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Imperial Chemical Industries

Imperial Chemical Industries
Wholly-owned subsidiary
HeadquartersLondon, England, UK
Key peoplePeter Ellwood (Chairman)
John McAdam (CEO)
ProductsPaints & speciality chemicals
Revenue£4,845 million GBP (2006)
Operating income£502 million GBP (2006)
Net income£295 million GBP (2006)
OwnerAkzo Nobel
Employees31,910 (2005)

Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) is a British chemical group and one of the largest chemical producers in the world. It is based in Manchester Square, London. It produces paints and speciality products (including ingredients for foods, specialty polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavours). It employs around 32,000 people and had a turnover of just over £5.8 billion in 2005.




ICI was founded in December 1926 from the merger of four companies—Brunner Mond, Nobel Explosives, the United Alkali Company, and British Dyestuffs Corporation.

Competing with DuPont and IG Farben (which was subsequently split up in 1952 into BASF, Agfa, Hoechst AG, Bayer and other companies), the new company produced explosives, fertilisers, insecticides, dyestuffs, industrial chemicals, printing materials, and paints. In its first year turnover was £27m.

Until 1937, the Sunbeam motorcycle business, which had come with Nobel Industries, was part of ICI.

Significant products

ICI played a key role in the development of new products, including the dyestuff phthalocyanine (1929), the acrylic plastic Perspex (1932), Dulux paints (1932, co-developed with DuPont), polyethylene (1937), sulfamethazine (the first sulfonamide antibiotic), paludrine (1940s, an anti-malarial drug), halothane (1951, an anaesthetic agent), Inderal (1965, a beta-blocker), tamoxifen (1978, a frequently used drug for breast cancer), and PEEK (1979, a high performance thermoplastic). Because of their success in the pharmaceutical industry, ICI formed ICI Pharmaceuticals in 1957.

Always innovative, in 1974 ICI Mond division created its Works Record System, a robust general-purpose tool implemented under CICS. It successfully monitored the numerous chemical production plants within the scope of the company. The system was highly successful and remained operational for 27 years without a change to the underlying software, which was intentionally designed to allow the plant operators to make updates and create new applications with no knowledge of computer programming – the same trend that led to the timesharing industry and the development of personal computers. See technical comments below.

Main sites

One of the main plants was at Billingham, Teesside. From 1971 to 1988, ICI operated a small General Atomics TRIGA Mark I nuclear reactor at its Billingham factory.

Unsuccessful Hanson takeover

In 1988, the company successfully fought off a hostile takeover bid from the Hanson plc conglomerate.

1990 demergers

In 1993 the company decided to demerge its chemical business from the pharmaceutical bioscience divisions. Pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, specialities, seeds and biological products were placed into a new and independent company called Zeneca Group (which merged with Astra AB in 1999 to form AstraZeneca PLC, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world). The company also moved away from bulk and industrial chemicals towards speciality chemicals during the 1990s in the hope of making its income less dependent on the business cycle, earning higher profit margins, and developing businesses with long term growth potential. However its financial performance so far in the 21st century has been erratic.

ICI sold its Australian subsidiary, ICI Australia, in 1997 and the following year the former subsidiary changed its name to Orica.

Works Records System


The ICI "Works Records System" went into production use in 1974. It was designed by Robert Mais, then an employee of ICI Mond Division in the UK, and was implemented in 1974. The system was implemented under IBM's CICS transaction processing platform, and used the then-new IBM 3270 display terminal, with limited local processing and storage capabilities. It had several interesting technical characteristics:

  • WRS implemented a three-dimensional data array – essentially a "stack" of spreadsheets, using time as the third dimension – that was shared among multiple users.
  • All WRS operations were performed using "double precision" floating point arithmetic.
  • Formulae were entered to perform calculations and reference linked cells, either from the same spreadsheet or from completely separate, "remote" spreadsheets.
  • Formulae were converted by the system (compiled) to machine language on-the-fly at first use, and were then stored for subsequent execution.
  • Data, including "aged" values, were stored using an Adabas database.
  • The user could examine or modify historical data on a shift/day/week/year basis. Entering missing data from earlier periods caused automatic re-calculations in subsequent sheets. Historical data accumulated organically to form a 'spreadsheet database' spanning multiple time periods.
  • Data and formulae entered in a particular sheet resided independently of its input location, providing separation of data, input, and calculation.
  • The system incorporated a "units" attribute (kilograms, feet, etc.) for numeric values making it possible to detect certain illogical operations; it was thus impossible to multiply kilograms by ounces.

Although the system does not appear to have been described in the literature, nor resold commercially, it was evidently an early testbed for many interactive system concepts that became important for commercial timesharing and personal computing.

Akzo takeover

Dutch firm Akzo Nobel (owner of Crown Berger paints) bid £7.2 billion (€10.66 billion) for ICI in June 2007. An area of concern about a potential deal was ICI's British pension fund, which had future liabilities of more than £9 billion at the time.[1] The initial bid was rejected by the ICI board and the majority of shareholders.[2] Regulatory issues in the UK and other markets where Dulux and Crown Paints brands each have significant market share were also a cause for concern for the boards of ICI and Akzo Nobel. In the UK, any combined operation without divestments would have seen Akzo Nobel have a 54% market share in the paint market.[3] However, a subsequent bid for £8 billion (€11.82 billion) was accepted by ICI in August 2007, pending approval by regulators.[4]

As of 8.00am on 2 January 2008 ICI PLC became a subsidiary of Akzo Nobel NV.[5] Shareholders of ICI will receive either £6.70 in cash or Akzo Nobel loan notes to the value of £6.70 per 1 nominal ICI share. The adhesives business of ICI has been tranfered to Henkel as a result of the deal,[6] while Akzo has agreed to sell on its Crown Paints subsidiary to satisfy the concerns of the European Commissioner for Competition.[7]

The areas of concern regarding the ICI UK pension scheme have been addressed by ICI and Akzo.[8]


  1. ^ "Dutch poised to clinch £8bn ICI takeover", The Times, 2007-08-05. Retrieved on 2008-01-05. 
  2. ^ "ICI rejects £7.2bn bid approach", BBC News, 2007-06-18. Retrieved on 2008-01-05. 
  3. ^ "ICI snubs second offer from Akzo", BBC News, 2007-07-30. Retrieved on 2007-07-30. 
  4. ^ "ICI agrees to be bought by Akzo", BBC News, 2007-08-13. Retrieved on 2007-08-13. 
  5. ^ "Akzo Nobel ICI merger completed", BBC News, 2008-01-02. Retrieved on 2008-01-05. 
  6. ^ "Henkel to pay $5.5 bln for ICI units: Akzo", Reuters, 2007-08-06. Retrieved on 2008-01-05. 
  7. ^ "Akzo Nobel to sell Crown paints", BBC News, 2007-12-14. Retrieved on 2008-01-05. 
  8. ^ ICI Pension Fund Web Site.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Imperial_Chemical_Industries". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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