About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. Paul is also an invited member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council. 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.

Author Archive | Paul Hodges

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Consumers prioritise “needs” versus “wants”

The current recession is the blog’s fourth, after those of the mid-1970s, and early 1980′s and 1990′s. It is, however, already different from these, as it is the only one which has led to comparisons being made with the 1930′s Great Depression. As Harvard’s Prof Shiller has noted, “Depression fear did not take off” in […]

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$26bn LyondellBasell restructuring hits legal minefield

Vita’s restructuring was relatively simple from a legal point of view, as it just involved European rules. But Lyondell Chemical’s bankruptcy filing last month under the US Chapter 11 process seems to have thrown up some very complex legal issues. This is because it involves two different sets of bond-holders – those who bought the […]

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Vita’s restructuring sets a pattern

Vita Group has chemical sales of €1.5bn, 5000 employees, and manufactures in 20 countries. In December it announced that it was in talks over restructuring, to avoid breaching covenants on the €663m of debt taken on in 2005, when it was bought by private equity group, Texas Pacific (TPG). It now looks set to emerge […]

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TOTAL warn on oil supplies

TOTAL’s CEO, Christophe de Margerie, has become even more pessimistic on the future of oil supplies. In 2007, when prices were rising, he suggested it would be very difficult for production to reach even 100mbd, versus the 130 mbd or more assumed by the IEA and the US government. Now, he is warning that the […]

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25% of US sub-prime loans “seriously delinquent”

Speaking today, Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke produced some doleful figures about the current state of the US housing market. She noted that 25% of sub-prime loans, and 13% of near-prime loans, are now “seriously delinquent” – either 90 days overdue, or in foreclosure. The serious delinquency rate for prime mortgages is now over 3%, […]

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High Heels Friday

The blog has noticed a major change in dress code over the last few months. The concept of ‘Dress Down Friday’ has begun to disappear in both the chemical industry, and the financial world. Apparently this experience is not unique to the blog. Writing in the Financial Times today, Lucy Kellaway observes that “the casual […]

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Lessons from Japan’s ‘lost decade’

In December, the blog noted that Japanese policymakers saw clear parallels between the mistakes they made during the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990′s, and those being made today in the USA and other Western countries. The New York Times now has a fascinating article on this subject, which notes that: “The Japanese crisis of the […]

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Resilience, team-work, key to survival

Last week, the blog spent 2 days at Wilton in the UK, one of the world’s largest and most integrated chemical manufacturing sites. It also contains some of the world’s major companies, including SABIC, Dow, INEOS, Huntsman and Lucite. The mood was downbeat, as one would expect with operating rates at historically low levels. Critically, […]

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China allocates $58bn to stimulate petchem exports

China plans to increase petchem production as a way of stimulating its economy. According to the China Daily, the government intends to allocate 400bn yuan ($58bn) from its fiscal stimulus to accelerate the implementation of petchem expansion plans. Bloomberg adds that the givernment could approve plans next week to increase “tax rebates for the exports […]

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The man with a plan

Yet again, as in October, ‘buy on the rumour, sell on the news’ has been the financial markets’ reaction to the latest efforts to solve the financial crisis. A 5% fall on Wall Street last night, in response to the Geithner plan, tells its own story. The blog is also unconvinced that this further $2.5 […]

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