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Gross margins touch 29.8% at Clariant in Q1
May '11
Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, announced sales of CHF 1.717 billion for the first quarter of 2011 compared to CHF 1.817 billion in the previous-year period. Sales growth in local currencies amounted to 5%. Due to the appreciation of the Swiss franc against most major currencies, sales were 6% lower in Swiss francs year-on-year.

Overall trading conditions remained stable during the quarter with no restocking activities observed as in the first quarter of 2010. At the regional level, sales growth was quite uniform across all regions with growth rates of between 4% and 7%. The impact from both the disastrous earthquake in Japan and the unrest in North Africa on the business was minimal so far.

In the first quarter, Clariant continued to consistently implement its profitable growth strategy. As a result of the focus on margin management, sales prices improved 5% year-on-year. While not fully compensating for higher raw material costs yet, sales prices increased 2% sequentially with dynamics picking up towards the end of the quarter. This successful price management, lower production costs and a high capacity utilization drove the gross margin up to 29.8% from 28.7% in the same period a year ago.

CEO Hariolf Kottmann commented: “Clariant had a good start to 2011 with a strong performance across the portfolio. Our ongoing focus on delivering a sustainably better performance in the current businesses showed the expected results. By adding the recently acquired Süd-Chemie activities to our portfolio, Clariant will gain access to attractive new markets and to a strong R&D organization focusing on market segments with significant future growth potential. While continuing to manage our businesses for higher margins, the Süd-Chemie portfolio activities will speed up the execution of our profitable growth strategy.”

Clariant further benefited from the positive impact of the implementation of its 2009/10 cost reduction initiatives. Selling, general & administrative (SG&A) costs as a percentage of sales decreased substantially to 15.0% from 16.9% in comparison to the prior-year period. The structurally lower cost base supported the margin development. As a consequence of a better gross margin and lower costs, the EBITDA before exceptional items increased to CHF 277 million, compared to CHF 235 million one year ago. The corresponding margin rose to 16.1% from 12.9% in the previous-year period. The operating profit (EBIT) margin before exceptional items improved to 13.4% from 10.1% in the same period one year ago.

The EBITDA and EBIT margins after restructuring improved to 15.1% from 7.4% and to 11.7% from 4.1% respectively, illustrating the lower restructuring and impairment expenses after completion of the 2009/10 restructuring phase.

Cash flow from operations stood at CHF 17 million, considerably lower than the CHF 159 million achieved in the previous year. After an overly tight managementof working capital towards the end of 2010, inventories returned to more normalized levels, therefore negatively impacting the cash flow from operations in Q1.

Net debt increased to CHF 250 million from CHF 126 million, resulting in a gearing (net debt divided by equity) of 13% at the end of the first quarter of 2011, slightly higher than the 7% recorded at the end of 2010.

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Clariant International Ltd

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