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PETALING JAYA: The increase in product prices following the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in March helped to cushion the impact of lower production and sales volume for Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd (PetChem) in the second quarter of 2022 (2Q22), says managing director and CEO Mohd Yusri Mohamed Yusof.

The petrochemicals group reported a net profit of RM1.87bil in the second quarter ended June 30, 2022, which was little changed from the previous corresponding quarter.

Earnings per share was unchanged from a year earlier at 23 sen.

Revenue in the quarter under review rose to RM6.58bil from RM5.61bil in the comparative quarter due to the higher product prices, driven mainly by higher crude oil and natural gas prices following the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

In line with the performance, the board of directors declared an interim dividend of 25 sen a share amounting to RM2bil, the group’s highest dividend payout to date.

In a statement, Mohd Yusri said the group undertook scheduled plant turnaround activities in its fertiliser plant in Sipitang, Sabah, and methanol plant in Labuan.

Following the completion of the plant turnarounds in the first half of this year (1H22), he expects plant utilisation rates to be above 90% in 2H22.

On the group’s outlook, he noted that rising feedstock and operational costs coupled with the China lockdowns have weakened demand for product prices, particularly for downstream chemicals products.

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“The prices of olefins and derivatives are expected to stabilise with demand recovery following the easing of restrictions in China, ahead of year-end re-stocking activities.

“Urea prices have seen some correction but are likely to remain high compared to historical price levels,” he said.

Mohd Yusri also said commissioning activities at the Pengerang Integrated Complex have progressed since May and the start-up of the petrochemical facilities have commenced in phases since July.

On other growth projects, the construction of the nitrile butadiene latex plant in Pengerang and the speciality ethoxylates and polyols in Kerteh are also progressing ahead of the scheduled operation date in 2H23.

He added the proposed acquisition of Perstorp Holdings AB is expected to be completed in early 4Q22.

“As a growth platform in our specialty chemicals portfolio, Perstorp will enhance PetChem’s long-term performance and value.

“We believe the acquisition will future proof our business against market cyclicality and volatility as well as to progress in a transformational shift towards a net-zero carbon emission future,” he said.

Last week, Macquarie reinstated its coverage on the group, with an “outperform” recommendation.

The global bank’s research unit had cited PetChem’s upcoming earnings announcement as one of the stock’s catalysts.

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