29 April 2002 00:00 [Source: ACN]
19 April. Retail sales in China grew by 8.4% in Q1 2002 to reach Rmb1003.5bn (US$121.97bn), lower than the 10.4% increase recorded in the same period last year, according to the State Statistics Bureau.
The Bureau stated that a growth in personal incomes had contributed to the higher sales in Q1 2002 over Q1 of last year.
19 April. Dow Chemical and union officials at the company's Texas City, production complex in the US expect to reach agreement eventually on a new contract and are continuing daily talks three weeks after an old contract expired.
Dow shut down its 680000 tonne/year cracker at the complex on 4 April, in part because of market conditions, but also as a precaution against possible contract-related work stoppage.
19 April. The Norwegian government outlined plans to reduce the state's interest in energy, metals and chemicals group Norsk Hydro.
In a white paper presented to parliament, the government said it was open to reducing the state's holding from 43.82% to 34%. No specific timeframe or implementation procedure has yet been suggested
19 April. Atlantic Methanol Production Co (Ampco) said its 850000 tonne/year methanol plant in Equatorial Guinea will be off-line for approximately 60 days while it undergoes reformer repairs.
Earlier, Ampco had estimated that the plant's downtime would only be 45 days. The plant was shut down on 30 March to replace certain materials used in the construction of the steam reformer.
22 April. Mitsubishi Rayon Corp (MRC) has forecast a group net loss of Yen600m (US$4.6m) for its financial year to 31 March 2002 instead of the Yen1.1bn net profit it estimated in October last year. Group sales are forecast to drop to Yen306bn from Yen308bn.
A spokesman said the forecasted losses were caused by dormant global demand, a devaluation in stockholdings, and company restructuring, particularly the closure of its domestic spinning facilities.
22 April. Dow Chemical said it has corporate-owned life insurance (COLI) policies on an undisclosed number of employees that benefit the company and not the employee.
The company said it could not reveal the exact number of employees covered by COLIs because it is in tax litigation with the Internal Revenue Service in the US concerning deductions it took for the policies.
Dow was one of the companies mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article which detailed the growing controversy over practices by certain companies that purchase life insurance policies on thousands of employees with the company as beneficiary.
22 April. Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) confirmed plans to build a 1.2m tonne/year cracker in Veracruz, Mexico. The new plant will be built in the Morelos-Cangrejera industrial corridor and will be one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world, Pemex said in a statement. Construction is set to begin in 2005
22 April. Israel has completed the first stage of its military operation in the West Bank. It will continue its campaign against Palestinian militants, said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Israeli troops have pulled out of Nablus and Ramallah and have been redeployed around other West Bank cities. Welcoming the troop withdrawal, US secretary of state Colin Powell asked Israel to allow Yasser Arafat to persuade his people to follow a peaceful path for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
22 April. Syafruddin A Temenggung has replaced I Putu Gede Ary Suta as the chairman of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (Ibra), which is responsible for revitalising the country's financially troubled companies. Syafruddin is the seventh chairman in Ibra's four-year history.
22 April. Vopak is to spin off its chemical distribution activities into a separately listed Dutch company and continue with its tank storage and related logistics activities. The decision follows a strategic review of its activities.
Before the spin-off, the group expects to raise equity of Euro150m (US$133m) in a fully underwritten rights issue.
The move will be proposed to shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting to be held in mid-June. Vopak expects the split to be completed by the end of June.
22 April. BASF plans to produce 60000 tonne/year of polytetrahydrofuran (polyTHF) and 80000 tonne/year of tetrahydrofuran (THF) at an integrated facility in the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park in China. A feasibility study has been submitted to the Chinese authorities for approval. Local authorities had earlier approved an environmental assessment study.
The new facility would raise BASF's global polyTHF capacity to 184000 tonne/year.
