W.R. Grace CEO says unlikely to exit bankruptcy this year

Reuters

* Bankruptcy exit likely in Jan-CEO

* Expects catalyst business to grow next year

* Third-quarter adjusted profit best estimates

* Revenue falls as price hikes hurt catalyst business

* Shares up 3 pct

By Garima Goel

Oct 23 (Reuters) - Chemical maker W.R. Grace & Co said it does not expect to emerge from its 12-year bankruptcybefore the end of January as it deals with court appeals againstits restructuring plan.

Grace filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2001, making it oneof the longest bankruptcies in U.S. history, after an asbestosleak at one of its mines led to a slew of lawsuits.

Through bankruptcy, Grace has been able to halt debtpayments, survive two recessions and take advantage of a U.S.shale energy boom that is fueling demand for catalysts, whichhelp refiners process crude oil.

That demand helped Grace post a stronger-than-expectedprofit on Wednesday, marking the 10th straight quarter that thecompany has beaten analyst expectations.

Grace shares were up 3 percent at $93.19 in afternoontrading on the New York Stock Exchange. They have risen about 34percent this year and are trading at life-high levels.

Grace could emerge from bankruptcy by the end of January ifthere are no further appeals to its restructuring plan, ChiefExecutive Fred Festa said on a post-earnings call.

"If there are appeals filed, our emergence would be delayed,probably by two to three months," Festa said, adding the companywould be able to give an update on Dec. 5.

Grace has said for years that an exit from bankruptcy isjust around the corner, only to have dates come and go.

Meanwhile, demand continues to grow for its fine-powdercatalysts, which help refiners process crude oil into gasoline,heating oil and other products.

CATALYST BUSINESS REBOUNDS

Grace charges a premium to tailor-make catalysts forrefiners to match the chemical makeup of the oil to be refined.

The company raised prices in March, but analysts saidrefiners switched to competing products, leading to an 8 percentfall in revenue in Grace's catalyst business in the thirdquarter ended Sept. 30.

Grace was forced to roll back the price hikes and hasintroduced new products.

"(Refining) customers have to typically put these catalystsinto a trial period that can last several months," said C.L.King & Associates analyst Jim Barrett.

"It's a gradual introductory period that should pick upsteam throughout 2014."

Grace on Wednesday said it expects the business to grow nextyear, helped by its $500 million-acquisition of Dow ChemicalCo's catalysts business earlier this month.

Lower prices in the third quarter were partially offset bystrong demand for materials for construction, packaging andcoatings.

Net income fell 8 percent to $69.4 million. Adjustedearnings of $1.07 per share beat the average analyst estimate of99 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue fell less than 1 percent to $771.3 million.Analysts were expecting $780.2 million.

View Comments