Chemical distribution dynamics may drive consolidation

09 September 2016 16:53 Source:ICIS News

BOSTON (ICIS)--Shifting dynamics in chemical distribution will drive further consolidation in the sector, a senior executive from Brenntag said on Friday.

“It is still a highly fragmented market with huge opportunities for consolidation,” said Robert Moser, senior vice president of global accounts and director of government affairs at Brenntag, the world’s leading chemical distributor.

Moser spoke at the 9th ICIS World Chemical Purchasing Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

The top 10% of the over 240 chemical distributors listed in the ICIS Top 100 Chemical Distributors ranking represent about $52bn in annual sales, or less than one-third of the global market, he noted.

The emergence of large chemical distributors as publicly traded companies is impacting market behaviour, said Moser.

From zero publicly traded companies five years ago, today Brenntag, Univar, Nexeo Solutions and IMCD are all public, he pointed out.

“One impact of this is that companies are making acquisitions in less volatile markets to broaden their portfolios and take some of the risk out,” said Moser.

On 9 September, Brenntag made its third acquisition of a lubricants distributor in the past year, buying US-based Mayes County Petroleum Products.

The second largest global distributor, Univar, has made a number of acquisitions in waste and environmental services over the past year.

Overall barriers to entry in chemical distribution are increasing with significant demands from regulatory authorities in areas such as new build installations. This will increase capital spending over time and drive consolidation, said Moser.

“Market demands will force further consolidation and specialised services. You can be big or a niche specialised distributor, but it’s challenging to be mid-sized,” he said.

Another advantage of size is the ability to influence suppliers. “Larger distributors can move more volumes so they have leverage with multiple suppliers,” said Moser.

“Many distributors are larger than their producer partners. Thus, pricing management and control is less producer directed and more market relevant,” he added.

INSET IMAGE: Barrels of chemicals ready for shipment. (RESO/REX/Shutterstock)

By Joseph Chang