Braskem, a leading thermoplastics resins producer, announced on 25th June 2020 that it is planning on exporting a significant amount of the polypropylene (PP) from its new facility, Delta, which is located next to Braskem's existing production facilities in La Porte, Texas, US The plant has a production capacity of 450,000 tonnes/year and is the latest major milestone in company's global growth strategy. The company has PP production facility in the US and Brazil, as well as Europe, centred in the Netherlands.
Within the US, Braskem currently operates through five PP plants, situated in Texas, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, having a combined capacity of 1.59m tonnes/year. The company will line load around its assets in the US, aiming to find the best efficiency for the exports and deliver from the plant that can make the product available to the export client at the right time, at the right cost.
For polypropylene exports from the US, the company is targeting central Europe and the west coast of South America. As shipping from Brazil to Chile and Peru in South America is very challenging and expensive, the new North American facility will provide an edge to the company by significantly reducing the shipping cost and efficiently meeting the growing demand of clients. This would allow the company to optimize operations in all three production regions.
The company's Delta project in La Porte is expected to start in the third quarter of 2020. Currently, the company is engaged in designing a business plan to supply 50% or more of its polypropylene production in Delta plant to Braskem affiliates in other parts of the world. The company is working to develop the infrastructure to achieve this goal efficiently and has partnered with the Port of Charleston, which has a capacity of up to 450m lb (204,000 tonnes) of exports. For this, the company is designing and developing an export hub, which is expected to be completed by Q3.
Strategically, the company is also focusing on Asian markets for PP exports from the US. The company has some commitments to export to Asia, and India presents a good opportunity in the context of Asia. Braskem has been planning to foray into Asian markets and has been looking at it for the last six years, following which the company has recently opened its office in Mumbai, India. India has limited ability to produce PP, and the demand for the product in the region is considerably growing. The country imports most of these products, and thus, the region is expected to provide a significant opportunity to Braskem to expand its business and fulfill its strategy of efficiently participating in other markets.
Although some of Braskem's PP is also exported to China, the region is not as strategic a market as India. China is capable of producing its own propylene chain, and thus, the market in the region does not provide ample growth opportunities to aid Delta project and its expansion across North America.
As polypropylene (PP) is used in a variety of applications, including packaging for consumer goods, plastic parts for several sectors such as the automotive industry, textiles, and so on, its demand is increasing across the globe. It is one of the most widely produced plastics in the world and has positively influenced people's lives in sectors like food, housing, as well as mobility.
Braskem, a Brazilian petrochemical company, is currently the largest manufacturer of thermoplastic resins in the Americas as well as the leading producer of polypropylene in the United States. It produces polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polyvinylchloride (PVC) resins, along with other basic chemical inputs. The company has one of the most comprehensive portfolios in the industry, which also includes the green polyethylene prepared from the sugarcane, a 100% renewable resource.
The smartphone industry is experiencing a severe hit ever since the lockdown started. Mass shutdowns, which have been imposed by the governments across the world to prevent the spread of COVID-19, has resulted in the lowering of productions in almost every sector worldwide. This has significantly halted all the crucial operations in the smart phone industry as well, which include production and supply chain disruptions.
Despite several measures adopted by the top smartphone manufacturers, lockdown has changed and altered the entire market scenario, further leading to a drop in the market value of the global smartphone industry. It has been estimated that the shipments in the smartphone market have fallen below 300 million units for the first time since 2014. It can be seen as the worst smartphone market contraction in history.
The production rate in the industry is expected to fall by 16.5% to 287 million smartphones in the June quarter in the comparison to the last year. Chances are, it will take several months to get back on the track even if the supply chain resumes post-shutdown.
Some of the biggest and most prominent brands in the global smartphone market, that is, Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc are also expected to experience the repercussions of the pandemic, although they will continue to retain their positions in the global market. These two players hold the first and third positions respectively in the market, yet both the companies might lose their market share to the Chinese smartphone manufacturers. During the March quarter, a further 10% drop in the global production was recorded as the pandemic spread and peaked in China before entering the regions like the United States and Europe.
The outbreak, which began with the worries of keeping up with the production and procure raw materials to meet the growing demand for smartphones, has culminated into a much vulnerable situation, that is, the disruption from supply to demand. The outbreak, which started from China, has now reached almost every part of the world, thus, making its effects felt on the demand side of the smartphone market. It has tanked major economies worldwide, which has led to the reduction in demand for smart phone and disruption in supply chains as almost half of the world enters lockdown. Now, even if the production reaches a stable point, it would be difficult for smartphone manufacturers to sell the products with reduced demand and disrupted supply chains.
In a bid to tackle the situation and maintain its position, Apple, not only reduced the prices of iPhone 11 in China but also launched a $399 iPhone variant. The company targeted the Chinese market with the aim to find some buyers in the frugal economy since it is the only major market where Apple stores are still running.
Despite their efforts, iPhone production fell almost 9% to approximately 38 million units in the quarter of March, and after this, it is expected to fall by another 2 million units. Apple’s market share is anticipated to fall to 12.6% by this quarter as compared to the last quarter when it held a share of about 13.5%. On the other hand, Samsung’s market share is expected to ease 3% points to 20.3% in the June quarter. As the major smartphone market like India enters mass shutdown to curb the spread of the pandemic, the overall smartphone industry is expected to experience a significant downfall in product demand.
Some of the brands with a larger share in China, like Huawei, are going to be in a better position as compared to the other brands like Samsung, for which almost all its major markets are closed following the lockdown. China’s smartphone brand Huawei saw slow revenue growth in the first quarter of the year 2020, but currently, it is expected to manufacture approximately 48 million smartphones in the June quarter in order to meet the steadily growing domestic demands, up 2 million from the March quarter. Following the same pattern, almost all the Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo are expected to grow further and gain market share in the June quarter.
