ZURICH (Reuters) - Clariant's fourth-quarter sales and operating profit fell as the Swiss speciality chemicals maker saw its plastics and coatings business hurt by softening demand in Asia and Europe and as exchange rates wiped out underlying sales growth.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation excluding exceptional items fell 2 percent to 253 million Swiss francs (195 million pounds), compared to the average 260 million francs in a Infront Data poll of analysts.
Sales slipped 3 percent to 1.63 billion francs, compared to the poll's 1.7 billion average. Not counting currency fluctuations, sales rose 3 percent.
The Muttenz-based company, a quarter-owned by Saudi Arabia's Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC), proposed a higher dividend of 0.55 francs per share and confirmed its 2021 guidance calling for above-market growth, higher profitability and stronger cash generation.
For 2018, net profit rose to 356 million francs from 302 million a year before. Sales rose 4 percent to 6.6 billion francs.
SABIC secured a 25 percent stake in Clariant last year, ending a dispute between the Swiss company and U.S.-based activist investor White Tale.
The two companies are now tightening ties by combining businesses, with Clariant selling its pigments business that could fetch around 1.3 billion francs as part of a wider streamlining.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)