Operating profit fell by 28% and consolidated sales by 10% compared with the same time last year. In reality, these developments - rather disappointing on paper - indicate a normalization of business rather than a major upset.

Indeed, it would have been imprudent to extrapolate the exceptional performances of the last two years - 2022 in particular - as these had been underpinned by exceptional conditions, characterized by the pandemic, the outbreak of war in Eastern Europe, and all the ensuing disruptions to the supply chains.

Short-term events aside, Brenntag retains some very solid strengths. The group has grown steadily since its IPO twenty years ago, while building up a global distribution infrastructure that would be impossible for a competitor to replicate.

Over the last ten years, sales have grown at an average annual rate of 6%, and operating profit at an average annual rate of 7%. MarketScreener analysts appreciate the low exposure to the Chinese market - less than 10% of sales - and the satisfactory - probably double-digit - returns on investment obtained by the group over the long course of its external growth strategy.

Brenntag's future remains dependent on any consolidation opportunities that may arise. The German distributor is the world leader in a fragmented market, with a market share of between 5% and 7%. That's twice as much as its main rival Univar, which it tried to acquire before giving up in the face of protests from some of its shareholders.

Brenntag's management team has a habit of pointing out that it does not overpay for acquisitions, aiming for an average multiple of x8 EBITDA before synergies when acquiring a competitor. Yet the Group is trading at precisely this valuation level at the moment, despite its incomparably superior scale and catalog.

Brenntag's valuation has never fallen below this x8 EBITDA floor - not even during the euro crisis or at the height of the pandemic panic.