Even after being the prominent leaders in the global smartphone market, Apple and Samsung could not tackle the downfall brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. But as China was the first region to witness and experience this pandemic, it has not only started recovering from it but is also expected to dominate the global smartphone market. On the supply side, China being an OEM was in the worst state during the Q1 of the year 2020. However, in the second quarter, as the region’s manufacturing conditions recover, the market scenario is expected to change for China. On the other hand, other manufacturing centres will still struggle to find the consumer base and return to their normal production state while being closed under lockdown.
The worst scenario of the pandemic is yet to be seen. Most smartphone brands are expecting second quarter of the year to show the actual peak of the coronavirus’s impact on the smartphone market. If the situation does not improve, some companies, such as the entry-level segments and the offline retailers, are expected to collapse without the help of government. The governments across the nation must offer some kind of support to these small retailers in order to help them sustain during this pandemic.
The novel coronavirus has led to a complete lockdown in many countries across the globe because of which economies are almost at a standstill and largely non-thriving unlike the pre-coronavirus days. The plastics and many other industries are facing a crisis, which is expected to be worse than 2008, with major bankruptcies likely.
The lockdowns have made actual demand in key sectors, such as automotive industry, etc., to slump except for the essential commodities and products. The automotive industry experienced a heavy downfall, which was evident from the reduced vehicle sales in comparison to year-ago levels. Within China and India, major markets saw the decline in sales by more than 40% year on year owing to the weakening demand for automobiles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The sales of vehicles in China slumped 43.3% on an annualised basis to a volume of 1.43m units in March. China, which represents the world’s largest car market, witnessed a decline in sales and production in March as the country’s economy witnessed a drop, recording a negative growth of 6.8% in the first quarter. The weakened economy is the result of the restrictive containment measures that led to a halt of all the economic activities in the region in the month of February.
While in India, sales of vehicle dropped 45% year on year to 1.05m units in the same month. In the country, tyre and automotive makers had to close their plants amidst the crippling demand, and on the other hand, import cargoes got stuck at the ports due to the transport restrictions.
The economic turmoil, particularly in the wake of crude oil prices that had reached a negative territory during the initial days of April amid the pandemic has also affected several sectors. It is anticipated that for the next two years the global economy will be much weaker than the pre-coronavirus days.
The weakening automotive industry has resulted in the reduced prices of the raw materials used in cars. The sluggish growth of the automotive sector has widened the gap between spot-supply and demand for butadiene (BD), where the supply has outstripped the product demand. Spot interest for BD has fallen as the downstream synthetic rubber (SR) producers have decided to reduce their operating rates owing to the fall in the automotive sector. Buyers are wary of the situation and are unwilling to make any further spot purchases due to looming threat of global recession and uncertain market outlook.
The butadiene and synthetic rubber producers are being affected as the major tyre and auto makers suspended their operations or closed their facilities worldwide owing to the mass shutdown, travel bans, and restriction on transportation imposed by authorities and governments worldwide to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The weakening demand for downstream synthetic rubber had also curbed the demand for butadiene, with major downstream synthetic rubber producers fulfilling their May requirements and not appearing in any rush to start discussions or operations for June and July shipments.
The Asian polybutadiene rubber (PBR) market witnessed a stagnation as its demand slumped amid the coronavirus pandemic. The market was largely impacted by a sharp decrease in BD feedstock prices, which have reduced by nearly 55% since late January due to oversupply and weakened demand.
Extended lockdown has severely hit the April business in Asia. In the monoethylene glycol (MEG) market, China witnessed flow of additional cargoes from the US and India owing to the steadily emerging local demand. However, in the second quarter, several integrated MEG units in China will undergo maintenance process, leading to their shutdown, thus offsetting the lengthened imports due to the reduction of supply in the local China market.
Further, the sales of polyester slipped in China as the export of textile products witnessed a downfall owing to the dwindling textiles sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Although several sectors are witnessing a downfall, the massive increase in demand for protective items including facial masks and gears is propelling the demand for polypropylene (PP) fibre grade material. Owing to this reason, many manufacturers have even switched to producing this grade.
Moreover, the Chinese central bank’s plans to invest yuan (CNY) 550bn of liquidity to boost the economy, which is expected to aid the polyethylene market in the country.
The domestic consumption of polyethylene in China accounts for 80% of the total product demand and this will further drive the China’s polyethylene (PE) market in 2020. China, being a major PE consumer, is expected to aid the overall polyethylene market in Asia as well.
In addition to this, the demand for paraxylene (PX) in China remains healthy, and the operating rates for downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) applications are also high with no plans for scheduled maintenance in the coming period.
For propylene market, a U-shaped recovery can be observed with the global economy and chemicals demand taking longer to rebound. Though it is anticipated that pre-coronavirus volumes may not return until 2022, it is not all doom across the plastics industry in the Asian region as well as globally.
Hydroxychloroquine tablets or HCQ tablets, which are primarily used in the treatment of malaria, witnessed a surge in demand over the past few months as these formulations currently appears as the only viable solution for treating COVID-19. In the absence of any dedicated vaccine or drug for treating this respiratory disease, HCQ is seen as the only possible treatment for COVID-19. India shipped 50 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to the US, following the request by the US President, Donald Trump to release the supply of hydroxychloroquine.
These tablets are anti-malarial drugs and have been in use for decades for treating mosquito-borne diseases. Recently, an increased demand for these tablets was observed and different countries including the US, rely on nations like China and India for the supply of generic drugs. Fear of drug shortages surfaced as India, world's biggest supplier of generic drugs, restricted exports of 26 ingredients as well as the medicines formulated from them after the outbreak of the pandemic.
India’s drug makers rely on China for around 70% of the active ingredients in their medicines and thus, the halted production in China can directly affect the drug manufacturing capacity of India. The decision regarding the restriction was taken by the government of India as the drug manufacturers in China has also cut their output or will remain shut following the mass lockdown in the region. The industry experts have warned that different regions are likely to face shortages if the epidemic continues and there could be a global shortage if China and India both get hit.
Although the US Food and Drug Administration and other authorities like the Canadian Health Department have issued warnings about the harmful side-effects of anti-malarial drug in the treatment of COVID-19 (like rapid heart-beat and trouble in breathing), but these tablets are still being considered as one of the most effective solutions to combat this deadly pandemic in the absence of any vaccine. In fact, some of the US doctors continued prescribing HCQ tablets to the patients for the treatment of COVID-19.
