Hot for fish oil, BASF expands plant, pursues Pronova

German chemical giant BASF is pretty excited about fish oil and is moving rapidly to become a key supplier of omega-3 products for the pharmaceutical industry. It is hotly pursuing Pronova BioPharma in Norway even as it has expanded a recently acquired plant in Scotland.

BASF on Wednesday extended to Jan. 18 its €664 million ($879 million) offer to buy the shares of Pronova, of Lysaker, Norway, which makes the active ingredient for GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) blockbuster omega-3 drug, Lovaza.

"The intended acquisition will significantly strengthen our position in the fast-growing and highly profitable market for omega-3 fatty acids. We want to combine the global market reach and experience of BASF with the know-how of Pronova in omega-3 fatty acids," said Michael Heinz, a BASF board member. With the acquisition, BASF says the deal will allow it to leap to the head of the line in global production of highly concentrated omega-3 fatty acids.

Pronova has manufacturing facilities in Norway and Denmark. The extension comes days after BASF showed off an expanded plant in Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides, west Scotland, that it acquired in May from Equataq. BASF is investing €22m ($29.2 million) in the facility and has already expanded capacity from 20 metric tons to 250 metric tons, the company told

Walter Dissinger, president of BASF's Nutrition and Health division, called the new plant the "benchmark in separation technologies within BASF." He said, "We see omega-3 as one of the most important ingredients with high growth rates going forward especially with highly concentrated omega-3, and that's where the technology we have acquired here kicks in."

The expansion comes even as one of the largest omega-3 manufacturers in North America, Neptune Technologies & Bioressources ($NEPT), is trying to recover from an explosion that destroyed its key manufacturing plant in Canada. It has announced that it is looking for contractors to fill its needs while it rebuilds its manufacturing operations.

- read the story
- see BASF's statement on the offer extension
- here's an earlier BASF release