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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C.  20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

  ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF

THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

 

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)

OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from          to

Commission file number 1-640  

NL INDUSTRIES, INC.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

New Jersey

 

13-5267260

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(IRS Employer

Identification No.)

 

5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1700

Dallas, Texas  75240-2620

(Address of principal executive offices)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:  (972) 233-1700

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 Title of each class

 

Trading Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common stock

 

NL

 

NYSE

No securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act.

 

Indicate by check mark:

If the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes      No   

If the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes      No  

Whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes      No  

Whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes      No  

Whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer or a smaller reporting company or emerging growth company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

 

Accelerated filer

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

 

Smaller reporting company

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262 (b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.                                                                           

Whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).    Yes      No  

The aggregate market value of the 8.4 million shares of voting stock held by nonaffiliates of NL Industries, Inc. as of June 30, 2020 (the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently-completed second fiscal quarter) approximated $28.6 million.

Number of shares of the registrant’s common stock, $.125 par value per share, outstanding on February 26, 2021: 48,788,984.

Documents incorporated by reference

The information required by Part III is incorporated by reference from the Registrant’s definitive proxy statement to be filed with the Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A not later than 120 days after the end of the fiscal year covered by this report.

 

 


 

 

PART I

 

ITEM 1.

BUSINESS

The Company

NL Industries, Inc. was organized as a New Jersey corporation in 1891.  Our common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange, or the NYSE, under the symbol NL.  References to “NL Industries,” “NL,” the “Company,” the “Registrant,” “we,” “our,” “us” and similar terms mean NL Industries, Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliate, unless the context otherwise requires.  

Our principal executive offices are located at Three Lincoln Center, 5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1700, Dallas, TX 75240.  Our telephone number is (972) 233-1700.  We maintain a website at www.nl-ind.com.  

Business summary

We are primarily a holding company.  We operate in the component products industry through our majority-owned subsidiary, CompX International Inc. (NYSE American: CIX).  We operate in the chemicals industry through our noncontrolling interest in Kronos Worldwide, Inc.  CompX and Kronos (NYSE: KRO) each file periodic reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  

Organization

At December 31, 2020, Valhi, Inc. (NYSE: VHI) held approximately 83% of our outstanding common stock and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Contran Corporation held an aggregate of 92% of Valhi’s outstanding common stock. As discussed in Note 1 to our Consolidated Financial Statements, Lisa K. Simmons and a trust established for the benefit of Ms. Simmons and her late sister and their children (the “Family Trust”) may be deemed to control Contran, and therefore may be deemed to indirectly control the wholly-owned subsidiary of Contran, Valhi and us.

Forward-looking statements

This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, as amended.  Statements in this Annual Report that are not historical facts are forward-looking in nature and represent management’s beliefs and assumptions based on currently available information.  In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “believes,” “intends,” “may,” “should,” “could,” “anticipates,” “expects” or comparable terminology, or by discussions of strategies or trends.  Although we believe the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we do not know if these expectations will be correct.  Such statements by their nature involve substantial risks and uncertainties that could significantly impact expected results.  Actual future results could differ materially from those predicted.  The factors that could cause actual future results to differ materially from those described herein are the risks and uncertainties discussed in this Annual Report and those described from time to time in our other filings with the SEC and include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

Future supply and demand for our products

 

The extent of the dependence of certain of our businesses on certain market sectors

 

The cyclicality of our businesses (such as Kronos’ TiO2 operations)

 

Customer and producer inventory levels

 

Unexpected or earlier-than-expected industry capacity expansion (such as the TiO2 industry)

 

Changes in raw material and other operating costs (such as energy, ore, zinc, aluminum, steel and brass costs) and our ability to pass those costs on to our customers or offset them with reductions in other operating costs

 

Changes in the availability of raw material (such as ore)

 

General global economic and political conditions that harm the worldwide economy, disrupt our supply chain, increase material costs or reduce demand or perceived demand for Kronos’ TiO2 and our products

- 2 -


 

 

or impair our ability to operate our facilities (including changes in the level of gross domestic product in various regions of the world, natural disasters, terrorist acts, global conflicts and public health crises such as COVID-19)

 

Competitive products and substitute products

 

Price and product competition from low-cost manufacturing sources (such as China)

 

Customer and competitor strategies

 

Potential consolidation of Kronos’ competitors

 

Potential consolidation of Kronos’ customers

 

The impact of pricing and production decisions

 

Competitive technology positions

 

Our ability to protect or defend intellectual property rights

 

Potential difficulties in integrating future acquisitions

 

Potential difficulties in upgrading or implementing accounting and manufacturing software systems

 

The introduction of trade barriers or trade disputes

 

The impact of current or future government regulations (including employee healthcare benefit related regulations)

 

Fluctuations in currency exchange rates (such as changes in the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and each of the euro, the Norwegian krone and the Canadian dollar and between the euro and the Norwegian krone), or possible disruptions to our business resulting from uncertainties associated with the euro or other currencies

 

Operating interruptions (including, but not limited to, labor disputes, leaks, natural disasters, fires, explosions, unscheduled or unplanned downtime, transportation interruptions, cyber-attacks and public health crises such as COVID-19)

 

Decisions to sell operating assets other than in the ordinary course of business

 

Kronos’ ability to renew or refinance credit facilities

 

Our ability to maintain sufficient liquidity

 

The timing and amounts of insurance recoveries

 

The ability of our subsidiaries or affiliates to pay us dividends

 

Uncertainties associated with CompX’s development of new products and product features

 

The ultimate outcome of income tax audits, tax settlement initiatives or other tax matters, including future tax reform

 

Our ability to utilize income tax attributes or changes in income tax rates related to such attributes, the benefits of which may or may not have been recognized under the more-likely-than-not recognition criteria

 

Environmental matters (such as those requiring compliance with emission and discharge standards for existing and new facilities or new developments regarding environmental remediation at sites related to our former operations)

 

Government laws and regulations and possible changes therein (such as changes in government regulations which might impose various obligations on former manufacturers of lead pigment and lead-based paint, including us, with respect to asserted health concerns associated with the use of such products), including new environmental health and safety regulations such as those seeking to limit or classify TiO2 or its use

 

The ultimate resolution of pending litigation (such as our lead pigment and environmental matters)

 

Possible future litigation.  

Should one or more of these risks materialize or if the consequences of such a development worsen, or should the underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results could differ materially from those currently forecasted or expected.  We disclaim any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement whether as a result of changes in information, future events or otherwise.  

- 3 -


 

Operations and equity investment

Information regarding our operations and the companies conducting such operations is set forth below.  Geographic financial information is included in Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements, which is incorporated herein by reference.  

 

 Component Products

CompX International Inc.  - 86% owned at December 31, 2020

CompX manufactures engineered components that are sold to a variety of industries including recreational transportation (including boats), postal, office and institutional furniture, cabinetry, tool storage, healthcare, gas stations and vending equipment.  CompX has three production facilities in the United States.

 

 Chemicals

Kronos Worldwide, Inc.  - 30% owned at December 31, 2020

Kronos is a leading global producer and marketer of value-added titanium dioxide pigments, or TiO2, a base industrial product used in imparting whiteness, brightness, opacity and durability to a diverse range of customer applications and end-use markets, including coatings, plastics, paper, inks, food,  cosmetics and other industrial and consumer “quality-of-life” products.  Kronos has production facilities in Europe and North America.  Sales of TiO2 represented about 93% of Kronos’ net sales in 2020, with sales of other products that are complementary to Kronos’ TiO2 business comprising the remainder.

COMPONENT PRODUCTS - COMPX INTERNATIONAL INC.  

Industry overview - Through our majority-owned subsidiary, CompX, we manufacture engineered components utilized in a variety of applications and industries. CompX manufactures mechanical and electrical cabinet locks and other locking mechanisms used in recreational transportation, postal, office and institutional furniture, cabinetry, tool storage and healthcare applications. CompX also manufactures stainless steel exhaust systems, gauges, throttle controls, wake enhancement systems, trim tabs and related hardware and accessories for the recreational marine and other industries. CompX continuously seeks to diversify into new markets and identify new applications and features for its products, which it believes provide a greater potential for higher rates of earnings growth as well as diversification of risk.  

Manufacturing, operations and products - CompX’s Security Products business manufactures mechanical and electrical cabinet locks and other locking mechanisms used in a variety of applications including ignition systems, mailboxes, file cabinets, desk drawers, tool storage cabinets, high security medical cabinetry, integrated inventory and access control secured narcotics boxes, electronic circuit panels, storage compartments, gas station security, vending and cash containment machines.  CompX’s Security Products segment has one manufacturing facility in Mauldin, South Carolina and one in Grayslake, Illinois which is shared with Marine Components.  CompX believes it is a North American market leader in the manufacture and sale of cabinet locks and other locking mechanisms.  These products include:

 

disc tumbler locks which provide moderate security and generally represent the lowest cost lock to produce;

 

pin tumbler locking mechanisms which are more costly to produce and are used in applications requiring higher levels of security, including KeSet® and System 64® (which each allow the user to change the keying on a single lock 64 times without removing the lock from its enclosure), TuBar® and Turbine; and

 

CompX innovative CompX eLock® and StealthLock® electronic locks which provide stand-alone or networked security and audit trail capability for drug storage and other valuables through the use of a proximity card, magnetic stripe, radio frequency or other keypad credential.

A substantial portion of CompX’s Security Products’ sales consist of products with specialized adaptations to an individual customer’s specifications, some of which are listed above.  CompX also has a standardized product line suitable for many customers, which is offered through a North American distribution network to locksmith and smaller original equipment manufacturer distributors via its STOCK LOCKS® distribution program.   

- 4 -


 

CompX’s Marine Components business manufactures and distributes stainless steel exhaust components, gauges, throttle controls, wake enhancement systems, trim tabs and related hardware and accessories primarily for performance and ski/wakeboard boats.  CompX’s Marine Components business has a facility in Neenah, Wisconsin and a facility in Grayslake, Illinois which is shared with Security Products.  CompX’s specialty Marine Component products are high precision components designed to operate within tight tolerances in the highly demanding marine environment.  These products include:

 

original equipment and aftermarket stainless steel exhaust headers, exhaust pipes, mufflers and other exhaust components;

 

high performance gauges such as GPS speedometers and tachometers;

 

mechanical and electronic controls and throttles;

 

wake enhancement devices, trim tabs, steering wheels, and billet aluminum accessories; and

 

dash panels, LED indicators, and wire harnesses; and

 

grab handles, pin cleats and other accessories.

The following table sets forth the location, size and business operations for each of CompX’s principal operating facilities at December 31, 2020:

 

Facility Name

 

Business

Operations

 

Location

 

Size
(square feet)

 

Owned Facilities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National (1)

 

SP

 

Mauldin, SC

 

 

198,000

 

Grayslake(1)

 

SP/MC

 

Grayslake, IL

 

 

133,000

 

Custom(1)

  

MC

  

Neenah, WI

  

 

95,000

  

SP – Security Products business

MC – Marine Components business

 

(1) 

ISO-9001 registered facilities

CompX believes all of its facilities are well maintained and satisfactory for their intended purposes.

Raw materials - The primary raw materials used in CompX’s manufacturing processes are:

 

Security Products - zinc and brass (for the manufacture of locking mechanisms).

 

Marine Components - stainless steel (for the manufacture of exhaust headers and pipes and wake enhancement systems), aluminum (for the manufacture of throttles and trim tabs) and other components.

These raw materials are purchased from several suppliers, are readily available from numerous sources and accounted for approximately 12% of our total cost of sales for 2020.  Total material costs, including purchased components, represented approximately 43% of our cost of sales in 2020.

CompX occasionally enters into short-term commodity-related raw material supply arrangements to mitigate the impact of future price increases in commodity-related raw materials, including zinc, brass and stainless steel.  These arrangements generally provide for stated unit prices based upon specified purchase volumes, which help CompX to stabilize its commodity-related raw material costs to a certain extent. At other times CompX may make spot market buys of larger quantities of raw materials to take advantage of favorable pricing or volume-based discounts. Markets for the primary commodity-related raw materials used in the manufacture of CompX’s locking mechanisms, primarily zinc and brass, remained relatively stable through 2019 and 2020. Similarly, over the same periods, the market for stainless steel, the primary raw material used for the manufacture of marine exhaust headers and pipes and wake enhancement systems, remained relatively stable. While CompX expects the markets for its primary commodity-related raw materials to remain stable during 2021, it recognizes that economic conditions could

- 5 -


 

introduce renewed volatility on these and other manufacturing materials. When purchased on the spot market, each of these raw materials may be subject to sudden and unanticipated price increases.  When possible, CompX seeks to mitigate the impact of fluctuations in these raw material costs on its margins through improvements in production efficiencies or other operating cost reductions.  In the event CompX is unable to offset raw material cost increases with other cost reductions, it may be difficult to recover those cost increases through increased product selling prices or raw material surcharges due to the competitive nature of the markets served by its products.  Consequently, overall operating margins can be affected by commodity-related raw material cost pressures.  Commodity market prices are cyclical, reflecting overall economic trends, specific developments in consuming industries and speculative investor activities.

Patents and trademarks - CompX holds a number of patents relating to component products, certain of which it believes to be important to CompX and its continuing business activity.  Patents generally have a term of 20 years and CompX’s patents have remaining terms ranging from one year to 19 years at December 31, 2020.  

