Akzo Nobel has opened a state-of-the-art R&D laboratory at its Marine & Protective Coatings facility at Felling in the United Kingdom. The new lab is part of an ongoing investment of more than 10 million euros by the business unit into its research and development facilities around the world.

In addition to the new laboratory, which will serve the Arnhem, the Netherlands-based company's global marine and yacht coatings businesses, the existing R&D building at the Felling site will be redesigned and transformed into the business unit's Technology Center.

The improvements at the Felling site follow significant investments in two other marine and yacht coatings R&D facilities. A new laboratory has been built at Geoje in South Korea, while a major upgrade was carried out at Newton Ferrers in the United Kingdom. Additional work was carried out at the Asia-Pacific Technical Center at Jurong Town, Singapore.

"These investments are part of our continuing commitment to innovative research and to deliver to our customers first-class products coming from first-class facilities," said Rudy van der Meer, Member of Akzo Nobel's Board of Management responsible for Coatings, during the official opening. "Innovation means keeping one step ahead of customer requirements. It should not only enable them to increase efficiency and productivity, but also to reduce costs."

The primary development work at the newly opened laboratory will focus on the formulation of new antifouling technologies, new building coatings, and maintenance and repair coatings for the marine and yacht markets.

"The existence of a worldwide network of integrated, first-class laboratories capable of developing and testing products to the highest international standards is central to our ability to respond quickly to the constantly changing demands of the marketplace," added Leif Darner, general manager of the Marine & Protective Coatings business unit.

In a separate statement the previous day, Akzo Nobel announced that it intended to divest the company's mirror coatings business to the Italian group Fenzi. The mirror-coatings business, based in Vilvorde, Belgium, produces paints that are applied to the backs of mirrors to protect the silver lining that makes up the reflective surface.

Akzo Nobel expects the transaction to be concluded in the second quarter of this year.

A week earlier, the company announced that it had received an offer from Albemarle Corp. (Richmond, VA) for the sale of its refinery catalysts business for 625 million euros, free of cash and debt. Akzo Nobel announced its intention to divest this business in September 2003.

The deal involves all assets and all current employees of the business, including shares in joint venture companies. Closing of the transaction is expected to be in the second quarter of 2004.