Ashland Inc. 's ( ASH ), commercial unit - Ashland Performance Materials - has announced an increase in the prices of its complete portfolio of unsaturated polyester resins and gelcoats in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) by 75 euros per ton. This hike will be effective from Sep 1, 2014, or as contracts permit.
The reason behind the increase in prices is the rising costs of the company's main raw materials at manufacturing units.
Ashland offers specialty chemicals in more than 100 countries. It markets Valvoline, the world's first lubricating oil. With the closure of the Water Technologies unit sale the company now have three commercial units - Specialty Ingredients, Performance Materials and Valvoline.
Ashland has undertaken several restructuring initiatives coupled with its cost savings measures and continued actions to improve its core businesses which will help it to achieve EBITDA margins that rank among the top 25% of its specialty chemicals peer group.
Ashland recently landed uncollared accelerated share repurchase ("ASR") agreements with Deutsche Bank AG ( DB ) and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. - a unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co. ( JPM ) - to buyback shares worth $750 million. These deals are part of the chemical maker's earlier announced $1.35 billion share repurchase program.
Ashland expects an immediate delivery of roughly 5.9 million shares under these agreements. While the agreements extend through Jun 30, 2015, they may be closed earlier based on market conditions and other factors.
In addition to the $750 million ASR program, the company also plans to introduce a program that will allow it to buyback additional shares worth $250 million.
Apart from share buybacks, Ashland will continue to evaluate other uses of its cash including potential investments in high-return capital projects, acquisitions and debt reductions.
Ashland is a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock.
Another company in the chemical space worth considering is Celanese Corporation ( CE ), carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
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