Troubled JBF gets financial aid to restart Belgian PET plant

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Suspension of production at Geel in August further tightened PET supply in Europe

Indebted Indian polyester and packaging group JBF Industries has restarted production at its European PET plant in Geel, Belgium with financial help from Swiss distributor MB Barter & Trading SA.

Output at the facility was suspended this summer as JBF battled with financial problems. It considered selling off its 432,000tpa European PET operation along with other assets to settle its outstanding debts.

Group offshoot JBF RAK, based in the United Arab Emirates, was said to be in talks with potential buyers to dispose of the Geel plant, only opened in summer 2014, for up to €216m. Meanwhile, JBF predicted its suspended plant would reopen again within weeks.

Late last month (Oct), the Swiss trading house got involved, providing financial assistance to JBF and marketing the greater part of the Geel unit’s PET output.

“In the light of recent developments, we started to commercialise 80% of the output for November. (But) the plant is still in JBF’s ownership,” family-owned MB Barter was quoted by industry media as confirming.

The firm is understood also to be in partnership with British Petroleum (BP)’s partner Geel plant producing the PET intermediates purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and paraxylene (PX).

Apart from distribution, MB Barter of Zug, Switzerland is involved in the industry downstream operating two European plastics processing businesses in Germany.

Its companies, Re-Pack Folien GmbH. and MBT Polytapes GmbH., both located in Wickede, North Rhine Westphalia, manufacture a range of protective polyethylene films and sheet.

JBF’s facility at Geel is equipped with Uhde Inventa-Fischer’s ‘Melt-to-Resin’ (MTR) energy saving production technology and is integrated with its ‘Flakes-to-Resin’ bottle flake recycling process.

Suspension of production there in August has further tightened PET supply in Europe, already affected by other plant outages and along with rising feedstock costs led to increased market prices. Uncertainty remains over the future of the Belgian plant.

Since early this year, JBF has been negotiating the restructuring of its overall debt which amounted to about €457m with its lender banks. Apart from selling off parts of its foreign assets, the Mumbai-based group has considered asset and management restructuring.

In June, JBF RAK suspended production of PET resin at its 400,000tpa plant at Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE after it experienced a lack of working capital.  

Financial difficulties began to grow at JBF after a new group plant to produce PTA in Mangalore, India was delayed almost two years. That 1.25m tpa facility, due to cost around €504m, was originally planned to open back in 2015, but it was only finally commissioned early this year.

Following repeated delayed start dates, JBF said recently that a commercial production launch date is now scheduled for the end of March 2018. The plant’s PTA output is expected to supply the Indian group’s downstream PET operations.

In India, JBF Industries operates a 608,000tpa bottle and textile grade PET chips plant located at Sarigam in Gujarat state.  

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