The trade union Douglashall opened the first privately operated potash plant in the world in 1873
SALT OF THE EARTH – THE EARLY YEARS OF THE POTASH AND FERTILIZER INDUSTRY
1856 – 1888: The roots of the K+S Group go back to the middle of the 19th century when the first fertilizer factories were established in Germany, which mainly produced phosphate and superphosphate. Justus von Liebig was already advocating the use of potash fertilizers at that time, but it was only after the discovery of potash-bearing salts in Staßfurt in 1856 and the construction of the world's first potash mine that the raw material became available in large quantities. Soon after that, farmers began to use potash as an effective mineral fertilizer, which together with phosphate and nitrogen considerably increased harvest yields. The increasing demand for these plant nutrients led to a boom in the German potash and fertilizer industry. In the 1880s the use of mineral fertilizers finally gained acceptance and revolutionised agriculture.
1889: Joint Stock Company for Mining and Deep Drilling is established in Goslar, which later becomes Salzdetfurth AG (1899), the oldest forerunner of today's K+S AG.
PATHS TO GROWTH – THE RISE OF THE GERMAN POTASH AND FERTILIZER INDUSTRY
1888 – 1914: The worldwide success of German potash fertilizer led, towards the end of the 19th century, to new potash districts being opened up and numerous potash plants being established. Led by companies such as Wintershall, Salzdetfurth and Burbach, the German potash industry became an important sector of the economy. The potash and fertilizer industry developed ever more effective mineral fertilizers and fertilizer combinations and made a considerable contribution to the rapid growth of German agriculture around 1900. Potash was now an indispensable part of German agriculture and had also developed into a major export.
By the outbreak of the First World War, the first corporations which were to play a decisive role in the history of the potash industry in the 20th century had already been established.
The main Heringen plant of the dynamically developing potash company Wintershall
WARS, CRISES AND COMPETITION – LOSS OF MONOPOLY AND CONCENTRATION PROCESSES
1914 – 1945: The three decades between 1914 and 1945 were marked by wars, economic crises and dictatorship. After the First World War, Germany also lost its potash monopoly when it ceded Alsace in 1919. In the Weimar Republic, German potash plants showed a stronger tendency to consolidate. In the 1920s and 1930s, the potash companies increased their productivity through drastic modernisation measures. At the same time, the state's influence on the industry increased, and after 1933 it became a part of the state-controlled National Socialist economy. The potash and fertilizer industry performed an important function in the National Socialist war economy.
1918: Until the end of the First World War, when Alsace and its potash plants were ceded to France, the German Empire was the only country in the world which produced potash.
In the decade after 1918, potash reserves were also discovered in the USA, the Soviet Union, Spain, Italy, Canada, Israel, Jordan, the UK, the Congo, Brazil, China, Thailand, Tunisia and Chile.
Loading wagons underground in the 1920s.
A potash railway by the Werra in the days of the Iron Curtain. The border crossing railway track from Hesse through Thuringia was often a point of conflict between East and West Germany.
DIVERGING PATHS – THE POTASH AND FERTILIZER INDUSTRY IN A DIVIDED GERMANY
1945 – 1968: After the Second World War, the potash and fertilizer industries in West and East Germany had to go separate ways. Previously related businesses were divided and had to start anew in different social systems. In both east and west, defunct plants were re-opened, while international competition grew stronger. Powerful new potash producers emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in the Soviet Union and Canada, which resulted in surplus capacity. In response, the West German potash industry underwent rationalisation and concentrated its production capacity.
1945: As a result of the partition of Germany into occupation zones and the ensuing division of the country, only around 40% of potash production capacity remains in West Germany. The other 60% falls within East German territory.
Despite this difficult beginning, companies which already held a leading position in the German potash industry before the war – Wintershall AG, Burbach-Kaliwerke AG, Salzdetfurth AG, Kali-Chemie AG and Preussag – build up an effective potash industry in the Federal Republic.
MERGERS AND CHALLENGES – DIFFERENCES IN DEVELOPMENT IN WEST AND EAST GERMANY
1968 – 1989: The development of the German potash industry in the 1970s included two important mergers – in order to remain competitive on the global market, Salzdetfurth AG and Wintershall AG merged their West German potash and rock salt operations to form a new company called Kali und Salz, under the umbrella of BASF.
As part of general corporation building, East Germany concentrated its potash industry to form VEB Kombinat Kali. In the 1970s, modern mining and processing methods were introduced in the potash industry in both East and West Germany. In the west, rationalisation and plant closures were necessary to ensure competitiveness, while the GDR expanded its capacity to increase exports. In the 1980s, the East and West German potash industries converged for the first time.
