Most of the regions contributed to the good sales growth. Sales in Asia advanced 12% in local currency. This improvement was due to a particularly strong sales expansion in China. In Latin America, sales grew 12% reflecting the recovery of the macroeconomic environment in this region. Sales in North America were up by 7% and 3% in Europe.
Care Chemicals and Catalysis both reported continued sales developments. Sales in Care Chemicals rose by 9% in local currency driven by both Consumer Care and Industrial Applications. Catalysis sales climbed by a considerable 22% in local currency with a remarkable organic sales growth of 15%.
Sales in Natural Resources increased by 4% in local currency due to an improving demand from the oil market. Plastics & Coatings reported 3% local currency growth against a strong comparable base with all three Business Units adding to the development.
EBITDA before exceptional items rose by 9% and reached CHF 524 million ($527 million) compared to CHF 482 million in the previous year, mainly supported by the performance in Care Chemicals, Catalysis, and Plastics & Coatings. The corresponding EBITDA margin before exceptional items improved to 15.5%.
Net income increased by 38% to CHF 211 million ($212 million) from CHF 153 million in the previous year. The higher EBITDA and significantly lower exceptional items supported this development. Operating cash flow was CHF 102 million ($103 million). This is a decrease from the CHF 116 million in the previous year.
Net debt increased to CHF 1.707 billion from CHF 1.539 billion recorded at year end 2017 reflecting the usual seasonal increase seen in the first half of the year.
In the second quarter of 2018, sales rose by 7% in local currency to CHF 1.667 billion ($1.677 billion). All Business Areas contributed to the strong organic growth; however, the positive developments in Care Chemicals and Catalysis were particularly noteworthy.