Asian Market for Specialty Chemicals - Recognizing its Potential for Changing Dynamics of the Global Market

Published On : Jan 27, 2015

The specialty chemicals market offers attractive growth opportunities to the global chemicals market. Specialty chemicals are low-volume/high-value chemicals known and specifically developed for their end-use applications unlike commodity chemicals. The specialty chemicals industry provides the required solution for end-use application needs and is a highly knowledge-driven industry, with the raw material costs for these products being much less than those for commodity chemicals. 

Currently, the global specialty chemicals market is worth more than US$700 billion and accounts for nearly 20% of the overall global chemical industry.

While the market came to prominence in the developed world in the past years, the Asian market for specialty chemicals is today considered an important contributor to its current healthy state. As Asian countries like China, Japan, and India present an increasing set of growth opportunities for the global specialty chemicals market, international specialty chemicals manufacturers are setting their manufacturing units in these regions. The market share of this regional market in the overall market has increased at a sound pace, especially in the past decade. 

When China surpassed the U.S. in 2010 to become the world’s largest producer of chemicals, the Asian market became the hub of the global specialty chemicals market in real terms. The Asian specialty chemicals market held a 30% share of the global specialty chemicals market – worth US$450 billion – in 2010. Asia has a large and continuously rising pool of middle class population. Home to approximately 60% of the global population, Asia also has 30% of the world’s middle-class population. Analysts state that this will swell to become more than double of its current size (from 2.4 billion to nearly 4.8 billion) by 2030. 

Such a large pool of middle-class population, which also possesses an increased spending power owing to its rising disposable income, creates demand for an improved water treatment industry, an efficient agriculture industry for higher crop production, more consumer goods, electronics, and many other industries. As a result, the region has seen a tremendous surge in the level of industrialization for the past few decades. Rising industrialization consequently led to the rise of manufacturing industries in this region, relating directly to good growth prospects for the specialty chemicals market in the production of a variety of products such as electronics, textiles, cosmetics, fertilizers, etc.

Demand for specialty chemicals is rising exponentially in the Asian market; however, a bulk of it is being currently met by international specialty chemical companies. A vast majority of Asia-based specialty chemicals manufacturers produce a limited variety of specialty chemical products for the local market.

Opportunities in specialty chemicals are growing in China and India. The low-risk market for specialty chemicals represents a low degree of growth and competition risk, and a moderate cyclicality risk. The specialized nature of products in the specialty chemicals market demands substantial R&D requirements, enormous capital investments, an extensive technical know-how, and efficient service capabilities. These barriers make the prospects for new entrants quite difficult in the market and allow old businesses to enjoy the benefits of a largely protected market.

While countries like China and India have substantial demand for specialty chemicals in the fields of construction, cosmetics, computers, car manufacturing, water treatment, pesticides, etc. the Asian market possesses very few Asia-based specialty chemicals manufacturers. However, the regions have attracted investments from global manufacturers through mergers and acquisitions and partnerships, and a larger specialty chemicals export business is now thriving in Asia.

The manufacturing landscape is highly fragmented. The global specialty chemicals market features numerous large-, medium-, and small-scale specialty chemicals manufacturers. Some of these major companies are Akzo Nobel N.V., BASF SE, Clariant International Ltd, Chemtura Corporation, Evonik Industries AG, Albemarle Corporation, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, Ferro Corporation, and Cytec Industries Inc.

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