Pointing to “reason for optimism” over the remainder of the year, Clem reported that surcharges in Europe had came into full effect in the three months to 30 Sept, while competitive pressures had eased with a decline in Russian and Chinese carbon black imports into Orion’s markets.
“We were successful in implementing feedstock surcharges in Europe, partially offsetting the feedstock differential headwind experienced in 2015 and the first half of 2016,” said the CEO, adding that the surcharges had affected a “large majority” of Orion’s tire industry customers.
Orion also expects to benefit from the rationalisation of its European production network, with the closure of its 50 kilotonnes-per-annum plant in Ambes, France by the yearend.
Asked about the impact of the French closure on Orion’s production network: Clem said: “We will not be able to replace all of the volume… We have reorganised some of the portfolio mix as we go into 2017, moving some of the materials to other facilities.
"But there will be some of the lower-price... marginal material that we will not be able to make up in the production system in Europe."
Clem went on to comment that most of Orion’s facilities in Europe were currently “very, very close to maximum utilisation.”
In Asia, meanwhile, Orion is concentrating production in Korea at its Yeosu site: repurposing a tire-rubber carbon black line there and adding production from its plant in Bupyeong, which is to close by mid-2018.
The consolidation, said Clem, will help Orion to “effectively serve the domestic Korean market and other Asia-Pacific customers while supplementing supply to the rest of the world.
“This and a shift to capacity to specialty and technically demanding rubber products further supports our strategy of expanding our leadership and offering higher value products.”
With regard to China, Clem said that the market was being impacted both by US tariffs on tires and increasing environmental standards, which he said were “pushing some of the marginal players out at this point.”
In response, he said, Orion is focusing more on the mechanical rubber goods and speciality product areas.
Comments by Jack Clem sourced from Orion conference call transcript, supplied by Seeking Alpha.