The cover picture of the first works magazine of the newly established Kali und Salz GmbH, which later became Kali und Salz AG.
GROWING TOGETHER – THE REUNIFICATION OF THE GERMAN POTASH INDUSTRY
1989 – 1997: The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 opened a new chapter in German history. The reunification of Germany offered the German potash industry a unique opportunity to work together to establish a new competitive position at the international level. The East and West German potash industries worked with the Treuhand agency to develop a forward-looking concept aimed at achieving competitive potential on the world market under joint leadership and using the best German deposits. This concept of "economic and social rationality" also found wide approval among trade unions and politicians. During the privatisation of the East German potash industry, Mitteldeutsche Kali AG and Kali und Salz AG merged their potash and rock salt operations to form Kali und Salz GmbH.
Up to 1997, the new company invested more than a billion marks in modernisation work, mainly for the East German potash plants. 7,500 jobs were secured in East and West Germany, some 3,000 of them in the new states. The potash industry merger was one of the most successful privatisation schemes carried out by the Treuhand agency.
Potash miners from both east and west demonstrated in Bonn in September 1993 in support of the potash industry merger
The Bernburg salt works in Saxony-Anhalt was equipped with a new evaporated salt plant (in 1996) to enable it to produce various evaporated salt products with a high degree of purity.
EXPERIENCE GROWTH – THE NEW FACE OF THE K+S GROUP
From 1997: The K+S Group aims to achieve healthy and sustainable growth for the benefit of its shareholders, customers and employees. Thanks to its closely integrated business segments, innovative products and modern services, K+S has developed into a growth-oriented provider of special and standard fertilizers and plant care and salt products. With the takeover of COMPO and the establishment of fertiva and esco, K+S significantly strengthened and expanded its portfolio. Other important milestones were the acquisition of the Chilean salt producer Sociedad Punta des Lobos (SPL) and the 2009 acquisition of the North American salt producer Morton Salt. In 2008, K+S was included in the DAX index.
K+S is now one of the world's leading suppliers of standard and special fertilizers. In terms of production capacity it is the world's leading salt producer, with plants in both Europe and North and South America. The company offers a wide range of services for agriculture, industry and private consumers, which form a basis for growth in almost every area of daily life.
The K+S Group employs more than 15,000 people worldwide.
Kali und Salz GmbH is completely taken over by K+S Beteiligungs AG, BASF reduces its shareholding to 25.1% and K+S is included in the MDAX index.
The company is renamed K+S Aktiengesellschaft. It acquires COMPO and takes over the marketing and distribution of BASF-fertiva's nitrogenous field fertilizers. BASF reduces its shareholding to approx. 15%.
2000 / 2001:
The COMPO and Salt business segments are expanded through further acquisitions.
The salt joint venture esco – european salt company is established by K+S (62%) und Solvay S.A. (38%).
BASF reduces its shareholding to approx. 10%.
K+S purchases Solvay's 38% share in esco. It also acquires the distribution and production capacity of the French company SCPA and a granulation plant of CCW (Alsace).
K+S acquires the Chilean salt producer SPL
K+S is admitted to the DAX index (in September).
fertiva and parts of COMPO's commercial business are merged on 1 July to create a new company – K+S Nitrogen GmbH, Mannheim.
K+S acquires the North American salt producer Morton Salt and becomes the world's leading salt producer.
Take over of the Canadian company Potash One and start of the construction of a new potash plant in Saskatchewan, which should supply the first products starting from 2015.
Announcement of the sale of COMPO to the European private equity investor Triton in June.
Official ground-breaking ceremony as the start signal for the extensive construction work on the new potash site in the south of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan (June).
Sale of K+S Nitrogen to EuroChem, a leading global agrochemical company (July).
2004: 2004: The CCW granulation plant in Wittenheim, Alsace
2006: The open-cast mine of the Chilean salt production subsidiary SPL in the Tarapaca Desert.
2008: To mark K+S' admission to the DAX index, a large, eye-catching banner was hung on the front of the K+S building in Kassel.
2009: K+S Nitrogen GmbH, established on 1 July, moved into a new building in Mannheim.
2009: A view over Chicago – home of the North American salt producer Morton Salt, which was acquired in 2009
2012: Dr. Ulrich Lamp (first left), incoming CEO and President of K+S Potash Canada, Tim McMillan, Minister of Resources of Saskatchewan (second left), Norbert Steiner (second right), Richard Wilson, outgoing CEO and President of K+S Potash Canada (right).