WESEL, Germany/DÜSSELDORF, Germany – The specialty chemicals group ALTANA significantly accelerated its growth in the 2017 fiscal year. Sales rose to €2,247 million, 8% higher than in the previous year. This was primarily due to a strong increase in sales volumes, but also to acquisitions in the United States and China. Adjusted for acquisition and exchange-rate effects, sales climbed by 7%, which exceeded the company’s medium-term target of 5%.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were up by 4% to €470 million. The EBITDA margin in 2017 was below the previous year’s figure (20.9% compared to 21.8% in 2016), mainly on account of continuously rising raw materials prices.
“The 2017 fiscal year was a further milestone in our growth history. Thanks to our customer proximity and innovative strength, as well as the acquisition of companies with innovative products and technologies, we were able to improve our sales and earnings once again,” said Martin Babilas, the CEO of ALTANA AG. “At the same time, we paved the way for future success.”
Within the ALTANA Group, the BYK, ELANTAS and ECKART divisions grew dynamically. The additives and instruments specialist BYK posted the highest sales growth, increasing sales by 13% to €1,030 million. As a result, it exceeded the billion euro mark for the first time. The main driver was significantly higher sales volumes. The PolyAd companies acquired in 2017 and the pro-rata effects of the acquisition of Addcomp activities in the previous year contributed to the development. Adjusted for slightly negative exchange-rate effects and the effects of the acquisitions, sales grew by 9%.
The ECKART division boosted sales by 6% to €385 million. Adjusted for slightly negative exchange-rate effects, the pigment specialist achieved sales growth of 7%.
ELANTAS, an expert in insulating materials for the electric and electronics industry, recorded sales of €489 million in 2017, 8% higher than the year before. Adjusted for the sales expansion resulting from acquisitions in the United States and China, as well as negative exchange-rate influences, sales increased by 7%.
The performance of the ACTEGA division was influenced by the sale of the ACTEGA Colorchemie group in 2016. Sales totaled €343 million, 3% down from the previous year. Adjusted for this divestment effect and slight exchange-rate changes, sales remained stable.
Again in 2017, ALTANA achieved a balanced regional sales distribution. Europe accounted for 38% of the Group’s sales, the same percentage as in the previous year, and thus remained the company’s most important sales region. The specialty chemicals company generated 33% of its sales in Asia (previous year: 31%), and 28% again in the Americas.
ALTANA achieved its highest sales growth in Asia, at 12%. Operating sales growth was 13% in this region. China, the largest single market in the region and the company’s second most important sales region, expanded sales by 19% (nominal terms) and, adjusted for exchange-rate and acquisition effects, by 20%. This development was driven primarily by a strong increase in the need for sustainable product formulation solutions.
In the Americas region, nominal sales were 6% higher than in the previous year, and operating sales growth was 2% , due to the increasing demand from the oil and gas industry, after a sales decrease in 2016. The United States, which remained the Group’s largest single market, posted a sales increase of 9%, and 3% adjusted for acquisition effects. Nominal sales in Europe rose by 7%, and operating sales growth was 6%. In Germany, ALTANA expanded its sales in nominal terms by 5% and in operating terms by 4%.
In the 2017 fiscal year, ALTANA invested an above-average amount in its own innovation activities. The specialty chemicals company increased research and development expenditure by 10% to €142 million. This corresponds to a 6% share of sales, a high proportion compared to the industry as a whole. Particularly due to the purchase of the metallography technology of the Israeli Landa Group and the acquisition of a technology portfolio for labels and packaging in the United States, the ratio of capital expenditure to sales increased sharply and above the average to a total of 8.4% (previous year: 5.9%).
For 2018, the specialty chemicals company expects further momentum in the global economy and thus further sales growth. ALTANA anticipates its sales to increase by 2 to 5 percent in operating terms. The acquisitions made in the past fiscal year should provide additional sales impetus.
Against the background of rising raw materials prices, the EBITDA margin should decrease slightly toward the strategic range of 18% to 20%. Overall, sales and earnings development can be influenced by hard-to-predict exchange-rate changes.