Italian Stock Exchange-listed gases company SOL S.p.A has approved its Q1 2009 results, observing only a slight decline in sales due to the positive trend of less cyclical sectors such as food and healthcare.

Now approved by the company’s Board of Directors, SOL saw consolidated sales dip to €112.6m, down 0.9% when compared to Q1 2008 sales of €113.7m. EBITDA of €25.6m was also down, by 2.6% when compared against €26.3m in the same quarter last year.

SOL acts as holding company to a multi-nation group of 43 companies, with more than 1,800 employees, involved in the area of technical gases and home-care assistance, operating in 16 European countries. It is this strong involvement in the food & beverage and healthcare sectors that appears to have sustained the company’s sales in the last quarter.

Despite the deeply global economic crisis, which affected the traditional end-users of technical gases such as iron and steel, mechanical, chemical and electronics industries, the SOL Group noticed only a slightly decline in sales - due to the positive trend of less cyclical sectors like food, environment and healthcare.

The company attributes the small decrease in EBITDA to the major impact of fixed costs. EBIT, equal to €12.1m (down 8.1% compared to Q1 2008), is influenced by increasing depreciation costs.

In comparison to the quarter ended 31st March 2008, sales decreased 4% in Italy and actually increased abroad by 4.3%. The homecare business, in which the group operates through
VIVISOL, marked a growth of 12.3% while the technical gases business recorded a 6.7% decreased in sales.

Reflecting on the relatively positive results, SOL S.p.A Vice President Marco Annoni said, “We consider positive the results achieved in the first quarter of 2009. The results confirm the solidness of SOL group in a very difficult economic contest.”

Continued investment
Among other highlights, the first quarter witnessed continued investments for the SOL Group as it progresses with objectives of strengthening.

Q1 2009 investments were equal to €17m and May 2009 saw the acquisition of German company BÖSCH FI – Sauerstoff GmbH, active in the homecare business and operating in the Freiburg area. With 2008 sales of €4.6m, it is felt that the acquisition will both strengthen and expand the products and services sold in Germany.

SOL Chairman Aldo Fumagalli Romaria concluded, $quot;In the year 2009, continuing the global economic crisis, our target is to limit the reduction of sales and profitability of the group and to continue the investment program to sustain the development and to improve the efficiency.”