Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) has acquired an almost 25 per cent stake in Swiss speciality chemicals group Clariant, after buying the stake from investment group White Tale.

The sale comes despite White Tale’s previous statements that it would be a long-term investor in Clariant, which had ignored the activist’s demands for an independent review and three seats on its board of directors.

Last year, White Tale blocked Clariant’s $20bn merger with US peer Huntsman, saying the proposed deal undervalued the Swiss company and that the merger rationale was untenable.

Clariant in a statement has confirmed that ‘chemical industry peer and partner Sabic’ had bought the 24.99 per cent stake, making it Clariant’s biggest investor. It said Clariant was informed in advance of the deal by Sabic, already a partner in a catalyst joint venture.

‘Clariant intends to engage with Sabic over the coming weeks in order to discuss the new situation and explore possible ways to create value. Clariant will also continue the existing dialogue with all its other shareholders’, it said.

Sabic, the fourth largest chemicals producer in the world, has not revealed how much it paid for the acquisition, although the stake is worth around $2.4bn based on market capitalisation.

Sabic’s decision to focus more on the speciality chemicals business comes as Saudi Arabia seeks means to diversify its economy and reduce reliance on oil revenues. In 2015, state oil giant Saudi Aramco took a 50 per cent stake in the synthetic-rubber business of Germany’s Lanxess, in a deal worth about $1.48bn.

“Clariant is complementary to Sabic’s existing specialties business and is well in line with Sabic’s strategy of opening up new growth opportunities in specialty chemicals,” Sabic CEO Yousef al-Benyan told news agency Reuters.

Sabic said it had no plans to launch a full takeover of Clariant.

Al-Benyan had said in November that SABIC planned to spend $3-10bn on acquisitions and was looking at two producers of specialty plastics with operations in Europe, the Middle East and China.