Switzerland's Ciba Specialty Chemicals boosted net profits by 39 per cent in 2000 to SFr452 million ($267 million). The markets had been expecting a figure of around SFr420 million.
Sales rose nine per cent over 1999 to reach SFr7.9 billion. Despite the strong earnings gain the company proposed keeping the dividend unchanged at SFr2 per share.
The Basel-based company forecast that sales growth in 2001 would surpass the industry average of around two per cent. It added that net profit and earnings per share would grow faster than sales.
"Our results provide a strong basis for quickly improving our presence in the market," said Armin Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Ciba.
"We strengthened our portfolio by successfully divesting the performance polymers business and by making smaller strategic acquisitions. Ciba is entering 2001 from a position of strength, and ready to strongly improve growth."
However, growth in 2001, while expected to beat the industry average, will still be slower than the expansion seen last year - something the company attributes to "a softer macroeconomic environment".
Ciba said in a statement that it would simplify its corporate structure, thereby increasing its "offering of solutions and boost innovation and thus provide for profitable future growth".
"The existing divisional structure will be dissolved and the nine business units will be grouped into five, strong, industry focused segments," the company said.
Non-operational core support services will be provided through centralized support services on a global scale. This, according to Ciba, allows the five new segments to focus entirely on their markets.
"My focus," said Meyer, "will be to make our operations faster and more flexible, to increase our focus on customers and markets in order to drive profitable growth and to maximise value for our shareholders in the process."
by Tom O'Brien