By Liz White, UT staffLinwood, Pennsylvania-Foamex International Inc.'s furniture, carpet, automotive and technical foam business suffered a bigger first-quarter loss than in the same period of 2004, despite "increased sales in most business units," said president and ceo Tom Chorman, in a 13 May company webcast. The loss came as "we absorbed the impact of two additional chemical cost increases," said Chorman. The group's first quarter results showed a net loss of $10.9 million, on net sales of $332.7 million, a 6-percent sales rise over the first quarter of 2004, when the firm showed a net loss of $2.1 million. "We are still not satisfied with the overall performance, but were able to stabilise margins by implementing customer price increases," Chorman continued. The Foamex boss also emphasised the group's recent business structure realignment, in which technical foams and foam products groups were combined under the leadership of Andrew Thompson. Chorman said the move would give a "Sharper focus and more communication between sales marketing and manufacturing efforts, … as well as greater emphasis on productivity and accountability.' Chorman attributed the 30-percent drop in gross profit to $27.7 million in the first quarter primarily to chemical cost increases. The sale in May of the "non-strategic" felt and rubber carpet-backing business to Leggett & Platt Inc. for $38.5 million-or a pre-tax gain of $29 million-would be used pay down debt, Chorman said, adding that this relatively small unit was, "not part of our core urethane business." Foamex continues to serve the carpet sector with its major foam and rebond carpet backing unit, he stressed. Discussing the immediate difficult business climate for foamers, Chorman emphasised that the group's raw materials costs for the quarter were more than 35 percent higher than in the same quarter last year: "clearly this has a negative impact on the business," he commented. "We continue to take action to recover these [increases]… and see margin improvement in the business, but no slowdown yet in chemical cost increases,' he continued. Nevertheless, Chorman said that the market is "showing signs of stabilisation." Direct feedstock prices for PU raw materials are "starting to stabilise" he added. "Polyol and TDI (toluene diisocyanate) supply is adequate. However, MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) still remains extremely tight," Chorman said. "We hope we can raise prices to recover recent raw materials costs rises," with the goal of becoming a "healthier, more efficient company," he added. Foamex results by segment for Q1 2005Foam Products unit had net sales of $156.2 million, up 16 percent from Q1 2004, due primarily to higher selling prices. Income was $10.4 million, down 36 percent from Q1 2004 largely from higher raw material costs not fully passed on to customers.Automotive Products had net sales of $87.2 million, down 7 percent from Q1 2004 as a result of soft industry volume and customer sourcing actions. Income at $4.8 million was similar to that in Q1 2004. Carpet Cushion sales were $46.6 million, up marginally from Q1 2004, with a loss of $2.1 million, compared to income of $1.3 million in Q1 2004, due primarily to increased costs and raw material availability, which "unfavourably affected our manufacturing processes." Technical Products net sales were $33.2 million, up 7 percent from Q1 2004, due to higher selling prices and new business gains. Income was $8.9 million, similar to Q1 2004: any sales increase was offset by higher raw material costs. "