The firm, which is based in Houston and London, rang up sales of just over $39 billion in 2018, up 13 percent vs. 2017. But annual profit slipped almost 4 percent to just under $4.7 billion. In a news release, CEO Bob Patel said that LyondellBasell's fourth quarter results "were impacted by the extraordinary fall in the price of crude oil, unusual operational events and a very difficult refining market."
"As oil prices fell by 40 percent during the fourth quarter, our non-U.S. olefins and polyolefins business experienced declining demand as customers delayed orders and destocked inventories in expectations of lower pricing," he added.
Full-year 2018 sales in LyondellBasell's Olefins & Polyolefins-Americas unit grew 4 percent to $10 billion. Sales in O&P-Europe, Asia, International increased 6 percent to $10.2 billion. Based on sales before eliminations, O&P-EAI was the largest of LyondellBasell's six business unit in 2018 with 26.3 percent of sales. O&P-Americas was the firm's second largest with a 25.7 percent share.
LyondellBasell's Advanced Polymer Solutions unit — including the newly acquired A. Schulman materials firm — saw 2018 sales jump almost 38 percent to just over $2.9 billion.
"With the acquisition of A. Schulman in August, we captured an opportunity to expand into new markets, created an additional platform for growth," Patel said. Annual operating profit, however, declined at all three of those units in 2018. O&P-Americas operating profit slid 5.5 percent, with O&P-EAI plummeting 48 percent and Advanced Polymer Solutions down almost 19 percent.
Looking to 2019, Patel said that "during the first weeks of the year, we have seen normalization of markets with increased polymer demand and modest improvements in the discount for Maya crude oil." "Global polyethylene capacity additions are expected to moderate during 2019 and 2020, providing support for high industry operating rates and ethylene chain profitability," he added. "Our strong balance sheet offers optionality for investment in our organic growth pipeline and value-creating inorganic opportunities." Like many materials firms, LyondellBasell's per-share stock price had a rough year on Wall Street in 2018. The price started the year near $120 but ended near $87 for a drop of more than 27 percent. It was at $87.40 in late trading Feb. 4.