This was particularly the case in Europe where the construction and automotive sectors experienced a difficult start to the year. In Europe, car production volumes were down 9% year on year, while in North America, car production was at the same level seen in the first quarter of 2012. Car production in Asia increased by 3%, with significant growth in China (+12%) and South Asia (+9%) partially offset by a decrease in South Korea (-3%) and Japan (-16%). While Performance Materials and Recycling recorded lower revenues, Catalysis and Energy Materials recorded stable and slightly higher revenues respectively. 
 
Revenues were up in Cobalt & Specialty Materials, although lower volumes of cobalt powders were sold in North America as a result of increased competition. Electro-Optic Materials recorded lower revenues, while in Battery Materials sales volumes and revenues were considerably higher than in the first quarter of 2012 but lower than in the last quarter of 2012. This was the result of the seasonal stock adjustments following the end-of-year sales peak for portable electronics. 
 
Revenues for Element Six Abrasives were down year on year, as a result of lower sales volumes in different end-markets. The revenues for Hard Materials were slightly down year on year, mainly as a result of the low activity levels in the mining sector. 
 
“Given the demand levels in the first quarter, the limited likelihood of any near-term improvements in market conditions and higher depreciation charges, full year recurring EBIT is expected to be between € 300 million and €330 million,” the financial report noted.
 
Umicore also stated that it has begun to buy back its own shares. Up until 26 April some 377,380 shares have been bought back, representing 0.3% of the issued shares. 
 
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