US WR Grace confident on 2012 growth despite refinery shut downs

25 April 2012 19:31  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US specialty chemicals company WR Grace expects better company volumes and higher returns on investments for 2012, even with the shut down of east coast refineries and having a $3m (€2m) restructuring charge, company executives said on Wednesday.

Earlier, WR Grace reported that its first-quarter net income rose 12% to $60.9m compared with the same period last year, as the company benefitted from higher pricing and sales volumes in its construction products and catalysts technologies divisions.

In February, WR Grace restructured its business from two divisions into three operating segments – catalysts technologies, construction products and materials technologies – in an effort to move closer to its markets and reduce costs. The restructuring came with a $3m charge, according to executives.   

“We are moving to a more closely integrated operating structure,” said Fred Festa, Grace’s chairman and CEO. “But, I am confident we will grow earnings this year.”

Furthermore, Grace’s recent partnership with Dow Chemical to jointly develop new catalysts for polypropylene (PP) production is projected to have a sales growth of $150m in 2012.

However, the company will see tougher-than-usual growth for the sales of its catalyst technologies to refineries because of upcoming planned turnarounds and US east coast refinery shut downs, according to Mark Sutherland, vice president of investor relations. Additionally, there have been some draw backs from higher crude oil prices.

Because of this, Sutherland said the company may post a loss in catalyst sales for the second and possibly third quarters of 2012, but that largely depends on the duration of planned turnarounds and refinery closures.  

Festa said the company still expects to sustain growth across all business segments for 2012.

“I like how we started. There is still a lot of volatility in the general economic outlook, but long-term growth opportunities are coming together for us,” said Festa.

WR Grace traded at $57.93, up 4.68%, as of 14:21 hours New York time (19:21 hours GMT) on the New York Stock Exchange.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Anna Matherne

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