(plasteurope) -- Business improved for troubled Swiss speciality chemicals producer Clariant in Q1 2010. EBIT totalled CHF 183m (EUR 127.7m) after a loss of CHF 13m in the 2009 quarter. EBITDA before exceptional items increased to CHF 235m from CHF 43m and net profit swung to EUR 10m after a loss of CHF 91m. While sales rose 16% to CHF 1.8 bn, ⌠clearly behind pre-crisis levels, management said figures ⌠improved significantly compared to a year ago. Sales growth in the plastics-related businesses Pigments and Masterbatches was ⌠above the group level.
For the full year, CEO Hariolf Kottmann said the economic recovery is expected to remain fragile and raw material prices are believed to rise further heading into the seasonally weaker second half. ⌠We do not anticipate an operating performance at the same strong level of the first quarter, he said, but added that the EBIT margin is likely to be above the 6.6% figure of 2008.
Clariant's Pigments business unit posted EBITDA of CHF 54m in the first three months of 2010, after a CHF 5m loss in January-March 2009, and the EBITDA margin swung to a positive 19.2% from a negative 2%. Sales rose 17% to CHF 281m. De-stocking has come to an end, the group said, and ⌠some replenishment of stocks took place in the first quarter. The recovery was driven by automotive, decorative paint and ⌠the upswing in the plastics industry that started some months ago. Growth in emerging markets was strongest, but Europe and North America stabilised. Margins improved thanks to an ⌠aggressive reduction of personnel costs. The production network will be further optimised during 2010.
In Masterbatches, the recovery that began in the third quarter of 2009 was ⌠confirmed in the first quarter of 2010, Clariant said. While ⌠demand was robust across all markets and regions, Germany saw ⌠an unexpectedly strong recovery in automotive applications. Margins remained stable, despite rising costs for polyolefins, along with ⌠certain pigments and additives. Through ⌠selective price increases, the unit plans to pass on ⌠the higher input costs that are expected for the remainder of 2010. Going forward, Masterbatches will continue to optimise its cost structure and hopes to make further inroads into medical applications and the liquid masterbatch field.