This corresponds to organic growth of 3% in local currency and stable development in Swiss francs. Both higher volumes and pricing contributed to this expansion.
For the first nine months, most regions contributed to the sales growth in local currency. Sales in Latin America and the Middle East & Africa both grew by 11%. In Asia, the sales growth was 4% despite a 9% decrease in China. Sales in Europe grew by 2% while North America reported a contraction of 4%.
The improved sales performance in the first nine months of 2019 resulted from growth in the Business Areas Catalysis and Natural Resources. Catalysis sales climbed by 10% in local currency as a result of positive contributions from both Petrochemicals and Syngas.
Natural Resources sales rose by 4% in local currency with notable expansion in Oil & Mining Services and a slight progression in Functional Minerals. Additives sales weakened against the background of a lower electrical and electronics sector.
Care Chemicals sales were down 1% in local currency. The good mid-single-digit sales expansion in Consumer Care could not compensate for the softness in Industrial Applications given a weaker economic environment and some capacity outages earlier in the year.
Continuing operations EBITDA after exceptional items was negatively impacted by the one-off provision of CHF 231 million which was booked in the second quarter as a result of further developments in an ongoing competition law investigation by the European Commission into the ethylene purchasing market. Therefore, the nine months EBITDA after exceptional items decreased significantly to CHF 253 million compared to CHF 483 million in the previous year.
Excluding the effect of this provision, the continuing operations EBITDA after exceptional items matched the previous year and remained resilient at CHF 484 million despite the one-off effects in Care Chemicals and Catalysis in the second quarter. The profitability in Natural Resources increased due to stronger top-line growth at Oil & Mining Services as well as the intensified focus on more value-added applications. The corresponding continuing operations EBITDA margin after exceptional items, excluding this provision, increased to 14.8% versus 14.7% in the previous year.
In the third quarter of 2019, sales from continuing operations were 2% higher in local currency at CHF 1.043 billion, despite the worsened economic environment. Both higher volumes and pricing contributed to this expansion. This also represents a decrease of 1% in Swiss francs year-on-year. The positive sales development in local currency was driven by strong sales expansion in Catalysis.
While sales in the Middle East & Asia grew by 15%, Latin America by 13% and Asia by 4%, the development in the main markets was more subdued. Sales in Europe weakened by 3%, North America was down by 5% and sales in China decreased by 8%.
Catalysis sales growth accelerated to 15% in local currency due to higher sales in all segments, as expected. Natural Resources sales remained unchanged in local currency as the positive contribution from Oil & Mining Services was countered by the significantly weaker Additives business. Sales in Care Chemicals declined by 3% in local currency, against a particularly strong comparison base and a more cautious demand environment in Industrial Applications.
The continuing operations EBITDA after exceptional items increased by 6% in Swiss francs to CHF 151 million in the third quarter of 2019 on the back of both higher operating profitability and lower exceptional costs. The profitability advanced significantly in Catalysis due to the more favorable product mix. Natural Resources’ profitability rose due to targeted growth in higher-margin segments in Oil Services. In Care Chemicals, profitability declined due to inventory devaluation, given lower raw material costs and volume reductions in base products negatively impacting the cost coverage. The continuing operations EBITDA margin after exceptional items on the Group level increased to 14.5% from 13.5% in the previous year.
For the first nine months as well as in the third quarter of 2019, sales in discontinued operations (Masterbatches and Pigments) declined by 2% in local currency, negatively impacted by the weakened economic environment.
The EBITDA after exceptional items decreased in absolute value year-on-year in both the first nine months as well as in the third quarter, due to the sales contraction and increased one-time costs required by the separation and carve-out of the discontinued businesses.
Despite the current challenging environment, Clariant expects its continuing businesses to achieve above-market growth, higher profitability and stronger cash generation based on its focused, high-value specialty portfolio.