As the death rate in the US from COVID-19 reached almost 60,000 by the end of April, which is the highest in the world, there is no doubt that the doctors in the US would do their best to save as much lives as possible. For that, they are looking for solutions that could change the course of COVID-19, which not only attacks the lungs but also shuts down other body organs as observed in some cases.
These tablets are being considered as the game changer in the treatment of COVID-19 and the US president has requested India to send in more supplies of hydroxychloroquine tablets. The cases and death rates in the region continue to grow and the pandemic has affected the nation severely.
Meanwhile in India, government issued 68 new licences to the drug manufacturers in Gujarat to produce more units of hydroxychloroquine formulations. The majority of these licences were for the exports. Some pharmaceutical companies in Gujarat continued to produce and export HCQ tablets in large quantities.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, IPCA Laboratories, and Cadila Healthcare are some of the leading suppliers of HCQ tablets in India. Cadila Healthcare estimated that, they could possibly boost their production and manufacturing capacity and can produce up to 30 metric tonnes of the formulations per month.
India is now supplying HCQ tablets not only to the U.S but to the other countries as well on grounds of humanitarian and commercial level. Acting on the US’s request, India has shipped about 50 lakhs HCQ tablets to Canada as well and showed the world its capabilities and strength. India and Canada have been old strategic partners and very good friends. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, both the countries agreed to cooperate on all fronts. India and Canada have decided to share and exchange information regarding the treatment of COVID-19 and protection of the supply chain.
By exporting huge amounts of HCQ tablets to the developed nations such as the US and Canada, and to other countries as well, India showed the world its strength and versatility. It showed how India, as a nation is self-sufficient and fully capable of helping itself as well as others amidst the pandemic. This step of India, assisting the US and Canada on such a huge level not only benefitted the drug industry in the region but also helped the nation achieve huge value in the international market.
Extending global lockdown across the world to curb the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the trade of polyols, resulting in the reduction in its sales volume as well as the spot demand for polyether polyols in Southeast Asia. Polymeric polyols, upon its reaction with isocyanates, are used in the production of polyurethanes, which are further used to prepare mattresses, home and automotive seats, foam insulation for refrigerators and freezers, fibres like spandex, elastomeric shoe soles, and adhesives. The trade of polyols, which was expected to remain high prior to COVID outbreak, was significantly affected in the Southeast Asian countries in the month of May due to several factors.
The seven day-long celebration on the occasion of the Labour Day in China is one of the major reasons responsible for the disrupted trade. Sudden fluctuations in upstream crude futures that were seen in the months of March and April also contributed to the disrupted market of polyether polyols. Apart from that, legal issues have been impacting the trade as well. Petitions from the U.S. mattress makers against the mattress of other countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Serbia, Thailand, and Vietnam, on the grounds that these polyol products are being sold at un-fair industrial values also created a hindrance, leading to the disruption in the product sales; thus, the case of antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) filed by the US based mattress makers on 31 March this year is under investigation, and is also affecting the business and the product demand.
Bedding and furnishing shops and automotive plants are closed across several regions, thereby making flexible foam producers and their facilities to remain shut. Several cancellations and postponements of orders have been observed due to these closures. Moreover, since some consumers filled their stocks in March owing to the fear of the pandemic, it contributed to a decrease in the product sales for the following months.
It has been observed that the demand for finished goods is quite stagnant in the U.S and Europe and because of this, most buyers from these regions are not interested in committing to spot sales for certain polyol grades like the flexible foam polyols. Further, due to limited demand and enquiries, China-based polyols producers are focusing more on the Chinese local market as the domestic demand in the region remains stronger than the demand from regions like the US and Europe, which appears to be sluggish, and thus, these producers are holding back on offers for May shipment products.
The scheduled shutdown maintenance projects carried out for the maintenance of upstream products such as propylene oxide (PO) and propylene, which are used in the production of polyols, also got affected and postponed. The reason for the postponement of this project was the lack of human resources, which makes it impossible to carry out the maintenance process post shutdown in the region of Southeast Asia. Thus, on the supply front, the available volume of polyols is likely to stay high.
Low molecular weight polyols, which function as crosslinking agents, find wide applications in polymer chemistry. For instance, alkyd resins are used in paints and in moulds for casting. Alkyd resins serve as the significant resin or "binder" in most commercial oil-based coatings. Commercial alkyd resins are produced using the polyols like glycerol, trimethylolpropane, and pentaerythritol. It was estimated that nearly 200,000 tons of alkyd resins are produced each year but this volume might drop this year due to the outbreak of the pandemic and resulting downfall in the demand for polyols and its end use products. It has been estimated that there was a downfall in the prices of polyols between 4th March and 22nd April with an average of $1,430/tonne CFR SouthEast Asia to $1,300/tonne CFR SouthEast Asia.
Polyol industry is looking at the latest updates related to lockdown and hoping it to be lifted soon. But since the number of cases of the novel coronavirus are continually increasing, chances are that the lockdown would not get lifted anytime soon. Hence, the demand for polyols is expected to remain low for the month of May. A downward pressure might continue in the polyol market since the supply of polyol from the manufacturers has been slowly decreasing, and the demand is also low. The volatile oil prices of the crude oil is another reason creating a downward pressure in the polyol market.
Any business engaged with polyol industry must have knowledge about the ongoing polyol market conditions. An in-depth market research and real-time data can prove to be beneficial while understanding the market trends and the prevalent conditions in the global polyol industry.
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Purified terephthalic acid (PTA) market in Europe has been witnessing an increased growth owing to the growing demand for PTA from downstream polyethylene terephthalate (PET) applications. PET, which is a thermoplastic polymer, has emerged as an essential product amid the pandemic as it is being extensively utilised in the preparation of films and sheets for packaging food products and water during lockdowns. But, despite imminent peak in demand, the future for both PTA and PET does not appear stable, and thus, the tide may turn any time owing to the falling economies.
