Increase in Orkla's operating profit

Orkla's first-quarter EBITA* amounted to NOK 704 million, compared to NOK 233 million in the same period of 2009. Orkla Brands, Sapa, Elkem Silicon and Jotun (42.5 percent stake) all show profit growth in the first quarter of 2010 compared to last year. Operating revenues rose by 11% to NOK 14.9 billion due to improved market conditions for Sapa and Elkem Silicon.
 
"It is positive that the measures we have implemented in the past few years have strengthened our competitiveness. We expect Orkla Brands and Jotun (42.5 per cent) to continue to deliver a robust performance. Sapa, Elkem Silicon and Borregaard should be well positioned when markets normalise. Furthermore, the Group's two solar energy investments (REC (39.7 percent stake) and Elkem Solar) are currently in a ramp-up phase, the results of which we expect to see in 2010/2011," says President and CEO Dag J. Opedal.
 
Orkla Brands has recently acquired several businesses: Kalev (chocolate manufacturer in Estonia), Peterhof (chocolate spread in Russia) and Sonneveld (bakery ingredients in the Netherlands). In total, these companies generate sales of almost NOK 750 million. Elkem Solar has entered into an agreement with a leading solar energy company to deliver up to 1,000 tonnes of solar-grade silicon in 2010.
 
As long as the market price of REC shares is lower than the book value, the accounting value will be written up and down in step with market price fluctuations. For the first quarter, this meant an accounting charge of NOK 4.6 billion. As announced, Orkla will guarantee and participate in REC's rights issue in proportion to its shareholding. Following the issue, Orkla's average cost price per share will be NOK 33.99, while the book value at the end of the first quarter will be NOK 22.48 per share.
 
The Share Portfolio has had a satisfactory start to the year, generating a first-quarter return of 11.2 percent, compared to the 10.2 percent return on the Nordic index (MSCI Nordic). At quarter-end, the market value of Orkla's Share Portfolio was NOK 11.7 billion. At quarter-end, Orkla's equity-to-assets ratio was 52.9 percent, while its net interest-bearing liabilities, which totalled NOK 19.9 billion, were at the same level as at the end of 2009.

The presentation of the 1Q results will be held at 8.00 a.m. at Oslo Concert Hall (Munkedamsveien 14).

Key figures Q1-10 (Q1-09) in NOK million:
Operating revenues: 14 893 (13 448)
EBITA: 704 (233)
Profit before taxes: -3 422 (-315)
Earnings per share diluted (NOK): -3.6 (0,7)
Cash flow from operations: -50 (255)
 
As of 31 March 2010(as of 31 March 2009):
Net interest-bearing debt: 19 861 (26 588)
Equity (%):52,9 (49,9)
Net gearing: 0.43 (0.56)
 
The first quarter in brief
  • Improved market conditions for Orkla Aluminium Solutions and Elkem's silicon operations contributed to 11% growth in sales: NOK 14,893 million compared to NOK 13,448 million in the first quarter of 2009. 
  • Group EBITA* totalled NOK 704 million, compared to NOK 233 million last year.
  • Satisfactory profit improvement for Orkla Brands compared to a relatively weak first quarter in 2009. 
  • Orkla Aluminium Solutions reduced its cost base and experienced positive market growth that led to a significant turnaround in profits. First-quarter EBITA* amounted to NOK 129 million (NOK -342 million)**.
  • Increased capacity utilisation and higher prices for Elkem Silicon-related (excluding Elkem Solar). Due to the extreme weather situation experienced by the Saudefaldene plant, with low inflow and low reservoir levels, production was considerably lower than normal, and the results for Elkem's remaining energy operations were weak. Comparative figures for 2009 include divested power plants. 
  • REC reported EBITDA of NOK 415 million for the first quarter (NOK 510 million)**. Jotun has had a satisfactory start to the year, with results that are slightly better than last year. 
  • The Group's investment in REC is accounted for according to the equity method. Orkla calculates the value of its stake on the basis of the market price, as long as the market price is lower than the carrying value under the principles applicable to associates. The market price was NOK 27.80 kroner on 31 March 2010, compared to NOK 44.75 on 31 December 2009. A total of NOK -4.552 million has been recognised in the income statement in connection with REC in the first quarter.
  • Including the change in the value of REC, the Group's pre-tax result in the first quarter was NOK -3.422 million (NOK -315 million)**.
  • The Share Portfolio delivered a first-quarter return of 11.2%, compared to the 10.2% return of the Morgan Stanley Nordic Index and the 1.4% return of the Oslo Stock Exchange Benchmark Index.
  • Net interest-bearing liabilities remained more or less unchanged during the first quarter, totalling NOK 19,861 million at the end of the quarter.

