Chinese production of elemental bromine has continued to be affected by tightening environmental regulations as well as winter shut-downs. A tightening market has resulted in rising prices of bromine in China. The usual seasonal decline in prices, which typically begins in March, did not take place with many producers yet to return from their winter closures. Major bromine producer ICL reported record quarterly income in Q1 2019 for its bromine value chain segment, which saw operating margins of approximately 28% (after allocation of G&A expenses) compared to 21% in Q1 2018.
While some industry members are reporting demand from bromine-based flame retardants to remain relatively stable, delegates at the MMTA conference in Edinburgh last month reported some concern that limited access to bromine supply was beginning to have an effect on the flame retardants market. Flame retardants are the largest end use sector for antimony, where the trioxide (Sb2O3) finds use as an effective synergist for halogenated flame retardants, most of which contain bromine. Antimony’s use in flame retardants is also under pressure from the possibility of stricter controls on the use and shipment of antimony trioxide in the EU and across several US states.