SABIC eyes expansion in China with proposed new plant

A joint venture project between SABIC and Sinopec in Tianjin, China (Supplied)
Updated 11 September 2018
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SABIC eyes expansion in China with proposed new plant

  • Initial agreement signed with Fujian provincial government
  • Part of wider Asian petrochemicals push

LONDON: Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) is considering plans to build a petrochemical complex in the Chinese province of Fujian as part of wider efforts to diversify its business internationally.
The petrochemical producer has signed an initial agreement with the Fujian provincial government which sets out a framework of cooperation for the “world scale” project, according to a statement posted on the Tadawul stock exchange in Saudi Arabia.
SABIC said the MoU was part of a strategy to “diversify its operations, seek new investment opportunities and strengthen its position in the Chinese market.”
"It brings SABIC closer to its Asian customer base and provides direct access to the world’s largest and fastest growing market for petrochemicals." said Tommy Trask, director, corporate & infrastructure ratings, Middle East at ratings agency S&P Global.
The agreement did not contain any ‘definitive’ timeframes for the development, the company said.
“A core strategy underlying SABIC’s expansion plans has been to organically enhance its international footprint, both in terms of its ongoing diversification of its product range, as well as in terms of global customer reach, by strengthening its position in strategic markets,” said Ehsan Khoman, the Dubai-based head of Mena research and strategy at MUFG Bank.
The expansion of the petrochemicals giant in China is also part of efforts to secure future demand for the Kingdom’s crude oil supply, he added.
“SABIC acts as a central conduit of Saudi Arabia’s international diversification efforts in the petrochemicals sector, and by organically expanding into Asian markets – where the bulk of the Kingdom’s crude oil is shipped – the country is increasing its Asian market share, whilst in conjunction locking-in future appetite for its hydrocarbon product offering,” said Khoman.
SABIC has already established a foothold in China through its existing 50:50 joint venture with the Chinese state-owned oil company Sinopec in an ethylene plant in the Tianjin Province.
The Saudi company is far from the only global company eyeing opportunities in Asia, with the US oil and gas firm ExxonMobil also securing a preliminary deal with China this month.
ExxonMobil signed a cooperation framework with the Guangdong provincial government to discuss a possible new chemical complex in the province. The project would include a 1.2 million-tons-per-year ethylene flexible feed steam cracker. If the development goes ahead, operations could begin in 2023.
The US company said in a statement it was considering other potential chemical manufacturing projects in Asia in order to capitalize on the expected rise in demand for chemical products across the region. 

It aims to increase its chemical manufacturing capacity in Asia Pacific and North America by 40 percent, according to the company release.
Earlier this year, Germany’s BASF also announced it was considering building a chemical production facility in Guangdong. The company signed a non-binding MoU with the provincial government in July, with the potential investment in the project estimated to reach up to $10 billion.
The project is anticipated to be completed by 2030 and will include a steam cracker with a capacity of 1 million metric tons of ethylene per year.
The plant would become the company’s third-largest site globally after the Ludwigshafen plant in Germany and the Antwerp site in Belgium. BASF currently has another site in Nanjing in China, which is a joint-venture with Sinopec.


China: Trump forces its hand, will retaliate against new US tariffs

Updated 18 September 2018
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China: Trump forces its hand, will retaliate against new US tariffs

  • The commerce ministry’s statement came hours after Trump said he was imposing 10 percent tariffs on about $200 billion worth of imports from China
  • The latest US duties spared smart watches from Apple and Fitbit and other consumer products such as baby car seats

BEIJING/WASHINGTON: China said on Tuesday that it has no choice but to retaliate against new US trade tariffs, raising the risk that President Donald Trump could soon impose duties on virtually all of the Chinese goods that America buys.
The commerce ministry’s statement came hours after Trump said he was imposing 10 percent tariffs on about $200 billion worth of imports from China, and threatened duties on about $267 billion more if China retaliated against the US action.
The brief statement gave no details on China’s plans, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing later that the US steps had brought “new uncertainty” to talks between the two countries.
“China has always emphasised that the only correct way to resolve the China-US trade issue is via talks and consultations held on an equal, sincere and mutually respectful basis. But at this time, everything the United States does does not give the impression of sincerity or goodwill,” he added.
Geng said he would not comment on “hypotheticals” such as what measures Beijing might consider apart from tariffs on US products, saying only that details would be released at the appropriate time.
Trump had warned on Monday that if China takes retaliatory action against US farmers or industries, “we will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports.”
The latest US duties spared smart watches from Apple and Fitbit and other consumer products such as baby car seats. But if the administration enacts the additional tariffs it would engulf all remaining US imports from China and Apple products like the iPhone and its competitors would not likely be spared.
Last month, China unveiled a proposed list of tariffs on $60 billion of US goods ranging from liquefied natural gas to certain types of aircraft — should Washington activate the tariffs on its $200 billion list.
China is reviewing plans to send a delegation to Washington for fresh talks in light of the US action, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday, citing a government source in Beijing.
Collection of tariffs on the long-anticipated US list will start on Sept. 24 but the rate will increase to 25 percent by the end of 2018, allowing US companies some time to adjust their supply chains to alternate countries.
So far, the United States has imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products to pressure Beijing to reduce its huge bilateral trade surplus and make sweeping changes to its trade, technology transfer and high-tech industrial subsidy policies.
Beijing has retaliated in kind, but some analysts and American businesses are concerned it could resort to other measures such as pressuring US companies operating in China.
A senior Chinese securities market official said US trade actions will not work as China has ample fiscal and monetary policy tools to cope with the impact. The government already has been ramping up spending on infrastructure.
“President Trump is a hard-hitting businessman, and he tries to put pressure on China so he can get concessions from our negotiations. I think that kind of tactic is not going to work with China,” Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of China’s securities regulator, said at a conference in the port city of Tianjin.
FURTHER TALKS IN DOUBT
Trump’s latest escalation of tariffs on China comes after several rounds of talks yielded no progress. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week invited top Chinese officials to fresh discussions, but thus far nothing has been scheduled.
“We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly,” Trump said in a statement. “But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices.”
Fang told the Tianjin forum that he hopes the two sides can sit down and talk, but added that the latest US move has “poisoned” the atmosphere.
A senior Trump administration official told reporters that the United States was open to further talks with Beijing, but offered no immediate details on when they may occur.
“This is not an effort to constrain China, but this is an effort to work with China and say, ‘It’s time you address these unfair trade practices that we’ve identified that others have identified and that have harmed the entire trading system,’” the official said.
So far, China has either imposed or proposed tariffs on $110 billion of US goods, representing most of its imports of American products.
“Tensions in the global economic system have manifested themselves in the US-China trade war, which is now seriously disrupting global supply chains,” the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement on Tuesday.
China’s yuan currency slipped against the dollar on Tuesday after news of the US measures. It has weakened by about 6.0 percent since mid-June, offsetting the 10 percent tariff rate by a considerable margin.
CONSUMER TECH TRIMMED
The US Trade Representative’s office eliminated 297 product categories from the latest proposed tariff list, along with some subsets of other categories.
But the adjustments did little to appease technology and retail groups who argued US consumers would feel the pain.
“President Trump’s decision...is reckless and will create lasting harm to communities across the country,” said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major tech firms.
Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said three quarters of its members will be hit by the tariffs, and they will not bring jobs back to the United States.
“Most of our member companies are ‘in China, for China’ — selling goods to Chinese companies and consumers, not to Americans — and thus ultimately boosting the US economy,” Jarrett said.