Overall Statement by the Executive Board on Underlying Conditions
The global economic trend in 2013 was affected by the continued recession in many European countries and by weaker growth in the emerging economies. In 2013, Germany once again proved to be more resilient than other countries and achieved some growth. In China, annual growth is between 7 and 8 percent. At an economic summit in Beijing in November 2013, the government decided to initiate further reforms. Private banks will be allowed, initial public offerings made easier, and privatization of state enterprises accelerated. The maxim is: more market and less government.
The economy’s flat trajectory in 2013 has heightened competition and put pressure on standard-product prices. This has also affected WACKER. Siltronic’s sales declined once again. At WACKER POLYSILICON, market conditions were varied. Prices for polysilicon remain at a low level, but have not dropped any further. Continued growth in this market has benefited our business. In 2013, WACKER sold more polysilicon than ever before. The agreement reached between the EU and China in their solar dispute revived the market in the second half of 2013. Due to the lack of economic tailwind, performance at WACKER’s three chemical divisions remained unchanged at the prior-year’s high level. As a result, Group sales came in slightly lower year on year. Pressure from WACKER’s main raw materials has eased further. Overall, raw-material prices have stopped rising and are, in some cases, slightly lower than a year earlier. WACKER SILICONES’ broad product range – extending into numerous customer sectors – delivered some growth. Compared to our competitors, this division slightly increased its overall market share. WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS and WACKER POLYMERS remained at the prior-year level. At WACKER POLYMERS, business in dispersible polymer powders grew, while the trend for dispersions weakened.
The effects of the EU’s sovereign-debt crisis led to a slight sales decline in Europe again in 2013. One reason for this was weak construction-sector demand. As a percentage of sales, the decline in the Americas was more pronounced. This was primarily due to negative exchange-rate effects and weaker packaging-industry substitution business at WACKER POLYMERS. Sales were down slightly in Asia, although we posted a sales increase in China. We were able to grow sales there via stronger chemical business and higher polysilicon volumes. At 40.8 percent, Asia continues to have the largest share in Group sales.
In the first few weeks of 2014, various institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, issued positive statements about this year’s global economic trend. They expect stronger growth than last year. In January, WACKER started 2014 with somewhat higher sales than a year earlier. Our silicone and polysilicon segments, in particular, generated sales growth.