“All eight of our businesses performed better than 2009 volume-wise, with six also picking up market share.”
We experienced a notable drop in our volumes in 2009 but we recovered most of that back in 2010. During most of the year, sales exceeded pre-crisis levels – partly due to the volume effect and partly because of improved margins and currency exchange rates. When combined with cost savings generated through restructuring in mature markets, we were able to achieve record results for a fourth consecutive year.
All eight of our businesses performed better than 2009 volume-wise, and most of them improved cost-wise, with six of the eight also picking up market share. Some of this increased market share was achieved through planned actions, but we also benefited from outages or delayed start-ups suffered by our competitors. As a result, most of our product lines were sold out during the year, with the strongest performers being the two businesses we took over as part of the integration of Polymer Chemicals at the start of the year (High Polymers and Crosslinking, Thermoset Chemicals and Polymer Additives), along with Ethylene Amines and Chelates. Our Sulfur Derivatives business also did well, while the slow construction market meant that our Elotex, Cellulosic Specialties and Polysulfides activities in that market were only able to recover about half the volumes they lost in 2009. However, Cellulosic Specialties was still able to achieve much improved year-on-year results.
The performance of our High Purity Metalorganics business – which supplies the LED lighting industry – was particularly notable. It really took off during 2010 to the extent that we are now expanding on the go with several new projects planned and each expansion will be fully utilized from virtually the first day. A number of additional expansions in other product lines are also planned. Along with the continued excellent performance of our Dissolvine GLDA readily biodegradable chelating agent, another significant highlight was the official opening of our Ningbo multi-site in China, which was attended by more than 600 guests. The facility began producing dry powdered chelates in late 2009 and in May 2010 the liquid chelates section started production. Towards the end of the year, the ethylene amines and ethylene oxide plants in Ningbo came on stream. It was also pleasing to see how smooth and effective the merger of Polymer Chemicals into Functional Chemicals has been. The process was extremely successful and both the business and AkzoNobel as a whole have benefited.
We began to test market our One Grain lower sodium salt replacement in the Benelux, which has been going very well so far. We received the green light for our BU strategic plan and we created an organizational model which is helping us to support our sustainability drive. Good progress was also made in our safety performance and in the switch to more sustainable technologies in our main product lines. This enables us to look at things like raw materials and energy supply across the whole value chain and identify areas where we can improve.
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