WESEL, Germany - The specialty chemicals Group ALTANA posted considerably lower first-half 2009 sales and earnings than in the comparative period of 2008, due to the worldwide economic crisis. Compared with the preceding first three months of 2009, the sales performance in the period April to June showed a positive trend; it was not possible, however, to offset the very weak first quarter of the business year. In total, ALTANA recorded significant losses in sales and earnings in the first six months of 2009. Sales decreased by 25 percent to EUR 541.0 million, down from EUR 716.8 million in the same period a year ago. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) decreased by 52 percent, from EUR 141.4 million in the previous year to EUR 68.0 million. The EBITDA margin was down to 12.6 percent and is therefore lower than the value of 19.7 percent of the previous year. Earnings before taxes (EBT) amounted to EUR 24.5 million, following EUR 103.6 million in the prior year.
 
Sales in the BYK Additives & Instruments division decreased by 21 percent to EUR 186.0 million; in the prior year sales had amounted to EUR 236.6 million. The ECKART Effect Pigments division posted a sales decline of 34 percent to EUR 125.4 million. In 2008, sales had amounted to EUR 189.9 million. In the ELANTAS Electrical Insulation division sales were down by 28 percent to EUR 128.8 million, following EUR 178.6 million in 2008. Sales in the ACTEGA Coatings & Sealants division remained relatively stable, decreasing by 10 percent to EUR 100.8 million (prior year: EUR 111.7 million).
 
A program to cut costs, initiated in the late summer of 2008, led to cost savings of EUR 35 million in the first six months of 2009. In total, the company plans to save about EUR 55 million in the current business year. “We have responded early on to the worldwide economic crisis with a high cost discipline and by enhancing our efficiency. Yet at the same time we have continued to invest in projects that secure our future such as research, innovation and customer service,” said Matthias L. Wolfgruber, CEO of ALTANA AG. “Even though an all clear signal cannot be given at present, first signs of a recovery in the worldwide specialty chemicals markets are emerging. We will gain from our strategy and emerge strengthened from the present crisis.”
 
Based on the business performance in the first six months of this year and taking into account the present order situation, the company expects a noticeably declining sales and earnings performance for the business year 2009 compared to 2008. Due to the uncertainty of the economic situation, the company is not able to provide any concrete sales and earnings forecast at this time.