SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s methyl methacrylate (MMA) demand is set to remain supported by the rising use of transparent acrylic sheets as more economies in the region ease their coronavirus lockdown measures.
Initially, demand for such protective sheets was not widespread in Asia and orders were largely bound for the US and Europe markets.
Sheet makers are now seeing increased demand from within southeast Asia including Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, as restrictions are being lifted in the region.
These transparent sheets are installed in shops, restaurants, offices, hospitals and other common spaces to prevent coronavirus transmissions. Cast acrylic sheet, made directly from the monomer, and also extruded acrylic sheet, made from polymethyl methacrylate resins, are commonly used to make these barriers.
Acrylic sheets are favoured for their clarity, impact resistance and chemical resistance qualities which allows for frequent cleaning and disinfection.
Singapore on Monday announced that it will start the second phase of its reopening from 19 June. The easing of restrictions in Singapore will see the re-opening of retail businesses, F&B dine-ins, personal health & wellness, home-based services, and public places such as parks and facilities.
Thailand started the last stage of its lockdown on 1 June with the aim to fully re-open its economy on 1 July, while Indonesia’s “large-scale social curbs” ended on 4 June.
Competition is strong between Asian sheet makers to get a share of the pie.
However, demand for this application alone is insufficient to lift the overall demand for MMA as demand from other downstream sectors remain weak, with major industries such as automotive and construction still heavily impacted by disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
In the week ended 12 June, MMA prices for bulk parcels of 500 tonnes and above were assessed at $1,310-1,380/tonne CFR (cost & freight) southeast (SE) Asia, firmer by $10/tonne from the previous week, according to ICIS data.
Prices started to bottom out from end May and slightly rebound, halting a continuous downtrend since August 2018.
The uptick was largely driven by high raw material cost, and firmer sentiment on recent bullish China domestic market.
Key feedstock acetone CFR CMP (China Main Ports) prices have risen by more than twofold since early April to an average of $1,050/tonne in the week ended 12 June.
China domestic MMA prices have surged by 83% since early April to CNY 13,000/tonne extank east China in the week ended 12 June.
Focus article by Li Li Chng