ALTANA achieves margin target despite sharp business decline in Q4
The specialty chemicals Group ALTANA AG achieved sales of €1,342 million in the business year 2008, which is about €38 million or 3% less than the prior year (€1,380 million). Adjusted for negative exchange rate effects as well as minor positive acquisition and divestment effects, the operating sales decrease was 2%. Due to the effects of the worldwide economic crisis, particularly in the fourth quarter, sales in all regions declined in comparison to the prior year.
Asia reported a slight sales decline of 1% in 2008; in Europe the decline was 2%. Sales in North and South America fell by 7% in comparison to 2007, also due to exchange rate effects.
The ALTANA Group's number of employees as of December 31, 2008, was 4,791 (prior year: 4,646), including the 33 new employees from the acquisition of the Dutch wax additives manufacturer Dick Peters.
Development in the divisions
The BYK Additives & Instruments division achieved sales of €450 million in 2008, a slight increase on the reported €445 million in the prior year. Sales of the ECKART Effect Pigments division totaled €351 million, which is a decrease of about 3% or €12 million compared to the prior year. In the ELANTAS Electrical Insulation division sales dropped 7% from €351 million to €327 million. ACTEGA Coatings & Sealants achieved sales of €214 million, this is about 3% less than in 2007 (€222 million).
EBITDA margin within medium-term target corridor
The preliminary earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the business year 2008 diminished slightly by 2% from €248 million to €243 million. In 2007, however, earnings were negatively influenced by the two-tier holding structure until the middle of that year. The EBITDA margin was 18.1%, following 18.0% in 2007, and was thus within the medium-term target range of 18% to 20%. The preliminary income before taxes (EBT) amounted to €159 million, compared to €214 million in the prior year. The 2007 figure, however, included the extraordinary income in the amount of €55 million from the sale of ALTANA Pharma until the distribution to the shareholders in May 2007.
Strong decline in demand in the fourth quarter
The financial and economic crisis has led to a severe downturn in the business development in the fourth quarter of 2008. Compared to 2007, sales declined Group-wide by 16% to €274 million. The operating decrease was even 20%. All divisions and regions were affected. Despite the comprehensively and immediately introduced countermeasures to reduce costs and increase efficiency, the fourth quarter EBITDA was only €30 million, following €56 million in the prior year period. Also in the first weeks of the new business year, order entries develop slowly. Therefore, we expect sales for the first quarter of 2009 also to be significantly lower than in the prior year period.
Difficult business year 2009 expected
“Despite our diversified portfolio and the connected robustness therewith, also ALTANA has not been able to remain untouched by the worldwide economic crisis, by which almost all sectors of the economy and regions, and therefore also our customers, have been affected at the latest since the fourth quarter of 2008,“ stated Dr. Matthias L. Wolfgruber, CEO of ALTANA AG. “For 2009, we expect a very difficult market environment, for which we have prepared ourselves with a set of measures to reduce costs and to further increase efficiency.
However, our core competences and key success factors – innovation as well as service and customer orientation – will not be neglected.“ Because these, together with the global orientation of ALTANA and the company's clear strategic focus on specialty chemicals, so Wolfgruber, constituted the basis on which to further strengthen and develop the position of the company, even and especially in a crisis.