The majority shareholder of the SPA Kimial Annaba, the Tunisian group Alkimia, announced it will sell its 55% participation in the company. The 45% balance is hold by the Algerian group Asmidal. The Algerian company specialized in the production, marketing and export of STPP (sodium tripolyphosphate) for the manufacture of detergents and ceramics, and marketing of soda ash. The plant produced up to 40,000 tpa STPP using North African raw materials, namely, phosphoric acid from Gabes and caustic soda produced in Algeria. Kimial finished 2010 with a deficit of nearly 2.3 million euros and they are heavily indebted to the Banque extérieure d’Algérie (BEA).
Alkimia’s STPP became non-competitive among detergent manufacturers who have been developing polymers and enzymes, which are a more cheaper replacement. STPPs have long played an essential role in detergents, binding hard-water ions such as magnesium and calcium that would otherwise diminish the effectiveness of the surfactants by forming poorly soluble complexes. Despite their high level of performance, however, phosphates in general have come under increasing pressure from environmentalists and politicians because of their contribution to the eutrophication of water, which promotes excessive plant growth and decay, severely reducing water quality. The leading producer of detergents in Algeria, Henkel, stopped using STPP in its products last year (till then they used some 35,000 tpa). Kimial also suffers from equipment maintenance deficiencies and manpower problems.
Kimial has 53 permanent workers, now quite worried about their future.