- Higher volumes lead to sales increase of €47 million to €7,832 million compared with 2013 levels
- Earnings up considerably thanks to significant improvement in margins for steam cracker products
In the Petrochemicals division, sales to third parties in 2014 rose by €47 million to €7,832 million. We were able to raise volumes primarily through the startup and expansion of production plants, in addition to our robust business with steam cracker products. Sales growth was curbed by falling prices (volumes 4%, prices −3%, currencies 0%).
Sales in Europe were below the previous year’s level, largely due to a plant outage at the Ellba C.V. joint operation’s site in Moerdijk, Netherlands, at the beginning of June 2014. Prices also declined overall. Volumes grew considerably in North America. This development was mostly driven by higher demand for steam cracker products, the startup of the tenth furnace of the steam cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, and the higher capacity utilization of the condensation splitter. Sales in Asia saw a considerable, mainly volumes-related decline.
We significantly increased our margins for steam cracker products. In other business, we observed sustained high pressure on prices and margins in all regions, especially for acrylates and in the plasticizer and solvent business. This was partly attributable to additional capacities leading to better product availability, primarily in Asia. As a result of significantly improved margins for steam cracker products, income from operations before special items considerably exceeded the level of 2013.
In Nanjing, China, we started up an acrylic acid complex with an annual capacity of 160,000 metric tons; another acrylic acid complex will start up in Camaçari, Brazil, in early 2015. With the tenth steam cracker furnace in Port Arthur, Texas, we have been able to enhance our raw material flexibility there and better take advantage of the low gas prices in the United States. A butadiene extraction plant went online in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2014.