PET is among those plastics which finds use in a wide range of applications and thus, it forms an important part of our everyday life. It is an important commercial polymer resin that can be broadly classified into bottle, fibre or film grade, based on downstream applications. Bottle grade resin is the most traded form of PET resin and it is utilised in bottle and container packaging through blow moulding and thermoforming and also as a food packaging material.
The growing dependence on food products and water packaged in PET during lockdown, a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, has placed the product and value chain in one of the essential sectors. Thus, even when other sectors are experiencing a setback, the market for PTA and PET is flourishing amidst lockdown in Europe.
But, crashing upstream prices and economic turmoil in Europe may deny the status of ‘privileged’ to PTA and PET. As there remains uncertainty regarding how this pandemic is going to impact the industry in the medium term, and the economy as a whole, low prices of the product are tempting certain buyers to make purchase while sellers are seeking ways to secure the commitments. It appears that hedging and fixed pricing are back on the agenda, even for 2021, as PET prices have reduced to so low and are likely to remain the same for some time. Some are looking at this scenario as a right time to lock in stocks of PTA and PET for 2021, but there also looms pre-buy concerns about the liquidity of customers. On the other hand, for some companies, purchasing now and keeping the stocks ready for next year is not an appealing proposition for they may not thrive or even survive this crisis owing to limited socialising and no tourism to depend on. Thus, the current outlook in general makes hedging, fixed price buying and general pre-buying a risky affair.
Both the buyers and sellers are becoming wary of what demand may look like going forward and as no buyer wants to get caught with stocks at the current situation, the future for the PTA and PET sector looks blurrish.
Buyers are cancelling their orders and some supermarkets are putting the brakes on and have stopped making purchases. Even the world leaders are not sure of how long this lockdown is going to continue and when a sense of normality will return.
Although PET has been able to maintain its priority status amidst the pandemic, largely through thermoforming, but there are other PET products that have witnessed a severe hit and are still suffering, for example, carbonated soft drinks (CSD) and high-end foods. While the sales volume of bottled water has significantly dropped and the product is currently experiencing the effects of mass lock down, the purchase of larger 1 litre and 1.5 litre bottles and their bulk buying by the consumers on the continent is ensuring its sustainability. Further, sharp increase in the production and demand for hand sanitizers has not proved to beneficial for PET products as nowadays hand sanitizer producers are not so concerned about the type of bottles they are using.
Moreover, R-PET (recycled PET) users are reverting to a 70:30 purchase power, which is in favour of virgin PET. The reduced demand for R-PET is the result of its high cost, and thus, has created a renaissance in demand for virgin material.
The ones engaged in the business are contemplating different scenarios. While one scenario is anticipated to be the increasing demand and growing market for the product as negative territory on oil has now passed and things will only get better because of the expected ease on the lockdown in the coming months. While the other scenario is expected to be the fall in the market value as after witnessing the extraordinary demand for PTA and PET because of lockdowns and also because people replenished inventories thinking that April would have the lowest price for the product, the next few months shall see the consequences with companies going bust with no events or festivals taking place, resulting in less consumption of the product and downfall in market.
In Europe, as domestic producers are focusing on keeping their prices competitive with PET manufacturers from other regions, the import volumes of the PET products are far fewer than what they were at the same time in 2019. Thus, the short to medium term, imports to Europe have reduced drastically in comparison to 2019, which is a good sign for domestic PET producers.
Thus, even if PTA and PET are benefitting in Europe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of the sector is expected to remain unstable and it is currently under a threat. While the sector has received a chance to flourish in the medium term, its future remains unpredictable owing to the volatile market conditions and weakening economies during the mass lockdown.
As the nation moves towards mass lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, the infrastructure industry in India is experiencing the critical effects on its production level. The nationwide shutdown imposed in India, following the outbreak of novel coronavirus, has directly affected the infrastructure sector in the region, especially in the production areas of steel and cement. It has been over a month since the official lockdown started in the country, and this has led to the closure of various production facilities. All of this has significantly affected the March infrastructure output in the region, which is steadily plunging.
According to the estimates, the annual infrastructure output saw an upward growth of 7.1% in February, which slumped by 6.5% in March, and is expected to witness a further dip in the next month. The annual infrastructure output comprises nearly 40% of the regional industrial output.
As the large parts of the manufacturing sector is inactive and is expected to be in the same state for an extended period, the production rate of the materials required in the infrastructure industry is also dipping. The disruption of the supply chains for procuring raw materials and the absence of workforce are the major factors impacting the industry.
Cement production decreased by 24.7% in March, while the steel output contracted to 13%, and witnessed a downfall in demand. The various energy sources, which are utilised in the construction sector to operate the heavy machineries, are also experiencing a significant dip. For instance, electricity generation plunged to 7.2% in the month of March.
India's loss of economic activity could reach as high as $234 billion under lockdown, which can result in zero percent GDP growth this fiscal year. The world's biggest lockdown might have cost the Indian economy Rs 7-8 lakh crore amidst the period of 21 days. Factors like factories halting production, several flights being suspended, several trains being cancelled contributed to this much amount of money. The lockdown may cost the Indian economy almost USD 4.64 billion (over Rs 35,000 crore) every single day.
Since most of the metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Pune, which are the hub of construction and infrastructure activities in the region, are still entirely closed and fall in the category of red zone, relaxations offered during the lockdown period may not make any material impression on the slowing infrastructure sector in the region.
While lockdown has been imposed to prevent the spread of COVID in the country, it has significantly impacted the region’s infrastructure industry and its output. The scenario might get worse in the months of April and May as the lockdown is expected to extend further with significant parts of the production remaining inactive for a prolonged period., halting almost all the economic activities in the region. In fact, there are chances that the economic growth of the country will be sluggish, even when everything comes back to normal.
