The battle lines are definitely being drawn up in South East Asia, following Honam’s July move to acquire Malaysia’s Titan.
The context for this is Asian producers need to develop new strategies, as export opportunities to China dry up. China’s ethylene production grew 26% in H1 versus 2009, with Sinopec increasing its output by 41%. And, of course, there is further expansion in the pipeline, well ahead of likely demand growth.
The news this week is that moves are finally being made to sort out the long-standing problems at Chandra Asri in Indonesia. As my blogging colleague John Richardson notes, this has made the country one of the world’s largest importers of ethylene, with an expected deficit of nearly 600kt in 2013.
Joint owner Barito Pacific will end up with 71.6% of the new company in January, when TriPolyta Indonesia merges with Chandra Asri. The aim must surely be to increase olefin capacity, whilst properly integrating the cracker with downstream polymer production.
If this doesn’t happen, then Honam will have an open goal, once its Titan acquisition goes through. Honam has already announced its intention to expand olefin production in Malaysia, whilst its acquisition brings with it the PT Titan polyethylene plant in Indonesia.
Singapore’s new strategy shows its Economic Development Board is well aware of the risks of standing still whilst the world changes. But Thailand’s PTT seems in danger of falling behind, as M&A goes on around it. It is burdened with a complex ownership structure, and must have inevitably been distracted by the long-running environmental issues at the Mab ta Phut site.