22 April. BASF Australia is to sell its engineering plastics compounding plant in Melbourne to Engineering Polymers Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Marplex Australia, BASF's distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
European jv for Oman fertiliser complex
22 April. Joint-venture partners Technip-Coflexip of France and Italy's Snamprogetti have signed a US$770m turnkey contract with Oman-India Fertiliser Co for the design and construction of the world's largest grassroots fertiliser project at Sur, near Muscat, Oman.
22 April. Indonesia's antidumping committee has launched an investigation into alleged phthalic anhydride (PA) dumping from India, South Korea and Japan.
23 April. A fall in imports but stable exports pushed up Japan's trade surplus by 39.3% to Yen1265bn (US$9.70bn) in March from a year ago.
But the trade surplus for the year ended 31 March 2001 dipped 25.9% as exports waned.
A US-led global economic upturn is expected to boost Japanese exports in the coming months which, analysts said, could assist a Japanese economic recovery.
23 April. Methanex 'might' look at opportunities in Iran as it continues to grow its methanol market share and add production capacity in the coming decade.
Pierre Choquette, president and chief exe-cutive officer, noting Iran's plans for additional methanol capa-city, said: 'We might want to play a role in that.'
23 April. Idemitsu Kosan is considering closing some of its refineries and withdrawing from some unprofitable petrochemical businesses as part of its four-year restructuring plan to March 2006.
A company source said Idemitsu had yet to decide which petrochemical markets to exit or which refineries to shut down. He said any closures were still under study.
23 April. Kuraray revised upwards its unconsolidated net profit forecast by 200% to Yen1.5bn (US$11.5m) for the financial year ended 31 March 2002.
Kuraray estimated in February that its 2001-02 net profit would be Yen500m.
According to the latest forecasts, net sales are likely to rise 0.5% to Yen221bn while operating profit is projected to rise 4.8% to Yen11bn.
Kuraray said its improved forecasts were due to cost cutting, a valuation gain on long-term foreign currency loans to subsidiaries, and a smaller-than-expected loss on the value of securities.
23 April. Polimeri Europa was forced to close its 370000 tonne/year cracker in Dunkerque, France, due to a labour strike which began on 17April.
Production at the Dunkerque site, where Polimeri also has ldPE and lldPE facilities, had been slowed since the strike began.
Employees are striking over a range of issues including working conditions, early retirement, pay linked to qualifications and training.
23 April. Argentina's problems worsened as the economy minister Jorg Remes Lenicov resigned after failing to secure congressional support for an emergency law which would have allowed for a conversion of bank deposits to government bonds.
The law was needed to avert a collapse of the country's banks. Argentinians had strongly opposed the proposal.
23 April. India's antidumping authority has launched an investigation into allegations that Indonesian and Thai producers have been dumping citric acid in the country.
24 April. Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp, Nan Ya Plastics and Formosa Taffeta aim to bring onstream their Vietnamese polyester project in Ho Chi Minh City by end-2003.
Their 112200 tonne/ year polyester facility will form part of a textile complex which also includes a yarn threading plant and a power facility.
24 April. Nan Ya Plastics received board approval to construct two bi-axially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) lines in Huizhou, Guangdong, China, with a total capacity of 34800 tonne/year. Nan Ya will soon seek approval from the Taiwanese government. The first line is due onstream within two years of approval from the Taiwanese government. The second will be commissioned six months later.
24 April. Eastman Chemical is commercialising a new biodegradable resin for the packaging and agricultural films market, a copolyester called Eastar Bio Ultra (EBU). EBU 'completely biodegrades to carbon dioxide, water and biomass in 180 days in a commercial composting environment,' Eastman said, and becomes invisible to the naked eye in as little as 12 weeks.
24 April. The US Federal Reserve said in a report released today that the US economy is improving after falling into a recession last year but concerns remain about the pace of recovery. It said that while the overall tone was positive a few Federal Reserve Districts expressed qualification about the pace of the recovery or the strength of their regional economies.
24 April. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has seized documents and computer records from the offices of the country's major oil refiners Shell, Caltex and Mobil. The Commission is investigating whether the three companies and other distributors had engaged in price fixing.
