Company results: Higher sales boost Imerys’ Q1 profits

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Thursday, 08 June 2017

Most divisions posted higher sales; Ceramics affected by weak housing market in France; Takeover of Kerneos to be completed by mid-2017

French industrial minerals group Imerys SA posted strong results in the first quarter of 2017 with notable growth in turnover and income, on the back of improving market dynamics as well as revenue injection from acquired companies.

Imerys reported higher sales across a number of markets while businesses that had seen prolonged decline in previous quarters – such as monolithic refractories and, to an extent, ceramic proppants – have reached a degree of stabilisation.  

Growth in sales was seen in three out of Imerys’ four main divisions – energy solutions & specialities, filtration and performance additives, and high resistance materials – while ceramic materials recorded a 4% decline in turnover year-on-year (y-o-y).

Energy solutions & specialities posted a 7% increase in Q1 revenues y-o-y, to €322m ($350.8m). Chief financial officer, Olivier Pirotte, pointed to a stabilisation of monolithic refractories sales following a prolonged decline. Monolithic refractories accounted for 37% of the division’s sales in the quarter.

Industrial and construction markets, particularly in the US, drove sales of carbonates, which increased slightly.

Strong activity was also reported in the graphite & carbon division – where Imerys Graphite & Carbon recently concluded the acquisition of Japanese anode manufacturer Nippon Power Graphite (NPG)to increase its presence in the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery space.

Imerys Q1 results at a glance 

In oilfield solutions, the ceramics proppants business continued to underperform, in line with the slow activity in shale oil and gas drilling.

High resistance materials posted a 24% growth in quarterly sales, which Pirotte ascribed to the "ongoing market recovery" in refractory minerals, pushing customers to buy more and restock.

Filtration and performance additives also had a double-digit increase in turnover (+12%), on the back of strong momentum in the performance additives sector.

Pirotte spoke of "very dynamic growth, driven by automotive polymer in particular" across all regions.

Ceramic materials was the main division that underperformed, with quarterly revenues down almost 4% to €311m. This was down to further contraction in demand for clay roof tiles, amid a slow performance of the real estate market in France.

The executive pointed to "fewer and fewer new housing starts", which affected the business.

The kaolin operation benefited from transition volumes following the acquisition of BASF’s paper hydrous kaolin segment, although the paper industry remains in the doldrums.

In his outlook for 2017, Imerys’ CEO, Gilles Michel, said: "We’ll not attempt to make an economic forecast, but the economic environment has been unclear for the past few months."

He noted that three main drivers of growth in the coming quarters will be "tight management of costs, contributions from synergies from recent acquisitions, and the completion of the acquisition of Kerneos by mid-2017".

This article from the June issue of Industrial Minerals magazine was first published online on 28 April 2017.