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DuPont sues Bemax over TiO2 contracts
World’s largest pigment producer begins legal proceedings against Australian TiO2 feedstock supplier over “breach of contract” by Simon Moores, Senior Assistant Editor

USA based DuPont, the world’s leading TiO2 pigment producer, has begun legal proceedings against its one of its major TiO2 feedstock suppliers, Bemax Resources Ltd over what it claims is “breach of contract”.
Bemax supplies leucoxene, ilmenite and rutile to DuPont for processing into TiO2 pigments. But a falling out over contracts for these minerals has come to a head in the past month, and has now been taken to the District Court of Delaware, USA.
Only a few months ago Bemax was taken over by DuPont’s biggest competitor National Titanium Dioxide Co. of Saudi Arabia (Cristal).
DuPont explained to IM, however, that it is suing its supplier “over breach of contract as Bemax has stated it will not fulfil all of its obligations”. The company could not comment further owing to the legal situation.
A similar line came from Bemax’s general council and company secretary Karen Hauff, explaining that the dispute is over “the existing supply contracts”.
She said: “DuPont has issued proceedings against Bemax and its subsidiaries in the District Court of Delaware regarding issues arising under the existing supply contracts between Bemax’s subsidiaries and DuPont.”
“The terms of those supply contracts are confidential and the complaint that was filed in the court by DuPont has been sealed. Accordingly, Bemax is not at liberty to comment on the nature of the claim and we otherwise have no comment at this stage.”

DuPont is understood to have long term supply deals with Bemax including an offtake of all leucoxene production from its Ginkgo ine, and the proposed napper mine through to 016; 25,000 tpa ilmenite rom Murray Basin through o 2011; and a rutile greement.

Cristal buys ITP
Meanwhile, Cristal has continued its steady trail of acquisitions by purchasing US titanium derivatives producer International Titanium Powder LLC (ITP). The deal sees Cristal’s expansion into the Ti metals industry; ITP’s focus is Ti alloy powders, although it does produce a small amount of TiO2 pigment.
Robert Daniels, vice president Cristal US’ titanium metals division, will lead the ITP business. He explained: “Now that we have completed the acquisition of ITP, Cristal Global will leverage its position from titanium feedstock through to titanium metal, titanium dioxide and various other intermediates and specialty titanium-based products”

Bemax production forecasts

Bemax is expecting additional production from new projects in the Murray Basin – stage II (including Snapper) for 2009, with stage III and IV planned for the coming years. Courtesy Bemax

Tronox on brink of bankruptcy
World no.3 TiO2 pigment producer considers bankruptcy as NYSE listing threatened

On the surface, times for titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment demand are good. In Asia demand is “historically high”, with double-digit growth in China and South Korea, and solid demand (although trends have softened of late) in North America. But all is not what it seems.
USA based Tronox Inc. finds itself experiencing hard times - now commonplace in the industry - including: considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy and facing removal from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), while battling environmental accusations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – with the possibility of a $280m. bill that could alone sink the company.
On these points Tronox could not comment at the time of press. Debbie Schramm, director of investor relations and communications told IM: “Until we have a decision regarding the strategic alternatives we are evaluating to improve the business, we will not be able to [comment].”
The following points are the key factors leaving the world’s third largest TiO2 producer, with a total output of around 650,000 tpa, battling for survival.

The next Chapter
It has not been a good year for the majority of minsands (TiO2 feedstock) miners or TiO2 pigment producers.
At the 19th Industrial Minerals International Congress & Exhibition (IM19), March 2008, Athens, warnings over the state of the industry were fired by David McCoy of Australia minsands analysts, TZMI, and TiO2 consultant, Reg Adams of UK based Artikol Ltd. Adams described the industry as “sick” and called for change.
During the second half of this year IM19 forecasts have been realised for a number of players, including Tronox.
Tronox has called the present economic situation – before the financial crash of early October 2008 – as “the most challenging business environment our company has faced”.

Not all white: Tronox’s Savannah plant produces TiO2 through the chloride process, but for how long? Courtesy Tronox

The company stated in its filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): “While we continue to make strides against difficult conditions, there is no assurance that we will be successful in pursuing alternatives and options, or that the current price increases we are implementing will offset continuing cost increases and other factors that the company is unable to predict and that are beyond our control.”
“If we continue to experience negative impacts on our operations, the company may need to seek relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code”.

