WACKER’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) amounted to €267.1 million in Q1 2015 (Q1 2014: €285.2 million), down about 6 percent from a year ago. The main reason for the decrease was a non-recurring effect. In Q1 2014, WACKER had restructured its contractual relationships with a solar-industry customer, as a result retaining advance payments and receiving damages. That resulted in special income of €114.0 million. The comparable income for the reporting quarter was €4.7 million. Adjusted for this special income, WACKER’s EBITDA grew by about 53 percent year on year. Relative to Q4 2014 (€180.1 million), WACKER’s EBITDA was some 48 percent higher. The EBITDA margin for Q1 2015 was 20.0 percent compared with 24.6 percent in the same quarter last year and 15.1 percent in Q4 2014.
The Group’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) from January through March 2015 totaled €126.3 million (Q1 2014: €133.8 million). This was almost 6 percent less than a year ago and yielded an EBIT margin of 9.5 percent (Q1 2014: 11.6 percent). In this case, too, special income in Q1 2014 had an impact. Adjusted for non-recurring effects, WACKER’s EBIT increased more than sixfold year on year. Net income for the reporting quarter was €70.6 million (Q1 2014: €64.2 million) and earnings per share amounted to €1.42 (Q1 2014: €1.35).
WACKER has raised its sales forecast for full-year 2015 slightly. The company now projects that Group sales will be around 10 percent higher than the 2014 figure of €4.83 billion. EBITDA – adjusted on a comparable basis to exclude special income – should also rise slightly. Group net income is expected to be lower than a year ago because special income is unlikely to be as high as in 2014.
“WACKER made a good start to 2015 during the first quarter,” said CEO Rudolf Staudigl in Munich on Thursday. “All of our divisions posted double-digit sales growth. Global demand for our products is strong. In addition, we are benefiting from positive exchange-rate effects. Given our good start, we are optimistic that business operations will continue to develop positively during the remainder of the year.”
Asia remains WACKER’s most important market, with the Group generating almost 43 percent (Q1 2014: 42 percent) of its total sales there. Sales in Asia came in at €569.3 million in Q1 2015 after €490.2 million in Q1 2014, a rise of about 16 percent. Growth was particularly strong in Asia for silicones, dispersions and dispersible polymer powders. Polysilicon operations, WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS and Siltronic posted double-digit sales growth there as well. Relative to Q4 2014 (€523.2 million), Group sales increased by almost 9 percent.
In Europe, WACKER achieved sales of €297.0 million in Q1 2015 (Q1 2014: €274.1 million), a good 8 percent more than a year ago. Robust demand enabled all business divisions to outperform their respective prior-year figures. Relative to Q4 2014 (€262.2 million), sales were up by over 13 percent, with the usual seasonal effects contributing to this growth.
Group sales in Germany totaled €176.0 million in the quarter under review (Q1 2014: €167.3 million), a year-on-year increase of roughly 5 percent. Sales rose by 10 percent relative to Q4 2014 (€160.0 million), with silicones business performing especially well quarter on quarter.
While sales growth in the Americas was strongly influenced by the positive effects of the decline in the euro against the US dollar, the robust US economy also fueled brisk customer demand for WACKER’s products. Overall, WACKER generated sales of €243.8 million in this region during the reporting quarter (Q1 2014: €183.1 million), up more than 33 percent on a year ago and over 19 percent more than in Q4 2014 (€204.5 million).
WACKER’s sales in the markets combined under “Other Regions” totaled €48.8 million in Q1 2015, after €42.7 million in Q1 2014 and €44.6 million in Q4 2014. In total, WACKER generated about 87 percent of its first-quarter sales with customers outside Germany (Q1 2014: 86 percent).
Investments and Net Cash Flow
The WACKER Group invested €174.9 million in the first quarter of 2015 (Q1 2014: €89.3 million), about 96 percent more than a year ago due to project-related factors. The Group’s net cash flow in the first quarter was €17.4 million, compared with €104.5 million a year ago. There are two main reasons for this substantial decline: a higher level of investments than in Q1 2014 due to project-related factors, and special income from damages that was included in last year’s figure.
The demand-driven expansion of polysilicon production capacities remains the focus of investment spending. Construction of the new polysilicon site in Charleston, Tennessee (USA) remained on schedule in the first quarter. This project accounted for more than 70 percent of the Group’s total investment spending during the reporting quarter. The plant’s start-up phase is scheduled to begin in the second half of this year. In parallel, the production output of the existing hyperpure polysilicon facilities at the Burghausen and Nünchritz sites in Germany is to be expanded by optimizing processes already in place. WACKER intends to increase its overall annual production capacity for polysilicon to about 80,000 metric tons by 2017.
