Albemarle (ALB) supplies chemicals used to produce fire retardant safety materials and petroleum products. With sales of $2.34 billion in 2007, Albemarle is the world leader in flame retardant chemicals, which are used in the insulation of buildings, electronics, cars and electrical wires. The company also supplies refining chemicals to major US oil companies such as Exxon Mobil (XOM) and ChevronTexaco (CVX). Albemarle's production relies on mining and refining bromine, a chemical used in one-third of its products, and the company has vast bromine reserves in Arkansas, giving it control over the supply of this key input and a competitive advantage over other US chemical companies.
In 2007, Albemarle increased net income by 15.9% even though sales decreased by 1%. The decrease in sales can be partly attributed to weak US markets, especially in the automotive and housing industries. The other factor contributing to decreased sales was the closure of a manufacturing facility in Thann, France - but this is also the cause of the increase in net income, because Albemarle incurred a $89.2 million fee when it closed down the facility in 2006. Another catalyst of 2007 performance was the increased efficiency of production that was moved to China, evidenced by a decrease of $104 million in cost of goods sold. Albemarle used the resources freed by outsourcing to increase research and development spending by 32.6% in 2007.(Read more at Wikinvest )