- Revenues increased 22% to $1,036 million and adjusted EBITDA increased 12% to $266 million in Q4 2020 YoY
- OCI-produced volumes sold increased 15% to 3.4 million metric tons in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 2019
- Adjusted net loss of $45 million in Q4 2020 compared to adjusted net loss of $43 million in Q4 2019
- Net debt of $3.7 billion as of 31 December 2020, down $187 million from 30 September 2020, resulting in a reduction of $332 million for the full year 2020
- Based on the current market outlook for selling prices and our growth expectations for production and sales volumes for 2021, we expect a drop in net leverage to below 3.0x by year-end 2021
- Outlook for nitrogen markets is positive for 2021, supported by healthy farm economics and strong demand growth
- The recent increases in feedstock prices support higher nitrogen prices and have strengthened OCI’s competitive position on the global cost curve
- The recent extreme cold weather and spike in gas prices in the US has resulted in temporary downtime at OCI’s US plants, but the impact was meaningfully more than offset by cash gains from physical and financial gas hedges
- Methanol markets have strengthened significantly through Q4 and into 2021
Corporate and ESG Update
- OCI solidifies its leading position in the growing biofuels market with a new agreement to supply Essar Oil (UK) Ltd with bio-methanol as part of a biofuel alcohol mix
- OCI continues its strategic review to explore multiple value-enhancing opportunities for its methanol group, which is benefiting from a considerably stronger outlook
Statement from the Chief Executive Officer – Ahmed El-Hoshy:
Q4 2020 strongest quarter of the year
“We are pleased that we ended the year with a strong quarter of robust volume growth and healthy cash generation. As a result, we achieved a reduction in net debt of $332 million during 2020, despite selling prices for all our products nearing trough cycle levels during the year and on average at materially lower levels than in 2019. We look forward to delivering another year of robust volume growth in 2021, against a backdrop of nitrogen markets that have not looked as positive since at least 2015.
Favourable market outlook for 2021 underpinned by healthy fundamentals
We are starting to benefit from a significant recovery in selling prices compared to last year, as global nitrogen markets enjoy strong tailwinds and the outlook for our methanol end markets has strengthened significantly.
Global nitrogen prices have recovered from trough cycle levels reached in 2020, with urea rising over 30% in the first two months of 2021. Ammonia, nitrates, and US nitrogen prices were lagging in the fourth quarter of 2020 and were lower year-on-year but have since strengthened, also increasing by more than 30% in the first two months of 2021.
These price increases are underpinned by healthy fundamentals for nitrogen markets in 2021. The steady increase in corn prices over the past few months to near 8-year highs, driven by strong global demand, is supportive of farm economics and as a result, nitrogen demand and prices, especially as nitrogen is the most important crop input with limited price elasticity of demand. Higher feedstock prices in Europe and Asia have raised marginal costs, supporting higher ammonia prices in particular, whereas expectations of an Indian tender next month is further supportive of continued strength in global pricing.
Lower supply and additional logistics disruptions have resulted in a significantly tighter balance in the market which is supportive of higher US nitrogen prices ahead of the start of the spring season. This is particularly the case for UAN where despite prices having risen by c.70% from trough levels, there is further room to increase as the ratio of corn to UAN prices remains close to decade lows and UAN continues to be at a discount to urea on a nitrogen tonne basis.
The outlook for our methanol end markets has also continued to improve. Spot methanol prices have almost tripled since reaching trough cycle levels in 2020 and the market has remained tight so far in 2021. High-cost methanol capacity has been shutting down and natural gas shortages in Iran, Trinidad and China have tightened global methanol supplies, which combined with delayed new supply continues to support prices. Demand from Methanol-to Olefins (MTO) plants in China was strong in 2020 and MTO utilization rates continue to be high on the back of healthy economics. Downstream demand is expected to continue to improve as the global economy and industrial activity recovers.
Interest savings to materialize in 2021
This year, we will also start to see the benefits from our recent refinancing activities. We expect the Q4 2020 bond offering and the refinancing at Fertiglobe to generate cash interest savings of more than $32 million per year, as we lowered our weighted average cost of gross debt by c.60 bps to below 4.5%. In February, we also redeemed c.$147 million of bonds at IFCo, which will result in additional recurring cash interest savings and a reduction in subsidiary debt consistent with our strategy. We will continue to evaluate opportunities to achieve similar objectives and further simplify our capital structure.
Finally, we are pleased that we made further progress in our effort to grow our green portfolio and anticipate new growth opportunities for OCI.
