(Reuters) -Brenntag SE said on Friday it held preliminary discussions with U.S. rival Univar Solutions Inc regarding a potential acquisition, as the German chemicals distributor seeks to expand its footprint in the United States.
The move comes after Brenntag Chief Executive Christian Kohlpain this month said the company is eyeing the North American market with more interest and plans to double annual spending in mergers and acquisitions.
Kohlpaintner said the North American market was "more robust than a lot of people think" and could have a competitive advantage over the energy crisis-stricken European market.
Brenntag said the Univar talks are ongoing and that it was not foreseeable whether there will be any kind of transaction. Bloomberg News first reported the proposed deal on Friday.
Brenntag has said it plans to double its annual spending for mergers and acquisitions to between 400 million euros ($415.80 million) and 500 million euros as part of a strategic growth plan.
Univar confirmed a preliminary indication of interest from Brenntag in a statement on Friday, without giving additional details.
Surging gas prices have severely hit German chemical producers this year. A plunge in Russian gas exports after Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sparked a continent-wide energy crisis, leading to soaring energy prices.
Brenntag posted higher-than-expected third-quarter profit earlier this month, saying it was able to balance European and global supply chains as rising energy costs affected the continent.
($1 = 0.9620 euros)
(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jose Joseph and Rahat Sandhu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, William Mallard and Mike Harrison)