With countries in North America and Europe mostly under lockdown, the second quarter bore the economic brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that US gross domestic product shrank by a record 32.9%.
For chemical companies, it was the worst quarter in decades, with nearly all firms posting double-digit drops in sales and earnings, and a handful posting losses. Most companies have been cutting costs, some opting for layoffs.
Exposure to some sectors was particularly painful. For example, in his remarks to analysts on July 29, BASF CEO Martin Brudermüller estimated that the global auto industry saw a 45% sales decline during the second quarter.
Aerospace might have been worse. “What we’ve seen in aerospace is just unprecedented,” Huntsman CEO Peter R. Huntsman told stock analysts. Hard-up airlines aren’t even taking delivery on airplanes that are already built, he said.
Huntsman posted a $30 million loss for the quarter. It was driven by a sharp downturn in sales of advanced materials for aerospace, textile chemicals and polyurethanes for construction and auto markets.
...Covestro executives said they have completed a previous goal of axing 400 jobs by year end. Further job reductions, numbering in the low hundreds, are still to come, they said.
BASF has accelerated a program—announced a year ago—to reduce its workforce by 6,000 positions, about 5% of its total. The company plans to complete the cuts by the end of this year, rather than in 2021 as originally planned...Here's hoping the job losses stop here. Best wishes to them, and to all of us.