Petrochemicals investors have not been deterred by Egypt’s revolution and the subsequent election of a civilian government, with BMI’s latest Egypt Petrochemicals report anticipating ethylene capacity of 1.66mn tonnes per annum (tpa) by 2016.
A number of new projects have been announced since Hosni Mubarak’s regime was overthrown, indicative of confidence in Egypt’s potential. Nevertheless, the country’s turbulent environment is having a direct impact on some parts of the Egyptian petrochemicals industry. In addition, Egypt's near-term growth outlook remains weak and political uncertainty will undermine fixed investment and the global economic downturn will weigh on exports, but household and government spending are expected to outperform, helping to sustain domestic petrochemicals consumption.
Aside from the country’s political risks, over the long term, BMI believes that Egypt is ripe for investment in petrochemicals, due to the potential inherent in the domestic market, the country’s trade relations with other markets in Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe and the scale of its upstream resources. Egypt’s polypropylene (PP) market was estimated at 400,000 tonnes in 2011, with domestic production meeting less than half of demand. BMI forecasts 5-7% growth per annum between 2011 and 2016, pushing demand up to 550,000 tonnes by the end of the period. However, planned capacity increases will be insufficient to cover domestic demand and at least half Egypt’s PP requirement will have to be imported.
Other projects include the Egyptian Ethylene and Derivatives Company (Ethydco) with capacities of 460,000tpa ethylene and 20,000tpa butadiene which is scheduled for start-up in 2015. Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals (Sidpec) is planning to build a 460,000tpa ethylene plant in Egypt, which will take three years to complete. In 2015, Carbon Holdings is planning to bring onstream a polyethylene (PE) complex – with capacities of 900,000tpa ethylene, 400,000tpa propylene – and three PE plants, each designed for 450,000tpa – one high density polyethylene (HDPE) and the other two will be HDPE/ linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) swing units. Other areas of expansion in Egypt include styrenics, polyester, polyethylene, methanol and fertilisers.
In the Middle East and Africa Petrochemicals Risk/Reward Ratings (RRRs), Egypt is ranked ninth with 44.5 points. It lies 4.0 points behind Turkey and 5.3 points ahead of Algeria. The score has downside risks, owing to the uncertain political environment following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Protests have temporarily closed petrochemicals facilities and continued uncertainty could put potential investment at risk, as well as growth in output. However, growth in capacity should remain stable, making Egypt more self-sufficient in petrochemicals and turning it into a net exporter in some segments.
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