05 September 1994 00:00 [Source: ICB]
WEST EUROPEAN phenol markets seem to have recovered over the last two months more than most producers had dared hoped in the immediate aftermath of benzene's DM115/tonne Q2 price hike.
The major producers claim that, after widespread failure during April to gain customer acceptance for a DM150/tonne hike in phenol Q2 contract prices over the previous quarter's DM900-950/tonne FD levels, monthly contracts have been agreed for May in the DM1000-1050/tonne FD range. Producers are confident that this will roll over into June, with the upper DM1050/tonne figure the stated target.
The rapid recovery from a long phenol market in February/early March, when the Q2 contract negotiations were being conducted, to the current balance or shortage, is due to strong orders and Phenolchemie's three-week turnaround at its new 200 000 tonne/year Antwerp unit, ending mid-May.
German, Italian and French markets appear to have seen the most success in terms of higher prices. The French market in particular, which had been in the midst of a mini price war following Phenolchemie's reported loss of a major supply contract with GE Plastics, has not only stabilised but seen prices for regular spot business rise to FF3400-3500/tonne FD, compared with FF2950-3000/tonne in early March. A major French producer is talking FF3600/tonne FD for May contracts, although it is thought ready to accept FF3500/tonne.
Producers agree, however, that the UK market has seen the most severe resistance to price hikes. One major supplier claims that its £390/tonne FD contract price quote for April was undermined by competitors agreeing to numbers in the £365-380/tonne range. New May producer quotes of £410-420/tonne are said to command wider support and are much more likely to succeed.
* Mitsubishi Corp has started operating a new 2000 tonne phenol import tank near Vancouver, Canada. It is to supply Mitsubishi Petrochemical export material from Japan to local end users under the name of the US producer Aristech, a Mitsubishi Corp subsidiary. Mitsui Petrochemical is sub-letting 30-50% of the tank's capacity to make its own North American merchant sales.
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