In 1865, Companhia União Fabril - CUF is created, with a share capital of 200 contos de reis (Portuguese currency at the time). This is the date when CUF is granted its license to manufacture soap, stearin and vegetable oil.
Alfredo da Silva, stockholder of the Companhia Aliança Fabril. promotes the company's merger with CUF and begins manufacturing fertilizers on a large scale. This is also the date when Fábrica Sol, located in the 24 de Julho Avenue, in Lisbon, joins the CUF ranks.
Alfredo da Silva chooses Barreiro to continue CUF's strong expansion rhythm. On September 19th 1908, he inaugurates the first factory in the small fishing town of Lavradio and kicks off acids production, producing olive pomace oil, destined to the manufacture of soap. Factories employ approximately 100 workers. Also in 1908, the construction of Bairro Operário (Workers’ Quarter) begin.
In the 30s, CUF owns factories in Lisbon, Barreiro, Alferrarede, Soure, Canas de Senhorim and Mirandela, and employs 16,000 people. The company's motto, created by Alfredo da Silva, is: "What the country doesn’t have... CUF creates''
And this motto is confirmed by CUF's evolution, which gradually adds fields to its activities. After beginning operation in the Barreiro industrial complex, the first sulphuric acid and superphosphates factory is commissioned, to produce fertilizers. The growth cycle happens in five large production segments:
Organic chemistry: oil refining, olive oil, soap, flour and animal feed;
Inorganic chemistry: acids manufacture;
Metallurgy: copper, lead, gold and silver, as well as pyrite ash treatment;
Metalworking: ironworks, brass and special steels workshops for the sulphuric acid industry;
Textiles: first with fertilizer packaging, later expanded to fabrics manufacture.
In the 70s, CUF is at its height. With over one hundred companies, more than one thousand different products, 110 thousand employees, in all representing 5% of the national Gross Domestic Product, CUF is the largest economic group in Portuguese history.
In 1975, the largest private corporate group in Portugal (CUF) is nationalised and then terminated. Only in 1997, already acquired by Grupo José de Mello, would it regain the name CUF.
By the end of the 70s, the holding company "José de Mello" is created, with some of former CUF owners as stockholders. The group's re-entry in the chemical industry occurs with the purchase of Uniteca, a chlor-alkali production company.
The José de Mello Group gains control over the Quimigal chemical industrial group, completely restructures it, and goes back to using the name CUF.
In 2005, CUF Group kicks off a corporate restructuring process, aiming to focus on its core business: chemicals and fertilizers. It also refreshes and updates its corporate image.
In 2006, CUF sets off the process to expand its facilities in the Estarreja Chemical Centre, which incorporates the manufacture of chlorine, aniline and by-products. Expanding the factories, with the latest technologies, ensures greater energy efficiency and widely strengthens CUF's productive capacity.
On February 27, 2007, João de Mello, CUF’s President, participates in the public presentation of the centenary celebration of CUF’s presence in Barreiro – the date will be celebrated the following year. Competitions, exhibitions, the publishing of books, an international conference and other initiatives, in the scientific and cultural spheres, are part of the Centennial Commemorative Program of CUF in Barreiro.
In 2008, CUF sells the fertilizer business and concentrates its full resources on the chemical industry, focusing on the strategic goal of becoming one of the largest Iberian chemical groups. On the same year, CUF actively participates in a comprehensive Centenary programme in Barreiro, which includes producing a documentary, repairing old films, publishing stamps and books, competitions, exhibits, and an international conference.
On 8th July 2009, CUF publicly presents the completion of the Estarreja Chemical Complex, developed in the scope of a National Interest Project (Projecto de Interesse Nacional) – an important work that's a landmark for national economy and for the region's development. CUF invests 125 million euros in this project and doubles its aniline production capacity to 200 thousand tons a year, of which 60% are to be used by its partner, DOW. The completion of this expansion positions CUF as one of the five first chemical companies to operate in the Iberian Peninsula and Grupo José de Mello as one of the largest groups in Europe – with proprietary technology.
On 7th September, with the presence of the President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, CUF inaugurates the new Innovnano industrial unit – the first national nanomaterials factory. Innovnano's new plant will produce nanomaterials, through a unique process, already patented, that have applications in several industries, such as energy production and storage, aeronautics, electronics, and even the structural ceramic industry. The plant counts on an international network of technological partners that participate in the development of new products and solutions, aiming for new markets in the near future.