Belgium-based specialty materials group Umicore NV reported revenues up just 2% in the 3rd quarter of 2012 compared with a rise of 11% in the first quarter and 8% in the first six months. The group generated sales of €14.5 (€2.3 billion excluding metal) in 2011 and currently employs some 14,600 people worldwide. The slowdown is attributed to lower demand in a number of markets with the main effects felt in Performance Materials and Energy Materials business units. Umicore maintains its forecast that recurring operating profit would reach €370-390 million for the full year in 2012. Last year the figure was €416 million.
Umicore stated that its Cobalt Specialty Materials business unit revenues were higher year-to-year in the 3rd quarter due to increased recycling activity. However, the lower prices for cobalt and nickel had a negative impact on the refining margins. Revenues for materials supplied to the Tool Materials sector decreased in line with lower demand for hardmetal cutting tools.
The company states that to further strengthen its global leadership position in the production of fine cobalt powders, it will invest in new production infrastructure at its site in Olen, near Antwerp, Belgium. The investments will enable higher throughput of materials and improved environmental performance compared to the existing installations. Umicore also produces cobalt powder in the USA and China.
Revenues in Element Six Abrasives (formerly De Beers Industrial Diamond and jointly owned by Umicore and De Beers) was said to be down in the 3rd quarter as a result of lower sales volumes in Advanced Materials and the Oil& Gas business. Element Six specialises in producing synthetic diamond, cubic boron nitride and other superhard materials for industrial use. The business unit reported on the successful introduction of new diamond tools for road picks, which prolong life and improve efficiency compared to carbide equivalents.
In order to realign its footprint to the market, Element Six Abrasives intends to shut cemented carbide production at its operations in Springs, South Africa. The construction of the new £20 million central R&D centre based in Harwell, near Oxford, UK, is said to be reaching completion. The new facility will be home to more than 100 scientists, engineers and technicians who will be involved in harnessing the unique capabilities of synthetic diamond superhard materials , creating 60 new jobs in the process.
Posted by: Paul Whittaker, Editor ipmd.net, [email protected]