Since the imposition of lockdown, which has halted the operations almost completely, the companies who were supposed to work on big projects have cancelled the same, which will directly affect their annual sales and the infrastructure sector. While projects under development have been delayed only by two to three months, it has been estimated that the overall impact of the novel coronavirus on the construction industry in India is INR 30,000 crore per day. Moreover, the investment in construction-related projects is likely to reduce by 13 to 30% owing to the fear of disruption in the supply chain or increased prices of raw material, which will further impact the Gross Value Added and employment in the country.
The pandemic has impacted the infrastructure projects to a large extent, which are the driving force for the infrastructure industry. The demand and production of the vital raw materials in the construction sector, that is, cement and steel are further expected to be hit by the current levels of uncertainty, inactivity of business, loss of income and the diversion of government funds towards the management of the pandemic.
Today, India needs to renew its focus on the infrastructure sector in the wake of the damage caused by COVID-19. The government and the nation need to acknowledge the negative impact of the coronavirus on the infrastructure industry and manage the situation accordingly. The development and continuation of the highway construction projects in different phases could help the infrastructure sector get back to normal and sustain during this difficult time, which could further help the migrant labourers, daily wages workers, and the economy to grow.
With China being a significant producer and supplier of most of the raw materials and components to the world, the international supply chain has received more than its fair share of shocks due to the Coronavirus outbreak. COVID-19, which started from Wuhan, and first impacted China has reached almost every part of the world and till now has impacted each and every sector. The global chemical industry is no different and is currently experiencing supply chain disruptions. As China is the major producer for most of the chemicals, which further serve as the raw materials in the manufacture of other products, the supply chain and procurement has taken a severe hit.
Currently, manufacturers in the chemical industry are trying to maintain a high level of operational productivity to stay competitive in the sector. Despite all this, the restrictions on shipping and industrial production have adversely affected the chemical supply chain. Several crucial high-capacity Chinese manufacturing plants have been forced to lower their manufacturing run by 25% to 30%, along with some plants delaying their restart.
Thus, the outbreak of the noble Coronavirus pandemic has led numerous firms to reconsider their investments across Asian supply chains. As the governments and different sectors battle to hold the spread of the virus, it has been observed that the factors like logistics issue, shortage of staff, and rising inventories are primarily forcing chemical companies to cut their productions.
What has made the condition worse are the factors like the shortage of labourers, lack of drivers, and roadblocks. As now-a-days companies majorly rely on migrant workers to carry out labour intensive operations, this has put production activities in an extremely vulnerable situation.
In the chemical industry, weakened demand has also stopped the export of integrated chlor-vinyl manufacturers by South Korea, Japan, as well as by Taiwan into China. Further, the demand for PVC is expected to decrease by a significant value due to a decrease in demand for its end use products. Most lubricant brands, on the demand side, have decided to delay their return to manufacturing until their downstream end users don't return to work. Moreover, the demand from lubricant makers is expected to remain bearish amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is unlikely to recover in the short term.
As of February 2020, the other sectors that had received a major blow in the chemical industry were the polymers, benzene and styrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polystyrene (PS), naphtha-based PE, and PE and polypropylene. Moreover, the PVC production loss in the same month was estimated at 140,000-200,000 metric tons.
Further, other nations, which are dependent on China for various chemicals, are experiencing major drawbacks. For instance, India is dependent on China for various chemical compounds like titanium dioxide, carbon black, acetic acid, citric acid, aniline, and calcium carbide. Moreover, the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association or IDMA, which represents over 900 drug producers, is facing the issue of supply shortages and is experiencing a rise in the prices of raw materials. The prices of some antibiotics, vitamins, and other medicines have gone up by 15%-50% due to the fear of disruption in the supply of ingredients.
Along with that, there is a high-risk of supply chain disruptions for fluorine, amines (for APIs and agrochemicals), and domestic ABS in India. In the region, the chemicals whose total imports are quite substantial compared to domestic manufacturing include caustic soda, acetic acid, acetone, phenol, aniline, isopropanol, PVC, nylon, and VAM. Amidst all these, India’s Vinati Organics, among other manufacturers, has reassured customers of adequate inventory with no repercussions on the supply amidst this outbreak.
Further, as the production level in China reached its lowest over the past few months, other emerging nations like India have been experiencing a growth in demand for various chemicals from international manufacturers. This current 5% to 10% shift in demand from China to India could be a game-changer for the region’s fine and specialty chemical manufacturers like Aarti Industries, which will look to enhance manufacturing capabilities for API intermediates, among others during the time.
Consumer brands in the US are particularly concerned about countries restricting the supply of chemicals, ingredients, and products to the region. For instance, India, a significant drug ingredient supplier, has limited exports of medications like acetaminophen, a common painkiller used to treat flu-like symptoms, while Germany has banned the export of protective equipments like masks, gloves as well as suits manufactured for health care professionals.
Even though most factories and production units in China have by now resumed their operations, there are numerous that are not running at their usual capacity due to several challenges, which include smaller workforce and tentative restrictions in movements, aiming to promote social distancing, which seems the most suitable solution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until the invention of the vaccine. Buyers from Southeast Asia and India are still cautious of the trade developments. With Indian suppliers gaining a temporary shift in demand for chemical imports, their focus might now shift to some country other than China for procuring raw materials.
Even in Europe, the supply-demand situation has got affected; prolonged shutdowns and rapidly increasing cases in the region are impacting trade and imports for European majors. The market balance in Europe is likely to be affected, however, the prices were already quite low for European refiners’ products.
The US-listed shares of chemical companies fell on May 12, 2020 despite a rise in oil prices, following the decision of Saudi Arabia to exercise deeper production cuts. In the US, maleic anhydride (MA) is expected to be under pressure amid low feedstock costs and the rising demand. It has been estimated that the average chemicals sector earnings in North America and Europe, and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) could dip by nearly one-fifth year on year in 2020, following the disruptions caused by coronavirus and expected downturn for May and June.
With the US and Europe experiencing the ever-growing impact of Coronavirus, demand shocks witnessed by the international market in recent times seem more significant than those felt during the recession of 2008-2009.