Further capital expenditures during the reporting quarter focused on increasing capacities for polymer products. For example, WACKER is expanding its production plants for vinyl acetate-ethylene copolymer dispersions at Calvert City, Kentucky (USA), where it is building a new reactor with an annual capacity of 85,000 metric tons. WACKER is also building a new specialty-monomer plant for vinyl laurate and vinyl neodecanoate at the Burghausen site with an annual capacity of around 4,000 metric tons. These new facilities will allow WACKER to meet growing demand for high-quality polymeric binders and strengthen its position as the world’s leading manufacturer of ethylene-based dispersions and dispersible polymer powders.
WACKER’s new production plant for food-grade polyvinyl acetate (PVAc) solid resins at Nanjing (China) officially came on stream in late March. With an annual capacity of 20,000 metric tons, the plant is the largest of its kind in Asia. One use for PVAc solid resins is to manufacture gumbase. WACKER’s former PVAc site at Wuxi in China is to be closed down later this year.
Relative to Q4 2014, the number of WACKER employees worldwide rose by close to 1 percent during the first quarter of 2015. On March 31, 2015, the Group had 16,844 employees (Dec. 31, 2014: 16,703), with 12,400 working in Germany (Dec. 31, 2014: 12,366) and 4,444 at its international sites (Dec. 31, 2014: 4,337).
WACKER SILICONES increased its sales and earnings in Q1 2015. The division posted total sales of €474.8 million in January through March 2015 (Q1 2014: €425.3 million), almost 12 percent more than a year ago. Relative to Q4 2014 (€419.6 million), sales rose by 13 percent. The favorable effects of a weaker euro, and somewhat higher volumes both year on year and quarter on quarter, were the main reasons for this growth. WACKER SILICONES’ first-quarter EBITDA totaled €67.7 million (Q1 2014: €49.1 million), up almost 38 percent on the prior-year quarter. This increase largely stemmed from higher volumes and favorable exchange-rate effects. A slight improvement in prices in specific product groups also had a positive impact on profitability. Compared with Q4 2014 (€33.8 million), the division’s EBITDA more than doubled. The corresponding EBITDA margin increased to 14.3 percent after 11.5 percent in Q1 2014 and 8.1 percent in Q4 2014.
In Q1 2015, WACKER POLYMERS posted total sales of €284.6 million (Q1 2014: €238.7 million), a good 19 percent more than a year ago. Compared with Q4 2014 (€252.2 million), sales grew by close to 13 percent. Higher volumes were the main reason for this increase. Growth was also spurred by positive exchange-rate effects. WACKER POLYMERS’ EBITDA climbed some 75 percent year on year to reach €59.9 million after €34.2 million in the same quarter last year. Compared with Q4 2014 (€23.6 million), EBITDA more than doubled. This increase was mainly the result of higher volumes and favorable exchange-rate effects. Additionally, measures to improve productivity noticeably strengthened WACKER POLYMERS’ profitability. The division’s EBITDA margin increased to 21.0 percent in the reporting quarter (Q1 2014: 14.3 percent). The corresponding Q4 2014 figure was 9.4 percent.
WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS generated total sales of €49.4 million from January through March 2015 (Q1 2014: €40.7 million), an increase of more than 21 percent year on year, and about 13 percent quarter on quarter (€43.7 million). Higher volumes and positive exchange-rate effects were the main factors driving this increase. Sales were higher than a year ago at all WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS business segments, with pharmaceutical proteins and cyclodextrins performing particularly well. Earnings grew even more strongly than sales. In Q1 2015, WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS generated EBITDA of €8.8 million compared with €5.4 million a year earlier, a rise of 63 percent. Relative to Q4 2014 (€4.6 million), EBITDA almost doubled. The EBITDA margin rose accordingly, reaching 17.8 percent after 13.3 percent in Q1 2014 and 10.5 percent in Q4 2014. This earnings growth was chiefly the result of higher volumes and favorable exchange-rate effects.
