A SELECTIVE READING of the news is giving polyolefins market participants confidence. They see the relaxation of zero-COVID restrictions in some Chinese cities as a sign that the worst is over. But a recovery in PP and PE demand seems unlikely until 2024.
Asian Chemical Connections
In November 2021, the premium for overseas PP injection grade prices over prices in China reached a historic peak of $408/tonne. But in 1-18 November 2022, the premium was $113/tonne. Premiums have fallen in every month since April this year, resulting in a decline in China exports.
IT REALLY ISN’T doom and gloom if you take the longer-term view. Instead, for the chemical companies with the right strategies, the opportunities to build new sustainable business models are huge. The winners will make an awful lot of money while also doing the right things for humanity and our natural environment.
China’s real estate rescue only involves shoring-up lenders. The property bubble will not and cannot be reflated. Most of the zero-COVID rules remain in place, and will likely stay in place well into 2023
China’s HDPE in demand in 2023 could fall by as much as 4% over 2022. Next year’s net imports may slip to as low as 3.8m tonnes from around 5.7m tonnes in 2022.
The January-September data suggested full-year China PP exports to these top ten destinations 75,543 tonnes fewer than the January-August numbers. And the January-September numbers implied total 2021 China exports to all destinations of 1.47m tonnes compared with January-August that indicated 1.58m tonnes.
HDPE film grade price premiums for selected countries and regions over China recovered in September and October of this year. In 2020, premiums averaged just $36/tonne compared with $248/tonne in January 2021-October 2022.
China[s PP demand growth in 2023 could be as low as minus 3% as it swings into a 2.6m tonnes net export position from this year’s likely net imports of around 3.4m tonnes.
Cumulative downside demand in the above chart would total 5bn – 91m tonnes lower than our base case.
China’s share of global demand growth in the seven big resins jumped to an astonishing 67% in 2002-2021. Northeast Asia ex-China’s share of demand fell to minus 1% with Europe and North America worth just 4% and 2% of growth respectively. The chemicals world had become dangerously lopsided.