During a time of weaker selling prices and a global slowdown in economic growth, the world’s leading oil and petrochemical companies have so far reported underwhelming profits. Many producers struggled to remain profitable during the final quarter of 2019, and the financial results from several have pointed towards major losses. In order to give a strong example, Sabic, the Middle East’s biggest petrochemicals producer, swung to a loss of $19 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, down noticeably from a net income of $858 million in a year-earlier period.

Rationalizing productions where there is over capacities will be an important theme in 2020, as well as reorganization/ sales of plants and personnel to counter the profit warning in many companies.

Corona Virus in China is an other hot theme of the moment, which will have strong impacts on worldwide economy. We can expect recession in countries heavily depending on import/export with China. While Chinese GDP will definitely be hit hard by the current situation. We will see the real impact on economy of the virus outbreak in the second half of the year. Immediate effects are Oil & Agricultural goods sharp decrease in future values, as China is the biggest worldwide buyer.

Logistical issues continue to pose challenges for domestic transportation in China following travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus as well as maritime transportation which forced many shipping companies to cancel up to 50% of their vessels since February and transiting through Singapore instead of Chinese ports.

Pvc market tightens globally in key markets as supply shocks squeeze exports. The US planned shutdown at Formosa Plastic’s facility in Texas has led to a global tightening of PVC availability.
Europe, average export prices have overtaken domestic spot prices in dollar terms for the first time since 2017. Indian and Turkish market have very strong demand and PVC is extremely tight and will remain tight in the future months. This is putting European producers in a stronger position to recover margins. An other fundamental reason for European producers to recover margins is the heavy losses in the Soda market (a by-product of PVC) where the market remains unresponding to decreases of more than 400 €/t in the last 6 months. We therefore expect in the coming months prices which will not follow the ethylene movement and going opposite way due to a combination of tight availability, increased demand from India and higher price announcements from the US.

In Plasticizer markets are tightening globally due to a strong demand in the PVC sector worldwide.
Recent DOP plant closure in Korea from LG end of 2019 have tighten DOP market which have since then rose significantly price wise. By reflection South American markets are beginning to replace DOP with DOTP which is more competitive. Moreover corona virus effects in Asia are visible as China is usually an export country for plasticizers. This have pushed all plasticizers to increase in Asia significantly.

On the other side European market remains with a stable demand and can be divided in 2 segments:

– European based productions (DINP & DIDP/DPHP) where there is a clear overcapacity and one producer will have to close plant in the medium term or convert it (BASF, Exxon or Evonik). Therefore we can forecast a market which will remain stable and characterized by a long market. To note that we have a new president for the European Plasticizer association, Mr. Nigel Sarginson of ExxonMobil.

– Extra European based productions (DOTP) where we can see a market which is tightening very fast. Less material is arriving from Asia & US and at higher prices while European demand continue to grow due to replacement from ftalates to non ftalates. We can expect a tight market for the next couple of month, regardless of propylene probable decreases.

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