Demand for chemicals has stabilized in North America and Europe, and a "double dip" recession is unlikely, Huntsman Corp.'s chief executive officer said.
"We don't feel like there is another big waterfall to fall over," Peter Huntsman said Friday in a telephone interview. "Things have stabilized. It doesn't feel bubbly or rocky."
His comments come 11 days after U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that the risk of a "double dip" recession in the U.S. has declined, particularly given recent reports showing the economy grew at a 5.7 percent pace in the fourth quarter.
Huntsman, the world's biggest maker of epoxy adhesives, said Friday fourth-quarter revenue rose 2.3 percent to $2.1 billion. Net income fell to $66 million from $598 million a year earlier, when one-time payments from an Apollo Management LP unit boosted earnings by $815 million.
Further signs of economic growth may allow the company to raise prices for several products, Peter Huntsman said in the interview. The company is already planning to raise prices for some types of polyurethanes, he said.
"If you see strength in the economy in Western Europe and the U.S. over and above what we are at right now, there will be an opportunity to raise prices because there is just not much inventory out there," he said.
Signs of a recovery in Europe, where the company gets 30 percent of sales, have yet to materialize, the executive said. European clients in most industries stopped buying chemicals starting in November 2008, a trend that lasted until the first half of 2009, he said.
"Relative to 2006 or 2007, everything in Europe is just a little softer, whether it's furniture, footwear, coatings, appliances, textiles or carpets," Peter Huntsman said. "We just are not seeing Western Europe come back very fast. Things are very slow."
Huntsman, run from The Woodlands, Texas, and Salt Lake City, rose 79 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $13.16 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained more than fivefold in the past year.