Celanese Corporation (NYSE: CE), a global chemical and specialty materials company, reported third quarter GAAP diluted earnings per share of $1.76 and adjusted earnings per share of $1.95. The Company recorded net sales of $1.4 billion driven by 20 percent volume recovery over the prior quarter. Third quarter operating profit was $184 million and adjusted EBIT was $290 million, sequential increases of $101 million and $91 million, respectively. Engineered Materials leveraged its customer project model, and the Acetyl Chain exercised the flexibility of its global network to maximize sequential growth on demand recovery. Celanese generated operating cash flow of $431 million and free cash flow of $351 million in the quarter. Cash returned to shareholders in the third quarter totaled $184 million, consisting of $111 million in share repurchases and $73 million in dividends. The recently closed Polyplastics transaction unlocked cash proceeds of approximately $1.6 billion and further improves the Company’s ability to opportunistically invest in organic growth, acquisitions, and share repurchases.
“Our financial results are again a reflection of the commitment of our employees to the success of Celanese in any environment. They have taken decisive actions throughout this year to respond to the difficult realities of COVID-19 and continue to navigate persistent challenges to better serve and support our customers each day. With the recovery we have seen to date, I am pleased to share that all of our production facilities across the globe are again fully staffed and operating to meet demand. We continue to closely monitor business conditions and will remain nimble and purposeful in preparing ourselves for continued recovery and growth in the future. We are encouraged by robust demand recovery for our products across all regions in the third quarter,” said Lori Ryerkerk, chairman and chief executive officer.
Third Quarter 2020 Highlights:
- Completed in early October the previously announced sale of the 45 percent equity investment in the Polyplastics joint venture to Daicel for approximately $1.6 billion. Proceeds are expected to be redeployed to higher return investments.
- Repurchased $111 million in shares in the third quarter in anticipation of the completion of the Polyplastics transaction. An additional approximately $400 million in share repurchases in connection with the Polyplastics transaction are expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2020, for a total of approximately $500 million.
- Announced a project to expand GUR® UHMW-PE capacity by approximately 15 kt at the Bishop, Texas facility to meet growing demand including Celanese lithium-ion battery solutions. After completion in early 2022, total capacity will exceed 50 kt per year.
- Launched BlueRidge™ cellulosic pellets, produced using cellulose from sustainably forested trees and acetic acid, as an alternative for conventional plastics in single-use consumer applications.
- Delivered robust operating cash flow of $431 million and free cash flow of $351 million amid demand recovery.
- Paid off bilateral term loans taken in the first quarter of 2020, totaling $300 million. The loans provided excess liquidity throughout the middle of 2020.
- Elected Deborah J. Kissire to the Company’s Board of Directors in October. Ms. Kissire is a retired partner from Ernst & Young LLP.
Third Quarter 2020 Business Segment Overview
Engineered Materials reported net sales of $526 million in the third quarter, resulting from a sequential volume increase of 27 percent that offset a price decrease of 6 percent due to mix. Volume expansion was driven by strong demand recovery for durable goods across all regions. Automotive volumes in the third quarter grew 81 percent over the prior quarter, slightly lower than the same quarter of last year. Additional growth in consumer appliance and industrial end-markets, along with continued resiliency in electronics, more than offset sequential volume deterioration in medical resulting from the deferral of certain elective procedures and destocking along that value chain. Engineered Materials generated GAAP operating income of $84 million and adjusted EBIT of $116 million, respective increases of $97 million and $76 million over the prior quarter. The business recorded third quarter operating profit margin of 16 percent and adjusted EBIT margin of 22 percent. Continued execution in the base business of Engineered Materials more than offset a $5 million sequential decline in affiliate earnings due primarily to weaker Ibn Sina performance.
The Acetyl Chain generated third quarter net sales of $776 million, due to an 18 percent volume increase partially offset by a 2 percent price decrease from the prior quarter. Pricing for acetic acid and VAM remained depressed as the positive impact of demand recovery on industry utilization was largely offset by significantly improved industry supply. The Acetyl Chain continued to utilize its derivatization optionality to emulsions and redispersible powders where sequential margins improved modestly. The Acetyl Chain generated GAAP operating profit of $121 million and adjusted EBIT of $126 million, both at margins of 16 percent. The business successfully offset the impact of $25 million in raw material inflation at the end of the third quarter to deliver earnings growth over the prior quarter. The team also brought forward a catalyst change at the Clear Lake VAM facility and activated the global network to execute swaps and source material to ensure customer supply security and limit the third quarter adjusted EBIT impact of that turnaround to approximately $10 million.
Acetate Tow recorded net sales of $129 million due to volume and price expansion of 1 percent over the prior quarter. Third quarter GAAP operating profit was $30 million and adjusted EBIT was $59 million. Dividends from affiliates in the third quarter were $28 million, $4 million lower sequentially due to the timing of dividend payments.
Cash Flow and Tax
The Company generated third quarter operating cash flow and free cash flow of $431 million and $351 million, respectively. Capital expenditures in the quarter were $72 million. The effective US GAAP tax rate was 12 percent in the third quarter compared to 16 percent in the same quarter of last year, primarily due to a tax benefit recorded in the quarter for excess tax basis in an equity affiliate. The tax rate for adjusted earnings per share was 12 percent in the third quarter, compared to 11 percent in the same quarter last year, primarily due to the utilization of tax attribute carryforwards and the year over year earnings profile.
“Across most of our end markets, global demand during the third quarter progressed well along the path of recovery,” continued Ryerkerk. “We are monitoring the current resurgence of COVID-19 across various locations for any impact to our businesses. At this stage, the October and November order books are shaping consistently with the third quarter and show no indications of demand retraction. We expect continued momentum in the fourth quarter to partially offset various sequential headwinds including normal December seasonality and a major turnaround at our Frankfurt POM facility. Including all these factors, we expect full year 2020 adjusted earnings of approximately $7.00 to $7.10 per share. Looking to 2021, we remain confident that underlying demand will reach pre-COVID levels at some point in the year. While uncertainty remains, we continue to be focused on controllable actions to drive strong growth next year, including productivity, production planning, and disciplined capital deployment.”
The Company is unable to reconcile forecasted adjusted earnings per share growth to US GAAP diluted earnings per share without unreasonable efforts because a forecast of Certain Items, such as mark-to-market pension gains/losses, is not practical. For more information, see “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” below.
The Company’s prepared remarks related to the third quarter will be posted on its website at investors.celanese.com under Financial Information/Financial Document Library on October 25, 2020. Information about Non-US GAAP measures is included in a Non-US GAAP Financial Measures and Supplemental Information document posted on our investor relations website under Financial Information/Non-GAAP Financial Measures. See also “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” below.