Brussels - Belgium-headquartered polyurethane group Recticel said the decline in its sales has gradually reduced quarter on quarter this year. Sales fell 17.7 percent in the first nine months compared to same period in 2008, to Euro 946.0 million, but there was a steady improvement from quarter to quarter, the group noted (Q1 -22.3 percent, Q2 -18.8 percent and Q3 -11.3 percent.
Automotive activities were the hardest hit, said Recticel, which makes automotive interior skins using a patented Spray technology (see photo). Here sales fall 33.0 percent over the past nine months, and 20.9 percent during the third quarter, to Euro 71.1 million. But the group noted that this decline is attributable both to lower volumes (especially in interior solutions) and also to the sale to BASF of its specialised portfolio for PU glass encapsulation compounds late last year. And the group noted that, "slightly rising market demand, perceptible since March 2009, continued during the past quarter."
Meanwhile, sales of polyurethane insulation rose in Q3 by 10.5 percent to Euro 45.3 million, following what Recticel called "sustained demand for insulation products for construction."
In flexible foams, sales declined compared to Q3 2008 by 14.8 percent, to Euro 133.9 million, as a result of lower volumes, and in line with the trend in the first half of the year, the group said. Some increase in flexible foam sales arose from addition of the activities Recticel bought from Brekke Industrier in Norway, Finland and Estonia at the end of 2008.
Recticel's bedding business saw stable sales, "despite weaker consumer confidence," declining only 1.9 percent from Q3 2008 to Q3 2009, to Euro 68.3 million.
In 2009, Recticel's net financial debt was Euro 224.0 million (Euro 261.7 million on 30 June 2009) a "substantial improvement ... largely attributable to the sale of its stake in COFEL (bedding) and to improved business conditions."
The Belgian group, which operates 120 facilities in 27 countries, said it is scaling back investments and restructuring out at various locations, to minimise costs. But it warned that "economic uncertainty continues, especially in the automotive sector," and noted that potential future price rises for raw materials makes precise forecasting "particularly difficult."
Despite this, Recticel expects its 2009 net result after tax to exceed that of 2008, and said it also aims to reduce its annual operating costs by Euro 20 million.
PIC: Automotive interior skin production at Recticel