IHS Chemical Week


Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 4 April

10:34 AM MDT | April 4, 2014 | By LINDSAY FROST

This Week in CW:

Momentive Performance Materials (MPM; Albany, NY), the silicones and quartz subsidiary of Momentive, is considering a bankruptcy filing as part of ongoing negotiations to reduce debt. “As part of this process, a filing under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code may provide the most expeditious manner in which to affect a plan of reorganization,” MPM said in a regulatory filing on 1 April. MPM said it “believes these discussions will be concluded shortly.” MPM had outstanding long-term debt of $3.2 billion as of 30 September 2013. “MPM is in active discussions regarding alternatives to modify its capital structure and strengthen its balance sheet in order to create a sustainable business for the long term and resolve any doubts about its ability to continue as a going concern,” MPM said in a statement.

The board of Petronas (Kuala Lumpur) has approved the final investment decision for the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) project in the southern Malaysian state of Johor, the company announced on 3 April. The decision marks a significant milestone in the progress of the proposed PIC, which comprises the previously announced refinery and petrochemical integrated development (Rapid) production complex and other associated facilities, Petronas says. Rapid is estimated to cost about $16 billion and the associated facilities will involve an investment of about $11 billion, the company says. Petronas said in March that it would make a final decision on the project in April, as reported in CW.

Celanese is exploring plans to construct a 1.3-million m.t./year methanol production unit at its Bishop, TX site. The company says it is preparing necessary environmental permits for the unit. The company says it would also consider a joint venture for the unit in a similar fashion to the joint venture methanol unit currently being constructed at its Clear Lake, TX site. The company began construction on the Clear Lake unit last year and plans for that unit to become operational in the second half of 2015. The Clear Lake plant is a 50/50 jv with Mitsui and Co. and total investment is expected to cost $800 million. Products manufactured at Celanese's Bishop facility include acetal copolymer, formaldehyde and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene.

Soybean sales and margin expansion lifted Monsanto's second-quarter results above expectations, and the company reaffirmed its fiscal 2014 guidance of mid-teens earnings growth. The company reports net income of $1.67 billion for its fiscal second quarter ended 28 February, 12.7% higher year-on year (YOY). Earnings per share of $3.15 beat a $3.07 consensus of analysts' estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters. Sales increased 6.6% YOY, to $5.8 billion, led by a 6.9% YOY increase in seeds and genomics revenues.

Around the Web:

Employers in the US boosted payrolls in March and the unemployment rate held at 6.7% even as more Americans entered the labor force, showing steady progress that will probably prompt Federal Reserve policy makers to continue reducing stimulus while keeping interest rates low, according to Bloomberg. Payrolls rose 192,000 after a 197,000 gain in February that was larger than first estimated, the Labor Department reported this week in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists projected a 200,000 gain. Private employment, which excludes government jobs, surpassed the pre-recession peak for the first time.

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible. This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun almost a “one-stop shop” that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them, according to Oregon State University. The work is based on the use of a “continuous flow” microreactor to produce nanoparticle inks that make solar cells by printing. Existing approaches based mostly on batch operations are more time-consuming and costly.

Credit Suisse has increased the funds it has set aside to settle a US tax dispute and avoid prosecution for helping wealthy Americans hide cash from the taxman, raising the prospect it may be close to a settlement in the lengthy dispute, according to Reuters. Switzerland's second-biggest bank also said it had raised the pay of its chief executive by more than a quarter last year, despite not meeting all its performance targets and the hike in litigation costs which increased its fourth-quarter loss. Credit Suisse was told by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) it was under investigation in 2011. The bank made a 295 million franc provision that year, but many analysts believed that sum would not suffice.

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