US chemical company and surfactant producer Huntsman Corporation and Swiss specialty chemicals firm Clariant AG signed an agreement on 22 May to combine their operations in a merger of equals.

The new company, to be called HuntsmanClariant, would have a combined enterprise value of approximately US$20bn with which to tackle a challenging chemicals market environment.

Together, the companies were set to operate in more than 100 countries, employ about 32,000 people and generate more than US$13bn in revenue, reported MarketWatch.

Clariant shareholders would own 52% and Huntsman 48% of the new company, with equal representation in the board of directors.

Peter Huntsman, CEO of Huntsman, would assume the position of CEO, while Clariant CEO Hariolf Kottmann would become chair of the board.

“This is the perfect deal at the right,” Kottman said in a statement, adding that he and Huntsman shared the “same strategic vision”.

The merger transaction was projected to close the end of 2017, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

In the edible oils sector, Huntsman supplies the home and personal care industries with surfactants based on renewable oils, including products such as castor oil ethoxylates, fatty acid alkanolamides, fatty alcohol alkoxylates, lauryl alcohol ethoxylates, stearic acid ethoxylates, tall oil fatty acid ethoxylates, tallow amine ethoxylates and fatty alcohol sulphates.

Clariant supplies the edible oil industry with its Tonsil brand bleaching earth. In April, it announced the opening of new bleaching earth production plants in Bahkesir, Turkey, and Gresik, Indonesia. It also expanded capacity at its Pueblo site in Mexico in April 2016.

MarketWatch wrote that this latest deal was in response to the global chemical industry facing a struggling market, which had prompted a number of other large-scale mergers, including those between Bayer and Monsanto, Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.