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Braskem (BAK 1.48%)
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
May 6, 2021, 1:00 p.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. At this time, we would like to welcome everyone to Braskem's First Quarter of 2021 Earnings Conference Call. Today with us, we have Roberto Simoes, CEO of Braskem; Pedro Freitas, Vice President of Finance, Procurement and Corporate Affairs; and Rosana Avolio, Investor Relations Director. We would like to inform you that this event is being recorded.

[Operator Instructions] We have simultaneous webcast that may be accessed through Braskem's IR website at www.braskem-ri.com.br and MZIQ platform, where the slide presentation is available for download. Please feel free to flip through the slides during the conference call. There will be a replay facility for this call on the website. We remind you that questions which will be answered during the Q&A session may be posted in advance on the website. Before proceeding, let me mention that forward-looking statements are being made under the safe harbor of Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1996.

Forward-looking statements are based on the beliefs and assumptions of Braskem management and on information currently available to the company. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions because they relate to future events and therefore, depend on circumstances that may or may not occur in the future. Investors should understand that general economic conditions, industry conditions and other operation factors could also affect the future results of Braskem and could cause results to differ materially from those expressed in such forward-looking statements.

Now I'll turn the conference over to Rosana Avolio, Investor Relations Director. Ms. Avolio, you may begin your conference.

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Rosana Avolio -- Investor Relation Manager

Good morning, all. We would like to thank you for joining Braskem earnings conference call. Today, we will present first quarter '21 results. Please, let's move to slide number three, in which we'll talk about the petrochemical context in 2021. In the first quarter of '21, petrochemical supply was impacted by the severe winter storm in the U.S. Gulf Coast, which led to the unplanned production closures affecting resin suppliers. Additionally, demand continues strong for all resins.

Because of this context, international market refers were impacted and PE and PP spreads reached the highest level since 2017, positively impacting the profitability of petrochemical companies in general. In the case of PE net base, for instance, express in the first quarter of '21 were 103% higher than last year average. In the case of PE gas base, which is a spread that impacts Braskem business in Mexico and in the petrochemical cracker in Rio de Janeiro, depreciation was also significant and its price increased 93% compared to the average in 2020. Regarding the PP propylene spread in the United States, spreads grew 49% compared to 2020 average. Moving to slide number four.

We will comment about Braskem consolidated first quarter of '21 highlights. In the first quarter of '21, the company's recurring operating result was $1,266 million, 52% higher than fourth quarter '20, explained mainly by the better spread for PE, PP and main chemicals in Brazil, for PP in the U.S. and Europe and for PE in Mexico and also explaining by the higher PP sales volumes in Europe. Compared to first quarter of '20, recurring operating results in U.S. dollars at 321%, due to the better spreads for resins and in chemicals in Brazil for PP in the United States and Europe and for PE in Mexico and also due to the higher sales volume of PP in the United States and Europe and of main chemicals in Brazil. Moving to the next slide.

On slide number five, we will present the main highlights of Brazil's operations. In the first quarter of '21, the utilization rate of our petrochemical crackers was three percentage points lower than full quarter '20, mainly due to the impact of the feedstock in In the Brazilian market, resin sales decreased in relation to the fourth quarter '20 due to the weaker but still healthy demand in Brazilian market and also due to the lower product supply in the period. The reduction in exports is explained by the focus of the company on serving the Brazilian market. Given that, Brazil's recurring operating results was $943 million, 39% higher than fourth quarter '20, representing 70% of the company's consolidated segments recurring operating results. This increase in EBITDA is mainly explained by better PP, PE and main chemicals spreads in the international market.

Moving to the next slide. In this slide, we'll talk about the feedstock profile in Brazil. In line with the company's strategy to diversify its suppliers, the Brazil segment continued to purchase naphtha via supply agreement with international suppliers. In the first quarter of '21, net imports accounted for around 7% of the total net consumption in the quarter. It's worth mentioning that Braskem obtains longest payment term on net to purchase refering suppliers, impacting positively its cash generation. In the next slide, we will provide an update on geological event in Alagoas. In this slide, we will talk about the provisions regarding the geological in Alagoas.

