Fiscal Cliff a Major Concern for Chemical Industry

Amid economic uncertainty, companies focus on operational excellence and financial strength, while shale drives growth in the U.S., increasing price competition in Asia.


Paul Harnick

Paul Harnick

Many chemical industry executives say that the U.S. fiscal cliff and general economic uncertainty are driving increased focus on operational excellence and a strong balance sheet. Despite economic challenges, executives say the chemicals industry will continue to see strong growth in the U.S. as a result of shale gas developments, according to the results of a poll conducted by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory services firm.

According to the KPMG poll, 41 percent of industry business leaders indicate that in the current macro-economic environment, their biggest concern is the U.S. fiscal cliff. An additional 20 percent point to a slowdown in emerging markets and 19 percent say Eurozone debt issues.

“The threat of the fiscal cliff is an obvious concern, leading many companies to focus on improving business effectiveness and maintaining a strong balance sheet,” said Mike Shannon, global chairman of KPMG’s Chemicals and Performance Technologies practice. “Companies that are successful in these endeavors can gain a competitive advantage and be better positioned to capitalize if the economic tide turns.”

According to nearly one-third of executives surveyed, shale gas developments in the U.S. will drive significant growth in petrochemical and downstream manufacturing. Additionally, 37 percent say U.S. shale exports will force increased competition leading to price and margin erosion in Asia.

Paul Harnick, chief operating officer of KPMG’s Global Chemicals and Performance Technologies practice, added, “Regardless of concerns about the fiscal cliff, U.S. companies should remain focused on long-term investment strategies. To support planned investments in capacity, companies must invest in broadening their supply chain capabilities to ensure that exports get to the high growth markets. These markets will be critical to the growth of the sector, especially in the U.S. where exports of product derived from shale gas are expected to become a critical growth platform.”


Mike Shannon

Mike Shannon

According to the poll, however, 28 percent of chemical industry business leaders say their companies do not currently have an emerging markets growth strategy in place.

“This response is startling because we see emerging markets as a critical growth factor for any large chemical company over the next decade, especially as demand in those regions will only increase,” Harnick said.

The KPMG Global Chemicals and Performance Technologies practice conducted a webcast providing insight into trends that are driving the chemicals industry, as well as a view on current risks and opportunities. During the webcast, a poll was conducted in an effort to gain a sense of market sentiment. The results reflect responses from 87 senior industry executives around the world who self selected to participate in the webcast poll. A replay of the webcast can be found at this link.

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