M & A

USA’s PE exports decline despite shale gas

As promised, the blog looks today at the USA’s trade position in polyethylene (based on data for the January-August period from Global Trade Information Services, the leading global supplier).

The chart shows US net trade (exports less imports). This…

The Downturn arrives

It is 5 months since the blog launched its IeC Downturn Alert, using prices from 29 April. It wrote then that:

“They don’t ring bells at market turning points. Otherwise, we could all retire to the Bahamas.”

But its argument was that a peak was li…

Investors prefer JUUGS to PIIGS

Financial markets have become increasingly nervous in recent weeks, since the blog last reviewed developments in global bond markets.

Its conclusion then was that investors are worrying more about return of capital, than return on capital, as we trans…

Critical Success Factors in the New Normal

Yesterday’s Scenarios hopefully provided valuable insight into the challenges ahead for companies and individuals. They also suggest some Critical Success Factors for achieving a successful transition to the New Normal, as set out in the chart above:

Scenarios for the transition to the New Normal

The transition to the new Normal is likely to be painful and long-lasting.

Future demand growth will be slower as the ageing Boomers spend less and save more.

More regular and deeper recessions are likely to become a feature of the global economy o…

A 4-point Action Plan for chemical companies

Today’s economic situation is getting worse, not better. The blog believes this is because most policymakers still refuse to accept the wisdom contained in the Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ song on their iconic Sgt Pepper album.

The Western BabyBoo…

Time for leadership at EPCA

The chemical industry has a turnover of $3.4trn, and is the world’s 3rd largest industry. It matters to the global economy.

Many of its leaders are about to meet next weekend in Berlin for the annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting….

August highlights

Many readers have been taking a well-earned break over the past few weeks. The blog also continues to gain large numbers of new readers, as the financial crisis intensifies. As usual, therefore, it is highlighting key posts during August, to help you…

The $96m phone call

In the Boom period, it was the investment bankers who used to walk away with telephone number fees, after convincing a CEO to go after an acquisition ‘opportunity’. Now, in another sign of the New Normal, it is a former …

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Budgeting for Uncertainty

When elephants fight, those around them need to be cautious. And this is the prospect for 2011-13, as the Western countries try to force the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to export less and import more, the so-called ‘rebalancing’ …

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2011 Budgets

The blog will publish its annual Budget Outlook for 2011 next weekend. And so as usual, its now time to review last year’s Outlook. Past performance may not be a perfect guide to future outcomes. But it is one of …

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August highlights

Many readers have been taking a well-deserved break over the past few weeks. As usual, therefore, the blog is highlighting key posts during August, to help you catch up as you return to the office. August has been surprisingly busy: …

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ACS and ISM feature the blog

The latest in the American Chemical Society’s 6 monthly ‘Chemicals and the Economy’ webinar series took place last week. It was moderated by former ACS President, Bill Carroll, of Occidental Chemical, and again proved very popular. ACS reported high levels …

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Brenntag’s €2.7bn IPO

The blog congratulates Brenntag, the leading distribution company, on its successful flotation yesterday. Its shares were issued at €50, and rose to €52 in early trading, giving it a market capitalisation of €2.7bn ($3.6bn). New private equity owners BC Partners …

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Top 10 posts in 2009

Blog readers have a wide range of interests. That is clear from the list below of the Top 10 posts in 2009. It also confirms the complexity of the chemical industry, and its fascination. In alphabetical order, it is as …

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The 2010 Outlook

Extended downturns, of the type that we are now suffering, generally mark a transition period from one set of business conditions to another. I look at what might be in store for us during this transition, in this week’s edition …

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The blog in 2009

The blog is now 2.5 years old. Readership continues to grow, both within the chemical industry and its investment community. It is now read in 121 countries, and 2735 cities, versus 89 countries and 1244 cities a year ago. Readers …

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UK to tax bankers’ bonuses

UK Finance Minister Alistair Darling is widely reported today as being about to announce a ‘super-tax’ on bonuses paid to bankers working in the UK. The government’s argument, notes the BBC’s Robert Peston, is that “Investment banks are making exceptional …

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Quote of the year

“Never in the field of financial endeavour has so much money been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, so far with little real reform.” Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, proposing that banks should be …

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Budgeting for a new normal

2010 should be a better year for the chemical industry, as demand grows in line with a recovery in global GDP. But a quick V-shaped return to the 2003-7 Boom years in terms of volumes/margins seems unlikely. Governments will worry …

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2010 Budgets

The blog is now preparing its annual Budget Outlook for 2010. Before this is published next weekend, it makes sense to assess the blog’s credibility by looking back at last year’s Outlook, to see how well it performed. Past performance …

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Chemicals face a new reality

The blog believes that the landscape has changed during the current downturn. We came into it on the back of a major boom in consumption, supported by reckless lending and borrowing. This mind-set seems unlikely to return quickly. Instead, as …

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Source: Chartoftheday.com There are “lies, damn lies, and statistics” according to Mark Twain, the famous American humorist. His argument was that statistics are often (a) untrue* and (b) used without the necessary context. Last week provided a perfect example of …

