Clariant AG (CLZNY) shares edged higher Tuesday after the Swiss chemicals group reported stronger-than-expected third quarter earnings just days after its planned merger with Huntsman Corp. (HUN - Get Report) was dumped following pressure from activist investors.
Clariant said sales for the three months ending in September came in at Sfr1.566 billion, up 12% compared with the same time period last year and were up 10% for the first nine months of the year at Sfr4.698 billion, topping analysts' forecasts. The strongest growth was seen in North America in the third quarter, up 8% excluding acquisitions.
The company, which last week abandoned its $20 billion merger with Huntsman after it came under pressure from activist fund White Tale, which said the merger undervalued Clariant, reported an improvement in profit margins in the third quarter to 15% and in the nine months to 15.2%.
"Clariant continues to consistently and successfully deliver on its strategy. With an excellent 10 % growth in both sales and profitability in the first nine months of the year we are well on track to achieve our targets," CEO Hariolf Kottmann said in a statement.
Clariant said confirmed its 2017 outlook to achieve Clariant growth in local currency, as well as progression in operating cash flow, absolute Ebitda and Ebitda margin before exceptional items.
The group also confirmed its mid-term target of reaching a position in the top tier of the specialty chemicals industry. This corresponds to an Ebitda margin before exceptional items in the range of 16 % to 19 % and a return on invested capital above the peer group average.
Clariant shares were marked 0.04% higher at Sfr24.67 in the opening 30 minutes of trading in Zurich after hitting an all-time high of Sfr25.56 last week in the wake of the Huntsman merger cancellation.
White Tale, which includes Keith Meister's Corvex Management and a second activist fund 40 North Investment, on Monday demanded three sears on the company's board and called for an independent review of Clariant's strategy and threatened to use its more than 20% stake to push through its demands at a shareholder meeting.
Clariant said Monday that it had held talks with White Tale over the weekend and further conversations were planned for the coming weeks. The company said it will consider White Tale's demand for board seats, but stopped short of agreeing either that demand or the activists request for an independent review of Clariant's strategy.
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