Since the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are multiplying each day, international supply chain disruptions are yet to peak. Thus, it is possible that the interruptions experienced by the chemical manufacturers may intensify and get worse in the future. Thus, COVID-19 has created a situation where manufacturers must take a moment to evaluate disruptions in the supply chain coupled with the delays/failures of their upstream and downstream partners.
The recovery of chemical and related sectors largely depend upon how fast the virus can be controlled. Even if the threat of Coronavirus may start to recede, it will take several weeks for chemical manufacturers, or drug manufactures to restore their operations and come back to the normal track, including supply chains and logistics. Currently, the required capacity to ship necessary goods would not be available and meeting the international demand in a timely fashion is a difficult task.
Thus, the spread of Coronavirus and the mass shutdown, resulting in restrictions on shipping and industrial production, are adversely impacting the chemical industry. The domino effect of coronavirus and imposed lockdown are leading to production disruptions, thus severely impacting the global chemical supply chain. The supply chain issue will affect the overall chemical industry along with pharmaceuticals, which in turn, may affect the associated industries as well. Overall evaluation of the effect of Coronavirus over the global chemical supply chain is quite tricky. Thus, the next few months are critical to deciding where the entire chemical industry will lead.
The president of the United States , Donald Trump, had pledged to be tough on Iran during his presidential campaign. Since the time he became the President, Trump has stayed true to his words by reinstating the sanctions on Iran in 2018, making it an unfortunate year for the country.
In May 2018, under the instructions of the President, the U.S. pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which was signed with Iran and announced that the sanctions would return in two phases. The sanction related to the crude oil, which serves as Iran’s economic lifeline, was reintroduced towards the end of 2018. It is widely believed that the sanction could have been worse for business in Iran had the U.S. not granted waivers to eight significant importers like China, India and Japan, who account for the highest amount of Iranian crude oil.
As the U.S. and Iran remain embroiled in controversies, economists, politicians and analysts are awaiting the latest developments before making critical business decisions. The oil market in the recent history had proved to be somewhat conservative which was evident when the world markets factored in sharp declines in the oil production of Iran after Donald Trump had aggressively threatened sanctions on Iran. Post the threats, the markets were forced to recalculate once generous waivers were handed out to some of the biggest oil customers of Iran. Experts believe that the oil market has the potential of being extremely volatile throughout 2019 owing to the sanctions. Many even think that there is a strong possibility that some of the waivers that are applicable now, may not be available to Iran sometime in the future.
The sanctions have already proved to be harmful to the economy of Iran and their effect could be even more damaging in the future. A state of economic shock has engulfed the country as several foreign companies have withheld new investments or hinting that they may be exiting soon. Numerous companies are also worried that their continued association with Iran may put them in a position where they may no longer have access to the U.S. market or they will be excluded from the dollar-based financial system.
The Iranian oil market had already witnessed a decline of over 1 million barrels per day between June to September. It fell from 2.7 million barrels per day in June to approximately 1.7 or 1.9 million barrels per day in September. In addition to this, there has been a marked increase in unemployment in the region coupled with the issue of rapid inflation. It is therefore understandable that the Iranian Rial has slumped in the recent months.
Different affected countries have looked to find measures and counter this problem. India adopted a unique strategy of using escrow accounts in banks of Iran for the payment of Iranian crude oil. Further, the payments were made in Indian Rupees, thereby avoiding punitive action from the U.S. In addition to this, it was ensured that the payment was spread across five banks to reduce the risk of adding sanctions by the U.S on any one of the banks.
Meanwhile, the European Union too has shown interest in continuing business with Iran and are considering creating a mechanism for the purpose. The Government will soon generate a new payment system so that it will continue the business relations with Iran without punitive measures from the U.S. This move has however been criticized by the U.S. and has been labeled as a counterproductive measure for global peace and security.
Palm oil is primarily a variant of
vegetable oil that is derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of the oil palms.
Being a saturated type, this oil provides several advantages that makes it one
of the most preferred vegetable oils among consumers. Multiple studies have
confirmed that palm oil has the power to reduce stress, boost brain health,
fight heart diseases, improve skin health and increase Vitamin A in the body.
Hence, palm oil undoubtedly enjoys a high position among health-conscious
people around the globe. The countries situated in the tropical
belt are the primary producers of palm oil. However, not all countries are able
to produce it as the plantation of the same requires certain specifications
regarding climate conditions. Malaysia and Indonesia are the two major
producers of palm oil in the eastern part of the world. The production scores
so high that both countries have the capacity to export to the other parts of
the world.The determinants of the price componentThe price of palm oil has a direct
connection with the economic and trade dimension of the world. Some of the
vital factors that decide the price of palm oil are - productions with respect
to supplies, the exchange rate movements, the number of exports and the volume
of business in a year. According to the statistics, the last three years have
seen a steady pace in palm oil prices. However, the forecasts say that the
prices are expected to show a better and moderate pace during the year 2019. The
lower production levels, uncongenial weather conditions and withering
plantations have been the primary reasons for the low palm oil prices in the
Malaysian market. Contrary to this, the Indonesian palm oil prices have managed
to maintain a steady pace so far. Positive aspects that are expected to stabilize the pricesIt has been firmly stated in many
market predictions that as India is suffering from a lowered level of oilseed
production, the demand for importing the seeds will be higher in the coming
years. This will surely help in pegging up the prices of palm oil. India is one
of the major importers of palm oil from Malaysia and the demand is anticipated
to inevitably increase in the year 2019. India, with an expectation to increase
its oilseed import by 15.15 million tons in 2019, will account for 10 million
tons for palm oil only.Though the demand has already been
assured, the supply chain needs confirmation as well. Malaysia is expected to
register a growth in the production level of palm oil. Since the new plants are
maturing, the overall production is sure to experience a boost. Though there is
always a bunch of old and withering plants involved that eats up the bandwidth
of production potential nonetheless, the net production is still expected to
rise. Accounts show that the output is expected to rise by approximately 2
million tons, thereby increasing the export volume by 0.5 million tons.