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May’s top posts

The 3 most popular posts in May were: Dow, Ineos focus on debt issues Rotterdam oil storage running out of space Green shoots likely to be yellow weeds The blog will be celebrating its 2nd birthday at the end of …

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Adultery signals for traders

My fellow-blogger, Barbara, cleverly spotted this week’s ‘Global Traders Summit’ in Singapore. Had this blog been there, it would have mentioned the latest, apparently fool-proof, way to determine stock market turning points, based on bankers’ interest in adultery. According to …

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Thought for the day

It is now generally accepted that reckless lending has helped cause the greatest collapse in the global economy since the Depression years of the 1930’s. Yet many bankers still maintain it is vital they continue to pursue “innovation” of the …

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Quick updates

Chrysler. Yesterday, Chrysler entered bankruptcy. It will idle most of its US plants during the court proceedings. The government hopes the bankruptcy can be finalised in a “quick visit” of just 30-60 days. But even if this can be achieved, …

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Arise, Sir Evil?

Apparently its not just Jim Cramer who is less than happy with the current performance of Dow CEO, Andrew Liveris. The New York Times notes that merger arbitrageurs on Wall Street have started to spell his surname backwards, and re-christened …

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Knowing what we don’t know

At a time of uncertainty, its sometimes helpful just to frame the questions that need to be answered about the future. Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund managers, have done just this in two separate analyses. Their answers mirror those …

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The man with a plan

Yet again, as in October, ‘buy on the rumour, sell on the news’ has been the financial markets’ reaction to the latest efforts to solve the financial crisis. A 5% fall on Wall Street last night, in response to the …

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Eurozone under pressure

Early last year, the blog flagged up a warning from Gillian Tett in the Financial Times that Iceland could go bankrupt, as its banks were “too big to rescue”. Yet at the time, the United Nations had listed it as …

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The CEO’s survival guide

The past few weeks have not been good for the chemical industry, with 4 major companies suffering significant problems: BASF warned that “customer demand in key markets has declined significantly” since October, and have temporarily shutdown 80 plants worldwide, whilst …

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Global manufacturing sinks

Manufacturing output is contracting around the world. JP Morgan’s global index sank 15% in December, and they expect “an intense contraction phase” to continue “for some months to come”. The G7 and BRIC countries are all seeing a decline, as …

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The blog in 2008

The blog is now 18 months old. It has a truly global readership, and as shown in the above map, is now read in 1244 cities and 89 countries. Its aim has always been to identify ‘the influences that may …

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Kuwait “scraps” K-Dow JV

2008 has not been a good year for M&A in the chemical sector. First, there was the collapse of Hexion’s Huntsman acquisition. Today, the Kuwait government has signalled its intention to “scrap” its $17.4bn deal with Dow to form K-Dow. …

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The impact of banking crises

The blog has been searching the websites of the major central banks, such as the IMF, World Bank, Federal Reserve and Bank of England, for research on the history of credit crises. Several readers, including Paul Noble of Parsons Brinckerhoff, …

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M&A focus to change in 2009

The recession will have a major impact on M&A activity next year, according to a new analysis by Pilko & Co. Their key conclusions are: • Increasingly,deals will be the result of financial restructurings, workouts or bankruptcies. • Buyers with …

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Lesson from Japan

Japan went through its “bubble years” in the 1980’s, with the Nikkei index peaking at 39000 (versus 8664 today). The blog well remembers standing in front of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 1988, when its land was said to …

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Soros on leverage

George Soros is one of the most successful investors in recent decades. The blog came across today a report of Soros’ graphic description of the dangers of having too much debt in a business, or personally: “Leverage was like driving …

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China focuses on domestic growth

In September, the blog wondered whether “China’s interest in remaining the manufacturing capital of the world may be starting to wane”. Yesterday, Lou Jiwei, the chairman of China’s sovereign wealth fund (China Investment Corporation) confirmed the new focus on domestic …

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Dow, PIC, finalise K-Dow deal

Foresight, and long-term relationships, have paid off for Dow. Yesterday, CEO Andrew Liveris announced that a binding agreement has now been signed with Kuwait’s PIC to form K-Dow Petrochemicals. PIC will pay $2bn less for their stake than originally agreed …

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10 European crackers offline

My colleague Bob Townsend is well known to many in the chemical industry as an olefins expert. He has pointed out today’s most unusual situation in olefins. Normally, an unplanned outage by one or more crackers would cause major disruption. …

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A low-key G-20 meeting

The first-ever G-20 meeting of Heads of State was a relatively quiet event, without the presence of President-elect Obama. Two main areas seem to have been discussed: • Regulatory reform, where finance ministers have been given until the end of …

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Survival tips for CFOs

The Financial Times series on surviving the downturn focuses this week on CFOs. It includes advice from Feike Sijbesma, CEO of DSM, who suggests that “you need to see how creditable your debtors are, very quickly”, and advises that “maintaining …

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The “crystal blog”

The blog’s forecasting record is reviewed in ICIS Chemical Business this week. Click here if you would like a copy. The blog’s aim is to “highlight relevant information for the busy executive, and to provide relevant and actionable analysis of …