24 April. Canada's Nova Chemicals expects to decide by the end of June on whether to divest or retain its stake in Methanex.
Nova president and chief executive Jeff Lipton said: 'We are on a course to announce our position on Methanex - buy, sell or hold, by the end of this quarter.'
Nova in January sold its stake in an ethane pipeline and confirmed that it is seeking to divest further non-core assets. However, until now Nova firmly maintained that its 35% stake in Methanex was not for sale.
24 April. Altair Nanotechnologies won a US patent for a new titanium dioxide (TiO2) processing technology described by an SRI expert as 'significant' and capable of 'revolutionising the US$9bn industry.'
Altair describes its new technology as a 'comprehensive process for producing white TiO2 from Ilmenite ore concentrates' which would lower operating costs while minimising environmental and health risks.
24 April. KP Chemical closed a 250 000 tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) line at its 500 000 tonne/year No3 plant in Ulsan, South Korea, for up to three months due to a compressor accident on 22 April.
Operations at KP Chemical's two other PTA plants are unaffected by the accident. Fears of serious PTA shortage grip Asia, see p27.
24 April. LG Chem will spend Won93.8bn (US$71.6m) to raise its stake in LG Petrochemical to 40% from 26.2%. To finance the purchase, LG Chem would sell its 4.3% stake in LG Investment & Securities, a move that would be in line with its undertaking to divest itself of non-chemical investments under South Korea's Fair Trade Law.
The move would also reinforce LG Chem's managerial control over LG Petrochemical and underline its stature as the largest shareholder. LG Chem shares hit, see p8.
25 April. LG Chem has revised upwards its full-year forecasts for 2002 on the back of better-than-predicted results for Q1.
LG Chem now expects operating profit to reach Won470bn instead of the Won415bn forecasted earlier- an increase of 13.3%. Net sales are tipped to increase by 3.7% to Won5.22trn from the company's earlier forecast of Won5.03trn.
The company expects PVC and ABS prices to average $615/tonne cfr Asia and $874/tonne cfr Asia respectively for the remainder of 2002.
It also anticipates that around 500 000 new homes will be built every year in South Korea until 2005, contributing to the construction boom.
In addition, prospects for the information technology industry also appeared to be more promising for the rest of the year, the company said.
24 April. Israel has threatened to block a UN mission to probe a devastating assault on the Jenin Refugee camp.
The Israeli Defense Minister said the country believed that the UN committee had already decided 'to entrap Israel so it could be put on trial.
Urging Israel to cooperate with the UN mission,US secretary of state Colin Powell said he had so far 'seen no evidence that would suggest a massacre took place'.
24 April. CNOOC Fudao is studying building a 800 000 tonne/year methanol and a 600 000 tonne/year nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) plant in Dongfang, Hainan, China.
A subsidiary of state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp, Fudao is currently constructing its second urea facility which will have a capacity of 800 000 tonne/year.
The second urea facility, which will cost Rmb2.6bn (US$314.1m), is slated to come onstream at the end of 2003.
25 April. Moody's Investors Service has revised the outlook for Indonesia's B3 foreign currency country ceilings for bonds and Caa1 foreign currency country ceiling for bank deposits to positive from stable.
The agency cited the recent Paris Club MoU and the country's improved relationships with other foreign creditors, including the IMF(International Monetary Fund), as bettering the country's liquidity position in the coming two years.
25 April. The Japanese government said the all-industries index, a key indicator of economic activity rose by 0.5% in February from the previous month.
Analysts believed this could indicate a marginal upturn in the economy. However, activity in the services sector fell for the third straight month.
25 April. Shanghai Petrochemical Co (SPC) has completed its cracker expansion ahead of schedule. SPC's cracker started producing 700 000 tonne/year of ethylene last week - well ahead of its original June startup date. The cracker's capacity has been expanded from 400 000 tonne/year.
SPC has also started commissioning activities at its new 200 000 tonne/year PP and 250 000 tonne/year PE facilities, Commercial production is expected to start very soon.
