Price and market trends: Europe polyols roll over as weak demand weighs on cost recovery

19 April 2013 09:22  [Source: ICB]

European polyol contract prices in April have rolled over in most cases, as cost recovery is weighed against subdued downstream demand, players said on 10 April.

As a result, European flexible polyol contract prices remain steady in April at €1,770-1,870/tonne ($2,329-2,461/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe), according to ICIS.

Polyol sellers maintained a firm stance on price in April, despite the reduction in the upstream propylene contract price in April, as they said they had yet to recoup the higher propylene costs in March, and that the feedstock relief in April was compensation for this.

GENTLE VARIATIONS

While the general price trend for flexible polylols was steady in April, lower numbers were also mentioned by some players, but this was not seen to be representative for NWE. By contrast, some price increases for flexible polyols were mentioned in a few cases, depending on what had been implemented in March.

EU polyolsSome sellers had passed on selective price increases for polyols in March, following the increase in the upstream contract price in March, but this was not carried out by all sellers. As a result, a few sellers said they had implemented increases of €20-50/tonne for flexible polyols in April, but this was not confirmed as a general trend.

Flexible polyol demand remains flat-to-slow in northwest Europe because of ongoing reduced consumer confidence and spending amid the poor economic conditions. Eastern Europe is performing slightly better than northwest Europe, as it is more of an emerging market.

Flexible polyol supply remains good, despite a number of plant turnarounds for main players, because demand remains lacklustre.

Rigid polyol contract prices have rolled over into April and the second quarter, with values largely within the range of €2,010-2,080/tonne FD NWE.

Numbers for rigid polyols below this range in April were also heard, but they were not widely confirmed.

One buyer said it had secured a price reduction of €10/tonne in April - which was valid for both its flexible and rigid polyol business, but there was no other market confirmation to substantiate this.

Selective modest price inceases for rigid polyols were mentioned in April in a few cases, but not widely confirmed.

Some signs of selective price increases was attributed to talk of reduced availability for rigid and advanced polyols, thought to be because of their lower yield and possibly more impact from the plant turnarounds.

However, other players contested any supply tightness for rigid polyols and advanced polyols, saying the seasonal uptick from the construction sector was yet to pick up, because of extended winter weather conditions. The downstream automotive sector remained subdued for economic reasons.

PLANT SHUTDOWNS

Planned maintenance at Dow Chemical's operations at Terneuzen, the Netherlands, is thought to be ongoing. It began on 20 March and is expected to last for around four to five weeks.

Scheduled maintenance at Bayer MaterialScience's facility at Fos-sur-Mer, France, started in the second half of March and was expected to last a couple of weeks.

Market sources have suggested Shell Chemical's polyols plant at Pernis, the Netherlands, may undergo planned maintenance in the second quarter. However, this was not confirmed at source.


By: Heidi Finch
+44 20 8652 3214



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