Epoxy resins

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Discover the factors influencing epoxy resins markets

Demand and supply chain challenges have the potential to cause shortages in the epoxy resins market. Scarcity of supply can be caused by plant closures, extreme weather conditions, logistics issues, and increases in crude oil prices can all force downstream manufacturers to delay production or find alternatives.

The main applications for epoxy resins include adhesives, high-performance coatings into construction, protective industrial and marine coatings, electrical/electronic laminates and adhesives, and structural parts for the automotive, aerospace, and aircraft industries. They are high-performance thermosetting resins with excellent adhesion, chemical and heat resistance, plus electrical insulating properties.

ICIS epoxy resin prices provide an important benchmark. Access actionable market news in real time and view reports that place market trends in context, including the impact of supply disruptions, changes in demand or capacities and trade flow opportunities between the regions. ICIS monitors developments in key upstream markets including BPA and ECH feedstocks, and movements in crude oil, glycerine and propylene markets. We also provide analysis of downstream markets. This includes the impact of consumer trends, demand shifts and seasonal demand.

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APIC ’24: S Korea petrochemical output, exports to grow at low single digits

SINGAPORE/SEOUL (ICIS)–South Korea’s petrochemical production is projected to grow at 2.2% this year, with exports rising by an average of 2.8%, faster than domestic demand’s 1.3% increase, industry data showed. “However, this is mainly due to the base effect of a significant decrease in production from the previous year,” the Korea Petrochemical Industry Association (KPIA) said in a report prepared for the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) being held in Seoul on 30-31 May. “The supply and demand situation is expected to improve this year as global supply declines, but it will take a long time to resolve due to the large accumulated capacity expansion,” it said. Full-year petrochemical production is expected to grow to 22.1 million tonnes, “largely due to the base effect of large-scale regular maintenance in the previous year”, KPIA said. In 2023, production declined by 2.1% to 21.7 million tonnes. “Production is also expected to increase y-o-y due to the restart of facilities that were shut down due to the deteriorating market conditions and an increase in the utilization rate of companies in anticipation of an improvement in the market,” it added. The country’s petrochemical export volumes are projected to reach 12.8m tonnes in 2024, with growth slowing from the 3.1% pace posted last year. South Korea is heavily dependent on exports, with their share to total production at around 58% in 2023, based on three major sectors, namely synthetic resin, synthetic fiber and synthetic rubber. S Korea 2024 Petrochemical Industry Forecasts (in '000 tonnes) Products Production Exports Exports share to total output (%) 2023 actual export growth (%) 2024 projected export growth (%) Synthetic resins 15,641 9,787 62.6 -0.4 3.0 Synthetic fibre raw materials 5,846 2,604 44.5 21.0 1.5 Synthetic rubber  655  429 65.5 -6.8 7.0 Source: KPIA “Korea’s domestic market is stagnant, so most of the increased production will be exported,” the KPIA said. Domestic petrochemical consumption this year is projected to post a minimal increase to 10.4m tonnes, following a 6.3% contraction in 2023. A sizeable chunk of South Korea's petrochemical exports goes to China, whose own demand has been slowing down amid an economic slowdown. Focus article by Pearl Bantillo Additional reporting by Nurluqman Suratman

