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01. August 2007

Europe still leads global masterbatch business

The European masterbatch industry is the largest in the world both in terms of production and demand, according to the latest report from AMI Consulting.

For 2006 masterbatch producers in Europe manufactured over 960,000 tonnes of product, while market demand was just over 800,000 tonnes. Performance and Reasons Europe is thus a significant net exporter of product. Overall the market has been showing solid growth in recent years averaging annual increases in demand of 3 % since 2001 driven by the increasing penetration of masterbatch into engineering polymer markets as replacement for compounds and growing usage by polymer manufacturers in their own compounding operations. The greater use of colour and special effects to differentiate products have also helped to lift demand along with the requirement for improving performance criteria from polymer materials in terms of features such as UV stabilisation, flame retardancy, etc. Single EU markets Nearly all countries have benefited from this growth with the exception of the UK market which has seen a drop from 14 % in1996 to 10 % in 2006. The UK market has been particularly affected by the decline in moulding capacity and the transfer of production to Central Europe and Asia. Restructuring However, as with many other sectors of the plastics processing industry the masterbatch industry also faces pressures with margins constantly squeezed between customers looking to lower their costs and raw material suppliers looking to raise their prices. There has been intense competition and further restructuring in the industry as witnessed by Clairant’s purchase of Ciba’s masterbatch business in Europe last year. Product families The largest market for masterbatches in Europe is white masterbatch, which accounted for 29 % of demand in 2006. This market, along with black types, is the more mature and its rates of advance have tended to be below that of the other masterbatch types. A further 24 % of the market is taken by colour masterbatch demand. In the last few years growth for coloured products have slowed as demand from the compound segment has declined. Black masterbatch demand has also been slowing and with many markets stagnant or in decline in the processing area in the future the market will see rates slow further. The additive masterbatch continues to be the fastest growing sector and is rapidly increasing in importance within the masterbatch market now accounting for 24 % of the market. This means the additive segment is greater than the size of the black market and almost equal to the colour segment. Future prospects AMI forecasts that overall masterbatch demand will continue growing at just under 3 % per year to 2010. The Benelux region has the largest concentration of production accounting for 23 % of the total for Europe primarily because of the presence of several large scale producers such as Ampacet, A. Schulman, Cabot and PolyOne. It has a particularly dominant position in the white masterbatch market, but is also the largest producing region for colour and additive types. In the black masterbatch market the United Kingdom (24 % of the total black output) is the largest producer thanks to the activities of Cabot, Tosaf and Hubron. Benelux is also a significant market for the consumption of masterbatch thanks to the presence of several large scale film and fibre producers in the region and significant polymer compounding activity. However the largest markets are, as might be expected, Germany and Italy. Distribution of masterbatch demand in Europe 2006

  • Germany 18%
  • Italy 16%
  • Benelux 14%
  • France 12%
  • United Kingdom 10%
  • Spain 9%
  • Scandinavia 7%
  • Other West Europe 7%
  • Central & Eastern
  • Europe 7%

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