CompX’s major trademarks and brand names in addition to CompX® include:

 

Security Products

 

Security Products

 

Marine Components

CompX® Security Products™

National Cabinet Lock®

Fort Lock®

Timberline® Lock

Chicago Lock®

STOCK LOCKS®

KeSet®

TuBar®

StealthLock®

ACE®

ACE® II

CompX eLock®

 

Lockview®

System 64®

SlamCAM®

RegulatoR®

CompXpress®

GEM®

Turbine™

NARC iD®

NARC®

ecoForce®

 

 

CompX Marine®

Custom Marine®

Livorsi® Marine

Livorsi II® Marine

CMI Industrial®

Custom Marine® Stainless Exhaust

The #1 Choice in Performance Boating®

Mega Rim®

Race Rim®

Vantage View®

GEN-X®

Sales, marketing and distribution - A majority of CompX’s component sales are direct to large OEM customers through its factory-based sales and marketing professionals supported by engineers working in concert with field salespeople and independent manufacturer’s representatives. CompX selects manufacturer’s representatives based on special skills in certain markets or relationships with current or potential customers.

In addition to sales to large OEM customers, a substantial portion of CompX’s Security Products sales are made through distributors. CompX has a significant North American market share of cabinet lock security product sales as a result of the locksmith distribution channel. CompX supports its locksmith distributor sales with a line of standardized products used by the largest segments of the marketplace. These products are packaged and merchandised for easy availability and handling by distributors and end users.

CompX sells to a diverse customer base with only one customer representing 10% or more of its sales in 2020 (United States Postal Service representing 17%). CompX’s largest ten customers accounted for approximately 48% of its sales in 2020.

Competition - The markets in which CompX participates are highly competitive.  CompX competes primarily on the basis of product design, including space utilization and aesthetic factors, product quality and durability, price, on-time delivery, service and technical support. CompX focuses its efforts on the middle and high-end segments of the market, where product design, quality, durability and service are valued by the customer. CompX’s Security Products business competes against a number of domestic and foreign manufacturers. CompX’s Marine Components business competes with small domestic manufacturers and is minimally affected by foreign competitors.

Regulatory and environmental matters - CompX’s operations are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to the use, storage, handling, generation, transportation, treatment, emission, discharge, disposal, remediation of and exposure to hazardous and non-hazardous substances, materials and wastes.  CompX’s

- 6 -


 

operations also are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to worker health and safety.  CompX believes it is in substantial compliance with all such laws and regulations.  To date, the costs of maintaining compliance with such laws and regulations have not significantly impacted its results.  CompX currently does not anticipate any significant costs or expenses relating to such matters; however, it is possible future laws and regulations may require CompX to incur significant additional expenditures.

CHEMICALS - KRONOS WORLDWIDE, INC.  

Business overview - Kronos is a leading global producer and marketer of value-added titanium dioxide pigments, or TiO2, a base industrial product used in a wide range of applications.  Kronos, along with its distributors and agents, sells and provides technical services for its products to approximately 4,000 customers in 100 countries with the majority of sales in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region.  Kronos believes it has developed considerable expertise and efficiency in the manufacture, sale, shipment and service of its products in domestic and international markets.  

TiO2 is a white inorganic pigment used in a wide range of products for its exceptional durability and its ability to impart whiteness, brightness and opacity.  TiO2 is a critical component of everyday applications, such as coatings, plastics and paper, as well as many specialty products such as inks, food and cosmetics.  TiO2 is widely considered to be superior to alternative white pigments in large part due to its hiding power (or opacity), which is the ability to cover or mask other materials effectively and efficiently.  TiO2 is designed, marketed and sold based on specific end-use applications.

TiO2 is the largest commercially used whitening pigment because it has a high refractive rating, giving it more hiding power than any other commercially produced white pigment.  In addition, TiO2 has excellent resistance to interaction with other chemicals, good thermal stability and resistance to ultraviolet degradation.  Although there are other white pigments on the market, we believe there are no effective substitutes for TiO2 because no other white pigment has the physical properties for achieving comparable opacity and brightness or can be incorporated in as cost-effective a manner.  Pigment extenders such as kaolin clays, calcium carbonate and polymeric opacifiers are used together with TiO2 in a number of end-use markets.  However, these products are not able to duplicate the opacity performance characteristics of TiO2 and we believe these products are unlikely to have a significant impact on the use of TiO2.

TiO2 is considered a “quality-of-life” product.  Demand for TiO2 has generally been driven by worldwide gross domestic product and has generally increased with rising standards of living in various regions of the world.  According to industry estimates, TiO2 consumption has grown at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 2% since 2000.  Per capita consumption of TiO2 in Western Europe and North America far exceeds that in other areas of the world, and these regions are expected to continue to be the largest consumers of TiO2 on a per capita basis for the foreseeable future.  We believe that Western Europe and North America currently each account for approximately 17% of global TiO2 consumption.  Markets for TiO2 are generally increasing in South America, Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific region and China and we believe these are significant markets which will continue to grow as economies in these regions continue to develop and quality-of-life products, including TiO2, experience greater demand.

Products and end-use markets - Kronos, including its predecessors, has produced and marketed TiO2 in North America and Europe, its primary markets, for over 100 years.  Kronos believes it is the largest producer of TiO2 in Europe with 46% of its 2020 sales volumes attributable to markets in Europe.  The table below shows Kronos’ estimated market share for its significant markets, Europe and North America, for the last three years.

 

 

 

2018

 

2019

 

2020

Europe

 

 

13

%

 

 

18

%

 

 

17

%

North America

 

 

17

%

 

 

19

%

 

 

18

%

 

Kronos believes it is the leading seller of TiO2 in several countries, including Germany, with an estimated 9% share of worldwide TiO2 sales volume in 2020.  Overall, Kronos is one of the top five producers of TiO2 in the world.

- 7 -


 

Kronos offers its customers a broad portfolio of products that include over 40 different TiO2 pigment grades under the KRONOS® trademark, which provide a variety of performance properties to meet customers’ specific requirements.  Kronos’ major customers include domestic and international paint, plastics, decorative laminate and paper manufacturers.  Kronos ships TiO2 to its customers in either a powder or slurry form via rail, truck and/or ocean carrier.  Sales of Kronos’ core TiO2 pigments represented approximately 93% of its net sales in 2020.  Kronos and its agents and distributors primarily sell products in three major end-use markets: coatings, plastics and paper.

The following tables show Kronos’ approximate TiO2 sales volume by geographic region and end-use for the year ended December 31, 2020:

 

Sales volume percentages

by geographic region

 

Sales volume percentages

by end-use

Europe

 

46

%

 

Coatings

 

58

%

North America

 

36

%

 

Plastics

 

30

%

Asia Pacific

 

11

%

 

Paper

 

6

%

Rest of World

 

7

%

 

Other

 

6

%

 

Some of the principal applications for Kronos’ products include the following:

TiO2 for coatings Kronos’ TiO2 is used to provide opacity, durability, tinting strength and brightness in industrial coatings, as well as coatings for commercial and residential interiors and exteriors, automobiles, aircraft, machines, appliances, traffic paint and other special purpose coatings.  The amount of TiO2 used in coatings varies widely depending on the opacity, color and quality desired.  In general, the higher the opacity requirement of the coating, the greater the TiO2 content.

TiO2 for plastics Kronos produces TiO2 pigments that improve the optical and physical properties of plastics, including whiteness and opacity.  TiO2 is used to provide opacity to items such as containers and packaging materials, and vinyl products such as windows, door profiles and siding.  TiO2 also generally provides hiding power, neutral undertone, brightness and surface durability for housewares, appliances, toys, computer cases and food packages.  TiO2’s high brightness along with its opacity, is used in some engineering plastics to help mask their undesirable natural color.  TiO2 is also used in masterbatch, which is a concentrate of TiO2 and other additives and is one of the largest uses for TiO2 in the plastics end-use market.  In masterbatch, the TiO2 is dispersed at high concentrations into a plastic resin and is then used by manufacturers of plastic containers, bottles, packaging and agricultural films.

TiO2 for paper Kronos’ TiO2 is used in the production of several types of paper, including laminate (decorative) paper, filled paper and coated paper to provide whiteness, brightness, opacity and color stability.  Although Kronos sells its TiO2 to all segments of the paper end-use market, its primary focus is on the TiO2 grades used in paper laminates, where several layers of paper are laminated together using melamine resin under high temperature and pressure.  The top layer of paper contains TiO2 and plastic resin and is the layer that is printed with decorative patterns.  Paper laminates are used to replace materials such as wood and tile for such applications as counter tops, furniture and wallboard.  TiO2 is beneficial in these applications because it assists in preventing the material from fading or changing color after prolonged exposure to sunlight and other weathering agents.

TiO2 for other applications Kronos produces TiO2 to improve the opacity and hiding power of printing inks.  TiO2 allows inks to achieve very high print quality while not interfering with the technical requirements of printing machinery, including low abrasion, high printing speed and high temperatures.  Kronos’ TiO2 is also used in textile applications where TiO2 functions as an opacifying and delustering agent.  In man-made fibers such as rayon and polyester, TiO2 corrects an otherwise undesirable glossy and translucent appearance.  Without the presence of TiO2, these materials would be unsuitable for use in many textile applications.

Kronos produces high-purity sulfate process anatase TiO2 used to provide opacity, whiteness and brightness in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products, such as skin cream, lipstick, eye shadow and toothpaste.  Kronos’ TiO2 is also found in food products, such as candy and confectionaries, and in pet foods where it is used to obtain uniformity of color and appearance.  In pharmaceuticals, Kronos’ TiO2 is used commonly as a colorant in

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tablet and capsule coatings as well as in liquid medicines to provide uniformity of color and appearance.  KRONOS® purified anatase grades meet the applicable requirements of the CTFA (Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrances Association), USP and BP (United States Pharmacopoeia and British Pharmacopoeia) and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration).

Kronos’ TiO2 business is enhanced by the following three complementary businesses, which comprised approximately 7% of its net sales in 2020:

 

Kronos owns and operates two ilmenite mines in Norway pursuant to a governmental concession with an unlimited term.  Ilmenite is a raw material used directly as a feedstock by some sulfate-process TiO2 plants.  Kronos supplies ilmenite to its sulfate plants in Europe.  Kronos also sells ilmenite ore to third parties, some of whom are its competitors, and it sells an ilmenite-based specialty product to the oil and gas industry.  The mines have estimated ilmenite reserves that are expected to last at least 50 years.

 

Kronos manufactures and sells iron-based chemicals, which are co-products and processed co-products of sulfate and chloride process TiO2 pigment production.  These co-product chemicals are marketed through its Ecochem division and are primarily used as treatment and conditioning agents for industrial effluents and municipal wastewater as well as in the manufacture of iron pigments, cement and agricultural products.

 

Kronos manufactures and sells titanium oxychloride and titanyl sulfate, which are side-stream specialty products from the production of TiO2.  Titanium oxychloride is used in specialty applications in the formulation of pearlescent pigments, production of electroceramic capacitors for cell phones and other electronic devices.  Titanyl sulfate products are used in pearlescent pigments, natural gas pipe and other specialty applications.

Manufacturing, operations and properties - Kronos produces TiO2 in two crystalline forms: rutile and anatase.  Rutile TiO2 is manufactured using both a chloride production process and a sulfate production process, whereas anatase TiO2 is only produced using a sulfate production process.  Manufacturers of many end-use applications can use either form, especially during periods of tight supply for TiO2.  The chloride process is the preferred form for use in coatings and plastics, the two largest end-use markets.  Due to environmental factors and customer considerations, the proportion of TiO2 industry sales represented by chloride process pigments has remained stable relative to sulfate process pigments, and in 2020, chloride process production facilities represented approximately 45% of industry capacity.  The sulfate process is preferred for use in selected paper products, ceramics, rubber tires, man-made fibers, food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.  Once an intermediate TiO2 pigment has been produced by either the chloride or sulfate process, it is “finished” into products with specific performance characteristics for particular end-use applications through proprietary processes involving various chemical surface treatments and intensive micronizing (milling).

 

Chloride process The chloride process is a continuous process in which chlorine is used to extract rutile TiO2.  The chloride process produces less waste than the sulfate process because much of the chlorine is recycled and feedstock bearing higher titanium content is used.  The chloride process also has lower energy requirements and is less labor-intensive than the sulfate process, although the chloride process requires a higher-skilled labor force.  The chloride process produces an intermediate base pigment with a wide range of properties.

 

Sulfate process The sulfate process is a batch process in which sulfuric acid is used to extract the TiO2 from ilmenite or titanium slag.  After separation from the impurities in the ore (mainly iron), the TiO2 is precipitated and calcined to form an intermediate base pigment ready for sale or can be upgraded through finishing treatments.

Kronos produced 536,000 metric tons of TiO2 in 2018, 546,000 metric tons of TiO2 in 2019 and 517,000 metric tons of TiO2 in 2020.  Kronos’ production volumes include its share of the output produced by its TiO2 manufacturing joint venture discussed below in “TiO2 manufacturing joint venture.”  Kronos’ average production capacity utilization rates were 95% in 2018, 98% in 2019 and 92% in 2020.  Kronos’ production rates in 2018 were impacted by maintenance activities at certain facilities and by the first quarter implementation of a productivity-enhancing improvement project at its Belgium facility. Kronos’ production rates in 2020 were impacted by the

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COVID-19 pandemic as Kronos decreased production levels early in the third quarter to correspond with a temporary decline in market demand.

Kronos operates facilities throughout North America and Europe, including the only sulfate process plant in North America and four TiO2 plants in Europe (one in each of Leverkusen, Germany; Nordenham, Germany; Langerbrugge, Belgium; and Fredrikstad, Norway).  In North America, Kronos has a TiO2 plant in Varennes, Quebec, Canada and, through the manufacturing joint venture described below in “TiO2 manufacturing joint venture,” a 50% interest in a TiO2 plant near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Kronos’ production capacity has increased by approximately 5% over the past ten years due to debottlenecking programs, incurring only moderate capital expenditures.  Kronos expects to operate its TiO2 plants at near full practical capacity levels in 2021.  

