We seek to maintain a competitive business platform in the intermediate chemicals, and nitrogen-based fertilizer industries and leverage our competitive strengths to further improve our profitability. The key components of our strategy include the following:
We intend to continue to solidify our leading position in selected products of our Styrenics, Acrylics portfolios and to become a market leader in the Agro business, building on our leading position in Latin America and maximizing the usage of our production capacities to continue growing sales in the Brazilian and Mexican markets and exports. We plan to strengthen our reputation as a qualified and reliable supplier with the ability to deliver high quality products and enhanced customer service, maintain and extend long-term relationships with our key customers and long-term contracts with our suppliers and offer differentiated and reliable logistics and technological support. We believe that our combination of market leadership and diversified portfolio provides us with scale and reduces our exposure to petrochemical cyclicality, generating more stable, predictable cash flows.
As key end-markets are expected to grow over the coming years, we intend to take advantage of our position as a vertically integrated chemical company by increasing our capacity utilization rates at our large-scale production facilities. We have already integrated our Styrenics and Acrylics Businesses, thus maximizing economies of scale, lowering the cost of raw materials and achieving greater cost-efficiency in our operations.
Our Agro business, launched in 2021, also aims to improve our vertical integration as we become large producers of ammonia instead of depending on Petrobras and imports to supply this key raw material for our Acrylics Business. We are also constantly monitoring upstream and downstream opportunities such as the leasing of additional units, such as nitrogen fertilizers plants, to further enhance our Agro business segment.
We have a robust pipeline of strategic projects already laid out for each segment in which we operate. Thereby, we aim to increase capacity and efficiency of our operations through investments with higher return rates.
Those consist mainly of production capacity expansion for products with an increasing demand which we already produce close to full current capacity, and of investments in the operation of plants which are expected to raise the quality level of some products in our portfolio and reduce our dependance on some feedstock inputs. As such, we seek to develop those strategic projects in order to consolidate our leading position in the market.
Our financial planning strategy of tapping into debt capital markets elongated the duration of our liabilities and significantly reduced our cost of capital, which allowed us to maintain a robust level of liquidity and better support our operations, making them more resilient
This strategy began in 2018, with the emission of a US$ 200 MM bond due 2024. The strong performance of that paper, allied with the improvement it brought to the firm’s credit profile led us to reach out to the market again, and issue a new US$ 420 MM bond with a due date of 2026 under more favorable conditions. The proceeds of this new bond were used for pre-payment of the remaining balance of the first bond and reduction of our cost of capital. In January, 2021, we issued a retap of this 2026 bond in the amount of US$ 110 MM, so we could capitalize on high return rate investment opportunities.
We believe our main strengths are:
As of 2021, we appear as the the sole producer of acrylonitrile and MMA in Latin America and detainer of the second largest nominal production capacity of styrene and polystyrene (combined) in Latin America, as well as the largest producer of ammonia and urea interms of installed capacity (based on data from HIS and ABIQUIM).
As the national economies of countries in which operate show upward trends, the performance of our segments is expected to grow as well. We have laid out a number of growth projects in all segments we operate, and we believe we are well positioned to increase our sales volume and market penetration with no significant incremental capital expenditure.
Dispite the relevance of the agro business to Brazil’s economy, the crop nutrition segment still has major deficiencies in its value chain. Among them, the country’s dependence on urea and ammonia imports for the production of nitrogen fertilizers deserve to be highlighted.
Facing this scenario, we believe we are the sole Brazilian producer of nitrogen fertilizers with potential to substitute part of the countries imports of those chemical products. The main strengths that place us as the primary candidate to lead this segment in the Brazilian market are the following:
- Industrial scale, with nominal capacity to produce approximately 2,9 million tons of nitrogen products
- Operational expertise to extract the maximum productivity of our assets
- World standard technology applied to the processes in the value chain
- A solid structure of supply chain with competitive natural gas contracts
- Ability to access local markets through already existing relations with clients
- Operational synergy result of industrial integration of our Agro and Acrylics segments
Thereby, we intend to substitute a significant part of the supllies that are currently imported in a more competitive and profitable manner.
Through our history of five decades in the business, we managed to build a vertically integrated business model that allows us to use chemical products and byproducts originated in a production line as input for other production lines. The integration of our units and business lines makes it possible to achieve operational synergy, increase the ability to control costs through the chain of production and reduce the dependency on third party supply of feedstock.
For instance, MMA produced in Brazil serves as raw material for the production of acrylic sheets in Mexico. We also produce styrene in our Camaçari and Cubatão plants, which is the main raw material used by our São José dos Campos and Guarujá plants to produce polystyrene and latices. Another example of integration in our value chain, is the ammonia production in our Agro Business, expected to start-up in the first half of 2021, which will be a key raw material for the production of acrylonitrile in our Acrylics Business. Additionally, we have a diverse product portfolio, flexible technology and distribution capabilities that allow us to adapt our product mix and commercial strategy to different market conditions with no additional costs, as laid out below:
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we noticed that MMA demand decreased sharply but sodium cyanide demand increased. We then decided to direct more HCN to our sodium cyanide production than to our MMA production in order to take advantage of more favorable sodium cyanide market conditions during the period, establishing ourselves as the sole producer of sodium cyanide in Brazil.
It is also worth noting thar our plants are strategically located next to petrochemical complexes in the states of Bahia and São Paulo, which allows us to receive our main feedstock products in en efficient manner, via pipieline. The geographical positioning of our plants also makes it possible for us to implement a system of shared logistics with our main suppliers and clients, increasing operational efficiency.
