National Flexible - Twigg´s Times
With a wealth of experience in the packaging industry at the most senior levels, Barry Twigg - National Flexible´s major shareholder and CEO – shares his thoughts and ideas about the latest trends.
Polymer Prices & More: The Fat Lady is Not Singing
There is considerable ambiguity in the stories circulating regarding the availability of polymer supplies to film manufacturers. Whilst some tell us that the situation is gradually returning to normal, others have suggested this is basically due to imports from the Middle and Far East at prices higher than normal. What is certain is that there has been limited information available on the reintroduction of the polymer production plants closed claiming ‘Force Majeure.’
Polymer Prices: Record Highs in June
Resin prices for both OPP and PE polymers have reached record highs in June. Although the increases applied have been only 40-60 Euro cents, these increases follow those applied in March, April and May. The resultant prices are the highest yet reached for OPP, HDPE and LDPE polymer.
The Polymer Saga continues + New OPP Plants
The current turmoil in the film polymer supply market was exacerbated last week as Ineos declared ‘Force Majeure’ at its Lavera plant due to the inability of Total to supply feedstock for both PP and HDPE manufacture. This reduces the short term availability of polymer in Europe by a further 740,000 tonnes. Despite the re-opening in mid-May of capacity from 3 European plants previously closed, this setback could prolong the period of higher prices and longer lead times for film into the 3rd quarter of 2015.
Breaking News – Film Polymer Availability
Only those Packaging Film end users away on a world cruise, or in some other somnolent state, will be unaware that the flow of homopolymer for film manufacture has been dramatically curtailed over the last 3 months and as a consequence the cost of purchasing all packaging films has increased dramatically.
The reason being that in all, since early February, there have been 14 polymer production plant closures involving 7 companies. All these producers have claimed “Force Majeure” as the reason for closure. The 4 bulk producers Basell, Sabic, Ineos and Total have had the biggest reductions in capacity. The consequence has been a total production closure of some 20% across Europe and the Middle East.
Breaking News – Polymer Shortage
The Story so Far
• 11 polymer production plants across Europe and the Middle East are closed either wholly or in part
• 20% of all European polymer capacity is closed
• US dollar exchange rate moved against Sterling and the Euro
• Supply of all polymer is affected – PP and PE have been particularly hard hit • ‘Force Majeure’ is the reason given for most of these ‘outages’ and flexible packaging trade associations across Europe are demanding more information about production problems • Prices of all polymers are being increased month by month with allocation (rationing) being suggested by some polymer suppliers
It’s the ‘F’ word once again!
Total, the French oil giant are the latest film polymer supplier to declare a ‘Force Majeure’. This particular new ‘Outage’ is at their Antwerp cracker, which now joins the Total cracker in France which is also currently closed due to ‘Force Majeure’. This now brings to 11 the number of polymer production plants closed wholly or in part across Europe and the Middle East. No less than 7 of these polymer production units have been closed since early April.
Against this background it is hardly surprising that polymer prices are increasing yet again for May, with June deliveries virtually guaranteed to follow.
STRANGE BUT TRUE (CONTINUED)
Due to the above outages we now seem to be in the midst of a fully blown supply crisis for films. Throughout most of last week we have been notified of changes in both prices and film availability from most of the larger OPP film manufacturers. Two have informed us that their production capacity is now ‘full’ and that July would be their earliest delivery date for new orders. Meanwhile two other manufacturers were willing to take orders for May/June deliveries, but are not prepared to quote prices. In addition, PE prices for May/June delivery are projected to be a minimum of £200 per tonne above current levels. In our opinion (expressed many times) this is a ‘false market’ created by the closure of production facilities by the major polymer suppliers as the table above demonstrates. Nevertheless, we are where we are!
At the risk of being sued,
Film Prices- strange but true
Here in Biloxi down on the Mississippi Delta there are more casinos per head of population than anywhere else in the world and there is a choice of 9 casinos with a golf course attached.
It felt strange to find all these Gamblers congregating in one small town, but not half as strange as the current supply situation in the OPP and PE Packaging Film Market.
Whilst we warned in January that there was talk of prices increasing, and confirmed in February that this would probably be the case, we did not anticipate the chaotic situation which is currently forecast by film suppliers.
Whistleblowers Wanted – Film Prices, More M&A Activity
I am away for a few weeks exploring the Mighty Mississippi River but before departure I felt it worth revisiting three ‘issues’ covered in the recent post.
Whistle Blowers Wanted
Firstly, the search by Christine Tacon the Groceries Code Adjudicator for more whistle blowers (suppliers) to come forward and dish the dirt on the bullying tactics and the mistreatment they have received from the major food retailers, particularly the supermarkets. Ms Tacon told a committee of Peers in the House of Lords last week that this lack of complaints from supermarket suppliers was solely due to their fear of retaliation by the supermarkets. This she said had created a ‘Code of Silence’ from suppliers enabling the major retailers to continue with their unscrupulous behavior. (Her words, not mine). The fact that she produced no evidence to support these allegations seems to have been ignored.
Now according to the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) annual report there are over 10,000 suppliers to the top 10 major food retailers in the UK. Since the CGA was formed in June 2013 presumably these 10,000 suppliers have traded throughout with the 10 major retailers. So, we might ask, how many investigations has Ms Tacon and her 5 person team instigated since the GCA was formed.
Supplier Protection – Is It A Racket?
It’s good to be back particularly as the temperature has started to rise and hopefully the snow and ice are no more than a distant memory.
I noted there were some interesting developments in our industry during my absence, in particular that the Groceries Code Adjudicator is soon to be given even greater powers (and staff no doubt) to protect us suppliers from bullying by the big food retailers. These powers include the ability to levy fines on the UK supermarkets of up to 1% of their turnover. As current sales of the supermarkets are in the order of £24.9 billion this gives Christine Tacon, the Code Adjudicator, the facility to impose around £250 million in fines should she identify any rogue Supermarket ‘Breaking the Code‘. My first thought was how much of the ‘fine’ would go to the offended supplier? Unfortunately, based on the total inertia
demonstrated by Ms Tacon’s department since it was formed some two years ago there is unlikely to be monies coming to any disgruntled supplier any time soon.
In my view there is obviously a more serious side to this development