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Wilmar absorbing Huntsman chemical plant in France

SINGAPORE -- Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, announced Thursday it will acquire a commodity-grade surfactant plant in France from U.S. chemical company Huntsman. The purchase is expected to boost Singapore-based Wilmar's oleochemical business, which derives detergent ingredients and other products from palm.

     The facility, located in Lavera, a port city in southern France, specializes in ethoxylation -- a process of surfactant production. Surfactants are compounds that, when added to a liquid, lower the surface tension so the substance can spread more easily.

     The value of the deal has not been disclosed. The sale is part of Huntsman's restructuring: Last October, the U.S. company announced it would withdraw from a number of commodity surfactant product lines in order to focus on more lucrative value-added surfactants.

     The agreement "enables Wilmar to broaden its existing footprint in Europe and extend its integrated chain to better serve customers," Chairman and CEO Kuok Khoon Hong said in a statement. As a part of the deal, Wilmar also signed a multiyear agreement to purchase sulphated surfactant products from two other Huntsman facilities in Europe.

     Wilmar runs oleochemical facilities in China, Malaysia and Indonesia. According to the company's website, the group produces around one-third of Asia's fatty acid supply.

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