Based on a comparable Group structure and excluding Essilor, sales were up 2.2% in euros and 1.9% in local currencies.These figures are attributable to mixed trends in the third quarter.At the end of August, the Group had posted sales growth of 15.7% excluding Essilor and 2.9% on a like-for-like basis, revenues fully in line with its forecasts for the second half. In September, however, sales contracted by 3% on a comparable structure and in local currencies. The decrease was strongest in High-Performance Materials (Ceramics & Plastics and Abrasives) and Reinforcements, as a result of the slowdown in industrial output and capital expenditure affecting both the United States and Europe, particularly since the events of September 11th.
The breakdown of sales by business sector, division and geographic area is as follows:
The Glass Sector recorded the Group's strongest growth, in line with its first-half performance. Demand remains strong in Automotive Flat Glass and Containers, but has slowed down in operations related to the building industry in Europe and fallen in Reinforcements. The business sector as a whole continues to enjoy high prices, especially in Flat Glass and Reinforcements.
The High-Performance Materials and Plastics Sector experienced a new decrease in sales in the third quarter of the year. In addition to the continuing decline in the global electronics market, the Ceramics and Plastics division recorded, in the third quarter, a slowdown in most industrial markets, particularly those related to equipment and capital expenditure. The Abrasives division, which had already suffered from the downturn in U.S. manufacturing output in the first half, saw a significant contraction in its European sales in the third quarter.
The Housing Products Sector posted higher sales in the third quarter, particularly in the Building Materials and Pipe divisions. The Building Materials Distribution division experienced vigorous sales in France and the United Kingdom, but was hampered in Germany by the continuing slowdown in the building industry.
By geographic area, sales trends for the third quarter show that France continued to record strong activity levels, but the German market declined sharply. In the United States, the Insulation and Building Materials divisions continued to grow, boosted by a healthy construction market. In Ceramics & Plastics, Abrasives and Reinforcements, however, volumes fell abruptly due to the drop in manufacturing-industry demand.
Outlook: Last January, the Group had set as its objective a 10% increase in net income excluding capital gains, "provided there [was] no new and significant deterioration in the economic environment." As a result of the slowdown in activity experienced in September, particularly in areas related to capital expenditure, added to the high level of uncertainty surrounding the world economy, the Group now sets as its objective for the full year 2001 growth of between 1% and 5% in its net income excluding capital gains.