The Group
Orkla's first-quarter operating revenues totalled NOK 14,893 million, compared to NOK 13,448 million in the weak first quarter of 2009. The improvement is due to the increased demand and volume growth experienced by Orkla Aluminium Solutions, as well as higher prices and better markets for Orkla Materials' silicon-related products. Currency translation effects had a negative impact of NOK 846 million on first-quarter operating revenues.

Group EBITA* for the first quarter totalled NOK 704 million (NOK 233 million)**. Profit was impacted by negative currency translation effects totalling NOK 24 million in the quarter.

Orkla Brands delivered yet another good quarter. There was a positive trend in volume/mix, but sales were also positively affected by the timing of Easter compared to last year. Profit growth was broad-based and driven by innovations, cost improvements and positive currency effects related to purchasing.

Orkla Aluminium Solutions' markets showed a positive trend in the first quarter. There was market growth in most segments in North America, and there were signs of improvement in several European markets. The exception is the building and construction market, which remains weak on both continents.

As regards Orkla Materials, Elkem Silicon-related reported a positive underlying*** trend, with higher capacity utilisation and higher prices for key products. While Borregaard Chemicals reported improved profits for the speciality chemicals and ingredients businesses, this was more than counteracted by the more demanding market conditions faced by the fine chemicals business. Orkla Materials Energy reported abnormally weak results in the first quarter, due to the extraordinary weather situation at Saudefaldene. Extremely low inflow and very little snow resulted in low reservoir levels at quarter-end. Production totalled only 203 GWh, compared to a presumed normal first-quarter level of over 500 GWh. Elkem Solar continued to ramp up its plant in Kristiansand, and around 400 tonnes of solar-grade silicon were produced in the quarter.

The Group's equity interests in REC (39.7%) and Jotun (42.5%) are presented according to the equity method on the line for associates. Orkla uses the market price as the value of its stake in REC, as long as the market price is lower than the carrying value in accordance with the principles applicable to associates. The market price was NOK 27.80 on 31 March 2010, compared to NOK 44.75 on 31 December 2009. A total of NOK -4,552 million was recognised in the income statement in connection with REC in the first quarter.

The return on Orkla's Share Portfolio in the first quarter was 11.2%, compared to the 10.2% return of the Morgan Stanley Nordic Index (1.4% for the Oslo Stock Exchange Benchmark Index). At quarter-end, the market value of the Share Portfolio was NOK 11,727 million, after net share sales totalling NOK 389 million. Gains, losses and write-downs on the Share Portfolio amounted to NOK 339 million in the quarter (NOK -315 million)**. Accounting write-downs totalled NOK 11 million in the first quarter.

Dividends received by the Group in the first quarter totalled NOK 138 million (NOK 45 million)**.

Orkla's diluted earnings per share were NOK -3.6 in the first quarter, compared to NOK 0.7 in 2009. The change in the value of REC accounted for NOK -4.5 per share.

* Operating result before amortisation, gain on sale of power plants, restructuring and significant impairments
** Figures in parentheses are for the corresponding period in the previous year
*** Excluding acquisitions, divestments and currency translation effects.

Orkla ASA
Oslo, 5 May 2010
 
Ref.:
 
SVP Corporate Communications
Ole Kristian Lunde 
Tel.: +47-2254 4431
 
SVP Investor Relations
Rune Helland  
Tel.: +47-2254 4411
 
VP Investor Relations
Siv M. S. Brekke  
Tel.: +47-2254 4455
 
This information is subject of the disclosure requirements acc. to §5-12 vphl (Norwegian Securities Trading Act)