Kemira milestones 1920-1994

Valtion Rikkihappo- ja Superfosfaattitehtaat Oy (The State Sulphuric Acid and Superphosphate Plants) were established in 1920. Planning the newly-independent country's agriculture and industry showed that a domestic sulphuric acid supply was indispensable for industrial development; for example, the State-owned powder plant in Vihtavuori required sulphuric acid. A low-cost supply of sulphuric acid was also necessary for the fertilizer industry at a time when Finland's self-sufficiency in grain was to be attained. The raw phosphate for the manufacture of superphosphates had to be imported.

The sulphuric acid plant in Lappeenranta and the superphosphate plant in Kotka began operating in 1922.  The investment costs of the plants were about 44 million Finnmarks. During the early years about 20,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid and 20,000 - 40,000 tonnes of superphosphate were produced. The total personnel at the plants was under 200. From the beginning of 1933 the plants were formed into a limited company which until 1968 operated under the Ministry of Agriculture and then under the Ministry for Trade and Industry.

During the 1930s there was continuous growth in demand for superphosphates, and at the end of the decade planning began on an enlargement of capacity. The plants in Kokkola and Harjavalta were built during the war. The Kokkola sulphuric acid and superphosphate plants were commissioned in 1945, with the start-up of similar plants in Harjavalta taking place over 1947-1949. The state powder plants in Vihtavuori were merged with the company in 1945, together with the gas and protective equipment facilities in Vaasa becoming a subsidiary under the name of Vihtavuori Oy. Total Group personnel by the end of the 1940s numbered about 750.

Broadening of production base

During the 1950s the manufacture of granulated complex fertilizers began, and the company moved towards the production of industrial chemicals. New production units were built at the old plants and new plants were built.  In Harjavalta, new sulphuric acid plants were set up in 1955, 1959, 1970 and 1975 and a sulphur dioxide plant in 1975. In Kokkola, sulphuric acid plants were built in 1962, 1967 and 1974. Production in Lappeenranta was terminated in autumn 1963. In 1961 the company's name had been changed to Rikkihappo Oy, and the number of employees had grown to 1867.

During the 1960s production of heavy industrial chemicals was established to replace imports: aluminium sulphate in Harjavalta, 1960, and sodium sulphate and calcium chloride in Kokkola, 1962. In Vihtavuori a new dynamite plant started production in 1957; in Vaasa a new pesticide plant was opened in 1968. The construction of plant and harbour in Uusikaupunki in 1963 -1967 saw a move in the company's fertilizer production towards concentrated granular complex fertilizers. In Siilinjärvi construction also took place between 1967 and 1972: a sulphuric acid plant, a phosphoric acid plant, an ammonium phosphate plant, a nitric acid plant, a complex fertilizer plant and an inland waterway harbour. The company's oldest fertilizer plants in Kotka were closed in 1973. In 1969 the company had a total personnel of 3768.

Into new areas through corporate acquisitions and mergers

The company expanded by acquisition and merger from the 1960s onwards. Vuorikemia Oy, a manufacturer of titanium dioxide pigments, was acquired as a subsidiary and merged in 1968. Typpi Oy, which had been engaged in the nitrogen business in Oulu since 1952, was absorbed in 1971, and as a result of this merger the company's name was changed in 1972 to Kemira Oy. The Espoo research centre began to function in the same year. The Tikkurilan Väritehtaat Oy paint factory (formerly Oy Schildt & Hallberg Ab) were acquired in 1972. Säteri Oy (now Kemira Fibres Oy), engaged in the textile fibre business in Valkeakoski, was acquired in 1974 and merged in 1975. At the end of the 1970s the total number of employees in the company was about 7000.

The move into the 1980s also meant an increase in exports and overseas operations, a rapid internationalisation of the company.

During the 1980s development also took place in Finland, with the construction of new plants and the diversification of production. One significant event was the opening in 1980 of the Siilinjärvi apatite mine and the start of associated beneficiation. In 1983 a wideranging experimental project in agriculture was started in the Soviet Union; in 1987 the Kokkola fine chemicals plants was completed. In Oulu first a formic acid plant and then in 1988 a peat-based ammonia plant and a hydrogen peroxide plant were built, while in Raahe an atmospheric gases plant and in Vihtavuori an exhaust catalytic converter plant were opened. After long feasibility studies into the phosphorus deposits in Sokli, it was decided that the mine could not be worked economically.

Start to globalisation

The internationalisation of Kemira's operations began in the 1960s with small-scale fertiliser and industrial chemical exports. Exports were already significant for Vuorikemia Oy which became a subsidiary in the same decade. Corporate acquisitions by Kemira Oy outside Finland began in 1982 with a fertilizer plant in the UK which started to operate under the name Kemira Ltd. In 1984 Tikkurila Oy acquired the Donald Macpherson Group, producing, among other things, paints in a number of countries, and a year later a titanium dioxide pigment plant in the USA was acquired, now operating as Kemira Pigments Inc. In the same year fertilizer plants in the Netherlands were bought, now operating as Kemira B.V., and in 1986 the Gechem fertilizer production in Belgium came into the Group as Kemira S.A./N.V.  Next year it was Denmark's turn with a majority shareholding being taken in Superfos Godning A/S and a name change to Kemira Danmark in 1987. By acquisitions in 1988 the Group's fertilizer production was augmented by Kemira Pernis B.V. in the Netherlands and Kemira Ince Ltd in the UK.

