Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/02/2014 -- The French petrochemicals industry suffered a decline in output in 2013 as a result of domestic and external economic woes but, while recovery is expected to begin in 2014, it will be some years before output returns to pre-2008 levels. After plant closures some segments, such as olefins, some output will never fully recover, according to BMI's latest France Petrochemicals Report.
In 2013, output of basic chemicals, fertilisers, plastics and synthetic rubber in primary forms declined by 0.9% y-o-y, compared to a decline of 4.5% in the previous year, according to data from the French National Institute of Statistics. While chemicals output grew by 2.2%, plastic and rubber fell by the same amount, indicating the fragility of the sector's recovery. According to the Union des Industries Chemiques (UIC, Chemicals Industries Union), in the first three quarters of 2013, French chemicals, plastic and rubber output rose by an average of 1.3% year on year (y-o-y), although base chemicals declined by 2.7%. The performance of the French chemicals industry outstripped that of the European average of -0.5%. The UIC said that while performance of the sector stabilised in Q313, production had retreated from the previous quarter. While exports fell by 2.3%, imports declined by 5.8%, leading to a 38% increase in the chemicals trade surplus to EUR4.7bn.
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Over the past quarter BMI has revised the following forecasts/views:
- French petrochemicals output could be hampered by labour disputes. In December 2013, a dispute between Total and the French CGT union severely undermined the production of styrene and mixed xylenes at the company's Gonfreville refinery and petrochemical site. The complex accounts for 10% of styrene and 15% of mixed xylene capacity in Europe, and disruption to activities could impact negatively on European markets.
- Over the medium term, there will be little to stimulate the petrochemicals market. Construction growth will remain anaemic, which should provide stability in the vinyls chain if not recovery, although France will not contribute much to overall European consumption growth. Meanwhile, automotive sector output will remain lacklustre with slow levels of growth; it is unlikely to return the sector to pre-recession levels as the industry experiences structural change. As such, its contribution to plastics consumption growth will diminish with a knock-on effect for producers of engineering plastics. In contrast, agribusiness is set to rebound from 2013, providing some upside for chemical fertilisers.
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