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H.C. Starck Increases Sales Despite Weak Market Development

Overall, though, 2014 was shaped by the difficult economic situation in the global core markets, which hurt the profitability of the business. In particular, there were structural changes in the tungsten and tantalum market with correspondingly negative price effects and increased competition which in turn led to a decline in raw-material prices. Sales results were also impacted by the weak Japanese yen and by a notable drop in metal listings. In order to counteract these developments, H.C. Starck launched an extensive cost reduction program for all of its divisions in the spring of 2014. In addition, the company maintained its existing strict cost management initiatives. Despite the difficult situation in 2014, H.C. Starck managed to increase its investments up to around EUR 40 million. The major part of the budget was spent for the construction of the production facilities of the new tungsten joint venture in Vietnam, into the German production sites and into the further expansion of the tungsten joint venture in China. Research and development focused on projects to increase the yield in processing secondary materials and byproducts, to continuously improve the quality of high-capacity tantalum and niobium powders, and to develop special tungsten carbides for the Asian market. In addition, H.C. Starck launched several partnerships to use tantalum pastes in manufacturing ultra-thin capacitors with heights less than 0,3 mm. These capacitors can be used to make very thin electronic devices that will be used in many forward-looking trends, for instance wearable electronics. Another research focus was on developing high-purity tantalum and niobium oxides, which are the base material for SAW filters. Among other things, these are used in mobile phones and are essential for secure signal processing during data transfers, an area that is growing rapidly thanks to increasing mobile phone and internet usage. Additionally, H.C. Starck signed a development contract with Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing (rp+m), a US company specializing in 3D printing technologies. The contract includes developing innovative pro- ducts from technology metals that are manufactured using 3D printing processes, also known as additive manufacturing. In 2015, H.C. Starck only expects a gradual recovery for its core markets. The focus of the ongoing fiscal year is on optimizing the powder business. H.C. Starck plans to grow its tantalum and niobium powder business during the 2015 fiscal year.

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