OM Group, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on OM Group, Inc.

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Company Perspectives

Our reputation in the industries we serve has been earned through our customer-driven philosophy. OMG is driven by its desire to offer our customers the highest quality products through total manufacturing/supply chain control and secure raw material resourcing.

History of OM Group, Inc.

Created through the 1991 merger of America's Mooney Chemicals, Inc., Finland's Kokkola Chemicals Oy, and France's Vasset, S.A., OM Group, Inc. is one of the world's largest vertically integrated producers and marketers of metal-based specialty chemicals made mostly from cobalt and nickel. These chemicals are used in the production of more than 625 items used in a variety of industries including aerospace, hard metal tools, appliance, rubber, automotive, ceramics, paints and ink, catalysts, electronics, petrochemicals, stainless steel, magnetic media, and rechargeable battery chemicals. OM serves approximately 1,700 customers in 50 countries and has manufacturing facilities in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Canada, Europe, and the United States. OM faced challenges in the early years of the new millennium due to a slowdown in cobalt sales. When the company reported an unexpected $71 million third-quarter loss in 2002, shareholders filed class action lawsuits and an investigation into the company's accounting practices was launched. In response to the hardships, OM restructured operations and sold off assets to pay down debt.

Postwar Foundation and Development

Predecessor Mooney Chemical Co. was founded in 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio, by namesake James B. Mooney and a partner, Carl A. Reusser. The firm manufactured carboxylates (metal soaps) from a variety of metals, with an emphasis on cobalt. Isolated by Swedish chemist Georg Brandt in 1730 or 1742, cobalt ore was long used by potters and glassmakers to give their wares a rich blue color. The metal's name is German in origin; copper miners who discovered this vexing substance mixed in with their target material cursed it as "Kobold," the "devil's imp." Later research showed that cobalt (like lead) was useful as a drier in paint, printing inks, and petroleum. Cobalt, nickel, lead, and other metal "soaps" were sold by Mooney Chemical under the "Organ-o-Metal Chemicals" brand. Leading paint companies headquartered in Cleveland became Mooney Chemical's most important customers.

The African country of Zaire (specifically its Shaba province) became the world's leading cobalt producer in the 1920s and continued to occupy that position throughout the 20th century, producing about one-third of the world's output in the late 1980s. The vast majority of cobalt ore is found in the presence of copper and nickel ores. The cobalt is separated from the other ores during the smelting process, when it is concentrated in the slag layer. A variety of processes can then be used to extract the cobalt from the slag.

By forging strong ties with copper and nickel miners in Zaire and Zambia, James B. Mooney was able to obtain cobalt-laden slag direct from the source. The personal contacts and high level of vertical integration developed during Mooney Chemicals' early years would become key contributors to the company's success in the decades to come. Strong business relationships helped Mooney maintain its supply of cobalt despite the countries' political and economic vacillations. In 1994, James P. Mooney asserted, "When [cobalt] supplies are limited, we're at the head of the line." Vertical integration helped Mooney Chemicals maintain some of the highest levels of productivity in the cobalt specialty-chemicals industry. In the mid-1990s, for example, OM Group's sales per employee were more than double the industry average, at $850,000 compared with less than $300,000.

Cobalt markets were limited in large part to paint and petroleum manufacturers in the 1940s and 1950s, but intractable strikes at Canadian nickel mines helped boost awareness and use of cobalt as a nickel substitute in the late 1960s. Although cobalt was more expensive than nickel, it was harder and more heat resistant. "Superalloys" (combinations of metals that had properties well-suited for particular applications) developed in the 1960s and 1970s further expanded the markets for cobalt to include aerospace, magnets, catalysts, and electronics.

Family Succession and Corporate Reorganization: 1970-90

Seventh of the founder's 14 children, James P. Mooney emerged as the one with the interest and intelligence needed to run the family business. Having been immersed in the cobalt trade from childhood (he dined with African mining executives as a teenager, for example), the younger Mooney joined the company in 1971 at the age of 23. Just four years later, he advanced from a sales position to join three of his brothers at the company's top executive offices. That is when the patriarch, who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, retired and moved to Florida.

Because of a corporate aversion to debt, acquisitions were infrequent. Nevertheless, Mooney expanded its product line through the purchases of a Mobil Oil Co. subsidiary in Pennsylvania, Chicago's Lauder Chemical, and Cleveland's Harshaw Chemical in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. By 1984, the niche company's 40 employees generated about $2 million in annual sales.

After about 45 years of family ownership, many in the Mooney clan were ready to divest their stakes in the business. Unwilling to relinquish his birthright, President James Mooney sought out a sympathetic acquirer. He found it in Finnish mining powerhouse Outokumpu Oy, which was then looking for a way to spin off its peripheral cobalt operations. In 1991, Mooney Chemicals, Inc., was acquired for about $50 million and merged with Outokumpu's Kokkola Chemicals Oy (in Finland) and Vasset, S.A. (in France). Renamed Outokumpu Metals Group, the reformed company operated as a subsidiary of the Finnish giant until 1993, when the parent company spun off its 96 percent share to the public as OM Group. James Mooney continued to own about 4 percent of the "new" firm and serve as its chief executive officer.

