Competition from overseas competitors (especially from the US) with relatively lower energy costs is currently making it difficult for Dutch and European chemical producers to pass on their sharply increased energy bills to end users. An increasing number of Dutch chemical companies have reduced or even temporarily ceased production because being fully operational is no longer profitable.
Production bottlenecks are having a particularly negative impact on the production capacity of the rubber, plastics and furniture industries, which rely heavily on chemical industry intermediates. Atradius expects production contraction to ease to around 1% by 2023, as raw material supply problems will ease.
Profit margins rose in 2021 thanks to robust sales, but have started to decline since the second quarter of 2022 and will deteriorate further in the coming months. After the very low number of payment delays and insolvencies in 2021 and the first and third quarters of 2022, Atradius expects a significant increase in 2023 due to the combination of high energy prices, lack of raw materials and fierce competition from abroad. Much will depend on the future development of gas prices, with the downside risk of gas rationing measures. Since 1 November, Dutch small and medium-sized companies whose energy costs are at least 12.5% of turnover receive compensation of up to €160,000 through the Energy Costs Compensation Scheme (TEK).
Atradius does expect the insolvency wave of chemical companies in 2023 to be much lower than the 77% increase expected for all Dutch companies. From a very low level, the increase will be a return to pre-crisis (normal) levels.
The credit risk situation of the Dutch chemical industry is currently considered ‘reasonable’, given the strong financial position of many companies, especially multinationals. However, the challenges are increasing. If high gas prices in the Netherlands persist for an extended period, new investments in chemical production sites may move to markets where energy is cheaper. Moreover, higher investments to meet environmental standards will be challenging, both due to stricter regulations and increasing consumer demand for greener products.
See Atradius’ website for more information.