The Q1 contract price range was assessed at €1,750-1,850/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe), reflecting the predominant outcome of contract negotiations.
The quarterly contract price range for liquid MA includes domestic European product only and is assessed on a pre-discounted basis. Prices are understood to be around €1,500/tonne FD NWE on a net basis.
Market participants indicated that prices had been settled at rollovers and minor increases.
Two producers said they had finalised their Q1 contracts at a mixture of rollovers and modest increases, with most business being concluded at plus €10-20/tonne.
A third producer said its contracts had rolled over on weaker-than-expected demand, possibly as a result of consumers having surplus inventories at the end of last year. Margins have been severely eroded as a consequence, the source emphasised.
Feedstock n-butane costs have risen substantially this month, producers said, but they were unable to pass the higher costs onto customers because the market is balanced, and winter is typically a low-demand season for MA derivatives such as unsaturated polyester resins (UPR).
Nearly all buyers said their Q1 contract prices were unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2013.
One said it had agreed a €20/tonne decrease, but acknowledged that this was probably an exception in the market.
Another buyer described a well-supplied market with steady demand, while a third said that spot activity is low and consumers are buying only what they need.
A reseller based in southern Europe said that liquid MA spot prices in the region are in the low €1,400s/tonne FD, and demand is seasonally weak. The source suggested that lower Turkish demand is encouraging European suppliers to sell more material domestically.
Spot prices were assessed on Friday at €1,500-1,600/tonne FD NWE for liquid tonnes and €1,740-1,780/tonne FD NWE for flake material.
European MA producers include Sasol-Huntsman, Polynt, DSM, MOL and CEPSA.