Price and market trends: Huntsman expects TiO2 market to return to normal by end of 2013

22 February 2013 10:20  [Source: ICB]

CEO Peter Huntsman expects titanium dioxide operating conditions to return to normal by the end of 2013

The world titanium dioxide (TiO2) market should return to more normal operating conditions by the end of the year as demand recovers from a destocking binge, the CEO of US-based Huntsman said.

Destocking characterised the industry in the third and fourth quarters of 2012, said CEO Peter Huntsman, who made his comments during a fourth-quarter earnings conference call on 12 February.

"You definitely see destocking that is taking place," he said. "You see customers that are burning through their inventories."

The destocking was prevalent in Asia, and for the industry to turn around, year-on-year growth needs to return there, Huntsman said. That has started, and destocking seems to have come to an end in Asia, he said.

For the first quarter of 2013, volumes should rise slightly from the fourth quarter, but sales prices should fall, Huntsman said.

As such, the company's pigment earnings should bottom out in the first quarter before volumes and selling prices improve in the second half of the year.

By the end of 2013, the industry should return to more normal conditions, Huntsman said.

Regarding prices for feedstock titanium ores, if they are compared on a contained-titanium basis, ilmenite is about $600/tonne (€450/tonne), Esplin said. Rutile and slag are about $1,600/tonne.

Huntsman has been upgrading some of its sulphate slag plants to consume more ilmenite, the company said during its conference call for its third-quarter earnings.

For 2012, TiO2 made up nearly 13% of Huntsman's revenue from the company's pigment segment.

The segment reported sales of $1.44bn (€1.08bn), down about 12% from $1.64bn year on year.

The pigment segment reported $362m in 2012 adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, down almost 29% from $508m for 2011.

For the fourth quarter, adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was $10m, down from $145m reported for the same period in the previous year.

The substantial drop in earnings came as North American TiO2 prices fell in the fourth quarter by 20 cents/lb ($441/tonne) to $1.55-1.70/lb, according to ICIS.

By: Al Greenwood
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