22 March 2013 09:19 [Source: ICB]
European polyol contract settlements in March have been mixed between rollovers and increases of €10-40/tonne ($13-52/tonne), as higher upstream propylene costs were weighed against fragile downstream demand and reasonably good supply, said market players on 13 March.
Despite the stable-to-firmer sentiment, any price increases in March were largely incorporated within the existing ranges. European March contract prices remain steady at €1,770-1,870/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe) for flexible polyols and €2,010-2,080/tonne FD NWE for rigid polyols, according to ICIS.
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Numbers either side of the ranges were also heard, but they were not widely confirmed. One producer said it had been firm on its price stance and secured increases of €20-30/tonne for both flexible and rigid polyol monthly business in March. However, it conceded that it had also lost some volumes.
Other sellers had accepted rollovers for flexible polyols in March in most cases, albeit with some minor selective increases. They said that while there was an underlying need to increase prices across the board because of intensified cost pressure, they said it had been difficult to achieve because of strong competition and modest downstream demand.
Flexible polyols buyers confirmed rollovers and minor increases, with some variation, depending on supplier. One customer said it had concluded the bulk of its flexible polyol business at a rollover prior to news of the increase in the propylene contract price for March and said it accepted increases of up to €30/tonne for limited volumes only. A second buyer said it had resisted any polyol price rises in March, despite higher costs, because of good availability. A few other customers, however, said they had accepted minor increases based on higher costs only.
For rigid polyols, prices largely rolled over into March, taking into account a large proportion of quarterly business, where prices are fixed until the end of March. For monthly business, which remains limited, rollovers were heard, as well as a few rises of €10-30/tonne.
Flexible polyols demand in the downstream bedding and furniture sectors remain subdued for economic and weather-related reasons. Rigid polyols demand from the main downstream construction sector is expected to seasonally pick up over the next few months - weather permitting - but this is also likely to be weighed against how the economy pans out.
Flexible polyols supply is generally described as good, but advanced polyols remain structurally tight because of their lower yield when compared with standard grades. Players are closely monitoring polyols supply over the next few months, taking into account a spate of polyol plant turnarounds and the expected seasonal uptick in rigid demand. Buyers, however, said they do not expect to see any adverse effects on supply as the turnarounds are planned and demand is modest anyway.
In manufacturing news, Dow Chemical's polyols operations at Terneuzen, the Netherlands, is due to enter into a five-week planned maintenance turnaround for all grades starting 22 March.
There is also market talk that Shell Chemical's polyols facility at Pernis in the Netherlands is also expected to undergo planned maintenance work over the next few months, possibly in the early part of the second quarter. However, this has not been confirmed.
Planned maintenance is under way at Bayer MaterialScience's polyols plant maintenance at Fos-sur-Mer site in France. Details on duration were not available.
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