Bercen

Bercen Inc. is a Denham Springs-based specialty chemical manufacturer. 

Bercen Inc., a Denham Springs-based specialty chemical manufacturer, was acquired by Indianapolis-based Vertellus. 

Bercen manufactures alkyl succinic anhydrides and additives sold for use in industries that produce fuels, lubricants and paper. Vertellus makes mosquito repellant diethyl toluamide, otherwise known as DEET, among other chemical compounds used in consumer and industrial applications.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. D&B Hoovers estimated Bercen's annual sales at $5.7 million.

Bercen officials at the Louisiana site declined comment. James Thorpe, the then-CEO of Bercen who negotiated an economic incentive deal with former Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, is no longer with the company, according to a representative at the Louisiana headquarters. Bercen had 54 employees as of December, according to Louisiana Economic Development department records.

In December, Bercen sought and was granted $14,672 in property tax relief through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program renewal process in exchange for $1.1 million of investment in Livingston Parish.

Vertellus could request the transfer to it of state incentives tied to Bercen if the company still qualifies, according to LED. Vertellus has more than 400 U.S. employees, according to its LinkedIn profile, and 800 worldwide, according to its website. 

Jim Elliott, Vertellus' general manager for its anhydrides and specialties unit, said in a news release that the company was interested in bolstering its fuel and lubricant additives business. 

"This acquisition extends the product portfolio Vertellus can bring to the North American market," Elliott said. 

Vertellus sells specialty chemicals for agriculture, pharmaceutical, personal care and plastics markets. Some of its products end up in consumer goods such as toothpaste, vitamins and detergents.

Most notably, Vertellus has been increasing the price of its raw chemicals in recent years. In October 2018, the company decided to up the price of DEET by 22%, citing more expensive chemicals and a pass-through for Chinese tariffs, according to its website. 

Bercen, a subsidiary of Cranston Print Works that was founded in 1958, is employee-owned and relocated its headquarters from Rhode Island to Louisiana in 2009. At the time, the company promised to bring 20 jobs to Denham Springs and invest $5 million to add another 13,000 square feet of office and laboratory space to an existing manufacturing facility in Denham Springs that had been in operation since the 1970s. 

Louisiana Economic Development offered the company $500,000 as a performance loan, which turns into a grant from the state's Rapid Response fund to encourage the business to relocate its headquarters. The company also was eligible for quality jobs incentives and the state's Industrial Tax Exemption Program. The state projected the company would generate $4.4 million in new state tax revenue over a 15-year period.

The state found that Bercen did create the jobs it projected with average salaries of $90,000, and the company had invested $5.2 million in Denham Springs in addition to relocating its executives to Louisiana. The cooperative endeavor agreement between Bercen and the state was to make the capital investments by June 2010, which it did.

The company must maintain at least 18 jobs through the end of 2020, or at least $1.6 million in payroll, for the company to avoid any clawbacks of incentives. The clawback provision in the contract means that Bercen would have to reimburse the state with interest and 6% of any shortfall related to promised payroll. The company has previously gone beyond its required $1.6 million and generated $2 million instead. 

Vertellus did not respond to repeated requests for further comment about its plans for the Denham Springs location.

In 2016, Vertellus, which was owned by Chicago-based private equity firm Wind Point Partners, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company was taken over by its lenders, which formed a business called Valencia Bidco LLC because there were no other outside bidders interested in buying the company, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. 

At the time, its largest manufacturing site was in Indiana, with nearly 250 workers. The business told the court that it filed for bankruptcy because of diminished demand for its pyridine and picoline products, while it saw more competitor businesses pop up in China. Pyridine is often used in agricultural herbicides and insecticides but also consumer products.

Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.