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Clariant improves operating margin
04
Nov '08
Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, announced a 5% increase in sales in local currency. Sales in CHF declined 2% due to adverse currency effects and amounted to CHF 6.3 billion compared to CHF 6.4 billion in the previous year.

Towards the end of the reporting period, volume growth was challenged by weaker demand in some businesses and regions that was compensated for by higher selling prices.

Clariant increased prices by 6%, offsetting a 15% increase in raw material costs in the first three quarters. The favorable gross margin development of recent quarters continued, demonstrated by an improvement of 0.4 percentage points compared to Full Year 2007. On a year-on-year basis the gross margin remained stable at 29.6%.

The operating margin before exceptionals reached 7.7%, compared to 6.5% in the first nine months of 2007, mainly due to systematic reduction of SG&A costs that declined to 20.2% from 20.9% on a year-on-year basis. Operating income before exceptionals amounted to CHF 488 million.

As a consequence of increased raw material costs, inventories had to be revaluated which had a favorable impact on gross income and operating income of roughly CHF 30 million. Adverse currency effects had a negative impact of approximately CHF 70 million on operating income. Net income rose to CHF 170 million compared to CHF 22 million in the previous year.

Cash flow from operations has developed favorably in recent months and reached CHF 174 million from CHF 27 million in the first half of 2008. It is however still impacted by inventory build-up as a result of supply shortages of some chemical feedstock as well as by the revaluation of inventory. Hence the cash flow was CHF 146 million lower than previous year.

Clariant has favorable debt maturity profile and solid liquidity position
The company's debt maturity profile is excellent. The group does not face maturities in the capital markets (bonds, certificates of indebtedness) for the next three years until 2011 as it has refinanced all mid- and long term needs at favorable conditions between April 2006 and July 2008.

Clariant's liquidity position remains very solid. Local rollover loans - almost all of them net working capital financings - are well diversified based on a large number of banks worldwide. The absolute volume of short-term financings remains at low levels, also seen in the historic context & the available headroom under existing committed and uncommitted credit facilities exceeds CHF 1 billion.

Restructuring according to plan with further measures to come to address macroeconomic downturn
Restructuring and impairment expenses amounted to CHF 113 million. The activities to reduce SG&A costs as well as the production site closures that were announced previously – namely in Horsforth, Coventry, Selby and Naucalpan - proceeded as planned.

Looking forward the global macroeconomic downturn will adversely impact the demand for Clariant's products and affect top-line growth. At the same time the company has to put all efforts into improving its mid- and long term competitiveness against its peers by placing the progress made in operational excellence on a sustainable platform.

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