Company results show few signs of any upturn

recession logo right.jpgEconomic recovery is already underway, according to the optimists who have bid up financial markets in recent weeks. But the blog’s quarterly review of company results shows little evidence of it on the ground.

Phrases such as ‘challenging’, ‘economic uncertainty’, ‘deterioration’ and ‘decline’ dominate the reports across all major regions:

• Europe is clearly in worst position, with the critically important auto and housing industries in long-term decline
• But Asia is also weak, as the new Chinese leadership refocuses policy on the broad mass of the population
• And even the US provides few bright spots, with political gridlock undermining optimism over feedstock costs

Equally, there is little distinction between the outlook of the commodity and specialty sectors. In fact, as the blog will discuss in more detail next week, these labels appear increasingly out-of-date. Instead, the critical distinction is becoming between ‘Niche’ and ‘Mass-Market’.

Companies such as Bayer, Croda and Arkema highlight the New Normal into which we are transitioning. Croda, for example, are one of the very few companies to have noticed that the ageing BabyBoomers are now the only growth sector in the Western world. And they have successfully developed new high margin, niche products to meet their needs.

Air Products. “Globally, economic growth underperformed our expectations”
Air Liquide. “Increased hydrogen demand for refining and chemicals in Asia and US”
AkzoNobel. “Economic environment remains challenging”
Arkema. “Repositioning the portfolio towards high added value niche markets”
Asahi Kasei. “Deteriorating market conditions in the chemicals and electronics segments”
BASF. “Expected increase in demand, together with measures to improve operational excellence and raise efficiency”
BP. “We expect margins to remain under pressure during 2013″
Bayer. “Strategic focus on these markets of the future – and the investments we are making there – are paying off”
Borealis. “Weaker polyolefins margin environment in Europe”
Celanese. “Challenging global environment would continue throughout 2013″
Clariant. “Expects the soft macroeconomic environment to persist into 2013″
Croda. “Benefited from the trend among ageing populations to spend more on cosmetics to preserve a youthful appearance”
Dow. “H2 2012 saw significant deterioration in the markets we serve, particularly in China”
DSM. “High benzene prices, new capacities in market, combined with weak end-use markets in fibres caused a sharp deterioration in margins”
DuPont. “A slow-growth world economy”
Eastman. “Cheaper costs for raw materials and energy more than offset lower sales prices”
EQUATE. “3% increase in profit, backed by record sales.
ExxonMobil. “Higher margins increased earnings by $330m”
Honeywell. “Challenging end market conditions”
Huntsman. “Programs will enhance our future competitiveness and increase shareholder value”
INEOS. “Markets in Europe and Asia have continued to be subdued…business in North America has been strong with the the benefit of the current feedstock advantage”
Indorama. “Ongoing slowdown in Chinese economic growth”
LyondellBasell. “Outside North America, the global olefins industry continues to experience low operating rates and profitability”
Methanex. “Longer-term outlook for the industry looks very attractive”
Mitsubishi. “Lower earnings at a petrochemical-related subsidiary”
Mitsui. “Lower sales volume in the basic chemicals segment”
OMV. “Margins were burdened by higher input prices”
PKN Orlen. “Higher olefins and polyolefins sales volumes year on year”
PetroRabigh. “Higher operational capacity in 2012″
Oxychem. “Economic weakness and increased competition in Europe and Asia”
Phillips 66. “Specialties, aromatics and styrenics benefitted from improved benzene margins”
Praxair. “North American results were mitigated by recessions in Brazil and Europe, moderating growth in China”
SABIC. “Higher sales volumes and sales prices for certain products”
Siam Cement. “Higher demand from flood-related rebuilding activities”
Shell. “Higher operating expenses and reduced US availability of advantaged feedstocks”
Sherwin Williams. “Increased paint sales volumes and higher selling prices”
Solvay. “Will maintain selective investments to support its growth engines”
Stolt Neilsen. “I do not believe in any significant recovery in 2013″
Styrolution. “Successful transfer of increased feedstock costs onto its customers”
Sumitomo. “Petrochemicals and plastics segment posted an operating loss”
Ube. “Poor performance in its chemicals and plastics segment”
Versalis. “Slightly better margins on cracking plants”
Vopak. “Uncertainty of economic recovery is likely to continue to dictate the agenda”
Wacker. “Earnings decline is mostly due to overcapacities affecting photovoltaic industry”
Westlake. “Benefiting from lower feedstock costs”

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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