Focus story by Nurluqman Suratman
SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Malaysian producer PETRONAS Chemical Group (PCG) is expected to post better earnings in July to December 2014 on the back of increased production, after a dismal performance in the first half of the year, analysts said on Tuesday.
For the first six months of the year, the company’s net profit fell by 37% year on year to Malaysian ringgit (M$) 1.3bn, with its operating profit down 39% at M$1.8bn.
“We believe the acceleration of PCG’s earnings momentum from second half of 2014 to 2015, when the olefins margin is expected to peak, is a key driver for PCG, thanks to its highest competitive gas cost feedstock,” CIMB Equities Research said.
In most of Asia, the more expensive naphtha is the widely used petrochemical feedstock.
“Another growth driver is aromatics earnings which should recover sharply from the losses in 1H14 [first half of 2014],” CIMB Equities Research said.
PCG’s second-quarter revenues declined on the twin effects of lower volumes and weaker average selling prices of its products, according to Malaysia-based Maybank Research.
Average utilisation rates at PCG plants declined to 65% in the June quarter from 97% in the first three months of 2014, with scheduled turnarounds at the company’s ethane cracker and derivative units, according to Malaysia-based CIMB Equities Research.
During the same period, PCG’s fertilizers and methanol segment managed to operate at a higher rate of 85%, as production issues at the company’s methanol plant No 2 that “had plagued the group for the past three quarters has been resolved”.
PCG’s overall revenues declined 14% year on year in the three months to June, with net profit tumbling 42% year on year to M$555m.
During the period, major turnaround was conducted at its polyethylene (PE) plant and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) plant.
June-quarter revenue at PCG’s olefin and derivative segment fell 14% year on year to M$5.1bn, while that of fertilizers and methanol segment’s dipped 12.9% to M$2.06bn, according to Malaysia’s RHB bank.
CIMB Equities Research said that higher olefins margins, boosted by higher oil prices and tight supply, as well as an expected improvement in monoethylene glycol (MEG) margins, will help boost PCG’s earnings in the second half of 2014.
Maybank Research expects PCG’s utilisation rates to peak in the fourth quarter.
“[PCG’s] Management expects a pickup in olefins and derivatives activity in the second half of 2014, supported by an expected increase in ethylene prices as several major producers, particularly from Japan and South Korea, will be undergoing scheduled major plant turnarounds, which may lead to a supply shortfall,” according to RHB Bank.
Meanwhile, production at PCG’s methanol plant No 2 was affected by a power failure in mid-July that cut its supply of gas feedstock. PCG expects this issue to be rectified by mid-August, according to RHB.
PCG is actively growing its petrochemical capacity by pursuing new projects.
Construction of its Sabah Ammonia and Urea (SAMUR) plant is currently in full swing, with project commissioning expected in first quarter of 2016.
The Sabah government has expressed interest in taking up a stake in the SAMUR project, according to RHB.
The company is also expected to announce the final investment decision on Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) early next year.
($1 = M$3.2)
Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections
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Focus story by Nurluqman Suratman