By Patrick Raleigh, UT On-line/news editorMannheim, Germany-Rhein Chemie Rheinau GmbH is anticipating sales growth of around 5 percent in this year, after a decline in 2003, according to Dr. Anno Borkowsky, managing director of the Mannheim-based speciality additives supplier.Last year, Rhein Chemie's net sales fell 8.8 percent to around Euro278 million, though Borkowsky put this down to portfolio streamlining and the strength of the euro against the dollar. Excluding these factors, sales were about level with 2002, he said.Rhein Chemie, posted operating earnings (EBITDA), excluding special items of Euro32.5 million in 2003. The earnings performance matched the prior year result, according to a company statement."Both our gross and net cash flows increased in 2003. Rhein Chemie is highly cash-flow-oriented. By continuously optimising our current assets, we have increased net cash flow by €5.7 million to €35.2 million," said Borkowsky. "Given that the European economy can at best be described as stagnant and the US automotive industry is facing a very difficult situation, we feel that this result is quite acceptable, particularly in light of the positive development in our cash flow position," he added.Rhein Chemie is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bayer AG, but from 1 July will operate as an independent business within Lanxess-Bayer's new chemicals and rubber business unit, which is to be spun off from the group early next year. "Our result already puts us at the top of the mid-field among the Lanxess operating units. It is our goal to be among the front runners in coming years," said Borkowsky. "We are certain that we can contribute a great deal to the successful start-up of the new company," he added. Rhein Chemie, which as a business unit will continue to operate under its own logo within Lanxess. The company will also maintain its own regional headquarters and production facilities, its statement indicated. Rhein Chemie is an international supplier of chemicals to the rubber, polyurethane, plastics, lubricant and leather industries. The company employs 1100, including 550 at its Mannheim base, and has plants in Germany, the US, China and Japan among other countries. The company also holds a 90-percent stake in a Chinese joint venture, Rhein Chemie (Qingdao) Ltd, as well as a subsidiary iS L-Chemie GmbH & Co. KG-a Kürten, Germany-based supplier of colour pastes for polyurethane processing. "