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G-20 tries to support growth

The G-20 was created in 1999, after the financial crises that had hit emerging countries from 1997 onwards. It includes the G7 group of major industrial companies, plus the main emerging economies, including the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). …

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4 tips for survival

Last month, the blog titled its 2009 Outlook, Budgeting for Survival. This week, the Financial Times has begun a series on developing recession survival strategy. Its key tips are: • Manage your cash. Don’t spend money unnecessarily. • Keep a …

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Oil producers at a crossroads

The blog has been thinking about last week’s leaked report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). This said that the world needs “to invest $360bn each year until 2030 to replace falling oil production and increase supply”. The IEA based …

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The lighter side

Last week, the Financial Times tried to lighten the current mood of doom and gloom. It began a letters page discussion about the merits of humour as an antidote to panic. Many blog readers clearly enjoyed the recent posting ‘A …

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A downturn, not a dip

The blog first raised this issue last December, when noting that global chemical industry production growth had already “slowed significantly”. At that time, it questioned whether “central bankers will be able to wave the magic wand that restores us to …

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Budgeting for survival

The blog prefers to be optimistic. But 30 years in the chemical industry has taught it to be extremely realistic. So its motto for 2009 Budgets is ‘batten down the hatches’. Chemical companies are likely to be sailing in some …

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The aptly named Mr Darling

In August, the blog welcomed the statement by UK Finance Minister, Alistair Darling, that the ‘global economy was at a 60-year low’. It noted that he was ‘the first western politician to abandon reassurance and instead to focus on the …

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Ineos to sell some US assets?

The UK’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper reports that ‘Ineos, the chemicals group which is one of Britain’s biggest private companies, is considering selling assets in an effort to reduce its debt burden’. It adds that ‘the company, which has expanded rapidly …

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The $700bn man

You’re looking at the man who, according to today’s New York Times, is now responsible for ‘choosing which US financial institutions live, and which die’. He’s 35, and the assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability, Neel T Kashkari. His qualifications? …

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2009 Budgets

It is nearly time for the blog’s annual forecast of chemical industry prospects. Of course, past performance is not necessarily a guide to future outcomes. But it is one of the better guides that we have. So before publishing the …

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The last few days

Many new readers have turned to the blog, to better understand what is happening in the financial world, and to chemicals demand. They might like to start with the 7 September posting, which forecast the current collapse: ‘The price of …

The last few days Read More

Iceland calls in IMF

As the blog predicted, Iceland has been forced to call on the IMF for help. Finally, the country’s leaders have recognised that their $20bn economy couldn’t support the level of debt built up during the ‘go-go’ years. The pity is …

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The Swedish model

The blog has given up counting the number of US banks that have failed in recent weeks, away from the headlnes. Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, predicted last month that half of all US banks would fail, and …

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Blue skies disappear

A year ago, the blog was in a minority of one, with its forecast for 2008. Its heading was ‘Budgeting for a Downturn’. By contrast, the consensus post-EPCA was for $70bbl oil, debt market problems to be contained, and for …

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Iceland on the brink

Last March, the blog noted an excellent article on Iceland by Gillian Tett of the Financial Times. She argued that Iceland was ‘the first country run like a hedge fund’. And she worried that its banks might prove not ‘too …

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A debate opens up

Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister, has joined the growing list of politicians with a view on the current economic crisis. His analysis differs markedly from that expressed by President Bush on Wednesday. ‘The financial market crisis is above all …

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‘The biggest bailout in US history’

Does the US Treasury read the blog? Just hours after the chart below was posted, rumours began to circulate of a major government initiative to try and stabilise financial markets.

AIG rescued

‘A disorderly failure of AIG could add to already significant levels of financial market fragility and lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth, and materially weaker economic performance,’ according to the US Federal Reserve last night. As a …

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A sombre outlook

Housing is a vital market for chemical companies. It boomed in the US and other Western countries as credit standards were relaxed between 2003-7. Now it is at the centre of the credit crunch. Martin Feldstein, Harvard economics professor, and …

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Just saying ‘No’

I noted back in February that US banks were tightening lending standards into the housing sector. Now they are doing the same with business loans. The New York Times reports today that businesses around the country are finding it more …

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The end of ‘stretch targets’

There is little doubt that chemical growth is weakening. The above chart, taken from Kevin Swift’s excellent weekly report for the American Chemistry Council, indicates that a serious downturn is underway.

A ‘profound’ downturn

The current downturn is different from anything that has occurred in the last 15 years. Policy makers are clearly worried. The UK’s Finance Minister, Alistair Darling, told Bloomberg today that ‘the effect of what has happened is going to be …

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US$5 trillion

Last September, I wrote to the Financial Times on the subject of the US sub-prime disaster. At a time when many banking commentators were trying to minimise the problems, I suggested that ‘a “buyer of last resort”, such as the …

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Dow buys Rohm & Haas

Dow’s potential interest in Rohm & Haas had been much rumoured since December, when it announced the petchem/polymer JV with Kuwait’s PIC. That deal has yet to close, but further evidence of the growing link with Kuwait comes with the …

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