30-May-2024

Brazil’s chemicals importers mobilize against tariffs hike proposed by producers

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s importers of chemicals are lobbying the cabinet not to implement the hikes to import tariffs proposed by the country’s producers, represented by trade group Abiquim. Brazil’s Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex), a body under the government’s umbrella, concluded on 30 April a public consultation about import tariffs on chemicals. In it, Abiquim presented more than 60 proposals to hike import tariffs, while individual companies presented dozens more. In total, the proposals contemplate hikes in import tariffs in more than 100 products, most of them to be raised from 12.6% to 20%. Some proposals, however, aim to raise some import tariffs from 9% to 35%. A decision by Camex is expected in coming weeks. IMPORTERS MOBILIZEA key actor lobbying against the tariff hikes is Brazil’s plastics transformers trade group Abiplast, who benefit from imports into the country. Abiquim often describes those imports as coming into Brazil at “depredatory prices” which are putting some national production chains at risk due to unfair competition. China’s overcapacities continue casting a shadow in the global chemical industry, and Latin America’s historical trade deficit in the sector makes the region the perfect ground for Chinese producers to send their product, at times below costs of production. On the other hand, Abiplast and consumer groups have said a hike in import tariffs would only increase prices for consumers and industrial players alike and would only benefit Brazil’s chemicals producers. “There should be no increase in import tariffs as this is not a viable solution at this moment, nor at any time in the future. An increase would result in direct increases in prices in the Brazilian market,” said to ICIS a spokesperson for the trade group. Earlier in May, sources in Brazil’s chemicals sector said to ICIS it would be unwise to hike import tariffs right now, as the country reels from severe flooding in Rio Grande do Sul, which has a strong plastics sector, and when more imports may be needed. The floods have brought the state’s industrial fabric to a standstill, although the petrochemicals hub of Triunfo, near Porto Alegre, restarted in mid-May albeit at a slow pace as infrastructure in the state is still heavily disrupted. Abiquim, however, remains unrelentless in its request for fast action, arguing that the restart at Triunfo, with Brazil’s polymers major Braskem leading the way, will be enough to guarantee supply, without the need for more imports. Braskem has a commanding voice in Abiquim. “We don’t agree [with any pause in the hike, if finally approved, because of the floods’ effect]. Braskem resumed operations last week and, furthermore, the high level of predatory imports [in past months] mean that resin producing companies had sufficient stocks to supply the market,” said to ICIS a spokesperson at the trade group. Abiquim is hopeful it will gain the day. His lobbying to the government has gone as high as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with whom the trade group and a few chemicals producers met last week in Brasilia to make their case for the import tariffs hike. Lula’s center-left cabinet has been since the start more friendly towards chemicals producers than his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who favored a more free-market line. In 2023, the cabinet hiked import tariffs for several polymers twice, and reintroduced a tax break for chemicals called REIQ. Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) main constituency is industrial workers, to whom the President promised during the electoral campaign to create more and better paid industrial jobs. Propping up domestic chemicals production would fall within that line of action. However, after Lula’s meeting with Abiquim, the backlash followed. According to a report by Brazilian daily Valor, Abiplast and 15 other trade groups have requested their own meeting with the President, hoping to stop the proposed increases in import tariffs. Among others, the groups opposing the hike include those representing sectors such as personal care, cleaning products, rubber articles, non-woven fabrics, paints, mattresses, toys, electronics, pharmaceutical products, food, polyolefin fibers, fabrics and clothing, footwear and civil construction. The groups said they were aiming to show to the President the “importance of tariff balance in maintaining industrial activities” in Brazil. BIG (AND CLOSED) CHEMICALS SECTORBrazil’s chemicals demand has always surpassed domestic supply, and around half of the country’s needs are covered by imports. That has been the case in the past few years. What has made the past year extraordinary is China dumping its product in Latin America, depressing prices – and margins for local producers. The fact that a 215-million market such as Brazil has not developed a bigger chemicals industry is surprising. Moreover, the country produces mostly commodity chemicals, which are to suffer from global downturns more than the higher-margin specialized grades. A source at Brazil’s chemicals industry, who deals with Braskem on a regular basis, was not impressed with Abiquim or Braskem’s strong stance in favor of higher tariffs. The source said it preferred to remain anonymous because “creating animosity by going against” the company’s position could put its business relationship at risk. “This [request for higher tariffs] is the cry of business mediocrity, which sees import restrictions as the solution to its productivity and technology problems. A country must not be built on protectionism but on investment in technology, productive capacity, creativity, and scale,” said the source. “Brazil's political class has never prioritized competition as a source of development. Businessmen want to be alone in their businesses and the Federal Government wants to keep only Petrobras [in the crude oil sector] as a form of political financing.” Petrobras is the state-owned energy major, which holds a commanding position in the market despite other foreign players having some licenses to explore for and produce crude oil. The source added that when import tariffs are hiked generally, for all foreign potential exporters to Brazil, that is very different to potential anti-dumping duties (ADDs) imposed against a certain country – in this case, potentially China. “If the request was about ADDs on China’s product, this would be reasonable. But Abiquim and Braskem's request for hikes in import tariffs will affect all imports and this is not correct … We need more competition, not less. With more competition, some companies would have to close their doors indeed," it said. “Other companies, however, those which are more efficient, intelligent and audacious, would grow. Competition is always good and bringing foreign companies to compete in the local market would be interesting. Whenever and invariably private companies need the government to survive, there is a decrease in productivity and investments in new technologies.” However, the government’s ears are so open to chemicals producers’ demands that, on top of two import tariffs hikes in 2023 and the reintroduction of REIQ, earlier this year the cabinet announced the imposition of ADDs on US’ polypropylene (PP). The measure was taken even though US PP imports into Brazil only represented 5% of the total in 2023 – 26,000 tonnes out of nearly 510,000 tonnes. Braskem is Brazil’s sole producer of PP as well as polyethylene (PE), the two mostly widely used polymers. A second source in the Brazilian chemicals distribution sector said the import tariff hikes could benefit all parts of the chain – apart from producers, distributors and transformers as well – but only if all players rise prices in line with the increase in the import tariffs. “If the tariffs are finally hiked, it could represent a problem for us at first if Braskem lowers its prices, for instance – my product acquired pre-import tariff hike would be more expensive and I would have difficulty placing it in the market,” said the distribution source. “If Braskem does not lower its prices immediately, I would be able to maintain my prices. But if prices drop, I would be facing higher costs and lower selling prices: my margins would be greatly squeezed.” Focus article by Jonathan Lopez Additional reporting by Bruno Menini

