Chemical Sector Risk Analysis & Research

Stable growth driven by Asia-Pacific


3,800bn USD


MEDIUM RISK for entreprises

  • Fragmentation

  • Internationalization

  • Capital Intensity

  • Profitability

  • Innovative sector with upmarket positioning
  • Very diversified end markets softening the impact of external shocks on firms’ revenues
  • Sound operating profitability enabling chemical companies to cope with high capital requirements
  • Cyclicality
  • High capital intensity combined with high level of indebtedness
  • Poor public image in terms of environmental issues
  • Volatility in the agrochemical sector

What to Watch?

  • Turnaround in output on the back of an upturn in emerging markets demand
  • Impact of rising fossil fuel prices on feedstock costs, especially petrochemical
  • Level of R&D spend required  in order to support/expand margins
  • Sustained M&A activity  in intensifying battle for market share

Chemicals is a cyclical business closely to GDP as many chemical products are used up in early stages of the manufacturing supply chain. Upstream chemicals like petrochemicals usually depend upon the dynamics of their respective main end market (e.g. manufacturing) while downstream chemicals like cosmetics are driven by on big trends in consumer spending.

Driven by global economic growth and pass-through of rising naphtha prices onto downstream chemical product prices, global chemical sales went up by 9% y/y in 2017, to reach USD3.8tn. We expect continued sales growth around 6%-8% (CAGR 2018-19).

European chemical players closed the margin gap to US peers due to a focus on specialties enjoying higher margins; yet the sustained economic growth across Asia (particularly China) and in the U.S. is the prime volume and price driver. Only agrochemicals may continue to face headwinds, from weak crop prices which have led to revenue decline in farming as the most important end market.

Basic chemicals: It has a close relationship with the cycle of industrial production as its products are used further down the supply chain 

Soaps, detergents, cosmetics: All attached to chemical products, they are affected by trends in consumer spending 

Agrochemicals: It is closely tied to global food prices and to farming revenues


Key players

Country Role Sector risk
United States

#2 importer

#2 producer

#1 exporter


Low risk


#2 exporter

#4 producer


Low risk


#1 producer

#1 importer


Medium risk

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These assessments are, as always, subject to the disclaimer provided below.


This material is published by Euler Hermes SA, a Company of Allianz, for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by Euler Hermes and Euler Hermes makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of the Euler Hermes Economics Department, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Euler Hermes SA is authorised and regulated by the Financial Markets Authority of France. 


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