Last Update:
Mar. 10, 2011
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Part of the audited Consolidated Financial Statements and Management´s Analysis

Trends in the chemical industry

  • Global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) grows by 9.3%; reaching pre-crisis level again
  • Compared with other industrialized countries, very strong increase in chemical production in the European Union (+10.1%)
  • Price of Brent blend crude oil increased in 2010; relatively moderate fluctuations

There was a strong upturn in the chemical industry in 2010: Following negative growth rates in the previous two years, global chemical production in 2010 again reached the pre-crisis level. The first half of the year was particularly characterized by an exceptionally strong recovery. Growth became less dynamic in the second half. Global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) grew by 9.3%.

Due to high demand and inventory restocking in key customer industries, global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) in 2010 reached the level seen before the economic crisis. In industrialized countries such as Germany and Japan, production was boosted by dynamic export growth, which was better than expected. At the beginning of the upturn, there were worldwide production shortages in the chemical industry because plants had to be put back into operation again.

Compared with other industrialized countries, chemical production in the European Union grew particularly fast (+10.1%). As a result of the close interconnectedness of the chemical industry with dynamically-growing, export-oriented customer industries, chemical production growth was particularly substantial in Germany (+17.7%). Japan also experienced exceptionally high growth (+8.8%). In the United States, the strength of the U.S. dollar at times had a damping effect on the growth dynamic (+5.0%). In contrast, chemical production grew strongly in South America (+6.4%) and Asia (excluding Japan) (+13.0%).

Chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) in 2010
Real change compared with the previous year

Chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) in 2010 (bar chart)

The crude oil price for Brent blend increased in 2010; the fluctuations over the course of the year were relatively moderate. The average monthly prices ranged from $73 per barrel to $92 per barrel. The economic recovery and stronger demand led to rising prices over the course of the year. The average annual oil price was around $80 per barrel, an increase of around 30% over the previous year’s level and higher than the average price in the pre-crisis year 2007.

Average monthly prices for the chemical raw material naphtha ranged over the course of the year from a low of $620 per metric ton in July to a high of more than $840 per metric ton in December. The average annual price of naphtha was $710 per metric ton, an increase of around 35% over the previous year’s level.

In 2010, the average price of natural gas in the United States ranged between $3/mbtu and $6/mbtu. The average annual price was around $4/mbtu, slightly higher than the 2009 average. In Europe, the average gas price fell slightly compared with the previous year and amounted to around $8/mbtu.
Forecast for the economic environment in 2011

Price trends for crude oil (Brent blend) and naphtha (US$/barrel, US$/metric ton)

Price trends for crude oil and naphtha (line chart)
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