The following table presents the division of Kronos’ expected 2021 manufacturing capacity by plant location and type of manufacturing process:

 

 

 

 

 

% of capacity by TiO2
manufacturing process

Facility

 

Description

 

Chloride

 

Sulfate

Leverkusen, Germany (1)

 

TiO2 production, chloride process, co-products

 

 

31

%

 

 

-

%

Nordenham, Germany

 

TiO2 production, sulfate process, co-products

 

 

-

 

 

 

11

 

Langerbrugge, Belgium

 

TiO2 production, chloride process, co-products, titanium chemicals products

 

 

17

 

 

 

-

 

Fredrikstad, Norway (2)

 

TiO2 production, sulfate process, co-products

 

 

-

 

 

 

7

 

Varennes, Canada

 

TiO2 production, chloride and sulfate process, slurry facility, titanium chemicals products

 

 

17

 

 

 

3

 

Lake Charles, LA, US (3)

 

TiO2 production, chloride process

 

 

14

 

 

 

-

 

Total

 

 

 

 

79

%

 

 

21

%

 

(1)

The Leverkusen facility is located within an extensive manufacturing complex owned by Bayer AG.  Kronos owns the Leverkusen facility, which represents about one-third of Kronos’ current TiO2 production capacity, but Kronos leases the land under the facility from Bayer under a long-term agreement which expires in 2050.  Lease payments are periodically negotiated with Bayer for periods of at least two years at a time.  A majority-owned subsidiary of Bayer provides some raw materials including chlorine, auxiliary and operating materials, utilities and services necessary to operate the Leverkusen facility under separate supplies and services agreements. In conjunction with Kronos’ long-term strategy to increase chloride process production, Kronos phased-out sulfate production at the Leverkusen facility during 2020.

(2)

The Fredrikstad facility is located on public land and is leased until 2063.

(3)

Kronos operates the facility near Lake Charles through a joint venture with Venator Investments LLC (Venator Investments), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Venator Group, of which Venator Materials PLC (Venator) owns 100% and the amount indicated in the table above represents the share of TiO2 produced by the joint venture to which it is entitled.  The joint venture owns the land and facility.

Kronos owns the land underlying all of its principal production facilities unless otherwise indicated in the table above.

Kronos also operates two ilmenite mines in Norway pursuant to a governmental concession with an unlimited term.  In addition, Kronos operates a rutile slurry manufacturing plant near Lake Charles, Louisiana, which converts dry pigment primarily manufactured for Kronos at the Lake Charles TiO2 facility into a slurry form that is then shipped to customers.

Kronos has corporate and administrative offices located in the U.S., Germany, Norway, Canada, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom and various sales offices located in North America.

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TiO2 manufacturing joint venture - Kronos Louisiana, Inc., one of Kronos’ subsidiaries, and Venator Investments each own a 50% interest in a manufacturing joint venture, Louisiana Pigment Company, L.P. (LPC).  LPC owns and operates a chloride-process TiO2 plant located near Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Kronos and Venator share production from the plant equally pursuant to separate offtake agreements, unless Kronos and Venator otherwise agree.

A supervisory committee directs the business and affairs of the joint venture, including production and output decisions.  This committee is composed of four members, two of whom Kronos appoints and two of whom Venator appoints.  Two general managers manage the operations of the joint venture acting under the direction of the supervisory committee.  Kronos appoints one general manager and Venator appoints the other.

Kronos does not consolidate LPC because Kronos does not control it.  Kronos accounts for its interest in the joint venture by the equity method.  The joint venture operates on a break-even basis and therefore Kronos does not have any equity in earnings of the joint venture.  Kronos is required to purchase one half of the TiO2 produced by the joint venture.  All costs and capital expenditures are shared equally with Venator with the exception of feedstock (purchased natural rutile ore or chlorine slag) and packaging costs for the pigment grades produced.  Kronos’ share of net costs is reported as cost of sales as the TiO2 is sold.  

Raw materials - The primary raw materials used in chloride process TiO2 are titanium-containing feedstock (purchased natural rutile ore or chlorine slag), chlorine and petroleum coke.  Chlorine is available from a number of suppliers, while petroleum coke is available from a limited number of suppliers.  Titanium-containing feedstock suitable for use in the chloride process is available from a limited but increasing number of suppliers principally in Australia, South Africa, Canada, India and the United States.  Kronos purchases chloride process grade slag from Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Limited under a long-term supply contract which automatically renewed at the end of 2020 and extends through December 31, 2023.  The contract automatically renews bi-annually but can be terminated if written notice is given at least twelve months prior to the current contract end date.  Kronos also purchases upgraded slag from Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Limited under a long-term supply contract that automatically renewed at the end of 2020 and extends through December 31, 2022.  The contract automatically renews annually but can be terminated if written notice is given at least twelve months prior to the contract end date.  Kronos purchases rutile ore primarily from Sierra Rutile Limited under a contract that expires in 2022 and Base Titanium Limited under a contract that expires at the end of 2022.  In the past Kronos has been, and it expects that it will continue to be, successful in obtaining short-term and long-term extensions to these and other existing supply contracts prior to their expiration.  Kronos expects the raw materials purchased under these contracts, and contracts that it may enter into, will meet its chloride process feedstock requirements over the next several years.

The primary raw materials used in sulfate process TiO2 are titanium-containing feedstock, primarily ilmenite or purchased sulfate grade slag, and sulfuric acid.  Sulfuric acid is available from a number of suppliers.  Titanium-containing feedstock suitable for use in the sulfate process is available from a limited number of suppliers principally in Norway, Canada, Australia, India and South Africa.  As one of the few vertically-integrated producers of sulfate process TiO2, Kronos operates two rock ilmenite mines in Norway, which provided all of the feedstock for its European sulfate process TiO2 plants in 2020.  Kronos expects ilmenite production from its mines to meet its European sulfate process feedstock requirements for the foreseeable future.  For Kronos’ Canadian sulfate process plant, it purchases sulfate grade slag primarily from Rio Tinto Fer et Titane Inc. under a supply contract that renews annually, subject to termination upon twelve months written notice.  Kronos expects the raw materials purchased under this contract, and contracts that it may enter into, to meet its sulfate process feedstock requirements over the next several years.

Many of Kronos’ raw material contracts contain fixed quantities it is required to purchase or specify a range of quantities within which it is required to purchase.  The pricing under these agreements is generally negotiated quarterly or semi-annually.

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The following table summarizes Kronos’ raw materials purchased or mined in 2020.

 

Production process/raw material

 

Raw materials 

procured or mined

 

 

(In thousands

of metric tons)

Chloride process plants -

 

 

 

 

Purchased slag or rutile ore

 

 

478

  

Sulfate process plants:

 

 

 

 

Ilmenite ore mined and used internally

 

 

294

  

Purchased slag

 

 

23

  

Sales and marketing - Kronos’ marketing strategy is aimed at developing and maintaining strong relationships with new and existing customers.  Because TiO2 represents a significant input cost for its customers, the purchasing decisions are often made by its customers’ senior management.  Kronos works to maintain close relationships with the key decision makers through in-depth and frequent contact.  Kronos endeavors to extend these commercial and technical relationships to multiple levels within its customers’ organizations using its direct sales force and technical service group to accomplish this objective.  Kronos believes this has helped build customer loyalty to Kronos and strengthened its competitive position.  Close cooperation and strong customer relationships enable Kronos to stay closely attuned to trends in its customers’ businesses.  Where appropriate, Kronos works in conjunction with its customers to solve formulation or application problems by modifying specific product properties or developing new pigment grades.  Kronos also focuses its sales and marketing efforts on those geographic and end-use market segments where it believes it can realize higher selling prices.  This focus includes continuously reviewing and optimizing its customer and product portfolios.

Kronos also works directly with its customers to monitor the success of its products in their end-use applications, evaluate the need for improvements in its product and process technology and identify opportunities to develop new product solutions for its customers.  Kronos’ marketing staff closely coordinates with its sales force and technical specialists to ensure the needs of its customers are met, and to help develop and commercialize new grades where appropriate.

Kronos sells a majority of its products through its direct sales force operating in Europe and North America.  Kronos also utilizes sales agents and distributors who are authorized to sell its products in specific geographic areas.  In Europe, Kronos’ sales efforts are conducted primarily through its direct sales force and its sales agents.  Kronos’ agents do not sell any TiO2 products other than KRONOS® brand products.  In North America, Kronos’ sales are made primarily through its direct sales force and supported by a network of distributors.  In export markets, where Kronos has increased its marketing efforts over the last several years, Kronos’ sales are made through its direct sales force, sales agents and distributors.  In addition to Kronos’ direct sales force and sales agents, many of its sales agents also act as distributors to service its customers in all regions.  Kronos offers customer and technical service to customers who purchase its products through distributors as well as to its larger customers serviced by its direct sales force.

Kronos sells to a diverse customer base with only one customer representing 10% or more of its net sales in 2020 (Behr Process Corporation – 10%).  Kronos’ largest ten customers accounted for approximately 34% of net sales in 2020.

Neither Kronos’ business as a whole nor any of its principal product groups is seasonal to any significant extent.  However, TiO2 sales are generally higher in the second and third quarters of the year, due in part to the increase in coatings production in the spring to meet demand during the spring and summer painting seasons.  With certain exceptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Kronos has historically operated its production facilities at near full capacity rates throughout the entire year, which among other things helps to minimize its per-unit production costs.  As a result, Kronos normally will build inventories during the first and fourth quarters of each year in order to maximize its product availability during the higher demand periods normally experienced in the second and third quarters.

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Competition - The TiO2 industry is highly competitive.  Kronos competes primarily on the basis of price, product quality, technical service and the availability of high performance pigment grades.  Since TiO2 is not traded through a commodity market, its pricing is largely a product of negotiation between suppliers and their respective customers.  Price and availability are the most significant competitive factors along with quality and customer service for the majority of its product grades.  Increasingly, Kronos is focused on providing pigments that are differentiated to meet specific customer requests and specialty grades that are differentiated from its competitors’ products.  During 2020, Kronos had an estimated 9% share of worldwide TiO2 sales volume, and based on sales volume Kronos believes it is the leading seller of TiO2 in several countries, including Germany.

Kronos’ principal competitors are The Chemours Company, Tronox Incorporated, Lomon Billions and Venator Materials PLC.  The top five TiO2 producers (i.e. Kronos and its four principal competitors) account for approximately 52% of the world’s production capacity.  

The following chart shows Kronos’ estimate of worldwide production capacity in 2020:

 

Worldwide production capacity – 2020

Chemours

 

15

%

Tronox

 

13

%

Lomon Billions

 

9

%

Venator

 

8

%

Kronos

 

7

%

Other

 

48

%

Chemours has approximately one-half of total North American TiO2 production capacity and is Kronos’ principal North American competitor.  In the second quarter of 2019, Tronox acquired certain of the TiO2 assets of Cristal Global. Lomon Billions added approximately 200,000 tons of chloride capacity in 2019 and 2020 and has announced plans to add an additional 200,000 tons by 2023.  

Over the past ten years, Kronos and its competitors increased industry capacity through debottlenecking projects, which in part compensated for the shut-down of various TiO2 plants throughout the world.  Although overall industry demand is expected to increase in 2021, Kronos does not expect any significant efforts will be undertaken by Kronos or its principal competitors to further increase capacity for the foreseeable future, other than through debottlenecking projects and the Lomon Billions expansion mentioned above.  If actual developments differ from Kronos’ expectations, the TiO2 industry’s and Kronos’ performance could be unfavorably affected.

The TiO2 industry is characterized by high barriers to entry consisting of high capital costs, proprietary technology and significant lead times required to construct new facilities or to expand existing capacity.  Kronos believes it is unlikely any new TiO2 plants will be constructed in Europe or North America in the foreseeable future.

Research and development - Kronos employs scientists, chemists, process engineers and technicians who are engaged in research and development, process technology and quality assurance activities in Leverkusen, Germany.  These individuals have the responsibility for improving Kronos’ chloride and sulfate production processes, improving product quality and strengthening Kronos’ competitive position by developing new products and applications.  Kronos’ expenditures for these activities were approximately $16 million in 2018, $17 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020.  Kronos expects to spend approximately $17 million on research and development in 2021.

Kronos continually seeks to improve the quality of its grades and has been successful in developing new grades for existing and new applications to meet the needs of its customers and increase product life cycles.  Since the beginning of 2016, Kronos has added ten new grades for pigments and other applications.

Patents, trademarks, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights - Kronos has a comprehensive intellectual property protection strategy that includes obtaining, maintaining and enforcing its patents, primarily in the United States, Canada and Europe.  Kronos also protects its trademark and trade secret rights and has entered

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into license agreements with third parties concerning various intellectual property matters.  Kronos has also from time to time been involved in disputes over intellectual property.

Patents Kronos has obtained patents and has numerous patent applications pending that cover its products and the technology used in the manufacture of its products.  Kronos’ patent strategy is important to it and its continuing business activities.  In addition to maintaining its patent portfolio, Kronos seeks patent protection for its technical developments, principally in the United States, Canada and Europe.  U.S. patents are generally in effect for 20 years from the date of filing.  Kronos’ U.S. patent portfolio includes patents having remaining terms ranging from three years to 20 years.

