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Dow CFO says global operations can mitigate US-China trade war risks

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Dow CFO says global operations can mitigate US-China trade war risks

Houston β€” Chemical giant DowDuPont does not expect tariffs imposed amid simmering trade tensions between the US and China to have a notable effect on its businesses during the fourth quarter, CFO Howard Ungerleider said Thursday.

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"This is due to our global asset base, our local presence in markets around the world and proactive mitigation actions we have been taking," he said during the company's quarterly earnings call.

The US has imposed $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports, prompting China to retaliate with $110 billion in tariffs on US products. The second and third rounds of those tariffs were petrochemical-heavy from both sides. In the August round, China's tariffs on US products included two grades of polyethylene that make up more than 90% of 10.8 million mt in new publicly announced US PE production starting up, under construction or planned from 2017 through 2027. All or most of that new output is targeted for export, and Asia -- led by China and India -- has the most demand growth.

The two grades of PE -- resin used to make the most sought after plastics in the world -- are high density and linear low density PE. HDPE is used to make milk jugs, grocery bags and detergent bottles, while LLDPE's uses include pliable plastic films and packaging. A third grade, low density PE, is similar to HDPE and is used to make plastic bags, juice boxes, wiring insulation and containers.

More than 32% of that new and planned output started up last year and in early 2018, including two Dow facilities -- a 400,000 mt/year LLDPE plant at the company's Freeport, Texas, complex, and a 350,000 LDPE plant in Plaquemine, Louisiana. Dow also is planning 600,000 mt/year in expanded PE capacity along the US Gulf Coast via expansions and debottlenecking projects in the 2020s,but the company has not specified the grade or grades.

However, Dow, like other multinational chemical manufacturers with global operations, can help supply China's PE needs with output from non-US sources, such as its Sadara joint venture with Saudi Aramco in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. The 26 plants in the Sadara complex include all three PE grades, supporting Dow's strategy to supply the Asia Pacific region as well as the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

"Our China sales across the DowDuPont portfolio were up 18% and very strong," CEO Edward Breen said for the third quarter.

--Kristen Hays,

--Edited by Pankti Mehta,