For the first half year, almost all regions contributed to the continuing operations sales growth in local currency. Sales in Latin America grew the strongest by 10%, followed by the Middle East & Africa at 8%. In Asia and Europe, the sales development was a good 5% and 4%, respectively. China, however, was down by 9% while North America reported a slight contraction of 3%.
The improved sales performance in the first half year 2019 resulted from growth in the Business Areas Catalysis and Natural Resources, which both reported strong expansion. Natural Resources newly includes the Business Unit Additives, in addition to Oil & Mining Services and Functional Minerals. Sales in Catalysis rose by 8% in local currency primarily supported by Syngas. Natural Resources sales rose by 6% in local currency with an expansion in Oil & Mining Services and some progression in Functional Minerals. Additives sales declined due to the softer consumer electronics and automotive markets.
Care Chemicals sales remained unchanged in local currency against a strong comparison base despite temporary raw material supply issues, mainly in the second quarter of 2019. Sales in discontinued operations (Masterbatches and Pigments) declined by 2% in local currency, negatively impacted by the weakened economic environment.
Continuing operations EBITDA after exceptional items was negatively impacted by the one-off provision of CHF 231 million as a result of further developments in an ongoing competition law investigation by the European Commission into the ethylene purchasing market. Therefore, EBITDA decreased significantly to CHF 102 million compared to CHF 341 million in the previous year.
In terms of the operational performance and excluding the effect of this provision, the continuing operations EBITDA after exceptional items only slightly decreased by 2% in Swiss francs to CHF 333 million. The profitability in Natural Resources improved due to the stronger top-line growth in tandem with the more optimized cost base in Oil & Mining Services however, temporary negative influences in Care Chemicals and Catalysis in the second quarter resulted in this slightly negative growth. The corresponding continuing operations EBITDA margin after exceptional items based upon the operational performance was 14.9%.