Trademarks and trade secrets Kronos trademarks, including KRONOS®, are covered by issued and/or pending registrations, including in Canada and the United States.  Kronos protects the trademarks that it uses in connection with the products it manufactures and sells and has developed goodwill in connection with its long-term use of its trademarks.  Kronos conducts research activities in secret and it protects the confidentiality of its trade secrets through reasonable measures, including confidentiality agreements and security procedures, including data security.  Kronos relies upon unpatented proprietary knowledge and continuing technological innovation and other trade secrets to develop and maintain its competitive position.  Kronos’ proprietary chloride production process is an important part of its technology and Kronos’ business could be harmed if it fails to maintain confidentiality of its trade secrets used in this technology.

 

Regulatory and environmental matters - Kronos’ operations and properties are governed by various environmental laws and regulations which are complex, change frequently and have tended to become stricter over time.  These environmental laws govern, among other things, the generation, storage, handling, use and transportation of hazardous materials; the emission and discharge of hazardous materials into the ground, air or water; and the health and safety of its employees.  Certain of Kronos’ operations are, or have been, engaged in the generation, storage, handling, manufacture or use of substances or compounds that may be considered toxic or hazardous within the meaning of applicable environmental laws and regulations.  As with other companies engaged in similar businesses, certain of Kronos’ past and current operations and products have the potential to cause environmental or other damage.  Kronos has implemented and continues to implement various policies and programs in an effort to minimize these risks.  Kronos’ policy is to comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations at all its facilities and to strive to improve its environmental performance and overall sustainability.  Kronos updates its Kronos Sustainability Report biennially (available on Kronos’ website at www.kronostio2.com), which highlights Kronos’ focus on sustainability of its manufacturing operations, as well as Kronos’ environmental, social and governance strategy. It is possible that future developments, such as stricter requirements in environmental laws and enforcement policies, could adversely affect its operations, including production, handling, use, storage, transportation, sale or disposal of hazardous or toxic substances or require Kronos to make capital and other expenditures to comply, and could adversely affect its consolidated financial position and results of operations or liquidity.

Kronos’ U.S. manufacturing operations are governed by federal, state and local environmental and worker health and safety laws and regulations.  These include the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, as amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, or CERCLA, as well as the state counterparts of these statutes.  Some of these laws hold current or previous owners or operators of real property liable for the costs of cleaning up contamination, even if these owners or operators did not know of, and were not responsible for, such contamination.  These laws also assess liability on any person who arranges for the disposal or treatment of hazardous substances, regardless of whether the affected site is owned or operated by such person.  Although Kronos has not incurred and does not currently anticipate any material liabilities in connection with such environmental laws, Kronos may be required to make expenditures for environmental remediation in the future.

While the laws regulating operations of industrial facilities in Europe vary from country to country, a common regulatory framework is provided by the European Union, or the EU.  Germany and Belgium are members of the EU and follow its initiatives.  Norway is not a member but generally patterns its environmental regulatory actions after those of the EU.

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At Kronos’ sulfate plant facility in Germany, it recycles spent sulfuric acid either through contracts with third parties or at its own facility.  In addition, at Kronos’ German sulfate-process location it has a contract with a third-party to treat certain sulfate-process effluents.  At Kronos’ Norwegian plant, Kronos ships spent acid to a third-party location where it is used as a neutralization agent.  These contracts may be terminated by either party after giving three or four years advance notice, depending on the contract.

From time to time, Kronos’ facilities may be subject to environmental regulatory enforcement under U.S. and non-U.S. statutes.  Typically Kronos establishes compliance programs to resolve these matters.  Occasionally, Kronos may pay penalties.  To date, such penalties have not involved amounts having a material adverse effect on Kronos’ consolidated financial position, results of operations or liquidity.  Kronos believes that all of its facilities are in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws.

From time to time, new environmental, health and safety regulations are passed or proposed in the countries in which Kronos operates or sells its products, seeking to regulate its operations or to restrict, limit or classify TiO2.  Kronos believes that it is in substantial compliance with laws applicable to the regulation of TiO2.  However, increased regulatory scrutiny could affect consumer perception of TiO2 or limit the marketability and demand for TiO2 or products containing TiO2 and increase its regulatory and compliance costs.

On February 18, 2020 the European Union published a regulation classifying TiO2 powder and powder mixtures containing TiO2 as a suspected carcinogen via inhalation under its EU Regulation No. 1272/2008 on classification, labeling and packing of substances and mixtures.  The regulation will enter into force on October 1, 2021 at which time hazard labels will be required on certain TiO2 powder products and certain powder mixtures containing TiO2 in the EU.  This classification of TiO2 is based on scientifically questioned animal test data.  Separate studies of TiO2 workers conducted by the TiO2 industry have shown no TiO2 specific links to cancer.  Kronos intends to comply with the new requirements including working with customers and other stakeholders on compliance matters as appropriate.

Kronos’ capital expenditures related to ongoing environmental compliance, protection and improvement programs, including capital expenditures which are primarily focused on increasing operating efficiency but also result in improved environmental protection such as lower emissions from its manufacturing facilities, were $21.8 million in 2020 and are currently expected to be approximately $23 million in 2021.

Other

In addition to our 86% ownership of CompX and our 30% ownership of Kronos at December 31, 2020, we also own 100% of EWI RE, Inc., an inactive subsidiary that was formerly an insurance brokerage and risk management services company.  In the fourth quarter of 2019, we sold the insurance and risk management business of EWI for proceeds of $3.25 million and recognized a gain of $3.0 million.  We also hold certain marketable securities and other investments.  See Notes 13 and 16 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.  

Human capital resources

Employees We operate through our subsidiaries and through our intercorporate services agreement with Contran (see Note 16 to our Consolidated Financial Statements), we have no direct employees.  Our operating results depend in part on Kronos’ and CompX’s ability to successfully manage their human capital resources, including attracting, identifying, and retaining key talent. Kronos and CompX each have a well-trained labor force with a substantial number of long-tenured employees. Kronos and CompX provide competitive compensation and benefits to their employees, some of which for Kronos are offered under collective bargaining agreements. In addition to salaries, these programs, which vary by country/region, can include annual bonuses, a defined benefit pension plan (for Kronos), a defined contribution plan with employer matching opportunities, healthcare and insurance benefits, health savings and flexible spending accounts, paid time off, family leave, family care resources, employee assistance programs, and tuition assistance.

As of December 31, 2020, CompX employed 513 people, all in the United States.

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As of December 31, 2020, Kronos employed the following number of people:

Europe

 

1,839

 

Canada

 

350

 

United States (1)

 

53

 

Total

 

2,242

 

 

(1)

Excludes employees of Kronos’ LPC joint venture.

 

CompX believes its labor relations are good at all of its facilities.  Certain employees at each of Kronos’ production facilities are organized by labor unions.  Kronos strives to maintain good relationships with all its employees, including the unions and workers’ councils representing those employees. In Europe, Kronos’ union employees are covered by master collective bargaining agreements for the chemical industry that are generally renewed annually.  In Canada, Kronos’ union employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expires in June 2021.  At December 31, 2020, approximately 86% of Kronos’ worldwide workforce is organized under collective bargaining agreements.  Kronos did not experience any work stoppages during 2020, although it is possible that there could be future work stoppages or other labor disruptions that could materially and adversely affect its business, results of operations, financial position or liquidity.

 

Health and safety Kronos and CompX believe protecting the health and safety of their employees, customers, business partners and the natural environment are core values. Kronos and CompX are committed to conducting their businesses in ways that provide all personnel with a safe and healthy work environment and have established safety and environmental programs and goals to achieve such results. Kronos and CompX expect their manufacturing facilities to produce their products safely and in compliance with local permits and policies intended to protect the environment and have established global policies designed to promote such compliance.  Kronos and CompX require employees to comply with legal and regulatory requirements and their policies, standards and practices.

 

Diversity and inclusion – Kronos and CompX recognize that everyone deserves respect and equal treatment. Kronos and CompX embrace diversity and collaboration in their workforces and business initiatives. Kronos and CompX are equal opportunity employers and base employment decisions on merit, competence and qualifications, without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation or other characteristics protected by applicable law in the jurisdictions in which they operate. Kronos and CompX promote a respectful, diverse and inclusive workplace in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.

 

Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) - We seek to operate our businesses in line with sound ESG principles that include corporate governance, social responsibility, sustainability, and cybersecurity.  At our facilities, we undertake various environmental sustainability programs, and we promote social responsibility and volunteerism through programs designed to support and give back to the local communities in which we operate.  At a corporate level, we engage in periodic reviews of our cybersecurity programs, including cybersecurity risk and threats, and we have established stock ownership guidelines for our non-employee directors.  In addition, Kronos publishes a Sustainability Report on its website every two years to provide its customers, stockholders and other stakeholders with additional information on its approach to sustainability.

Regulatory and environmental matters - We discuss regulatory and environmental matters in the respective business sections contained elsewhere herein and in Item 3 - “Legal Proceedings.” In addition, the information included in Note 17 to our Consolidated Financial Statements under the captions “Lead pigment litigation” and “Environmental matters and litigation” is incorporated herein by reference.  

Insurance - We maintain insurance for our businesses and operations, with customary levels of coverage, deductibles and limits.  See also Item 3 – “Legal Proceedings – Insurance coverage claims” and Note 17 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.  

Business strategy - We routinely compare our liquidity requirements and alternative uses of capital against the estimated future cash flows we expect to receive from our subsidiaries and affiliates.  As a result of this process, we have in the past and may in the future seek to raise additional capital, incur debt, repurchase indebtedness in the

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market, modify our dividend policies, consider the sale of our interests in our subsidiaries, affiliates, business, marketable securities or other assets, or take a combination of these and other steps, to increase liquidity, reduce indebtedness and fund future activities.  Such activities have in the past and may in the future involve related companies.  From time to time, we also evaluate the restructuring of ownership interests among our respective subsidiaries and related companies.  

We and other entities that may be affiliated with Contran routinely evaluate acquisitions of interests in, or combinations with, companies, including related companies, perceived by management to be undervalued in the marketplace.  These companies may or may not be engaged in businesses related to our current businesses.  In some instances, we have actively managed the businesses acquired with a focus on maximizing return-on-investment through cost reductions, capital expenditures, improved operating efficiencies, selective marketing to address market niches, disposition of marginal operations, use of leverage and redeployment of capital to more productive assets.  In other instances, we have disposed of the acquired interest in a company prior to gaining control.  We intend to consider such activities in the future and may, in connection with such activities, consider issuing additional equity securities and increasing our indebtedness.  

Available information - Our fiscal year ends December 31.  We furnish our shareholders with annual reports containing audited financial statements.  In addition, we file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy and information statements and other information with the SEC.  Our consolidated subsidiary (CompX) and our significant equity method investee (Kronos) also file annual, quarterly, and current reports, proxy and information statements and other information with the SEC.  We also make our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments thereto available free of charge through our website at www.nl-ind.com as soon as reasonably practicable after they have been filed with the SEC.  We also provide to anyone, without charge, copies of such documents upon written request.  Such requests should be directed to the attention of the Corporate Secretary at our address on the cover page of this Form 10-K.  Additional information, including our Audit Committee charter, our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and our Corporate Governance Guidelines can be found on our website.  Information contained on our website is not part of this Annual Report.  

We are an electronic filer and the SEC maintains an internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov.  

ITEM 1A.

RISK FACTORS

Listed below are certain risk factors associated with us and our businesses. See also certain risk factors discussed in Item 7 – “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates.”  In addition to the potential effect of these risk factors, any risk factor which could result in reduced earnings or operating losses, or reduced liquidity, could in turn adversely affect our ability to service our liabilities or pay dividends on our common stock or adversely affect the quoted market prices for our securities.  

Operational Risk Factors

Demand for, and prices of, certain of Kronos’ products are influenced by changing market conditions for its products, which may result in reduced earnings or in operating losses.

Kronos’ sales and profitability are largely dependent on the TiO2 industry.  In 2020, 93% of Kronos’ sales were attributable to sales of TiO2.  TiO2 is used in many “quality of life” products for which demand historically has been linked to global, regional and local gross domestic product and discretionary spending, which can be negatively impacted by regional and world events or economic conditions.  Such events are likely to cause a decrease in demand for Kronos’ products and, as a result, may have an adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.  

Pricing within the global TiO2 industry over the long term is cyclical and changes in economic conditions worldwide can significantly impact Kronos’ earnings and operating cash flows.  Historically, the markets for many of Kronos’ products have experienced alternating periods of increasing and decreasing demand.  Relative changes in the selling prices for Kronos’ products are one of the main factors that affect the level of its profitability.  In periods

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of increasing demand, Kronos’ selling prices and profit margins generally will tend to increase, while in periods of decreasing demand Kronos’ selling prices and profit margins generally tend to decrease.  In addition, pricing may affect customer inventory levels as customers may from time to time accelerate purchases of TiO2 in advance of anticipated price increases or defer purchases of TiO2 in advance of anticipated price decreases.  Kronos’ ability to further increase capacity without additional investment in greenfield or brownfield capacity may be limited and as a result, Kronos’ profitability may become even more dependent upon the selling prices of its products.

The TiO2 industry is concentrated and highly competitive and Kronos faces price pressures in the markets in which it operates, which may result in reduced earnings or operating losses.

