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Ruble weakness boosts Russian petchems exports, hits importers

The recent sharp weakening of the Russian Ruble has had a mixed impact on the country's petrochemicals' production, increasing the relative cost of imports but making exports more competitive, industry sources said.

The decline in the value of the Ruble has moved in line with other emerging market currencies, falling almost 7% against the US dollar over the course of January, according to Platts 16:30 London time assessments. 

US Dollar/Ruble exchange rate was last assessed by Platts at 34.821 at the London close Friday. Companies and analysts have reported both gains and losses for Russian petrochemical companies according to their dependence on imports.

‘‘The impact on the petrochemicals sector in general is balanced,’‘ Gazprombank analyst Alexander Nazarov told Platts. ‘‘The increase in Ruble prices of oil feedstock for petrochemicals is compensated by the higher export revenues in dollars, because around half of the revenues of the main Russian producers are received from exports.’‘

Value shifts

Companies with a cost base largely denominated in Rubles were particularly benefiting from the currency fluctuations, with integrated companies and those using gas feedstock seeing costs fall.

‘‘The Russian Ruble weakening is broadly positive for Russian integrated petrochemicals' producers,’‘ Investcafe analyst Grigory Birg told Platts. ‘‘Their cost base is for the most part denominated in Rubles, while a large proportion of revenue is derived from export of produce. As such, one should expect product margins should rise.’‘ 

This was translating into concrete benefits for specific producers, with petrochemicals producer Sibur reporting both a decrease in costs and an increase in export revenues, leading to improved operational results. 

‘‘The depreciation of the Russian Ruble against the US dollar and the Euro has a positive effect on Sibur's financial performance as an exporter,’‘ Sibur CFO Pavel Malyi told Platts. 

‘‘Our financial and reporting currency is the Russian Ruble. However, our exports are primarily denominated in US dollars and, to a lesser extent, in Euros while most of our expenses are denominated in Russian Rubles,’‘ he added. 

The positive impact was in particular seen for producers of export-oriented petrochemicals, such as LDPE and homo grade of polypropylene, as the exports not only generated better revenues themselves, but also pushed domestic prices higher

Negative impact

However, Ruble fluctuations have also had severe knock-on effects for those companies whose costs are entirely or partially denominated in dollars, as well as for those needing to import products, feedstocks and intermediates from abroad.

‘‘Importers of various petrochemicals purchased in Euros or US dollars are seeing a negative impact from the Russian Ruble depreciation,’‘ Sibur's Malyi said, adding: ‘‘This could cause importers as well as domestic producers to increase prices in Russia.’‘ Andrey Kostin, editor of petrochemicals publication Rupec, also saw a negative impact from changing costs and revenues due to currency fluctuation.

‘‘In the PVC market... [Russia imports] up to 50% of its requirements. The key PVC supplier to Russia, the US, increased the prices for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. With a weaker ruble, this forced many converters to delay their purchases,’‘ he said.

Some markets were particularly suffering from the combination of Ruble depreciation and weak global conditions. The synthetic rubber market is among the main losers, Gazprombank's Nazarov said. ‘‘In addition to the pressure on the prices on the international markets, we see pressure coming from the higher feedstock costs.’‘   

Broadly sanguine

Despite the significant impacts on the petrochemicals market in Russia from the weakening of the Ruble versus the dollar, petrochemicals analysts in the country were broadly sanguine about the prospects for the industry in the coming months as domestic companies stepped up output to replace imports.  

‘‘The Ruble weakening should strengthen import replacement tendencies at home and competitiveness abroad,’‘ Investcafe's Birg said. 

‘‘Import-dependent, internal, petrochemicals markets have already reacted to a weaker Ruble in January,’‘ Rupec's Kostin said. ‘‘In particular [this has happened] on LLDPE where a surge of prices was registered and cheaper stocks have been depleted very quickly.’‘ 

Expectations of the exchange rate stabilizing between the Ruble and main global reserve currencies led some to expect an improvement in the situation for Russian petrochemicals companies. 

‘‘We expect a slight appreciation of the Ruble in the coming months which will stabilize the situation,’‘ Gazprombank's Nazarov said. ‘‘A lot will depend on the price developments in the international markets of synthetic rubber and polymers.’‘ 

‘‘I don't think that the situation will improve radically,’‘ Rupec's Kostin said. ‘‘However, the Ruble is likely to hit the floor, where it will probably stay until the beginning of the polymers peak season. This will give importers a chance to adjust their purchases and prepare.’‘

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