28-May-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 24 May. Brenntag CEO says Europe must play to its strengths Europe’s chemical sector is seeing a wave of commodity production closures, which is likely to accelerate as the region is suffering from structurally higher energy costs and depressed margins since it lost access to cheap Russian gas. Europe epoxy sentiment stable, Asia imports may face EU antidumping claim Europe epoxy resins prices have been mainly agreed with rollovers for May so far, in spite of a drop in feedstock costs this month. Speculation is also growing over EU anti-dumping claims against Asian imports. Europe naphtha and gasoline prices firm on improved liquidity, summer optimism Liquidity in Europe's naphtha and gasoline markets improved in the week to 17 May as stable-to-soft prices encouraged buying appetite, just as the market is gearing up for an uptick in demand ahead of the summer holidays. Europe PE, PP contract prices down beyond monomer for May Europe’s polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) freely negotiated prices for May are down, with variance by grade

27-May-2024

DuPont flags $60 million in dis-synergies from break-up, assures on PFAS liabilities

HOUSTON (ICIS)–DuPont expects about $60 million in dis-synergies from its break-up into three independent publicly traded companies, CEO Ed Breen and CFO Lori Koch told analysts in a conference call on Thursday. The US specialty chemicals and materials company announced late on Wednesday that it plans to separate its electronics and water businesses into two publicly traded companies while the existing DuPont, dubbed “New DuPont”, will continue as a diversified industrial company. The dis-synergies were largely related to insurance, audit fees, leadership and boards, that is, “public company stand-up costs”, Koch said. The dis-synergies were “not a huge number” and would be across all three companies, she said. As for separation costs, those are estimated at $700 million, with the biggest cost items being IT separation and tax, legal and audit work, she said. DIVESTMENT NOT RULED OUT While DuPont is pursuing spin-offs and is not running a parallel M&A processes for electronics and water, it does not entirely rule out divesting them. “If somebody wants to call and propose something, we are going to listen to it,” Breen said in response to analysts' questions. He also said that the water business, which is relatively smaller, may be spun off before electronics. The timing for the separations is good as markets are coming out of destocking cycles, Breen noted. Especially in semiconductors, “we are going into a real upcycle”, he added. DuPont has been working on the separation for about six months and expects to complete it within the coming 18-24 months, he said. The relatively long completion timeline is mainly due to tax matters as DuPont intends to execute tax-free separations, he said. In some of the countries where DuPont operating, a separated business must be run for a full 12 months before it gets tax-free status, Breen said. New DuPont, with annual sales of $6.6 billion, and the electronic spin-off (sales: $4.0 billion), are expected to have investment-grade balance sheets whereas the smaller water business (sales: $1.5 billion), may not, Koch said. PFAS As for DuPont’s liabilities for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), those will be allocated between the three companies pro rata, based on their earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the last year before the spin-off, Breen said. The amount of PFAS liabilities may not be that large as DuPont expects to “make great progress” on settling claims by the time the spin-offs will be completed in 18-24 months, he said. BREEN’S NEW ROLE Breen will step down as CEO on 1 June, to be succeeded by Koch. However, he will continue as full-time executive chairman of DuPont’s board of directors, focusing on the separations, including the appointment of the spin-off companies’ boards and the hiring of their management teams. Breen would not rule out that he may join the boards of the electronics and water spin-offs but added that a decision has yet to be made. PROFILES OF THE THREE COMPANIES' MARKETS New DuPont, focused on healthcare, advanced mobility, and safety & protection: Electronics, focused on semi-conductors and interconnect solutions: Raw materials used by the electronic business include, among others, monomers, pigments and dyes, styrenic block copolymers, copper foil, filler alumina, nickel, silver, palladium, photoactive compounds, polyester and other polymer films, polyethylene (PE) resins, polyurethane (PU) resins, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds and silicones, according to DuPont's website. Water, focused on reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and ultra filtration: Raw materials used by the water business include, among others, methyl methacrylate (MMA), styrene, polysulfone, high density polyethylene (HDPE), polyethylene (PE), aniline, calcium chloride, caustic and sulfuric acid, according to DuPont's website. DuPont's shares traded at $78.44/share, down 0.13%, at 11:00 local time on the New York Stock Exchange. With additional reporting by Al Greenwood Thumbnail photo source: DuPont