Although the prices of palm oil has been wavering in
the last three years, with a favorable weather condition and fast maturing
plantations, they are expected to show a recovery in the year 2019.Related links:https://www.procurementresource.com/industries/agriculture-farming-and-commodityhttps://www.procurementresource.com/resource-center/crude-palm-oil;
is a much-recognized chemical company all over the world in the field of
polymer production. As the global demand for plastics has increased rapidly,
Sasol has become a major contributor to the industry of polymers with their
quality products and state-of-the-art technologies. Recently, the Company has
proclaimed that the first of their seven production facilities under the LCCP
project has attained beneficial operations. According to Mike Thomas, Senior
Vice President of the North American wing operation at Sasol, the initiation of
a fresh project for manufacturing low-density PE is going to be a fundamental
movement in the work history of Sasol.Beneficial Prospects of the
establishment of the new plant will enhance the turnover of the company. The
reasons why the top management is looking forward to the potential success of
this project is that the company already enjoys a cost-competitive position in
the market that can be further capitalized to make a fortune for the new
venture. The new facility is expected to support the pre-existing pool of
production of polymers in order to meet the global demand. In the long term,
the company is expected to show promising results with its state-of-art assets,
world-scale and advantageous logistics location. The
first unit (470ktpa LLDPE) that is about to start its production line up will
be using Univation Technologies’ UNIPOL PE process. Whereas, the next round (420ktpa
LLDPE) that is scheduled to start the production later this year will use ExxonMobil
technology. With two running production units, Sasol is sure to set a new
benchmark for itself by the end of the next year in terms of volumes generated
in the polyethylene industry. Profitable Outlook
far as the market speculations and the management forecasting are concerned,
Sasol is expected to grow with its recent launch of the LCCP unit project worth
$11 Billion. Along with the pre-existing line of production of high-density PE,
this LDPE will also catch hold of the market soon as Sasol is one of the
primary suppliers in this domain with global recognition. According to the
officials, the project will start operating in the year 2019 and the entire
process of the project launch will be over by early 2020. Hence, the company is
looking forward to serve the market immediately after they start the new stream
of production. With updated technologies, talented pool of employees and
excellent management, Sasol is all set to make history for them.Related Links:https://www.procurementresource.com/industries/packaginghttps://www.procurementresource.com/resource-center/highdensity-polyethylene-hdpe;
developments in the Asian propylene market in the last quarter of 2018 meant
that its effects were expected to spiral into the early part of 2019. Towards
the end of the calendar year, many top companies in north-eastern Asia
completed their individual turnarounds, which resulted in a gradual lengthening
during the Q4 of 2018. The most obvious example of such an occurrence was in
Japan where JXTG Nippon Oil and Energy restarted the Fluid Catalytic Cracking
(FCC) unit on December 20th post the planned maintenance process. Prior to
this, the unit remained shut towards the end of October for a similar
maintenance drive. Another major
region for propylene market is China, where the demand remained on-need basis
only during the final three months of 2018. This period was heavily impacted by
the losses suffered by spot prices which saw most buyers either opting to
purchase from domestic suppliers or adopting a wait and watch policy if they
could afford to so. Apart from the Chinese market, the market in Taiwan too
ended the year on a not so positive note as they witnessed a sharp fall in
demand for cargoes. The domestic supply was plenty till CPC suffered a sudden
outage at the Residue Catalytic Cracker (RFCC) at Dalin, two weeks before the
year ended. Many experts opined that these accidents would have a significant
impact on the initial trends of the market in 2019, whereas, many remained
hopeful, that some of the markets will witness a quick turnaround, ensuring that
business continues as usual. One of the main
reasons for optimism among the market players is that it is expected that there
will be significant supply during the first three months in 2019 in Japan and
South Kore, despite there being a chance of shortening length owing to the
planned maintenance work at Hyosung’s 350,000 tonnes per year propane dehydrogenation
unit in South Korea. This, along with other factors will ensure stable demand
for propylene in Asia towards the beginning of the year with cautious trading
happening with expectations of re-stocking activities to commence by Lunar New
Year. However, the Lunar New Year could also hamper the business in the region,
as many believe that post the Lunar New Year celebrations and the holiday
season, it could take about 15 to 30 days for several downstream units in China
to restart. Scheduled new
plant start-ups during the initial period of 2019 provide further assurance
that supply will be able to meet the demands. These start-ups will ensure that
the supply is not hampered by the seasonal cracker turnarounds in several Asian
regions. The Zhejiang Satellite Petrochemical Company Limited’s 450,000 metric
tons per year PDH (Propane Dehydrogenation) plant, and Fujian Meide
Petrochemical Company Limited’s 660,000 metric tons per year PDH plant in China
will start-up in early 2019, promising a steady supply throughout the year. Over in the
Southeast Asian country, Malaysia, the Petronas Aramco RAPID project is also
due to commence a brand-new petrochemical refinery plant this year. It is
anticipated that this RFCC will be able to produce propylene of about 600,000 metric
tons every year and it should be operational within 2019 Q1. Further, its
cracker is expected to start later in the year and should have capacity produce
of 600,000 metric tons per year.
however, still remains at risk of being hampered by the US-China trade war
developments. To the relief of many, both the parties have announced a truce
for 90 days. During this period no additional tariffs would be introduced. The 90-day
period ends on the 1st of March, 2019, following which changes could be made that
could have some effect on the propylene market. Related Links:https://www.procurementresource.com/industries/chemicals;
Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) giant, Procter & Gamble, has planned to
launch a unique waterless and plastic-free beauty brand DS3 in 2019. It is a
tremendous achievement for the research and development team of the company as
it has introduced a proprietary technology to the segment.DS3 will include
a whole range of sustainable-oriented, plastic-free and waterless home and
personal care products like cleansing bars that are specially designed for the
body, face and hair. These products are convenient as well as
environment-friendly due to their proprietary manufacturing process. The procedure
ensures that water is completely eliminated from the end product. In addition
to this, the packaging of the product will be biodegradable and recyclable as
it will be created explicitly by formulators without using any harsh chemicals.As the consumers
are now becoming more conscious about the environment, this launch is envisaged
to gain traction rapidly in the near future. The rising demand for natural
products and avoidance of plastic use have necessitated this type of change in
the market. Depleting resources are also contributing to the demand for biodegradable
products for instance, bamboo is substituting plastic containers in this line
of products. It is expected
that 8 sustainable and plastic-free products will be launched in the second half
of the year. The line of products will include hand soap, shampoo, body wash,
face wash, laundry detergent, conditioner, toilet cleaner and surface cleaner. The
entire product range boast of 30 or more patents. These products will be sold
in a solid state in the form of swatches which will be activated by the use of
water. The removal of water from the products also provide an added advantage
of reducing the total weight by 80%, net space by 70% and emissions by 75%. This
technology also aims to remove preservatives and stabilizers which are present
in almost all the products in this segment currently available in the market.
