Westlake Chemical Corp. posted lower sales but higher profit for the first quarter of 2020, as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis appeared.
First-quarter sales at Houston-based Westlake dipped almost 5 percent to a little more than $1.9 billion vs. the same quarter in 2019. The firm's profit, however, jumped more than 90 percent to $157 million.
Sales of olefins, including polyethylene resins, for the quarter were down 6 percent to $427 million. Quarterly vinyls sales, including PVC resins and compounds as well as finished products such as pipes, fittings, siding and profiles, were down almost 4 percent to nearly $1.5 billion.
For the quarter, operating profit for olefins was up almost 68 percent to $62 million, while vinyls operating profit for the quarter declined almost 28 percent to $73 million.
"The start of the first quarter saw strength in construction materials and flexible food packaging relative to the first quarter of 2019," President and CEO Albert Chao said in a May 4 news release. "But as we progressed through the first quarter, we began to see the impact on the demand for our products as a result of COVID-19.
"With the outbreak of the pandemic, our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of our employees around the world who continue to work diligently to provide essential products that serve a number of industries, including health care, food services and packaging," he added.
"We are confident that Westlake is well positioned to serve the needs of our customers while taking action to manage working capital, lower our operating costs and reduce capital expenditures."
Like many public firms, Westlake's per-share stock price has been battered by COVID-19. The price began the year around $70 but was just under $40 in late trading May 4 for a decline of more than 40 percent.