23-May-2024

BLOG: Chemicals, sustainability and the new industrial revolution

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson: Blood bags, syringes, disposable hospital sheets, gowns and medicine packaging. Modern-day medicine, which has greatly extended the quantity and quality of our lives, would be impossible without the plastics industry. Computers, smartphones, washing machines, refrigerators and automobiles cannot be manufactured without plastics and chemicals. Think of women in the developing world who still have to wash clothes by hand (this is, sadly, how some patriarchal societies work). Imagine the time and energy they would save if their families can afford their first washing machine, enabling girls and women to spend more time at school and freeing them up to attend college. The absence of decent roads in developing countries doesn’t matter a jot because, since the invention of the smartphone, buying and selling goods and services, issuing microfinance and keeping accounts up to date can be done on the go. The scale of future demand for nine of the world’s biggest synthetic polymers is illustrated by the chart in today's post. We forecast that global demand for the resins will this year total 299 million tonnes, up from just 79 million tonnes in 1992 which I believe was the start of the Petrochemicals Supercycle. By 2024, we predict that demand will reach 515 million tonnes – a 72% increase. The question on the exam paper is how we meet this demand in as sustainable a fashion as possible. This is going to require a new industrial revolution. Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow Chemical, provided the best summary I have seen of the challenges that lie ahead for the chemicals industry. This was in a speech he gave in New York on 8 May. He highlighted the strain on electricity supply resulting from the growth in artificial intelligence, making it harder for the chemicals industry to secure the renewable electricity it needs to decarbonise. While it was “almost fashionable” to blame producers for plastics waste, around 3bn people around the world lacked access to basic waste management. About 95% of leakage occurs in emerging markets with underdeveloped waste management systems, he said. Demand for recycled plastics outstrips supply and was growing, but the ecosystem to collect, sort and efficiently recycle plastics waste was not keeping up, he added. Government support for these efforts would be critical – policies that preserved the many benefits of plastics while also helping eliminating waste, the CEO said. Through its history, the chemical industry had a formidable record of achievement in overcoming challenges and can do it again in making the energy transition a reality and ending plastics pollution, said the Dow CEO. Key to this was harnessing talent – not just chemical talent, but a new generation of workers who understood robotics, AI, machine learning and analytics, he said. Hear, hear! Let’s get on the with this new industrial revolution. Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.

17-May-2024

US home builder confidence dives as mortgage rates exceed 7%

HOUSTON (ICIS)–US builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes fell sharply in May as higher mortgage rates “hammer” confidence, the National Association of Home Builders said on Wednesday. Mortgage rates averaged above 7% for the past four weeks as a lack of progress on reducing inflation pushed long-term interest rates higher, NAHB said. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) fell by six points from April to 45 in May – its first decline since November 2023. HMI readings below the 50 neutral mark indicate that builders are pessimistic, readings above 50 that they are optimistic. The high mortgage rates have pushed many potential buyers back to the sidelines and the market has slowed, NAHB said. Another worry are new code rules that require the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Department of Agriculture to insure mortgages for new single-family homes only if they are built to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code. This would further increase the cost of construction in a market “that sorely needs more inventory for first-time and first-generation buyers”, said NAHB chairman Carl Harris. NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz added: “The last leg in the inflation fight is to reduce shelter inflation, and this can only occur if builders are able to construct more attainable, affordable housing.” The housing market is a key consumer of chemicals, driving demand for a wide variety of chemicals, resins and derivative products, such as plastic pipe, insulation, paints and coatings, adhesives and synthetic fibers, among many others. Please also visit the ICIS construction topic page and Macroeconomics: Impact on Chemicals. Thumbnail photo source: NAHB

