DuPont set to sell nylon and polyester business


WILMINGTON, Del. - DuPont Co., the second-largest U.S. chemical maker, said it has a potential buyer for its nylon and polyester business, which analysts estimate might fetch $5 billion.

The company didn't identify the possible bidder. Closely held Koch Industries Inc. is the most likely buyer, said Bear, Stearns & Co. analyst Frank Mitsch. Koch is looking for acquisitions and won't comment on the DuPont line, a spokeswoman said.

DuPont is getting rid of the unit, which also makes Lycra stretch fiber, because the subsidiary has struggled with competition from low-cost producers. The company, which invented nylon and Lycra, wants to focus on faster-growing products.

Last year, the company said the business would be separated through an initial public offering, spin-off or sale by the end of the year.

"The stock is more attractive if they sell the unit," said Larry Crockett, chemical industry analyst for Fifth Third Bancorp, which manages about $30 billion and owns DuPont shares. "I don't see how it benefits current shareholders to receive shares" in a spin-off of the fibers business, he said.

Shares of DuPont rose 82 cents to $40.30 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. They are down 14 percent in the past year.

Koch, based in Wichita, Kan., is the second-largest closely held U.S. company, behind Cargill Inc. The company has oil and gas, chemicals, mining and securities operations.

"We don't comment one way or the other on market speculation," Koch spokeswoman Mary Beth Jarvis said. "It's no secret we are looking for growth opportunities."

The DuPont business had $6.3 billion in sales last year and is the biggest producer of nylon, which is used in carpet fibers, pantyhose and clothing. DuPont also is one of the biggest makers of polyester fibers.

"There can be no assurance" that the sale will be completed, DuPont said in a statement.

DuPont trails Dow Chemical Co. in sales among U.S. chemical makers.

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