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Celanese Corporation Reports Record Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results; Raises Outlook for 2008

Published on 2008-02-13. Author : SpecialChem

Dallas -- Celanese Corporation has reported record net sales of $1,760 million, a 23 percent increase from the prior year. Higher pricing on continued strong global demand for Acetyl Intermediates products, positive currency impacts, growth in Asia supported by the company's new acetic acid unit in Nanjing, China, and sales from the acquired Acetate Products Limited (APL) business drove the increase. Operating profit increased to $324 million from $140 million in the prior year period and included a total of $93 million of certain other adjustments. These adjustments include a $34 million gain on the sale of the company's facility in Edmonton, Canada, a $31 million gain on resolution of commercial disputes with a vendor, and a $40 million net gain from a partial insurance recovery related to the outage at the company's Clear Lake, Texas, facility. Excluding the adjustments, the increase in operating profit was driven primarily by expanded margins in Acetyl Intermediates and Industrial Specialties, as well as profitable growth from the Nanjing, China, facility. Net earnings were $214 million compared with $77 million in the prior year period.

Adjusted earnings per share for the fourth quarter were $0.93 compared with $0.61 in the same period last year. The tax rate used for adjusted earnings per share was 28 percent and 25 percent for the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2006, respectively. Operating EBITDA was $349 million in the quarter versus $269 million in the prior year period. Fourth quarter 2007 adjusted earnings per share and operating EBITDA, which exclude the $93 million of other adjustments, reflect record performance for the company.

"Celanese's integrated business model continued to deliver high quality earnings," said David Weidman, chairman and chief executive officer. "Our global presence and continued execution of our focused growth strategy drove excellent results in the quarter."

Full Year 2007 Results

Net sales for 2007 were $6,444 million, a 12 percent increase from 2006, primarily driven by overall higher pricing on continued strong demand, positive currency effects and additional sales from the APL business. Operating profit was $748 million compared with $620 million in the same period last year. Excluding the one-time adjustments in both periods, the underlying increase is driven by growth across all businesses and lower selling, general and administrative expenses related to the company's operational excellence initiatives. Operating EBITDA for the full year 2007 was $1,325 million compared with $1,144 million in the same period last year. Adjusted earnings per share were $3.42 versus $2.62 in 2006. Recent Highlights:

  • Reached a definitive agreement with Southwest Research and Design Institute of Chemical Industry, based in China, that will accelerate the company's research and development efforts in acetyl products.
  • Entered into a long-term supply agreement to secure availability of carbon monoxide (CO) to increase reliability of supply and support future expansion of acetic acid capacity at the company's Nanjing, China, complex.
  • Began commercial sales from the emulsions unit at the company's fully integrated chemical complex in Nanjing.
  • Consistent with its growth strategy in China for Advanced Engineered Materials, commissioned startup of its Celstran® long fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (LFRT) unit in Nanjing, China. Also announced plans to add a polymer compounding unit to the Nanjing complex.
  • Raised 2010 strategic growth objectives by $50 million to between $350 million and $400 million in additional operating EBITDA from its 2006 baseline.
  • Upgraded by Standard & Poor's with a positive outlook and corporate credit rating of 'BB' from 'BB-.'The global credit rating agency also raised the company's senior secured bank loan rating from 'BB' to 'BB+' and affirmed its '2' recovery rating.

Fourth Quarter Segment Overview

Advanced Engineered Materials

New product applications and strong demand in Europe and the Americas drove continued growth in Advanced Engineered Materials. The businesses, however, experienced ongoing margin pressure due to high raw material and energy costs. Net sales increased to $253 million from $224 million in the same period last year on higher volumes and positive currency impacts. Operating profit increased to $30 million from $29 million as the volume growth was offset by higher raw material and energy costs and overall lower pricing due to product and application mix. Operating profit includes approximately $10 million in other adjustments, primarily related to an insurance settlement in the period. Operating EBITDA, which excludes the adjustments, decreased to $45 million from $58 million in the prior year period, primarily driven by lower overall earnings from equity affiliates.

Consumer Specialties

Consumer Specialties realized benefits from its European growth initiative as sales and earnings significantly increased from the prior year. Net sales increased to $279 million from $224 million in the same period last year, primarily driven by $62 million of additional net sales from the APL business during the quarter. Higher pricing, driven by continued strong demand, also contributed to the increased sales. The increase was partially offset by lower volumes associated with the company's strategy to shift flake production to its China ventures. Operating profit increased to $69 million from $41 million in the prior year period and included $27 million of non-recurring benefits, principally from the sale of the Edmonton, Canada, facility and the partial insurance recovery. Incremental operating profit from the APL acquisition, positive impacts from the Acetate Products revitalization, and overall higher pricing on continued strong demand offset higher raw material and energy costs in the period. Operating EBITDA increased to $57 million compared with $53 million in the same period last year. The Nutrinova business continued to deliver stable earnings in the period.

Industrial Specialties

With strong performance and leading global positions, Industrial Specialties delivered improved results in the quarter. Net sales increased to $331 million compared with $309 million in the prior year period. The increase, primarily driven by higher pricing on continued strong demand and positive currency impacts, was partially offset by lower volumes resulting from the residual impact of the company's unplanned acetic acid outage at its Clear Lake, Texas, facility. Operating profit was $26 million, a $17 million increase from the prior year period, and operating EBITDA was $41 million compared with $25 million in 2006.

