COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Ashland said Tuesday that it has agreed to sell its water chemicals business to private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice for about $1.8 billion in order to focus on its core business.

The division makes chemicals used by the paper, energy and food and beverage industries. The chemicals are also used in boilers and cooling towers.

The deal is expected to close by Sept. 30.

The water chemicals business has annual revenue of about $1.7 billion and employs about 3,000 workers in 31 facilities worldwide. John Panichella will remain as CEO of the business, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice said.

Ashland, which is based in Covington, Ky., estimated that it will receive net proceeds from the sale of about $1.4 billion, which it will use to buy back its own shares. The company's board of directors approved a new $1.35 billion share repurchase program Tuesday.

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