Overall, sales fell 11% to €4 billion and volumes declined by 14%
Despite a difficult first quarter, Evonik confirms its earnings forecast for 2023. "The start to the year was even more challenging than we feared," says Christian Kullmann, Chairman of the Executive Board. "However, we saw signs of a business recovery during the course of the first quarter. Both February and March were better than the preceding month in terms of operating profit."
The first quarter was characterized by muted economic activity and weak demand, with customers still destocking, especially in the first weeks of the new year. Overall, sales fell 11 per cent to €4 billion. Volumes declined by 14 per cent. Higher prices offset some of the volumes lost and compensated for inflation effects. Earnings before interest and taxes, depreciation and amortization (adjusted EBITDA) declined by 44 per cent to €409 million.
Despite the weak operating results, free cash flow reached €21 million. "To achieve our goals with respect to free cash flow this year, further efforts are needed," said Maike Schuh, Chief Financial Officer since April 1. "We need a lot of discipline in dealing with our working capital and investments. Now, we all have to pull together and show that we can withstand the difficult environment."
For the whole year, Evonik expects adjusted EBITDA at the lower end of the forecast range of €2.1 to €2.4 billion. The main reasons: falling prices for the animal feed additive methionine and for products of the C4 chain.
Undeterred by the current challenges, Evonik is pressing ahead with its announced portfolio adjustments. The first step in the divestment of the Performance Materials division was the sale of the site in Luelsdorf, Germany, south of Cologne. The divestment of the Superabsorbents business is underway: Investment teasers were sent out in March, and the process is progressing according to plan.
Cost-adjustment measures including cuts in the number of external consultants, reduced business travel, and disciplined hiring are also bearing fruit. However, most of the savings target of 250 million euros will only be realized later this year.
Meanwhile, the implementation of the sustainability strategy is picking up speed. In March, Evonik started construction of a new world-scale facility for pharmaceutical lipids in the U.S. Evonik also inaugurated a corresponding production facility for clinical quantities in Hanau, Germany. In February, Evonik started up a new plant for gas separation membranes in Austria.
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