US TPC Group sees strong April-June on higher BD demand, prices

14 May 2010 17:44  [Source: ICIS news]

A TPC plantHOUSTON (ICIS news)--TPC Group expects strong quarter-over-quarter growth for its fiscal 2010 fourth quarter on the back of improved demand, higher selling prices and the completion of a major scheduled turnaround at its Houston facility, the US butadiene (BD) producer said on Friday.

“Our markets continue to show substantial improvement,” CEO Charlie Shaver said on a conference call regarding earnings for the company's third quarter, which ended on 31 March. “Demand for BD strengthened after the new year, and all our markets are showing strong supply and demand fundamentals.”

Third-quarter sales slipped 3.6% on a sequential basis as a result of the Houston turnaround, but all work was completed on time, and all of the company’s facilities were running at high rates entering the fourth quarter, Shaver said. Moreover, no further turnarounds were planned for the remainder of the year, TPC said.

“The fourth quarter is typically our strongest quarter, and we were constrained on volumes because of the turnaround, so we do see sequential improvement,” he said.

Formerly known as Texas Petrochemical, TPC noted that US ethylene producers were continuing to favour cracking lighter feedstocks, which would restrict supplies of crude C4 feedstock, it said.

But TPC noted that feedstock supply was ample for the near-term, with an ethylene capacity utilisation rate of 85.5% in the fiscal third quarter and 87.3% in the fiscal second quarter, TPC said.

“We continue to have adequate supply to operate our online capacity,” Shaver said. “We’ve seen ethylene operating rates go from the mid-to-high 80s, and that’s what we expect to continue through 2010.”

In addition, TPC – which primarily produces BD and other niche chemicals derived from C4 hydrocarbons – said improvements on selling prices stayed ahead of raw material cost increases.

Fiscal third-quarter average selling prices were up by 118% year over year, the company said.

For the fourth quarter, TPC cited strong demand for BD, butene-1 and its performance products line, which along with favourable gasoline prices would boost volumes and margins, it said.

Overall, the company was ahead of schedule in executing its 2010 operating plan, Shaver said.

Shares of TPC, which recently began trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “TPCG”, moved up 32 cents, or 1.9%, to $17.54/share in mid-morning Friday trading.

The company swung to a third-quarter net profit of $4.1m (€3.3m) in its pre-market earnings announcement on Friday, with sales more than doubling on a year-over-year basis to $400.7m.

($1 = €0.80)

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