Novacap SAS

21 chemin de la Sauvegarde
Écully, 69130
Telephone: (+33 4) 26 99 18 00
Fax: (+33 4) 26 99 18 38
Web site:

Private Company
Employees: 3,000
Sales: $1 billion (2017)
NAICS: 325412 Pharmaceutical Preparation Manufacturing; 325130 Synthetic Dye and Pigment Manufacturing; 325194 Cyclic Crude, Intermediate, and Gum and Wood Chemical Manufacturing; 424210 Drugs and Druggists' Sundries Merchant Wholesalers

Novacap SAS is the world's leading producer of aspirin and salicylic acid, the number-two producer of paraaminophenol, and the number-three European producer of paracetamol. The company also manufactures an extensive range of other products that are grouped into three primary divisions: Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics, Mineral Specialties, and Performance Chemicals. The Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics division is Novacap's largest, and includes the company's production of ketamine, methimazole, and acetylsalicylic acid. This division is composed of four business units: Novacyl, operating in France and China; Uetikon, based in Germany; and two Chinese companies, Taixing Yangzi Pharm Chemical Co Ltd, in Shanghai, and Jiangsu Puyuan Chemical Company in Zhenjiang province. The Mineral Specialties division produces sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, and other minerals and ingredients for the pharmaceutical, health care, food, agricultural, and other industries. This division operates through the subsidiaries Novacarb and Novabion in France and Novabay in Singapore. Lastly, the Performance Chemicals division produces a wide range of organic chemical intermediates, including phenol, phenol acetate, and oxygenated solvents, among others. Altogether, Novacap operates nearly 30 industrial plants and research and development centers in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. This includes the factory and research and development facility of the Massachusetts-based pharmaceuticals services company PCI Synthesis, which was acquired in June 2018. The company is led by president Pierre Luzeau.


Novacap originated as part of the pharmaceuticals operations of Rhodia, which itself was founded as a spinoff from the French chemicals giant Rhône-Poulenc (later Aventis) in 1998. Rhodia traced its own history back to the founding of Poulenc Frères by Étienne Poulenc, who acquired an apothecary in Paris in 1858. Joined by his brothers, Poulenc began producing his own chemicals products, notably manufacturing chemicals for the newly emerging field of photography.


Driven by true entrepreneurial spirit, Novacap's success is built on our culture of excellence that aims to provide our customers with the best product performance.

Both Poulenc Frères and Société Chimique des Usines du Rhône were among the pioneers of the French pharmaceuticals industry, introducing a variety of medicines and active ingredients during World War I and afterward. In 1928 the two companies merged to form Société des Usines Chimiques Rhône-Poulenc. The company made its mark in the French pharmaceuticals market soon after, becoming the first in the country to launch the mass production of penicillin.


Internationally, the company often operated under the Rhodia name, including in the United States, until it was renamed as Rhône Poulenc Inc. in 1978. Rhône-Poulenc, which changed its name to Rhône-Poulenc S.A. in 1961, grew into a French leader during the post–World War II period. Part of the company's growth came through a number of acquisitions, including the Institut Mèrieux during the 1960s. It also carried out a flurry of international acquisitions. However, during the 1970s and 1980s the company found itself struggling against a global recession. After posting a loss of more than $500 million in 1982, the company was nationalized by the French government, then under the leadership of François Mitterrand.

By the 1990s Rhône-Poulenc had established itself as one of the world's leading chemicals and pharmaceuticals companies through acquisitions such as Union Carbide's agricultural chemicals division and the industrial chemicals operations of Stauffer, as well as the German chemicals producer Nattermann. In 1999 Rhône-Poulenc merged with Hoechst to form Aventis, becoming one of the world's leading pharmaceuticals players. In the run-up to this merger, the company shed a number of its operations. These included its chemicals, fibers, and polymers divisions, which were regrouped as Rhodia SA and listed on the Paris and New York Stock exchanges in 1999.

Rhodia then went on an acquisition drive, acquiring the U.K.-based Albright & Wilson and the U.S.-based ChiRex, among others. The purchases established Rhodia as one of the world's leading specialty chemicals players, with sales of more than €5.5 billion ($5.2 billion). With the advent of a new global recession following the 2001 terrorist attacks, Rhodia refocused its operations around its core specialty chemicals business. Toward this end, the company regrouped its basic chemicals production, including three Lyon-based subsidiaries and five factories, under the new company Novacap SAS in 2003. Novacap was then sold to a management buyout led by Pierre Luzeau and backed by the U.S.-based investment group Bain Capital.


Novacap started off with annual sales of nearly €280 million. Under Luzeau's leadership, and with Bain's support, Novacap began expanding its range of production. In 2004 the company launched the production of sodium bicarbonate, and it soon became Europe's number-two player in that chemical segment. Much of this production was carried out by the company's Novacarb subsidiary, which operated a factory in La Madeleine, close to Nancy, with an annual capacity of 50,000 metric tons per year.

In 2009 the company launched an expansion of that factory, more than doubling its capacity as part of an overall capital expenditure program of €30 million. Other investments included the construction of a factory in Pont-de-Claix to produce calcium chloride, and the construction of a second sodium bicarbonate plant in 2008. The Pont-de-Claix site was expanded again in 2011, with the addition of a 50,000-metric-ton ferric chloride production unit. Novacap also added a third sodium carbonate factory that year.

Société Chimique des Usines du Rhône is founded and later introduces the Rhodia brand name.
Rhodia spins off its basic chemicals operations as Novacap SAS in a management buyout.
Novacap acquires Rhodia's analgesics division and becomes the world's leading producer of aspirin.
The company acquires France's PCAS.
Novacap enters the United States with the acquisition of PCI Synthesis.