Struggle for viability
Significantly for Tronox, it is remaining very realistic with its expectations for a future. The company added: “Even if we are successful with one or more strategic alternatives, we may not be able to fully address our many ongoing challenges and to maintain financial viability.”
The bottom line for pigment producers is the price of their product – TiO2 – is not selling for enough. The cost to manufacture the pigment – through either the chloride or sulphate route – intensively uses minerals (ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene), acids and energy, all of which are significantly rising in cost.
Dwindling profits have also been a characteristic of minsands producers of late. This has led to finger pointing at the paint industry, which many in the market chain believe is enjoying the lion’s share of the profits.

Historical environmental claims
A thorn in Tronox’s side for many years now has been environmental claims dating back over 30 years. At present, Tronox is battling a $280m. lawsuit from the EPA which claims it is responsible for ground contamination caused by a New Jersey wood treatment plant in the 1960s.
In 2006, the EPA told Tronox the cleanup would cost $244m. but it would settle for $239m. Tronox rejected the claims out of hand. The matter is still in court with the cleanup cost rising to $280m.
There is sympathy for Tronox which appears to have taken responsibility for actions of its previous owners. Industry commentators have said its previous owner, Kerr McGee Chemical LLC, is responsible, with others suggesting more historical parent companies should shoulder the blame.
What is clear among all the legal wrangling is that Tronox is in the firing line and if found responsible, the $280m. bill alone could force it into bankruptcy.
Another point for consideration is the position of Kerr McGee’s new parent, Texas based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. When Kerr McGee and Tronox parted ways, $100m. was paid to Tronox for any environmental remediation costs under a Master Separation Agreement.
If Tronox goes into bankruptcy, Anadarko could be exposed to a number of claims including the New Jersey $280m. case. Will Anadarko keep Tronox afloat to protect it from claims? Past examples suggest this is not a viable option. For Tronox, the focus is on bringing profit back to its business through the TiO2 as soon as possible.

Strandlines Editor: Simon Moores

DuPont судится с Bemax из-за договоров, касающихся диоксида титана
Крупнейший в мире производитель пигментов инициирует судебную тяжбу против австралийского поставщика сырья для производства диоксида титана в связи с «нарушением договора» (автор – Саймон Мурз, старший помощник редактора)

Компания DuPont (США), ведущий мировой производитель пигмента диоксида титана, инициировала судебную тяжбу против одного из своих крупнейших поставщиков сырья для производства диоксида титана, компании Bemax Resources Ltd, обвиняя ее в «нарушении условий договора».
Bemax поставляет компании DuPont лейкоксен, ильменит и рутил для их дальнейшей переработки в пигменты диоксида титана. Но в прошлом месяце конфликт из-за договоров на поставку этих минералов достиг критической стадии, и сейчас это дело рассматривает окружной суд штата Делавэр, США.
Всего несколько месяцев назад компания Bemax стала собственностью компании National Titanium Dioxide Co. (Cristal) из Саудовской Аравии, которая является крупнейшим конкурентом DuPont.
Впрочем, как сообщили журналу IM в компании DuPont, компания судится со своим поставщиком "из-за нарушения договора, поскольку компания Bemax заявила, что не будет выполнять все свои обязательства". Компания не смогла дать более подробный комментарий ввиду ее правового положения.
Подобное заявление поступило от Карэн Хауф, секретаря генерального совета и финансового директора компании Bemax, согласно которому спор возник из-за "существующих контрактов на поставку".
По ее словам, "Компания DuPont подала иск против компании Bemax и ее дочерних компаний в окружной суд штата Делавэр в связи с проблемами, возникшими в отношении существующих контрактов на поставку между дочерними компаниями Bemax и компанией DuPont".
"Условия этих контрактов на поставку являются конфиденциальной информацией, а поданное в суд компанией DuPont исковое заявление находится под запретом разглашения. Соответственно, Bemax не может комментировать характер поданной жалобы, и у нас нет других комментариев на данном этапе".