WESEL, Germany - The specialty chemicals Group ALTANA has achieved a considerable increase in sales and earnings in the first quarter of the current business year compared to the prior-year period. With regard to prior-year comparisons, however, the company has to take into account that the corresponding first quarter of 2009 was the period that was affected the strongest by the economic crisis, making it the weakest quarter of the past business year. Against this backdrop, sales increased by 44 percent, from EUR 251.8 million to EUR 361.5 million. The growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was even more pronounced: EBITDA rose from EUR 21.9 million to EUR 79.1 million. The EBITDA margin therefore improved to 21.9 percent (prior year: 8.7 percent). Earnings before taxes (EBT) also increased significantly, up from EUR 0.4 million to EUR 56.9 million.
Sales in the BYK Additives & Instruments division grew by 63 percent from EUR 79.0 million in the prior year to EUR 129.0 million in the period under review. The ECKART Effect Pigments division achieved sales of EUR 85.9 million (prior year: EUR 57.6 million), corresponding to an increase of 49 percent. With sales up from EUR 64.5 million to EUR 85.4 million, the ELANTAS Electrical Insulation division achieved an increase of 32 percent. Sales in the ACTEGA Coatings & Sealants division were up by 21 percent, from EUR 50.7 million in the first quarter of 2009 to EUR 61.2 million in the first quarter of 2010.
 Looking forward, although the business performance has shown a strongly positive upward trend over the past quarters, it is not possible to forecast the development of demand for the upcoming months with a sufficient degree of certainty. The general economic conditions for ALTANA and for those end and customer markets that are relevant for the company, as well as the further development of raw materials pricing, remain highly uncertain. On the basis of the company’s business performance in the first quarter of 2010 and taking into account the present order situation, the company expects to see an overall increase in sales and earnings for the current business year compared to 2009.