Brussels-headquartered precious metals recycler and refiner Umicore says it posted its strongest financial performance ever in 2020, despite the severe disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in its end markets. The company attributes the results in part to an exceptional platinum group metals (PGM) price environment, noting in its earnings presentation that rhodium prices, in particular, "surged in the second half of 2020 in a context of tight supply and high demand from the car industry as a result of increasingly stringent emission norms."[email protected]
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After solid performance in the first half of 2020, with strong results in its Recycling segment offsetting the impact of the automotive industry downturn on the results of its Catalysis and Energy & Surface Technologies divisions, the second half of the year saw a strong sequential improvement in the group’s revenues and earnings driven by continued operational performance and high metal prices in Recycling, as well as strong growth in Catalysis, the company says. Full-year adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were 536 million euros, up 5 percent compared to the previous year, while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 7 percent to 804 million euros
Umicore’s Recycling business doubled its adjusted EBIT relative to 2019, driven by strong growth across business units, reflecting high metal prices, high activity levels despite the COVID-19 crisis and favorable trading conditions
While the company says its revenues in Catalysis decreased, its strong market position in gasoline technologies for light-duty vehicles, particularly in China and Europe, and higher sales of heavy-duty diesel and fuel cell catalysts, ensured that decrease was less than what occurred in the global car market. Adjusted EBIT declined more than revenues for the full year, reflecting the significant impact of the pandemic in the first half of the year, Umicore adds
Revenues for Energy & Surface Technologies reflected the impact of the pandemic as well as lower sales of cathode materials for high-end portable electronics and energy storage applications. The decline in adjusted EBIT was more pronounced, reflecting significant negative operating leverage and the impact of an unfavorable pricing environment for cathode materials due to substantial industry overcapacity in China, according to the company.
Umicore’s supervisory board and CEO Marc Grynberg, who has led the company since 2008, say this is a good time to start preparing for a succession plan for the CEO role. The supervisory board will begin work to identify a successor who will build on company’s fundamentals to bring Umicore to its next stage of development
“Marc is Umicore’s longest-serving CEO to date and, since 2008, he has shaped Umicore’s strategy with foresight and determination,” says Thomas Leysen, chairman of the supervisory board. “I know Marc as a leader who is driven by values and cares for people, which has earned him the respect of all Umicore’s stakeholders. I have always enjoyed working with Marc and I am glad that Umicore can continue to count on his full engagement until a worthy successor is appointed and takes over.”
Grynberg says, “I am proud of the manner in which we have transformed Umicore over the past 12 years and prepared this wonderful company for further growth. Our success would not have been possible without the support of Thomas Leysen, the supervisory board and the talent, dedication and hard work of my management board and our 11,000 colleagues. I will lead Umicore with as much engagement, energy and passion as ever until my successor is in place, and I will be pleased to assist the board with a smooth transition in due course.”
Despite the significant challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term drivers that support Umicore’s growth strategy remain intact, according to the company. The push toward clean mobility is stronger than ever, with various governments including green recovery measures and stimuli for cleaner mobility in their crisis recovery packages, in particular Europe and China.
Against this background, Umicore chose to move forward with its ambitious growth strategy in cathode materials and made significant progress with the construction of its greenfield plant in Nysa, Poland, which upon commissioning by the end of the first half of 2021, will be the first industrial-scale cathode materials plant in Europe, the company says. In addition, Umicore is moving ahead with its growth plans in fuel cells for automotive applications as well as the expansion in its light-duty and heavy-duty catalyst production in China to cater to growing demand for its technologies as emission norms continue to strengthen.
While the global economy is showing signs of recovery from the severe downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020, a high degree of uncertainty remains with respect to the evolution of the pandemic and the pace and speed of the recovery in different regions, Umicore says. As a result, visibility on end market demand remains poor. Against this backdrop and under the assumption that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak would not result in additional material or protracted disruptions to the economy or Umicore’s operations, the company says it expects to achieve substantial growth in earnings in 2021, with growth in all business groups:
Catalysis should benefit from its technology offering in gasoline applications in China and Europe, the initial impact of China VI legislation for heavy-duty diesel applications and savings from the footprint adjustments and cost improvements carried out in 2020
In Energy & Surface Technologies, volume growth should more than offset the impact of pricing pressure, underused capacity in China and some 50 million euros increase of fixed costs in rechargeable battery materials. Adjusted EBIT for Energy & Surface Technologies is expected to grow meaningfully, in line with current market expectations, the company says.