In the chart on the left of the slide, we present the balance of provision. In the first quarter of '21, the balance of provisions related to the geological event in Alagoas was around BRL8.5 billion. And during the quarter, Braskem reverse provisions in the amount of BRL139 million. In the right chart of the slide, we present the disbursement in schedule. Of the BRL8.5 billion, around 50% was recorded under current liabilities and 50% under noncurrent liability. Important to mention that the company cannot predict with certainty, future developments in respect of this matter or its related expenses.

And the cost to be incurred by the company may be different than the currently estimated or provision. Moving to the next slide. In this slide, we'll talk about the financial compensation and support for our location program. In the first quarter of '21, Braskem continued to make progress on its relocation and financial compensation of in the district affected in The numbers of families were located increased 25%, reaching around 11,500 family. Additionally, the number of financial compensation proposals should be by the company increased 58%. Regarding payments made in the scope of the financial compensation and support location program, around BRL700 million had already been disbursed as of first quarter '21. Moving to the next slide.

In the United States, the average utilization rate of our PP plants decreased in relation to fourth quarter '20, explaining by the impact from winter storm during the U.S. Gulf Coast. In Europe, utilization rate increased in relation to fourth quarter '20, explained by the schedule maintenance shut down in the last quarter of the prior year. In the United States, considering the sales of the new PP plant delta, only in the first quarter of '21, sales increased in relation to fourth quarter '20 and also in relation to first quarter '20, mainly to the increase in production capacity after the commercial start-up of the new PP plant in the region in September 2020. In Europe, sales increase in relation to fourth quarter '20 and also in relation to the first quarter '20 due to the higher supply of the product in the period.

In the next slide, we'll talk about an important highlight in the United States. During the first quarter of '21, Braskem made the first international shipment from new Global Export Hub facility. The new hub offers packaging, warehousing and export shipment services to support Braskem six PP plants in the United States. Additionally, the facility has the capacity for export shipments of up to 204 kt annually to Braskem clients worldwide. The new logistics and distribution facility in the region of South Carolina, significantly increased Braskem export capacity in the United States.

Due to the current moment in the PP market in North America, Braskem is prioritizing sales in the U.S. market. However, over time, the new hub will enable Braskem to leverage the production of on the U.S. Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to better serve the needs of its international clients. In the next slide, we'll talk about the main highlights of Mexico's operations. In Mexico, the average capacity utilization rate of our PE plants increase in relation to the fourth quarter due to the production based on experimental business model implemented in January and February following the unilateral interruption of natural gas transport service by in early December 2020.

In early March, after executing a natural gas transportation service agreement with transportation service were established. Fee sales in Mexico decreased by 27% when compared to fourth quarter '20 due to the lower availability of products in inventory. Mexico's recurring operating results was $94 million, 49% lower than fourth quarter '20, representing 7% of the company's consolidated segments EBITDA. In the next slide, we will talk about Fast Track solution in Mexico. In this slide, we'll talk about the expansion of retaining ports from U.S. to Braskem Idesa.

In December '20, Braskem Idesa conclude the expansion of its Fast Track operation, which currently has expected capacity of 20,000 barrels per day. In the first quarter of '21, to complement the supply of the ethane by PEMEX, Braskem Idesa imported a daily average of 13,100 barrels of ethane from the United States, which represented around 66% of Fast Track's current capacity. Additionally, the volume of import ethane accounted for around 30% of Braskem total ethane supply in the quarter. Moving to the next slide. In the first quarter of '21, we had a positive free cash flow generation of BRL1,766 million, mainly explained by the recurring operating results in the quarter, the monetization of fiscal fees credit in the approximate amount of BRL761 million and also explained by the lower volume of operating and strategic investments.

These positive impacts are mainly posed by the negative working capital change due to the impact from higher prices for resins and main chemicals in the international markets affecting accounts receivable and also from higher naphtha prices on the finished product costs in inventory. Moving to the next slide. In the end of March, the average debt term was around 14 years with most debt maturing the long term. Also, considering its cash balance, the company has sufficient liquidity to cover that maturity in the next 79 months, during the quarter. Because of the company's strong cash position and to reduce its gross debt, Braskem announced the total redemption of the 7.375 per postal bonds At face value in the amount of $500 million.

