Chemicals group Dow is to begin a restructuring programme that will mean more than 2000 job losses. Where the cuts will bite won’t be clear for several months, but the 6% reduction in its workforce – together with closing some uncompetitive plants – is expected to save $300 million (£235 million) annually. Chief executive Jim Fitterling said the cuts had to be made to ‘maintain competiveness while the economic recovery gains traction’.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has driven strong growth in demand for its polymers in flexible food, industrial and consumer packaging, as well as in health and hygiene applications, that was offset by reduced demand for the higher margin functional polymers used in vehicles and construction. Sales of polyurethanes and construction chemicals fell 28%, and performance materials and coatings were down 21% in the second quarter, compared to the same period in 2019.
Reporting second quarter net losses of $225 million, Fitterling said the company expected ‘a gradual and uneven recovery’. It has restarted three polyethylene plants that were temporarily closed, although two elastomer facilities in the US remain idle.
Later this week, other major chemicals companies will reveal how they’ve fared in the second quarter. Financial services firm S&P Global says that in north America, ‘the timing and extent of a recovery is still murky’. It expects an increase in activity in the automotive and construction sectors to contribute to a recovery in demand for chemicals.