By Joshua Franklin and Greg Roumeliotis
(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp is exploring a sale of its Advanced Elastomer Systems (AES) division, potentially valuing the elastic polymer maker at around $800 million including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
The deal would allow the oil major to nibble at its debt pile, which totaled $45.5 billion at the end of December. Its shares are up around 37% year-to-date on investor expectations that the company will benefit from a recovery in energy prices.
Exxon has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to solicit interest in AES from potential buyers, including private equity firms, the sources said.
The sources cautioned that no deal is certain and requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Exxon and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.
Exxon incurred a historic loss of $22.4 billion last year. It is trying to convince a skeptical Wall Street that it can rebound after years of overspending left it deeply indebted and lagging rivals better geared for a world demanding cleaner fuels.
AES is known for its Santoprene thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs), which are elastic polymers used in automotive, industrial and consumer products. The business was launched in 1991 as a limited partnership between ExxonMobil Chemical and Solutia. Exxon became the sole owner of AES in 2002.
The global TPV market is seen growing from $1.6 billion in 2019 and to $2.6 billion in 2027, though the industry has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic due to factory shutdowns and supply chain issues, according to a report by ResearchAndMarkets.com.
(Reporting by Joshua Franklin in Boston and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Jennifer Hiller in Houston; Editing by Matthew Lewis)