This issue of PCI contains the 17th annual listing of top coatings manufacturers for 2008, both globally and in North America. Surprisingly not all that much changed from 2007, and the declines were not as severe as could have been expected given the global economic distress.

The 2008 top four global leaders remained the same as in ‘07. However the number 1 and 2 positions – AkzoNobel and PPG – jumped significantly ahead of the pack due to their respective acquisitions of ICI and SigmaKalon Group, both of whom had been top 10 global players. DuPont and Sherwin Williams (third and forth in global position) showed basically no growth in the past year, but given the economic climate they did not post declines. BASF and Valspar gained in global positioning (5 and 6 respectively) due to the ICI acquisition, with Valspar showing modest growth in 2008. RPM also reflected modest gains in ’08. Rounding out the top 10 global players are Kansai, Nippon and Jotun.

The North American snapshot included many of the same players, with the addition of Behr, Comex, Benjamin Moore and Ennis Paint in the top groupings. Again we see modest gains and losses – basically not much growth for the industry overall either domestically or globally. But again this picture is not as bad as it could have been.

The May 18th issue of C&EN showed first-quarter results for the chemical industry leaders; this group includes most of the coatings industry supplier community. Again sales and earnings slumped big time, but most companies made small profits by cutting costs. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, a lot of cost cutting is in R&D – our hope for the future is in R&D. There were some unfortunate bankruptcy filings, most notably Tronox, LyondellBasell and Chemtura. And of course Rohm & Haas and Hercules were both acquired.

Weak demand continues to take its toll on the chemical industry. There seem to be glimmers of confidence for both the automotive (depending on the company and your view point) and construction industries, but again it changes on a weekly basis. The current GM plant closings will obviously have a trickle-down effect on the automotive supplier community, and these effects will be noted in the future. Perhaps the current market resurgence – at least as of this writing – will stimulate confidence in both the automotive and construction sectors. The home architectural market usually realizes strong spring and summer sales as people tend to redecorate and spruce up. This could help offset some market loss in other sectors. Think positively folks – hopefully we are starting on the upswing.