"Without question, the fourth quarter was very challenging. Like many other companies, PPG experienced dramatic volume declines in several of the industrial end-use markets that we serve due to the rapid deterioration in the global economy," said Charles E. Bunch, PPG chairman and CEO. "Our industrial coatings and glass segments were the most severely impacted and both reported operating losses in the quarter. However, the remaining segments, which represent about 70% of the company's sales, delivered solid results. Throughout the quarter, we continued to implement a variety of initiatives to reduce costs in all of our businesses in response to worsening global economic conditions. These actions were taken in addition to the restructuring program we began last September."
Bunch also commented on the company's full year performance. "We delivered solid earnings despite rapidly rising energy and material costs and substantial demand declines, and our cash from operations was approximately $1.4 billion, which surpassed the prior year by nearly 40%," he said. "We ended the year with $1 billion of cash on hand, which is up from approximately $500 million at the end of 2007. This gives us tremendous financial flexibility, which is critical in today's business climate. Our performance this past year under intensely difficult market conditions continues to demonstrate our strengthened business portfolio and the success of our strategic direction.
"Of equal importance, we have continued to transform the company, and I believe our accomplishments in this regard were greater this year than in any of the 30 years I have been with PPG," Bunch continued. "Foremost among the actions we completed in 2008 was our acquisition of SigmaKalon. This acquisition has outperformed all of our expectations. It was the major factor that enabled us to grow our coatings sales by about 50% and to improve our year-over-year cash generation."
Commenting on 2009, Bunch noted, "Overall, the progress we made in implementing our strategy this past year, including our stronger and more stable cash generation capabilities, should prove even more beneficial as we move into 2009. This has become even more important, as our early read on 2009 is that the first quarter and possibly the first half of the year is shaping up to be an even greater challenge than the fourth quarter 2008 due to further weakening demand. We continue to evaluate further cost actions that may result in additional restructuring and related cost savings during the year."
Performance coatings segment sales in the fourth quarter 2008 increased $85 million, or eight percent, versus the prior year's quarter. Sales grew as a result of acquisitions—most notably the SigmaKalon protective and marine coatings business—and higher pricing in all businesses. Volumes declined, particularly in the company's architectural coatings - Americas and Asia and automotive refinish businesses, and weaker foreign currency also reduced sales. Segment earnings were flat, as lower volumes and inflation were offset by price gains, acquisitions and tighter cost control.
Industrial Coatings segment sales for the quarter decreased $166 million, or 18%, due primarily to lower volumes in the automotive OEM coatings and industrial coatings businesses, reflecting the severe declines in global demand. Weaker foreign currencies also detracted from sales. These decreases were only partially countered by the acquisition of SigmaKalon's industrial coatings business and improved selling prices. Segment earnings decreased by $117 million due primarily to the negative effects of lower volumes. Inflation also impacted earnings and was only partially offset by higher selling prices and lower manufacturing and overhead costs. This segment is implementing the restructuring initiatives announced in September 2008 on an accelerated basis and has taken additional actions during the fourth quarter to reduce costs.
The architectural coatings EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) segment represents the largest business from the SigmaKalon acquisition. Segment sales for the quarter were $414 million and segment earnings were break-even in what is traditionally the segment's slowest quarter due to seasonal trends.