26 April 2004 00:01 [Source: ACN]
From stories supplied by the ACN and CNI newsteams
16 April. The Uri Party, which supports the government of impeached South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, secured a majority of seats in the country’s parliament in yesterday’s election, signalling public support for the embattled Roh.
The party benefited from public dissatisfaction over the 12 March impeachment of the president, which was pushed through by the Millennium Democratic Party and the Grand National Party (GNP).
The Uri Party held just 49 seats before the election. It has now increased that to 151 seats in a parliament of 299 seats. The previous largest parliamentary party, the GNP, won only 121 seats, down from 137 previously.
19 April. Nine people died and three were injured in a powerful explosion, which ripped through chlorine storage tanks at a chemical plant in China’s Chongqing municipality late last week, causing the evacuation of tens of thousands of local residents.
Chinese government officials said up to 150 000 people were evacuated to escape from leaking chlorine gas after the blast at the Tianyuan Chemical Industry plant late on 16 April. The evacuees were allowed to return home late yesterday.
19 April. Plenty River Corp has been awarded a 67-hectare block of land by the Western Australian government to build a world-scale ammonia-urea project on the Burrup Peninsula in the state’s north-west, beating off competition for the site from former joint-venture partner, Canadian fertiliser giant Agrium.
Agrium formerly held a 51% stake in the Dampier Nitrogen consortium, with Plenty River holding 39% and construction company Thiess holding 10%. The joint venture fell apart in July last year with the partners unable to agree on how to go forward with the project development. Plenty River, which has retained the Dampier Nitrogen name, and Agrium had applied separately to take over the Burrup site. The partners had planned to build an A$725m ($541.7m) project on the Burrup with a capacity of 790 000 tonne/year of ammonia and 1.2m tonne/year of urea.
19 April. Toyo Engineering Corp and Chiyoda Corp have announced that they and Iranian engineering firm Petrochemical Industries Design and Engineering Co have received a contract to construct a 677 000 tonne/year ammonia plant and 1.07m tonne/year urea plant in Iran’s Bandar Assaluyeh region.
The value of the contract is about US$230m, and the project is scheduled for completion in 2006.
19 April. Sinopec Zhenhai Refining & Chemical Co has reported a net profit drop of 2.9% in its chemical division in 2003 from a year earlier due to higher sales costs, according to a company report to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The company’s net profit from its chemicals division dropped to Rmb134.1m from Rmb138.1m in the previous year.
19 April. Saudi Arabia’s National Petrochemical Industrialisation Co (Tasnee Petrochemicals) is to partner Canadian major Acetex for its methanol and derivatives projects in Al-Jubail, a Tasnee source said.
Tasnee had earlier announced its plans to build a 1.8m tonne/year methanol plant, which will feed acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plants. Separate joint ventures will be formed for the methanol unit, and for the 500 000 tonne/year acetic acid and 275 000 tonne/year VAM units.
Acetex will hold a 25% stake in the methanol joint venture and 50% in the planned derivatives venture. The three units will cost a total of US$1bn.
19 April. Lucite International forecast further profits growth after shrugging off increased raw materials costs and adverse exchange rates to reveal a 2003 pre-tax income of £32m (US$58m).
The strong 2003 performance, helped by increased efficiency and higher output, compared with a £2m pre-tax loss the previous year.
Operating profit more than doubled last year to £69m on sales up 19.2% to £694m. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation rose by 57% to £113m.
19 April. Production has resumed after a fire at Chemopetrol, the Czech petrochemical company’s spokesman, Rene Keller, said.
‘We had to stop production of polypropylene and polyethylene for one day as the fire damaged a bridge which was used to supply coal,’ Keller said. ‘But production is up and running normally again. The actual production line and products were not damaged by the fire.’
The fire broke out on 17 April at the plant in Litvinov in north Bohemia. Keller said the full cost of the damage was not yet known; neither was the cause of the blaze. An investigation into both was continuing, he said.
20 April. Royal Dutch/Shell executives knowingly hid an oil-and-gas reserves shortfall for years and feared the game was up as far back as 2002, an independent review revealed yesterday.
The news came as the oil giant cut reserve estimates again and sacked a third senior executive, chief financial officer (cfo) Judy Boynton, for her part in the scandal, which shocked investors when it finally became public in January this year.
Shell added 300m barrels to total booked reserve cuts for 2002, to make a total reduction of 4.35bn barrels of oil equivalent (boe) – more than 22% of reserves originally booked for that year. It also cut a further 200 million boe from 2003 bookings for a total 2003 reserves cut of 500 million boe.
20 April. Cosmo Films Ltd (CFL) posted a 21% fall in net profit to Rs315.1m (US$7.1m) in its financial year to 31 March 2004 from Rs399.8m in the previous year.
The drop was due mainly to a decline in operating margins triggered by increased competition in the domestic market as a result of surplus production capacity. An increase in depreciation charges due to the installation of a new plant and machinery also contributed to the net profit decline.
The company’s net profit would have fallen even more had it not boosted investment-related other income and made significant savings in interest payments on loans.
The company recorded a slight decline in net sales to Rs3.13bn from Rs3.15bn owing to a drop in selling prices.
20 April. Fujian Dongxin Petrochemical has started construction work on a 100 000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) unit in Quangang Petrochemical Park, Quanzhou, Fujian, China, a company source aid.
The new unit, to be based on local technology, was scheduled to come onstream in H2 2005, he added.
The company plans to import propylene feedstock for the Rmb400m (US$48.3m) project. It plans to supply the PP output as feedstock to local companies for their PP chemical fibre and PP-injection moulding production.