The year 2011 marked a new turning point for Novacap. In 2010 Bain Capital announced its plans to sell its stake in Novacap. In anticipation of the sale, Novacap carried out a €130 million debt refinancing. This paved the way for the company's sale to AXA Private Equity, part of the AXA insurance group, in January 2011. AXA Private Equity (later known as Ardian) acquired 96 percent of Novacap for approximately €250 million. Luzeau and the other managers held the remaining shares.

Shortly thereafter, Novacap was organized into three divisions: Minerals, Organic Chemicals, and Chlorhydric Acid. With AXA's backing, Novacap added a fourth business area—pharmaceuticals—with the purchase of Rhodia's analgesics division. The purchase added factories in France, Thailand, China, and Brazil and increased Novacap's revenues by more than €100 million. Novacap created the subsidiary Novacyl for this business, which became the world's leading aspirin and salicylic acid producer. Following the purchase, the company regrouped its operations around three new divisions, Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics, Performance Chemicals, and Mineral Specialties.


Novacap continued to expand its operations into the middle of the decade. In 2012 it launched a new €9 million investment program, expanding production of its Roussillon factory to include the manufacture of paraben-free methyl salicylate. The investment plans also called for the Roussillon site to double its production of IPA, in response to the surge in demand for antibacterial hand gels. This project was completed in early 2016. Other investments included the expansion of the company's alpha methyl styrene production, and the addition, in 2014, of new products, including homosalate and sodium silicates.

However, acquisitions became the motor to Novacap's growth strategy during the decade. In 2013 the company expanded its operations in China, where it already operated two factories, with the purchase of a 51 percent stake in the Taixing Yangzi Pharm Chemical Co., based in the Taixing Economic Development Zone near Shanghai. Yangzi was one of the leading producers in China of para-amino-phenol, an important component of the painkiller acetaminophen. The acquisition added another €71 million to Novacap's revenues, which neared €700 million before the end of the year. The addition of Yangzi's 375 employees also meant that half of Novacap's total workforce was now based outside of France.

As Novacap scouted the Asian markets for its next acquisition, it also invested in expanding its existing operations. Toward this end, in 2014 the company raised €310 million in a rights issue, coupled with a €65 million revolving credit. The company then announced plans to spend as much as €20 million to build a sodium bicarbonate factory in Southeast Asia. It settled on Jurong Island, in Singapore. The new factory opened in 2017 with an initial capacity of 70,000 metric tons per year and plans to increase production to 120,000 metric tons per year in the future.

The company also acquired a second Chinese company in 2014, taking over majority control of Jiangsu Puyuan Chemical Co., based in Jiangsu, in Zhenjiang province. Puyuan specialized in the production of salicylic acid and methyl salicylate, and added 150 people to Novacap's payroll.


Novacap's next acquisition took the company into Germany. In May 2015 the company reached an agreement to acquire CU Chemie Uetikon, a producer of fine chemicals and active principal ingredients for pharmaceuticals. The acquisition added Uetikon's stateof-the-art production technologies, as well as €40 million in revenues. At the same time, Novacap's growing position among Europe's specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals sector enabled it to form its first partnership, with Alganelle, a biotechnology start-up that worked on deriving active molecules from microalgae.

Novacap came under new ownership in 2016, when Eurazeo agreed to pay €654 million for a 67 percent stake in the company. Eurazeo was joined in the purchase by Mérieux Développement, the investment wing of the pharmaceuticals group Mérieux, which acquired a 9 percent stake, while Ardian retained 18 percent and Luzeau and the other managers raised their stake to 6 percent.

Novacap moved forward with its acquisition-driven growth strategy in 2017. The company raised its stake in Yangzi to 77.6 percent that year and also raised its share in Puyuan to 96.5 percent. Closer to home, Novacap completed its acquisition of PCAS, a French producer of fine chemicals for the life sciences and other industries. Like Uetikon, PCAS focused on the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) segment of the pharmaceuticals industry. PCAS added its own production facilities in France, Germany, China, Canada, and Finland, as well as more than €192 million to Novacap's operations.

Soon after, Novacap completed two smaller acquisitions: the Limoges-based ID bio, a producer of natural active ingredients for the cosmetics industry, and its sister unit, H2B, which focused on blood-derived components for in vitro testing and diagnostic media. These were followed by the purchase of the U.K.-based Chemoxy International Ltd. in July 2017. Chemoxy traced its own history back to the opening of a tar distillery in Middlesbrough during the late 1860s. The company also operated a factory in Billingham that produced solvents and other products used in the production of paints, coatings, and cleaning products.

Novacap's acquisitions drove its revenues past €1 billion ($1.15 billion) by the end of 2017. The company made a pause in its acquisition strategy to carry out other investments, including spending €5 million to expand its sodium bicarbonate production at Roussillon, and €65 million to build a biomass-fueled cogeneration plant near its factory in La Madeleine. That project started in November 2017.

In June 2018 the company announced the purchase of PCI Synthesis, a pharmaceuticals services provider and CDMO based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The acquisition added $32 million to Novacap's sales and also represented the company's first direct step into the U.S. market. Having gained a foothold in the North American market, and with its strong operations in Europe and Asia, Novacap had become a rising star in the global chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry.

M. L. Cohen


CU Chemie Uetikon GmbH (Germany); Jiangsu Puyuan Chemical Co. (China); Novacyl SAS; PCI Synthesis Inc. (USA); Taixing Yangzi Pharm Chemical Co. (China).


Performance Chemicals; Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics; Mineral Specialties.


Biogen France SAS; Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.; DaShenLin Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd.; Dong-A Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.; Laboratoires Alcon S.A.S.; Laboratoires Leo S.A.; Sandoz S.A.S.; Virbac SA.


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