Europe Feb polyol prices rise on higher costs, margin recovery

08 February 2012 23:59  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--European polyol contract prices have been driven up in February by intensified cost pressure and the need for margin recovery, market players said on Wednesday.

For standard flexible polyols, price increases were mainly between €40-70/tonne ($53-93/tonne), taking values to €1,750-1,850/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe). There was also talk of larger hikes of €80-100/tonne for the month, but they were not widely confirmed. 

A few producers said they had secured hikes of €100-150/tonne, but this was reflective of combined increases for January and February rather than February only and there was insufficient market confirmation to substantiate this.

By contrast, one buyer said it had secured a rollover in its flexible polyol price, stating that its increase is postponed to March amid intensified competition between suppliers. However, this was seen to reflect an exception rather than the norm.

Slabstock conventional flexible polyol prices are mainly confirmed in February at €1,750-1,850/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe). This represents an increase of €40-70/tonne from January.

A few producers pegged prices in the €1,800s/tonne or even €1,900/tonne as a minimum, reporting prices up to €1,950/tonne, but this was not confirmed by other market players.

Downsteam demand into the bedding and furniture sectors remains reasonable-to-good, despite underlying economic uncertainty. However, some players are mindful that polyol demand could be limited, if the succession of production problems for TDI continue. This is because TDI is the flexible counterpart, used with polyols in foam manufacturing. 

The flexible polyols market is balanced-to-tight, depending on source. Some suggest that polyols supply is limited because of some weather-related production constraints and the prioritisation of upstream propylene oxide (PO) into downstream monopropylene glycol, rather than the polyol sector.

The latter is attributed to increased demand for de-icer and antifreeze due to the cold temperatures and snow across Europe. However, other players said that supply remains sufficient and they have not experienced any production problems.

Monthly rigid polyol prices have moved up to the mid-to-upper €1,900s/tonne FD in February for the same cost reasons as for its flexible counterpart.

There were suggestions of larger increases and prices up to €2,000/tonne, but they were not widely confirmed. There was also talk of prices below the range, but this was not seen to reflect the general market level.

Rollovers were also reported, especially for the quarterly accounts and also in a few monthly cases, although the latter was not widely confirmed. Sellers said they would look to recoup lost margins on longer term accounts in the second quarter.

($1 = €0.75)

By: Heidi Finch
+44 20 8652 3214

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