The plastics industry is a major driver of the Czech economy and its manufacturing base, and it is continuing to grow. It benefits from close ties to large downstream customers, especially the automotive, electronics, packaging and construction industry – all key players in the Czech Republic economy – and strong consumers of quality plastics. By Martina Marecková, in Prague
According to a report by the Czech ministry of industry and trade, the production of plastics in the Czech Republic will exceed 1.2 million tonnes in 2020. Of these, nearly half (47%) is sold to the automotive industry – domestic and otherwise – the Czech Technology Platform Plastics, an industry group, reported in September of last year. The second largest consumer of Czech-made plastics in the country is the electronics industry, which buys 25% of Czech plastics output. This is a marked difference from the rest of Europe, where packaging is the biggest plastics consumer (40%), followed by construction (20%), the automotive industry (8%), and then electronics (6%), said the platform’s report.
With such a solid customer base, the Czech plastics industry, which the Czech Statistical Office combines with the rubber industry when measuring output figures, has been expanding since 2009 – with output growing by 33% since then.
A slight slowdown in the second half of 2018 meant that Czech manufacturers of rubber and plastic in H2 2018 saw revenues fall to Czech Koruna CZK148.5 billion (E5.78 billion), a decrease of 0.8% compared to the second half of 2018, according to the statistical office. Industry experts are unsure whether this will continue into 2019, or not. That said, during that same period, the number of companies with 50 or more employees active in the sector reached 363, an increase of 3.4% year-on-year.
Surprisingly, given the importance of the Czech plastics industry, both in its own country and in Europe, the sector’s companies do not collaborate closely in a national industry association.
“The plastics industry is atomised,“ said Jaroslav Novák, chairman of the Czech Technology Platform Plastics. The result of this is that there is scant data about the industry as a national sector and there is no central database of Czech plastics enterprises. Moreover, Czech manufacturers do not participate intensively in European associations. Some of the most important plastic processing companies are members of the Czech Plastics Cluster (www.plastr.cz/en), however, with which the Czech Technology Platform Plastics cooperates.
A focus on commodities
According to the ministry of industry and trade, the Czech plastics industry mainly focuses on the following commodity types: polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (EPS). The majority of enterprises are part of multinational corporations.
Czech refinery and petrochemical group Unipetrol is one of the leading raw materials manufacturers in the country. Last year (2018), it reported revenues of CZK130.8 billion (€5 billion) – much of which came from non-plastic products, while net profits increased to CZK9 billion (E350 million), up 4% year-on-year. However, Unipetrol, which, since last October has been solely owned by Poland’s Polish PKN Orlen, has invested CZK7.9 billion (€307 million) in the construction of a new polyethylene unit and a new boiler house for the steam cracker at the site in Litvínov, North Bohemia. By building a new polyethylene unit Unipetrol is responding to globally growing demand for plastics in construction and packaging. The investment will double production capacity at this facility.
Other major basic polymers manufacturers in the Czech Republic include Synthos Kralupy and Spolana Neratovice, who are part of the country’s highly developed polymer processing industry, which operates alongside a strong rubber production sector. There are hundreds of smaller producers operating in these segments, although the statistical office does not have exact numbers of existing manufacturers.