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VDMA: 2011 Germany plastics and rubber machinery output an all time high

According to the Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), the output of German plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers rose to an all time high of around 6 billion euro, breaking the previous record set in 2008.

A VDMA monthly representative survey showed that member firms' sales were up by 23% by the end of last year. "This annual result is very much in line with our forecast for industry growth in 2011," Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association, reported.

Domestic sales were up by 18% while the rise in deliveries to foreign customers was even greater at 25%, although demand from euro area countries, up 15%, lagged behind that from the rest of the world.

"For the year as a whole, incoming orders were 3% ahead of the previous year's high level. Growth rates declined month on month, however, and the last quarter's figures were down albeit from the previous year's very high base," added Thorsten Kühmann, the Managing Director of the Association. "Many firms have very full order books, keeping them busy for months ahead."

According to a survey conducted early this year, only a small number of plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers complain of insufficient capacity utilization owing to a lack of orders.

Deliveries abroad grew even more rapidly, and by November 2011 they were almost 35% ahead of the previous year's total. As a result, the export ratio, which in the last two years had fallen below the 70% mark, is now back to pre-crisis levels. "German manufacturers have achieved above-average growth in their exports to the US, China, Russia, Turkey and Korea," reported Ulrich Reifenhäuser, "and exports as a whole will also reach a new record of more than 4 billion euro."

More than two thirds of plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers took on additional staff at sites across Germany in the second half of 2011, after nearly three quarters of respondents had increased their payroll in the first six months of that year. Just under half of the respondents to the survey plan to increase their workforce in the current half-year with almost as many firms (44%) not planning any change.

BASF and Bayer achieved record results

Germany chemicals suppliers BASF and the Bayer Group both achieved record results in 2011. BASF announced that sales increased by 15% to 73.5 billion euro compared with 2010 while Bayer recorded 36.528 billon euro in sales, up 4.1% year on year.

According to BASF, sales in the fourth quarter of 2011 were around 18.1 billion euros, higher than the previous quarter as well as the same period in 2010. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) stood at 1.5 billion euros, which was 14% below the fourth quarter of 2010, reflecting a slowing of the economy over the course of the year.

The company noted that the trend it observed at the beginning of the second half of the year continued. Customers were more cautious in their ordering, reduced their inventories and put off orders in expectation that the economy would decline and prices could possibly soften.

Dr Kurt Bock
BASF estimated that the global economic growth this year will near 2011, at 2.7%, while the global chemical production excluding pharmaceuticals should achieve a growth rate of about 4.1%. Dr Kurt Bock, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF, said, "We expect the global economy to pick up speed over the course of 2012 following a moderate start."

Dr Marijn Dekkers
Despite Bayer's historical result, earnings of Bayer MaterialScience were below expectations. "The MaterialScience business unfortunately performed below expectations in 2011," said Bayer Group's CEO Dr Marijn Dekkers. "A positive factor is that we increased sales, and were able to raise selling prices, in all business units and regions. On the other hand, we scarcely achieved any volume increases." Sales of high-tech materials rose by 6.7% (Fx & portfolio adj 8.2%) overall to 10.832 billion euros as compared to 10.154 billion euros in 2010.

Business with raw materials for foams (Polyurethanes) improved by 9.5% (Fx & portfolio adj). High-tech plastics (Polycarbonates) advanced by 5.6%, while raw materials for coatings, adhesives and specialties were up by 4.5% (both Fx & portfolio adj). Industrial Operations achieved a sales gain of 21.9% (Fx & portfolio adj).

EBITDA before special items of Bayer MaterialScience moved back by 13.6% to 1.171 billion euro from 1.356 billion euros in 2010. Bayer said this decline resulted primarily from higher raw material costs that could not be fully offset by selling-price increases. Higher operating costs were also incurred, including those for commissioning the TDI plant in China. Among the positive effects were savings achieved through efficiency-improvement measures.

Lanxess' Nd-PBR plant in Singapore to break ground in September

kira Yonemura, Managing Director of PCS (left) shaking ahnds with Axel C Heitmann
Lanxess AG announced recently its new neodymium polybutadiene rubber (Nd-PBR) plant in Singapore will break ground on September 11 this year.

