By David Reed, UT EditorIndianapolis, Indiana-Pressure from low-cost Chinese imports of antimony oxide and derivatives used as fire retardants and smoke suppressants in polyurethane foams and other materials has pushed two US firms to join forces. The move will result in the closure of one plant with some staff being transferred to the new joint venture.Great Lakes Chemical Corp and Laurel Industries, Inc., a part of the chemicals operations (OxyChem) of Occidental Petroleum Corp, will combine their antimony businesses as part of a joint venture to develop, produce, and market antimony-based flame retardants, synergists, and catalysts, according to an 18 March announcement from the companies. The two firms will each hold a 50-percent stake in the new company, which will operate under the name GLCC Laurel LLC, the announcement indicated. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of April and includes the antimony oxide and synergists manufacturing assets, intellectual property, and customer lists for both Great Lakes and Laurel. Great Lakes will act as the managing partner with responsibility for sales, customer service, technical support, credit, and logistics. The products involved include the Great Lakes antimony oxide flame retardants sold under brand names of Timonox, TMS, and Trutint; its Pyrobloc sodium antimonate and zinc borate synergists; and smoke suppressants tradenamed Oncor, Smokebloc, and Ongard; Laurel's products include antimony oxide-based products marketed under the Fireshield and Thermoguard tradenames, and its PetCat catalysts. "Great Lakes has had a strong presence in antimony oxide for many years, and this new joint venture demonstrates our ongoing commitment to our customers," said Mark Bulriss, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Great Lakes, in the prepared statement. "The US antimony industry continues to face pressure from Chinese imports and, by combining forces with Laurel, we will have the sufficient resources and size to remain competitive for years to come," his statement added. Manufacturing for the joint venture will be consolidated into the existing Great Lakes antimony production facility in Reynosa, Mexico, which is ISO 9001:2000 certified. The Laurel manufacturing facility in LaPorte, Texas, which currently employs 14 OxyChem individuals, is expected to be closed by the end of 2004 when production of flame retardants and catalyst grades of antimony oxide will be transferred to the Great Lakes facility. Both firms will be working closely with customers to ensure adequate inventories and time are available should qualification of materials produced in Reynosa be necessary. In addition, several Laurel sales and management employees will become employees of Great Lakes. James Lienert, president of Occidental Chemical stated, "joining forces with Great Lakes is an important milestone in meeting our customers' ongoing needs. This exciting new alliance will bring together our complementary manufacturing and sales efforts for antimony oxide and enable GLCC Laurel to continue to offer our customers quality products at a competitive price." "