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Clariant first-quarter sales, profit fall, says COVID-19 impact to intensify

The logo of Swiss specialty chemicals company Clariant is seen at the company's headquarters in Pratteln, Switzerland October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss speciality chemicals maker Clariant said on Thursday that its first-quarter sales and profit fell as the new coronavirus pandemic hit results, adding the impact of the crisis will be greater during the current quarter.

Sales at its continuing operations fell 12% to 1.019 billion Swiss francs ($1.05 billion), the Muttenz-based company said. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell to 157 million francs from 183 million, it added.

EBITDA as a percentage of sales fell to 15.4% from 15.7% in the first three months of last year.

Even before the new coronavirus gripped the world, Clariant was bracing for headwinds with a plan to cut up to 600 jobs to reduce costs as it reshapes its portfolio through divestitures of businesses that made up about a third of its sales.

“Efforts to minimize the impact of this pandemic are fully in place based on a strong balance sheet and liquidity position,” the company said. “The COVID-19 pandemic impact is expected to more strongly affect the second quarter of 2020.”

Clariant gave mid-term guidance, saying it expects its continuing businesses to achieve above-market growth, higher profitability and stronger cash generation at businesses it is keeping.

Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields