Note 20: Contingent liabilities and commitments

Environmental matters

We are confronted with substantial costs arising out of environmental laws and regulations, which include obligations to eliminate or limit the effects on the environment of the disposal or release of certain wastes or substances at various sites. Proceedings involving environmental matters, such as the alleged discharge of chemicals or waste materials into the air, water, or soil, are pending against us in various countries. In some cases this concerns sites divested in prior years or derelict sites belonging to companies acquired in the past.

It is our policy to accrue and charge against earnings environmental clean-up costs when it is probable that a liability has materialized and an amount is reasonably estimable. These accruals are reviewed periodically and adjusted, if necessary, as assessments and clean-ups proceed and additional information becomes available. Environmental liabilities can change substantially due to the emergence of additional information on the nature or extent of the contamination, the geological circumstances, the necessity of employing particular methods of remediation, actions by governmental agencies or private parties, or other factors. Cash expenditures often lag behind the period in which an accrual is recorded by a number of years.

The provisions for environmental costs accounted for in aggregated €329 million at year-end 2013 (2012: €424 million). The provision has been discounted using an average pre-tax discount rate of 3.9 percent (2012: 2.9 percent). While it is not feasible to predict the outcome of all pending environmental exposures, it is reasonably possible that there will be a need for future provisions for environmental costs which, in management’s opinion, based on information currently available, would not have a material effect on the company’s financial position but could be material to the company’s results of operations in any one accounting period.

Claims and litigations

AkzoNobel is – together with others – involved in civil proceedings initiated by Cartel Damages Claims HP SA/NV before the Dortmund Court in Germany in relation to the Hydrogen Peroxide infringement in the 1990’s. CDC Project 13 SA has initiated civil proceedings against AkzoNobel and other companies before the Amsterdam District Court in relation to the Sodium Chlorate infringements in the 1990’s. These claims are disputed. An appeal by the company is pending with the General Court against the decision by the European Commission to impose fines on the company for violations of EU competition laws regarding Heat Stabilizers.

AkzoNobel has provided various indemnities and guarantees in respect of past divestments to the relevant purchasers and their permitted assigns (if applicable), which in general are capped in time and/or amount (in proportion to the value received). In connection with the Organon BioSciences divestment to Schering-Plough, AkzoNobel has limited its maximum exposure to claims to €850 million. The provided guarantees and indemnities have varying maturity periods. AkzoNobel has received various claims under such indemnities and guarantees. In some instances, AkzoNobel has been named as a direct defendant despite the divestments.

A number of other claims are pending, all of which are contested. We are also involved in disputes with tax authorities in several jurisdictions.

Provisions are recognized when an outflow of economic benefits for settlement is probable and the amount is reliably estimable. It should be understood that, in light of possible future developments, such as (a) potential additional lawsuits, (b) possible future settlements, and (c) rulings or judgments in pending lawsuits, certain cases may result in additional liabilities and related costs. At this point in time, we cannot estimate any additional amount of loss or range of loss in excess of the recorded amounts with sufficient certainty to allow such amount or range of amounts to be meaningful. Moreover, if and to the extent that the contingent liabilities materialize, they are typically paid over a number of years and the timing of such payments cannot be predicted with confidence.

While the outcome of said cases, claims and disputes cannot be predicted with certainty, we believe, based upon legal advice and information received, that the final outcome will not materially affect our consolidated financial position but could be material to our results of operations or cash flows in any one accounting period.


Purchase commitments for property, plant and equipment aggregated €93 million (2012: €89 million).

Maturity operational lease contracts






In € millions





Due within one year





Due between one and five years





Due after more than five years










The 2012 numbers have been restated to exclude the operational lease commitments of the North American Decorative Paints business.

Lease payments during 2013 amounted to €127 million. Guarantees related to associates and joint ventures at year-end 2013 totaled €9 million (2012: €10 million).