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New Asian Team

Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical and China's Sinopec will join forces in petrochemicals.

by Jean-François Tremblay
April 20, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 16

Facing dismal prospects for its petrochemical business in Japan, Mitsubishi Chemical has reached an agreement in principle to team up with China's oil and petrochemical giant, Sinopec.

The two companies have released few details concerning their new partnership. But they envisage that it will involve joint research projects, new joint ventures, sharing raw materials and logistics, and exchanging personnel. Mitsubishi says the agreement represents "a new business model" for building a chemical business in Asia.

Japan's petrochemical market has been stagnating for several years, and the global economic crisis has stepped up the pressure on Japanese firms to restructure.

In February, Mitsubishi announced that it would stop producing purified terephthalic acid in Japan and move management of the business to Singapore. Mitsubishi also produces this polyester raw material in Indonesia, China, South Korea, and India. Earlier this month, Mitsui Chemicals and Sumitomo Chemical said that they would stop making polystyrene in Japan.

Sinopec and Mitsubishi have had numerous business relationships in past decades. In the 1970s, the Japanese firm licensed processes for making ethylene and polyethylene to Shanghai Petrochemical, a Sinopec company. The two have had a joint venture for automotive compounds for more than a decade. Sinopec and Mitsubishi are gearing up to form another venture to produce bisphenol A and polycarbonate in China.

A Mitsubishi spokesman tells C&EN that even though the details of the new partnership are still sketchy, it may help Mitsubishi source p-xylene from Sinopec, for example, or develop organic photovoltaic modules more efficiently.


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