Chemical Industry Europe's Chemical Industry Makes no Headway

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Sagging exports and low petrochemicals production led to a standstill for Europe's chemical industry. Growth rates were stagnant at best, the industry association Cefic states. Yet, despite declining capacity utilisation, some industry insiders see a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Stagnant growth in 2014 for EU chemicals sector
Stagnant growth in 2014 for EU chemicals sector
(Picture: Cefic)

European chemical output edged ahead just 0.3 percent in 2014 on a year-on-year basis, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report. Latest monthly data show a 1.2 per cent contraction in December 2014 compared with December 2013. EU chemicals prices fell in 2014 by 1.8 per cent compared to full-year 2013. European chemicals sales clawed back to peak levels achieved in 2008. Net exports of EU chemicals reached €40.4 billion for the first eleven months of 2014, slipping somewhat from last year’s record. Chemicals confidence improved in the last three months of 2014 compared to the previous quarter. Chemicals order books have improved for the coming months, while production expectations have firmed up.

Cefic Director General Hubert Mandery said: “Flat growth in 2014 was partly due to sagging exports. Any help from the recent dips in lower oil prices have not solved a greater long- term problem of ensuring reliable energy supplies at competitive prices.”

Petrochemicals Drag Overall Output Growth

Anaemic growth during the full year 2014 was hampered by shrinking petrochemicals output, down 4.0 per cent during the year 2014 compared to 2013. The decline was partially offset by 2.8 per cent growth in specialty chemicals and a 2.1 per cent uptick in consumer chemicals. Polymers output declined by 0.5 per cent year-on-year, and basic inorganics output dropped by 1.2 per cent. Chemicals production in 2014 grew by 0.3 per cent compared to 2013. It was also 5.3% below the peak level registered before the crisis which began in 2007.

Year-on-Year Sales Down by 0.8 Percent

Total EU chemical sales grew by 0.8 per cent during the first eleven months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. Sales data for the same period are 0.3 per cent higher than the pre-crisis full-year peak reached in 2008.

Prices Fall 1.8 Percent in 2014

EU chemical producer prices slid 1.8 per cent during the year 2014 compared to the year prior. Latest monthly data show for December a 3.6 per cent drop compared to December 2013. Petrochemicals producer prices had the deepest dip, down 6.6 per cent in December 2014 compared to December 2013. Plastics dropped 1.8 per cent during the same period.

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