Specialty chemicals company Cognis said it had maintained its market position in 2001 despite difficult trading conditions and the sale of the company in November.
Cognis was sold by its former parent company Henkel to an investor group consisting of Permira, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and Schroder Ventures Life Sciences.
The company said it had coped well with the difficult economic environment in 2001, with sales of €3.13 billion during the year remaining almost level with the €3.195 billion registered in 2000. Pre-tax profits for the year were €253 million before exceptional items, but operating profits were reduced to €174 million from €221 million a year earlier.
Sales in Europe, which accounted for just over half of Cognis' turnover, increased by 1 per cent during 2001. In Latin America and Africa, sales remained level with 2000, but the weakness of the economy meant that sales in North America and Asia Pacific decreased by 6 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.
Exceptional items played a significant role in 2001, Cognis said, not least those resulting from the acquisition of the company. Restructuring costs, especially in the US, also played a role, as did the costs entailed by the discontinuation of a product line.
But Joachim Soehngen, chief financial officer at Cognis, said that he was pleased that the company had been able to turn in such a good performance despite these exceptional items. "The generally weak state of the economy caused problems for all companies, and taking this and the special factors that affected Cognis last year into account, we can conclude that our business developed very positively," he said.
"If we discount the effects of the exceptional items on our results, then our return on sales for 2001 was about 8.1 per cent compared to 7.4 per cent in 2000."
The various Cognis business units showed mixed results. Oleochemicals increased annual sales to €1.1 billion, with primary surfactants playing a major role in this success by providing at least partial compensation for the lower sales achieved by fatty acids and performance monomers and a drop in glycerine prices.
The care chemicals continued to grow with a turnover of €837 million, and in particular the business profited from the launch of new products in the area of special tensides and from new concepts in the skin care market in Europe. Soehngen said the recent acquisition of Laboratorios Dr Vinyals, a Spanish company specialising in vegetable extracts, was expected to provide further decisive growth.
The first quarter of the 2002 business year saw Cognis streamline its management and business structure in order to be able to make optimum use of the market potential. The company's activities were reorganised in five new divisions with the intention of focusing more closely on the requirements of the market and customers, Cognis said.
The quarter also saw sales €803 million, only slightly less than the €808 million posted in the first quarter of last year. The Asia/Pacific region succeeded in increasing sales by 7.2 per cent in comparison with the first quarter last year. Sales in Africa and Europe almost reached the same level as in the previous year, but turnover in America was down by 3 per cent as a result of the difficult economic situation.