The global market in which Kronos operates its business is concentrated, with the top five TiO2 producers accounting for approximately 52% of the world’s production capacity, and is highly competitive.  Competition is based on a number of factors, such as price, product quality and service.  Some of Kronos’ competitors may be able to drive down prices for Kronos’ products if their costs are lower than Kronos’ costs.  In addition, some of Kronos’ competitors’ financial, technological and other resources may be greater than its resources and such competitors may be better able to withstand changes in market conditions.  Kronos’ competitors may be able to respond more quickly than it can to new or emerging technologies and changes in customer requirements.  Further, consolidation of Kronos’ competitors or customers may result in reduced demand for its products or make it more difficult for Kronos to compete with its competitors.  The occurrence of any of these events could result in reduced earnings or operating losses.

CompX operates in mature and highly competitive markets, resulting in pricing pressure and the need to continuously reduce costs.

Many of the markets CompX serves are highly competitive, with a number of competitors offering similar products.  CompX focuses its efforts on the middle and high-end segment of the market where it feels that it can compete due to the importance of product design, quality and durability to the customer.  However, CompX’s ability to effectively compete is impacted by a number of factors.  The occurrence of any of these factors could result in reduced earnings or operating losses.

 

Competitors may be able to drive down prices for CompX’s products beyond its ability to adjust costs because their costs are lower than CompX, especially products sourced from Asia.

 

Competitors’ financial, technological and other resources may be greater than CompX’s resources, which may enable them to more effectively withstand changes in market conditions.

 

Competitors may be able to respond more quickly than CompX can to new or emerging technologies and changes in customer requirements.

 

Consolidation of CompX’s competitors or customers in any of the markets in which it competes may result in reduced demand for its products.

 

A reduction of CompX’s market share with one or more of its key customers, or a reduction in one or more of its key customers’ market share for their end-use products, may reduce demand for its products.

 

New competitors could emerge by modifying their existing production facilities to manufacture products that compete with CompX’s products.

 

CompX may not be able to sustain a cost structure that enables it to be competitive.

 

Customers may no longer value CompX’s product design, quality or durability over the lower cost products of its competitors.

CompX’s development of innovative features for current products is critical to sustaining and growing its sales.

Historically, CompX’s ability to provide value-added custom engineered products that address requirements of technology and space utilization has been a key element of its success.  CompX spends a significant amount of time and effort to refine, improve and adapt its existing products for new customers and applications.  

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Since expenditures for these types of activities are not considered research and development expense under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”), the amount of CompX’s research and development expenditures, which is not significant, is not indicative of the overall effort involved in the development of new product features.  The introduction of new product features requires the coordination of the design, manufacturing and marketing of the new product features with current and potential customers.  The ability to coordinate these activities with current and potential customers may be affected by factors beyond CompX’s control.  While CompX will continue to emphasize the introduction of innovative new product features that target customer-specific opportunities, we do not know if any new product features it introduces will achieve the same degree of success that it has achieved with its existing products.  Introduction of new product features typically requires CompX to increase production volume on a timely basis while maintaining product quality.  Manufacturers often encounter difficulties in increasing production volumes, including delays, quality control problems and shortages of qualified personnel or raw materials.  As CompX attempts to introduce new product features in the future, we do not know if it will be able to increase production volumes without encountering these or other problems, which might negatively impact our financial condition or results of operations.

Higher costs or unavailability of CompX’s raw materials could negatively impact our financial results.

Certain raw materials used in CompX’s products are commodities that are subject to significant fluctuations in price in response to world-wide supply and demand as well as speculative investor activity.  Zinc and brass are the principal raw materials used in the manufacture of security products.  Stainless steel and aluminum are the major raw materials used in the manufacture of marine components.  These raw materials are purchased from several suppliers and are generally readily available from numerous sources.  CompX occasionally enters into short-term raw material supply arrangements to mitigate the impact of future increases in commodity-related raw material costs.  Materials purchased outside of these arrangements are sometimes subject to unanticipated and sudden price increases.  

Certain components used in CompX’s products are manufactured by foreign suppliers located in China and elsewhere.  Global economic and political conditions, including natural disasters, terrorist acts, global conflicts and public health crises such as pandemics, could prevent CompX’s vendors from being able to supply these components.  Should CompX’s vendors not be able to meet their supply obligations or should CompX be otherwise unable to obtain necessary raw materials or components, CompX may incur higher supply costs or may be required to reduce production levels, either of which may decrease our liquidity or negatively impact our financial condition or results of operations as CompX may be unable to offset the higher costs with increases in its selling prices or reductions in other operating costs.

Higher costs or limited availability of Kronos’ raw materials may reduce its earnings and decrease its liquidity.  In addition, many of Kronos’ raw material contracts contain fixed quantities it is required to purchase.

For Kronos, the number of sources for and availability of certain raw materials is specific to the particular geographical region in which a facility is located.  For example, titanium-containing feedstocks suitable for use in Kronos’ TiO2 facilities are available from a limited number of suppliers around the world.  Political and economic instability in the countries from which Kronos purchases its raw materials could adversely affect their availability.  If Kronos’ worldwide vendors were unable to meet their contractual obligations and it were unable to obtain necessary raw materials, Kronos could incur higher costs for raw materials or may be required to reduce production levels.  Kronos experienced increases in its feedstock costs in 2019 and during the first half of 2020, before they moderated in the second half of 2020.  Kronos expects its feedstock costs in 2021 to remain relatively consistent with average 2020 costs.  Kronos may also experience higher operating costs such as energy costs, which could affect its profitability.  Kronos may not always be able to increase its selling prices to offset the impact of any higher costs or reduced production levels, which could reduce its earnings and decrease its liquidity.

Kronos has long-term supply contracts that provide for its TiO2 feedstock requirements that currently expire through 2023.  While Kronos believes it will be able to renew these contracts, there can be no assurance it will be successful in renewing them or in obtaining long-term extensions to them prior to expiration. Kronos’ current agreements (including those entered into through January 2021) require it to purchase certain minimum quantities of feedstock with minimum purchase commitments aggregating approximately $1.2 billion beginning in 2021.  In addition, Kronos has other long-term supply and service contracts that provide for various raw materials

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and services. These agreements require Kronos to purchase certain minimum quantities or services with minimum purchase commitments aggregating approximately $86 million at December 31, 2020.  Kronos’ commitments under these contracts could adversely affect our financial results if Kronos significantly reduces its production and was unable to modify the contractual commitments.

COVID-19 has affected Kronos’ and CompX’s operations and may continue to affect operations during 2021.

Our results of operations during 2020 were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily in the second and third quarters, specifically through reduced demand for many of Kronos’ and CompX’s products resulting from the rapid contraction of the global economy. The extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our future operations will depend on the time period and degree to which the COVID-19 pandemic persists in the global economy, including the timing and extent to which Kronos’ and CompX’s customers’ operations continue to be impacted, their customers’ perception as to when consumer demand for their products will return to pre-pandemic levels and on any future disruptions in their operations or their suppliers’ operations, all of which are difficult to predict.

CompX has 513 employees and operates three facilities, each of which specializes in certain manufacturing processes and is therefore dependent upon the other facilities to some extent to manufacture finished goods. With the onset of COVID-19, within each facility CompX enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures, mandated social distancing and implemented other health and safety protocols.  CompX is designated an essential business in the states where it operates and is therefore permitted to fully operate during the pandemic, but because the COVID-19 pandemic affected the health and safety of its employees, CompX temporarily closed its Illinois facility for one week in the second quarter.  It is possible CompX may have additional temporary closures at one or more of its facilities for the health and safety of its workforce before the end of the pandemic if conditions warrant.

Kronos has 2,242 employees and operates facilities throughout North America and Europe.  With the onset of COVID-19, within each facility Kronos enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures, mandated social distancing and implemented other health and safety protocols.  Kronos is also designated an essential business in the countries where it operates and is therefore permitted to fully operate during the pandemic.  It is possible Kronos may have temporary closures at one or more of its facilities for the health and safety of its workforce before the end of the pandemic if conditions warrant.

Financial Risk Factors

Our assets consist primarily of investments in our operating subsidiaries and affiliates, and we are dependent upon distributions from our subsidiaries and affiliates.  

The majority of our operating cash flows are generated by our operating subsidiaries and affiliates, and our ability to service liabilities and to pay dividends on our common stock (to the extent such dividends are declared by our board of directors) depends to a large extent upon the cash dividends or other distributions we receive from our subsidiaries and affiliates.  Our subsidiaries and affiliates are separate and distinct legal entities and they have no obligation, contingent or otherwise, to pay such cash dividends or other distributions to us.  In addition, the payment of dividends or other distributions from our subsidiaries and affiliates could be subject to restrictions under applicable law, monetary transfer restrictions, currency exchange regulations in jurisdictions in which our subsidiaries and affiliates operate or any other restrictions imposed by current or future agreements to which our subsidiaries and affiliates may be a party, including debt instruments.  Events beyond our control, including changes in general business and economic conditions, could adversely impact the ability of our subsidiaries and affiliates to pay dividends or make other distributions to us.  If our subsidiaries and affiliates were to become unable to make sufficient cash dividends or other distributions to us, our ability to service our liabilities and to pay dividends on our common stock (if declared) could be adversely affected.  

In addition, a significant portion of our assets consist of ownership interests in our subsidiaries and affiliates.  If we were required to liquidate any of such securities in order to generate funds to satisfy our liabilities, we may be required to sell such securities at a time or times at which we would not be able to realize what we believe to be the actual value of such assets.  

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Kronos’ leverage may impair our financial condition.

As of December 31, 2020, Kronos’ total consolidated debt was approximately $487 million, substantially all of which relates to its Senior Secured Notes issued in September 2017.  Kronos’ level of debt could have important consequences to its stockholders and creditors, including:

 

making it more difficult for Kronos to satisfy its obligations with respect to its liabilities;

 

increasing its vulnerability to adverse general economic and industry conditions;

 

requiring that a portion of its cash flows from operations be used for the payment of interest on its debt, which reduces its ability to use its cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures, dividends on its common stock, acquisitions or general corporate requirements;

 

limiting the ability of Kronos’ subsidiaries to pay dividends to it;

 

limiting Kronos’ ability to obtain additional financing to fund future working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or general corporate requirements;

 

limiting Kronos’ flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in its business and the industry in which it operates; and

 

placing Kronos at a competitive disadvantage relative to other less leveraged competitors.

Indebtedness outstanding under Kronos’ revolving North American credit facility and revolving European credit facility accrues interest at variable rates.  To the extent market interest rates rise, the cost of Kronos’ debt could increase, adversely affecting its financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

In addition to Kronos’ indebtedness, Kronos is party to various lease and other agreements (including feedstock purchase contracts and other long-term supply and service contracts, as discussed above) pursuant to which, along with its indebtedness, Kronos is committed to pay approximately $591 million in 2021.  Kronos’ ability to make payments on and refinance its debt and to fund planned capital expenditures depends on its future ability to generate cash flow.  To some extent, this is subject to general economic, financial, competitive, legislative, regulatory and other factors that are beyond its control.  In addition, Kronos’ ability to borrow funds under its revolving credit facilities in the future will, in some instances, depend in part on its ability to maintain specified financial ratios and satisfy certain financial covenants contained in the applicable credit agreement.

Kronos’ business may not generate cash flows from operating activities sufficient to enable it to pay its debts when they become due and to fund its other liquidity needs.  As a result, Kronos may need to refinance all or a portion of its debt before maturity.  Kronos may not be able to refinance any of its debt in a timely manner on favorable terms, if at all, in the current credit markets.  Any inability to generate sufficient cash flows or to refinance its debt on favorable terms could have a material adverse effect on its financial condition and impact its ability to pay a dividend to us.

Legal, Compliance and Regulatory Risk Factors

We could incur significant costs related to legal and environmental matters.  

We formerly manufactured lead pigments for use in paint.  We and others have been named as defendants in various legal proceedings seeking damages for personal injury, property damage and governmental expenditures allegedly caused by the use of lead-based paints.  These lawsuits seek recovery under a variety of theories, including public and private nuisance, negligent product design, negligent failure to warn, strict liability, breach of warranty, conspiracy/concert of action, aiding and abetting, enterprise liability, market share or risk contribution liability, intentional tort, fraud and misrepresentation, violations of state consumer protection statutes, supplier negligence and similar claims.  The plaintiffs in these actions generally seek to impose on the defendants responsibility for lead paint abatement and health concerns associated with the use of lead-based paints, including damages for personal injury, contribution and/or indemnification for medical expenses, medical monitoring expenses and costs for educational programs.  We entered into a legal settlement in one public-nuisance lead pigment case and have

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recognized a material liability related to the settlement. Any additional liability we might incur in the future for these matters could be material.  See also Item 3 - “Legal Proceedings - Lead pigment litigation.”

Certain properties and facilities used in our former operations are the subject of litigation, administrative proceedings or investigations arising under various environmental laws.  These proceedings seek cleanup costs, personal injury or property damages and/or damages for injury to natural resources.  Some of these proceedings involve claims for substantial amounts.  Environmental obligations are difficult to assess and estimate for numerous reasons, and we may incur costs for environmental remediation in the future in excess of amounts currently estimated.  Any liability we might incur in the future could be material.  See also Item 3 - “Legal Proceedings - Environmental matters and litigation.”

If Kronos’ or CompX’s intellectual property were to be declared invalid, or copied by or become known to competitors, or if Kronos’ and CompX’s competitors were to develop similar or superior intellectual property or technology, their ability to compete could be adversely impacted. 

