Dow cuts jobs, sets out future focus

Dow Dec08.jpg

Yesterday, Dow announced its new structure post the K-Dow JV and the planned acquisition of Rohm & Haas. This covered two main elements:

• Implementation of November’s cost reduction announcement
• Dow’s new organisation (the chart above)

The cost reductions were severe, with a headline 11% of staff facing redundancy. 20 plants in “high-cost areas” will close. 2000 of the 5000 jobs lost are in businesses targeted for divestment, and this process will now be “accelerated”. Another 6000 contractor jobs will also go. Research spending is being reduced by $600m, and working capital by $2bn.

“New Dow” contains “feedstock-driven” and “market-driven” businesses:
Feedstock-driven includes those areas where Dow has been pursuing its “asset-light” strategy for some years. It consists of the various JV’s, including Dow’s share of K-Dow, plus the remaining associated petchem and basic chemical businesses. The focus will be to maximise upstream integration and become/remain lowest cost producers.
Market-driven will be solution-orientated, aiming to anticipate and meet market needs in forecast future growth areas.

The new organisation pursues the concepts first announced back in July, at the time of the R&H deal. At that time, Dow had indicated it was expecting the industry trough to last until 2011/12, with the next peak not till 2015. This led many analysts to fear a dividend cut, for the first time since 1912. In response, Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris has had to put his job on the line, saying it would not happen “on my watch”.

“New Dow” is being born at a difficult time. Global markets are in recession, causing profits to weaken. But “new Dow” cannot just cut costs, as “old Dow” would have done, pay the dividend and wait for the recession to pass. It will now have to also find a way of continuing to invest in new product development within its market-focused businesses, in order to sustain their current revenue streams.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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