As the format of
the product size is expected to be small, it will be more convenient for the
consumers to carry them during tours and travels. From a business perspective
too, these products will prove to be beneficial as they will be cheaper and
easier to ship to the respective retailers and consumers. The initial feedback
from the select users have been overwhelmingly positive which augurs well for
the creators and alike consumers. Overall, this technology promises to bring
better, safer and more convenient personal care products to the market, which
could prove to be highly beneficial for both the manufacturers and consumers,
while being environment-friendly at the same time.Related Links:https://www.procurementresource.com/resource-center/betainehttps://www.procurementresource.com/industries/chemicals;
BASF has recently been cleared by the European commission to acquire Solvay’s integrated polyamide business. The acquisition is expected to be finalised by the latter half of 2019 with both Solvay and BASF agreeing to address the commission’s anti-trust concerns. BASF had been seeking to buy Solvay’s integrated polyamide business assets in Asia, South America and Europe since 2017 for €1.6 billion. However, the deal had been stalled in Europe amidst the EU commission's concerns about fair competition.BASF had been asked by the EU anti-trust authorities to divest the various assets which form a part of the acquisition deal to prevent the German company from monopolising the EU market. The authorities were afraid that BASF’s acquisition of Solvay’s polyamide business will lead to a hike in nylon prices in the EU markets due to the reduction in the number of suppliers. The divestments of manufacturing and innovation assets required by the EU authorities was started by late 2018.According to the agreement signed by the two parties with the commission, BASF and Solvay will divest their production facilities across three European countries to a ‘single suitable’ buyer as required by the EU authorities. These production facilities include the polyamide 6,6/nylon 6,6 producing plants in Valence, France and Blanes, Spain as well as the plant in Gorzow, Poland which produces specialised polyamides. Hexamethylenediamine (HDM), hexamethylenediamine adipate salt (AH-salt), nylon 6,6 base polymer, nylon 6,6 engineering plastics and nylon 6 3D printing powder are also produced at these plants. Solvay and BASF have further committed to make the facilities in Chalampe, France a joint venture between the future buyer of the divested facilities and the BASF controlled merged entity that will emerge as result of the acquisition.The Chalampe production plant produces adipic acid, which is an upstream product required for the production of nylon 6,6. The EU commission also asked for long-term agreements for the supply of adiponitrile (ADN), which is another upstream product for nylon. This was a necessity in order to maintain the supply of raw materials required by the divested facilities.The EU authorities want to avoid a single entity from dominating the entire EU nylon market, especially with nylon finding its applications in multiple industries like textile and automobile industries. The remedy package that has been set by the EU will allow the creation of at least another large market player, and thus, giving the consumers more options.The German chemical manufacturer, BASF, has been reportedly looking to sell its debt as well as its plastics assets for €450 million with the help of Lazard investment bank to raise the capital for the intended acquisition. South Korea’s SK Innovation, China’s KingFa, and the owner of Ascend, a chemical producer, SK Capital are the potential buyers of these assets.Related links: https://www.procurementresource.com/industries/chemicals;
Global Coal Outlook
The global coal industry is surrounded by a large number of active suppliers trading a variety of qualities and creating new price indices. The demand and prices of coal keep fluctuating depending upon the need from different industries in both the developed and developing nations. Over the past few years, the industry has been witnessing a rough time with constant changes in the demand, supply and prices. Since the year 2014, the global demand for coal has dropped by 4.2%, nearly approaching the largest decline record of 1990-1992. This is largely a result of growing environmental concerns which have led to a significant shift towards cleaner fossil fuels like natural gas, particularly in the developed countries. Additionally, the confluence of lower gas prices and a surge in renewable as well as efficient energy sources dampened the consumption of coal.
However, the prices of coal witnessed a surge in 2016 owing to the constant demand from Asian countries. China, which represents both the largest consumer and producer of coal, leads the market on prices. The continued economic reforms and energy transition in the country have been the key factors for the evolution in coal prices. Lately, China has implemented policies that aim at reducing harmful emissions; not only did it reduce the own-grown coal production but also decreased the imports. The consequent decline in the availability of coal resulted in an upsurge in the prices, not merely in China but worldwide with the coal prices rising from US$ 81.9/ton in Q3 to US$ 92/ton in Q4. Although China witnessed a rise in the coal demand in 2017, the uptick was still below the 2013 peak in coal consumption. However, this slight rise is not anticipated to prevail for long, thereby trivialising the chances for sustained growth.
On the basis of exports, Indonesia has been one of the leading producers and exporters of coal. In the recent years, there has been a surge in the domestic consumption of coal owing to the Government’s initiatives for constructing various coal-fired power plants. In 2017, the prices of coal hiked from US$76/ton in Q1 to US$ 93/ton in Q4. This can be attributed to numerous factors including recovering crude oil prices, constant demand from China and India, and adverse weather in the region which hampered coal mining and shipping in the country.
The future of coal is not promising as its consumption is projected to fall with the world moving towards greener energy sources, with the developed nations already reducing their dependence on coal. However, the market will be experiencing high growth in the developing nations owing to the augmented demand for electricity and industrialization. Nevertheless, if emerging countries slow their usage of coal-generated electricity for environmental and ethical reasons, this could put downward pressure on coal prices, thereby leading to the industry’s loss.