Bruce Aitkin , Methanex, 2004 revenues: $2.17 billion, Rank: 13 in TOP 100

What went well in 2004? Speaking of Methanex globally, 2004 was an outstanding year. We earned the highest net income in a decade and our stock price increased 60 per cent. Plus we improved health and safety standards and made advances in environmental initiatives that govern our plants. Last year we launched our biggest-ever methanol-producing plant in Trinidad, a location that gives us easy access to large pockets of natural gas. We acquired the Atlas plant with British Petroleum in 2003, since coming on line last July, we now have a total of 5.7 million tonnes per year of low-cost production capacity. What didn’t? We’ve traditionally enjoyed successful operations in Chile, but the Chile plants are supplied by Argentinean gas – and Argentina has been suffering an energy crisis. Because our plants are situated in the deep south of Chile, we figured they would be insulated by geography, but we were wrong and the result was a three-month disruption in our schedule. We’re currently looking at backup energy suppliers for Chile and, frankly, I think 2004 provided us with a wake-up call to move on this issue. Were there any surprises? I think the strength of the global economy surprised everyone. And nobody 12 months prior could have forecast US$53-per-barrel oil prices. China’s growth continues to surprise everyone. The global growth is supposed to slow this year but I don’t see any evidence of it, even in Europe where I wrongly assumed the high Euro would have exacerbated energy prices. What do you see going forward? Our Q1 results for 2005 will be a lot better than Q4 of 2004. Looking further ahead, our challenge is to replicate our Trinidad plant model elsewhere in the world. We’ve identified Egypt as a potential location which would be a foot in the door to the Middle East. We will make a decision about Egypt towards the end of 2005 or in 2006 and energy production could start in that country by 2008. We have to work fast: typically, our plant projects have a capital cost of $600 million, so we don’t want to waste time generating revenue. the biggest lesson learned? Expect the unexpected. What went well for us – and what didn’t go well – was completely unexpected. Our plans are only as good as our assumptions, so we try to think about multiple scenarios in order to mitigate against the unforeseeable. I mean, what if the China bubble collapses? It sounds ludicrous now but you can’t start believing your own rhetoric. We’re enjoying great times now, and hopefully our mindset will enable us to be strong when times get tough. RELATED STORIES: Top One Hundred Overview 2005 Don Lindsay, Teck Cominco Russ Horner, Norske Canada Bob Bailey, PMC Sierra