Since then, Kemira Group acquisitions have been mainly in the fields covered by Kemira Chemicals Oy and Kemira Pigments Oy.

In 1989 Boliden Kemi AB was acquired in Sweden, thus increasing net sales by the chemicals group fourfold. In the same year a joint venture was set up in Japan with UBE Industries under the name Kemira-Ube Ltd to produce hydrogen peroxide, mainly for the Japanese market. Towards the end of 1991 the hydrogen peroxide plant in Rozenburg, the Netherlands, was completed. The main market of Kemira Chemicals B.V. (formerly Kemira Peroxides B.V.) is in western Europe. In water chemicals production increased in 1991 - 1992 with two new companies, Aliada Quimica in Portugal and Kemira Ibérica S.A. in Spain. In Poland and Estonia Kemira is engaged in water treatment joint ventures in the companies Kemipol and A/S KemiVesi. In 1993 a calcium chloride plant was set up in the Netherlands with Akzo, under the name Kemax v.o.f. and in 1994 a joint venture was etablished in the Czech Republic under the name Kemifloc to produce and market water chemicals. In 1995 Thailand was the site of a joint venture to produce water chemicals, Kemwater (Thailand) Ltd, as in 1996 with the joint venture in Brazil, Kemwater Brasil S.A. In 1992 the majority of the ownership in the Swedish water chemicals producer Ferriklor AB held by Kemira Chemicals Oy rose to 92 percent. In the same year a new joint venture in water chemicals was set up in Romania, 55 percent owned by Kemira Chemicals and known as Cristal Prodchim S.A.

In 1993 Kemira Pigments Oy bought a 20 percent share of the US undertaking Nord Kaolin Company, and all of the titanium dioxide pigment company in the Netherlands operating under the name of TCF Tiofine B.V. In the same year A/O Finncolor (today known as ZAO Finncolor) was established by Tikkurila Oy in Russia for the paints business, while 39 percent of the Latvian A/S Latvijas Krasas was acquired. The company's share of this Latvian company is now 50 percent and the name has changed to A/S Baltic Color; the same is the case with the Estonian AS Baltic Color (formerly known as AS Eesti Värv). In 1995 a sales company, Tikkurila Ltda, was established in Brazil for Tikkurila's colour processing systems. This business was further expanded in 1996 with the setting up of a joint venture in the USA under the name Tikkurila Inc. The colourant manufacturing business expanded to Australia in the same year by corporate acquisition, the new company being known as Tikkurila Pty Ltd.

In 1992 Kemira Agro Oy established a marketing company in Spain for horticultural fertilizers, Coferlisa S.A., and in the following year a similar company, Superstar Fertilizers Ltd, was set up as a joint venture in Thailand. In 1994 the company became a shareholder in the Indian company Jain Kemira Fertilisers Ltd. Latvia and Poland were the locations in the same year for Sia Kemira Agro and Kemira Agro Poland, both marketing companies. In 1995 and 1996 two companies were formed for the marketing of agricultural products, AS Kemira Eesti in Estonia and UAB Kemira Agro Vilnius in Lithuania.

In 1996 Kemira Agro set up a new subsidiary, Kemira Fine Chemicals Oy, to which were transferred the company's fine chemicals production and business.

The divisions of Kemira Oy were formed into subsidiary companies from 1 January 1994. The new companies are Kemira Oy (group administration), Kemira Chemicals Oy, Kemira Pigments Oy, Kemira Agro Oy, Kemira Fibres Oy, Kemira Metalkat Oy, Kemira Safety Oy and Kemira Engineering Oy.

Kemira Oy public company from 1994

The shares of Kemira Oy have been listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange since November 10, 1994, when the ownership was broadened by share issue. At this time the State's holding fell to 72.3 percent. The shares are also traded on the London Stock Exchange SEAQ system and the United States PORTAL system.

As a result of sale by the State and issue by Kemira Oy of shares in October 1996 the State's holding further declined to 53.8 percent. Overseas institutional investors hold 24.5 percent of Kemira's share capital; Finnish institutional investors hold 16.0 percent and private investors 5.7 percent. The issued share capital of Kemira Oy is FIM 1 288 million.

Water chemistry in the heart of Kemira's strategy

In 2008, water chemistry became the bedrock of Kemira’s strategy. The company’s segments – Paper, Municipal & Industrial and Oil & Mining – now rely on the product and water chemistry expertise that began to build up in the 1960s, and which was later fortified through research and development, as well as numerous acquisitions in the new millennium.

The Kemira of today focuses on serving customers that operate in water-intensive industries, providing them with water quality and quantity solutions. Kemira now has production facilities in 40 countries and employs approximately 4,500 people globally.


Presidents and Chief Executive Officers of Kemira Oyj

Felix Hedman, B.Sc.(Eng.), 1920 - 1935
Fredrik Gustaf Hackzell, M.Sc.(Eng.), 1935 - 1954
Martti Hovi, M.A., 1955 - 1975
Yrjö Pessi, Ph.D., 1975 - 1990
Heimo Karinen, M.Sc.(Eng.), 1991 - 1999
Tauno Pihlava, M.Sc., 2000 - 2004
Lasse Kurkilahti, B.Sc. (Econ.), 2004 -2007
Harri Kerminen, M.Sc. (Eng.), MBA, 2008-2012
Wolfgang Büchele, Dr. rer. Nat., 2012-2014
Jari Rosendal, M. Sc. (Eng.), 2014-


For more detailed recent developments and figures, please see the annual reports.