Rina Quijada VP Industry Executive Advisory Latin America, S&P COMMODITY INSIGHTS
"Uncertain economic performance will affect Latin America, however, sometimes, recessions can also affect demand in a positive manner for some products."
What does the merger of S&P Global and IHS Markit mean for the chemicals side of the business?
In October 2021, we had to divest IHS Markit’s base chemical business to finalize the merger. The divestment included the price reporting (MAS) and the world analysis (WA), all other services remained with S&P Global.
The SRI legacy and all technical services, like the Chemical Economics Handbook (CEH) covering chemicals and petrochemicals, remained with S&P Global. We now have an enhanced value proposition for our global customer base across data and analytics, ratings, benchmarks, indices, commodities and energy, transportation and engineering.
What are the main themes influencing Latam’s petrochemical sector?
Each country is faced with different sets of variables, but the underlying theme for the region is the performance of its economy. Latin America will be significantly affected by how the US will perform in the next year. High inflation in the US can probably only be fixed by increasing interest rates. This will have a direct impact on the US dollar purchasing power and will strengthen the US dollar exchange rate. We know that from Mexico to Patagonia, no country in the region has hard currency available, and the region is very much reliant on imported goods. Furthermore, each currency in the region has suffered tremendous devaluation in the past weeks.
On the other hand, prices for most commodities are going down, such as PVC and polyethylene. Hence, another theme is inventory buildup and selling before prices tumble even further.
Since Covid, securing the supply of key commodities has been a difficult task for producers in the region. For example, Brazil has a large agricultural business, and they need lots of raw materials and fertilizers. The need to secure commodities has also improved levels of selected local production in countries such as Mexico and Argentina.
To what extent are sociopolitical tensions in Latam impacting investment prospects in the region?
If an investment makes economic sense, it will happen. In Colombia, Gustavo Petro was elected, and in Brazil Lula da Silva might return to power. These left-wing governments might slow investments, but institutions in Colombia and Brazil are strong enough to continue to allow for investments to flow into the countries, despite their political environment.
Which sub-segments of the industry do you expect to be most resilient?
Uncertain economic performance will affect Latin America, however, sometimes, recessions can also affect demand in a positive manner for some products. For example, in the food packaging space we might see increased demand for smaller volume of packaged goods with increased buying frequency, due to reduced purchasing power, hence, additional PE demand could emerge.
In terms of petrochemicals, we have begun to experience lower prices for most commodities. Supply chain disruptions and higher transportation costs to move products from point A to point B affected delivered prices during the past 18 months, however, market fundamentals show a balance between production, trade supply, and demand requirements which in turn softened market prices in recent months. We also anticipate lower resin prices to trigger increased demand if they stay low for a reasonable period. It is a balancing act and market information is important to enable adequate planning in an uncertain environment.
How are sociopolitical tensions impacting investment in the region?
Energy transition and energy security have now become of great relevance for many countries. It is a complex and risky process, hence, the speed of transition towards a net zero scenario will vary among countries. Each country will have to evaluate its domestic energy situation and move forward under a sustainable scenario.
The Chemical industry could become part of the solution to net zero carbon emissions. Investments into green sources of energy and towards a net-zero future will continue, but will vary from country to country depending on their ability to access the raw materials required for the transition.