15-May-2024

INSIGHT: Q1 2024 US imports of plastic scrap remain strong on cost savings opportunities

HOUSTON (ICIS)–US plastic scrap trade continues to show robust import activity amid flat export volumes in the first quarter. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic scrap in particular continues to see strong growth in import and export volumes despite domestic recyclers citing only moderate-to-weak demand. This is likely due to the wide window of arbitrage for recycled flake and pellet resin into the US. On the other hand, US PET bale prices have minimally improved following last year's market crash, creating export opportunities to other global destinations. US remains a net importer of plastic scrap US PET scrap imported increased 88% Q1 2024 vs Q1 2023 US PET scrap exported increased 33% Q1 2024 vs Q4 2023 Q1 2024 trade data from the US Census Bureau shows US imports of plastic scrap – noted by the HS code 3915 – remain strong, having dropped only 2% quarter on quarter, but having jumped 38% year on year when comparing with Q1 2023. Exports on the other hand were nearly identical quarter on quarter, having leveled off over the last several quarters around 100,000 tonnes. US plastic scrap imports totaled 127,176 tonnes in Q1 2024, marking it the strongest first quarter in the last 10 years, and only the second strongest quarter ever, following Q4 of last year. Plastic scrap imports include items such as used bottles, but also other forms of recycled feedstock such as purge, leftover pairings and now also flake material. PET SCRAP IMPORTS CONTINUE RECORD PACEPET in particular continued to see growth in imported scrap volumes, increasing 88% year on year. PET scrap now constitutes nearly 50% of all US imported plastic scrap, followed by the "other" plastic scrap category at 29% and polyethylene (PE) scrap at 14%. Overall plastic scrap imports from Mexico continued to drop, down both year on year and quarter on quarter, largely driven by declines in PET scrap imports. Canada on the other hand increased year on year but declined quarter on quarter with the broader volume trend. Together, plastic scrap coming from Canada and Mexico continues to constitute nearly half (46%) of US plastic scrap imports. Material from Thailand comes in as the third largest region for US plastic scrap imports at 7% of the total volume. When considering just PET scrap, Thailand continued their strong growth trajectory with nearly identical volumes to Q4 2023. US PET scrap imports from Thailand in Q1 2024 increased 82% year on year. Despite this growth, Canada still sends the largest volume of PET scrap to the US at 11,960 tonnes in Q1 2024. When considering other countries, PET imports from Asian-based countries now makes up over 40% of the total PET scrap import volume, passing up Canada and Mexico at a combined 21%. Market participants confirm they have seen a notable rise in imported recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) activity from Asia and Latin America, particularly due to their cost-competitive position when it comes to feedstock, labor and facility costs in light of cheaper ocean freight rates. Though, other regions may not always be in a cost-competitive position, as most recently seen in South American countries like Peru and Colombia, where local bale prices have increased significantly, while US feedstock prices remain relatively stable. Supporting the increase in imported scrap plastic, US recyclers who continue to have strong order volumes were heard to be supplementing their operations with imported feedstock. Several recyclers now purchase low-cost spot or imported R-PET flake to process into their food-grade pellet product and redirect their internally produced flake from high-cost domestic bale feedstock to sell directly to customers. This in turn has alleviated pressure from US PET bales, thus enabling price stability for pellet material which is formulated to US bale feedstock costs. In the long term, the US will seek imports of bale or flake feedstock not just due to the cost driver but to feed growing plastic recycling capacities amid stagnant plastic collection rates domestically. PET SCRAP EXPORTS TO MEXICO ACCELERATEUnlike many other polymer types which continue to see declining volumes following the Chinese National Sword and Basel Convention adoption several years ago, exports of PET scrap have increased, as many global regions with growing R-PET capacities see a cost-play opportunity. PET scrap exports, which could include PET bales, rose 33% quarter on quarter and 21% year on year, coming in at 21,662 tonnes in Q1 2024. Specifically, exported PET scrap to Mexico increased 38% year on year, making up 61% of all US PET scrap exports. At present, aggressive buying activity from Mexican recyclers continues to drive up West Coast PET bale prices. Exports to Mexico have always made up a small portion of US PET bale sales from southern California or states like Texas, though the current activity has been notably strong. PE SCRAP TRADE REMAINS ROBUSTPE continues to be a leading polymer type for US plastic scrap exports, coming in at 35,359 tonnes in Q1 2024. Of that volume, India is the largest destination at 25%, followed by Malaysia and Canada tied at 16%. On the other hand, PE scrap imports show mixed trends. While Canada and Mexico continue to make up nearly 75% of imported PE scrap volumes, US imports from Mexico increased 24% quarter on quarter. On the other hand, imports from Canada decreased 40% quarter on quarter. This time last year, India did not export any PE scrap to the US, and now is the third largest per Q1 data.

