pension scheme were addressed by ICI and Akzo.[37]


ICI operated a number of chemical sites around the world. In the UK the main plants were as follows:


ICI subsidiary, formerly called Duperial since 1928 until 1995, when was renamed to ICI. Established in the city of San Lorenzo, Santa Fe. It's operating in an integrated production site with commercial offices in Buenos Aires. Since 2009 called Akzo Nobel Functional Chemicals S.A. and produces sulfuric acid with ISO cerfication.[citation needed]


ICI 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.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, David; O'Connell, Dominic; Dey, Iain; Ashton, James; Goodman, Matthew; Lyons, Teena; Kay, William (2008-07-06). "Falling into the abyss". The Times (London). 
  2. ^ a b "Akzo Nobel ICI merger completed". BBC News. January 2, 2008. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  3. ^ "Akzo Nobel to Focus on Fast and Effective Integration in 2008" (Press release). Akzo Nobel U.K. 7 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  4. ^ "Information about the former ICI". January 2, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n ICI: History[dead link] Archived October 17, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Why the BSA badge? A brief history". 1916-05-06. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  7. ^ Sneader, Walter (2005). Drug discovery: a history. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-89979-8. 
  8. ^ a b J. P. Strudwick, ‘Chambers, Sir (Stanley) Paul (1904–1981)’, rev. Mark Pottle, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 23 Aug 2014
  9. ^ J. P. Strudwick, ‘Chambers, Sir (Stanley) Paul (1904–1981)’, rev. Mark Pottle, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 24 Aug 2014
  10. ^ Page 297 in The State of Myanmar by Robert Taylor 2009
  11. ^ Keesing's Record of World Events (formerly Keesing's Contemporary Archives),Volume 10 (1964) , Jul, 1964 UNITED KINGDOM , Page 20162
  12. ^ a b c Martin Adeney, ‘Allen, Sir Peter Christopher (1905–1993)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 24 Aug 2014
  13. ^ a b Martin Adeney, ‘Callard, Sir (Eric) John (1913–1998)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 accessed 24 Aug 2014
  14. ^ Geoffrey Owen (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. 
  15. ^ "From bullying to the top of industry". icWales. 12 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  16. ^ "New Chairman of ICI praises planned agenda". New York Times. 1987-03-09. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  17. ^ "Norsk Hydro acquires Britag Industries". 1991-09-05. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  18. ^ Prokesch, Steven (1991-05-18). "Often-ravenous Hanson takes a taste of ICI". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Ipsen, Erik (1993-02-25). "Will bad timing spoil ICI's plan to split in two?". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2010-09-27. [dead link]
  21. ^ "National Starch sold to ICI". 1997-06-01. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  22. ^ ICI buys Swiss Paints Group[dead link]
  23. ^ "ICI Australia shares drop sharply". New York Times. 1997-05-09. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  24. ^ ICI sell off raises $3 billion[dead link]
  25. ^ "ICI buys Acheson for $560 million in move to strengthen specialties". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  26. ^ ICI sells Crosfield and buys Acheson in portfolio reshuffle
  27. ^ Milner, Mark (1999-04-15). "Bayer and ICI sell-offs to boost balance sheets". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  28. ^ ICI Sells Its Last Industrial Chemical Operations to Ineos[dead link]
  29. ^ "ICI sells flavours business Quest". BBC News. 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  30. ^ Marriner, Cosima (2006-06-30). "ICI to slash debts with £410m Uniqema sale". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  31. ^ Armitstead, Louise (2007-08-05). "Dutch poised to clinch £8bn ICI takeover". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  32. ^ "ICI snubs second offer from Akzo". BBC News. 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  33. ^ "ICI rejects £7.2bn bid approach". BBC News. 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  34. ^ "ICI agrees to be bought by Akzo". BBC News. 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  35. ^ "Henkel to pay $5.5 bln for ICI units: Akzo". Reuters. 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  36. ^ "Akzo Nobel to sell Crown paints". BBC News. 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  37. ^ "ICI Pension Fund Web Site". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  38. ^ "The white heat of new technology". 1949-09-14. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  39. ^ "History of Billingham". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  40. ^ ColorantsHistory.Org (2006-03-17). "British Dyestuffs Corporation and ICI". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  41. ^ "ICI cuts 1,000 jobs". BBC News. 1999-01-04. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  42. ^ "Process Intensification". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  43. ^ A Hundred Years of Alkali In Cheshire, W.F.L. Dick, (Birmingham: 1973).
  44. ^ ICI Magazine, Kynoch Press, 1963.
  45. ^ Japanese firm buys ICI's nitrocellulose business Chemical Week, 22 January 2003
  46. ^ "Review sparks fears for future of ICI Paints site". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  47. ^ "Welwyn Garden City, a town in Hertfordshire". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  48. ^ Hough, J.K. (2008):Salt production in South Australia MESA Journal 50, September 2008, Accessed 8 February 2014.

External links[edit]