MeadWestvaco merger among the South’s biggest in 1Q

Boeing Co. engineer Carla Smith is shown inside a new autoclave at Boeing Research & Technology in North Charleston.

Depending on whose numbers you use, MeadWestvaco Corp., which owns a soon-to-be-spun- off specialty chemicals division based in North Charleston, was part of either the second-largest or fifth-largest business merger or acquisition in the South during the first quarter.

MeadWestvaco, which is based in Richmond, Va., announced in January that it will merge with Norcross, Ga.-based Rock-Tenn Co. in a deal that will create one of the world’s largest providers of consumer and corrugated packaging materials. The merger is expected to close by July.

The companies valued the merger at $16 billion, second only to the $18 billion acquisition of Texas-based Regency Energy Partners by Energy Transfer Partners.

However, MergerMarket Group, which provides financial analysis of businesses involved in mergers and acquisitions, valued the MeadWestvaco deal at just $9.6 billion. That’s No. 5 on MergerMarket’s list of top deals during January-March period.

All told, mergers and acquisitions activity in the South had a strong start to the year with 325 deals worth almost $115 billion. That was about one-third of the national total and a 158.6 percent increase over activity in the first quarter of 2014, according to MergerMarket.

Meanwhile, MWV Specialty Chemicals will become a separate, publicly traded business by the end of this year.

That division employs about 450 people in the Charleston region and more than 1,200 worldwide. It is headquartered on Virginia Avenue, across from the Cooper River paper mill that its parent company shed in 2008. The unit makes wood-based compounds that are used in printing inks, asphalt paving and adhesives.

Boeing Co. has installed a giant industrial oven known as an autoclave at its research and technology center in North Charleston that will let the airplane manufacturer cure a variety of full-size and scaled parts used for researching composite materials for the 787 Dreamliner and other uses.

Autoclaves use heat and pressure over an extended period of time to bond layers of carbon fiber, according to Boeing.

The company also is adding a second autoclave at its Dreamliner campus adjacent to Charleston International Airport to support 787 aftbody composite parts. Construction is scheduled for completion next year.

Boeing’s research and technology center, which opened in 2014, is in Palmetto Commerce Park. It conducts research for Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defense, Space & Security in the areas of assembly and automation, structures repair, chemical technology and composite fabrication.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_