2015 was a tough year from which to recover, and the process is not over. “The Latin American and Caribbean region’s GDP contracted by 0.4 percent in 2015, which translated into a 1.5 percent downturn in per capita GDP, the poorest performance since 2009,” opined Daniel Titelman, chief of the economic development division of Economic Development Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), in Santiago.
More optimistically, “We believe that we will see growth this year at moderate levels in Latin America varying by country, (although) economic indicators predict further contraction. Even though the economic conditions in Brazil remain challenging, PPG has seen growth within portions of our portfolio due, for example, to some of our competitors in the automotive refinish sector exiting the market,” said Tim Knavish, PPG senior vice president, automotive coatings, who also oversees PPG’s Latin America operations.
Matthew N. Winokur, the vice president of corporate affairs at Axalta Coating Systems, in Philadelphia, said “Reflecting our confidence in the long term prospects in the region, we continued to invest there. We hope to capitalize on opportunities in all the end-use markets we serve across the region.”
Major Players Report Varied Results
AkzoNobel’s CFO Maelys Castella said in an April earnings call that their “decorative paints business saw revenues decline 27 percent in Latin America to €101 million (about $114 million), during the first quarter of 2016.” The company reported in its 2015 annual report that “Performance Coatings revenue was up seven percent, driven by favorable price/mix and currencies. Volumes were down two percent across the segments, impacted by market developments in Brazil and ongoing spending declines in the global oil and gas industry.” Akzo-Nobel claims to lead the Latin American market for decorative paints, and suggests that the combined segments in the region represents about 10 percent of its global sales, which were €14.9 billion (about $16.8 billion) last year.
BASF reported in its third-quarter 2015 report that regional coatings sales were affected by “the depreciation of the Brazilian real, together with weaker demand (and) considerably reduced sales in the decorative paints business in Brazil. Earnings declined slightly, as South America observed lower volumes and negative currency effects in all business areas.”
BASF began the implementation of its 2025 Strategy - South America two years ago, with a sales target of €9 billion (about $10.2 billion) in South America. Since 2011, BASF will have invested €1.2 billion (about $1.4 billion) in infrastructure on the continent by 2017, including €500 million (about $565 million) for the construction of the Acrylic Complex in Camaçari, Bahia State.
PPG reported that during 2015, “Latin America sales volumes grew 3.5 percent year-over- year. In addition to the organic growth, acquisitions, led by Comex, added about 6.0 percent to net sales.”
RPM also reported lower sales in Latin America: “Out of $1.03 billion in global sales, Latin American sales were up 15 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Last year, sales were down 14 percent during the third quarter on similar sales,” the company annual report indicated.
Sherwin-Williams also suffered in the region last year because of “Unfavorable currency translation rate changes in the year, (which) decreased net sales by 19.3 percent for 2015…to $631 million,” the 2015 annual Sherwin-Williams report said. “Paint sales volume percentage decreased in the mid-single digits as compared to 2014.
In 2015, S-W’s Latin America Coatings Group opened 17 new stores and closed 2 locations for a net increase of 15 stores, increasing the total to 291 stores open in North and South America at year-end,” the Sherwin-Williams report said. “Sales in gallons from the Dedicated Dealer program grew 17.1 percent, as the program expanded by 86 new stores in 2015. The Group now has a total of 866 dedicated outlets in Latin America,” the report said.
Central America/Caribbean Growth Leaders
Compared to the larger economies, a broad collection of smaller country economies are doing relatively well in the region this year, led by the expected 6.2 percent GDP growth in Panama, due to open its rebuilt Panama Canal as soon as June. Similarly, both the Dominican Republic and Dominica are demonstrating 5.2 percent GDP growth, built out of strong tourism and rebounding manufacturing.
“Over the last two decades, the Dominican Republic has been standing out as one of the fastest economies in the Americas, with an average real GDP growth rate of 5.4 percent between 1992 and 2014,” Eclac reported. The Dominican Republic has become the primary hot spot in Caribbean tourism, and continues to grow as an export assembly site, sparking new housing and infrastructure construction. Exports from DR alone amounted to $9.6 billion last year. Foreign direct investment (FDI), meanwhile, is expected to average 4 percent of GDP this year, or close to $3 billion compared to the $67 billion economy.
To pursue the Central American/Caribbean market, PPG acquired Consorcio Latinoamericano in 2015, which operates a network of 60 paint stores in Central America. “At the end of 2015, architectural coatings-Americas…operated about 100 company-owned stores in Central America,” the annual report said. “The purchase enables PPG to leverage an extended stores network to grow the Glidden brand in Panama and offer additional PPG products to customers throughout the Central America region,” says Silvey. PPG operates company-owned paint stores across Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. The company also anticipates additional annual revenue synergies via the Comex acquisition of between $60 and $70 million in Central America by 2019, PPG’s annual report stated.
