Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), one of the worlds biggest petrochemicals producers, is looking to turn its business around amid an extended earnings slump by controlling costs and spinning off some of its assets.
To go back into our growth in profitability, this needs to come from growth strategies, news agency Reuters quoted Sabics acting chief executive Yousef Abdullah al-Benyan Benyan as saying.
Cost-cutting through greater efficiencies and the sale of subsidiaries outside of the Kingdom, which are not performing well would be a vital part in turning round the companys performance, Al-Benyan said.
Our biggest cost cutting will come from some of the assets that we will let go, so by end of this year we will see exactly what we are going to target, Al-Benyan said. More clarity is expected by the end of the year on its efforts to turn around its Ibn Rushd plastics and aromatics unit, for which the company booked impairments worth SR741m ($176m) in the first half of 2016.
Sabic, like many other petrochemical producers in the kingdom, has benefited from subsidised gas feedstock prices which gave them an edge over the competitors from non-energy producing countries. However, the costs will rise for the producers in Saudi Arabia as the government adjusts energy and gas prices and withdraws electricity subsidies as part of the broader economic reforms.
The companys revenues and profits are dependent on oil prices and global economic growth, as its products, including plastics, fertilisers and metals, are used extensively in construction, agriculture, industry and the manufacture of consumer goods.
It has reported eight successive quarters of decline in profitability since oil prices have dropped from the peak of mid-2014.
Sabics second-quarter net income slid 23 per cent as declining prices of its product continued to weigh on earnings. Sabic reported a net income of SR4.74bn ($1.26bn) for three months ending 30 June, which compares with SR6.17bn for the similar period in 2015, the company last week revealed in a filing to Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), where its shares are traded.
In recent months, the petrochemicals company has made a push to expand its business as its looks to enter new territories.
The company is studying the joint development of a petrochemicals complex on the Gulf Coast of the US with an affiliate of Exxon Mobil Corporation. The potential petrochemical complex would also include an ethylene production unit, which will supply ethylene to other units to produce ethylene derivatives, Sabic announced in a separate bourse filing last week. The company has not provided details on when the study will be concluded and what could be the potential size of investment required to develop the project.
In May, the company also signed an agreement with Chinas Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group, which could lead to a complex being built in China. Sabics potential Chinese venture will be a greenfield petrochemicals complex located in the Ningxia Hui region of China, and its counterpart for the scheme is a unit of Shenhua Group Corporation.
In Saudi Arabia, Sabic recently announced signing an agreement with state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to develop its first crude oil-to-chemicals complex in the kingdom. The study is expected to be completed in early next year and will determine the overall cost of the scheme, although Sabic has previously said its own OTC complex at Yanbu could cost as much as $30bn.
The company is now studying the possibilities to grow its specialties unit, which produces resins and composite materials and is seen as less vulnerable to market conditions. Currently around 5 per cent of its total business, Benyan said it could increase to around 15 to 20 per cent, although a decision was unlikely before the fourth quarter of this year.
Sabic is also looking at new feedstock sources, such as US shale gas, to counter a gas supply shortage in the kingdom.