The most significant entry barrers for new players (whether they are local producers or importers) that are present in all of the segments in which we operate are the substantial operational and logistical stadards and capital requirements, all of which we have already met.
For that reason, we believe our modern assets, technology and industrial scale processes, allied with our operational expertise to design, organize and manage activities in an efficient manner, provide us with a level of competitiveness that discourages less efficient and smaller scale competititors, who would need massive investments to successfully enter the market.
Our Supply chain was carefully laid out through years of relationship with key suppliers and is secured by long-term contracts. A new entrant would need a large production scale in order to negotiate prices and conditions, and would be exposed to a greater risk of disruption in supplies if it proves to be uncapable of maintaining a long-term healthy relation with suppliers.
Additionally, the regulations in place and the high level of quality standards demanded by our clients mean that any new competitor would need to make significant adjustments and adaptations to its operational structure in order to comply with regulatory demands and build a client network similar to ours.
We manufacture a broad array of products that are essential inputs for multiple industries, such as construction, agriculture, consumer goods, clothing, mining, automotive, among others. We have products directed to both the domestic and the international markets, and some of our products’ demands correlate with the performance of the local economy, while other are anticyclical in nature.
We achieve a steady flow of revenue and consistent margins by using our diversified portfolio to tap into multiple segments in different markets, and adapt to various exchange rates and international prices, always seeking to ensure large spreads on our sales.
Through our history, we built a vertically integrated business model with industrial scale and efficient operations, and managed to explore multiple market segments. In terms of results, those features translate into a robust financial profile with a consistent cash flow generation.
Nevertheless, in recent years, we followed through with our commitment to solid fanacial discipline and took a series of initiatives aimed to increase the firm’s liquidity and reduce its financial leverage.
These initiatives incuded, but were not limited to, prepayment of costly short-term debts using resources from sales revenue during 2017, emission of a bond due 2026 that raised US$ 420 MM in 2020, and a US$ 110 retap of the same bond in 2021. This way, we managed to elongate the duration of our debts from 4.7 years in 2018 to 5.9 years in 2020 and reduce our interest expenses from a weighed average yearly rate of 10.76% in 2017 to 8.29% in 2020.
We have built solid relationships with the main Latin American suppliers of our raw materials, and the vast majority of the raw materials used in our production processes are acquired from reliable companies, based on long-term contracts.
On the demand side, we have built a strong customer portfolio comprised of relevant companies across several industries, translating into more diversified sources of revenues. As a qualified and reliable supplier, we also enjoy a solid reputation with our key customers. We deliver high-quality products and enhanced customer servisse, as well as a differentiated and reliable logistics and technological support. Notwithstanding, we are also compliant with the regulatory framework and our customers’ world-class standards. In recent years, we were recognized as a high quality supplier by global companies in the home appliances market, such as Whirlpool, Electrolux and Panasonic, and by prominent companies in other industries, such as Klabin, DowDupont, Clariant, BASF, Suzano and Beadell.
Our senior management team is composed of highly experienced executives, several of them have over 30 years of experience in the petrochemical industry. The team is highly focused on the efficient management of our business, improvement of operating efficiencies and cost saving initiatives, and is guided by high standards of corporate governance. We employ highly qualified and trained engineers and technicians to design, develop, operate and maintain our production facilities, and also maintain na efficient training program for young professionals.
Our corporate governance structure is compliant with the best pratices in the market. The Board of Directors counts with three independent members and has the support of committees on matters related to Strategy, Finance and Audit. We also rely on a robust Compliance program, an Internal Audit area and an Ethics hotline. Furthermore, we go through an annual process of external audit and have standing credit ratings emitted by two major rating agencies.
We strive to adopt strong sustainability practices in our production process and develop sustainable and innovative solutions. We have an innovation center in Bahia, Brazil, where we research and develop new products and production processes, which have allowed us to develop ecofriendly products and solutions such as Ecogel plastics and Aquagel fertilizers.
Ecogel is a polysterene line of products made with up to 30% post-consumer recycled plastics. Initially, it is aimed to be used in the production of home appliances components, and we continuously working with several clients in order to adapt it to meet their demands for sustainable products. In the other hand, Aquagel is nitrogen solution developed from the residue generated in our Acrylics chain of production.
In 2020, we received the EcoVadis’ Gold Medal, an award conceded to the top 5% best-rated companies on EcoVadis sustainability rating scale. We were first rated in 2014, as part of the “Together for Sustainability” program, a global initiative from global chemical companies to improve sustainability practices. This Gold Medal is a consequence of our continuous improvement in environmental, social and governance practices. Also in 2020, we published our first Annual Sustainability Report, using GRI standards and based on a materiality matrix developed with the advisory of Fundação Dom Cabral after several workshops with our management team.
We also maintain an active training program for young university graduates and we sponsor an elementary school in the state of Bahia, Brazil. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to take several measures to support our communities, such as the donations of 14 tons of basic need products to families from communities located near our plants, two mechanical breathing ventilators to public hospitals in Bahia and over 45 tons of products to the manufacturing of 6,000 intubation acrylics domes, 500 thousand liters of gel sanitizers and millions of disposables and packaging to serve the vulnerable population. These efforts were recognized by the 2020 Business Ethics Awards (Prêmio Ética nos Negócios), in its Social Responsibility category.