Europe polypropylene buyers resist hikes, exports remain strong

07 April 2009 12:03  [Source: ICIS news]

By Linda Naylor

Europe PP buyers resist proposed price hikesLONDON (ICIS news)--European polypropylene (PP) buyers are resisting proposed hikes for April in sharp contrast to the export situation, where strong demand has led to higher prices over the past few days, sources said on Tuesday.

“We have got rollover on all our April business,” said one buyer. “One of our suppliers started off with a €30/tonne ($40/tonne) increase, but that went down to plus €10/tonne yesterday, and today they have done a rollover.”

“We have still not settled March, let alone April,” said another large buyer. “We are closing another line in April so we are in no hurry to buy more product.”

Sellers acknowledged that demand was poor.

“April was always going to be a weak month,” said a major PP producer. “We have cut back production and are prepared for a short month. We are still looking for increases but have done rollover at some higher-priced accounts.”

PP production had been widely cut back in Europe as demand weakened. The food packaging sector remained buoyant, with hardly any reduction in volumes, but automotive was very weak along with other industrial applications.

Strong demand from India last week led to several thousand tonnes of PP being exported.

“Netbacks for export are better than in the domestic market,” said a PP producer who had taken advantage of the sharp increases, particularly in the Indian market.

“We are taking a risk by selling so much overseas. If demand comes back in the second half of the month in Europe, we won’t be able to supply.”

Export prices for homopolymer injection were at $1,050/tonne CFR India, while net European homopolymer prices were reported by buyers to be as low as €690/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe) in some cases.

Inventories along the chain were widely thought to be very low. Many converters were waiting for new capacities in the Middle East to come on stream, but they admitted that it would take time for material to be approved.

“Testing will take time but the new capacities are bound to have an impact on the European market by June at the latest,” said another buyer.

Some producers were still looking for higher prices in April but they admitted that the level of resistance was very high.

PP and PE producers in Europe include LyondellBasell, Borealis, SABIC, Total Petrochemicals, Dow Chemical, Repsol, INEOS Olefins and Polymers, Polychim and Domo.

($1 = €0.75)

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By: Linda Naylor
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