Protection of intellectual property rights, including patents, trade secrets, confidential information, trademarks and tradenames, is important to Kronos’ and CompX’s businesses and their competitive positions.  Kronos and CompX endeavor to protect their intellectual property rights in key jurisdictions in which their products are produced or used and in jurisdictions into which their products are imported.  However, Kronos and CompX may be unable to obtain protection for their intellectual property in key jurisdictions.  Although Kronos and CompX have applied for numerous patents and trademarks throughout the world, they may have to rely on judicial enforcement of their patents and other proprietary rights.  Kronos’ and CompX’s patents and other intellectual property rights may be challenged, invalidated, circumvented, and rendered unenforceable or otherwise compromised.  A failure to protect, defend or enforce intellectual property could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.  Similarly, third parties may assert claims against Kronos and Compx and their customers and distributors alleging their products infringe upon third-party intellectual property rights.

Although it is the practice of Kronos to enter into confidentiality agreements with its employees and third parties to protect its proprietary expertise and other trade secrets, these agreements may not provide sufficient protection for its trade secrets or proprietary know-how, or adequate remedies for breaches of such agreements may not be available in the event of an unauthorized use or disclosure of such trade secrets and know-how.  Kronos also may not be able to readily detect breaches of such agreements.  The failure of Kronos’ patents or confidentiality agreements to protect its proprietary technology, know-how or trade secrets could result in a material loss of its competitive position, which could lead to significantly lower revenues, reduced profit margins or loss of market share.

CompX relies on patent, trademark and trade secret laws in the United States and similar laws in other countries to establish and maintain intellectual property rights in its technology and designs.  Despite these measures, any of CompX’s intellectual property rights could be challenged, invalidated, circumvented or misappropriated. Others may independently discover CompX’s trade secrets and proprietary information, and in such cases CompX could not assert any trade secret rights against such parties.  Further, CompX does not know if any of its pending trademark or patent applications will be approved.  Costly and time-consuming litigation could be necessary to enforce and determine the scope of intellectual property rights.  In addition, the laws of certain countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States.  Therefore, in certain jurisdictions, CompX may be unable to protect its technology and designs adequately against unauthorized third party use, which could adversely affect its competitive position.

Third parties may claim that CompX or its customers are infringing upon their intellectual property rights.  Even if CompX believes such claims are without merit, they can be time-consuming and costly to defend and distract management’s and technical staff’s attention and resources.  Claims of intellectual property infringement also might require CompX to redesign affected technology, enter into costly settlement or license agreements or pay costly damage awards, or face a temporary or permanent injunction prohibiting CompX from marketing or selling certain technology.  If CompX cannot or does not license the infringed technology on reasonable pricing terms or at all, or substitute similar technology from another source, our business could be adversely impacted.

If Kronos or CompX must take legal action to protect, defend or enforce intellectual property rights, any suits or proceedings could result in significant costs and diversion of resources and management’s attention, and

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Kronos or CompX may not prevail in any such suits or proceedings.  A failure to protect, defend or enforce intellectual property rights could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, particularly as it relates to Kronos, may result in increased regulatory scrutiny which could decrease demand for Kronos’ products, increase Kronos’ manufacturing and compliance costs or obligations and result in unanticipated losses which could negatively impact its financial results or limit its ability to operate its business.

From time to time, new environmental, health and safety regulations are passed or proposed in the countries in which Kronos operates or sells its products, seeking to regulate its operations or to restrict, limit or classify TiO2, or its use (such as the classification of TiO2 powder as a suspected carcinogen in the EU).  Increased regulatory scrutiny could affect consumer perception of TiO2 or limit the marketability and demand for TiO2 or products containing TiO2 and increase Kronos’ manufacturing and regulatory compliance obligations and costs.  Increased compliance obligations and costs or restrictions on certain TiO2 applications could negatively impact Kronos’ future financial results through increased costs of production, or reduced sales which may decrease its liquidity, operating income and results of operations, which could in turn negatively impact our investment in Kronos.

Global climate change legislation could negatively impact our financial results or limit Kronos’ and CompX’s ability to operate their businesses.  

CompX operates production facilities in the United States and Kronos operates production facilities in North America and Europe.  Kronos and CompX believe that all of their production facilities are in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws.  Legislation has been passed, or proposed legislation is being considered, to limit greenhouse gases through various means including emissions permits and/or energy taxes.  In several production facilities, Kronos consumes large amounts of energy, primarily electricity and natural gas.  To date the climate change legislation in effect has not had a material adverse effect on its financial results.  However, if further greenhouse gas legislation were to be enacted in one or more countries, it could negatively impact Kronos’ and CompX’s future results from operations through increased costs of production, particularly as it relates to energy requirements or the need to obtain emissions permits.  If such increased costs of production were to materialize, Kronos and CompX may be unable to pass on price increases to their customers to compensate for increased production costs, which may decrease our liquidity, income from operations and results of operations.  

General Risk Factors

Technology failures or cyber security breaches could have a material adverse effect on our operations.

Kronos and CompX rely on integrated information technology systems to manage, process and analyze data, including to facilitate the manufacture and distribution of their products to and from their plants, receive, process and ship orders, manage the billing of and collections from their customers and manage payments to vendors.   Although Kronos and CompX have systems and procedures in place to protect information technology systems, there can be no assurance that such systems and procedures would be sufficiently effective.  Therefore, any of Kronos’ and CompX’s information technology systems may be susceptible to outages, disruptions or destruction as well as cyber security breaches or attacks, resulting in a disruption of their business operations, injury to people, harm to the environment or their assets, and/or the inability to access Kronos’ and CompX’s information technology systems.  If any of these events were to occur, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.

ITEM 1B.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None

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ITEM 2.

PROPERTIES

Our principal executive offices are located in an office building located at 5430 LBJ Freeway, Dallas, Texas, 75240-2620.  The principal properties used in the operations of our subsidiaries and affiliates, including certain risks and uncertainties related thereto, are described in the applicable business sections of Item 1 – “Business.” We believe that our facilities are generally adequate and suitable for our respective uses.  

ITEM 3.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

We are involved in various legal proceedings.  In addition to information that is included below, we have included certain of the information required for this Item in Note 17 to our Consolidated Financial Statements, and we are incorporating that information here by reference.  

Lead pigment litigation

Our former operations included the manufacture of lead pigments for use in paint and lead-based paint.  We, other former manufacturers of lead pigments for use in paint and lead-based paint (together, the “former pigment manufacturers”), and the Lead Industries Association (LIA), which discontinued business operations in 2002, have been named as defendants in various legal proceedings seeking damages for personal injury, property damage and governmental expenditures allegedly caused by the use of lead-based paints.  Certain of these actions have been filed by or on behalf of states, counties, cities or their public housing authorities and school districts, and certain others have been asserted as class actions.  These lawsuits seek recovery under a variety of theories, including public and private nuisance, negligent product design, negligent failure to warn, strict liability, breach of warranty, conspiracy/concert of action, aiding and abetting, enterprise liability, market share or risk contribution liability, intentional tort, fraud and misrepresentation, violations of state consumer protection statutes, supplier negligence and similar claims.

The plaintiffs in these actions generally seek to impose on the defendants responsibility for lead paint abatement and health concerns associated with the use of lead-based paints, including damages for personal injury, contribution and/or indemnification for medical expenses, medical monitoring expenses and costs for educational programs.  To the extent the plaintiffs seek compensatory or punitive damages in these actions, such damages are generally unspecified.  In some cases, the damages are unspecified pursuant to the requirements of applicable state law.  A number of cases are inactive or have been dismissed or withdrawn.  Most of the remaining cases are in various pre-trial stages.  Some are on appeal following dismissal or summary judgment rulings or a trial verdict in favor of either the defendants or the plaintiffs.  

We believe these actions are without merit, and we intend to continue to deny all allegations of wrongdoing and liability and to defend against all actions vigorously.  Other than with respect to the Santa Clara, California public nuisance case discussed below, we do not believe it is probable we have incurred any liability with respect to all of the lead pigment litigation cases to which we are a party, and with respect to all such lead pigment litigation cases to which we are a party, other than with respect to the Santa Clara case discussed below, we believe liability to us that may result, if any, in this regard cannot be reasonably estimated, because:

 

we have never settled any of the market share, intentional tort, fraud, nuisance, supplier negligence, breach of warranty, conspiracy, misrepresentation, aiding and abetting, enterprise liability, or statutory cases (other than the Santa Clara case discussed below),

 

no final, non-appealable adverse judgements have ever been entered against us, and

 

we have never ultimately been found liable with respect to any such litigation matters, including over 100 cases over a thirty-year period for which we were previously a party and for which we have been dismissed without any finding of liability.  

 

Accordingly, other than with respect to the Santa Clara case discussed below, we have not accrued any amounts for any of the pending lead pigment and lead-based paint litigation cases filed by or on behalf of states, counties, cities or their public housing authorities and school districts, or those asserted as class actions. In addition, we have determined that liability to us which may result, if any, cannot be reasonably estimated at this time because

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there is no prior history of a loss of this nature on which an estimate could be made and there is no substantive information available upon which an estimate could be based.      

In the matter titled County of Santa Clara v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al. (Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara, Case No. 1-00-CV-788657) on July 24, 2019, an order approving a global settlement agreement entered into among all of the plaintiffs and the three defendants remaining in the case (the Sherwin Williams Company, ConAgra Grocery Products and us) was entered by the court and the case was dismissed with prejudice.  The global settlement agreement provides that an aggregate $305 million will be paid collectively by the three co-defendants in full satisfaction of all claims resulting in a dismissal of the case with prejudice and the resolution of (i) all pending and future claims by the plaintiffs in the case, and (ii) all potential claims for contribution or indemnity between us and our co-defendants in respect to the case. In the agreement, we expressly deny any and all liability and the dismissal of the case with prejudice was entered by the court without a final judgment of liability entered against us.  The settlement agreement fully concludes this matter.

Under the terms of the global settlement agreement, each defendant must pay an aggregate $101.7 million to the plaintiffs as follows: $25.0 million within sixty days of the court’s approval of the settlement and dismissal of the case, and the remaining $76.7 million in six annual installments beginning on the first anniversary of the initial payment ($12.0 million for the first five installments and $16.7 million for the sixth installment).  Our sixth installment will be made with funds already on deposit at the court, which is included in noncurrent restricted cash on our Consolidated Balance Sheets, that are committed to the settlement, including all accrued interest at the date of payment, with any remaining balance to be paid by us (and any amounts on deposit in excess of the final payment would be returned to us). Pursuant to the settlement agreement, also during the third quarter of 2019 we placed an additional $9.0 million into an escrow account which is included in noncurrent restricted cash on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.

As previously disclosed during the second quarter of 2018 and based on the terms of a May 2018 settlement agreement between us and the plaintiffs which had an aggregate cost of $80 million to us, we determined that the loss to us could be reasonably estimated and recognized a net $62 million pre-tax charge with respect to this matter ($45 million for the amount to be paid by us upon approval of the terms of the settlement and $17 million for the net present value of the five payments aggregating $20 million to be paid by us in installments beginning four years from such approval).  The May 2018 settlement was never approved by the court and was superseded in July 2019 by the global settlement agreement discussed above.

At June 30, 2019, based on the terms of the global settlement agreement approved by the court in July 2019 we increased the amount accrued for the litigation settlement and a final immaterial adjustment was made to the litigation settlement accrual in the third quarter of 2019.  For financial reporting purposes, using a discount rate of 1.9% per annum, we discounted the aggregate $101.7 million settlement to the estimated net present value of $96.3 million.  We recognized litigation settlement expense of $19.3 million ($19.6 million expense in the second quarter of 2019 and $.3 million credit in the third quarter of 2019).  We made the initial $25.0 million payment in September 2019 and the first annual installment payment of $12.0 million in September 2020.  We recognized an aggregate of $.6 million in accretion expense in the second half of 2019 and an aggregate of $1.3 million in 2020.

In June 2000, a complaint was filed in Illinois state court, Lewis, et al. v. Lead Industries Association, et al (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, County Department, Chancery Division, Case No. 00CH09800.)  Plaintiffs seek to represent two classes, one consisting of minors between the ages of six months and six years who resided in housing in Illinois built before 1978, and another consisting of individuals between the ages of six and twenty years who lived in Illinois housing built before 1978 when they were between the ages of six months and six years and who had blood lead levels of 10 micrograms/deciliter or more.  The complaint seeks damages jointly and severally from the former pigment manufacturers and the LIA to establish a medical screening fund for the first class to determine blood lead levels, a medical monitoring fund for the second class to detect the onset of latent diseases and a fund for a public education campaign.  In April 2008, the trial court judge certified a class of children whose blood lead levels were screened venously between August 1995 and February 2008 and who had incurred expenses associated with such screening.  In March 2012, the trial court judge decertified the class.  In June 2012, the trial court judge granted plaintiffs the right to appeal his decertification order, and in August 2012 the appellate court granted plaintiffs permission to appeal.  In March 2013, the appellate court agreed with the trial court’s rationale regarding legislative requirements to screen children’s blood lead levels and remanded the case for further

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proceedings in the trial court.  In July 2013, plaintiffs moved to vacate the decertification.  In October 2013, the judge denied plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the decertification of the class.  In March 2014, plaintiffs filed a new class certification motion.  In April 2015, a class was certified consisting of parents or legal guardians of children who lived in certain “high risk” areas in Illinois between August 18, 1995 and February 19, 2008, and incurred an expense or liability for having their children’s blood lead levels tested.  In May 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court held in our favor a ruling that the parents of children whose lead testing costs were fully paid by Medicaid did not fall within the certified class of persons who had incurred an expense or liability for such testing.  In August 2020, NL and other defendants asked the trial court to de-certify the class and enter a final judgement dismissing the case.

In November 2018, NL was served with two complaints filed by county governments in Pennsylvania.  Each county alleges that NL and several other defendants created a public nuisance by selling and promoting lead-containing paints and pigments in the counties.  The plaintiffs seek abatement and declaratory relief.  We believe these lawsuits are inconsistent with Pennsylvania law and without merit, and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously.