14-May-2024

Avient eyes further sales growth in defense, narrows 2024 earnings guidance

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Following a better-than-expected 2024 first quarter, US compounder and formulator Avient raised its full-year guidance for adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) by $5 million at the low end. Sales into the defense market, along with raw material deflation, were the key earnings drivers in Q1 and Avent expects both to support earnings through 2024, CEO Ashish Khandpur and CFO Jamie Beggs told analysts during the company’s Q1 earnings call on Tuesday. New 2024 guidance Previous 2024 guidance Pro forma 2023 adjusted EBITDA $505 to $535 million $510 to $535 million $501.8 million SALES IMPROVING IN MOST END MARKETSAvient sees demand conditions “generally improving across all regions”, with improved momentum in consumer, packaging, healthcare, defense and industrial end markets, the executives said. After a 35% year-on-year increase in Q1, defense sales amid the ongoing geopolitical tensions, Avient expects those sales to continue growing through 2024, albeit not at the first quarter’s hot pace, they said. Avient’s Dyneema-brand fiber technology is used in the personal protection of soldiers and law enforcement and border control officers. While Avient’s utilization rates in defense are high, the company is able to meet forecast demand growth and expects no capacity limitations this year. However, it may add capacities in the future, depending on demand, which can be “lumpy” in that market, they said. Defense accounted for 7% of Avient’s total 2023 sales of $3.14 billion, with more than half of those sales in the US. Avient acquired the Dyneema business from DSM in 2022. Telecommunications and energy, however, are among the weaker end markets, with first-quarter sales down double-digit and weakness continuing into the second quarter. Destocking in the capital-intensive telecommunications market continued in Q1, with no meaningful rebound in that market expected until 2025, the executives said. Telecommunications accounted for 4% of Avient’s 2023 sales. BY REGION Regionally, Avient sees good momentum in the US in markets such as consumer packaging, defense, building and construction, industrial and infrastructure. “Destocking in those markets is over”, Khandpur said. With the exception of telecommunications and energy, overall demand in North America is “coming back quite well”, he said. However, persistent inflation is delaying the timing of interest rate cuts, which could weigh on sales in end markets such as building and construction, transportation and industrial, the executives said. In China, about 70% of Avient’s sales go into the local market, putting the company into a good position as that country’s economic policies transition to focus on the domestic market, the executives said. In Europe, demand in packaging and healthcare is improving, but Avient expects the region’s overall year-on-year sales growth to be soft. Consumer confidence in Europe is weak and eurozone manufacturing continues to signal contraction, they noted. Meanwhile, the stronger US dollar has become a headwind, they added. Sales by region in 2023: RAW MATERIAL DEFLATION Raw material deflation will continue to support margin expansion in the second quarter, albeit to a lesser extent than in the first quarter, the executives said. In the first quarter, Avient saw better-than-expected pricing for non hydrocarbon-based raw materials such as pigments and certain performance additives. Primary raw materials used in Avient’s manufacturing operations include polyolefin and other thermoplastic resins, titanium oxide (TiO2), inorganic and organic pigments, specialty additives and ethylene. Pricing, net of raw materials, should help drive year-on-year earnings growth in 2024, the executives said. Also, the company expects additional margin expansion due synergies and plant closures related to its acquisition of Clariant’s masterbatch business back in 2020, Beggs noted. M&A NOT A PRIORITY In the near-term, Avient will focus on organic growth and margin expansion whereas growth through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is not a priority. While Avient is not ruling out M&A, any deals would be “small and bolt-on in nature”, in areas like healthcare, sustainable solutions or composites, with focus on Asia and Latin America, Khandpur said. “Premiums are pretty high” in M&A, he added. Thumbnail photo of Ashish Khandpur, who took over as Avient's CEO and president on 1 December 2023; photo source: Avient

