MIDLAND, Mich. — Dow Chemical Co. is selling its South African pharmaceutical plant because of poor business conditions there and pressure from anti-apartheid protests, officials said Friday.
The Dow-owned Mer-National plant in Clayville, South Africa, is being purchased by the Premier Milling Group, a conglomerate of South African businesses, Dow spokesman Charles Infante said.
Chairman Paul Oreffice said Dow regretted the need to sell the plant and wished it could have remained part of the process for change in the white-ruled nation.
"This does not reflect a sudden change in attitude," he said. "Our reason for wanting to do business in South Africa remains the same. We would have preferred to maintain our business there, but business and economic conditions, as well as a growing public concern in the United States, made it impractical to continue."
Dow employs about 200 people in South Africa, about 125 of whom--mostly blacks--work for Mer-National, Infante said. About 75 employees, most of whom work in sales, will remain on Dow's payroll, he said.
Many opponents of apartheid, South Africa's system of white minority dominance, have demanded that U.S. companies divest their South African holdings. Dow had been among the companies resisting the pressure to pull out of South Africa, contending majority rule could better be brought about by its presence as a force for change.
Dow said it was adhering to the Sullivan principles, a list of guidelines for U.S. companies doing business in South Africa. They call, among other things, for equal treatment of black and white workers.
Neither Oreffice nor Infante would reveal terms of the sale.
The pharmaceutical plant opened in 1983 near the black township of Tambisa, which is in between Johannesburg and Pretoria, Infante said.
Dow, which began operating in South Africa in 1959, had $60 million in sales there last year, about $12 million of which was pharmaceuticals, he said.