25 April. Kvaerner has been appointed the turnkey contractor for a 20 000 tonne/year acetal copolymer resins project in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu, China.
Construction on the project, a joint venture between DuPont and Asahi Kasei, will start in 1-2 months with startup slated for Q2 2004.
The project's capacity will be gradually increased to 60000 tonne/year in several phases after the plant comes onstream.
First quarter results announced last week indicate that most
companies have yet to benefit from the upturn in petrochemical
Sabic suffered a sharp drop in profits and sales in Q1 2002 due to lower prices for certain products. Net profit plunged to Riyal 304m (US$81m), a 58% drop compared with the corresponding period last year. Sales revenues sank 22% to Riyal 5.97bn, while sales volume rose 10% to 6.8m tonne.
DuPont said its Q1 net income declined 3% to US$552m before special charges due to lower selling prices, a strong US dollar and weak volumes.
The company took US$72m in one time charges, including withdrawal from a polyester joint venture and currency conversion in Argentina. Net income including one-time items was US$479m compared with US$495m in the Q1 2001.
Sales in Q1 were US$6.8bn, 8% lower than last year.
ExxonMobil's chemical segment operating profits fell 34% in Q1 with the company citing the impact from pressure on products in the US manufacturing sector plus margin declines outside the US.
With US$4.3bn worth of sales for the quarter ended 31 March, chemicals represented just 10% of ExxonMobil's total revenues of US$43.5bn. Overall, net income declined 58% to US$2.1bn with earnings/share of 30 cents.
In chemicals, ExxonMobil posted operating earnings of US$132m with US$70m of that from the US. That figure compares with operating earnings of US$200m in Q1 2001. Foreign chemical earnings declined 60% to US$62m from US$155m. ExxonMobil's total chemical sales declined 20%.
Methanex reported a US$17.4m Q1 net loss as sales declined 51% year-on-year due to weak prices. The loss compares with a net profit of US$68.8m in Q1 2001.
Sales revenues for Q1 2002 were US$181.7m, compared with US$372.9m for the same quarter the year before. Sales volume declined slightly to 1.78m, down from 1.87m the year before.
Siam Cement's first quarter petrochemical sales fell to Baht9.8bn (US$226.3m) from Baht10.5bn in Q1 2000. The diversified Thai major's total net profit fell 19% to Baht2.32bn. The company said that softer prices of all its core products, including petrochemicals, were responsible for the drop in profits.
LG Chem bucked the trend by posting a 39% operating profit increase to Won146bn (US$112m) in Q1 from Won105bn in the same period in 2001. Net sales were up 12% to Won1.26trn.
LG Chem said the strong earnings growth was mainly due to increased sales in the highly profitable areas of Industrial Materials and Information and Electronic Materials.The results had also been helped by a recent upswing in the prices of PVC and ABS
Akzo Nobel posted a 9% rise in Q1 net income to Euro234m (US$208m), helped by continued strong pharmaceuticals growth, a bottoming out of the downtrend in chemicals and coatings and lower financial charges.
Sales from ongoing operations climbed 4% to Euro3.49bn, compared with Q1 2001. Earnings before interest and tax rose 4% to Euro385m despite a Euro20m increase in pension charges.
In Asia, Chinese petrochemical producers said cheap imports and low product prices were responsible for the declines in sales and net profits for the year ending 31December 2001. China petchem profits decline, see p10.
India's newly integrated refining and petrochemical giant Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) saw a better-than -expected Q4 and full-year financial results to 31 March 2002.
RIL's net profit in Q4 2001-02 was up 1.5% from a year earlier to Rs6.7bn (US$136.6m) - a figure that surprised analysts who had tipped a net profit of Rs4.5-5.5bn.
RIL's full-year net profit increased 6% to Rs28.1bn. Net sales were Rs242.8bn, slightly down on the Rs257bn recorded in the previous year, while operating profit slid marginally to Rs53.0bn from Rs55.6bn.
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
Asian Chemical Connections