Afton, Lubrizol Strong; Tough Times at Valvoline


Financial results for the quarter ending Sept. 30 highlighted continued tough times for lube blender Valvoline, while two of the largest lubricant additive companies reported positive quarters. Afton Chemical last week and Lubrizols Lubricant Additive segment this week reported gains of 65 and 6 percent, respectively, in operating income for the quarter ending Sept. 30. Valvoline this week posted a loss of $14.6 million for the quarter.

For the 2006 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Valvoline parent company Ashland said the lube blender recorded an operating loss of $21 million, down from operating income of $59 million during the 2005 fiscal year. Ashland said Oct. 25 that the motor oil marketer recorded an operating loss of $14.6 million for the three months ended Sept. 30 – the fourth quarter of Ashlands fiscal year – down from an operating incoming of $10.3 million for the same period a year ago.

Officials said Valvolines results for the 2006 quarter included charges of $4.4 million for asset impairments. Events leading to an impairment of an asset in use can include a major change in the extent an asset is used. In Valvolines case, it primarily related to the closing of 33 Valvoline Instant Oil Change stores and $1.7 million inseverance costs. The 2005 fourth quarter had included charges of $1.2 million for severance costs and environmental remediation.

According to an Ashland statement, Valvolines performance for the quarter reflected lower margins, as persistent high costs for base lube oil, additives and packaging were not fully offset by price increases in the marketplace.

Commenting on the outlook for fiscal 2007, Ashland Chairman and CEO James J. OBrien said, Were encouraged by recent developments in Valvolines marketplace. While there is still work to do, our price increases, recent reductions in the cost of base lube oil and our cost-cutting efforts are beginning to take hold. As a result, we expect Valvoline to return to profitability for the December quarter.

Separately, Ashland said it signed a definitive agreement Oct. 27 to buy the assets of Northwest Coatings of Oak Creek, Wis., a formulator and manufacturer of adhesives and coatings employing ultraviolet and electron beam polymerization technologies. The transaction, which includes production facilities in Milwaukee, Wis., and Greensboro, N.C., is valued at $72 million.

Afton Chemicals parent company, NewMarket Corp. said Oct. 25 that its petroleum additive segment posted an operating profit of $27.8 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared to $16.8 million in the third quarter of 2006. Quarterly revenue reached $323.9 million, an increase of 21 percent from the year-ago period.

For the first nine months of the year, the petroleum additives operating profit grew to $80.6 million, a 90 percent increase over the $42.4 million operating profit during 2005s first nine months.

NewMarket President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas E. Gottwald said the company was pleased with the continued improvement in its petroleum additives business.

The improvement in petroleum additives operating profit for the first nine months of 2006 includes an increase in volumes shipped as well as a better sales mix of certain higher margin products, said Gottwald. We also continue to make progress in restoring margins through the introduction of more cost-effective products and price increases to recover increasing costs.

Lubrizols Lubricant Additive segment had operating income of $71.6 million in the third quarter, up from $67.3 million in the same period of the prior year. Revenues rose 17 percent to $661.3 million, primarily due to a 15 percent improvement in the combination of price and product mix and higher volumes. Volumes were up 1 percent compared to the third quarter of the prior year.

The Wickliffe, Ohio-based chemical supplier said it successfully implemented a September price increase to address higher raw materials costs in the third quarter and previous quarters.

Chairman, President and Chief Executive officer James L. Hambrick said in a statement yesterday that in the Lubricant Additives segment, demand remained strong, particularly for engine additives.

We continued the rollout of our CJ-4 engine oil additive technology to meet the new North American standard for diesel engine emissions, Hambrick said. We announced price increases in August that we expect will recover raw material cost increases to date.

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