FocusChina methanol players unfazed by ADD inquiry extension

25 June 2010 04:41  [Source: ICIS news]

By Heng Hui

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--China’s decision to extend antidumping investigations into methanol imports from four countries is expected to have a limited impact on prices, as traders are confident they can acquire the material from elsewhere, market players said on Friday.

The country’s Ministry of Commerce extended its investigations into methanol imports from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand by six months, to 24 December, it said in a statement.

The complex nature of the issue prompted the extension of the investigations, the ministry added.

The ministry launched the investigations on 24 June 2009 after receiving complaints from 14 domestic methanol producers. The cases were supposed to have been completed within a year.

Domestic producers claimed that methanol imports from the four countries were being dumped in the market after the country's methanol production rates hit historic lows of about 30% in the first quarter of 2009 and prices sank to $165-175/tonne (€134-142/tonne) CFR (cost and freight).

After the investigations started, many traders in China stopped importing methanol cargoes from the four countries for fear of having backdated duties imposed on the material, they said.

“There are all sorts of saying on how much the antidumping duties might be, from 5% to over 30%. We’ll just leave it to the official announcement,” said a distributor.

However, China's methanol imports would not be affected even if antidumping duties were to be imposed, as players in the market could acquire the material through other means and countries likes Oman, Iran and Brunei, according to market sources.

“I don’t see the antidumping measures as impacting the market much…Traders could always do origin swaps with other methanol-producing countries,” said a major methanol buyer in eastern China.

Since China relies on costly coal-to-methanol production, a large proportion of its capacity is competitive only at higher prices, some traders said, adding domestic supply would increase if the imported methanol prices were to rise due to antidumping duties.

“The price might increase a little but not by a significant amount, as domestic production would start to become viable at any values above $280/tonne CFR China,” said another trader.

Any duties imposed could also have a small impact on several major downstream applications, such as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), acetic acid, formaldehyde, methyl methacrylate (MMA), polyoxymethylene (POM), and dimethyl formamide (DMF), and to a lesser extent vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) and 1,4-butanediol (BDO), they added.

The Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) has challenged the antidumping investigations, according to Chinese media reports.

China’s protectionist actions, which were meant to block imports from the Middle East, were baseless and violated international rules, according to press reports quoting GPCA secretary-general Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun. 

However, sources said that Saudi Arabia was likely to be exempted from any antidumping duty due the high number of methanol joint ventures between the two countries.

“Saudi methanol exports are unlikely to be hit much by the antidumping measures, if any. The other three countries are likely to have more impact,” said a major trader.

The global methanol industry is estimated to produce more than 47m tonnes/year, with around a quarter of the demand, or 12m-13m tonnes/year, coming from China, sources said.

 ($1 =  €0.81)

For more information on methanol visit ICIS chemical intelligence
Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s Asian Chemical Connections blog
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Heng Hui
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