Portuguese PTA producer goes bust

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An ailing European PTA producer, originally set up by the failed Spanish PET packaging group La Seda de Barcelona (LSB), has been declared insolvent with debts reportedly totalling almost €628m.

The Portuguese company, which has had a chequered history of on-off operation since it was created to produce PTA, the PET polymer intermediate, in Portugal in 2006, was ordered into insolvency last month by a Lisbon regional court.

Two years ago, after LSB went into liquidation in January 2014, Artlant was the subject of a Special Revitalisation Process (PER), approved by its creditors. This mechanism aims to facilitate negotiation between indebted companies in financial difficulty and their creditors to avoid the firms entering insolvency.

However, the latest court ruling follows an insolvency petition filed against Artlant by the Portuguese plant construction company Sociedade de Montajes Metalomecânicas. SMM led the consortium that built the firm’s 700,000tpa capacity PTA plant at Sines, Portugal and is claiming nearly €230,000 from Artlant.

A published provisional list of Artlant creditors includes government agencies and identifies the state banking corporation Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) as the leading creditor with a claim of over €520m.

Other creditors listed include Portugal’s government investment and foreign trade agency AICEP; Portuguese water utility company Águas de Santo André and Mediterranean Shipping Company Logistics in Sines. A deadline of 30 days has been reportedly set for processing of the credit claims.

Originally, the €400m Artlant plant project, launched in 2008, was aimed at covering a 500,000 tpa PTA supply shortfall in Europe, previously being picked up by Asian imports. The company, formerly called Artenius Sines, was due to create 400 jobs there. With a strategic location on the Portuguese coast, the unit was expected to export up to 95% of output to markets in Africa, the Middle East, India and Brazil.

Financial difficulties at LSB meant construction was suspended for several months but the troubled group managed to secure a new financing deal establishing a new capital structure for the project to allow the plant to be completed.

In 2010, LSB cut its holding in the scheme to 41% with several Portuguese investment funds providing the remainder of the capital. The plant only started producing PTA in March 2012 but the unit closed down in April 2014 faced with weak demand and the LSB bankruptcy.

A restart was delayed several times in early 2015 after negotiations with LSB shareholders failed to agree on the plan. 

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