Dow Chemical Case
Polyethylene is the world’s most widely used plastic. Polyethylene plastic’s principal application was in packaging, from trash bags to milk jugs. It was widely used in the manufacture of everything from trash bags, picnic cutlery and garbage pails, to plastic toys. Polyethylene also replaced glass, wood, and metal in certain applications.
There were three types of polyethylene, Low-density polyethylene, High density polyethylene and Low linear density polyethylene. Polyethylene produced from ethylene. Ethylene is produced from oil or natural gas. Ethylene plants separated either naphtha molecules (derived from crude oil) or ethane molecules (derived from natural gas). The ethylene derived from this process was used to produce polyethylene.
The critical success factors in this business were capital intensive and economies of scale. Polyethylene was a global commodity product and pricing worldwide typically fell into a narrow band. The demand for polyethylene was large because it was the world’s most widely used plastic and polyethylene customers were typically small and medium-sized plastic processing companies.
The big Risks in the industry:
* The raw material risk - Cracking naphtha (the raw material derived from crude oil) required much more energy, manufacturing intensity, and equipment than cracking ethane (derived from natural gas). Supply of primary materials and electricity are crucial to success of polyethylene production. * Cost risk - large plant sizes and the need for economies of scale rendered the ethylene industry highly capital intensive. A plant for cracking ethane was estimated to hundreds of millions and the cost for a plant for cracking naphtha is double. Capacity additions or reductions could significantly affect balance of supply and demand, influencing capacity utilization rates, prices, and profit margins. * Ethylene profitability was tightly links to its global operating rate. The ethylene business links to oil companies, governments, pure chemical companies, conglomerates, private investors, and joint ventures. * Competition of polyethylene industry in Argentina and in the global market. The government operator was directly or indirectly financing capital – intensive ethylene plants in order to stimulate downstream business. Some of countries, the government contribute the investment. * The margins for producers of ethylene and first-order derivatives (mostly plastics) were highly correlated because the producers for them were highly integrated.
The stages of the project:
* Stage 1: involved taking control of PBB, which comprised the ethylene cracker and polyethylene plant, and then upgrading the facilities in order to make them internationally competitive * Stage 2: involved acquiring Polisur’s two polyethylene plants * Stage 3: involved building a new ethylene cracker and a polyethylene plant
These three stages are closely related to each other. The next stage would be reached only if the previous stages achieved, and the followed stages ensure the success of the previous stages. Acquiring PBB offers Dow the opportunity to enter Argentina market, and this is the first step for Dow to take over control of Bahia Blanca’s polyethylene activities. Dow is bidding not only for PBB in the privatization, but also an overall plan for the development of Dow’s polyethylene business in Argentina. Dow will decide on the price to bid for PBB in the upcoming privatization, the price is based on the valuation of the entire project (stage 1, 2 and 3). The three stages are one big project. Dow’s bid for PBB should not be based solely on the value of Stage 1 of the project. Gaining control of PBB would be the first step in the project. But taking all the factors discussed above into consideration, Dow should value all the 3 stages in order to bid on the PBB project. Dow believed that it had the opportunity to become the...
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