14 November 2003  Third Quarter 2003 Trading Update, closed on 30 September.

Profit improvement continued in the third quarter

  • In spite of adverse currency movements, Bekaert reports for the first nine months of 2003 a higher profit from operations, a higher consolidated net profit and a higher cash flow.*
  • The profit improvement in the first half continued in the third quarter

At constant currencies, consolidated sales** in the first nine months of 2003 increased by 3.9%.  Taking into account the currency fluctuations, consolidated sales decreased by 3.9% and combined sales*** by 7.6%.

Consolidated sales of the Wire activities decreased by 11% and combined sales decreased by 14%.  This decrease in sales is explained by weak demand, the effect of the low dollar and the closure of some product lines with a low profit margin. 
Sales in Latin America remained good, which reflected in the profit of the companies accounted for under the equity method.  The order book for the Wire activities has recently improved.  In September, Bekaert acquired the remaining 50% of the capital in Contours (United States). 
Consolidated sales of the Steelcord activities increased by 2.5% and combined sales by 3%.  The world-wide demand for steel cord products remained high. Sales increased in all regions, except in the United States.  Sales in Asia increased by more than 30%. 

Consolidated sales of the Fencing activities remained at the same level.  Combined sales decreased due to lower sales in the Handling activities.  As a result of the last year’s restructuring programme and the improved product mix, a higher profit from operations is achieved. 

Consolidated sales of the Advanced Materials activities decreased by 4% in the first nine months, due to the low dollar.  Combined sales decreased by 10%, mainly due to Bekaert’s exit out of the solar panel activities.  Sales in the activities of Combustion Technology and Advanced Coatings increased. 
Outlook 2003
For the remainder of the year, Bekaert expects the current demand for steel cord products world-wide to continue. 
There are early signs of a revival of the demand in the United States and in Europe for wire products.  The activities in Latin America and Asia remain good. 
In Advanced Materials, the activities of Combustion Technology and Advanced Coatings are strong.  Bekaert also expects an increase in the order book of the Specialised Films activities.

Financial calendar:
Fourth quarter and provisional results 2003 :       9 February  2004
Announcement results 2003                       :    18 March      2004
Annual report 2003 on internet                   :     19 April         2004
Annual General Meeting                             :    12 May         2004

*     All comparisons are with the first nine months of 2002
**   Sales of the consolidated companies (more than 50%)
*** Sales of the consolidated companies, joint ventures and associates