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W.R. Grace & Co. opens new HQ in Columbia

W.R. Grace & Co., the Columbia-based manufacturer of specialty chemicals and materials, is set to celebrate the opening of its new headquarters in Columbia just several months after it emerged from one of the longest bankruptcy cases in history.

The company will hold a reception Thursday for local and state leaders such as Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the Democratic Party’s lieutenant governor candidate, state Sen. Allan Kittleman, the Republican Party’s candidate for Howard County executive, and Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald Fry to celebrate the opening of the new global headquarters.

“This building that was just opened represents a commitment to Maryland,” said Greg Ten Ecyk, a company spokesman.

Ten Ecyk declined to say how much the building cost, but said the company will be disclosing during the event a figure that represents the company’s total investment in Maryland. Beyond the company’s 160-acre Columbia campus, which it has operated out of since 1958 and which has been home to its global headquarters since 1999, W.R. Grace & Co. also operates a manufacturing facility in the Curtis Bay section of Baltimore.

The company officially started working out of the new 90,000-square-foot building a few months ago after breaking ground on the project in 2012.

The company now includes three entities — Grace Catalysts Technologies, Grace Materials Technologies and Grace Construction Products — following its emergence from bankruptcy in February, and it has experienced growth in recent years despite its Chapter 11 status.

W.R. Grace & Co. employees about 6,800 people in 40 countries and around 1,200 in Maryland alone. Its net sales totaled about $3.1 billion in 2013. Late last year the company also completed a transaction for Dow Chemical Co.’s assets from its polypropylene licensing and catalysts business for a cash price of $500 million.

On Tuesday afternoon the company’s stock was trading at $92.35 at the close of business, more than $12 higher than its 52-week low. In the third quarter the company announced a slight drop in net income of $77 million from the same quarter last year to $74.5 million this past quarter.

Earnings Before Interest & Tax increased 27 percent to $180.9 million during the third quarter, and Grace reported it expects Adjusted EBIT for 2014 to total between $625 and $630 million — a 13 to 14 percent increase from 2013.

In 2001 the company voluntarily filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware due to thousands of asbestos-related claims. The claims, 129,000 in all, were related to the company’s purchase and use of chrysotile asbestos.There were also 120 claims related to the company’s vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, that the company operated prior to 1990.

In December of 2013, the company set the stage to exit Chapter 11 by agreeing to pay $129 million to bank lenders that held the company’s pre-petition bank debt, plus interest dating back to the following year. In all Grace agreed to pay $1.1 billion to bank lenders, including Halcyon Asset Management the largest holder of the company’s debt.