Clariant’s future is in emerging markets: CEO

19 February 2014 09:40 Source:ICIS News

ClariantZURICH (ICIS)--Clariant’s future will be in Asia and emerging markets, despite ongoing challenges in the business environment on the back of volatile currency markets, CEO Hariolf Kottmann said on Wednesday.

“We expect low to mid digit sales in emerging markets in 2014 … Our headcount will increase in China, Indonesia and India, as well as in North America. We have a strong position in Latin America, especially in Brazil, compared to other specialty chemical companies,” Kottmann said.

He added emerging markets economies have seen a very volatile environment in the last quarter of 2014, and in Brazil’s case the strong growth rates have been “digested” when translated into Swiss francs, due to the depreciation of the Brazilian real.

“We have seen strong demand in oil services [in Brazil]. Our ICS [industrial and consumer specialties] business is looking at Brazil and Latin America because it is a growing interesting market, like India. [In emerging markets] you can’t miss the both, you are either in or you are out,” Kottmann said.

Clariant’s CEO said the battery materials business “is not going well” and the segment's performance did not improve to the level hoped for during 2013.

“That business didn’t develop a year ago as expected. I don’t think the reason [to outperform] is based in the technology, in principle. Our major customer is a Chinese battery producer, [which has experienced] home-made difficulties, and the demand from his point of view grew much slower than planned,” Kottmann said.

Clariant’s CEO added that is too early to think about divestments in that segment, as there are many other areas in the company with room for growth.

“If we can’t improve that business up to a level which is necessary to stay in our portfolio, it would be logic to consider divestment,” he added.

Clariant’s CEO also said he opposes the result which the referendum held in Switzerland on February to limit the work permits for other EU nationals - breaking agreements the country had signed with the EU - is the wrong decision, but it is a democratic one.

“I am a foreign myself in this country. I am more European than German. It was not the right decision, that’s my private opinion. I am convinced Switzerland needs the EU and the EU needs Switzerland,” Kottmann added.

He added the process of translating the popular vote into law will take at least three or four years, and therefore it was too early to draw conclusions and how the new law could affect Clariant.

By Jonathan Lopez