2 MAY 1992, Page 20

ICI's next miracle

I FEEL more than a qualm as I see Imperi- al Chemical Industries shuffling out of its nylons — Du Pont can have them, we don't really want them, it's not a core business . . . My word, it was. Nylon was the prize in the great bid battle between ICI and Cour- taulds, fibres were ICI's growth business of the next decade, ICI staked the mercurial Joe Hyman to a large sum of money and told him to go off and reorganise Lan- cashire. I recall a happy day in the Crimple valley, which gave its name to Crimplene and was home to ICI Fibres. What would happen, I asked my hosts, if someone invented the next miracle fibre? `We'd tell him to forget it', they said. That in its way was far-sighted. ICI had pharmaceuticals coming along to take fibres' place at the sharp end of the business, but the lesson from nylon is that nothing lasts forever. I'd like to be sure that ICI knows where it goes after pharmaceuticals.