HONG KONG – ChemChina’s offer to buy Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta is the latest in a string of deals that has turned the company into a Chinese chemical colossus with an increasingly international profile. A look at the state-owned company and its founder and chairman Ren Jianxin:
NOT JUST CHEMICALS
Beijing-based ChemChina, also known as China National Chemical Corp., is one of the country’s biggest industrial companies, with 140,000 employees in 150 countries and $45 billion in revenue last year. Its businesses include petrochemicals, oil processing, agricultural chemicals, rubber products and chemical equipment. Ren also found the time to found Malan Noodle Co., a hugely popular Chinese fast food chain. If completed, the Syngenta deal will be the biggest foreign acquisition by a Chinese company.
ChemChina bought Italy’s Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. last year in a deal that gave it control of the world’s fifth-biggest tire maker as well as access to the Formula One racing circuit, for which Pirelli is the official supplier. Over the past decade, it’s also bought companies such as Israeli agrochemical maker Makhteshim Agan Industries, later renamed Adama; Norwegian silicon maker Elkem, Australia plastics group Qenos and French additive maker Adisseo.
Ren, 58, has been dubbed the “undisputed king” of mergers and acquisitions in China’s chemical industry by the country’s state-owned media. Before the Syngenta acquisition he orchestrated more than 100 other deals involving both foreign and Chinese companies. The most important deal came in 2004 when his company Bluestar was combined with another state-owned company to form ChinaChem.
Ren earned a master’s degree in economics from Lanzhou University in northwestern Gansu province, according to ChemChina’s website and reports in state media. He was secretary of the Ministry of Chemical Industry’s Communist Youth League before starting out in business in 1984 with a 10,000 yuan ($1,500) loan to set up a cleaning company, Bluestar Group, with just seven employees. It began by cleaning tea urns and boilers before working its way up to more advanced projects such as cleaning China’s first spacecraft, the Shenzhou.