The development during the year, however, was rather heterogeneous. While sales in the first months of 2011 increased in the double-digit percentage area, ALTANA was confronted with declining sales momentum in the second half of the year.
Despite the growth in sales, the Group's 2011 earnings figures remained slightly below the figures achieved in the previous year. This is mainly attributable to the costs of raw materials that increased significantly throughout the business year. Despite the implemented sales price increases and countermeasures relating to the company's fixed costs, it was not possible to fully offset the rise in the prices of materials for the year as a whole.
As a result, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in 2011 decreased slightly by 2% to €308 million, compared to €314 million in the previous year. At 19.1%, the EBITDA margin, however, remained at a high level and within the company's strategic target range of 18% to 20%.
The BYK Additives & Instruments division generated sales of €582 million in 2011 (previous year: €541 million), which corresponds to a significant increase of 8%. ECKART Effect Pigments was the only division that was not able to achieve a sales increase in 2011. At €347 million, the division's sales were 3% down on the previous year (€357 million).
Sales in the ELANTAS Electrical Insulation division grew by 4% to €391 million (previous year: €377 million). The highest percentage growth in sales was achieved by the ACTEGA Coatings & Sealants division, where sales climbed by 14% to €297 million (previous year: €260 million). This growth resulted primarily from ACTEGA's acquisition of the Color Chemie Group as of July 1, 2011.
In 2011, ALTANA generated the largest share of sales in Europe, where sales amounted to €741 million, following €684 million in 2010. This translates into an increase of 8%. It includes sales of €259 million in Germany, which increased by 10%, decisively influenced by company acquisitions. Sales in Asia grew by 2% to €448 million. China accounts for more than half of the total sales in Asia. With sales of €229 million, China is the third largest individual market of the Group.
ALTANA's sales in the Americas amounted to €373 million, following €361 million in 2010. This is an increase of 3%, which was negatively impacted by changed exchange rate relations. In the Americas region, the U.S. is the largest individual market with sales of €243 million.
As of Dec. 31, 2011, ALTANA employed 5,313 people worldwide. This is an increase of 376 people or 8% on the previous year. This increase in the company's workforce is mainly attributable to the acquisitions completed in 2011. Adjusted for this effect the number of employees rose by 3%.
The Group's capital expenditure on intangible assets and property, plant and equipment in 2011 rose significantly by about €20 million to €94 million.
At €88 million, research and development expenses also surpassed the figure of the previous year (€82 million), underpinning the great importance that is attributed to innovation for the market position and the ongoing success of ALTANA.
"The present overall economic situation remains to be characterized by an unchanged high degree of uncertainty, thus representing quite a challenging environment for ALTANA in the short-term," stated Dr. Matthias L. Wolfgruber, CEO of ALTANA AG. According to the company's forecast demand is more likely to pick up in the second half of the business year 2012. For the current business year ALTANA anticipates an operating increase in sales in the low single-digit percentage area. The company expects raw material prices to stabilize at the current high level. As a result, the EBITDA margin should remain within the target range of 18% to 20%.
"With our clear, strategic focus on innovative and technically demanding growth markets we are optimally positioned in the current environment,“ said Dr. Wolfgruber. "Due to the flexibility we have achieved over the past several years we are confident that we will be able to act prudently and successfully even in a continuing volatile market environment."