ABS contract prices have been on a roller coaster ride over the last four months reflecting volatile movements in the feedstock cost mix of butadiene, styrene and acrylonitrile. Overall, however, prices have climbed by around €50/tonne since mid-summer.
For the year as a whole, ABS producers have managed to raise prices by a far greater amount than the increase in the cost base and margins are significantly higher than in recent years.
Suppliers were able to meet order intake for natural grades without much delay but availability of specialty material was tighter. A growing volume of imported natural grade material from Asia pressurised local suppliers but producers reacted by cutting back on production.
Demand has been weaker than expected since June with converters only buying sufficient material to meet their immediate production needs. Automotive has been the liveliest sector.
Polycarbonate prices have come under pressure since mid- summer with the key aromatic benzene and phenol costs on a downward path. Transparent grade prices have fallen €90/tonne with specialty grades, which have been in tighter supply, remaining stable.
Material availability is good despite feedstock supply restrictions including Ineos Phenol calling force majeure in July at its site in Gladbeck, Germany and maintenance work at Novapex, which have resulted in bottlenecks for bisphenol A production. Polycarbonate sales were weaker than expected largely due to the slackening pace of economic activity in Europe. Only the automotive sector has performed close to expectations.
With feedstock costs tumbling in October and no sign of a pick up in demand both PC and ABS producers will be under growing pressure to offer price concessions.