SOLVAY GROUP 4TH QUARTER & FULL YEAR 2017 FINANCIAL REPORT
Brussels, February 28, 2018
- Strong organic volume growth contributed to 7.5% underlying EBITDA increase for full year 2017
- Underlying EPS from continuing operations up 26% in 2017
- Sustained cash generation of €871 million in the year, with a 19% increase on continuing operations
- Full year dividend recommendation of €3.60 per share, 4.3% up
Fourth quarter 2017 results
Net sales totaled €2.5 billion, up 2% versus the fourth quarter of 2016, as the strong volume increase of 8% was partly offset by the negative foreign exchange impact on conversion.
Underlying EBITDA grew 2.8% to €494 million. On a constant scope and forex conversion basis, the underlying EBITDA rose 9.4%, reflecting volume growth in each segment more than offsetting cost increases. Adverse foreign exchange had a -5% effect on conversion. The underlying EBITDA margin reached 20%, consistent with the prior year quarter.
- Advanced Materials at €260 million, stable versus a strong quarter last year, with volume growth in automotive, aerospace and electronics offset by forex;
- Advanced Formulations at €138 million, up 11% year on year mainly driven by strong volume growth in shale oil & gas;
- Performance Chemicals at €170 million, flat year-on-year with volume growth in soda ash and peroxides mostly offset by higher energy costs.
Free cash flow was €388 million for the fourth quarter, of which €336 million from continuing operations, €13 million up year on year.
Full year 2017 results
Net sales totaled €10.1 billion, up 6%, on 8% higher volumes.
Underlying EBITDA grew 7.5% to €2,230 million. Excluding forex conversion and scope effects, it grew 10%, driven by the 16% effect of volume growth, which more than offset the 7% increase in fixed costs and higher raw material and energy prices. The result also reflects the one-time synergy benefit of €38 million in the former Cytec businesses. The EBITDA margin for the year was sustained at 22%.
- Advanced Materials at €1,202 million, an 8% increase mainly from growing demand for high-performance polymers in automotive and smart devices, while composites sales to aero ended the year slightly up;
- Advanced Formulations at €524 million, up 8%, supported predominantly by the North American shale oil and gas market recovery;
- Performance Chemicals at €749 million, up 4% on strong soda ash demand, eroded partly by negative net pricing.
Earnings per share  on an IFRS basis were €10.27, versus €6.01 in 2016. On an underlying basis it reached €7.59 from continuing operations, a 26% increase, driven by a 9% increase in EBIT, a reduction of financial charges and a positive effect from the decrease in underlying tax rate.
Free cash flow was €871 million, including €782 million from continuing operations, up 19% versus 2016. This reflects the higher EBITDA and capital discipline, which improved cash conversion. Combined with €875 million net proceeds from M&A transactions this led to a reduction of underlying net debt  to €(5.3) billion from €(6.6) billion at year start.
CFROI rose to 6.9%, from 6.3% in 2016 on a non-restated basis, reflecting the volume growth, while maintaining capital discipline.
At constant scope and relative to average 2017 forex levels, Solvay expects full year underlying EBITDA to grow 5% to 7% organically.
- Advanced Materials to grow by double-digits, driven by broad-based demand expansion in its key end-markets, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, batteries and healthcare, and supported by operational excellence;
- Advanced Formulations to grow at a high single-digit, driven by increased demand in mining, and some further improvement in oil and gas, and positive net pricing;
- Performance Chemicals profitability to decrease around €(50) million, as current higher energy prices are expected to weigh on soda ash margins, partly offset by excellence and growth in peroxides.
Notwithstanding underlying organic EBITDA growth of 5 to 7%, 2018 begins with forex headwinds. Assuming current rates prevail for the full year, reported underlying EBITDA will also be impacted both by forex conversion impacts of around €(125) million, and scope effects of small realized divestments of some €(30) million.
Including above-mentioned scope and forex elements, free cash flow from continuing operations is expected to exceed the 2017 level of €782 million. The optimized debt structure will lead to a reduction of net cash financing payments by more than €100 million.
CEO quote, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu
"2017 marks another successful year: 8% volume growth was complemented by continued progress on sustainable value delivery. Combined with our outlook for this year, we expect to meet or exceed the three-year objectives set in 2016. Now that Solvay has transformed into an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company, our main priority today is to align the organization, enhancing efficiency and customer focus and contributing to more organic volume growth."
Following the announcements in December 2016 of the divestment of the Acetow and Vinythai businesses and in September 2017 of plans to divest the Polyamide business, these have been reclassified as discontinued operations and as assets held for sale. For comparative purposes, the fourth quarter and the full year 2016 income statement have been restated. The Vinythai transaction was completed end of February 2017 and the Acetow transaction end of May 2017.
Besides IFRS accounts, Solvay also presents underlying Income Statement performance indicators to provide a more consistent and comparable indication of the Group's financial performance. The underlying performance indicators adjust IFRS figures for the non-cash Purchase Price Allocation (PPA) accounting impacts related to acquisitions, for the coupons of perpetual hybrid bonds, classified as equity under IFRS but treated as debt in the underlying statements, and for other elements that would distort the analysis of the Group's underlying performance. The comments on the results made on pages 2 to 12 are on an underlying basis, unless otherwise stated.
 Earnings per share, basic calculation.
 Underlying net debt includes the perpetual hybrid bonds, accounted for as equity under IFRS.
 The extended version of the 2018 outlook may be found on page 13.
|Solvay is an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company, committed to developing chemistry that address key societal challenges. Solvay innovates and partners with customers worldwide in many diverse end markets. Its products are used in planes, cars, batteries, smart and medical devices, as well as in mineral and oil and gas extraction, enhancing efficiency and sustainability. Its lightweighting materials promote cleaner mobility, its formulations optimize the use of resources and its performance chemicals improve air and water quality. Solvay is headquartered in Brussels with around 24,500 employees in 61 countries. Net sales were €10.1 billion in 2017, with 90% from activities where Solvay ranks among the world's top 3 leaders, resulting in an EBITDA margin of 22%. Solvay SA (SOLB.BE) is listed on Euronext Brussels and Paris (Bloomberg: SOLB.BB - Reuters: SOLB.BR) and in the United States its shares (SOLVY) are traded through a level-1 ADR program.|