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In fiscal 2018, sales revenue from fibres increased primarily due to higher sales volume. The higher sales volume was primarily due to sales of nonwovens products previously reported in 'Other' and textiles innovation products sales volume growth of approximately 30 per cent.
Reported EBIT increased due to coal gasification incident insurance in 2018 and costs in 2017. Adjusted EBIT declined primarily due to lower acetate tow selling prices partially offset by higher textiles products sales volume.
"We ended the year with a challenging fourth quarter primarily due to reduced demand for specialty products in China as well as the slow flow through of higher raw material costs in an environment of customer destocking beyond normal seasonality," said Mark Costa, board chair and CEO. "The end result for the full year was adjusted EPS growth of 8 per cent, within our targeted long-term range of 8 – 12 per cent. Equally important, we delivered free cash flow of approximately $1.1 billion despite slowing economic growth and higher raw material costs. Consistent with our strategy, we made progress in a number of areas, including strong new business revenue growth and continued cost discipline. We remain confident in the resiliency of our portfolio and the sustainability of our strong cash flow going forward."
In 2018, cash from operating activities was $1.54 billion and free cash flow (cash from operating activities less net capital expenditures) was $1.08 billion. Priorities for uses of available cash include payment of the quarterly dividend, repayment of debt, funding targeted growth initiatives, and repurchasing shares. In 2018, the company returned $718 million to stockholders, with $318 million of dividends and $400 million of share repurchases.
"We expect slower economic growth this year, with some of the challenges from the fourth quarter to persist in the first quarter. With this in mind, we remain focused on growing new business revenue leveraging our innovation-driven growth model. In addition, we expect to benefit from the flow through of lower raw material costs, aggressive cost management and returning cash to stockholders through continued significant share repurchases. We expect these actions will more than offset the negative impact of a strengthening US dollar and projected higher pension costs. We therefore expect adjusted EPS growth in 2019 to be between 6 – 10 per cent," added Costa on the outlook for full-year 2019. (RR)
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