Johnson Matthey issued an interim statement on its first quarter (April –June 2011). Sales excluding metal were up 12% to L 617m and underlying profit before tax increased 19% to L 98.2m, thanks to higher demand and operational leverage.
In the key Environmental division, sales increased by 14% to L 414m with a similar rise in operating profit. The Emission Control (i.e. catalysts) business saw revenue increase by a healthy 17%. However, light duty vehicle catalysts sales were up only 3%, in part affected by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami; while profit was lower as impacted also by high rare earth prices (of which recently indicated to us they did not expect a negative impact as these costs were immediately passed through) –Heavy Duty Diesel sales were up 64% with substantial growth in operating profit. We remind that currently only has a minor presence in the HDD market (we assume sales in HDD were about € 15-20m in 2010 vs. about € 600m for light duty vehicle catalysts).
Precious Metal products sales grew by 6% to L 150m with a significantly higher operating profit. Fine Chemicals grew by 15% to L 70m (which is not so relevant for Umicore).
Johnson Matthey’s outlook statement says that the performance in the first half is expected significantly ahead of last year’s first half. The good start of the year is expected to be maintained throughout the year.
Johnson Matthey has benefited a lot from the positive momentum in the HDD catalysis market in which it has a roughly 65% market share and in which only has a minor presence (we assume Umicore’s sales in HDD were about € 15-20m in 2010 with about € 600m from light duty catalysts).
As Umicore’s Catalysis division grew 13% in 1Q11 and we viewJMAT’s LDV sales as indicative (+3% in the preceding quarter), we would expect much lower growth in 2Q11 for Umicore’s catalyst business as well. As we assumed 10% revenue growth in Catalysis in 1H11 (+13% in 1Q11 and +7% in 2Q11), we will slightly lower our forecast. More important/worrying than the slight change in estimates this will bring is the signal that the LDV market is slowing down somewhat (whether this is solely related to temporary supply issues as a result of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami or a more structural change in trend still needs to be seen).
We stick to our BUY rating and € 43 target price for now on the great long-term growth prospects of many of Umicore’s clean tech businesses, but we do recognize that the short-term outlook seems to get a bit more challenging than we were previously anticipating.