New cases may continue to be filed against us.  We cannot assure you that we will not incur liability in the future in respect of any of the pending or possible litigation in view of the inherent uncertainties involved in court and jury rulings.  In the future, if new information regarding such matters becomes available to us (such as a final, non-appealable adverse verdict against us or otherwise ultimately being found liable with respect to such matters), at that time we would consider such information in evaluating any remaining cases then-pending against us as to whether it might then have become probable we have incurred liability with respect to these matters, and whether such liability, if any, could have become reasonably estimable.  The resolution of any of these cases could result in the recognition of a loss contingency accrual that could have a material adverse impact on our net income for the interim or annual period during which such liability is recognized and a material adverse impact on our consolidated financial condition and liquidity.  

 

Environmental matters and litigation

Our operations are governed by various environmental laws and regulations.  Certain of our businesses are and have been engaged in the handling, manufacture or use of substances or compounds that may be considered toxic or hazardous within the meaning of applicable environmental laws and regulations.  As with other companies engaged in similar businesses, certain of our past and current operations and products have the potential to cause environmental or other damage.  We have implemented and continue to implement various policies and programs in an effort to minimize these risks.  Our policy is to maintain compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations at all of our plants and to strive to improve environmental performance.  From time to time, we may be subject to environmental regulatory enforcement under U.S. statutes, the resolution of which typically involves the establishment of compliance programs.  It is possible that future developments, such as stricter requirements of environmental laws and enforcement policies, could adversely affect our production, handling, use, storage, transportation, sale or disposal of such substances.  We believe all of our facilities are in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws.

Certain properties and facilities used in our former operations, including divested primary and secondary lead smelters and former mining locations, are the subject of civil litigation, administrative proceedings or investigations arising under federal and state environmental laws and common law.  Additionally, in connection with past operating practices, we are currently involved as a defendant, potentially responsible party (PRP) or both, pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, as amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (CERCLA), and similar state laws in various governmental and private actions associated with waste disposal sites, mining locations, and facilities that we or our predecessors, our subsidiaries or their predecessors currently or previously owned, operated or used, certain of which are on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund National Priorities List or similar state lists.  These proceedings seek cleanup costs, damages for personal injury or property damage and/or damages for injury to natural resources.  Certain of these proceedings involve claims for substantial amounts.  Although we may be jointly and severally liable for these costs, in most cases we are only one of a number of PRPs who may also be jointly and severally liable, and among whom costs may be shared or allocated.  In addition, we are occasionally named as a party in a number of personal injury lawsuits filed in various jurisdictions alleging claims related to environmental conditions alleged to have resulted from our operations.

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Obligations associated with environmental remediation and related matters are difficult to assess and estimate for numerous reasons including the:

 

complexity and differing interpretations of governmental regulations,

 

number of PRPs and their ability or willingness to fund such allocation of costs,

 

financial capabilities of the PRPs and the allocation of costs among them,

 

solvency of other PRPs,

 

multiplicity of possible solutions,

 

number of years of investigatory, remedial and monitoring activity required,

 

uncertainty over the extent, if any, to which our former operations might have contributed to the conditions allegedly giving rise to such personal injury, property damage, natural resource and related claims, and

 

number of years between former operations and notice of claims and lack of information and documents about the former operations.

In addition, the imposition of more stringent standards or requirements under environmental laws or regulations, new developments or changes regarding site cleanup costs or the allocation of costs among PRPs, solvency of other PRPs, the results of future testing and analysis undertaken with respect to certain sites or a determination that we are potentially responsible for the release of hazardous substances at other sites, could cause our expenditures to exceed our current estimates.  We cannot assure you that actual costs will not exceed accrued amounts or the upper end of the range for sites for which estimates have been made, and we cannot assure you that costs will not be incurred for sites where no estimates presently can be made.  Further, additional environmental and related matters may arise in the future.  If we were to incur any future liability, this could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial statements, results of operations and liquidity.

We record liabilities related to environmental remediation and related matters (including costs associated with damages for personal injury or property damage and/or damages for injury to natural resources) when estimated future expenditures are probable and reasonably estimable.  We adjust such accruals as further information becomes available to us or as circumstances change.  Unless the amounts and timing of such estimated future expenditures are fixed and reasonably determinable, we generally do not discount estimated future expenditures to their present value due to the uncertainty of the timing of the payout.  We recognize recoveries of costs from other parties, if any, as assets when their receipt is deemed probable.  At December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2020, we had not recognized any receivables for recoveries.

We do not know and cannot estimate the exact time frame over which we will make payments for our accrued environmental and related costs.  The timing of payments depends upon a number of factors, including but not limited to the timing of the actual remediation process; which in turn depends on factors outside of our control.  At each balance sheet date, we estimate the amount of our accrued environmental and related costs which we expect to pay within the next twelve months, and we classify this estimate as a current liability.  We classify the remaining accrued environmental costs as a noncurrent liability.  

On a quarterly basis, we evaluate the potential range of our liability for environmental remediation and related costs at sites where we have been named as a PRP or defendant, including sites for which our wholly-owned environmental management subsidiary, NL Environmental Management Services, Inc., (EMS), has contractually assumed our obligations. At December 31, 2020, we had accrued approximately $93 million related to approximately 32 sites associated with remediation and related matters we believe are at the present time and/or in their current phase reasonably estimable.  The upper end of the range of reasonably possible costs to us for remediation and related matters for which we believe it is possible to estimate costs is approximately $114 million, including the amount currently accrued. These accruals have not been discounted to present value.

We believe it is not reasonably possible to estimate the range of costs for certain sites.  At December 31, 2020, there were approximately five sites for which we are not currently able to reasonably estimate a range of costs.  For these sites, generally the investigation is in the early stages, and we are unable to determine whether or not we actually had any association with the site, the nature of our responsibility, if any, for the contamination at the site, if any, and the extent of contamination at and cost to remediate the site.  The timing and availability of information on these sites is dependent on events outside of our control, such as when the party alleging liability provides

- 27 -


 

information to us.  At certain of these previously inactive sites, we have received general and special notices of liability from the EPA and/or state agencies alleging that we, sometimes with other PRPs, are liable for past and future costs of remediating environmental contamination allegedly caused by former operations.  These notifications may assert that we, along with any other alleged PRPs, are liable for past and/or future clean-up costs.  As further information becomes available to us for any of these sites, which would allow us to estimate a range of costs, we would at that time adjust our accruals.  Any such adjustment could result in the recognition of an accrual that would have a material effect on our consolidated financial statements, results of operations and liquidity.

In June 2008, we received a Directive and Notice to Insurers from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regarding the Margaret’s Creek site in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey.  NJDEP alleged that a waste hauler transported waste from one of our former facilities for disposal at the site in the early 1970s.  NJDEP referred the site to the EPA, and in November 2009, the EPA added the site to the National Priorities List under the name “Raritan Bay Slag Site.”  In 2012, EPA notified NL of its potential liability at this site.  In May 2013, EPA issued its Record of Decision for the site.  In June 2013, NL filed a contribution suit under CERCLA and the New Jersey Spill Act titled NL Industries, Inc. v. Old Bridge Township, et al. (United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-03493-MAS-TJB) against the current owner, Old Bridge Township, and several federal and state entities NL alleges designed and operated the site and who have significant potential liability as compared to NL which is alleged to have been a potential source of material placed at the site by others.  NL’s suit also names certain former NL customers of the former NL facility alleged to be the source of some of the materials.  In January 2014, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to NL for clean-up of the site based on the EPA’s preferred remedy set forth in the Record of Decision.   NL is in discussions with EPA about NL’s performance of a defined amount of the work at the site and is otherwise taking actions necessary to respond to the UAO.  If these discussions and actions are unsuccessful, NL will defend vigorously against all claims while continuing to seek contribution from other PRPs.  In March 2017, in a parallel lawsuit initiated by NL in state court against the State of New Jersey, which has significant potential liability as compared to NL, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the State of New Jersey had not waived its immunity under the Spill Act for its pre-1977 conduct.  In August 2017, NL filed an amended complaint in the State court alleging post-1977 conduct by the State that led to contamination.  In September 2017, the State filed its answer and counterclaims.  In October 2020, NL and the State voluntarily dismissed the State court lawsuit pursuant to a tolling agreement that allows the lawsuit to potentially be refiled in the future.  NL’s federal court lawsuit seeking contribution from other parties remains pending.

In August 2009, we were served with a complaint in Raritan Baykeeper, Inc.  d/b/a NY/NJ Baykeeper et al. v.  NL Industries, Inc.  et al.  (United States District Court, District of New Jersey, Case No.  3:09-cv-04117).  This is a citizen’s suit filed by two local environmental groups pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act against NL, current owners, developers and state and local government entities.  The complaint alleges that hazardous substances were and continue to be discharged from our former Sayreville, New Jersey property into the sediments of the adjacent Raritan River.  The former Sayreville site is currently being remediated by owner/developer parties under the oversight of the NJDEP.  The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, imposition of civil penalties and an award of costs.  We have denied liability and will defend vigorously against all claims.

In June 2011, we were served in ASARCO LLC v.  NL Industries, Inc., et al.  (United States District Court, Western District of Missouri, Case No.  4:11-cv-00138-DGK).  The plaintiff brought this CERCLA contribution action against several defendants to recover a portion of the amount it paid in settlement with the U.S.  Government during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy in relation to the Tar Creek site, the Cherokee County Superfund Site in southeast Kansas, the Oronogo-Duenweg Lead Mining Belt Superfund Site in Jasper County, Missouri and the Newton County Mine Tailing Site in Newton County, Missouri.  We have denied liability and will defend vigorously against all of the claims.  In the second quarter of 2012, NL filed a motion to stay the case.  In the first quarter of 2013, NL’s motion was granted and the court entered an indefinite stay.  In the first quarter of 2015, Asarco was granted permission to seek an interlocutory appeal of that stay order.  In March 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Asarco’s request for an interlocutory appeal of the stay order and the trial court’s indefinite stay remains in place.

In September 2011, we were served in ASARCO LLC v.  NL Industries, Inc., et al.  (United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Case No.  4:11-cv-00864).  The plaintiff brought this CERCLA contribution action against several defendants to recover a portion of the amount it paid in settlement with the U.S. Government during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy in relation to the Southeast Missouri Mining District.  In May 2015, the trial court

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on its own motion entered an indefinite stay of the litigation.  In June 2015, Asarco filed an appeal of the stay in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  NL has moved to dismiss that appeal as improperly filed.  In October 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted NL’s motion to dismiss Asarco’s appeal and the trial court’s indefinite stay remains in place.  

In July 2012, we were served in EPEC Polymers, Inc., v.  NL Industries, Inc., (United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Case 3:12-cv-03842-PGS-TJB).  The plaintiff, a landowner of property located across the Raritan River from our former Sayreville, New Jersey operation, claims that contaminants from NL’s former Sayreville operation came to be located on its land.  The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages and alleges, among other things, trespass, private nuisance, negligence, strict liability, and claims under CERCLA and the New Jersey Spill Act.  In April 2016, the case was stayed and administratively terminated pending court-ordered mediation.  In October 2017, the parties informed the court that further mediation would not be fruitful.  The case was reopened in December 2017.  We will continue to deny liability and defend vigorously against all of the claims.  

In September 2013, EPA issued to NL and 34 other PRPs general notice of potential liability and a demand for payment of past costs and performance of a Remedial Design for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, New York.  In March 2014, EPA issued a UAO to NL and approximately 27 other PRPs for performance of the Remedial Design at the site.  EPA contends that NL is liable as the alleged successor to the Doehler Die Casting Company, and therefore responsible for any potential contamination at the site resulting from Doehler’s ownership/operation of a warehouse and a die casting plant it owned 90 years ago. In April 2019, EPA issued a second UAO to NL and approximately 27 other PRPs for performance of certain work related to the Remedial Design at the site.  NL believes that it has no liability at the site.  NL is currently in discussions with EPA regarding a de minimis settlement and is otherwise taking actions necessary to respond to the UAO. If these discussions are unsuccessful, NL will continue to deny liability and will defend vigorously against all of the claims.

 

In January 2020, we were sued in Atlantic Richfield, Co.  v.  NL Industries, Inc., (United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Case 1:20-cv-00234).  This is a CERCLA cost recovery action brought by a past owner and operator of certain mining properties located in Rico, Colorado.  We intend to deny liability and will defend vigorously against all claims.

 

In December 2020, NL and several other defendants were sued in California Department of Toxic Substances v. NL Industries, Inc., (United States District Court for the Central District of California, Case 2:20-cv-11293).  This complaint by a California state agency asserts claims under CERCLA, a state environmental statute, and the common law relating to lead contamination allegedly connected to a secondary lead smelter located in Vernon, California.  We intend to deny liability and will defend vigorously against all claims.  

In February 2021, NL and several other defendants were sued in 68th Street Site Working Group.  v.  7-Eleven Industries, Inc., (United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Case 1:20-cv-03385).  This is a CERCLA contribution action brought by a group of potentially responsible parties performing the cleanup of a number of landfills against a large number of defendants.  We intend to deny liability and will defend vigorously against all claims.

