The company said: 'The positive earnings in our consumer protection segment did not compensate for weak demand from the automotive industry, especially in the engineering materials segment.'
During the half, the company's cost of travel dropped, and it managed to trim some back-office costs. R&D spend, at EUR64m, was almost the same as the EUR65m in the first half of 2019.
In the company's engineering materials business, which includes polyurethanes, sales subsided by 21% between the first half of 2019 and 2020, to EUR591m. Pre-exceptional EBITDA in the division declined by 41%, to EUR77m.
The fall in sales was a result of shutdowns at customers' production facilities because of coronavirus. Lanxess stressed the impact that this had on the high performance materials, or non-polyurethane, part of the business. It added that the engineering materials business will be significantly weaker than in the previous year in the light of the 'massive collapse' in demand in the automotive industry.
The fall in sales fed through to lower earnings in the half.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2020, Lanxess said: '[We do] not expect the performance of the global economy or of any region to quickly return to the previous year's level… We expect significant negative development in the automotive industry in 2020. We assume that the construction industry, the agro-industry and the chemical industry will all decline.'
However, chairman Matthias Zachert is more optimistic. Announcing the results, he said: 'We are already seeing initial signs of a recovery in Asia. I therefore remain confident, even though a rapid macroeconomic recovery cannot be foreseen at present.'