H.C. Starck, one of the leading manufacturers of customer-specific powders and components made from technology metals and advanced ceramics, has sustained its position in 2012 despite a more difficult market environment.
The company achieved 862.9 million euros in sales, after 883.2 million euros in the extraordinary strong growth year 2011. As of December 31, 2012, the company had 2,926 employees (2011: 2,816).
"After a very strong fiscal year 2011, growth has slowed down in 2012. Especially in the second half of the year, global economy cooled down and our customers were somehow reluctant to place new orders. Nevertheless, H.C. Starck was able expand its market position in all major industries, maintain its sales at the level of the previous year despite falling metal prices, and achieve the second best result in the last ten years," said Andreas Meier, Chairman of the H.C. Starck Executive Board. "Our key success factors were the successful implementation of flexibility measures in the past, and our unique expertise in the production of technology metals."
2012: Strengthening market position in the powder business, entering the LED market, growing local production footprint in Asia
In 2012, H.C. Starck was able to strengthen its powder business by gaining market share for high capacity tantalum powders and expanding its niobium business significantly. In the business segment of fabricated products and components, H.C. Starck has successfully responded to strong demand from the semiconductor industry and the chemical processing industry. Also, the company successfully expanded into the rapidly growing market of high temperature furnaces with the production of highly complex heat shields and crucibles made of molybdenum and tungsten for sapphire furnaces used in LED production.
Investing into growth areas continues to have highest priority at H.C. Starck. In 2012, the company invested a double-digit million euro sum in the expansion of its Asia business and in the targeted expansion of production capacities at its German sites. Research and development activities of H.C. Starck focused on a new generation of high capacity tantalum powders. These powders are used to produce high-performance tantalum capacitors which are employed in modern electronic devices such as smartphones, Ultrabooks and tablet PCs. Other research and development activities included process improvements, particularly for technology metal recycling.
A secure supply of high-quality and conflict-free raw is also an important part of H.C. Starck’s business philosophy. Accordingly, the company continued its initiatives to ensure a conflict-free supply of raw materials: In May 2012, the company received certification as a “conflict-free smelter” from Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) for the second consecutive time for its tantalum processing operations.
2013: Focus on business expansion in Asia
This year, H.C. Starck intends to continue expanding its local presence in Asia. Thanks to its leading technological expertise, the company will meet the rising demand for high-quality technology metal products long-term in key Asian growth markets. Already in 2011, the company had formed a joint venture with the largest Chinese tungsten mine operator, Jiangxi Rare Metals Tungsten Holding Group Co. Ltd. (JXTC). The joint venture will begin operations in late 2013 and supply the Asian market with high-quality tungsten products. Moreover, the production capacity for components made of technology metals at H.C. Starck’s Taicang plant in China will be expanded. Meier explained: “With our joint ventures and our growing recycling activities, we are providing our global customers long-term supply security for key technology metals.”
H.C. Starck will also continue to drive future technologies. Since mid-2012, H.C. Starck operates a joint venture with the Japanese chemical company Japan New Chisso Corp.. The joint venture company develops and produces cathode material for high-performance lithium ion batteries used in electric cars and as energy storage units in wind power and solar facilities.
Part of H.C. Starck’s long-term strategy is the recycling of raw materials, continued Meier: “We don’t just recycle ore concentrates. Using innovative technologies, we are recycling increasing volumes of post-industrial waste, slags, and scraps and turning them into high quality and high-performance technology metals. Far more than half of our raw materials are now secondary materials.” In the procurement of primary raw materials, the company continues to rely exclusively on conflict-free raw materials in accordance with the guidelines of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition. “With growing recycling activities and a certified procurement process, we are guaranteeing a secure and competitive supply of raw materials based on sustainable, ethical and social guidelines and environmental principles,” Meier said.