Other litigation

We have been named as a defendant in various lawsuits in several jurisdictions, alleging personal injuries as a result of occupational exposure primarily to products manufactured by our former operations containing asbestos, silica and/or mixed dust.  In addition, some plaintiffs allege exposure to asbestos from working in various facilities previously owned and/or operated by us.  There are 104 of these types of cases pending, involving a total of approximately 579 plaintiffs.  In addition, the claims of approximately 8,715 plaintiffs have been administratively dismissed or placed on the inactive docket in Ohio state courts.  We do not expect these claims will be re-opened unless the plaintiffs meet the courts’ medical criteria for asbestos-related claims.  We have not accrued any amounts for this litigation because of the uncertainty of liability and inability to reasonably estimate the liability, if any.  To date, we have not been adjudicated liable in any of these matters.  

Based on information available to us, including:

 

facts concerning historical operations,

 

the rate of new claims,

 

the number of claims from which we have been dismissed, and

 

our prior experience in the defense of these matters,

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we believe the range of reasonably possible outcomes of these matters will be consistent with our historical costs (which are not material).  Furthermore, we do not expect any reasonably possible outcome would involve amounts material to our consolidated financial position, results of operations or liquidity.  We have sought and will continue to vigorously seek, dismissal and/or a finding of no liability from each claim.  In addition, from time to time, we have received notices regarding asbestos or silica claims purporting to be brought against former subsidiaries, including notices provided to insurers with which we have entered into settlements extinguishing certain insurance policies.  These insurers may seek indemnification from us.

In addition to the matters described above, we and our affiliates are also involved in various other environmental, contractual, product liability, patent (or intellectual property), employment and other claims and disputes incidental to present and former businesses.  In certain cases, we have insurance coverage for these items, although we do not expect additional material insurance coverage for environmental matters.  We currently believe that the disposition of all of these various other claims and disputes (including asbestos-related claims), individually or in the aggregate, should not have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or liquidity beyond the accruals already provided.  

Insurance coverage claims

We are involved in certain legal proceedings with a number of our former insurance carriers regarding the nature and extent of the carriers’ obligations to us under insurance policies with respect to certain lead pigment and asbestos lawsuits.  The issue of whether insurance coverage for defense costs or indemnity or both will be found to exist for our lead pigment and asbestos litigation depends upon a variety of factors and we cannot assure you that such insurance coverage will be available.  

We have agreements with certain of our former insurance carriers pursuant to which the carriers reimburse us for a portion of our future lead pigment litigation defense costs, and one such carrier reimburses us for a portion of our future asbestos litigation defense costs.  We are not able to determine how much we will ultimately recover from these carriers for defense costs incurred by us because of certain issues that arise regarding which defense costs qualify for reimbursement.  While we continue to seek additional insurance recoveries, we do not know if we will be successful in obtaining reimbursement for either defense costs or indemnity.  Accordingly, we recognize insurance recoveries in income only when receipt of the recovery is probable and we are able to reasonably estimate the amount of the recovery.  

In January 2014, we were served with a complaint in Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, et al v. NL Industries, Inc. (Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, Index No. 14/650103).  The plaintiff, a former insurance carrier of ours, is seeking a declaratory judgment of its obligations to us under insurance policies issued to us by the plaintiff with respect to certain lead pigment lawsuits.  Other insurers have been added as parties to the case and have also sought a declaratory judgment regarding their obligations under certain insurance policies.  NL has filed a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that all of the insurers are obligated to provide NL with certain coverage and seeking damages for breach of contract.  In December 2020, the trial court denied the insurers’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the arguments raised by the insurers did not bar NL from coverage under the relevant policies.  We continue to believe the insurers’ claims are without merit and we intend to defend NL’s rights and prosecute NL’s claims in this action vigorously.

We have settled insurance coverage claims concerning environmental claims with certain of our principal former insurance carriers.  We do not expect further material settlements relating to environmental remediation coverage.  

ITEM 4.

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable

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PART II

 

ITEM 5.

MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS

Our common stock is listed and traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: NL).  As of February 26, 2021, there were approximately 1,700 holders of record of our common stock.

Performance graph

Set forth below is a table and line graph comparing the yearly change in our cumulative total stockholder return on our common stock against the cumulative total return of the S&P 500 Composite Stock Price Index and the S&P 500 Industrial Conglomerates Index for the period from December 31, 2015 through December 31, 2020.  The graph shows the value at December 31 of each year assuming an original investment of $100 at December 31, 2015 and the reinvestment of dividends.

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

2015

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

2020

 

NL common stock

 

$

100

 

 

$

268

 

 

$

469

 

 

$

115

 

 

$

129

 

 

$

164

 

S&P 500 Composite Stock Index

 

 

100

 

 

 

112

 

 

 

136

 

 

 

130

 

 

 

171

 

 

 

203

 

S&P 500 Industrial Conglomerates Index

 

 

100

 

 

 

109

 

 

 

100

 

 

 

73

 

 

 

91

 

 

 

100

 

The information contained in the performance graph shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or “filed” with the SEC, or subject to the liabilities of Section 18 of the Securities Exchange Act, except to the extent we specifically request that the material be treated as soliciting material or specifically incorporate this performance graph by reference into a document filed under the Securities Act or the Securities Exchange Act.  


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Equity compensation plan information

We have an equity compensation plan, which was approved by our shareholders, pursuant to which an aggregate of 200,000 shares of our common stock can be awarded to members of our board of directors.  At December 31, 2020, 79,900 shares are available for award under this plan.  See Note 15 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.  

 

ITEM 6.

SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

The following selected financial data should be read in conjunction with our Consolidated Financial Statements and Item 7 - “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

2016

 

 

2017

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

2020

 

 

(In millions, except per share data)

 

STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS DATA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net sales

$

108.9

 

 

$

112.0

 

 

$

118.2

 

 

$

124.2

 

 

$

114.5

 

Income from component products operations

 

15.6

 

 

 

15.2

 

 

 

17.8

 

 

 

17.7

 

 

 

11.8

 

Equity in earnings of Kronos

 

13.2

 

 

 

107.8

 

 

 

62.3

 

 

 

26.5

 

 

 

19.4

 

Net income (loss)

 

16.7

 

 

 

117.8

 

 

 

(39.0

)

 

 

28.0

 

 

 

16.1

 

Net income (loss) attributable to NL stockholders

 

15.3

 

 

 

116.1

 

 

 

(41.0

)

 

 

25.8

 

 

 

14.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DILUTED EARNINGS PER SHARE DATA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net income (loss) attributable to NL stockholders

$

.31

 

 

$

2.38

 

 

$

(.84

)

 

$

.53

 

 

$

.30

 

Cash dividends per share

$

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

$

.16

 

Weighted average common shares outstanding

 

48,701

 

 

 

48,711

 

 

 

48,727

 

 

 

48,745

 

 

 

48,776

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BALANCE SHEET DATA (at year end):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total assets

$

385.0

 

 

$

551.6

 

 

$

547.2

 

 

$

557.5

 

 

$

548.2

 

Long-term debt, including current maturities

 

.5

 

 

 

.5

 

 

 

.5

 

 

 

.5

 

 

 

.5

 

NL stockholders' equity

 

177.9

 

 

 

335.3

 

 

 

284.1

 

 

 

304.5

 

 

 

311.9

 

Total equity

 

194.3

 

 

 

353.1

 

 

 

303.6

 

 

 

327.2

 

 

 

335.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOW DATA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net cash provided by (used in):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating activities

$

27.7

 

 

$

18.6

 

 

$

17.1

 

 

$

27.4

 

 

$

19.0

 

Investing activities

 

(30.6

)

 

 

(13.6

)

 

 

1.3

 

 

 

9.9

 

 

 

(3.1

)

Financing activities

 

.2

 

 

 

(.3

)

 

 

(.3

)

 

 

(.5

)

 

 

(8.5

)

- 32 -


 

 

ITEM 7.

MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

Business overview

We are primarily a holding company.  We operate in the component products industry through our majority-owned subsidiary, CompX International Inc.  We also own a noncontrolling interest in Kronos Worldwide, Inc.  Both CompX (NYSE American: CIX) and Kronos (NYSE: KRO) file periodic reports with the SEC.  

CompX is a leading manufacturer of engineered components utilized in a variety of applications and industries.  Through its Security Products operations, CompX manufactures mechanical and electronic cabinet locks and other locking mechanisms used in recreational transportation, postal, office and institutional furniture, cabinetry, tool storage and healthcare applications.  CompX also manufactures stainless steel exhaust systems, gauges, throttle controls, wake enhancement systems, trim tabs and related hardware and accessories for the recreational marine and other industries through its Marine Components operations.

We account for our 30% non-controlling interest in Kronos by the equity method.  Kronos is a leading global producer and marketer of value-added titanium dioxide pigments.  TiO2 is used for a variety of manufacturing applications including coatings, plastics, paper and other industrial products.  

Net income (loss) overview

Our net income attributable to NL stockholders was $14.7 million, or $.30 per share, in 2020 compared to net income of $25.8 million, or $.53 per share, in 2019 and a net loss of $41.0 million, or $.84 per share, in 2018.  

As more fully described below, the decrease in our earnings per share attributable to NL stockholders from 2019 to 2020 is primarily due to the net effects of:

 

a pre-tax litigation settlement expense of $19.3 million in 2019 (mostly recognized in the second quarter),

 

equity in earnings from Kronos in 2020 of $19.4 million compared to $26.5 million in 2019,

 

unfavorable relative changes in the value of marketable equity securities of $7.8 million,

 

lower income from operations attributable to CompX of $5.9 million in 2020,

 

lower insurance recoveries in 2020 of $5.0 million related primarily to a single insurance recovery settlement of $4.5 million in 2019 for certain past and future litigation defense costs,

 

a gain of $4.4 million in 2019 related to a sale of excess property, recognized in the third quarter,

 

a gain of $3.0 million in 2019 related to the sale of our insurance and risk management business, recognized in the fourth quarter, and

 

lower litigation fees and related costs of $2.1 million in 2020.

As more fully described below, the increase in our earnings per share attributable to NL stockholders from 2018 to 2019 is primarily due to the net effects of:

 

a pre-tax litigation settlement expense of $19.3 million in 2019 (mostly recognized in the second quarter) compared to $62.0 million recognized in the second quarter of 2018,

 

equity in earnings from Kronos in 2019 of $26.5 million compared to $62.3 million in 2018,

 

favorable relative changes in the value of marketable equity securities of $60.0 million,

- 33 -


 

 

 

higher insurance recoveries in 2019 of $3.8 million related primarily to a single insurance recovery settlement of $4.5 million for certain past and future litigation defense costs,

 

a gain of $4.4 million in 2019 related to a sale of excess property, recognized in the third quarter,

 

a gain of $3.0 million in 2019 related to the sale of our insurance and risk management business, recognized in the fourth quarter,

 

lower environmental remediation and related costs of $3.3 million in 2019, and

 

lower litigation fees and related costs of $2.2 million in 2019.

Our 2020 net income per share attributable to NL stockholders includes income of $.01 per share related to Kronos’ first quarter recognition of an insurance settlement gain.

Our 2019 net income per share attributable to NL stockholders includes:

 

a loss of $.31 per share, net of income tax benefit, related to the litigation settlement expense, recognized mainly in the second quarter,

 

income of $.08 per share, net of income tax expense, related to insurance recoveries, recognized mainly in the second quarter,

 

income of $.07 per share, net of income tax expense, related to a gain from a sale of excess property, recognized in the third quarter,

 

income of $.05 per share, net of income tax expense, related to a gain from the sale of our insurance and risk management business, recognized in the fourth quarter,

 

a loss of $.03 per share related to Kronos’ fourth quarter recognition of a non-cash deferred income tax expense primarily related to the revaluation of Kronos’ net deferred income tax asset in Germany as a result of a decrease in the German trade tax rate,

 

income of $.01 per share related to Kronos’ fourth quarter recognition of an income tax benefit related to the favorable settlement of a prior year tax matter in Germany, and

 

income of $.01 per share related to Kronos’ insurance settlement gain recognized in the fourth quarter.

Our 2018 net loss per share attributable to NL stockholders includes:

 

a loss of $1.01 per share related to the litigation settlement expense, recognized in the second quarter,

 

a loss of $.02 per share related to Kronos’ tax on global intangible low-tax income, recognized in the fourth quarter, and

 

a loss of $.01 per share related to Kronos’ reserve for uncertain tax positions, recognized in the first and fourth quarters.

Outlook

We currently expect our net income attributable to NL stockholders in 2021 to be higher than 2020 primarily due to higher expected equity in earnings from Kronos partially offset by higher litigation fees and related costs and higher environmental remediation and related costs.

- 34 -


 

Income (loss) from operations

The following table shows the components of our income (loss) from operations.

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

% Change

 

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

2020

 

 

2018-19

 

 

2019-20

 

 

 

(Dollars in millions)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CompX

$

17.8

 

 

$

17.7

 

 

$

11.8

 

 

 

(1

)

%

 

(33

)

%

Insurance recoveries

 

1.3

 

 

 

5.1

 

 

 

.1

 

 

 

296

 

 

 

(98

)

 

Other income, net

 

.6

 

 

 

7.4

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,056

 

 

n.m.

 

 

Litigation settlement expense, net

 

(62.0

)

 

 

(19.3

)

 

 

-

 

 

 

(69

)

 

n.m.

 

 

Corporate expense

 

(18.4

)

 

 

(12.5

)

 

 

(9.5

)

 

 

(32

)

 

 

(24

)

 

Income (loss) from operations

$

(60.7

)

 

$

(1.6

)

 

$

2.4

 

 

 

97

 

 

 

246

 

 

n.m. Not meaningful.

The following table shows the components of our income (loss) before income taxes exclusive of our income (loss) from operations.

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

% Change

 

 

 

2018

 

 

2019

 

 

2020

 

 

2018-19

 

 

2019-20

 

 

 

(Dollars in millions)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equity in earnings of Kronos

$

62.3