The new facility located in Jurong Island Chemical Park is expected to produce 140,000 metric tons per annum. It is scheduled to commence in the first half of 2015. Total investment will be around 200 million euro. According to Lanxess, the plant will be the largest of its kind in the world, serving the growing market for "Green Tires", especially in Asia.

"I am delighted to announce that it is now full steam ahead for the second largest investment project in our company's history," said Lanxess' Chairman of the Board of Management, Axel C Heitmann, at an event in Singapore to sign contracts with key suppliers.

Lanxess adds that the new Nd-PBR plant is sitting next to the company's butyl rubber plant, which is also under construction and will come on stream in the first quarter of 2013.

The company also signed contracts with key suppliers to its Nd-PBR plant. With these suppliers in place, the project execution phase can now start to set up the infrastructure for the construction of the plant.

Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (Private) Limited (PCS) has agreed on a long-term supply of butadiene, a raw material for the production of Nd-PBR. PCS is building a new butadiene extraction unit and associated infrastructure necessary to supply the raw material. Both companies had signed a Memorandum of Understanding already in June last year regarding the supply.

In addition, Singapore's TP Utilities Pte Ltd (a wholly-owned unit of Tuas Power Ltd) will provide steam to the Nd-PBR plant. TP Utilities is adding 650 tons per hour of steam capacity to its existing biomassclean coal cogeneration plant on Jurong Island, which currently has 500 tons per hour of steam capacity and 100 Megawatt of electricity generation capacity.

Wacker inaugurated new integrated sales and training center in South Korea

The focus of local R&D in the newly established "Center of Excellence Electronics" will be on silicone products for electronics applications
Wacker Chemie has successfully completed the expansion and relocation of its technical laboratories and offices in South Korea. The upgraded technical center with integrated training facility near Seoul was inaugurated on March 2.

The expanded technical center is located in Pangyo Techno Valley, a suburb region of Seoul. Occupying an area of more than 3,600 sqm, the site houses the new offices of Wacker Chemicals Korea Inc, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary, and the research & development (R&D) laboratories for silicone and polymer applications.

One focus of the local R&D in the newly established "Center of Excellence Electronics" will be on silicone products for electronics applications. Wacker sees the new silicones R&D center as an opportunity to provide its local and regional customers with technical expertise for developing new products and tailor-made high-tech solutions for the electronics sector. Plus, the new center can help Wacker to respond quickly to specific requirements and to directly incorporate customers' feedback.

The technical center for polymers has been expanded, too. It will concentrate on formulations for dispersible polymer powders and dispersions for modern building applications, e.g. as binders in mortars for energy-saving external thermal insulation composite systems, or for low-odor and low-emissions paints. Wacker said the reason for expanding the technical center and setting up an in-house silicones R&D laboratory is the strong growth of the Korean economy, especially in construction and electronics.

The Wacker Academy is a newly built integrated training facility for polymer and silicone chemicals. The facility's mission is to promote the transfer of knowledge to local customers and business partners. Its seminar program is accordingly designed to address the particular needs of the markets in South Korea, and provides customers and business partners with an opportunity to learn about all relevant aspects of modern polymer and silicone chemistry and their applications.

ExxonMobil's proved reserves in 2011 totaled 1.8 billion oil-equivalent barrels

Exxon Mobil Corporation announced that additions to its proved reserves in 2011 totaled 1.8 billion oil-equivalent barrels, replacing 107% of production. Excluding the impact of asset sales, reserves additions replaced 116 percent of production.

"ExxonMobil replaced more than 100% of production for the 18th consecutive year," said Rex W. Tillerson, Chairman and CEO. "Our industry-leading position is a result of our strategic focus on quality resource capture, a disciplined approach to investment, and excellence in project execution. During challenging times for the global economy, we continue to take a long-term view of resource development and invest throughout the commodity price cycle. Adding reserves enables ExxonMobil to develop new supplies of energy to meet future demand and support economic growth and improved standards of living."

Reserve additions from the Kearl Expansion Project in Canada totaled 1 billion oil-equivalent barrels. Proved additions were also made in a diverse range of countries, including the US, Nigeria, Norway, Indonesia and Malaysia.

At year-end 2011, ExxonMobil's proved reserves base increased to 24.9 billion oil-equivalent barrels. The proved reserves base is split 49% liquids and 51% gas.

