Officials optimistic on Tronox Trustees hope sale of Cristal Global will lead to more jobs

A truck on its way to the Cristal Global plant on Middle Road in Ashtabula Township is loaded with a large compressor in 2015. Cristal Global and all its locations, including the Middle Road facility, were sold Tuesday to U.S.-based Tronox for $1.6 billion.

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Local officials say they are optimist about the U.S.-based Tronox's plans to buy the titanium dioxide business Cristal Global, which has a local facility on Middle Road. 

Cristal is owned by Tasnee, a Saudi Arabia-based company, which will receive $1.6. billion for the sale of the company, as well as a 24 percent stake in the new Tronox.

The deal will help Cristal pay its outstanding bank debt of $1.6 billion in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported.

"The sale should be a good thing," said Stephen McClure, chairman of the Ashtabula Township trustees. "It will stabilize the company and existing jobs and, hopefully, bring more jobs."

Township Trustee Joe Pete said Cristal always has been a good corporate neighbor.

"I hope it works out and they hire more people," he said.

Cristal currently employs about 570 people, while Tronox employs about 3,400 worldwide, according to a release.

Bambi Paulchel, vice chair of the township trustees, said she's happy the company now will be owned by an American company. Tronox has facilities nationwide, with a U.S. headquarters in Connecticut.

"It's wonderful," she said. "I am sure they are going to be better than ever."

Cristal Global officials at the Ashtabula plants would not comment because of the pending sale and directed questions to a prepared statement from Talal Al-Shair, vice chairman of Tasnee and chairman of Cristal. 

"The success of the new company will come from its people, and I have no doubt that they will take the knowledge, skill, commitment and passion that they have shown in the past to help in building a new world-class company," he said.

Two years ago, Cristal added a new, $64 million air separation plant at the Middle Road location. The plant supports Cristal’s manufacturing of titanium dioxide — a commonly used pigment in paints and plastics — and allows the company to manufacture its own liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon, as well as offer new products to the liquid gases market. 

The sale would create the largest titanium dioxide company in the world.

So far, Tronox is boasting about its stock prices, saying in a release it has seen a 333 percent increase in the past 12 months. 

The sale, officially announced Tuesday, is contingent on government and regulatory clearances. Tronox expects to close on the deal during the first quarter of 2018, according to a press release.