07-May-2024

Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 3 May. NEWS Besieged by imports, Brazil’s chemicals put hopes on hefty import tariffs hike Brazilian chemicals producers are lobbying hard for an increase in import tariffs for key polymers and petrochemicals from 12.6% to 20%, and higher in cases, hoping the hike could slow down the influx of cheap imports, which have put them against the wall. Mexico’s manufacturing slows on weaker exports, Chinese competition Mexico’s manufacturing sectors slowed down slightly in April on the back of tough competition, particularly from China, and weak demand from abroad, which caused a fall in output, analysts at S&P Global said on Thursday. Brazil’s manufacturing at nearly three-year high on booming demand Brazil's manufacturing sectors continued booming in April on the back of a sharp increase in new business intakes, which led to higher output and job creation, analysts at S&P Global said on Thursday. Mexico increases PET import tariff again in attempt to shield economy In the last week of April, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador introduced an amended version of the Tariff within the General Import and Export Duties Law to enforce import duties, or temporary duties, on products falling under 504 tariff items, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin. These new duties will vary from 5% to 50%. Brazil's Braskem Q1 resin sales fall 5% yearly, on prioritizing sales with higher added value Braskem resin sales in its domestic Brazilian market dropped by 5% in Q1, year on year, on the back of prioritizing sales with higher added value in the period, the Brazilian petrochemicals major said on Friday in its quarterly production and sales report. INSIGHT: Six decades on, Brazil’s Unigel founder fights the ultimate battle The founder of Unigel, aged 87, is actively fighting the Brazilian chemicals and fertilizers producer’s most decisive battle, one for its survival, as it tries to restructure its debts, one step away from bankruptcy. PRICING Lat Am PE domestic prices fall in Argentina, Brazil on cheaper imports, soft demand Domestic polyethylene (PE) prices fell in Argentina and Brazil due to competition with cheaper imports and soft demand. In other Latin American countries, prices were unchanged. LatAm PP domestic prices fall in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico on lower feedstock costs, soft demand Domestic polypropylene (PP) prices fell in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico on the back of lower feedstock costs and soft demand.

06-May-2024

US Huntsman assets in Europe spare from energy hit, but EU policies erratic – CEO

