The downstream petrochemical industries have shown strong performance these last few months despite the downturn in the economy and SET-listed Polyplex (Thailand) Plc (PTL), an integral part of Polyplex Corporation Ltd which is the world's fifth largest producer of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film, is one such company.
PTL has generated steady growth over the last several years, well before the pandemic knocked the global economy off course earlier this year.
Unlike other businesses which are badly hit, Covid-19 outbreak does not pose a significant challenge to the PET film industry.
The crisis has conversely led to a surge in demand for consumer staples, and consequently there has been a growth in demand for PTL’s thin PET film specifically when it comes to flexible packaging for foods and other goods due to the added reliance on plastic barrier properties, according to PTL Managing Director Amit Prakash.
This robust global demand for PET film has translated into strong sales records for PTL and has further fueled capacity utilization which has consistently outperformed the industry’s capacity utilisation factor (CUF) prior to the outbreak.
Polyplex lines have consistently operated at full capacity, with the ability to place all production volumes in the market and this strong sales growth has helped the Indonesian facility to produce at full capacity from the very beginning.
The Rayong-based PTL, the flagship company of the PCL group based in India and parent company of the units in Indonesia, Turkey and the US, increased its consolidated sales volumes from 155,167 tonnes to 174,562 tonnes, a 12% increase in the financial year ending March 2020, compared to the previous financial year.
PTL’s sales revenues, however, dipped by 5% from the previous year, coming in at 14.05 billion baht largely due to the sharp decline in raw material prices and also the strengthening baht discounting the international operations which account for 65% of the revenues of the company.
On a normalised basis, PTL recorded a net profit of 1.8 billion baht in FY 19-20, almost the same as in FY 18-19.
The uptrend of the PET film industry as a whole is most likely to continue through the pandemic. During this abnormal market situation, PTL is well placed to continue its strong track record of performance.
Demand for thin PET film worldwide is basically driven by the consumption of food and retail sectors which are essential for daily living.
PTL saw a 30-40% spike in thin PET film demand over the last few months due to the surge in demand for flexible packaging through the global lockdown and resulted panic buying that occurred.
While this is likely to level off in the following few months, depending on the situation and continued response around the world, spikes may continue sporadically.
Prior to the pandemic, global demand for thin PET was expected to grow by an average of 6-8% annually and it is likely to return to that post pandemic.
The average growth rate of the demand for thick PET film in the world market will be 4-6% in the long run, though this is seeing a temporary contraction in the current scenario as the primary applications for this film is in the industrial and electronics segment which tends to be more discretionary in nature.
This is also likely to return to normal levels post pandemic alongside with the overall economic recovery.
In developing countries, growth is led by the increased purchasing power, and the changing lifestyles of people which have dramatically raised the volume of packaging usage per person.
As the per capita consumption of packaging material in developing countries is still very low compared to more mature markets, there is substantial room to grow further, according to Mr Prakash.
Developing country markets are likely to see robust growth in demand for flexible packaging due to faster shift from unpackaged to packaged products given concerns over hygiene.
There is also a rising global demand for PET film in the production of health, personal and hygiene related products such as face masks.
Thin and Thick PET films are very versatile products and there is constant innovation that allows for their use in new applications providing an ever-changing customer scenario.
Electrical appliances such as flat screen panels and photovoltaic (solar) cells have contributed to the continued strong demand for thick PET film.
PTL’s leadership position in the manufacturing and distribution of PET film in flexible packaging, its product mix of standard films and value-added films, its strong, stable and global customer base as well as its efficient supply chain and focus on innovation and expansion will help drive further growth.
As a group, PCL has continued to invest in new technology to extend its array of specialty products that respond to sophisticated market demands, enabling it to stay ahead of competitors.
PTL has earmarked CAPEX of about US$90-100 million to increase capacity and upgrade its production capabilities in Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey.
PT Polyplex Film Indonesia's $52 million new production line of Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene film (BOPP) is scheduled for commercial start-up in the first half of FY 2021-22.
Established in 2002 as the first international expansion of PCL, PTL's Thailand plant, located in Pruak Daeng District of Rayong has over time undergone a series of expansions with increased production capacity and new product offerings.
PTL quickly became the flagship company of the group and all future international investments in Turkey, the US and most recently in Indonesia have been subsidiaries of this entity.
Demand of PET film for soft packaging in South East Asian region is projected to grow by 5-7% a year.
Although PTL is not the largest manufacturer in terms of installed capacity, Mr Prakash said that the group has enjoyed the largest market share of PET films in the South East Asian region.