News in brief

15 August 2014 10:38 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Europe

Merck Q2 net profit falls by 4.1%
Merck’s net profit fell 4% year on year to €303m in the second quarter of this year on the back of negative foreign exchange effects, the German pharmaceutical firm said. Its sales rose 1.9% year on year to €2.8bn in the second quarter, while its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation was down 3.3% at €767m. For the first half of 2014, the company’s net income rose 8.0% year on year to €628.5m, while sales rose 0.1% to €5.41bn.

Romania schedules privatisation auction
An auction to sell off and privatise the core assets of largest Romanian chemical company Oltchim has been scheduled for 15 December. Ministry officials awarded a consortium of China’s Ningxia Baota Petrochemical Group and Junlun Petroleum six months of favoured bidder status in return for financing of €15m to be used in raising production levels in an effort at allowing Oltchim to break even by the end of this year.

Germany economics ministry warns on Q2 GDP
Germany’s economic growth was likely much weaker in the second quarter than the first, partly ­because of impacts from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine ­conflict, the country’s economics ministry said. “The Russia-Ukraine conflict, but also the situation in the Middle East, have caused increasing uncertainties among firms” who are holding back on making decisions at this time. “These uncertainties currently likely outweigh the immediate ­effects of the sanctions ­[imposed on Russia],” the ministry said.

OMV Q2 petchems operating profit falls
OMV’s clean operating profit for the second quarter of the year fell to €40m compared to €47m in the same period the previous year on the back of weaker ethylene margins, the Austria based oil and gas producer said. The fall in profit was in spite of stable volumes. Petrochemicals sales volumes were steady month on month and quarter on quarter at 550,000 tonnes, while the company’s second-quarter ethylene/propylene net margins was €355/tonne, compared to €382/tonne during the same period in 2013.

Germany’s Evotec trims Q2 net loss
Evotec has trimmed its net loss to €422,000 in the second quarter from €1.73m in the previous corresponding period, helped by higher sales, the German biotechnology firm said. Revenues in the quarter increased 14.5% year on year to €22.5m, with operating loss narrowing to €83,000 from €1.69m in the same period last year. In the first half of 2014, the company has incurred a net loss of €4.43m, lower than the €4.58m loss recorded in the same period last year.

Synthomer’s H1 net profit down 7.6%
Synthomer’s net profit declined 7.6% year on year to £35m in the first half of 2014 as sales fell 8.6% to £510m, on the back of “challenging market conditions” in its nitrile business. The UK-based specialty chemicals producer said earnings per share (EPS) for the first half of the year stood at £0.10 per share, a decrease of 7.3% compared to the EPS reported in the first half 
of 2013.

MOVES: Breuers quits LANXESS board
Werner Breuers, LANXESS’ management board member for performance polymers and advanced intermediates, has stepped down from the board and will leave the company at his own request on 31 May 2015 when his contract ends, a spokesman for the Germany-based chemicals firm confirmed. Matthias Zachert, who took over as LANXESS’ new CEO in April, has taken on, with immediate effect, responsibility for the performance polymers and advanced intermediates segments on a temporary basis.

Germany’s June chemical sales rise 1.6% from May
Germany’s chemical sales rose 1.6% in June from May after declining by 2.2% in May from April, the country’s federal statistics agency said. Domestic chemical sales were up also by 1.6% from May. Export sales rose by 1.7%, with eurozone sales up 2.9% and sales outside the eurozone up 0.8%, Wiesbaden-based Statistisches Bundesamt said. Meanwhile, sales of plastics and rubber products rose 1.9% in June from May after falling 2.5% in May from April.

IEA lowers 2014 oil demand forecast
The International Energy Agency (IEA) revised down its oil demand growth forecast for 2014 to a “modest +1m bbl/day” on the back of a weaker GDP outlook from the IMF and the observed lower-than-expected deliveries in the second quarter. However, the IEA said the oil demand will improve in 2015 as the economy improves, when it expects demand to accelerate by 1.3m bbl/day.


Americas

Start-up of NOVA’s LLDPE unit in Canada delayed
Canada-based NOVA Chemicals is expecting the start-up of its new linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) expansion project in Joffre, Alberta, to be delayed until the end of summer 2016. Previous estimates called for the plant, which will have a capacity of about 454,000 tonnes/year, to be operational by mid-2016.

