Buyers say DuPont’s January TiO2 hike effort no surprise

20 September 2013 22:42 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The titanium dioxide (TiO2) price-hike initiative recently announced by DuPont was expected but may still face an uphill battle for implementation by the start of the first quarter, North American pigment buyers said on Friday.

US-based DuPont said it intends to raise pigment prices by 5 cents/lb ($110/tonne, €83/tonne) in North American markets, effective 1 October, except for its TiO2 products sold into paper and paperboard applications. Those markets will be managed separately, the company said.

Typically, contract-price initiatives have a 90-day waiting period. As of Friday, no other new hike initiatives had surfaced.

“I think it is too early to tell what’s going to happen in January, but price hikes are inevitable,” an architectural coatings customer said. “However, until the world economy gets chugging along, pricing will remain soft.”

“I am not surprised,” said a buyer from the plastics compounding sector. “I have been expecting a hard push for 5 cents/lb for January.”

Both customers agree that efforts to raise prices by 8 cents/lb by 1 October (for the fourth quarter) will fail on seasonally weak demand. DuPont and Cristal both announced those intentions in June, with effective dates of 1 July.

The third-quarter North American TiO2 contract range is $1.55-1.70/lb, as assessed by ICIS.

DuPont also proposed increases in other regions: $100/tonne in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions and in the dollar markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and €75/tonne in the eurozone markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Although soft market conditions persist, an index of future US construction activity rose by 2.1% in August, indicating stronger economic conditions, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) said this week. The AIA’s Architectural Billings Index (ABI), a reflection of contracted architectural design services, increased to 53.8 for August from 52.7 in July.

The upturn signals an imminent turnaround in non-residential construction activity, the AIA said, though the strength of the architectural coatings market is typically linked to the construction of single-family homes.

Other major North American TiO2 producers include Tronox, Kronos and Huntsman.

($1 = €0.74)

By Larry Terry