WESEL, Germany – The specialty chemicals group ALTANA achieved significant growth in sales and earnings in fiscal 2014. Sales amounted to around €2 billion, corresponding to an increase of 11% year-over-year. The acquisition of Rockwood's rheology business, concluded on October 1, 2013, significantly contributed to this double-digit growth. Altogether, acquisitions comprised a total of 7% of the group's sales growth. Adjusted for these effects and minor negative exchange rate effects, operating sales increased by 4%, primarily due to higher sales volumes.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) grew by 18%, amounting to €397 million. At 20.4%, the EBITDA margin reflects a clear expansion compared to the previous year (19.0%). "2014 was a strong year for ALTANA," said Dr. Matthias L. Wolfgruber, CEO of ALTANA AG. "We are well on track to continue on our path of profitable growth."
The BYK Additives & Instruments division again achieved the highest sales growth in 2014. Compared to the previous year, sales rose by 24% to €857 million. The successful integration of Rockwood's rheology activities contributed 18% to this growth. Adjusted for acquisition and slightly positive exchange rate effects, operating sales rose by 7%.
The ECKART Effect Pigments division generated sales of €332 million in 2014. Sales were 1% lower than in the previous year. Adjusted for acquisition and exchange rate effects, sales were also down by 1%. The decrease is due to changes in the product mix with volumes remaining unchanged.
Sales in the ELANTAS Electrical Insulation division rose by 4% to €431 million in fiscal 2014. Adjusted for negative exchange rate effects, sales were up by 5% due to higher sales volumes.
Sales in the ACTEGA Coatings & Sealants division grew by 2% to €332 million. The increase includes positive acquisition effects from the integration of activities acquired in 2013. %he acquisition of two companies in Brazil in December 2014 is not yet reflected in the increase. Adjusted for acquisition and exchange rate effects, sales remained at the previous year's level. A slight increase in the sales volume was offset by negative product-mix effects.
In 2014, the ALTANA Group increased sales in all of its three core regions. At 20%, the group achieved its highest growth rate in the Americas, particularly driven by the integration of the rheology activities. Sales in the United States were boosted by 26%. With a 19% share in total sales, the United States is ALTANA's largest single market. Adjusted for acquisition and exchange rate effects, operating sales growth in the Americas reached 4%, and 8% in the United States. With a 5% increase, ALTANA's highest operating growth was achieved in Asia. The region accounted for 30% of group sales. Accounting for 41% of group sales, Europe continues to be ALTANA's most important sales region, where sales grew by 7%. Operating sales in Europe and in the company's German home market rose by 2%.
The group's growth is also reflected in its headcount. At the end of 2014, the number of employees working for the ALTANA Group exceeded 6,000 for the first time.
In 2014, ALTANA continued to invest heavily in innovation. Research and development expenses amounted to €114 million in the year under review, corresponding to an increase of 4% and comprising 6% of sales. At the end of the year, the number of employees working in research and development exceeded 1,000 for the first time.
ALTANA's investments in property, plant and equipment and intangible assets totaled €90 million. With the completion and operational start of the expanded production capacities for BYK additives in the United States, the largest single investment of the ALTANA Group outside of Germany to date was finished according to plan in 2014. Further capital projects included the continual expansion of the largest additives production site in Wesel, Germany, and the expansion of capacities in Hartenstein, Germany, for the manufacture of ECKART effect pigments for the construction industry.
In the 2015 fiscal year, ALTANA expects the economy to show stable growth similar to that of the previous year. Against this backdrop, the group anticipates sales growth of 2-5%, adjusted for acquisition and exchange rate effects. Nominal growth is forecast to be higher due to positive exchange rate influences expected and the integration of the Brazilian companies acquired at the end of 2014. The group's return on sales is expected to be at about the same level as in 2014.