01 November 2004 00:01 [Source: ACN]
From stories supplied by the CNI and ACN teams.
22 October. A gas explosion at a coalmine in central China has killed at least 60 people and left 88 others missing. More than 400 people were working in the Daping Mine in the city of Xinmi, Henan province, when the explosion happened.
It was one of the worst mine accidents in recent years, and officials said the chances of the finding anyone still alive were slim.
Thousands die in China’s poorly regulated mines each year, despite government promises to improve safety. Such is the demand for coal in the country that dangerous mines that are shut down quickly reopen.
22 October. Celanese announced a restructuring of its management board with the planned departure of chairman Claudio Sonder and chief financial officer Perry Premdas on 31 October. The board shake-up is a result of the €3.1bn (US$3.9bn) takeover of Celanese by Blackstone in April this year.
Celanese’s chief operating officer David Weidman will not take Sonder’s place as chairman, as had originally been planned. Instead, the new chairman is to be Andreas Pohlmann, the company’s chief administrative officer. Weidman is leaving the Celanese management board to become a member of the supervisory board.
Vice president treasurer Peter Jakobsmeier will replace Premdas as the new chief financial officer, while Lyndon Cole will remain on the board in his capacity as chairman of technical polymers business Ticona.
22 October. Nova Chemicals confirmed that Pemex Petroquimica (PPQ) has selected Nova as a partner in a feasibility study for the Phoenix project – a worldscale ethylene and polyethylene complex in Mexico.
PPQ named the Canadian firm and two Mexican companies – Grupo Idesa and Indelpro – as its joint-venture partners in the proposed ethylene-based petrochemicals and plastics complex.
The project is expected to cost US$1.9bn.
22 October. SK Corp has revealed the cause of a deadly polypropylene (PP) unit explosion that took place on 20 September, a company official said.
The 170 000 tonne/year No 1 PP unit was shut for six days owing to an accident that claimed two lives.
The investigation revealed that the explosion was caused by ‘static electricity and hydrogen leakage’, the official said. The initial response from the company in late September was that the explosion was a freak accident.
23 October. Russia’s lower house of parliament has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, making it virtually inevitable that the global climate-protection agreement becomes law.
The state Duma voted 334 to 73 to approve the treaty, which gives industrialised nations eight years to cut their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels. Russia’s upper house and President Vladimir Putin must still approve the treaty, and while both may have reservations about the endorsement, they are expected to approve it.
23 October. President George W Bush has signed the corporate-tax reform bill into law, the White House said in a statement, and US industry officials hailed enactment of the measure.
The bill, entitled the ‘American Jobs Creation Act of 2004’, repeals the Foreign Sales Corporation export-tax benefit that had been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, and lowers corporate tax rates for many US manufacturing firms and exporters, including many chemical and plastics companies.
23 October. Four workers at a DuPont plant in DeLisle, Mississippi, US, were treated at a nearby Gulfport hospital after a chlorine leak, according to news reports.
DuPont officials said the leak in a chlorine pipeline occurred shortly after 8am. Four contract employees of Zachary Construction were taken to Garden Park Medical Center. Their injuries were believed to be minor. Three other people were treated on site.
25 October. A major earthquake in Japan’s Niigata prefecture has inconvenienced chemical producers in the area because of the disruption of transport links, but operations at most large plants were unaffected.
Company officials for Kuraray, Shin-Etsu Chemical, and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical (MGC) all said their plants in the area were operational. The Shin-Etsu official said the company did briefly shut some of its operations, but these units were quickly restarted.
Shin-Etsu operates a 60 000 tonne/year caustic soda and 55 000 tonne/year chlorine plant at Naoetsu in Niigata prefecture. It also runs a 20 000 tonne year methylcellulose plant in the area. The official was not able to provide more details.
MGC and Kuraray officials said there were no interruptions to the companies’ Niigata-based operations. But the MGC official noted that ‘there were serious transportation problems with moving products from Niigata’.
25 October. Sovereign Asset Management said it would seek an extraordinary general meeting for shareholders in SK Corp to amend the company’s articles of incorporation, preventing convicted felons from serving as directors.
Sovereign’s proposed amendments would mean any person who was charged with a serious criminal offence would be suspended from SK Corp’s board. Anyone convicted would be barred from being a director. If the resolutions are accepted, the current SK Corp chairman, Chey Tae-won, would be required to step down.
Chey was convicted and given a two-year sentence for his role in a Won4.4bn (US$3.7m) accounting fraud at trading firm SK Global and for an illegal stock transfer. SK Global has since been renamed SK Networks. Chey is free on bail pending an appeal.
The Monaco-based investment firm, which is the single largest shareholder in SK Corp with a 14.9% stake, had been calling for the resignation of Chey and other directors implicated in the accounting scandal since the summer of 2003. The company lost a bid to have similar amendments made to SK Corp’s articles of incorporation at its annual general meeting in March.
25 October. Shanghai Petrochemical Co (SPC) boosted its third-quarter net profit by 146% from a year ago to Rmb1.08bn (US$130.5m), mostly because of higher prices and stronger demand for petrochemical products, it said.
The net profit for the January-September period rose to Rmb2.61bn from Rmb911.1m in the same period of the previous year.
SPC said strong petrochemical prices and demand had more than offset the impact of record high crude-oil prices.
