Raises Full Year Financial Outlook
Celanese Corporation (NYSE: CE), a global chemical and specialty materials company, has reported first quarter GAAP diluted earnings per share of $2.83 and adjusted earnings per share of $3.46. Net sales for the quarter were $1.8 billion as pricing increased by 15 percent from the prior quarter, more than offsetting a volume decline of 3 percent. In anticipation of Winter Storm Uri, the Company proactively brought down its three production facilities in Texas to protect its employees and assets. The Company subsequently flexed its global procurement and production networks to manage industry supply chain disruptions. Despite significant first quarter costs associated with the winter storm, the Company delivered operating profit of $326 million and adjusted EBIT of $482 million, both increases over pre-COVID earnings in the first quarter of 2020. During the quarter, the Company returned $328 million of cash to shareholders in the form of share repurchases and dividends. The Company continues to take actions to lift its earnings and cash generation profile, which along with a strong balance sheet, provide capacity to invest across a number of strategic growth priorities.
The difference between GAAP diluted earnings per share and adjusted earnings per share for the first quarter was primarily due to a $41 million adjustment for fixed overhead, freeze-related repairs, and restart costs related to Winter Storm Uri.
“As demand fundamentals continued to improve coming out of a very challenging 2020, we experienced unprecedented disruption as a result of Winter Storm Uri, including direct impacts to our employees and production facilities in Texas as well as extensive industry supply chain challenges. Our teams responded with great agility to repair and restart our facilities quickly and to navigate hundreds of obstacles to source, manufacture, and ship our products to our customers. Amid continuing supply chain and raw material challenges, we finished the first quarter with momentum and expect to deliver strong earnings performance across the remainder of 2021,” said Lori Ryerkerk, chairman and chief executive officer.
First Quarter 2021 Highlights:
• Hosted a virtual Investor Day on March 25, 2021, in which members of the executive management team provided details on the Company’s business strategies and path for growth through 2023.
• Announced a three-year plan to expand Engineered Materials’ compounding capacities at its Asia facilities, including Nanjing, China; Suzhou, China; and Silvassa, India.
• Announced an expansion of Engineered Materials’ GUR® ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene production capacity in Europe to come online in 2024 to support the growing electric vehicle market.
• Announced a project to utilize recycled carbon dioxide as an alternative feedstock in the production of methanol at the Company’s Clear Lake, Texas facility.
• Announced further investments in the Acetyl Chain’s downstream vinyls portfolio through facility expansions, new unit builds, and debottleneck projects in Europe and Asia.
• Extended a long-term contract with Linde Gas Singapore Pte. Ltd. for the supply of carbon monoxide to the Acetyl Chain’s Singapore facility.
First Quarter 2021 Business Segment Overview
Engineered Materials reported net sales of $645 million in the first quarter, a 13 percent increase from the prior quarter due to sequential increases in pricing and volume. Volume expanded 6 percent driven by strong sequential demand growth, particularly in Europe. Continued strength in automotive, industrial, and electronics end-markets, as well as modest recovery in medical applications, contributed to volume expansion in the first quarter. Pricing increased 6 percent sequentially driven by realization of pricing initiatives implemented during the first quarter to keep pace with raw material inflation, as well as product mix. Engineered Materials generated first quarter GAAP operating income of $130 million and adjusted EBIT of $160 million. This represents a return to pre-COVID adjusted earnings in line with the first quarter of 2020, as the base business mitigated a $28 million year over year decline in affiliate earnings by leveraging its project pipeline and growth programs. On a sequential basis, variable margin expansion in the base business and an additional $10 million in affiliate earnings resulted in operating profit and adjusted EBIT margins of 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
The Acetyl Chain generated net sales of $1.1 billion, due to a 23 percent pricing increase partially offset by a 7 percent volume decline from the prior quarter. Pricing increased sequentially due to record Chinese acetic acid pricing and tightened industry conditions as a result of Winter Storm Uri, which temporarily reduced global acetic acid supply by approximately 5 percent during the first quarter. Sequential volume declined primarily due to Winter Storm Uri as well as Chinese New Year and typical winter seasonality, although fundamental demand for acetyls remained strong. In response to the impact of the storm on its US Gulf Coast production, the business immediately increased production rates at its facilities in China and Singapore. Significant quantities of acetic acid and VAM were then shipped to Europe from Asia, rather than shipped from the US as typical. The business flexed its procurement and supply chain networks to navigate disruptions, including sourcing 40kt of methanol for restarting Clear Lake acetic acid production. Despite incurring costs of approximately $55 million related to the storm, of which nearly $30 million unfavorably impacted adjusted EBIT, the Acetyl Chain generated GAAP operating profit of $251 million and adjusted EBIT of $282 million. The business delivered operating profit margin of 24 percent and adjusted EBIT margin of 27 percent, expansions of 340 and 620 basis points, respectively, over the prior quarter.
Acetate Tow recorded net sales of $119 million, which reflected a sequential volume decrease of 10 percent due to reduced raw material and logistics availability. First quarter GAAP operating profit was $16 million and adjusted EBIT was $61 million, consistent with the prior quarter, as higher dividends from affiliates offset the decline in volume. Dividends from affiliates in the first quarter were $41 million, an increase of $12 million sequentially due to the timing of dividend payments.
Cash Flow and Tax
The Company generated first quarter operating cash flow of $116 million and free cash flow of $19 million, inclusive of a $100 million payment for the European Commission settlement. Capital expenditures in the first quarter were $92 million and included capital expenditures for the acetic acid reconfiguration expansion within the Acetyl Chain business. The Company returned $328 million in cash to shareholders during the first quarter, including $250 million of share repurchases and $78 million of dividends.
The effective US GAAP tax rate of 21 percent in the first quarter was comparable to the same quarter of last year. During the first quarter, the 2021 tax rate for adjusted earnings per share was increased from an estimated 13 percent to 14 percent, primarily due to an increase in earnings in higher tax jurisdictions.
“Our teams have maintained the momentum with which we entered 2021 despite the challenges of Winter Storm Uri,” continued Ryerkerk. “The unique value of our global positions and unparalleled optionality, particularly within our Acetyl Chain business, was demonstrated in our first quarter performance. Demand for our Engineered Materials and Acetyl Chain products remains strong across most end markets. Amid a tightened industry landscape following the storm, we are well positioned to continue to deliver leading value. Inclusive of current industry dynamics, higher inventory costs from Winter Storm Uri, and our minimal turnaround needs due to previous acceleration of scheduled turnarounds, we expect second quarter 2021 adjusted earnings of approximately $4.00 per share, which would be an all-time record. Driven by this elevated performance across the first half, we now expect adjusted earnings of $12.50 to $13.50 per share in 2021, reflecting a moderation in Acetyl Chain industry utilization and pricing as the year progresses.”
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 first quarter will be posted on its website at investors.celanese.com under Financial Information/Financial Document Library on April 22, 2021. 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.