About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. He also serves as a Global Expert for the World Economic Forum. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry and the global economy over the next 12 – 18 months. It looks behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in critical areas such as oil prices, China and Emerging Markets, currencies, autos, housing, economic growth and the environment. 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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Dow puts debt problems behind it

A year ago, the Dow Chemical stock price was below $6, giving the company a total market capitalisation of just c$7bn. Since then, Dow has regained the initiative in a very focused way. First, it sold Morton Salt for $1.7bn, then it sold $2.25bn of new equity and refinanced $4.65bn of long-term debt. Next, it […]

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The need for innovation during the downturn

The blog was recently interviewed by ICIS’ Anna Jagger at Vienna Airport, on its way back from the World Refining Conference. The conversation covered the need for companies to focus on innovation, as well as on survival, during the downturn. It also highlighted specific examples of opportunities that could be pursued today, within the context […]

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“Green shoots” of recovery disappear from sight

A year ago, Ben Bernanke (head of the US Federal Reserve), startled financial markets with his claim that “green shoots” of recovery were now visible. This helped to lead to a major stock market rally, based on the sentiment that the US and other western economies would quickly bounce back to 2003-7 growth levels. Observers […]

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Regional competition set to grow in Asia, as export opportunities reduce and imports increase

The above chart presents an excellent snapshot of the development of Asia’s chemical industry over the past 20 years. It comes from the American Chemistry Council’s global production report, and shows volume growth in each country/region, with a base of 100 in 2002. • China (blue line) has seen the largest growth over the past […]

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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 […]

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World trade sees biggest fall in 65 years, GDP declines

World trade fell 12% last year, its worst decline since 1945. First estimates also suggest global GDP fell 2.2%, according to Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation. This confirms the World Bank’s fears back last March, that the global economy might shrink for the first time since World War 2. Lamy went on […]

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Carrefour CEO sees “challenging” times ahead

France’s Carrefour is the world’s 2nd largest retailer, with sales of €86bn ($117bn). Reporting 2009 results, CEO Lars Oloffson echoed Wal-Mart’s CEO Mike Duke, saying he saw “challenging” times ahead. And he added that “I don’t see any improvement in the short term in the economic environment. That means very clearly that we have to […]

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US housing starts 74% below 2006 peak

15% of Americans were either in foreclosure, or at least one payment overdue, according to the Q4 Mortgage Bankers Association survey. This is a record high, but the MBA sees some signs that the numbers may have peaked. It is concerned, however, over the rise in the number of long-term unemployed, now a record 40% […]

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Middle East, Chinese, petchem capacity starts to arrive

The blog spent a fruitful afternoon last week, going through ICIS news reports of cracker start-ups in the Middle East and China. The chart above is the fruit of its labours, which shows that 4.8MT of ethylene capacity started up last year in the ME, and 2.1MT in China. Whilst latest estimates suggest that another […]

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Butadiene supply tightens as cracker feeds lighten

One of the key conclusions in our 2008 Study, ‘Feedstocks for Profit’, was that butadiene had the potential to go very tight in a Global Downturn Scenario. And as the chart above shows, prices are now rising sharply in the 3 major Regions. The rationale for the lack of supply is that the gas-based crackers […]

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