ZURICH, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The vast majority of Clariant's shareholders support the Swiss chemical maker's planned $20 billion merger with American peer Huntsman, Huntsman's Chief Executive told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.
"I have met between 150 and 200 shareholders in groups and in individual talks and explained the details of the merger to them," Peter Huntsman said. "The large majority stand behind us."
The merger unveiled by the companies in May has been opposed by activist investor White Tale Holdings, which says the deal runs against Clariant's focus on speciality chemicals over commodities.
White Tale, whose principals include U.S. hedge fund manager Keith Meister, has amassed a 10 percent Clariant stake worth nearly 750 million Swiss francs ($778 million).
Huntsman told the newspaper that a merger was needed to save costs and enable the companies to compete with Chinese and Indian rivals.
"Consolidation in the chemicals industry will continue and the environment is getting tougher," he said. "There is a risk of being crushed by the competition." A representative of White Tale said Clariant should be split up to maximise investor value, telling Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung that several parties were interested in the plastics and coatings division. ($1 = 0.9645 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)