- At €2,799 million, sales €25 million below prior-year level
- Earnings rise considerably through higher sales volumes and reduced fixed costs
In the Intermediates division, sales to third parties in 2014 declined by €25 million to €2,799 million. Lower prices and negative currency effects, especially during the first half of the year, were almost fully offset by higher sales volumes (volumes 3%, prices −3%, currencies −1%).
Amines and polyalcohols were main drivers for this volumes growth, particularly in Asia and North America. In our business with butanediol and its derivatives, we achieved higher sales volumes in Europe and North America, whereas volumes declined in Asia.
More intense competition compared with 2013, especially in Asia, led to price and margin pressure on butanediol and formic acid. We were able to compensate for this with a favorable product mix including a higher proportion of specialties. As a result of the increased sales volumes and lower fixed costs, income from operations before special items considerably surpassed the level of the previous year. Special items mainly pertained to the impairment of a production plant in Ludwigshafen. In addition, we closed one small production plant at each of two Louisiana sites in Geismar and Zachary in 2014.
At the Verbund site in Geismar, Louisiana, we are expanding our S-methylisopropylamine capacity in order to accommodate the Crop Protection division’s growing demand for this chiral amine. We are also enlarging our butanediol plant there. In Ludwigshafen, Germany, and Nanjing, China, we are expanding our production capacities for specialty amines. We plan to construct an ethylhexanoic acid plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, with our joint venture partner PETRONAS. These projects are enabling us to intensify the backward and forward integration within our Verbund.