How Trump's Mexican Wall stand-off is holding up Tronox's Cristal buy-out

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 9 Jan 2019

Progress on Tronox’s protracted buy-out of Cristal, the owner of the huge titanium dioxide plant on the South Humber Bank, is now stalling because of the US government’s shutdown.

Discussions with the Federal Trade Commission have been halted as it us “not considered an essential matter” under the agency’s guidelines.

The NYSE-listed company is seeking approval for the £1.27 billion deal having put forward the proposal to sell off Cristal’s US manufacturing interests to appease anti-competition objections in its homeland.

It was tabled just days before a US judge ruled the deal would hurt competition in the States, in mid-December, with world-leading chemical company Ineos introduced to the complex acquisition attempt, as a potential purchaser of sites in Ashtabula, Ohio, in a further £550 million deal. 

The impasse between Congress and the White House has continued into an 18th day, and is centred on President Donald Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to build the wall on the Mexican border, a request refused by the state legislators.

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Jeffry N Quinn, president and chief executive of Tronox, said: “We continue to work diligently with our partners at Cristal, Tasnee and the prospective purchaser of the Ashtabula complex, Ineos Enterprises AG, to reach a resolution with the FTC, and we remain optimistic one will be reached once discussions resume.”

It is the second longest running shutdown in US history, having started on December 22. 

Tronox first made public its intentions to acquire Cristal, with a deal agreed with Saudi Arabian owner Tasnee, in February 2017. In December that year objections were received from Washington, with the European Commission also raising concerns in the following January. The latter was appeased with a sale proposal for a Dutch site.

Existing deadlines for filing motions in the matter have been extended to five business days after the shutdown ends, Tronox added.

It comes as the Stallingborough site has welcomed former apprentice Gavin Jones as acting general manager, following the departure of Rob Sarracini as the year ended.  

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