25 October. Reliance Industries reported an 18% increase in fiscal second-quarter petrochemicals profits to Rs10.4bn (US$228m) as it battled what it called ‘marginally subdued’ domestic demand owing to inventory corrections by downstream customers.
Petrochemicals sales for the three months ended 30 September were 25.9% ahead at Rs94.3bn.
Group profit before tax was 33.7% higher at Rs21.2bn, as refining profits advanced strongly on the back of higher sales. Group turnover for the quarter, a figure that excludes inter-segment transfers, was 29.4% higher at Rs178.6bn. Group profit after tax was Rs17.5bn, up 38.7%.
26 October. The European Commission (EC) said it would continue punitive tariff sanctions against US exports despite US action to revoke the Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax benefit, noting that the new US law revoking FSC would not take effect until 1 January.
A spokesman for the EC said the 1% incremental increases in EC tariffs against a range of US exports would continue as well. The punitive tariffs, authorised by the World Trade Organization, will increase to 13% in November and to 14% in December before the US legislation signed by President George W Bush last week goes into effect.
26 October. Shin-Etsu Chemical reported a 23.1% year-on-year increase in its group net profit to Yen46.5bn (US$435.8m) for the first half that ended 30 September.
The company’s group net sales for the six-month period jumped 15% from a year ago to Yen468.5bn, and its group operating profit for the same period increased 20.2% to Yen76.8bn.
26 October. LG Chem has started building an industrial materials plant in Gordon County, Georgia, US, which will be its first US-based production site.
A company spokesman said the plant, which would produce artificial marble, would cost about Won37bn (US$33m) and would come onstream in the second half of 2005.
Upon completion, it should be able to produce 500 000 sheets/year of HI-MACS artificial marble. HI-MACS, which is derived from methyl methacrylate/poly-methylmethacrylate, is used for countertops and other decorative purposes.
26 October. Higher margins enabled BP to report a huge leap in third-quarter earnings from its petrochemicals business.
Pro forma replacement cost profits before interest and tax more than doubled to US$188m in July to September this year compared with US$84m in Q3 last year. Turnover was 37% higher at US$5.41bn on production volumes up by 1.5% to 7.15m tonne mainly because of higher asset use.
However, profits were down 9.6% against the second quarter this year. BP explained that higher margins and lower fixed costs were outweighed by a US$38m exceptional charge from the disposal of its fabrics and fibres business and US$58m of non-operating costs for revisions to environmental and other unspecified provisions.
25 October. A major shutdown could not be ruled out on Basell’s 465 000 tonne/year ethylene cracker at Aubette, southern France, a company spokesman said.
The cracker has been running at below 70% of capacity recently owing to a problem with the distillation column, obliging Basell to declare force majeure late last week on supplies of ethylene.
Further technical problems could force the company to shut down the entire production, according to the spokesman.
27 October. The Thai prime minister has promised an investigation into the deaths of 78 people after a violent protest in the country’s mainly Muslim south region.
Thaksin Shinawatra regretted the heavy loss of life, adding that mistakes were made as hundreds of people were crammed into trucks and driven away for questioning. Thai officials said most of the victims died from suffocation or were crushed to death while aboard the army trucks.
27 October. Dongbu Hannong Chemical has awarded engineering firm ABB a contract to revamp its existing No 2 ethylbenzene (EB) and styrene monomer (SM) plant to increase capacity at the Ulsan, South Korea, facility from 100 000 tonne/year to 170 000 tonne/year by 2006.
The plant, originally designed by ABB Lummus Global, will be revamped using the Lummus/UOP EBOne and Smart styrene monomer technologies licensed by Lummus/UOP.
An ABB Lummus spokesman said she was ‘not at liberty’ to discuss details, including the value of the contract.
27 October. Bridgestone has officially opened its new carbon black plant in Thailand, the company said.
The plant, operating as Bridgestone Carbon Black (Thailand), a wholly owned member of the Bridgestone Group, is in the Ban Khai District of Rayong Province. Operations were initially started in May.
The plant has a capacity of 40 000 tonne/year, and will export carbon black to Bridgestone tyre plants in Japan and in other nations. Bridgestone has invested about Baht1.7bn (US$41m) in the Ban Khai plant.
27 October. Shin-Etsu Chemical and Kuraray in Niigata prefecture were operating normally and suffered no damage, even though an earthquake rocked that area today, company spokesmen said.
A spokesman for Mitsui Gas Chemical earlier said his company’s Niigata plant was also operating normally.
Today’s quake was the second the prefecture has suffered in the past week.
27 October. Kuraray has completed a Euro80m (US$101m) ethylene vinyl-alcohol (EVOH) coplymer resins project which doubles to 24 000 tonne/year the capacity of its Antwerp, Belgium, plant.
Operated by subsidiary Eval Europe, the plant was the world’s largest EVOH production facility, said Kuraray. It brought the company’s global capacity for EVOH resins to more than 47 000 tonne/year.
27 October. Blackstone Crystal Holdings Capital Partners (Cayman) IV (BCP Crystal) said it was acquiring Acetex Corp for Can$600m (US$492m).
BCP Crystal will operate Acetex as part of its global Celanese chemicals business.
Under the deal, which will close in January, BCP Crystal will pay Can$9/share for the 35.4m outstanding shares of Acetex. BCP Crystal will also assume Acetex’s debt of Can$282m.
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