Excluding the impact of the sale of the European activities of Technical Materials in January 2018, revenues and recurring EBIT increased 6% and 12% respectively, reflecting the growth in processed volumes and somewhat more supportive metal prices in Precious Metals Refining.
Recycling remained a premium return business due to its unique business model and service offering. The increased ROCE in 2018 includes the effect of the divestments of the European operations of Technical Materials.
Revenues and earnings for Precious Metals Refining were considerably higher, primarily driven by higher processed volumes, despite the impact of the fire in the Hoboken plant on 12 September 2018, and a somewhat more supportive metal prices for certain PGMs (Platinum Group Metals) and specialty metals.
Processed volumes were higher despite the fire in the Hoboken plant. The fire occurred at one of the off-gas cleaning facilities which was shut down for clean-up and repair until mid-January 2019. While operations in other parts of the plant were unaffected, the overall throughput rate was impacted. This resulted in lower volume growth and a temporary increase in working capital at year-end. The enhanced performance of the smelter meant that its maintenance shutdown was rescheduled to early 2019, further contributing to the volume growth in 2018.
The environmental investments to revamp the lead refinery were completed in 2018 and yielded immediate and significant emissions reduction.
The supply mix was broadly unchanged. While the availability of complex industrial by-products and end-of-life materials was supportive for the ramp-up, commercial terms in some segments continued to be impacted by competitive pressure.
Excluding the impact of the divestment of the European Technical Materials, revenues for Jewelry & Industrial Metals remained stable. The performance of the product businesses remained strong, in particular for industrial applications, despite competitive pressure and a lower availability of silver-containing scrap which affected the refining and recycling activities. Order levels for jewelry products remained stable. The construction of the facility in China for equipment used in the special glass industry is nearing completion and will be commissioned in Q1 2019.
The earnings contribution from Precious Metals Management increased year-on- year, mainly as a result of favorable trading conditions for most PGMs. The demand for the physical delivery of metals was also strong, reflecting higher demand for silver and other industrial metals, and a recovery in demand for gold investment bars in the second half of 2018.