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Lonza shows improvement at low end of forecast


Lonza, the maker of L-carnitine and B vitamins, said today that profits for 2004 climbed by more than half, coming in at the low end of analysts' forecasts.

The Swiss speciality chemicals group reported operating profits of SF212 million (€136.9m) and net income of SF138 million, a 52 per cent rise on the prior year.

The company blamed weak niacin prices, as well as the US dollar exchange rate and the postponement of biopharmaceutical deliveries until this year, on its failure to match earnings targets set at the beginning of the year.

In its organic and fine chemicals unit, the market is expected to remain competitive for a number of product lines, but the group said it will focus on niche markets in nutrition and cosmetics to support long-term profitability.

"The board of directors expects sales growth and a solid improvement in earnings in 2005 in line with our short-term, two-year operating income targets of between SF300 million and SF400 million," Lonza said in a statement.

The company ruled out a restructuring of operations, something that had been widely expected in the market.

Analyst Bernd Pomrehn at Bank Sarasin told an agency report that "people were hoping they would make a move to sell their polymer intermediates but there is no sign of that".

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