July 25, 2019 / 5:44 AM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 2-Clariant, SABIC halt talks to form chemicals venture

(Adds SABIC's comment, background)

ZURICH/DUBAI, July 25 (Reuters) - Swiss chemicals maker Clariant on Thursday posted a first-half loss, booked charges linked to a European probe and shelved a planned venture with Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC), a day after its chief executive unexpectedly quit.

SABIC, which holds 25% of Clariant, and the Swiss company have been working to combine Clariant's additives and specialty masterbatches businesses with parts of SABIC's specialty chemicals operation.

Clariant, whose Chief Executive Ernesto Occhiello, a former senior executive at SABIC, left abruptly this week, said the companies have decided to temporarily suspend negotiations.

"Given the current market conditions, both parties have decided that temporarily suspending the negotiations is in the best interests of the respective shareholders of both companies," Clariant said.

SABIC confirmed the talks have been suspended, adding in a statement that it "looks forward to continuing the discussions with Clariant once conditions improve".

Saudi national oil giant Aramco earlier this year reached an agreement with the state-run Public Investment Fund to buy its controlling stake in SABIC for $69.1 billion.

Clariant's first-half net loss was 101 million Swiss francs ($102.56 million), down from 211 million francs a year earlier. Sales stagnated at 2.2 billion francs.

The results were impacted by a 231 million franc provision Clariant set aside for an ongoing competition law investigation by the European Commission, Clariant said.

"The first half-year 2019 was admittedly challenging - particularly the second quarter, which was additionally impacted by temporary negative influences and one-off occurrences," Clariant chairman Hariolf Kottmann said.

Kottmann, Occhiello's predecessor as chief executive, has taken over his responsibilities until a successor is found.

$1 = 0.9848 Swiss francs Reporting by John Revill in Zurich and Saeed Azhar in Dubai; Editing by Jan Harvey

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