Its 10-year average reserves replacement ratio is 121%, with liquids replacement at 99% and gas at 150%. The reserves additions made during this period comprise a diverse range of resource types and have broad geographical representation. ExxonMobil's reserves life at current production rates is 15 years.

ExxonMobil added 4.1 billion oil-equivalent barrels to its resource base in 2011, driven primarily by resource additions from the US and Canada, as well as Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Overall, the corporation's resource base grew by 2.7 billion oil-equivalent barrels to 87.2 billion oil-equivalent barrels, taking into account field revisions, production and asset sales. The resource base includes proved reserves, plus other discovered resources that are expected to be ultimately recovered.

The company noted that proved reserves for 2009 and later years are based on current US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) definitions, but for prior years the referenced proved reserve volumes are determined on bases that differ from SEC definitions in effect at the time.

SABIC and Mitsui Chemicals co develop TDI/MDI technology

The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) has signed a TDI and MDI technology license agreement with Mitsui Chemicals Inc. Under the agreement, Mitsui will provide manufacturing technology for producing TDI and MDI, which are both raw materials for producing polyurethane. The agreement also provides for joint technology development in TDI/MDI.

The agreement was signed by Mohamed Al-Mady, SABIC Vice Chairman and CEO, and Toshikazu Tanaka, Mitsui Chemicals President and CEO, at SABIC's headquarters in Riyadh on February 26.

Expressing strong optimism over the agreement, Mr Al-Mady believed that it would spearhead a strategic collaboration between the two companies to explore future possibilities to collaborate in the polyurethane (PU) business. "The agreement will spur our strategic business plan to penetrate the global polyurethane market as well as power the ambition and competitive advantage of our customers for the long term," he said. "It will also enable a fast development of PU application industries in Saudi Arabia, especially with regards to thermal insulation which will contribute to employment creation as well as energy savings."

Mr Tanaka commented, "For Mitsui Chemicals, this License Agreement will be the largest and most extensive one we have ever made. We will support this project full force on every front and are committed to its success. I hope that it will be just the first step in a future business partnership with SABIC, which may include establishment of a strategic supply base for competitive TDI/MDI.

Sumitomo Heavy Industries names Dr Tetsuya Okamura as SVP

Dr. Tetsuya Okamura
Dr. Tetsuya Okamura has been appointed Senior Vice President of Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) Ltd. Japan, effective April 1. In addition to his existing position as CEO of injection molding machinery manufacturer Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH with headquarters in Schwaig, Germany, Dr. Okamura will now become Senior Vice President of Sumitomo Heavy Industries with full responsibility for the Plastics Machinery Business of Japanese parent company Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI).

In his new position, Dr. Okamura will be responsible for integrating, developing and expanding the international injection molding business within the SHI Group. In his existing role as Head and CEO of Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH, which he assumed in 2008, Dr. Okamura continues to be supported by COO Shaun Dean.

In the wake of Dr. Okamura's new appointment, Kazuo Hiraoka will take over as Head of Plastics Machinery Division, responsible for the production of SHI plastics machinery in Japan, also effective April 1. Mr. Hiraoka, has more than twenty year's experience in the Sumitomo Heavy Industries Plastics Machinery Division.

The current Head of Plastics Machinery Division, Yuji Takaishi, will become new Head of Corporate Planning and Development Group for the parent company Sumitomo Heavy Industries, effective April 1.

Born in 1956, Dr. Okamura studied electrical engineering at Kyoto University in Japan. He has joined Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) since 1980.

At the end of 2011, SHI unified its injection molding machine brands "Sumitomo (SHI) Demag" and "Sumitomo" under the common name of "Sumitomo (SHI) Demag". Production sites in Germany, Japan and China as well as a global sales and service network form the basis for the common activities.

Jay V. Ihlenfeld elected to Celanese's Board of Directors

Celanese Corporation announced that Jay V. Ihlenfeld has been elected to the company's Board of Directors. Mr Ihlenfeld is Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific for 3M Company. Previously, Mr Ihlenfeld served as 3M's Senior Vice President, Research & Development.

A 33-year veteran of 3M Company, Mr Ihlenfeld has also held various leadership and technology positions, including Vice President of its Performance Materials business and Executive Vice President of its Sumitomo/3M business in Japan.

Mr Ihlenfeld received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin.
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