Mr. van Lede said that tough times will continue. “2003 will be a tough year,” he said. “We again have to deal with increased pension costs and the strong euro will further impact results. Against this background earnings will be significantly below last year, therefore we will continue to focus on cost and cash.
The company’s fourth quarter operating income lagged behind the previous year’s figure by 13%. Despite this, coatings and chemicals delivered a strong performance with 23% and seven percent higher operating income, respectively. The firm attributed this mainly to restructuring.
Restructuring to reduce cost levels at Akzo Nobel’s coatings business, initiated in mid-2001, has helped the company weather the storm. According to Mr. van Lede, “Coatings is more and more reaping the benefits of its