“The fact that we are a global business – offering the most advanced pulp and paper chemical technology everywhere – was a major advantage and softened the impact of the downturn.”
After a strong ending to 2008 there was a dramatic drop in demand at the beginning of the year, particularly in Europe and North America. Volumes picked up gradually from the second quarter, however, and with the help of careful margin management and substantial cost-reducing measures we had a satisfactory 2009 in terms of performance while maintaining our market share.
There was a slow recovery in demand as the year progressed, with the pick up in volumes being led by Asia and South America in the second quarter. However, the recession had a major impact on our activities and we had to cut costs significantly in order to mitigate the loss in revenue. Business improvement projects therefore played a major role, while favorable currency swings during the early part of the year also proved beneficial.
The fact that we are a global business – offering the most advanced pulp and paper chemical technology everywhere – was a major advantage and softened the impact of the downturn. Europe and North America suffered the most, but we were helped by the fact that Asia was impacted to a lesser extent, while there was hardly any fall off in volumes in South America. So the major investments we have made in South America in recent years really paid off. Most notably, in April we inaugurated both of our new facilities in Brazil – the Chemical Island at Três Lagoas and the expanded chlorine dioxide plant in Jundiaí – which were an immediate success. Our specialty activities had mixed results. The Kromasil business continued to grow and the Expancel business improved, supported by a substantial productivity program.
We launched a number of restructuring programs which reduced both capacity and headcount. Our Mo I Rana plant in Norway was closed and we had to shut down production lines in Sweden, France, Finland and the US for part of the year, while in Germany we rationalized our research organization. Various investment projects at customer locations were also delayed or even cancelled due to the economic climate, mainly in Asia and South America.
We inaugurated two facilities at Suzhou in China, one for our Expancel microspheres and one for Purate production. We also launched a new silica sol, starting in North America, called Eka NP 2180, which has proved to be extremely successful. It’s based on a new molecule which offers several major benefits to the customer such as improved efficiency, increased machine speed and, perhaps more importantly, cost savings. This product is now being rolled out in other regions. It was also a very good year for our Compozil Fx concept, which helps our customers achieve extremely high speed and reduces fiber and energy consumption. It was introduced to several new machines in Asia and is ideal for large paper machines. We also made excellent progress with our safety performance this year and, despite the tough economic climate, continued to concentrate on product development focused on reducing fiber use and energy consumption.
in € millions
Geo-mix revenue by destination