The world’s major retailers, particularly Wal-Mart and Tesco, keep a very close finger on the global economic pulse. They spotted looming recession 18 months ago – long before it became more widely apparent this year. Yesterday, Wal-Mart’s UK head went further, referring to “the dawning of the age of austerity”. He added that “this won’t […]
INEOS has now confirmed that it has obtained the required covenant waivers from its banks. They had little choice, as pushing INEOS into bankruptcy would have destroyed value on a massive scale for everyone concerned. But as the blog expected, lenders successfully demanded an increased interest charge in exchange for their consent. Investors’ attention will […]
Several European chemical companies have been undertaking surveys of likely near-term demand from the auto sector, and have been kind enough to share their conclusions with the blog. The results are not encouraging. It appears that every European car producer has announced plans for an extended Christmas shutdown of at least 2 weeks, compared to […]
China has just reported its first fall in exports for 7 years. These were still growing at 19.1% in October, but fell 2.2% in November. The suddenness of the downturn is also shown in the import figures, which were down 17.9% versus 2007. The numbers confirm the blog’s long-expressed fear that China, and the Asian […]
Having no risk management systems in place may be better than having the wrong systems in place. That seems to be one of the lessons from the recent financial meltdown. The reason for this apparent paradox is that awareness of risk makes people cautious. But if they wrongly believe that all risk has been removed, […]
A long-standing industry friend sent me an email overnight about ethylene derivative margins. Only after sending it, did he realise that spell-check had decided to change the word “derivative” to “debilitative”. But as he noted in a follow-up email, “amazing the insights of a spellchecker – I meant ‘derivative’ but maybe ‘debilitative’ is more of […]
Yesterday, Dow announced its new structure post the K-Dow JV and the planned acquisition of Rohm & Haas. This covered two main elements: • Implementation of November’s cost reduction announcement • Dow’s new organisation (the chart above) The cost reductions were severe, with a headline 11% of staff facing redundancy. 20 plants in “high-cost areas” […]
The end of a major trend is usually marked by a significant increase in volatility. This seems to be what is happening to the equity bull market that began back in 1982. It has weathered a number of storms over the years, as traders kept faith with the underlying trend. But this week’s Barrons, the […]
London’s largely-male banking community has a new way to pass its time, now financial markets have collapsed. According to Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times, many are prospecting for adulterous affairs on a website called Illicit Encounters. Lucy says she has “picked up 247 men” since joining – including “a formerly powerful hedge fund manager, […]
Two months ago, the blog noted that the credit crunch was starting to impact sport. Then the issue was high leverage, with the UK’s Football Association warning that the $5bn debts of the Premier League clubs were “high-risk”. Now, its the turn of Formula One racing. Yesterday, Honda pulled out of the 2009 competition on […]
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Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry.
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.