Akzo Nobel reported net earnings in line with its forecasts of E892 million, four percent below 2001 figures. In presenting the report on the fourth quarter and the year 2002, chairman of the board Cees van Lede said, “We delivered an almost stable performance in difficult market conditions, with the added adverse effects of currency headwinds and higher pension costs. Nonetheless, we realized a substantial net debt reduction of E800 million.”
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