Dongxin is a joint venture between a Hong Kong trading firm, Dong Yuan, and a private investor.
A company official said the first production lines at the plant would come onstream in January next year and would have a combined capacity of 10 000 tonne/year of PBT and PC resins. The initial cost of setting up the venture would be around US$7.5m.
The official said the company would raise the combined PBT/PC capacity to 25 000 tonne/year within two years of the launch of operations and would expand it further to 35 000 tonne/year over the next two years. Financial details on the expansions were not available.
20 April. Jo Tankers said it had agreed to pay a US$19.5m fine under a plea agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) following a probe into anti-competitive practices in the parcel tanker shipping industry.
Dutch-Norwegian chemical tanker operator Jo Tankers said it had pleaded guilty to a violation of the US Sherman Antitrust Act. It accepted a one-count felony, charging the company with allocating customers, fixing prices and rigging bids for freight contracts. The fine is to be paid in instalments over five years.
20 April. Akzo Nobel’s first-quarter operating profit climbed 7% to Euro292m (US$351m) despite lower sales.
The improvement followed tough cost-cutting measures over the past year, lifting net income after taxes and interest by 7% to Euro176m excluding non-recurring costs. After non-recurring losses of Euro43m, net income fell 4.3% to Euro133m.
20 April. The EU has approved Euro28.13m (US$33.5m) in aid to Dow Chemical for the expansion of Dow’s polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production in Germany.
According to a EU commission statement, Dow plans to build a second PET production plant with a capacity of 175 000 tonne/year at Schkopau in the state of Saxony. The aid granted amounted to 23.44% of the expansion’s ‘eligible investment cost’, the commission said. Saxony was an area eligible for EU regional aid up to a maximum of 35% ‘for large undertakings’, it added.
The direct beneficiary of the aid will be Dow PET GmbH, a fully owned Dow subsidiary.
20 April. Jilin Chemical reported 2003 net income of Rmb427.6m (US$51.5m), citing a 57% increase in sales and a slate of efficiency measures.
The 2003 profit compared with a loss of Rmb1.02bn in 2002, Jilin said in a statement.
Sales reached Rmb20.7bn, compared with Rmb13.14bn in 2002.
The company noted that its 2003 profit followed three years of losses. It said the turnaround was the result of a number of steps taken during the year to focus on production scale, high utilisation rates, technology, energy savings and waste reduction.
Jilin also improved its financial, materials and sales management, and upgraded staff training, it said.
21 April. Indo Rama Synthetics (India) said its net profit rose by 37.6% to Rs1.72bn (US$39m) in the financial year to 31 March, up from Rs1.25bn in the previous fiscal year.
Income from investments and other sources roughly tripled to Rs1.02bn, up from Rs325.4m in the previous fiscal year. Interest paid on borrowings declined 24.3% to Rs469.3m.
However, the company’s net sales fell 3.51% to Rs16.6bn. The drop was due in part to tax-related disruptions to the textiles industry during first two months of 2003-04. Operating profit declined by 13.1% to Rs2.94bn.
21 April. Japanese firefighters were battling a blaze at Kashima Oil’s 190 000 bbl/day refinery in Ibaraki prefecture today. The fire had led to the shutdown of the entire complex, a company spokesman said.
The spokesman said the fire broke out at 05:00 local time (20:00 GMT) in the refinery’s 30 000 bbl/day fuel oil desulphurisation unit and was still burning at 03:30GMT.
He said firemen had contained the blaze and there was little risk of it spreading to other units in the refinery. There were no reports of any injuries.
Kashima Oil, an affiliate of Japan Energy Corp, produces 420 000 tonne/year of naphtha feedstock, which it supplies to Mitsubishi Chemical’s two crackers at Kashima.
Mitsubishi Chemical has a 350 000 tonne/year Kashima No 1 cracker which is scheduled for a 45-day turnaround in May, as well as a 453 000 tonne/year Kashima No 2 cracker. The company was not immediately available for comment on what effect the refinery shutdown would have on its feedstock supplies.
The Kashima refinery also produces 150 000 tonne/year of paraxylene and 77 000 tonne/year of mixed xylenes. The spokesman said both of these units had been shut down along with the rest of the refinery.
21 April. Tuntex (Thailand) Co said it was unable to submit its revised debt-restructuring plan by its 20 April deadline and had received Central Bankruptcy Court approval for a one-month extension.
The company was placed under a debt-rehabilitation plan in mid-December of last year. However, in early March it said it was unable to comply with conditions stipulated in that debt-restructuring agreement and could not pay either the principal or interest on its debts. It said its current liabilities were in excess of its current assets and that it had a capital deficit.
22 April. A recount of Taiwan’s controversial presidential election will begin on 10 May, the High Court has announced.
‘It is hoped the recount will be completed in ten days,’ said spokesman Wen Yao-yuan. The next presidential term begins on 20 May, and analysts fear violent protests if the dispute between the two main parties is not resolved by then.
President Chen Shui-bian won the March election by 0.22%, but the opposition disputes the result.
22 April. Three people have died and hundreds of others have been poisoned in two separate gas leaks in China, barely one week after a chlorine gas leak left nine people dead and led to the evacuation of tens of thousands in Chongqing in the south-west of the country.
In the latest incident, three people were killed in suburban Beijing on 20 April, and 22 local residents were hospitalised after hydrogen cyanide gas leaked from a gold smelting plant, Beijing Zhongfa Gold Co.
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