"In 2012, we proved once again that we are able to achieve profitable growth, even in a rapidly changing environment," stated Dr. Matthias L. Wolfgruber, CEO of ALTANA AG, at the press conference on the 2012 financial statements. "This was possible because we have implemented our growth strategy consistently and acted flexibly.“
ALTANA was able to realize operating sales growth of 1%, despite stagnating sales volumes, by shifting to higher-grade specialty products and through price increases. Acquisitions contributed 1% to the overall growth, positive exchange rate effects accounted for 3%.
The BYK Additives & Instruments division, the Group's division with the highest turnover, increased sales nominally 6% to €618 million in 2012. Adjusted for positive exchange rate and acquisition effects, sales growth was 3%. As a result, BYK achieved the highest operating increase in sales within the ALTANA Group.
At €341 million, sales in the ECKART Effect Pigments division was 2% down on the previous year (4% operating decrease). Positive exchange rate effects could not fully offset the ongoing market slowdown. The ELANTAS Electrical Insulation division, however, was able to continue its growth trend, achieving an increase in sales of 6% to €413 million (2% operating growth).
The nominally highest sales increase in 2012 was achieved by the ACTEGA Coatings & Sealants division. At €334 million, sales were up 12% on the previous year (2% operating growth). This development was driven by the acquisition of the Colorchemie Group in mid-2011, which contributed to sales for a full business year for the first time in 2012.
In 2012, Europe once again accounted for the largest share in sales. Due to decreasing demand, particularly in Southern Europe, however, operating sales were down by 2% on the previous year. At 10%, business in North and South America recorded the highest nominal growth rate (4% operating growth). Growth in Asia was not constant in 2012. Up to the middle of the year, growth rates, particularly in China, were at a low level. In the second half of the year, the region recorded double-digit sales increases. Overall, nominal and operating growth rates of the company's business in Asia were similar to those in the Americas.
In the business year 2012, ALTANA again invested disproportionately high amounts in R&D, boosting its R&D expenses considerably in comparison to the previous year, by 17% to €102 million. This corresponds to a share in sales of 6.0% (previous year: 5.4%). Three quarters of the research and development expenses were incurred at German sites.
At €90 million, capital expenditure on property, plant and equipment and intangible assets in 2012 were at a comparable level to the previous year. In particular due to the acquisition of the business for the production of wax additives in the U.S., the number of the Group's employees worldwide rose slightly to 5,363 people (previous year: 5,313).
According to ALTANA's expectations, there remains uncertainty as to the further economic development in 2013, particularly in Europe. Nevertheless, ALTANA anticipates overall increasing sales volumes for the current business year, which should lead to a sales growth in the lower single-digit percentage range. The Group expects its return on sales and capital to be about as high as in the previous year.
ALTANA has planned investments of more than €100 million for 2013. This is a considerable increase on 2012, due to a few large projects, including one project involving the expansion of production capacities at the BYK division's U.S. site in Wallingford. This will be the largest single investment the ALTANA Group has made outside Germany.
"We will maintain our goal of sustainable value creation in 2013. This is why we are making targeted investments into highly promising growth markets and the development of new innovative specialty chemicals products,“ said Dr. Wolfgruber.