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NEWS OF THE WEEK
PULLING BACK
December 24, 2001
Volume 79, Number 52
CENEAR 79 52 p. 10
ISSN 0009-2347
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Dow Reacts To Tough Plastics Market
Weak economy, terrorist attacks make 2001 one of the worst years for chemical industry

ALEX TULLO

Poor economic circumstances are forcing Dow Chemical's plastics business to back off aggressive expansion plans and brace itself for an uncertain year.

In a surprise move in polyurethanes, Dow will temporarily idle a 130 million-lb-per-year toluene diisocyanate (TDI) production train in Freeport, Texas, in coming weeks. It also won't convert an idle methylene diisocyanate (MDI) unit in Camaçari, Brazil, to TDI. The company had decided in October to shutter an old MDI plant as it starts up a new unit in Freeport in 2004.

Robert L. Wood, president of Dow's thermosets business, said at Dow Plastics' annual New York City press conference last week that the polyurethanes market, which normally grows at 5% annually, had contracted this year. "Unfortunately, we didn't deliver," he said.

At the conference, executives predicted that Dow will end the year with plastics sales of $14 billion, versus $14.8 billion in 2000, and will post lower profits. Even Dow's polyethylene business has had to regroup; because of high feedstock prices and capacity expansions, Dow idled lines in Seadrift and Freeport, Texas, this year.

"This is the most difficult year I've been through in the polyolefin industry," said Romeo Kreinberg, president of Dow's polyolefins and elastomers business, noting his 25 years of industry experience. Dow executives don't expect a recovery in polymers until the second half of 2002.

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