Westlake and Huntsman post solid growth

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HOUSTON (Feb. 23, 12:50 p.m. ET) — Plastics-related businesses at Westlake Chemical Corp. and Huntsman Corp. each posted solid growth in 2011.

Houston-based Westlake saw its annual sales total grow 14 percent to more than $3.6 billion. The firm also saw profit jump almost 17 percent to almost $260 million. Westlake’s olefins unit – including low density polyethylene and ethylene feedstock – accounted for about 71 percent of the firm’s sales in 2011, with the remainder coming from its vinyls unit, which includes PVC resin and pipe.

Olefins sales grew almost 14 percent, with Vinyls sales increasing almost 16 percent. Operating income for Olefins roughly was flat at around $460 million, while Vinyls operating income swung to $4 million after posting an operating loss of more than $62 million in 2010.

In a recent news release, Westlake officials said that Olefins operating income was flat because higher PE and styrene sale prices were mostly offset by higher feedstock costs. They added that the improvement in Vinyls operating income resulted from improved margins in PVC resin and building products and higher PVC resin sales volume. That unit includes North American Pipe Corp., which ranked as North America’s sixth-largest maker of pipe, profile and tubing in a recent Plastics News ranking, with annual sales of $545 million.

Westlake is in the midst of a takeover battle with competitor Georgia Gulf Corp. Atlanta-based Georgia Gulf has rebuffed two offers from Westlake so far, with the most recent offer valuing Georgia Gulf at $1.2 billion.

At Huntsman in The Woodlands, Texas, polyurethane sales soared 23 percent to more than $4.4 billion. The unit’s pretax profit also rocketed almost 50 percent to $476 million. PU ranked as the largest of Huntsman’s five operating units in 2011, bringing in almost 40 percent of total sales.

Huntsman’s overall sales for 2011 grew 21 percent to more than $11.2 billion, with profit mushrooming from $32 million in 2010 to $254 million last year.

Per-share stock prices at both firms have fared well since the start of 2012. Westlake’s per-share stock price has grown 44 percent since Jan. 1 to just over $58 in late trading Feb. 22. In that same period, Huntsman’s price has jumped 33 percent to $13.35.

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