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Uncertainty rules

Our annual European conference, organised with ICIS, always provides an excellent opportunity to gain a snapshot of industry views as we move into a new year. At this week’s event in Antwerp, Belgium, the prevailing mood was uncertainty, for the first time since 2002: • Oil prices are high, and volatile. This makes it difficult […]

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TOTAL’s new CEO warns on oil supplies

Christophe de Margerie, the new TOTAL CEO, has burst the bubble of complacency that has surrounded discussion of future oil supply. The ‘business as usual’ forecasts of both the International Energy Agency and the US government assume that the world will be producing c120m bbls/day by 2030. But de Margerie said he wished to ‘speak […]

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Subprime claims its first casualties

Back at the end of August, I suggested that we had only reached the end of Phase1 of the credit crunch. I feared that it had the potential to get much worse, and to damage the ‘real economy’ where all of us in the chemical industry live and work. This was definitely a minority view […]

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3 key questions for any Board

What are the key questions that need to be asked when discussing any budget or strategy proposal? I have just found the answer, from a master in the field. Sir Maurice Hodgson is recognised as one of the greatest ICI Chairmen. Under him, the company became a truly global leader, moving away from its ‘imperial’ […]

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Pricing power – ING’s concerns

Since posting yesterday, oil prices have moved further ahead, with WTI closing at $93.53. I have also had an interesting dialogue with Paul Satchell of ING Bank, one of the leading chemical analysts, who has kindly allowed me to summarise his comments. Paul believes that investors have become ‘dangerously complacent’ about the industry’s ability to […]

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Inflation makes a comeback

Oil prices last week rose to an all-time, inflation-adjusted, high in New York at over $92/bbl. Meanwhile food and commodity prices have continued their upward march. In China, the rate of consumer price inflation hit a decade-high of 6.5% in August. So why are we still seeing rates of around 2% reported in the USA […]

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Budgeting for a downturn

The ‘consensus forecast’ for 2008 is very optimistic, as I commented in my post-EPCA note. It says oil will remain at $70/bbl, that debt market problems will be contained, and that petchem margins will remain at 2007 levels. This is unusual, as the consensus is normally a base case scenario, with upside and downside variants. […]

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Buffett sells PetroChina

I mentioned PetroChina in the very first blog entry, when the stock was trading at $155 in New York. It seemed to me to typify the new mood of confidence that I was finding as I travelled in Asia on the 10th anniversary of the Asian financial crisis. Little did I think that just 3 […]

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BP and Reliance

BP and Reliance Industries are both powerhouses in their own fields. BP’s new CEO, Tony Hayward, has just given his first interview in the new job. Comparing, and contrasting, his comments with last week’s AGM statement by Reliance’s Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, is very revealing in terms of content as well as tone. Hayward’s interview in […]

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EPCA 2007

It seems likely that this week’s European Petrochemical Association annual meeting in Berlin will mark a turning point in the petchem cycle. Looking back over 2007, Boy Litjens, CEO of Sabic Europe, told ICIS@EPCA that performance this year had been ‘excellent’, and that they would ‘definitely report the best results ever’. He was also hopeful […]

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