Solvay Group: Excellent year 2002 -- Record Net Earnings Confirmed, up 23%

Paris, FRANCE


BELGIUM, March 28, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- Solvay Group (Other OTC:SVYSY):

- Very strong balance sheet (net debt to equity ratio of 28%)

- Net dividend of EUR 1.80 per share, up EUR 0.10 compared to 2001

Final 2002 results

The Solvay Group has confirmed the preliminary consolidated results released on February 11, 2003, finishing the year 2002 with net current earnings of EUR 496 million, up 23% compared to the EUR 403 million of 2001. The balance of extraordinary items being negligible, the Group's net earnings are consequently also equal to EUR 496 million in 2002. The earnings of the parent company, SOLVAY S.A. reached EUR 220 million in 2002, compared to EUR 202 million in 2001.

Outlook

As indicated on February 11, 2003, the geopolitical context limits the visibility for 2003. It will be necessary to remain vigilant. The growing contribution of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties products, combined with the strengthening of competitiveness in Essential Products, should permit the Solvay Group to be well positioned to face future challenges.

2002 Balance Sheet

Despite the acquisition of Ausimont (EUR 1.3 billion), financed by EUR 800 million of preferred shares, which also explains the increase in working capital of EUR 400 million, the Group's net indebtedness in 2002 (EUR 1,053 million) remained stable from 2001, thanks to generation of record cash flow (EUR 1.1 billion). The financial situation of the Group is very healthy, with a net debt to equity ratio of 28%. Shareholders' equity (EUR 3,796 million at the end of 2002 compared to EUR 3,939 million at the end of 2001) and fixed assets (EUR 5,532 million at the end of 2002 compared to EUR 6,223 million at the end of 2001) declined primarily because of variations in the exchange rate for the US dollar and various Mercosur currencies.

Dividend

The Board of Directors has decided to propose to the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders on June 5, 2003 the payment of a net dividend of EUR 1.80 per share, up 5.9 per cent from the net dividend of EUR 1.70 for 2001. Given the interim dividend of EUR 0.70 per share paid on January 13, 2003, a balance of EUR 1.10 per share will be paid on June 12, 2003 (coupon N'72).

This increase reflects the dividend policy of the Group, which is to increase the dividend whenever possible and, if possible, never to decrease it. For 20 years, the Group has never reduced its dividend.

Results per share


   (excluding minority interests)       2002/2001  USD/SHARE (1)  
        EUR/SHARE            2001    2002     Var. %       2002  

 Net current earnings         4.72    5.53        17%       5.8  
 Net earnings                 4.72    5.53        17%       5.8  
 Net dividend                 1.7     1.8         5.90%     1.89  
 Gross dividend               2.27    2.4         5.90%     2.52  
 Cash flow                   10.82   12.63        17%      13.25  
 Number of 
 shares (000)              84,445   84,601        n.s.    84,601  

 (1) EUR = 1.0487 USD (31 December 2002)

The Auditor gave an unqualified opinion on the annual consolidated financial statements and confirmed that the accounting information contained in this release accurately reflects such consolidated financial statements.

SOLVAY GROUP - FINAL CONSOLIDATED RESULTS


                  SOLVAY GROUP                  
    MILLIONS OF EUR               2002 / 2001 (EUR)  MUSD(1)  
                     (including minority interests)                  
                        2001  2002             Var%     2002  
 
 Sales                 8725   7918                -9%     8304  
 
 Gross margin          2444   2643                 8%     2772  
 
 EBIT                   628    772                23%      810  
 
 Net debt expense       -90    -68               -24%      -71  
 
 Current taxes         -135   -170                26%     -178  
 
 Results recorded according 
  to the equity method(2)  -   -38               n.s.     -40 

 Net current
  earnings(3)           403    496                23%      520  

 Net extraordinary
  items                   0      0                  -        0  

 Net earnings           403    496                23%      520  

 Minority interests       5     28               n.s.       29  

 Solvay's share of 
  earnings              398    468                17%      491  

 Depreciation           522    604                16%      633  

 Cash flow              925   1100                19%     1153  

 Capital 
  expenditures       2627(4)   625               n.s.      655  

 Research and 
 development          341      397                16%      416  

(1) 1 EUR = 1.0487 USD (December 31, 2002)

(2) The results of the Group's participation in the high density polyethylene joint ventures with BP have been recorded according to the equity method in 2002.

(3) In 2001 the goodwill related to the acquisitions of BP's specialty polymers business (EUR 185 million) and of Ausimont (EUR 759 million) were charged directly against shareholders' equity with the concurrence of the Banking and Finance Committee. Without this treatment, amortization, based on 15-year lives for the BP specialty polymers assets and 40 years for assets related to Ausimont's fluorinated products, would have increased by EUR 31 million, and earnings would have been reduced by the same amount.

(4) Includes the Ausimont acquisition (EUR 1.3 billion) and the acquisition, through an exchange of assets, of BP's specialty polymers (EUR 606 million).

PERFORMANCE BY SECTOR


                                 Millions of EUR     Sales
                                 2001   2002  2002 / 2001      
                                                        Var.%  
 Pharmaceuticals                  1,769    1,863           5%  
 Chemicals                        2,751    2,636          -4%  
 Plastics                        2,624(1)  1,940         -26%  
 Processing                      1,581     1,479          -6%  
 GROUP                           8,725     7,918          -9%  


  Millions of EUR    EBIT                     

                               2001  2002  2002 / 2001  
                                                      Var. %  
 Pharmaceuticals                    203        230       13%  
 Chemicals                          286        235      -18%  
 Plastics                            70 (1)    234      234%  
 Processing                          68         73        7%  
 GROUP                              628        772       23%  

(1) In 2001, the Solvay Group's interests in the HDPE joint ventures with BP recorded sales of 1,221 million EUR and an EBIT of -27 million EUR.


    CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEET AFTER DISTRIBUTION: KEY FIGURES

 Millions of EUR            2001   2002  
 Fixed Assets              6,223  5,532  
 Working capital             621  1,006  
 Shareholders' equity      3,939  3,796  
 minority interests          944    909  
 Net debt                  1,050  1,053  
 Net debt ratio              27%    28%  

   FINAL RESULTS OF THE PARENT COMPANY SOLVAY S.A.
  Millions of EUR                           2001  2002  

 Net income for the year                    202   220  
 Transfers to untaxed reserves                -     -  
 Net earnings available for distribution    202   220  

Quarterly publication of results and adoption of International Accounting Standards

The 2002 statements of the Solvay Group are presented in accordance with Belgian accounting standards (Belgian GAAP). In 2003, the Solvay Group will adopt the IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). Pro-forma 2002 statements restated under IFRS will be inserted in the 2002 annual report, available on the Internet (www.solvay-investors.com) early April 2003. Furthermore, the Group will publish its 1st quarter 2003 results on April 30, 2003.

Key financial communication dates during 2003:

- April 30: first quarter results and annual meeting with analysts and investors

- June 5: Annual General Meeting of Shareholders

- July 31: Second quarter results

- October 31: Third quarter results.



        

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