In each issue of FreeFlow magazine, our business leaders from around the world share their insights into the global methacrylates markets.

Here, Kozo Hisamoto, Senior Manager of Mitsubishi Chemical’s MMA business domain, offers his latest views and analysis for Asia (as of January 2021).

Can you tell us about the MMA supply situation in Asia?

We could have expected the operating ratio in the Asian region to have been higher, in response to the recovering demand, but in fact the monthly level of supply has actually reduced since September. The constraints on the production, in addition to the planned maintenance events, are unplanned outages and limited supply of major feedstocks. ACH-based producers, especially those in China (where ACH-process accounts for c.a. 70% of the local capacity), have been struggling with high acetone prices due to low availability. The acetone price will remain high for the coming months, partially due to the recent plant troubles in the region as well as the delay of new capacity start-up. According to the market, there may also still be some producers experiencing limited operations in CY2021, due to raw material supply issues.

What do you see driving the MMA demand in Asia?

Although the exports of COVID-19 protective shields (sneeze guards) from Asia into EMEA and/or the US have almost dried-up, the recent overall demand is in good shape.

MMA demand in China recovered earlier/ faster than other countries in the region. Protective shields drove the demand in the early stage of recovery, and the export demand (mainly from China into EMEA) had almost ended by late June. There has been a strong demand for sound barrier (sheet) thanks to the Government’s stimulus on infrastructure spending. Other segments such as coatings and/or PVC modifiers have also contributed to the recovery. The overall demand in September and October, which is typically the peak season in the country, seemed to be at the same level to “pre-Corona”.

Elsewhere in Asia demand was weaker in every industry sector, except again for the strong export demand for protective shields. Most countries in Asia Pacific South experienced a recovery in demand for coatings during September. The manufacturers of transparent resins such as T-ABS (transparent ABS) and MS (MMA/Styrene copolymer) have been running at full capacity for almost half a year and are still at 100%, mainly driven by the brisk demand for home electrical appliances such as TV monitors; vacuum cleaners; washing machines etc., for which parts are moulded and assembled in China.

What are your views on the MMA Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) in China?

The original ADD period ran from December 1, 2015 to November 30, 2020. No domestic MMA companies seem to have filed the sunset review petition required 60 days before the expiry of ADD requesting an extension of the period. For petitions not submitted to MOFCOM, the ADD automatically expired on November 30, 2020. An official announcement regarding this is expected from the Chinese government. Removal of the ADD will dramatically alter the China market landscape by permitting some importers greater opportunity to compete, but notably it is occurring at the time when the domestic MMA production in China is set to move in excess of demand for the first time.