Stepan Company, which was incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware on February 19, 1959, and its subsidiaries (the “Company”) produce specialty and intermediate chemicals, which are sold to other manufacturers and then made into a variety of end products. The Company has three reportable segments: surfactants, polymers and specialty products. Surfactants refer to chemical agents that affect the interaction between two surfaces; they can provide actions such as detergency (i.e., the ability of water to remove soil from another surface), wetting and foaming, dispersing, emulsification (aiding two dissimilar liquids to mix), demulsification, viscosity modifications and biocidal disinfectants. Surfactants are the basic cleaning agent in detergents for washing clothes, dishes, carpets, fine fabrics, floors and walls. Surfactants are also used for the same purpose in shampoos and conditioners, fabric softeners, toothpastes, cosmetics and other personal care products. Commercial and industrial applications include emulsifiers for agricultural products, emulsion polymers such as floor polishes and latex foams and coatings, wetting and foaming agents for wallboard manufacturing, surfactants for enhanced oil recovery and biodiesel. Polymers, which include two primary product lines, polyols and phthalic anhydride, are used in multiple types of specialty polymers. Specialty products include chemicals used in food, flavoring and pharmaceutical applications.
MARKETING AND COMPETITION
Principal markets for surfactants are manufacturers of detergents, shampoos, lotions, fabric softeners, toothpastes and cosmetics. In addition, surfactants are sold to the producers of emulsifiers, lubricating products and biodiesel fuel. The Company also is a principal provider of polymers used in construction, refrigeration, automotive, boating and other consumer product industries. Polymer products are also used in the flexible foam industry as well as the coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomer industries. Specialty products are used primarily by food and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The Company does not sell directly to the retail market, but sells to a wide range of manufacturers in many industries and has many competitors. The principal methods of competition are product performance, price, technical assistance and adaptability to the specific needs of individual customers. These factors allow the Company to compete on a basis other than price alone, reducing the severity of competition as experienced in the sales of commodity chemicals having identical performance characteristics. The Company is a leading merchant producer of surfactants in the United States. In the case of surfactants, much of the Company’s competition comes from several large global and regional producers and the internal divisions of larger customers. In the manufacture of polymers, the Company competes with the chemical divisions of several large companies, as well as with other small specialty chemical manufacturers. In specialty products, the Company competes with several large firms plus numerous small companies.
MAJOR CUSTOMER AND BACKLOG
The Company does not have any one customer whose business represents more than 10 percent of the Company’s consolidated revenue. Most of the Company’s business is essentially on the “spot delivery basis” and does not involve a significant backlog. The Company does have contract arrangements with certain customers, but purchases are generally contingent on purchaser requirements.
Substantially all of the Company’s manufacturing plants operate on electricity and interruptable natural gas. During peak heating demand periods, gas service to all plants may be temporarily interrupted for varying periods ranging from a few days to several months. The plants operate on fuel oil during these periods of interruption. The Company’s domestic operations and its wholly-owned subsidiaries have not experienced any plant shutdowns or adverse effects upon its business in recent years that were caused by a lack of available energy sources, other than temporary service interruptions brought on by mechanical failure.
The most important raw materials used by the Company are of a petroleum or plant nature. For 2010, the Company has commitments from suppliers to cover its forecasted requirements and is not substantially dependent upon any one supplier.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
The Company maintains an active research and development program to assist in the discovery and commercialization of new knowledge with the intent that such efforts will be useful in developing a new product or in bringing about a significant improvement to an existing product or process. Total expenses for research and development during 2009, 2008 and 2007 were $23.4 million, $22.1 million, and $19.9 million, respectively. The balance of research and development expenses reflected on the consolidated statements of income relates to technical services, which include routine product testing, analytical methods development and sales support service.
Compliance with applicable federal, state and local regulations regarding the discharge of materials into the environment, or otherwise relating to the protection of the environment, resulted in capital expenditures by the Company of approximately $2.6 million during 2009. These expenditures represented approximately six percent of the Company’s capital expenditures in 2009. These expenditures, when incurred, are depreciated and charged on a straight-line basis to pretax earnings over their estimated useful lives, which is typically 10 years. Recurring costs associated with the operation and maintenance of facilities for waste treatment and disposal and managing environmental compliance in ongoing operations at our manufacturing locations were approximately $15.4 million in 2009. Compliance with such regulations is not expected to have a material adverse effect on the Company’s earnings and competitive position in the foreseeable future.
At December 31, 2009 and 2008, the Company employed 1,594 and 1,578 persons, respectively.