Europe PE sellers eye LDPE price increases in September

19 August 2010 11:37  [Source: ICIS news]

LDPE producers seek increasesLONDON (ICIS)--European low density polyethylene (LDPE) sellers are hopeful of raising prices in September as low inventories along the product chain, coupled with expectations of increased demand as buyers return from holidays, are expected to tighten availability, sources said on Thursday.

“We can sell LDPE to some export markets at better netbacks than the low-priced accounts in Europe, so that’s what we are doing,” said a producer.

August LDPE pricing was mixed, with some producers transferring the €18/tonne ($23/tonne) drop in the monthly ethylene contract to early buyers and others expecting to be able to retain the decrease in the August monomer contract.

Producers’ margins were good, however, and most buyers expected to be able to gain at least a €20/tonne reduction in monthly PE prices, even at retroactive accounts, which would be settled at the very end of the month.

“We didn’t need to give away the ethylene [decrease],” said another producer. “Stocks are low and export markets are picking up.”

LDPE buyers have paid increases throughout 2010 and were only able to get some limited relief in the summer months.

Year-to-date prices have risen by over 30%, and western European LDPE was now trading at €1,220-1,250/tonne FD (free delivered) on a net basis in most of Europe.

The UK and Poland reported a different pricing picture, however, as material from new capacity was said to be offered at discount levels.

“We have been bid as low as €1,150/tonne in Poland, and sometimes even below,” said a trader.

There were similar stories from the UK.

“We are losing business at £990/tonne (€1,207/tonne) [FD] in some cases, but then we can sell at some accounts at £1,020/tonne [FD],” reported a puzzled seller.

There was talk of prices as low as £950/tonne FD in the UK, but most sources said that numbers at such levels must be for non-prime product.

LDPE prices in Germany and France were reported at €1,250/tonne FD.

While LDPE sellers said they are confident of firmer LDPE prices, the same could not be said for high density polyethylene (HDPE).

Dow Chemical announced an €80/tonne increase for all PE grades for September, including HDPE, but most sources said that the likelihood of an HDPE price increase was slight.

Even for LDPE, a targeted price increase of €80/tonne was seen by most players as overambitious.

LyondellBasell has to fill its new 260,000 tonne/year HDPE plant in Munchsmunster, Germany, and imports were offered from new plants in the Middle East, although not to the extent that many buyers had hoped.

Buying activity is expected to resume in the coming days, as buyers return from summer holidays.

PE is used extensively in the packaging industry.

PE producers in Europe include Borealis, Dow Chemical, INEOS, LyondellBasell, Polimeri Europa, SABIC and Total Petrochemicals.

($1 = €0.78/€1=£0.82)

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By: Linda Naylor
+44 20 8652 3214

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