Axalta also is investing in the sub-region. “Axalta has also increased its ownership in Axalta Coating Systems CA, a joint venture, headquartered in Guatemala,” observed Winokur.
And Pintuco is expanding its 150-store base in Venezuela, Ecuador, the Antilles, Curacao and the Central American countries.
In Argentina, the expectation for paint and coatings growth beyond the predicted GDP increase of 0.8 percent this year is low. However, HSBC predicts that potential growth in GDP for 2017 could reach 3.5 percent. “We expect slightly positive growth in Argentina,” said Knavish. Others agreed: “Despite macro-economic headwinds in the region, our performance was solid in…Argentina,” Akzo-Nobel’s 2015 annual report stated.
Majors are continuing investment in Argentina. “We are nearing completion of a new manufacturing facility in Argentina which will produce coatings for OEMs, refinish and industrial customers,” says Winocur.
In November 2015, Fabián Gil, the new president of Dow Latin America, suggested that Argentina’s Bahia Blanca complex could become Dow’s third major polyethylene project, globally. Growth in Argentina’s gas and oil industry led to the award of a $55 million dollar contract for ShawCor, which expected to complete work earlier this year on anti-corrosion pipeline coatings for Tenaris, for its part in the Argentina Northeast Gas Pipeline (GNEA) project.
In contrast, in Brazil, the expectation for paint and coatings growth is minimal, given the expected GDP decrease of -2.0 percent this year, at least until recovery from impeachment takes place. Brazil’s paint and coatings industry is going through a third very tough year, unprecedented in recent history, reckons Dilson Ferreira, the executive president of the national manufacturer’s association Associacao das Fabricantes de Tintas, or Abrafati, in Sao Paulo. “Building and construction expects no recovery this year. The automotive industry anticipates that sales will remain the same as in 2015, far below the average for the past several years,” he reckoned.
The total volume of paint sold in Brazil was down 5.6 percent in 2015, with associated net revenues of $3.05 billion, significantly lower than 2014 value, due in substantial part to the depreciation of the Brazil’s currency, the real, which has plummeted 40 percent over the recent past.
Over the past year, AkzoNobel opened a new Expancel microsphere production line within its paint and coatings complex in Jundiaí, Sao Paulo State, with the aim of serving both the Brazilian and regional market demand.
Similarly, “In 2015, PPG completed a $40 million plant for on-site resin production at its Sumaré, São Paulo State, coatings manufacturing facility, which will help PPG to meet the demand of automotive and industrial customers with locally produced material,” said Knavish.
Another encouraging note for Brazilian industry is that during the coming year Abrafati’s annual paint and coatings show will move to a new, larger, more modern venue in 2017, supported by large investments by new show developer GL Events.
Colombia’s economy expanded by 3.1 percent last year, following 4.0 percent results for many years. Still, “We anticipate that activity in Colombia will likely be flat,” said Knavish.
Among other new developments in the market, “Axalta launched the second edition of the Axalta Color’s Partners Club in Colombia,” which it calls the first loyalty program in Latin America, Winocur said. This program is intended to share innovative techniques with hundreds of automotive refinishers in Colombia through training designed to help them strengthen their skills and capabilities.
On the company stores front, Pintuco set a goal of adding 35 Tienda Pintacasa Pintuco stores during 2015, increasing coverage to 57 cities in Colombia. The goal up to 2018 is to increase the store count to 300, according to statements by Jean Jeaques Thiriez, the general manager of Pintuco.
Similarly, DIY chain Sodimac Colombia, the country’s largest, is also investing in new stores. The company issued $160 million worth of shares in July 2015 to finance new investments. Among new facilities is a $25 million distribution center in Colombia, the company’s third. Sodimac now has 35 stores across the country.
In Mexico, the expectation for paint and coatings growth is beyond the expected GDP increase of 2.6 percent this year. Investments there are heating up.
“In April 2016, we opened an expanded resin production facility in Tlalnepantla, just outside of Mexico City, from which we will supply many of the leading automotive OEMs in Mexico among other customers,” noted Winocur. “At the manufacturing facility in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon State, we inaugurated a newly refurbished technology and R&D center for powder coatings in 2015,” he adds.
For PPG, “Mexico continues to be a strong market. In the first quarter, PPG sales were up approximately 5.0 percent in Mexico, in pesos,” he said. “We also completed a $27 million expansion of its San Juan del Rio, Queretaro State manufacturing facility in 2015. The additional capacity enables PPG to meet increasing demand for OEMs, packaging and industrial coatings customers in Mexico,” notes Knavish.
“PPG-Comex last year added 190 paint stores in Mexico. Today, we have more than 4,100 stores and we plan to add more than 160 stores this year. The PPG-Comex team has its highest store density in Central Mexico, while we are enhancing our presence in Southern and Northern Mexico with new store concepts,” Knavish explained.