Jacobs wins for texas ExxonMobil projects
Jacobs has won a contract to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for two ExxonMobil projects in Texas, both the 1.5m tonne/year ethane cracker project in Baytown and the two 650,000 tonne/year polyethylene (PE) lines project in Mont Belviue. Jacob’s work includes site preparation of 350 acres for the ethane cracker in Baytown and 100 acres for product facilities at Mont Belvieu. Financial terms were not disclosed.

US Dart, PRI to develop PS recycling facility
Dart Container and Plastics Recycling Inc (PRI) are partnering to build a facility to wash and recycle rigid and foam polystyrene (PS) post-consumer products collected in curbside programmes around the US. The new facility will be built in Indianapolis, Indiana and is scheduled to be operational by the first quarter of 2015. Initially it will have a capacity of 25m lb/year (11,440 tonnes/year), but is designed to allow for future growth.

US Ascend shuts ACN unit in Texas for turnaround
US producer Ascend Performance Materials has shut down its largest acrylonitrile (ACN) plant in Texas for a scheduled turnaround. The turnaround at its Chocolate Bayou facility is expected to last two weeks. Ascend’s AN7 unit had a capacity of about 130,000 tonnes/year.

Brazil July car, light truck sales drop yoy
Total new car and light truck sales in July reached a total of 294,800 units, a 14% decline from the same month a year earlier, according to the Brazilian vehicle manufacturers association Anfavea. However, the July sales showed a 12% improvement compared with June. Brazilian total car and light truck exports in July were 34,200 units, or 40% higher than in June.

BP shutters PTA unit in South Carolina after fire
One of two purified terephthalic acid (PTA) production units at a BP plant in Cooper River, South Carolina has been shut down after a fire in a compressor building. The blaze was quickly extinguished and kept from affecting other buildings or areas in the facility. The plant has two PTA units with a capacity of 728,000 tonnes/year and 750,000 tonnes/year. BP declined to confirm which unit was affected and no estimated restart date has been announced.

Explosion hits Eastman Chemical facility
Eastman Chemical is assessing the cause of a small explosion at one of its Kingsport, Tennessee research facilities. Two employees were treated at Eastman Chemical’s on site medical department and one was treated at a local hospital. All have been released to return to work. The incident is not expected to have any impact on ongoing operations.

US chem railcar traffic has first drop in 11 weeks
US chemical railcar shipments in the week ended 2 August fell for the first time after 10 straight weekly increases, according to data by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). US chemical railcar loadings were down 1.2% year on year to 29,833 for the week. Canadian chemical railcar traffic fell 1.9% year on year to 10,558 loadings for the week. Mexican chemical railcar traffic rose 23.2% year on year to 1,615 loadings for the week.

Linde adds plant business unit to Houston office
Linde has added a petrochemical plant business unit to its engineering division in Houston which will play a role in the execution of the shale-gas driven ­mega-projects on the US Gulf Coast, including ExxonMobil’s large-scale ethylene plant at Baytown, Texas. ExxonMobil has awarded contracts to Linde and Bechtel to build olefins recovery units for its Baytown project. Linde Engineering North America is headquartered in Blue Bell near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

LyondellBasell declares EO/EG FM
LyondellBasell has declared force majeure (FM) on its ethylene oxide (EO) and ethylene glycol (EG) from its Bayport manufacturing plant in Texas on the back of an equipment breakdown. LyondellBasell stated that an equipment breakdown of the heat exchanger in its EO unit is responsible. The Bayport plant has an EO capacity of 360,000 tonnes/year and an EG capacity of 265,000 tonnes/year, as assessed by ICIS.


Asia

CEPSA to start up China phenol/acetone unit in Q4
Spanish producer CEPSA Quimica is on track to commission its new phenol/acetone unit in Shanghai in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to a company source. The company plans to start up the plant at the end of the fourth quarter of this year, the source said. An integrated 360,000 tonne/year upstream cumene plant is scheduled to come on stream in the first quarter of 2015.