Ammonia and methanol are some of the best-positioned products to create carbon-free food, fuels and industrial feedstocks and therefore can help decarbonize a wide range of end markets and industries. The use of ammonia or methanol as a shipping fuel is particularly promising as these products are among the best-placed alternatives to help this sector decarbonize in a cost-effective way.
We have therefore made it a top priority to make ammonia an established fuel for shipping, and we are also working on accelerating the transition to producing blue and green ammonia at our plants. OCI is one of the largest producers and traders of ammonia globally, with our ammonia plants and storage tanks located directly on the major global shipping routes, and in regions with access to ample and cost-effective solar and wind resources.
We are also pleased that we recently reached another key milestone in growing our biofuels business as we started supplying Essar Oil, strengthening our market-leading position in renewable methanol. We will continue to roll out bio-methanol as a fuel, which helps reduce the carbon intensity of road transportation fuels in a highly efficient way and we also see many opportunities in other industrial applications where this versatile product can be used.
We intend to announce our 2030 scope 1 and 2 emission reduction targets at our upcoming ESG Investor Seminar scheduled to take place March 8, 2021. We believe we can achieve these targets based on a differentiated strategy focused on value creation and capital discipline, that will help enable the world transition to the hydrogen economy.
We will outline how we will accelerate our operational excellence program which we expect to yield tangible shorter-term returns and how we can grow our existing portfolio of lower-carbon products. We will also detail value-enhancing strategic initiatives focused on low- or no-carbon technologies, where we, together with our partners and customers, can leverage our unique geographical and product footprint to capture exciting growth opportunities.”
- The outlook for our nitrogen fertilizer portfolio is considerably more favourable on higher global pricing and we maintain a solid order book:
- Global nitrogen demand is supported by rising corn prices driven by higher corn imports from China.
- Demand in all our key markets is forecast to remain robust in 2021 on improved farm economics and a recovery in industrial consumption.
- We expect a favourable spring application season in our core US Midwest market with attractive affordability levels for farmers on the back of rising crop prices.
- Our nitrates order book in Europe is healthy going into the second quarter of 2021.
- Higher fertilizer demand in China on strong domestic crop prices combined with a recovery in industrial urea consumption, is expected to likely limit urea exports from China in 2021 to a lower level than in 2020.
- Industrial nitrogen markets remained relatively subdued in Q4 2020 due to GDP/industrial activity slowdown, but continue to recover and have shown resilience to ongoing lockdowns:
- Ammonia prices lagged the increases in urea prices, but have started to benefit from higher feedstock prices, a recovery in industrial markets, high-cost capacity shutdowns, and gas supply curtailments in Trinidad and China.
- OCI’s DEF sales in the US reached record levels in Q4 2020 which combined with the higher urea sales prices in the US supports an improving trend going into 2021.
- Melamine prices increased by 15% in the first quarter of 2021, driven by reduced supply in the fourth quarter and solid demand in our core European markets continuing into 2021 driving a tighter market.
- Following a solid performance of OCI Beaumont and BioMCN in H2 2020, normalization of production and improved onstream efficiency is expected to drive volume growth in the methanol segments in 2021, in turn driving earnings growth for the methanol group.
- The outlook for our methanol end markets has also strengthened:
- US methanol spot prices have almost tripled since reaching a bottom below $150 / ton in June.
- Rising utilization rates of MTO plants in China on the back of healthy MTO economics versus naphtha crackers have been a key driver of a rebound in methanol demand.
- The outlook for downstream demand has improved, with fuel consumption picking up, and a gradual return of global industrial and construction activity.
- Resurgence in Covid-19 cases particularly for Europe and the US, adds some downside risk for methanol demand if these economies see another downturn, but the supply and demand balance has remained tight so far in 2021.
The recent increase in feedstock prices has driven up marginal costs of production and supports selling prices for all our products. It also benefits OCI as one of the most efficient producers in the US and Europe and strengthens Fertiglobe’s significant competitive advantage as a result of its fixed gas supply agreements.
A conference call for investors and analysts will be hosted on Thursday 25th February 2021 at 4:00 PM CET (3:00 PM GMT, 10:00 AM ET) by Ahmed El-Hoshy, Chief Executive Officer and Hassan Badrawi, Chief Financial Officer.
Investors can access the call by dialing:
Standard International: +44 (0) 20 3009 5710
United Kingdom FreeCall: 0800 376 7425
Netherlands LocalCall: +31 (0) 20 715 7366
United States FreeCall: 1 (866) 869 2321
Conference ID: 5218599
A conference call replay will be available until 25th March 2021. The replay access numbers are:
Standard International: +44 (0) 333 300 9785
Netherlands: +31 (0) 20 713 2967
United States: 1 (866) 331-1332
Conference ID: 5218599