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Chemical maker Clariant Q1 sales rises CHF 2.156bn

May '07
Clariant posted a solid performance in the first three months of 2007, with growth of 6% in local currency terms and 5% in Swiss franc terms. Acquisitions made in 2006 contributed 1% to the sales gain. First Quarter sales rose to CHF 2.156 billion from CHF 2.048 billion a year earlier, with strong demand seen across all businesses.

Sales prices rose on average by 1% with notably strong increases in Functional Chemicals and Masterbatches. Gross margin remained stable at 31.1% from the previous year, despite a 3% increase in raw material prices during the period.

Operating income before exceptionals declined to CHF 152 million from CHF 160 million, impacted by increased freight costs, an 11% rise in energy costs, unfavorable currency movements and one-time costs related to the integration of Ciba's masterbatches business. As a result, net income from continuing operations fell to CHF 86 million from CHF 96 million.

Clariant's plans to reduce net working capital are on track. Operating cash flow rose to CHF 5 million from a negative CHF 9 million a year earlier. As part of efforts to reduce its cost base and complexity, the company also announced a number of smaller site closures.

“Top-line growth continues to be solid, driven by strong volumes across all businesses and positive pricing developments,” said Jan Secher, Clariant's chief executive officer. “Profitability in the First Quarter was unsatisfactory, but we have seen the first signs of improvement in our cash flow. We are confident that the steps we are now taking will allow us to deliver on our strategic initiatives, with cash flow a priority for 2007,” he said.

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