WACKER POLYSILICON posted total sales of €289.4 million in Q1 2015 (Q1 2014: €262.0 million), up almost 11 percent. Relative to Q4 2014 (€261.5 million), sales also climbed almost 11 percent. Strong volume growth and somewhat better solar-silicon prices contributed to the positive year-on-year sales trend. Prices declined slightly compared with Q4 2014. WACKER POLYSILICON’s first-quarter EBITDA of €78.7 million was around 56 percent lower than a year ago (€180.0 million). The main reason for the decrease was a non-recurring effect: in Q1 2014, WACKER POLYSILICON had retained advance payments and received damages, resulting in special income of €114.0 million. The comparable income for the reporting quarter was €4.7 million. Adjusted for these non-recurring effects, the division’s EBITDA improved by around 12 percent year on year. Compared with the fourth quarter of last year (€88.8 million), WACKER POLYSILICON’s EBITDA decreased by over 11 percent. The decline was partly due to start-up costs for the new polysilicon site in Charleston, Tennessee (USA) that rose in line with the project’s progress. In Q1 2015, WACKER POLYSILICON’s EBITDA margin came in at 27.2 percent, after 68.7 percent in Q1 2014 and 34.0 percent in Q4 2014.
Siltronic made a good start to 2015 with strong sales growth. Total first-quarter sales climbed some 17 percent to €238.7 million, after €203.8 million in Q1 2014. This increase was mainly due to significantly higher volumes and positive exchange-rate effects compared with the prior-year quarter. On the other hand, prices for silicon wafers were lower year on year. Sales rose by almost 7 percent relative to Q4 2014 (€223.2 million). Overall, volumes and prices for silicon wafers were largely unchanged quarter on quarter. Siltronic more than doubled its EBITDA compared with last year, totaling €40.0 million in the quarter under review (Q1 2014: €15.0 million). This rise stemmed chiefly from volume increases, favorable exchange-rate effects and higher plant utilization rates. Relative to Q4 2014 (€37.7 million), EBITDA rose by around 6 percent. The earnings trend also shows that Siltronic’s measures to optimize its cost structures and increase productivity are having an enduring effect. Siltronic’s first-quarter EBITDA margin was 16.8 percent, after 7.4 percent in Q1 2014 and 16.8 percent in Q4 2014.
According to the latest forecasts, the global economy will continue to grow moderately in 2015. As long as prices for crude oil, energy and raw materials remain at their current relatively low levels, global growth will continue to strengthen. The regional differences in economic trends are expected to persist and, in some cases, intensify further in the foreseeable future.
Sales at WACKER SILICONES are expected to increase substantially in 2015. Particular areas of growth are products and applications for personal care and medical technology, as well as for the electrical and electronics sectors. EBITDA should be markedly above the prior-year figure. However, higher silicon-metal prices in particular will dampen that increase somewhat.
For full-year 2015, WACKER POLYMERS expects to post significant sales growth, with both dispersions and dispersible polymer powders expected to help drive this growth. For EBITDA, the division is anticipating a marked year-on-year increase.
WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS, too, is expected to post substantial full-year growth. Now that Scil Proteins Production GmbH in Halle (Germany) has been integrated, the division sees further growth potential for biologics business. Thanks to new product developments, substantial growth is anticipated in the food segment as well. EBITDA at WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS should also show a clear year-on-year increase.
In WACKER’s polysilicon business, both volumes and sales are projected to rise in 2015. The company expects the photovoltaic market to continue on its growth trajectory. Nevertheless, overcapacity persists along the entire supply chain. That being the case, a further reduction in polysilicon production costs remains the key objective. The EBITDA forecast is for a significant year-on-year decline, since less special income – in the form of advance payments retained and damages received – is expected in 2015 than was posted in 2014. EBITDA will also be reduced by start-up costs at the new polysilicon production site in Charleston, Tennessee (USA).
Siltronic, too, predicts sales growth for the current year. Somewhat higher volumes and more favorable exchange rates than last year will be the main contributors to higher sales. Siltronic expects the market for 300 mm silicon wafers to continue growing, while demand for 200 mm wafer diameters is likely to remain stable. Demand for smaller-diameter wafers is expected to decline slightly. EBITDA is projected to increase substantially compared with last year.
Overall, WACKER expects its full-year 2015 sales to rise by about 10 percent. Compared with last year, the company anticipates a moderate rise in EBITDA, when adjusted on a comparable basis to exclude special income. The return on capital employed (ROCE) is expected to be slightly lower than last year’s figure of 8.4 percent. Capital expenditures will be higher than last year, climbing to about €725 million. Depreciation will amount to around €625 million, slightly above the prior-year level. Net cash flow will be markedly positive. Net financial debt will rise by €200 – 300 million, mostly because of the investments at the new Charleston site in the USA. Group net income is projected to be lower than last year.
Information for editorial offices: the Q1 2015 report is available for download on the WACKER website (www.wacker.com) under Investor Relations.