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Note 21: Contingent liabilities and commitments


Environmental matters

We are confronted with substantial costs arising out of environmental laws and regulations, which include obligations to eliminate or limit the effects on the environment of the disposal or release of certain wastes or substances at various sites. Proceedings involving environmental matters, such as the alleged discharge of chemicals or waste materials into the air, water, or soil, are pending against us in various countries. In some cases this concerns sites divested in prior years or derelict sites belonging to companies acquired in the past.

It is our policy to accrue and charge against earnings environmental clean-up costs when it is probable that a liability has materialized and an amount is reasonably estimable. These accruals are reviewed periodically and adjusted, if necessary, as assessments and clean-ups proceed and additional information becomes available. Environmental liabilities can change substantially due to the emergence of additional information on the nature or extent of the contamination, the geological circumstances, the necessity of employing particular methods of remediation, actions by governmental agencies or private parties, or other factors. Cash expenditures often lag behind the period in which an accrual is recorded by a number of years.

As stated in Note 17, the provisions for environmental costs accounted for in accordance with the aforesaid policies aggregated €414 million at year-end 2011 (2010: €419 million). The provision has been discounted using an average pre-tax discount rate of 3.4 percent (2010: 4.1 percent). While it is not feasible to predict the outcome of all pending environmental exposures, it is reasonably possible that there will be a need for future provisions for environmental costs which, in management’s opinion, based on information currently available, would not have a material effect on the company’s financial position but could be material to the company’s results of operations in any one accounting period.

Antitrust cases

AkzoNobel is – together with others – involved in civil proceedings initiated by Cartel Damages Claims HP SA/NV before the Dortmund court in Germany in relation to the Hydrogen Peroxide infringement in the 1990’s. CDC Project 13 SA has initiated civil proceedings against AkzoNobel and other companies before the Amsterdam District Court in relation to the Sodium Chlorate infringements in the 1990’s. These claims are disputed.

Two cases are pending in appeal by the company with the EU General Court against decisions by the EU Commission to impose fines on the company for violations of EU competition laws regarding the following products: Metacrylates and Heat Stabilizers. The EU Commission fines imposed for both cases have been provided for. The total provision for the various antitrust cases at December 31, 2011, amounted to €134 million (2010: €158 million). It should be understood that, in light of possible future developments, such as (a) potential additional lawsuits by (direct or indirect) purchasers, (b) possible future civil settlements, and (c) rulings or judgments in the appeals with the General Court or in related civil suits, the antitrust cases may result in additional liabilities and related costs. At this point in time, we cannot estimate any additional amount of loss or range of loss in excess of the recorded amounts with sufficient certainty to allow such amount or range of amounts to be meaningful. Moreover, if and to the extent that the contingent liabilities materialize, they are typically paid over a number of years and the timing of such payments cannot be predicted with confidence. The company believes that the aggregate amount of any additional fines and civil damages to be paid will not materially affect the company’s financial position. The aggregate amount, however, could be material to our results of operations or cash flows in any one accounting period.

Other claims and litigation

The Millennium Holdings related Glidden disputes reported in previous years have been settled in 2011. AkzoNobel has provided various indemnities and guarantees in respect of past divestments to the relevant purchasers and their permitted assigns (if applicable), which in general are capped in time and/or amount (in proportion to the value received). In connection with the Organon BioSciences divestment to Schering-Plough, AkzoNobel has limited its maximum exposure to claims to €850 million. The provided guarantees and indemnities have varying maturity periods. AkzoNobel has received various claims under such indemnities and guarantees. In some instances, AkzoNobel has been named as a direct defendant despite the divestments. A number of other claims are pending, all of which are contested. We are also involved in disputes with tax authorities in several jurisdictions. While the outcome of these claims and disputes cannot be predicted with certainty, we believe, based upon legal advice and information received, that the final outcome will not materially affect our consolidated financial position but could be material to our results of operations or cash flows in any one accounting period.

Commitments

Purchase commitments for property, plant and equipment aggregated €49 million at year-end 2011 (2010: €47 million).

In € millions

 

2010

 

2011

Payments due within one year

 

157

 

159

Payments between one and five years

 

326

 

358

Payments due after more than five years

 

178

 

197

Total

 

661

 

714

The 2010 amounts in the table above have been restated for comparative purposes.

Guarantees related to investments in associates and joint ventures totaled €13 million (December 31, 2010: €9 million).

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