Industrial production recovered markedly in the region at the beginning of the year, but the economic upturn generally weakened over the course of the year. The business environment in the construction industry remained difficult.
Sales of companies based in North America rose by 41% to €13,246 million, or 34% in local currency terms. Nearly all segments posted considerable gains in sales volumes and sales compared with the previous year. The Agricultural Solutions segment exceeded the high sales level of 2009 thanks to the successful market launch of our innovative herbicide Kixor®. In the Chemicals, Plastics and Functional Solutions segments in particular, good demand and higher prices led to sales growth.
Income from operations in 2010 reached a new record of €1,107 million, representing an increase of €604 million over the previous year. Only the Agricultural Solutions segment posted a decline in earnings, owing to lower prices. The strong increase in earnings in the other segments was mainly due to good demand and better capacity utilization at our plants. Furthermore, supply bottlenecks led to better margins for some basic products in the Petrochemicals and Performance Polymers divisions. While the Performance Products segment had incurred high costs for the integration of Ciba in 2009, in 2010 the division’s earning power was boosted by synergy effects and the successful restructuring of the combined businesses.
At our site in Elyria, Ohio, we are building a plant to produce innovative cathode materials. These will be used from 2012 in lithium-ion batteries in hybrid vehicles and electric cars for the North American market. The new plant is being built with the help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Together with the research facility in Beachwood, Ohio, the new plant is part of our long-term strategy to enter the future market for electromobility.
In 2011, we will also start up operations of a methylamines plant at our Verbund site in Geismar, Louisiana.
We continue to successfully implement our regional strategy for North America that was developed in 2008. The central part of this strategy is an even stronger market and customer focus. We are concentrating on innovation, cross-divisional cooperation and attractive customer and market segments. At the same time, we are increasing our operative excellence through ongoing improvements while we continue to harmonize and improve the efficiency of our business processes.