The billion dollar deal between Hoechst and the chemical industry in the GDR in 1976
In May 1976, Hoechst AG and its subsidiary Uhde entered into a contract with the GDR for the construction of a chlorine and PVC production plant valued at more than DM 1 billion. It was the largest German-German plant construction in the chemical industry. This business harbored mainly financial risks for the GDR, since only part of the sum could be paid for deliveries of products from the new plant to Hoechst. Hoechst was itself a large producer of PVC and tried to protect its own markets against competitors from the GDR by means of contractually agreed blacklists.
The plants built by Uhde GmbH were put into operation in 1980 by the VEB Kombinat Chemische Werke Buna, Schkopau. They were based, as was customary at that time, on the amalgam process in which mercury was used. About half of the chlorine and PVC production in Schkopau continued to be produced in old, dilapidated facilities, some of which were from wartime. In one section, where mercury-containing sludge from the chlorine electrolysis of the old and the new plant was processed, only prisoners were active. The management board of Hoechst AG was not aware of this. Business with the GDR was discussed only in economic terms, but not in moral terms.
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