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Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 8 November
12:20 PM MST | November 8, 2013 | By LINDSAY FROST
This Week in CW:
Earnings season is slowing down as fewer companies reported this week. In Europe, Arkema posted Ebitda of €233 million ($315 million) in third-quarter 2013, a decline of 12.4% year-on-year (YoY). Ebitda margin for the period was 15.6% compared with 16.6% in the year-ago period. Borealis’ net profit for the third quarter rose 2% to €131 million ($175.9 million) on sales 6% higher at €2.04 billion. In North America, Tronox reported a third-quarter net loss of $49 million, or 43 cts/share, compared with a loss of $3 million in the year-ago quarter. Agrium announced third-quarter results, with net income dropping 41% year-over-year (YOY), to $76 million. Axiall reports net income down 0.8% year-on-year (YOY), to $39.0 million. Adjusted earnings slumped 29.2%, to 97 cts/share, but met a consensus of analysts’ estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters (New York). Ashland reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income from continuing operations of $404 million, or $5.13/share, compared with a $272-million net loss in the year-ago quarter. Chemtura reported a third-quarter net loss from continuing operations of $44 million, or 45 cts/share, compared with earnings of $22 million in the year-ago quarter. Westlake Chemical reports third-quarter net income of $170.3 million, 95.8% higher year-over-year (YOY), as the company’s olefins segment benefited from significantly lower feedstock costs and capacity expansions.
North America’s “shale gale” was a frequent topic at the Global Plastics Summit, held 5-6 November in Chicago, IL, by IHS Chemical in collaboration with the Society of the Plastics Industry. Producers, convertors and equipment suppliers agreed that the cheap energy and feedstocks supplied by shale-based oil and gas resources will drive steady growth in demand for North American plastics, not only from abroad, but also from the resurgent manufacturing sector.
PhosAgro (Moscow), a major producer of phosphate fertilizers, says it has begun constructing a previously announced, energy-efficient ammonia plant at its Cherepovets, Vologda Region, complex, in Russia. The plant will have a capacity of 760,000 m.t./year. PhosAgro estimates the total capital costs, including infrastructure, will reach 25 billion Russian rubles ($771.9 million). Commissioning is expected in 2017.
Around the Web:
Agence France-Presse writes in France-24 that China is seeking a greater role for its yuan currency in global markets to challenge the hegemony of the dollar. The most attention-grabbing reform planned for Shanghai's new free trade zone is free convertibility of the yuan—also known as the renminbi, or "people's money"—an unprecedented change which would allow greater use of the currency. No timetable has been specified—but, as the global economy trembled before the prospect of a US default last month, only averted when Washington reached a deal to raise its debt ceiling, China's official Xinhua news agency called for a "de-Americanized" world.
A number of finance firms, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Rabobank face billions of euros in fines next month from European Union (EU) regulators for colluding on global benchmark interest rates, reinforcing Brussels' hard line on the sector after the financial crisis, according to Reuters. EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia is set to unveil a record fine of at least €1.5 billion ($2.03 billion) on six banks, including Barclays and RBS, for rigging the yen Libor interest rate benchmark.
Environmental magazine Ensia recently published an opinion piece about palm oil and its unsustainable qualities—indicating that people need to raise awareness of its effects. The author writes that palm oil is a “destructive ingredient” and contributes to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Demand and production is rising—in Asia, it’s used for cooking, in Europe, it’s feedstock for biofuel, in the US—it’s an ingredient not just in foods and health and beauty products, but in the ingredients that make up those products. The author says the consequences of palm oil are direct, and people need to act on making consumers aware.