CEOs remain cautious over 2010 Outlook

The blog’s quarterly survey of company Outlook statements shows CEOs remain very cautious. There has been a rebound after the destocking disaster of Q4 2008 – Q1 2009. But there seems little confidence that we will quickly return to the levels of demand and margin seen in the 2003-7 Boom period. China’s stimulus and loan programme has certainly had an enormous impact in Asia, but NAFTA and Europe remain weak.

BASF CEO Jürgen Hambrecht perhaps best summarises the overall mood, with his view that “the worst is behind us, even though dark clouds remain “. He added that:

Overall, there are no signs of a self-sustaining, long-term recovery. We are still significantly below the capacity utilisation rates that were seen ahead of the crisis. (We expect) the majority of growth to come from the emerging economies in Asia, especially China, and from South America. The economy is still sputtering in Europe and North America. Growth in Europe would not return to 2008 levels before 2012. Stimulus programmes are being wound down, credit is becoming tighter, excessive national debt is leading to austerity measures, the number of jobs is falling and overcapacities still exist. There are further risks associated with geopolitical tensions and a trend towards protectionism.”

Akzo Nobel. “The recovery is fragile and will be slow.”
BASF. “The worst is behind us, even though dark clouds remain”.
BP. “The pace of global economic recovery would be slow and gradual”.
Bayer. “Expected the impact of the 2009 global business downturn to continue to be felt for some time to come”.
Clariant. “Saw no fundamental reason for growth to pick up”.
Cytec. “Markets are funny right now. They improve for a couple of months, and then they go down for a bit.”
Dow Chemical. “Growth will continue to lag in the US and Europe, however, as high unemployment persists and questions about the sustainability of government stimulus spending remain.”
Dow Corning. It’s still a volatile economic environment, but the year ended with many positive signs.”
DuPont. “In step with a transition out of a recessionary environment”.
Georgia Gulf. “This year is going to be a step-up in some areas, but to say robust would be an over-statement”.
Idemitsu Kosan. “Demand for products improved during the nine months, led by the economic stimulus package in China.”
Johnson Matthey. “Visibility remains limited in some of our end-user markets, the group is well placed to benefit from economic recovery.”
Kemira. Cost-cutting “had proceeded faster than planned and would be completed by the end of 2010″.
LG Chemical. “Demand from China was expected to be robust as the country continued its ‘solid growth’”.
Lonza. “Demand reflected a reduction in orders for life-science ingredients and large-scale biopharmaceutical projects in custom manufacturing.”
LyondellBasell. “Olefins profitability would be subject to oil price movements, while the polymers outlook would largely depend on whether the US PE export window to Asia remained open.”
Occidental. “Continued weakness in US housing, durable goods and agricultural markets.”
OMV. “Performance was affected by lower volumes and realised margins in the fourth quarter of last year”.
Polyone. “Government stimulus programmes may have helped the economy in the back half of 2009 and this may not continue this year.”
Praxair. “Cautiously optimistic that growth in the US and Europe will continue to improve, but recovery would be slow and deliberate”.
Reliance. “A substantial improvement in overall margins as the industry was operating on a low level of inventory, leading to higher domestic realisation.”
Rhodia. “Global economic conditions had improved but growth in Europe remained uncertain.”
SABIC . “As the global economy improves during the year, we expect to see demand for our products improve.”
Shell. “We are not assuming that there will be a quick recovery, and the outlook for 2010 is uncertain.”
Sherwin Williams. “Demand in most end markets remained weak and industry-wide volume was down significantly from peak levels”.
Sinopec. “China’s chemical market in 2010 would face challenges, such as intensified market competition, the rise of trade protectionism and overcapacity”.
Solvay. “Prepared in case of a longer crisis. Market conditions remain challenging,”
Sumitomo. “Consumer spending remained sluggish amid worsening employment conditions and capital investment fell substantially against the backdrop of depressed corporate earnings.”
Sunoco. “We continue to expect a challenging market due to ongoing economic weakness and excess global supply.”
Unilever. “Face pressure on consumer spending power and heightened levels of competitive activity.”
Unipetrol. “The petrochemical industry is recovering but at a slow pace. It is quite clear that we still have hard times ahead.”
Vitol. “The global economic outlook and the dynamics of future oil demand remain uncertain”.
Wacker. “The upturn in demand experienced since April 2009 continued through the fourth quarter, but did not offset the drop in sales caused by the economic crisis.”

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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