Germany's third largest chemical company Degussa is to invest a massive €350 million in a new amino acid plant, representing the merged company's biggest single investment to date.
Degussa - the world's biggest producer of methionine - will build the further facility at its location in Antwerp, Belgium, for the production of the essential amino acid DL-methionine for use in animal feed.
Due for completion by 2005, the new facility marks a drive by the company to meet the growing global demand for animal feed protein over the long term.
"The new production facility will enable us to further expand our position as world market leader in methionine and as a leading supplier of feed additives. It sets new standards in terms of installation size and degree of vertical integration," said Dr. Hubert Wennemer, head of the feed additives unit.
Degussa's feed additives business unit - that generated sales of €568 million in 2002 - manufactures three animal feed amino acids DL-methionine, L-lysine (Biolys) and L-threonine, which it makes at five locations in four countries.
Methionine is one of the most important amino acids used - and increasingly being added to pig feed and speciality animal feeds - to compound animal feeds and premixes for all animal species. Those amino acids which cannot be produced naturally in the body have to be added to feed, they are known as 'essential amino acids' of which methionine, a sulphur-containing amino acid, is one type.
In July last year the European Commission fined Degussa €118 million for participating in a world-wide cartel to fix prices and allocate quotas in methionine.
The European market for animal feed was worth over €30 billion in 1999.