On Tuesday, February 13, the Ústí nad Labem-based SPOLCHEMIE – Spolek pro chemickou a hutni vyrobu will celebrate its 168th anniversary, thereby confirming its membership in the elite group of the world’s longest continuously operating chemical companies. The story of the company, which today ranks among the top 100 most significant domestic enterprises, began in 1856 at the Vienna Palace of Prince Schwarzenberg during the founding meeting of founders from the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy and leading businessmen. They were approached by Christian Gustav Clemm, who presented them with ambitious plans to establish a large chemical enterprise. For comparison, the chemical giant Bayer was founded only seven years later.
From the outset, the new enterprise was based in Ústí nad Labem, where within a few years, production from inorganic chemistry operations began – initially sodium carbonate, sulfuric acid, and hydrochloric acid. In addition, gaslight was produced, making Ústí the second city after Prague to use gas for public lighting in 1857.
By the end of the 19th century, the “Spolek” had become the largest in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire and one of the most significant chemical companies in Europe. Following the independence of Czechoslovakia, Czech capital, represented by Živnobanka, began to dominate the composition of shareholders. In the 20th and particularly the 30s, the company expanded its conglomerate structure and practically represented the entire Czech chemical industry, giving rise to today’s successful companies like Synthesia Pardubice, Spolana Neratovice, Chemical plants Sokolov, Tonaso Neštěmice, and others.
In the 1950s, the Ústí chemical plant began to develop the production of synthetic resins, which currently form one of the main pillars of its production. At the end of 1990, the company once again became a joint-stock company, producing more than 500 products from dyes to cosmetic preparations. However, the production range, as well as the company itself, had to undergo significant restructuring in the following years, focusing more on high-value-added chemistry.
The most recent successful chapter in the company’s modern history began in 2020, when SPOLCHEMIE became part of the Kaprain* investment group family. This not only allows for further development but also addresses all the new challenges of the 21st century. Currently, it is one of the leading European manufacturers of synthetic epoxy resins, a significant Czech exporter, and one of the most important regional employers. Today, the company places a major emphasis on ecology and sustainability – the company’s premises no longer resemble the smoking factories of the “steel city”.
Billion-dollar investments in environmentally friendly operations, significant emission reductions, waste production, and pollution are the new standards. The company’s products also contribute to the fight against global warming, whether through components for wind turbines or the automotive industry or a new project to produce unique precursors for the new, 4th generation of F-gases, which are completely safe for the ozone layer and have the lowest possible impact on global warming.
* Kaprain is a Czech investment group founded in 2013 and developed for more than 10 years by Karel Pražák. It focuses on six basic areas – real estate, industry, finance, retail, sport & leisure, and media. Currently, Kaprain has more than 6,000 employees and assets totaling more than 40 billion crowns. In 2023, Kaprain achieved a profit of over 3.5 billion crowns. The industrial division of the Kaprain group focuses primarily on the chemical industry. It includes Ústí nad Labem's Spolchemie, Pardubice's Synthesia, Slovakia's Fortischem, and two rubber plants – Rubena and Trelleborg Bohemia. Kaprain is also a co-owner of the AVE group.