Latin America Reports

DuPont Invests in TiO2 at Altamira

By Charles W. Thurston, Latin America Correspondent | June 9, 2011

A new $500 million plant will help shore up falling TiO2 supplies.

DuPont is making its largest investment in Latin America to date—$500 million—at its titanium dioxide production plant at Altamira, in Mexico’s Pacific coast Tamaulipas state. The new line is expected to add 200,000 metric tons of TiO2 by 2014.

While the work building a new production line there continues over the next few years, the company strategy for customers is increasing technological assistance to help them use less product, but better product, according to Paulo Vieira, the vice president for DuPont titanium technologies, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “No one can build up supplies in the delivery chain now; it is very tight,” he said.

The demand for more TiO2 in paint throughout Latin America, and other developing countries, has helped the industry recover from the global slump two years earlier than expected, Vieira said. Prices per metric ton recently have risen by approximately $500 to close to an average of about $3,000.

Feedstock for the Altamira plant will come from China, South Africa and other countries in Asia, but no product from Chile’s mines, now under development, are expected to be purchased over the near term, Vieira noted.

Last year, Brazil alone consumed 49,000 MT of TiO2, while Mexico, Central America and the Andean countries together consumed 108,000 MT, and the Southern Cone countries excluding Brazil consumed 192,000 MT, for a total regional demand of about 400,000 MT, DuPont estimates.

As disposable income in Latin America grows, the demand for higher-quality paint is rising quickly, as the demand for lower-quality paint rose over the earlier part of the past decade. Part of the credit for this increase in Brazil is the program now in place to certify the quality of all paint manufactured in the country, organized by Abrafati, the national paint association.

Per capita income in Latin America was estimated at over $11,100 last year, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook database. Among the countries with the highest per capita gross domestic product is Argentina, with more than $15,600, followed by Chile with nearly $15,000, and Mexico with nearly $14,300. Brazil’s per capita income is about $11,300.

This strong showing is the result of several years of economic expansion, which as a region was about 5.7 percent last year, and is expected to slow to a healthy 4.0 percent this year, IMF statistics indicate.

In the largest cities in the region, per capita income is rising more quickly than the national average. Projections by a PriceWaterhouse study on global city GDP rankings indicate that per capita income in Brasilia will rise to $31,600 by 2025, followed by $28,500 in Monterrey, $26,800 in Buenos Aires, $21,100 in Santiago, and over $20,000 in Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Guadalajara.