InterviewThailand's PTT Chemical eyes overseas M&A opportunities

29 March 2010 08:11  [Source: ICIS news]

By Malini Hariharan

MUMBAI (ICIS news)--Thai petrochemicals major PTT Chemical is evaluating further investment opportunities overseas, including mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and new projects, for future growth, a senior company executive said on Monday.

“In the future it would be difficult to add any significant capacity [in Thailand]. In terms of business plan and strategy, we are looking outside Thailand,” said Veerasak Kositpaisal, president and CEO of the company.

The company was exploring greenfield investments, M&As or joint ventures.

Kositpaisal said the company has had discussions with potential partners for M&As but was unwilling to disclose details.

“We are looking at opportunities now. We are calculating the numbers – the benefits and the costs,” he said.

Kositpaisal said the focus would be on investments in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, although PTT Chemical was open to consider opportunities outside of Asia.

“We tend to put more weight in Asean countries as we see the growth potential. Thailand has a population of 53m and Asean has 500m. We think we know the market well. The culture is not very different [from Thailand],” he explained.

PTT Chemical had already taken steps to expand its business outside Thailand with the acquisition of a 50% stake in Cognis Oleochemicals in 2008.

Cognis Oleochemicals, now a joint venture between PTT Chem’s subsidiary PTT Chemical International and Sime Darby Plantation, has been renamed Emery Oleochemicals. Emery has manufacturing sites in Asia, the US and Europe.

PTT Chemical was open to both new projects and acquisitions.

“If we look at new projects we can take a long-term view. With a project we can make it the way we want it to be. But it takes time.

“With an M&A it may not be a 100% fit with what you want, but it is quick,” he said.

Although the rise of environmental activism in Thailand has pushed local companies to look for growth opportunities overseas, PTT Chemical was also considering expansions within the country.

“We are looking at gas for petrochemicals; the answer is not yet clear. Thailand has gas, but whether it is enough to support a world-scale cracker is being evaluated now,” he said, adding that he hopes to see a clearer picture on this issue next year.

Meanwhile, Kositpaisal stressed that the court suspension of a number of projects in Mab Ta Phut, including those of PTT Chemical's, was a legal issue rather than an environmental issue.

Thailand had adopted a new constitution in 2007 but no law was framed to support Article 67, which gives Thai people the right to participate with the state in preserving the country’s environment.

“We have to continue working with the legal issues. We have seen progress,” he said referring to a recent decision by the Supreme Court to allow some of the projects to resume construction.

“We are waiting for legislation to be issued by the government. We expect that this will be [done] before the middle of this year,” he added.

Kositpaisal pointed out that only one project - a 95,000 tonnes/year monoethylene glycol (MEG) expansion by subsidiary TOC Glycol - needed a health impact assessment (HIA) and a public hearing of the study.

“But we are preparing HIAs for all projects anyway,” he said.

The other projects include a 50,000 tonnes/year high-density polyethylene (hdPE) expansion, a new 250,000 tonnes/year hdPE plant by subsidiary Bangkok Polyethylene, 50,000 tonnes/year of ethanolamines by subsidiary Thai Ethanolamines and debottlenecking of the I4-2 cracker.

Kositpaisal also expected that the No 6 gas separation project of PTT, the parent company of PTT Chemical, to start in June to help run the company’s new 1m tonne/year cracker at full capacity.

The gas separation project, which was included in the list of projects under court injunction, would supply ethane to the cracker that has been running at a reduced operating rate, he said.

Meanwhile, PTT Chemical may not be included yet in the initial phase of the planned mega merger of PTT’s affiliates, said Kositpaisal.

PTT Chemical is one of the four affiliates identified for consolidation, along with PTT Aromatics & Refining (PTTAR), Integrated Refining and Petrochemical Complex (IRPC) and Thai Oil.

The merger of PTTAR and IRPC would be decided upon in May, he said.

“The merger of PTT Chemical at this point is not on the priority list. It is for the future; we will have to ask the two [merged] companies,” he said.

Although the companies have yet to consolidate, PTT Chemical has been realising synergies with PTTAR, from which its petrochemical facilities get supply of feedstock naphtha.

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections

For more on petrochemicals visit ICIS chemical intelligence
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Malini Hariharan
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