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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Knowing what we don’t know

At a time of uncertainty, its sometimes helpful just to frame the questions that need to be answered about the future. Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund managers, have done just this in two separate analyses. Their answers mirror those advanced by former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, and make good sense to the blog: Q1. […]

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Destocking follows previous recession experience

Destocking is currently a key issue for the chemical industry. The above chart, from Andrew Sentance of the Bank of England, provides some useful clues as to where we are in the cycle. It shows current performance (the green line) versus the history of stock levels in the recessions of the early 1980′s (blue) and […]

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Abu Dhabi snaps up Nova Chemicals

Nova’s CEO, Jeffrey Lipton, has always been the great optimist of the petrochemical industry. As recently as December, he was arguing at the GPCA meeting that “demand forecasts will prove to be too low”, and forecasting a shortage of ethylene and polyethylene in 2012. However, optimism isn’t a business strategy, particularly when it leads to […]

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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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