According to Jim O’Brien, CEO of Ashland Inc., the company's acquisition of Hercules Inc., which was announced in July 2008 and completed in early 2009, helped the Covington, Ky.-based provider of specialty chemical products, services and solutions take a step forward in creating strong market positions and global reach.
"We swiftly and successfully integrated this business, while also generating strong cash flow and increased earnings," states O'Brien. "Across all of our commercial units, we have kept the focus on our customers, recognizing that our ability to adapt our offerings to meet changing customer needs will help us to maintain the long-term relationships we value. In today’s environment, more than ever, we believe the depth of our technical, application, marketing and sales expertise by industry is paramount in differentiating Ashland from its competitors.”
Putting the focus on customers has paid off. Reporting fourth-quarter results, Ashland notes that it has increased its EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) and reduced debt by 19% since June 30, 2009.
“Our 37% increase in EBITDA versus the prior-year quarter reflects the benefits of cost-reduction initiatives and successful margin management," says O'Brien. "This more than offset year-versus-year volume declines ranging from 3% in Ashland Consumer Markets, which is our Valvoline business, to 25% in Ashland Performance Materials. That said, we saw single-digit volume improvements over the June quarter in most of our segments. Our results reflect record fourth-quarter EBITDA from Consumer Markets. Ashland Hercules Water Technologies also achieved record EBITDA and is making significant progress toward our long-term goal of double-digit operating income margins.”
Financial news isn't the company's only bright spot.
Ashland Performance Materials will join a consortium of companies and universities to develop, deploy and test three wind turbines off the Maine coastline. The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $8 million to the University of Maine for offshore, deepwater wind energy research; Ashland was selected as a partner in this program.
“We are looking forward to this collaborative effort. As the sole resin supplier to this project, we were pleased to have our efforts in resin science and development recognized by the University of Maine,” says Ruben Bake, global marketing director, Ashland Performance Materials.
The consortium’s research-and-development plan will optimize materials and designs for deep-water floating platforms. The group will investigate options for using lighter, corrosion-resistant hybrid composite materials, evaluate the ease of manufacturing various turbine components, and explore how best to deploy such platforms.