Recycling should continue to strongly benefit from favorable metal prices, a supportive supply mix as well as moderate volume growth in precious metals refining. If current elevated metal price levels were to prevail throughout the year, Umicore says the business group’s adjusted EBIT would increase very significantly compared to 2020
Plessisiville, Quebec-based Machinex Technologies Inc. has supplied what it calls a turnkey recovery facility for construction and demolition (C&D) materials to USA Hauling & Recycling at a facility in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. USA Hauling began operating the facility in early 2021
The objective for Enfield, Connecticut-based USA Hauling, which Machinex calls one of the largest independently owned and operated waste management companies in New England, was to process its own materials and obtain high purity levels, due to the rising cost of waste disposal
“As a company, we have been processing construction and demolition materials for over 25 years,” says Jonathan Murray, director of postcollection operations at USA Hauling & Recycling. “This new system allows us to expand our reach further into Massachusetts, helping our customers meet their own recycling goals, increasing recycling in our state and, most of all, having a positive impact on the environment by removing materials from the waste stream and reusing them in new products.”
The 50-tons-per-hour system is designed to sort recyclable materials such as cardboard or old corrugated containers (OCC), metal, wood, aggregates and fines from discarded construction and demolition materials
The system includes an Action Taper-Slot vibratory finger screen, a Mach trommel screen and two cross-belt magnets. Finally, a CBI AirMax separator removes light materials from heavy ones. The ability to manually pick wood at multiple sorting stations makes recovery of a large quantity of wood possible and the dense-out units “are excellent at removing lightweight contaminants and allowing for easy quality control of the heavy material,” says Machinex
“Machinex distinguished itself for its responsiveness and quick results with an impressive layout, thanks to its installation and start-up teams, who finished earlier than anticipated,” says Murray. “We really appreciate Machinex’s work and flexibility to deliver the system ahead of time. The team at Machinex was a pleasure to work with from design through installation and startup.”
Machinex, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, describes itself as a leader in designing profitable and high-quality recycling sorting systems, dedicated to “developing, cutting-edge sorting, waste management and recycling technology.”
American Zinc Recycling Corp. (AZR), Moon Township, Pennsylvania, has settled a federal-commonwealth lawsuit citing violations of air, water and hazardous waste environmental laws at its facility in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The government agency says the settlement will benefit environmental and public health by reducing lead dust exposure
In settlement papers filed Jan. 19 in federal court in Scranton, Pennsylvania, AZR agrees to carry out an estimated $4.3 million in measures to comply with federal and state environmental laws. This settlement is expected to result in substantial reductions of pollution from the AZR facility, including an estimated 47 million pounds of electric arc furnace (EAF) dust over three years, the EPA says. AZR also will pay a $3.3 million penalty.
“This settlement will help protect the community of Palmerton from exposure to harmful pollutants as well as hazardous waste,” says Larry Starfield, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “In particular, I am very pleased that the settlement will address fugitive emissions of lead dust that are posing a public health risk to families living as far as three miles away.”
Acting EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Diana Esher adds, “This settlement resulted from the commitment and hard work of EPA’s staff, who worked diligently with Justice Department attorneys and PADEP officials. The negotiated resolution protects the environment and public health of the surrounding community. I am pleased that all parties were able to come to a settlement on such important issues.”
AZR is the corporate successor of Horsehead Corp., which emerged from bankruptcy in September 2016. The AZR facility in Palmerton is located on Aquashicola Creek, which flows into the Lehigh River. The facility, which has operated for more than 100 years, reclaims zinc from EAF dust, a hazardous waste. The facility also generates waste kiln rubble, which includes lead and cadmium. Above-ground oil tanks at the facility have an aggregate 61,000-gallon storage capacity, according to the EPA.
This is the second time that the federal government and Pennsylvania have taken joint federal judicial enforcement action for violations at this facility. A 1995 consent decree addressed alleged air, water and hazardous waste violations for not complying with requirements for management of lead concentrate. The penalty in the recent settlement includes $500,000 in stipulated penalties that resolve violations of the 1995 consent decree, the EPA says
At EPA’s request, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluated nearby residents’ exposure to lead in the air. The ATSDR evaluation, released in July 2018, identified a public health concern regarding airborne lead within 3 miles of the facility, which was discussed with the community during a public meeting in Palmerton in early October 2018 conducted by EPA, ATSDR and PADEP
“It is imperative that companies that have been issued operating permits follow the conditions in those permits,” PADEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell says. “That did not happen here. Compliance with permit requirements helps protect the health and safety of residents. This consent decree is a significant step toward ensuring that operations at the American Zinc Recycling facility are conducted in accordance with applicable regulations and air, waste and water permits issued for the plant.”
In recent years, EPA and PADEP conducted joint inspections of the AZR facility and cooperated closely in evaluating environmental data. The complaint alleges violations of several environmental statutes, including: