Materials makers LyondellBasell Industries, Celanese Corp. and Hexcel Corp. are looking for sales gains in 2021 after seeing pandemic-related declines in 2020.
All three firms reported full-year financial results in the last week of January. Houston-based LyondellBasell, a major supplier of polypropylene, polyethylene and plastic compounds, saw full-year sales drop 20 percent to $27.7 billion. The firm's profit slid 58 percent to $1.43 billion.
"During 2020, LyondellBasell demonstrated financial and operational resilience against an extremely challenging backdrop of a global pandemic, the associated recession, volatile oil prices and significant capacity additions," CEO Bob Patel said in a news release. "We moved swiftly to create a safe work environment for our employees and continuously supply customers with essential products throughout the pandemic."
LyondellBasell's Olefins & Polymers Americas unit saw 2020 sales decline 13 percent to $8.4 billion, as operating income dropped 37 percent to $1.12 billion. Its Advanced Polymer Solutions unit, including North America's largest compounding business, saw full-year sales dip 20 percent to $3.9 billion, with operating income down 22 percent to $226 million.
Patel added that improving trends seen in the closing weeks of December "are continuing into the first quarter of 2021 and are providing a bridge to the seasonal upticks typically seen in our businesses during the second and third quarters."
At Dallas-based Celanese, full-year sales were down 11 percent to $5.6 billion in 2020. The firm fared better in profit, which more than doubled to just under $2 billion.
Celanese's Engineered Materials unit, including the world's largest acetals business, saw sales drop 12.5 percent to $2.1 billion, as operating profit slumped 47 percent to $235 million.
"This past year presented enormous challenges across all of our businesses in every region of the world," Chairman and CEO Lori Ryerkerk said in a news release. "The dedication of our employees and the resiliency of our businesses were evident in our 2020 financial performance."
She added that Celanese officials "were encouraged by the broad continuation in recovery across the fourth quarter and the fact that most end markets have reached pre-COVID demand levels."
Hexcel, a composites maker based in Stamford, Conn., saw full-year sales drop 36 percent to $1.5 billion. The firm's profit swooned almost 90 percent tp $31.7 million.
"The third and fourth quarters of 2020, along with the first quarter of 2021, have been and are expected to be our most challenging quarters during this pandemic-driven market downturn," Chairman, President and CEO Nick Stanage said in a news release.
"Our results clearly reflect an unusual and tumultuous year for our customers, our suppliers, and our Hexcel employees," he added. "The Hexcel team has responded quickly and worked safely and efficiently through significant uncertainty."
With a heavy presence in aerospace, Stanage said that for Hexcel, "a quick and successful rollout of the vaccines is crucial to a significant increase in airline passenger traffic, which will ultimately be the driver of demand for new, composite-rich aircraft."
"The overall long-term demand for efficient aircraft and our advanced composites technology remains robust, and the potential for a significant upturn in 2022 and beyond continues to look positive," he added.
Per-share stock prices for each firm were hammered by pandemic uncertainty in 2020, bottoming out in mid-March before staging strong comebacks. LyondellBasell's per-share price was near $42 in mid-March but was just under $89 in late trading Feb. 2.
In the same comparison, Celanese's per-share stock price went from $65 to almost $125, and Hexcel's improved from $32 to more than $46.