Acetyl Intermediates

Acetyl Intermediates' growth in Asia and continued favorable dynamics drove record performance in the quarter. Net sales were $1,083 million compared with $831 million in the prior year period. The increase is attributed to higher pricing resulting from continued strong demand and industry production outages, increased volumes and positive currency impacts in the period. Increased volumes were primarily driven by production from the company's new acetic acid unit in Nanjing, China. Operating profit was $276 million compared with $107 million in the same period last year, driven by the higher pricing and increased volumes. Results also included approximately $97 million of one-time gains primarily associated with a resolution of commercial disputes with a vendor, the partial insurance recovery and the sale of the company's Edmonton, Canada, facility. Operating EBITDA, which excludes the one-time gains, increased to $231 million from $169 million in the same period last year, driven by the higher operating profit and higher dividend income from the company's Ibn Sina cost affiliate.

Taxes

The tax rate for adjusted earnings per share was 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007 compared with 25 percent for the fourth quarter of 2006. The U.S. GAAP effective tax rate for continuing operations for 2007 was 25 percent versus 42 percent in 2006. The U.S. GAAP rate for 2007 is lower primarily due to increased earnings in tax jurisdictions with reduced tax rates and the favorable impact from the recent German tax rate reduction. These benefits are partially offset by the accounting treatment for the recent tax law change in Mexico in the fourth quarter of 2007. Cash taxes for 2007 were $191 million compared with $101 million in 2006, primarily as a result of the timing of cash taxes in Germany. The new tax laws in Mexico are not expected to materially impact cash taxes in future periods.

Equity and Cost Investments

Earnings from equity investments and dividends from cost investments, which are reflected in the company's adjusted earnings and operating EBITDA, totaled $40 million in the fourth quarter and were flat compared with 2006 results. Higher dividends received from the company's Ibn Sina cost affiliate offset lower earnings in the Advanced Engineered Materials equity affiliates. Equity and cost investment dividends, which are included in operating cash Flow, were $26 million compared with $73 million in the prior year period, primarily due to a special dividend from the company's Polyplastics equity affiliate received in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Cash Flow

For the full year 2007, the company generated approximately $566 million in cash Flow from operations compared with $751 million in 2006. Excluding adjustments to operating cash for discontinued operations in both periods, cash Flow from operations was $650 million and $741 million for 2007 and 2006, respectively. Through the end of the fourth quarter 2007, the company paid $191 million in cash taxes, a $90 million increase from the same period in 2006.

"Our strong operational cash generation in 2007 provides a solid platform for future growth and delivering shareholder value," said Steven Sterin, senior vice president and chief financial officer. "In 2008, we expect adjusted free cash Flow of between $500 million and $550 million, driven by strong earnings and lower cash taxes."

Cash and cash equivalents at the end of the fourth quarter were $825 million, a $34 million increase from the end of 2006 and a $294 million increase from the end of the third quarter of 2007. During the fourth quarter of 2007, the company received $31 million from resolution of commercial disputes with a vendor, cash proceeds of $33 million from the sale of the Edmonton, Canada, facility and a $33 million net insurance recovery progress payment related to the unplanned outage at its Clear Lake, Texas, facility. Net debt at the end of the fourth quarter was $2,731 million, a slight increase from $2,707 million at the end of 2006.

Outlook

Based on continued strength in its global markets and progress in executing its strategic growth plans, the company raised its full year 2008 outlook for adjusted earnings per share to between $3.40 and $3.70 from its previous guidance range of between $3.35 and $3.65. The company's guidance is based on a tax rate of 26 percent and a year-end weighted average of 169 million diluted shares outstanding. The company also raised its guidance range for operating EBITDA to between $1,290 million and $1,360 million from its previous guidance range of between $1,280 million and $1,350 million.

"With our resilient portfolio, geographic reach, and diversified end market exposure, Celanese is well positioned to mitigate the impacts of an uncertain economic environment and deliver sustained earnings growth. In 2008, we expect to build on our track record of execution and drive improved performance across our business," Weidman said.

About Celanese Corporation:

As a global leader in the chemicals industry, Celanese Corporation makes products essential to everyday living. Our products, found in consumer and industrial applications, are manufactured in North America, Europe and Asia. Net sales totaled $6.4 billion in 2007, with approximately 70% generated outside of North America. Known for operational excellence and execution of its business strategies, Celanese delivers value to customers around the globe with innovations and best-in-class technologies. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company employs approximately 8,400 employees worldwide.

Forward-Looking Statements

This release may contain "forward-looking statements," which include information concerning the company's plans, objectives, goals, strategies, future revenues or performance, capital expenditures, financing needs and other information that is not historical information. When used in this release, the words "outlook," "forecast," "estimates," "expects," "anticipates," "projects," "plans," "intends," "believes," and variations of such words or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and beliefs and various assumptions. There can be no assurance that the company will realize these expectations or that these beliefs will prove correct. There are a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements contained in this release. Numerous factors, many of which are beyond the company's control, could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed as forward-looking statements. Certain of these risk factors are discussed in the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made, and the company undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which it is made or to reflect the occurrence of anticipated or unanticipated events or circumstances.

Source: Celanese Corporation


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