Cristal seeks second US TiO2 increase for August

09 July 2009 22:46  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Cristal Global said on Thursday that its need to invest in capacity restarts was a primary reason it increased to 5 cents/lb ($110/tonne) a proposed 1 August price hike for North American titanium dioxide (TiO2) – the second initiative for August by the global pigment producer.

In May, Cristal and other producers announced 2 cent/lb hikes in North America for July or August implementation as allowed by contracts. But on Thursday, Cristal was the only seller confirmed with a second nominated increase for August.

“Our industry has been so unprofitable for such a long time that it’s not robust enough to survive current economic gyrations,” said John Hall, Cristal vice president, commercial. “So if we’re going to continue to restart capacity, we have to have cash flow and margin. After a brief period of improved profitability last year,” he said, “margins have returned to very low levels at a time when demand is improving, and some modest investment is needed to return assets to full capability.”

Buyers said neither the new North America announcement by Cristal nor the pre-existing 2 cent/lb initiatives would succeed under current economic conditions.

Producers conceded that amid weak demand, price efforts would be resisted, but they said price hikes were needed to bring idled capacity back on stream, thus avoiding supply constraints as demand slowly rebuilds.

Most buyers said demand had been gradually improving since March, but that July was weaker to flat. Year-over-year demand still remained down by 10-25%, some buyers said.

Production rates have been significantly throttled back from a typical range of 97-98%, producers said, but none would discuss actual run rates.

Cristal also announced a 1 August price-hike initiative in Brazil of $150/tonne (€108/tonne). The existing proposal in Brazil is at plus $100/tonne for 1 July, the company said.

North American TiO2 prices were 109-119 cents/lb ($2,403-2,623/tonne, €1,730-1,889/tonne), according to data from global chemical market intelligence service ICIS pricing

Other TiO2 producers include DuPont, Kronos, Tronox and Huntsman.

($1 = €0.72)

For more on TiO2 visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: Larry Terry
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