RIO DE JANEIRO (ICIS)–Huntsman’s assets in Europe are not energy intensive and have been spared from the energy crisis, but more broadly, the 27-country EU is still lacking a comprehensive policy to address the issue, the CEO at US chemicals major Huntsman said on Friday. Peter Huntsman, one of the chemical industry’s most outspoken CEOs, said the company is not planning to divest any asset in Europe but said the region should stop its “nonsense” about reindustrialization and implement policies that create actual economic growth. The CEO added he is feeling “bullish” about the coming quarters regarding demand, arguing the chemical industry had gone to “hell” and was just coming back from the steep low prices of 2023. In North America, Huntsman said the construction industry should post a marked recovery in the coming quarters after two years in the doldrums because of high interest rates because, he argued, even with current interest rates, the industry will adapt. Huntsman’s sales and earnings in the first quarter fell again, year on year, as higher sales volumes could not offset low selling prices; the company said, however, that a notable improvement in sales volumes quarter on quarter should be a signal that the recovery is underway. Among others, Huntsman produces polyurethanes (PUs), which are widely used in the construction and automotive sectors. EUROPE NONSENSEPeter Huntsman on Friday first referred to the EU’s need to stop its “nonsense” about reindustrialisation, without elaborating further, but he was more measured when asked about the company’s assets in that region. He nonetheless made clear that he thinks European governments have yet to formulate, two years into the region’s biggest energy crisis in decades, appropriate policies to address the issue. “What I am most concerned about Europe is high energy costs. Most of our businesses there are not energy intensive assets, so they are competitive; in fact we have some strong businesses there, and our margins in Advanced Materials [the division] are stronger there than in other parts of the world,” said Huntsman, speaking to reporters and chemical equity analysts on Friday. “There are businesses in Europe in which you will do OK, such as aerospace, lightweighting. But if you are energy intensive, if you produce fertilizers, glass, cement… you have some portfolio concerns there. Energy prices are too high, and this is not being addressed by governments, they still have to come up with realistic policies to address that.” Europe’s construction has also taken a hit from the crisis after interest rates shot up to bring down inflation, with projects put on hold and many building companies in financial distress. Huntsman’s CEO said he is not hoping for a strong recovery anymore in that sector in Europe, but simply for stability, which could come with governments taking more decisive action to prop up GDP growth. “If we look at the past two years… We are looking for stability: it is the volatility that concerns us the most. We need to see Europe stop its the nonsense policies around reindustrialization and get the economy growing once again,” he said. See Huntsman assets in Europe at bottom table. NORTH AMERICA CONSTRUCTIONPeter Huntsman was feeling more optimistic about North America’s construction sector, where even if high interest rates stay for longer, builders will adapt to the situation, easing the way towards a recovery. “US builders are doing two things: if interest rates were to stay where they are, they are going to adapt, perhaps building smaller units, and if rates do come down, that will open up demand quite a bit higher than it has been in the last couple of years. There are big gaps [in housing stock] which need to filled,” said Huntsman. “I am increasingly feeling better and better [about an improvement in demand]. In Q1 we saw a lot of inventory drawdown, now we are seeing a slow, steady recovery as we try to get back to average inventory levels. By and large inventory levels feel pretty thin in MDI [methylene diphenyl diisocyanate] and we look forward to moderate growth in coming quarters.” MDI is consumed mainly in PU foams, used in construction, refrigeration, packaging, and insulation. MDI is also used to make binders, elastomers, adhesives, sealants, coatings and fibers. Huntsman’s CFO, Philip Lister, also at the press conference, added that in a normal year the company’s growth in volumes from the first quarter to the second would be around 5%, as construction and other seasonal activities enter their annual peak. “This year, we are expecting more [than 5% growth],” said Lister. CHINA ELECTRIC VEHICLESHuntsman’s CEO said China’s electric vehicle (EV) sector continues to boom, although potential trade restrictions in the EU, after those imposed by the US, could start denting China’s dominance in that sector. However, the company also knows what China’s dominance in the sector, thanks to the country’s strong public support for it, can mean for western producers: in 2023, Huntsman suspended an EV battery materials project in the US because of aggressive imports from China. But the CEO added that even if China’s EV sector slowed down, the company would still be able to tap into other growing markets such as lightweighting or insulation, among others. “The automotive sector continues to be one of the strongest areas of growth in China. How long that continues [remains to be seen], but probably for some time still,” said Huntsman. “There is a broader question about [trade in the EV chain] with the US, which has been extremely limited, or Europe, where there is a lot of talk about limitations to China’s EVs.” He added that despite sluggish activity in the residential construction sector because of financial woes in building companies, exemplified by the demise of major company Evergrande, subsectors such as energy conservation, insulation, building materials and infrastructure are still doing well. “By and large we are seeing in China a slow but steady recovery in volumes and pricing. Elsewhere, I am getting more bullish. A year ago, we were in a nightmare, and we expected a recovery in the second half [of 2023] which didn’t happen and got worse and worse, until we found ourselves in hell,” said Huntsman. “At the beginning of this year we have seen good, reliable, consistent growth. What we need to see is that growth continues in the second half of this year.” HUNTSMAN ASSETS IN EUROPE Product Location Capacity (in tonnes) Aniline Wilton, UK 340,000 Epoxy resins Bergkamen, Germany 18,000 Monthey, Switzerland 120,000 Duxford, UK 10,000 Isocyanates Runcorn, UK 70,000 Maleic anhydride (MA) Moers, Germany 105,000 MDI Rozenburg, The Netherlands 470,000 Nitrobenzenes Wilton, UK 455,000 Polyalolef Grimsby, UK 15,000 Polyester polyols Huddersfield, UK 20,000 Rozenburg, The Netherlands 86,000 Unsaturated polyester resins (UPRs) Ternate, Italy 8,000 Source: ICIS Supply & Demand Database Front page picture: Huntsman’s headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas  Source: Huntsman Additional reporting by Miguel Rodriguez-Fernandez

03-May-2024

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