As the Belgian chemicals firm seeks to concentrate on core activities, K+S - which already holds the other 62 per cent of the joint venture - is set to take over the 38 per cent slice held by Solvay in the Esco joint venture created two years ago when K+S and Solvay linked-up to sell crystalline salt to third parties.
"Selling salt to third parties on the 'free' market is not one of Solvay's core activities. It is an accessory to Solvay's captive salt production," said the Belgian firm in a recent statement. K+S, however, sells all of its salt production to third parties. "In the past five years the European salt industry has witnessed a tendency for consolidation and joint ventures as players look to concentrate on their core business," a spokesperson for the industry told FoodNavigator.com.
Currently leading the market Esco rubs shoulders with other key players Dutch firm Akzo, the French company Salins de midi and German firm Sudsalcz.
The € 2.3 billion K+S group has clear ambitions to build on its position and to reduce competition with Dr. Ralf Bethke, the chairman of the K+S board of executive directors, saying, "it is our stated strategy to further enhance our strong position through esco and to have a major impact on the development of the European salt market, including that of a 25-member Europe."
Europe - East and West combined - produces some 80 million tonnes of salt annually with the food business making up 3 per cent of the overall market.