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Chemicals and the Economy

Wise words from Shell, BASF and Reliance

In difficult times, the industry looks to the major companies for their advice. And they certainly provided this at our 8th European Conference (co-organised with ICIS), Shell’s Jonathan Forbes-Lane, European GM, focused on the “gale-force recession” now underway. He expected “prices to stay volatile and unpredictable because they were being pulled in opposing directions by […]

UK downturn follows the 1930/34 path

Politicians and analysts often focus on selling dreams. Otherwise, we might not be tempted to buy their promises of better times ahead. But those running businesses have to remain realistic. BASF’s CEO, Jurgen Hambrecht, did exactly that in his comments on the outlook. And the above chart, from the UK’s National Institute of Economic and […]

Insights from LyondellBasell and BASF

Recent comments from LyondellBasell’s COO, and BASF’s CEO, seem worth highlighting as we come to the end of the results season. Ed Dineen noted that China’s polyethylene demand seems partly linked to changes in crude oil pricing, “It turned down somewhat as we saw crude retreat a little, but as crude turned back up toward […]

Companies remain cautious on the outlook

The good news is that the stabilisation seen in Q2 has been maintained. But companies remain cautious on the outlook, to judge from Q3 reports. CEOs are sceptical about the impact of government stimulus efforts in the West, and fear demand will fall back as these end. The only optimists are in China and India. […]

China imposes 36% nylon tariff

Protectionism continues to build, as unemployment rises around the world. ICIS news reports China has imposed tariffs of up to 36% on nylon 6. BASF will suffer a 30.4% tariff on US exports, and Honeywell 36.2%. Last month, of course, the US hit China with a 35% tariff on tyres. The threat of more duty […]

European refining margins drop 85%

Our major Feedstocks for Profit Study last year foresaw difficult times ahead for European refiners. Now it seems this forecast by our partners, refining experts Wood Mackenzie, is coming true. Total, Europe’s largest refiner, today reported that European refining margins fell 85% in Q3, to just $6.60/bbl, the lowest level for 7 years. And they […]

No sign of any upturn

This week’s company results have been keenly awaited, as the industry seeks to form a view on what happens next to demand and profits. My new IeC colleague Paul Satchell reviews them, from the point of view of a highly-experienced financial analyst, in his ‘Chemicals Viewpoint’. But the blog thought it would also be interesting […]

After destocking, chemical volumes still down 15-20%

The great wave of destocking is finally coming to an end. And it is clear that underlying global demand is well below previous “normal” levels. The evidence for this can be seen in the above chart, based on American Chemistry Council data, which shows global chemical production down 12.8% in April versus 2008. And as […]

BASF sees “weak demand”, traders see recovery

BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, said today that they see “weak demand for chemical products” continuing through 2009. In response, plants and sites “will be closed or sold where necessary”. These are clear statements about the outlook, backed up by commitments to take action. Yet volumes and prices in financial markets are rising, as […]

Difficult times call for tough decisions

Downturns are difficult times. There is always the hope that markets might improve, and this can delay the implementation of tough decisions on plant closures. Nobody wants to shut down, and then see a competitor benefit from an improving market. But if markets do stay depressed, then precious cash is being wasted whilst plants operate […]

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