In the Matter of


Docket No. C-3785


Pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act, and by virtue of the authority vested in it by said Acts, the Federal Trade Commission, having reason to believe that the Dow Chemical Company’s proposed acquisition of the South African company, Sentrachem Limited (Sentrachem"), including its U.S. subsidiary, Hampshire Chemical Corporation ("Hampshire"), would violate Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45, and would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18, and it appearing to the Commission that a proceeding in respect thereof would be in the public interest, hereby issues its complaint stating its charges as follows:


The Dow Chemical Company

1. Respondent Dow is a corporation organized, existing and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of Delaware, with its office and principal place of business located at 2030 Dow Center, Midland, Michigan. In 1996 Dow had worldwide sales of approximately $20 billion.

2. Dow produces chemicals, plastics, and agricultural and consumer products. Through its Chemical Division, it is the leading producer in the U.S. of aminopolycarboxylic chelating agents, also known as chelants.

3. At all times relevant herein, Dow has been, and is now, a corporation as “corporation” is defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 44; and at all times relevant herein, Dow has been, and is now, engaged in commerce as “commerce” is defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 44, and Section 1 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 12.


4. Sentrachem, a South African company, develops, manufactures, and markets a number of different commodity and specialty chemical products. In 1996 Sentrachem had worldwide sales of approximately $1 billion. Sentrachem competes in the U.S. chelant market through its U.S. subsidiary, Hampshire, a Delaware corporation, with its principal place of business in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1996, Hampshire’s sales were approximately $200 million.


5. On or about August 5, 1997, Dow announced a cash tender offer to acquire all of the shares of Sentrachem for approximately $425 million.


6. One relevant line of commerce in which to analyze the proposed acquisition is the research, development, manufacture, and sale of chelants, which are chemicals used to inactivate iron, calcium, copper, magnesium and other metal ions in water solutions. Chelants are used in cleaners, pulp and paper, water treatment, photography, agriculture, and food and pharmaceutical applications. Chelant customers use chelants because they are high quality metal ion control chemicals that are cost effective across a wide variety of applications. Chelants are an extremely small part of the customer’s overall product or processing costs. Because of the time and cost associated with researching and qualifying an alternative to chelants, customers do not reformulate away from chelants. There are no economic substitutes for chelants to which customers would switch in response to a price increase in chelants.

7. The United States is one relevant geographic area within which to analyze the likely effect of the proposed acquisition on competition in the chelant market. Chelants produced overseas are not economic substitutes for most chelants sold in the United States, particularly those diluted in water, because shipping costs are high and there are too many uncertainties and delays inherent in long distance shipping. Imports of chelants are less than 4 percent of U.S. consumption.


8. Based on 1996 dollar sales, Dow and Hampshire are the two leading of only three producers of chelants in the United States, with a combined market share of over 70 percent. The U.S. chelant market is highly concentrated as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”). The proposed acquisition would increase the HHI by more than 2,800 points to more than 6,100 points.


9. Entry into the chelant market would not be timely, likely, or sufficient to deter or offset the adverse effects of the proposed acquisition on competition. A new entrant would have to build both a chelant production plant and a plant to produce hydrogen cyanide ("HCN"), a key input in the production of chelants, which would take over two years and entail large fixed, and mostly sunk, costs. In addition to the time to construct these facilities, a new firm must secure the environmental permits to produce HCN, a toxic substance. In order to recoup its investment, a new entrant would need to obtain a market share at least as large as that held by any of the current domestic producers, which would be difficult because of the significant amount of chelant sales that are subject to long term supply agreements. All these factors make entry into the U.S. chelant market unlikely.


10. The proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in the U.S. chelant market, because, among other things:

a. it increases concentration substantially in a highly concentrated market;

b. it eliminates actual, direct, and substantial, competition between Dow and Hampshire;

c. it facilitates the unilateral exercise of market power by the merged firm; and

d. it will likely result in increased prices for chelants.


11. The proposed acquisition by Dow of all the shares of Sentrachem, described in paragraph 5, would violate Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45, and Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18.

WHEREFORE, THE PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Federal Trade Commission on this twentieth day of February, 1998, issues its complaint against said respondent.

By the Commission, Commissioner Azcuenaga and Commissioner Thompson not participating.

Donald S. Clark