The merger dramatically expanded Mooney's geographic reach as well as its product line. OM Group emerged as the self-proclaimed "world's first company to manufacture a complete line of cobalt and nickel powders and inorganic salts." New products targeted customers in the steel, magnet, and battery industries. Foreign sales increased from 10 percent of annual revenues pre-merger to slightly more than 50 percent by the end of 1993.

Increasing Capacity: 1990-99

OM Group looked forward to reaping the benefits of increased capacity, a strategic partnership, and acquisitions in the mid- to late 1990s. In 1994, the company invested $19.7 million in a physical plant, increasing its capacity to produce specialty chemicals vital to the manufacture of rechargeable nickel-hydride and lithium-ion batteries for the growing array of portable electronic cellular phones, laptop computers, and cordless tools. The mid-1995 creation of D&O Inc., a Japan-based joint venture between OM and Dainippon Ink & Chemicals Inc., was a key component of this strategy. OM hoped that its cooperative enterprise would capture 15 percent of the $470 million Japanese market for cobalt-nickel inorganic compounds by the dawn of the 21st century.

OM Group also boosted its capacity to manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC) heat-stabilizers. These specialty chemicals composed of barium and calcium zinc were an environmentally correct additive used to help PVC plastics retain their color and strength during manufacturing. These highly specialized substances ended up in mundane household items such as shower curtains, garden hoses, and toys. In the fall of 1995, OM entered the chemical recycling industry through the acquisition of Hecla Mining Co.'s Apex mining division in Utah. Born of the 1976 Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, companies like Apex recycle used electroplating solutions and chemical and petroleum catalysts and extract the valuable cobalt, nickel, and other metals. These materials can then be reused in (and resold to) the oil refining and electroplating industries.

Although OM's array of products had increased to more than 350 items for more than a dozen industries by the mid-1990s, more than two-thirds of those chemicals were still derived from the company's core metal, cobalt. An estimated one-fifth of OM's revenues continued to be derived from paint ingredients and another fifth was generated by petroleum refining catalysts. The remaining 60 percent of sales was distributed among the plastics, ceramics, rubber, glass, and adhesives industries.

After nearly a quarter-century with the company, James Mooney set up an orderly plan of succession with the promotion of North American operations head Eugene Bak to the dual offices of president and chief operating officer in 1995. Despite all of the changes endured by the company and the industry, this realigned management team faced many of the same challenges and enjoyed several enduring corporate strengths nurtured throughout OM's history. Potential pitfalls included high capital expenses; ongoing turbulence in the cobalt market due in part to upheaval in supplier countries like Zaire; and currency fluctuations, especially against the Finnish markka. OM Group faced these hazards armed with high levels of vertical integration and productivity, a conservative balance sheet, and a zeal for innovation.

Overcoming Challenges in the New Millennium

OM entered the new millennium intent on remaining a leading force in the industry. This strategy was demonstrated in 2001 when the company made a play for Degussa Metals Catalysts Cerdec AG (dmc2), a precious metals and metals management concern. The $1.08 billion deal was finalized in the fall of that year and significantly expanded OM's operations.

Unfortunately, the synergies expected from the union failed to materialize and OM was left with a growing debt load. At the same time, sales of cobalt were faltering due to lack of demand from the aerospace industry; according to the company, this industry generally consumed nearly 40 percent of the world's cobalt production. Nevertheless, company management remained optimistic and continued to forecast positive results. When the company reported an unexpected $71 million third-quarter loss in 2002, however, shareholders took immediate action. OM stock fell from a high of more than $70 per share to just $4 per share after the announcement and class action lawsuits were filed accusing company officials of issuing misleading statements in order to boost OM's stock price. A November 2002 Crain's Cleveland Business article published chief financial officer Thomas Miklich's response to the crisis: "I think where we misled ourselves is the fact of what--of really how bad the economy--how long the aerospace industry would stay down and, you know, there's really not any other explanation than we just, you know, probably had some rose-colored glasses on."

After the third-quarter announcement, OM launched a sweeping restructuring effort that included the sell-off of noncore assets, cost-cutting measures, and layoffs. Overall, the company expected to shore up nearly $100 million to pay down debt. In July 2003, OM completed the sale of its Precious Metals Group, which included dmc2, for approximately $814 million. It sold its copper powders business, SCM Metal Products Inc., in April of that year.

As part of an internal investigation into its inventory accounting practices, OM announced that it would restate its financial statements from 1999 to 2003. The company pointed the finger at accounting irregularities--improperly recorded inventory adjustments--caused by former employees. As a result of the investigation, OM delayed filing its 2003 financial results until March 2005.

