From World No 1 supplier of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Eastman Chemical Co. seems on the verge of exit from the business. The company’s performance polymers business has been a non performer for the past 4-5 years and has drawn on earnings from other performing sectors of the company. A total loss of US$62 mln was recorded in 2009, of which over 50% was seen in Q4 alone.
Over the years, the company has been putting in efforts to reduce its PET business, with the sale of PET plants in Spain, Rotterdam, Mexico, Argentina and Workington, England. With these shutdowns, the company has been left with just one PET plant in Columbia, where it has pumped in sizeable amounts to boost the business. In 2004, the company announced it had discovered breakthrough - IntegRex technology to produce PET and invested US$100 mln to construct a new plant and supporting infrastructure at the Columbia site. The IntegRex technology was expected to produce PET more efficiently to meet growing demand, but was shrouded by operational challenges. In December, the company temporarily shut down the South Carolina plant in hopes of fixing the problems, that has now been restarted.