Albemarle profit falls 26 percent

Specialty chemical maker Albemarle Corp. on Wednesday said its first-quarter net income dropped more than 26 percent, as business was slow in some segments.

The Baton Rouge company also warned that orders remain weak for products used for consumer electronics, construction and European automobiles.

The company earned almost $84 million, or 94 cents per share, for the quarter that ended March 31. That was down from $114.3 million, or $1.27 per share, during the same period a year earlier.

Revenue fell 10 percent to $641.6 million from $711.7 million a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet, on average, were expecting a profit of $1 per share on revenue of $677.4 million.

Revenue in its largest business, its catalysts segment, fell 20 percent to $235.5 million because of lower metals surcharges, a less-profitable mix of products and lower volumes. Profit in that segment dropped 32 percent from a year ago to $57 million.

“First-quarter results matched our expectation that 2013 would begin the year slowly,” CEO Luke Kissam said.

The company said demand was strong for drilling fluids.

Albemarle’s polymer solutions business reported net sales of $214.8 million for the quarter, a 6 percent decrease due to its exit from the phosphorus flame retardants business in the second quarter. Higher sales volumes were offset by lower prices, the company said, and profits fell 18 percent to $45.3 million.

In fine chemistry, net sales were up 1 percent to $191.3 million but profits
were down 24 percent to $31.4 million due to “unfavorable pricing, lower factory operating rates and timing of custom services projects.”

Albemarle shares fell $1.37, or 2.2 percent, to close at $60.24 before the results were released.