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Announcement:

Moody's: Outlook on North American And EMEA chemicals industry changed to positive from stable

15 Mar 2011

London, 15 March 2011 -- Moody's Investors Service has today changed to positive from stable the outlook on the North American and EMEA chemicals industry, despite the potential for weakness in Europe.

As explained in a new Industry Outlook Update report published today, the improved outlook on the sector is driven by (i) expectation of the sustained strong demand from emerging economies; (ii) expectation of more price increases , particularly for more commoditised chemicals; and (iii) the sustained natural gas cost advantage enjoyed by US companies, underpinning the expectation of the region's outperformance. Overall, Moody's expects the industry to continue to grow in 2011, although at a slower rate than in 2010.

"Moody's expects the enduring economic expansion in emerging economies in Asia and Latin America to sustain the positive growth momentum in the US and European chemicals industry in the short term," says Elena Nadtotchi, a Moody's Vice President-Senior Credit Officer. So far in 2011, demand from emerging markets remains strong and is continuing to underpin elevated profitability and capacity utilisation rates for the key chemical commodities, particularly in the US.

"Moody's also expects price increases, particularly for more commoditised chemicals, to become a leading driver of growth in 2011," adds Ms. Nadtotchi. This follows a strong rebound in volumes over the past 12 months as the industry strives to maintain low working capital and inventory levels. In the rating agency's view, the limited availability of several commodities, such as propylene, butadiene, isoprene and paraxylene, along with recent capacity adjustments should allow producers of commodity chemicals to pass on most of the cost increases in raw materials to customers.

In addition, Moody's believes that increasing natural gas prices (most recently in Europe) will continue to lag rises in oil prices, thereby allowing North American producers to maintain their significant cost advantage and the domestic supply of shale-based natural gas to remain plentiful. North American fertiliser producers will continue to be the prime beneficiaries of this enduring trend. Also, given that European gas prices have recently started to rise, Moody's expects other US chemicals exporters to outperform their European peers in terms of profitability, in most commodity markets.

As a result of the rebound, chemicals producers are enjoying improved liquidity positions and stronger balance sheets. While Moody's anticipates only a gradual recovery in the level of capital investment in the industry, companies are likely to turn to M&A to complement moderate organic growth, while also targeting profitable consolidation (in areas such as coatings and related intermediates, and bolt-ons in nitrogen fertilisers) and boosting competitive positions in high-growth markets. In Moody's view, increasing dividend payouts and potential pressure to return to share buybacks are likely to constrain the positive credit momentum going forward.

While strong demand from the emerging markets underpin the strong start to the year for the industry, a further rise in the oil prices, accelerating inflation in the emerging markets or a weaker consumer sentiment in Europe and the US are seen as the key risk factors to the positive industry dynamics in the second half of 2011.

Moody's report, entitled "North American and EMEA Chemicals Industry: Strong Demand from Emerging Markets is Key to Sustaining Positive Momentum", is available on www.moodys.com.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For more information, please call one of our global press information hotlines: London +44-20-7772-5456, New York +1-212-553-0376, Tokyo +813-5408-4110, Hong Kong +852-3758-1350, Sydney +61-2-9270-8141, Mexico City 001-888-779-5833, São Paulo 0800-891-2518, or Buenos Aires 0800-666-3506. You can also email us at mediarelations@moodys.com or visit our web site at www.moodys.com.

London
Olivier Beroud
Managing Director
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
Elena Nadtotchi
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's: Outlook on North American And EMEA chemicals industry changed to positive from stable
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