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Umicore recycling revenues hit by metal price slump

Belgium – Umicore saw its recycling revenues drop 13% year on year while overall revenues were down 2% at Euro 2.4 billion (US$ 3.3 billion), the group has revealed in its results package for 2013.

Despite a second maintenance shutdown at its Hoboken smelter in Belgium, its precious metals refining business unit processed higher volumes last year than in 2012, leading to more income from refining charges. However, revenues fell as a result of a ′severe′ decline in metal prices. ′With the exception of palladium, metal prices were substantially down compared to the previous year,′ it points out.

Investments to ′de-bottleneck′ the Hoboken plant are ′progressing well′, states Umicore. ′The second phase of the upgrade and expansion of the sampling facility is on schedule and foreseen to be finalised by mid-2014. The investments to further enhance the environmental performance of the plant are nearing completion. The improved gas cleaning equipment for the blast furnace has been installed and the commissioning of the biological water treatment installation has started.′

In line with the strategy to grow its recycling activities, Umicore has announced its intention to expand the treatment capacity at Hoboken to 500 000 tonnes a year – an increase of some 40%. In 2013, Umicore′s intake of end-of-life materials was down year on year.

′The lower availability of electronic scrap reflected increasing competition, particularly in the market for less complex materials,′ it notes. ′Umicore remains well positioned in the high end of the market.′ Supply volumes and commercial conditions of spent automotive catalysts remained ′subdued′, it adds.

This year, the group expects ′a definite improvement′ in the performance of its product businesses but accepts ′this may not be sufficient to fully offset the impact of lower metal prices on the profitability of the recycling business group.′

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