China's growth slows but still beats US, Europe − Celanese

23 October 2012 19:36  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--China’s economy may be softening, but it still remains the top region globally for Celanese, the acetyls producer’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

“China is going to be a real indicator for what happens to our earnings next year,” said Celanese chief executive Mark Rohr in a conference call.

The US-based company’s third quarter earnings dropped nearly 30% year on year because of lower pricing and softer demand for acetyl products stemming from continued weak economic conditions in Europe and Asia, the company said.

Rohr described China’s acetyls market now as “in a pretty flat, downward trend”, but he characterised the company’s other major global regions as weaker.

The US, where demand for acetic acid has been falling, is “a big question mark”, Rohr said. He added that the European market continues to slide.

“We are not comfortable that Europe is at the bottom and beginning to turn around,” Rohr said.

China remains the major proving ground for the company, according to Celanese executives.

Earlier this year the Chinese government approved Celanese’s request to modify a plant in Nanjing to produce industrial ethanol based on the company’s new TCX technology, which allows it to produce ethanol from natural gas or coal by using acetic acid as an intermediary, according to a patent.

Celanese plans to open that plant in mid-2013. Rohr said such Celanese-specific projects would be the key to the company’s earnings growth in 2013.

Rohr also said Celanese still wanted to find a partner to share the cost of a planned 1.3m tonne/year methanol unit at its plant in Clear Lake near Houston that was announced earlier this year. The cost of that unit has been estimated at $500m-$1bn (€385m-770m).

“I would prefer not having that much cash tied up in it,” Rohr said.

Rohr said the methanol plant should be finished by mid-2015.

($1 = €0.77)

By: Lane Kelley
+1 713 525 2653

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