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3D printing to move manufacturing closer to the customer

15 years ago, it was fashionable to dismiss eBusiness as a fairy story.  I remember those days well, as I had just raised $25m from major companies to fund its development in the chemical industry.  Today, of course, eBusiness is everywhere.  Nobody would dream of shaking their heads and dismissing the whole concept, as many did pre-2000. Which takes […]

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Grangemouth develops cluster-based vision for the future

Exactly a year ago this week, the INEOS petrochemical business at Grangemouth in Scotland was facing closure.  This would have been a disaster for the thousands of people employed directly and indirectly, as well as for Scotland. The blog was very closely involved in helping to achieve a successful outcome alongside the Scottish and UK governments, INEOS and the UNITE […]

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European companies missing a major growth opportunity

We all know that the European economy is in a bad way.   Sales and incomes are under pressure, and political risk is rising, whilst unemployment remains at high levels.  Its very easy to get depressed about the outlook. We are also unlikely to get much help from policymakers.  They remain in their world of mathematical models.  These […]

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Time to look forward, not back, for European petrochemicals

The European petrochemicals industry is in crisis.  Operating rates dropped below 85% in H2 2008, and have never recovered.  Now there is a danger that it faces death by a thousand cuts.  This would be a tragedy for the European economy, as it would imply the loss of tens of thousands of well-paid jobs along […]

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Unilever says Q2 market growth slows in emerging countries, developed countries weak

The global economy really isn’t getting any better.  That’s the key conclusion from the blog’s quarterly survey of company results for Q2. Of course, some companies are doing well – either because of shale gas economics, or their own market positioning.  But consumer giant Unilever summarised the general picture very well: “Market growth continued to slow in emerging […]

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2 dates for the diary

Last May’s China Transformation webinar with John Richardson attracted great interest.  We are therefore arranging a free follow-up webinar on Tuesday 9 September.  As before, it will be run twice, to allow blog readers in different regions to attend. This ‘China Economic Transformation II’ webinar will cover these key areas: The likely impact on global markets of the […]

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European chloralkali output hit as growth slows, Ukraine volumes drop

Chlorine and caustic soda are the bedrock of modern industry.  They are used in everything from laundry products to pharmaceuticals.  So changes in their business performance are a most valuable guide to what is happening in the real world in which we all live. The chart shows the detail of developments in the European industry, […]

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Slide in Q2 operating rates is bad omen for H2 economic outlook

The chemical industry is the best leading indicator for the global economy.  The slide in operating rates (OR%) around the world during the seasonally strong Q2 period. is a clear warning that global economic growth may be stalling. This should be a major wake-up call for anyone still hoping that growth may recover to the Boomer-led SuperCycle level.  The latest update from […]

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EU cracker operating rates remain near record lows

An ageing population and record annual levels of oil prices create massive headwinds for Europe’s petrochemical producers.  One means demand growth is much reduced from the SuperCycle.  The other means these lower volumes cost more to produce. What a pity, you might say, that the industry is not part of the financial sector.  Then it […]

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Markets remain “volatile and challenging” says BASF chairman

Nothing has really changed over the past year.  That seems to be the key conclusion from the blog’s quarterly summary of company results for Q1. A year ago, BASF noted that “achieving our earnings target is significantly more challenging today than we had expected”.  This month, chairman Kurt Bock “warned the markets will remain volatile and […]

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