CEO James Mooney resigned in January 2005. Joseph Scaminace, a Sherwin-Williams executive, was named his replacement later that year. During the remainder of 2005 and into 2006, OM worked to finalize its restructuring efforts. The company settled the shareholder class action lawsuits in June 2005. With its problems seemingly behind it, OM's management team was confident the company was well positioned for growth in the years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries

Fidelity Chemical Products Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. (Malaysia); OM Holdings, Inc.; OMG Americas, Inc.; OMG Asia-Pacific Co., Ltd. (Taiwan); OMG Belleville, Limited (Canada); OMG Europe GmbH (Germany); OMG Fidelity, Inc.; OMG Finland Oy (Finland); OMG Harjavalta Chemicals Holding B.V. (Netherlands); OMG Harjavalta Nickel Oy (Finland); OMG Japan, Inc. (Japan); OMG Jett, Inc.; OMG Kokkola Chemicals Holding B.V. (Netherlands); OMG Kokkola Chemicals Oy (Finland); OMG Chemicals Pte, Ltd. (Singapore); OMG Thailand Co., Ltd. (Thailand); OMG Vasset, S.A. (France); Harko C.V. (Netherlands); Groupement Pour Le Traitement Du teril De Lubumbashi (55%); Societe De Traitement du Terril De Lubumbashi (55%); OMG Cawse Pty. Ltd. (Australia); OMG U.K. Ltd. (United Kingdom); OMG KG Holdings, Inc.

Principal Competitors

Engelhard Corporation; Inco Limited; Johnson Matthey Public Limited Company.


  • Key Dates
  • 1946 Mooney Chemical Co. is established in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • 1991 Mooney Chemicals, Kokkola Chemicals, and Vasset merge to form Outokumpu Metals Group.
  • 1993 The company goes public under the OM Group moniker.
  • 1995 OM enters the chemical recycling industry through the acquisition of Hecla Mining Co.'s Apex mining division in Utah.
  • 2001 Degussa Metals Catalyst Cerdec AG (dmc2) is acquired.
  • 2002 The company posts a $71 million third-quarter loss; shareholders file class action lawsuits against OM Group.
  • 2003 The Precious Metals Group, including dmc2, is sold.
  • 2005 Mooney resigns; OM settles the class action lawsuits.

Additional Details

  • Public Company
  • Incorporated: 1991
  • Employees: 1,400
  • Sales: $1.3 billion (2004)
  • Stock Exchanges: New York
  • Ticker Symbol: OMG
  • NAIC: 331492 Secondary Smelting, Refining, and Alloying of Nonferrous Metal; 325998 All Other Miscellaneous Chemical Product and Preparation Manufacturing; 325118 All Other Basic Inorganic Chemical Manufacturing

Further Reference

  • Chapman, Peter, "Metal Chemical Recycling Grows," Chemical Marketing Reporter, December 25, 1995, pp. 7, 22.
  • Chynoweth, Emma, "Mooney Merges with Outokumpu," Chemical Week, October 2, 1991, p. 14.
  • Coeyman, Marjorie, "OMG's Chemistry Turns Cobalt to Gold," Chemical Week, January 19, 1994, pp. 60-61.
  • Cohn, Lynne M., "Eugene Bak Appointed OM Group President, Chief Operating Officer," American Metal Market, July 25, 1994, p. 5.
  • ------, "Life-Long Interests Focused on Metals," American Metal Market, May 12, 1994, p. 6.
  • Croghan, Lore, "OM Group: Watch the Earnings," Financial World, May 9, 1995, p. 24.
  • Dodosh, Mark, "OM in Rough Waters," Crain's Cleveland Business, November 18, 2002, p. 3.
  • Ember, Lois R., "Many Forces Shaping Strategic Minerals Policy," Chemical & Engineering News, May 11, 1981, pp. 20-25.
  • Fine, Daniel I., "The Growing Anxiety Over Cobalt Supplies," Business Week, April 16, 1979, pp. 51, 54.
  • Furukawa, Tsukasa, "Dainippon, OM Group Form Alliance," American Metal Market, June 8, 1995, p. 5.
  • "Metal Chemical Recycling Grows," Chemical Marketing Reporter, December 25, 1995, pp. 7, 22.
  • Mooney, Barbara, "Overcoming Cobalt Blues," Crain's Cleveland Business, January 24, 1994, p. 2.
  • "OM Group Agrees to Buy Degussa Unit in $1.08 Billion Deal," Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2001.
  • "Outokumpu Prepares to Sell Cleveland-Based OM Group," American Metal Market, April 7, 1993, p. 5.
  • Plishner, Emily S., "OM Group to Go Public," Chemical Week, April 14, 1993, p. 13.
  • Robinson, Simon, "Scaminace Heads for OM Group As New CEO," European Chemical News, June 6, 2005, p. 10.
  • Sherman, Joseph V., "No Cobalt Blues," Barron's, May 11, 1970, pp. 11, 17.
  • Taub, Stephen, "OM Group Blames Past Employees for Accounting Problems,", August 4, 2004, p. 1.
  • Walsh, Kerri, "Mooney Steps Down from OMG," Chemical Week, January 19, 2005, p. 9.
  • ------, "OM Group to Restate Earnings," Chemical Week, March 24, 2004, p. 9.
  • Yerak, Becky, "Expansion, New Products Help OM Meet Goals," Plain Dealer, May 16, 1995, p. 12C.
  • ------, "Mooney Chemicals Merges," Plain Dealer, October 3, 1991, p. 2E.

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