Troubled speciality chemicals company Rhodia has reported a larger annual loss than expected, although the group has forecast profit for 2006.
The French-based group, which employs around 450 people at the former Albright & Wilson site at Oldbury, said sustained demand - particularly in Asia, the United States and Latin America - had helped it to pass on higher raw- material prices to customers.
However, the group also warned that further costs and an unfavourable euro-dollar exchange rate would weigh heavily on businesses during the first half of 2005.
Rhodia is currently undergoing a restructuring plan.
The company's net loss narrowed last year to £ 429 . 6 million from £927.9 million in 2003.
Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) and restructuring costs rose to £305.9 million from almost £ 299 million, on already reported sales of £3.63 billion last year.
As with many of its rivals, Rhodia has been battling rising raw material prices and lower demand from its customers, which include the car, electronics, paint and agrochemicals industries.
The company replaced its chief executive in 2003, following criticism that he had managed Rhodia badly and inflated its debts.
Rhodia shaved its total net debt by 25 per cent by the end of last year to £1.66 billion.
Consolidated net debt fell to £1.33 billion from almost £1.41 billion at the end of September, meeting its target for debt of less than £1.37 billion. Last month, Rhodia sold an extra 500 million euros of its bonds due in 2010 to cut repayments and extend the average maturity of its debt.