- Sales up by €49 million to €6,546 million through increase in sales volumes
- Slight decline in earnings due to higher production costs
In the Performance Materials division, we increased sales to third parties by €49 million to €6,546 million in 2014 (volumes 2%, prices 0%, currencies −1%). Whereas volumes declined slightly in Europe, we saw considerable gains in sales volumes in Asia and especially North America. Price levels were largely stable. Negative currency effects dampened sales growth in all regions, particularly in South America.
We raised our sales to the automotive industry considerably. Demand in Asia and North America rose significantly, especially for engineering plastics, our specialty elastomer Cellasto® and polyurethane systems. Mainly as a result of sharply increased contributions from Cellasto®, Europe also observed slight sales growth.
The slight recovery of the European construction industry had a positive effect on our sales of polyurethane systems and styrenic foams in the region. We benefited from higher demand in North America, too, which was primarily due to a better market environment in residential construction. We were able to continue increasing sales of Neopor® in Asia.
Sales to the consumer goods industry declined slightly, however, mostly because of a considerable drop in sales volumes in polyurethane systems in Europe. We were able to partly compensate for this with overall higher volumes in North America and in our specialties, particularly Ultrason® and the thermoplastic polyurethanes.
Compared with the previous year, income from operations before special items was down slightly due to rising manufacturing costs through the startup of new plants. Sales growth in our high-margin businesses with engineering plastics and thermoplastic polyurethanes was not able to fully compensate for the increased fixed costs.
In 2014, we began operations at a new Ultrason® production plant at the Yeosu, South Korea, site. We furthermore invested in the sites at Lemförde, Germany, and Shanghai, China, as well as Dahej, India, especially in the areas of thermoplastic polyurethanes and Cellasto®. With these measures, we are further expanding our specialties business.