Europe MA spot prices at record-high weekly rise on Sasol-Huntsman FM

17 February 2012 17:03  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--European maleic anhydride spot prices have witnessed their largest week-on-week increase on record as a result of a force majeure declaration by Sasol-Huntsman, buyers and sellers said on Friday.

“Product is very tight on the Sasol-Huntsman force majeure. It’s very difficult at the moment. We’ve heard some very high numbers,” a buyer said.

European producer Sasol-Huntsman declared force majeure at its 105,000 tonne/year plant in Moers, Germany, on 8 February, a company source confirmed.

The force majeure was caused by a raw material supply disruption resulting from severe weather conditions in Germany, the source said. It is not known how long the force majeure will last.

Sasol-Huntsman is the largest supplier of MA in Europe and availability has significantly tightened because of the force majeure declaration, with little spot material available.

Last week, spot material was trading at €1,350-1,500/tonne ($1,776-1,974/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe). Spot prices this week are trading at €1,600-1,800/tonne for liquid and flake, a rise of €250-300/tonne. This is also the highest percentage change in spot prices week-on-week, at a rise of 19-20%, since ICIS price records for MA began on 17 November 1999.

“Product is terribly tight. €1,600-1,800/tonne [for spot product] is very real, and not the highest we’ve heard,” a trader said.

The previous record high week-on-week spot price change was €200/tonne, which was seen at the top-end of the flake spot price range on 5 November 2004, at both ends of the liquid spot price on 30 October 2009, and at the top end of the liquid range on 23 April 2010.

The previous record high week-on-week percentage change in flake spot prices was 10-14%, seen on 22 September 2000. The previous record high week-on-week percentage change in liquid spot prices was 15-17%, seen on 30 October 2009, following the announcement of BASF’s plans to close its MA plant in Feluy, Belgium.

One producer said that it would not offer material below €1,850/tonne for spot, and had sold material as high as €2,000/tonne.

This would equal the record high spot price for MA in Europe which was seen between 8 April-27 May 2011, which was the result of a previous Sasol-Huntsman force majeure. Although other market players said that some volume may have been sold this week for as much as €2,000/tonne, this was not reflective of the majority of business.

One buyer said that it was still able to source import spot material for as low as a euro equivalent of €1,350/tonne FD NWE, but this was not seen as representative by the majority of the market.

In addition to the Sasol-Huntsman outage, MOL will stop production at its 16,000 tonne/year MA plant in Szazhalombatta, Hungary, for 3 days in the second-half of next week, to begin a cleaning operation.

Sources said there are further production problems in the market, although this has not been confirmed. Several producers, however, said that they were trying to secure extra volume in the market to meet their commitments.

“There are very high prices, if you can find product ... all in all, everyone is tight for various reasons, there’s delays and missing product,” a trader said.

MA demand in Europe is increasing because of additional downstream coatings consumption linked to rising temperatures in parts of Europe.

Several players are expecting further spot price increases in March because of rising feedstock costs and the tightness in the market, but this will depend on how long production problems in Europe last, which remains unclear because they are linked to weather conditions.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Mark Victory
+44 208 652 3214

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