KONSTANZ, Germany - Despite the debt crisis and an expected cooling down of the economy, the chemical and plastic industries are optimistic, that according to a new survey by Ceresana Research. The majority of the companies interviewed by Ceresana Research were able to increase their production volume in the last six months. However, many companies are expecting increased pressure on their profit margins due to rising costs of commodities, transport and energy. Treasury instruments might be able to curb this trend and provide companies with more reliability in planning. Furthermore, companies need to increase their share of bio-based products. 

The chemical and plastic industries continue to be optimistic, with 43 percent of the survey participants expecting their business situation to improve within the next six to 12 months. On all continents, there are more respondents that expect their business situation to improve than to worsen. Expectations are above the average, especially in North America and Asia-Pacific. 

Many companies responded that they did not plan on changing their number of employees at home and abroad. However, about 29 percent expect their number of employees to increase at home, and 16 percent anticipate a decline in the number of staff abroad. This results from the increasing production volumes seen during past months. Most companies are satisfied with their capacity utilization. More than one company in four has a utilization of 70 to 80 percent at home. 

The survey results revealed that 46 percent of the companies consider the amount of taxes and fees in their country as too high. In Eastern Europe, 61 percent of the respondents evaluated the level of taxes and fees as poor, followed by North America (52 percent), Asia-Pacific (45 percent) and Western Europe (40 percent). 

The volatility of exchange rates and regulation/stabilization of financial markets have been rated similarly, with 17 percent of the respondents evaluating the access to financing and lending policies of banks in their home country as good. 

More than half of the surveyed companies assess the stability and level of raw material, transportation and energy prices in their country as poor, while only about one company in ten evaluates these aspects as good. An interesting finding was that over 70 percent of the respondents from Eastern Europe and North America evaluate the stability and level of raw material, transportation and energy prices in their respective country as good. 

A different picture emerges when looking at the supply and availability of raw materials and energy. About 29 percent assessed supply and availability in their country as good; about half of respondents evaluated them as satisfying. 

In the survey, 45 percent of the respondents evaluated their liquidity position as good. In Western Europe, more than one company in two is satisfied with its liquidity position. 

More than 47 percent of the survey participants from Western Europe and 47 percent from North America evaluate their financing possibilities as good. Companies rate their profitability as well as efficient use of resources and energy management less positively. 

More than one company in two believes to have good customer relationship management, with 61 percent of the respondents from Western Europe evaluating their customer relationship management as good, followed by North America at 52 percent. Furthermore, more than one third are satisfied with the share of new products in their portfolio. Most companies see a need for action in expanding their range of bio-based and biodegradable products. 

The Ceresana Industry Monitor (CMI) indicates that the chemical industry is mostly optimistic about the second quarter 2012. The current situation of the companies is at 13.9 CMI points. The expectations, at 15.2 CMI points, are even slightly better. The average of these two figures results in the business climate, which achieves 14.5 CMI points. This is above the positive value seen in the previous winter survey (10.8 CMI points). 

The CIM analyzes the business climate of the global chemical and plastic industries. Individuals selected from a pool of more than 110,000 companies are asked to participate in surveys every three months. The survey was answered by decision makers from 52 countries. 

In order to provide a representative overall picture, companies of all sizes were asked about their current business situation, expectations and evaluations. 

The detailed results can be obtained from Ceresana Research. Visit www.ceresana.com/en/cimfor additional information.