By Patrick Raleigh, UT On-line/news editorArnhem, the Netherlands-Akzo Nobel is selling its Phosphorus Chemicals business to New York equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC for Euro230 million. The deal, which is free of cash and debt, is due to close in the second quarter of 2004, subject to regulatory approvals, Dutch group Akzo said 26 April. With production locations in Bitterfeld, Germany, and Gallipolis Ferry, West Virginia, Akzo's Phosphorus Chemicals business posted 2003 sales of around Euro187 million. The 280-employee unit is a leading supplier of organo-phosphorus flame retardants to the polyurethane foam and other polymer product industries, and also supplies plasticisers and lubricants.Parent group Akzo announced its intention to divest the business last September as part of a plan to focus more on its core coatings and printing inks businesses."This is a further stage in our programme to create more financial room to manoeuvre for the company and we are pleased with the speed at which we have been able to proceed," said Akzo chairman Hans Wijers, in a press statement. "The offer fully reflects the value of this excellent business. I am confident that the new owner will continue to develop its value, both in the interests of the business and their new employees," added Wijers.The deal mark's Ripplewood's second foray into the speciality chemicals sector, following its 2001 acquisition of Kraton Polymers, which it sold late last year."We are excited about the growth prospects for the Phosphorus Chemicals business and are impressed by its management team. We look forward to providing the support the business needs to continue to grow and strengthen its position as a global market leader," said John Georges, an industrial partner at Ripplewood, in a press statement. "