High caustic soda prices boost AkzoNobel's 2011 performance

16 February 2012 15:05  [Source: ICIS news]

By Abache Abreu

LONDON (ICIS)--Higher caustic soda prices boosted AkzoNobel’s 2011 performance in industrial chemicals such as chlor-alkali and monochloroacetic acid (MCAA), the Netherlands-headquartered producer said on Thursday.

The company's revenue from industrial chemicals increased by 9% in 2011, mainly driven by pricing action, whereas total sales volume in the business segment stayed largely flat. 

Throughout the second half of last year, plummeting consumption levels in the European construction sector led to a drastic reduction in the output of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) feedstock chlorine, shrinking supplies for chlorine's co-product, caustic soda.

Tightening conditions allowed European caustic soda producers such as AkzoNobel to achieve their price targets and spot values soared to levels not seen since 2009.

AkzoNobel's performance in the industrial chemicals segment was also characterised by favourable electricity regulations in Germany, the chemicals major said.

However, it was negatively impacted by a four-yearly maintenance shutdown at the company’s Rotterdam electrolysis unit earlier in the year, and the River Rhine’s water levels, which decreased to unusually low levels late in 2011, limiting shipping space as well as the quantities barges were allowed to take.

AkzoNobel’s overall 2011 revenues went up by 7%, driven by pricing actions to offset raw material cost inflation, Chief Executive Officer Hans Wijers said during the company’s earnings press conference.

“This has been the main driver of our growth in 2011,” he said.

However, the company reported a net loss of €68m ($88m) in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with a profit of €162m in the same period a year earlier, partly because of a steep fall in earnings at its decorative paints segment.

($1 = €0.77)

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By: Abache Abreu
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