Despite ‘head cold’, China and Asia are places to be – CEO

20 March 2013 21:32  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--China and Asia remain major factors in the petrochemical demand story despite economic headwinds in the region, the CEO of ExxonMobil Chemical said on Wednesday.

China’s got a head cold, and it’s going to take awhile to get going but it will,” Stephen Pryor said during a panel discussion at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference.

Worries have begun to surface about China’s economy after its relatively slow start to the year.

China's industrial output has had its weakest start to a year since 2009, showing only a 9.9% growth for January-February, compared with 10.3% in December 2012. Also, Chinese domestic retail sales growth fell from 15.2% in December to 12.3% in January-February.

Meanwhile, demand for chemicals such as polyethylene (PE) has fallen after the Lunar New Year holiday, a rarity in recent years.

Still, “Asia is the place to be,” Pryor said.

The ExxonMobil Chemical executive pointed to a statistic showing that two-thirds of petrochemical demand growth through 2020 is expected to come from the Asia-Pacific region, which is a big reason why the company is expanding capacity at its Singapore integrated facility.

A new cracker being set up there is part of the energy giant’s second petrochemical project in the city-state, which will add 2.6m tonnes/year of new finished product capacity.

But ExxonMobil is not China-centred or Asia-centred, Pryor said, adding that in an increasingly global petrochemical market, companies have to take a long-term, worldwide view.

“This is a global business,” Pryor said. “Trade is going to be increasingly interconnected.”

The IHS World Petrochemical Conference continues through Thursday.

By: Jeremy Pafford
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