External factors, such as the Brazilian real's depreciation against the U.S. dollar and the continuation of current margins in the global petrochemical industry, compensated for the Brazilian economy's persisting slowdown and contributed to Braskem's strong performance in the third quarter of 2015. To face falling demand in the domestic market, thermoplastic resin exports by Braskem increased by 43% compared to the same period in 2014, totaling 454 kton.
Braskem's United States and Europe operations too delivered strong performance in the quarter. Polypropylene sales increased by 7% to 502 kton, a record for the second consecutive quarter. This outcome is the result of improved performance by local economies and the replacement of other materials by polypropylene.
Clear signs of the Brazilian economic slowdown were evident in the resin market, which totaled 1.219 million tons, decreasing by 11% from the same quarter last year, mainly on weak demand from the durable and non-durable goods, and construction industries. Similarly, Braskem's domestic sales volume decreased by 8% to 866 kton.
Braskem maintained its strong operating performance in the third quarter. The Company continued operating its crackers in line with the previous quarter, with an average utilization rate of 92%. This rate was only not higher because of problems in gas supply to the Rio de Janeiro complex. Plants in the United States and Europe operated at 97% capacity.
Braskem posted consolidated EBITDA of R$3 billion in the third quarter of 2015. This amount, a 17% gain on the previous quarter, was the result of an average depreciation of 15% in the Brazilian real in the period, better spreads on basic petrochemicals in the export markets, the continuation of excellent operational performance at plants and increased sales. EBITDA in U.S. dollar was US$870 million, 2% higher than in the previous quarter.
Net income reached R$1.5 billion, an increase of 545% from the same quarter in 2014 (R$230 million). Net income was positively impacted by healthy operational performance and the adoption of hedge accounting, which translates the effects of exchange variation on U.S. dollar-denominated liabilities to the Company's results. Without hedge accounting in the quarter, Braskem would have posted a loss of R$3.3 billion in the quarter due to the effects of exchange variation.
Financial leverage, measured by the ratio of net debt to EBITDA in U.S. dollar, ended the quarter at 2.05 times, the lowest in nine years. In September, the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings reaffirmed Braskem's rating on the global scale of "BBB-" with a "stable" outlook.
"The positive result in the quarter was due to external cyclical factors, particularly exchange rates and petrochemical spreads, as well as healthy operational performance," said Carlos Fadigas, CEO of Braskem. "The Company remains committed to recuperating the structural competitiveness of its operations in Brazil through programs to reduce costs and increase productivity, in addition to signing a long-term raw material contract."
STARTUP OF MEXICO COMPLEX
Investments by Braskem in the first nine months of the year totaled R$1.36 billion, of which more than a third (R$552 million) was allocated to the integrated polyethylene production project in Mexico, which will use raw materials that are priced based on competitive reference prices in the North American market. Executed in partnership with the Mexican group Idesa, the project is in the final phase of construction and operations are expected to begin at the end of the year.
Approximately 90% of the remaining R$806 million in the year was allocated to industrial operations, including investments to improve operating efficiency, HES, productivity and maintenance.
Braskem became a sponsor of the Brazilian ParAthletics Team to develop and prepare athletes for national and international competitions. Furthermore, Braskem was included for the fourth straight year as a component of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index Emerging Markets, the sustainability index for emerging markets of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).