Japan Q2 economy shrinks 6.8% on year
Japan’s economy contracted by 6.8% year on year in the second quarter as domestic consumer spending plunged in April following the sales tax hike from 1 April. Domestic demand in Japan fell by 10.5% year on year in April-June of this year, while household consumption was down by 19.2%. Japan had increased its sales tax by three percentage points to 8% in April. The country’s exports fell by 1.8% year on year in the second quarter despite improvement in global and regional growth, according to Singapore-based DBS Group Research.

Idemitsu Kosan to shut Tokuyama SM units
Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan Co plans to shut both its styrene monomer (SM) units in Tokuyama at the end of August for maintenance. “The [120,000 tonne/year No 1 and 220,000 tonne/year No 2 SM] units are scheduled to restart on 20 October,” a company source said. The company operates one 210,000 tonne/year SM facility in Chiba. The facility is now running normally after the completion of maintenance following a technical glitch in the first half of July.

Yihai Kerry to restart Lianyungang ECH plant
China’s Yihai Kerry is planning to restart its 50,000 tonne/year glycerine-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant at Lianyungang in Jiangsu province on 20 August after shutting it on 28 July for annual maintenance. The unit was running at 30% of capacity before the shut down and the comapny would run the unit at the same rate after the turnaround. The company has another 50,000 tonne/year line at the site that has been idle since 2013.

Shandong Haili Chemical runs ECH lines at 100%
China’s Shandong Haili Chemical Industry is running three of its four 80,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) lines in Zibo at full capacity, while its Yancheng plant remains shut. The company restarted the third ECH line in Zibo that has long been idled in the week of 28 July in view of the shutdown of its 130,000 tonne/year plant in Yancheng caused by technical problems at an upstream caustic soda unit at the site. The fourth ECH line in Zibo has remained shut.

Idemitsu SM Malaysia on track to shut SM unit
Idemitsu SM Malaysia (ISM) is on track to shut its 240,000 tonne/year styrene monomer (SM) unit, located in Pasir Gudang, Johor state, for maintenance on 18 August. The unit is expected to be offline for about 4 weeks. “The plant is scheduled to restart on 15 September,” a company source said. ISM is a 70:30 joint-venture between Idemitsu Kosan Co and Malaysian petrochemical giant PETRONAS.

Asia to receive 25,000-35,000 tonnes deep-sea PX
Asia is expected to receive around 25,000-35,000 tonnes of deep-sea paraxylene (PX) cargoes in September. Around 10,000-15,000 tonnes of the total are under contracts, while the balance will be spot cargoes. Deep-sea cargoes are flowing into Asia, where PX prices are rising and are currently higher than in the US market. Spot deals were heard done at $1,355/tonne FOB (free on board) US Gulf, with freights estimated at $50-60/tonne. In Asia, PX prices stood at $1,430-1,440/tonne CFR (cost & freight) China Main Port on 11 August.

Songwon swings to Q2 net loss; sales flat
Songwon Industrial Group slumped to a net loss of Korean won (W) 6.71bn ($5.99m) in the second quarter of this year from a net profit of W518m in the same period a year earlier, weighed by higher production costs and reduced output. Its sales were largely flat at W172.9bn in April-June this year, with operating profit shrinking 85.1% to W1.55bn. For the first six months of this year, the company incurred a net loss of W11.6bn, ­reversing a net profit of W8.24bn.

Lotte Chemical to cap glycol ethers output
South Korea’s Lotte Chemical plans to cap operating rates at its 50,000 tonne/year glycol ethers plant in Daesan upon restarting it later this month. The company plans to cap the plant’s operating rate at about 70% capacity upon restarting it on 20-21 August, because it cannot secure sufficient feedstock n-butanol (NBA) to ensure full run rate at the unit. Lotte Chemical on 21 July shut down its glycol ethers plant due to mechanical issues. The month-long shutdown was necessary because technicians needed to wait for replacement parts.

Ningxia Yinglite shuts PVC line for maintenance
China-based Ningxia Yinglite shut down its 120,000 tonne/year polyvinyl chloride (PVC) line in Ningxia province on 12 August for a week of maintenance. The company was running the plant at full capacity before the shutdown. The company’s other 155,000 tonne/year PVC line at the same site is running at full rate. The maintenance is unlikely to have a significant impact on the spot PVC market because of the sufficient supply in the local market.

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