Let's move to the next slide, which we'll talk about corporate leverage. In line with its continuous commitment to financial healthy and with the objective to be reassigned as an investment grade company, Braskem continue to reduce its corporate leverage. The leverage ratio, measured as the ratio of net debt to recurring operating results in U.S. dollars in the first quarter '21 at 1.8 times, down 39% from fourth quarter '20, which was 2.94 times. Additionally, the company net debt decreased approximately $1 billion compared to first quarter '20. Moving to the next slide. We will start talking about our ESG highlights. The easy renewables we started up its wind complex, which is going to supply renewable energy to Braskem.

The power supply is secured by a 20-year purchase agreement signing 2018. This partnership is estimated to result in the avoidance of 280,000 tons of CO2 and is one of the four power purchase agreement signed by the company as of 2021. The wind complex is located by and its construction compliance with the key guiding principles of sustainable development. This project is part of our cabotage strategy, is one of the agreements which put Braskem near to the mark of 1.5 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided through long-term renewable power purchase agreement.

Let's move to the next slide. Other important initiative related to climate change is the first collaboration between and Braskem on the first shipment in the world to offset carbon emission. supplies important naphtha to Braskem petrochemical complex located in Brazil. In collaboration with the company, the first shipment was made with offsets and reductions of the carbon emissions associated with the feedstock, which includes extraction, refining and transportation process. The calculation was made by and the results were obtained from offset projects based on the major located in Indonesia and reductions based on energy gains by cargo vessels.

All of Fed data is assured by verified carbon standard. This project is one step forward on the work to offset scope to emission in which the company's contribution strategy is under development. Moving to the next slide. Other important achievement is related to our commitment to eliminate the plastic waste through recycling initiatives. Braskem is the first Brazilian company to receive the ISCC plus, an international certification for the production of and chemicals from circular feedstocks such as oil.

The oil is the product of chemical recycling that breaks down the post-consumption thermoplastic molecules using The certification is based in the mass concept, which ensures that the input amount of raw material is transformed into an equivalent amount of final products in the certified plants. The certified plants are the ABC Petrochemical Complex at Sao Paulo State and Rupero Chemical Complex s state. This control enables the sustainability of products to be duly credit and recognized. Moving to the next slide. The COVID pandemic has affected people's lives, especially with regard to the basic necessity. In this sense, the company allocated BRL50 million in 2021 to combat hunger, and it has started to distribute 48,000 food staple boxes, 25,000 hygiene kits and three tons of vegetables to the surrounding communities in several states of Brazil.

Also, through its Employee Volunteer Program, Braskem will donate three food staple for each box donated by its employees. These actions are related to our social responsibility values, which aim to stimulate and support the local development of the surrounding communities of our operation. These important moments calls for solidarity joining forces and helping peoples' lives in need a cause Brazil to minimize pandemic's impact. Let's move to the next slide. Braskem was certified by the Brazilian federal revenue service as an authorized economic operating in the compliance category. This is an international recognition for the adoption of practices and management process that minimize risks, events existing in import operations and for the voluntarily complied with the compliancy, reliability and security criteria applicable to the global logistics chain as well as tax and customers' obligations.

This recognition is strength in relation with international partners and offer benefits such as reducing import time and costs. With this credential, Braskem expanded international footprint and reinforced image as an increasingly competitively responsible and compliant company. In the next slide, we'll talk about petrochemical scenario in 2021. According to the most recent projections by external consulting firms, the expectations for health PE and PVC spreads in 2021.

In the case of PE, in the second quarter of '21, it is expected more profitable PE naphtha and PE spread since then seen in the last quarters. In the case of PVC, after the return of our chlor-alkali plant, this spread part better reflect the profitability of vinyls, which is also more profitable than previous quarters. Let's move to the next slide, which will talk about the scenario for PP. Similar to PE and PVC, external consulting firms are projecting healthy PP spreads in 2021 in the United States and also in Europe.

In the case of PP, the main highlight is in regarding spreads in the United States, where projections point for a 25% increase in PP propylene U.S. spreads compared to recent years. Moving to the next slide. In this slide, we will present the short-term outlook, focusing on the dynamics in the second quarter of '21 compared to the first quarter of '21. In the case of Brazil, ethylene production should be in line with higher production in after the pit stop in first quarter and also with the scheduled shutdown at the Sao Paulo complex in April and May. Regarding sales, total resin sales should be in line, and the company expects to continue its strategy to prioritize sales to Brazilian and South American market.

Additionally, it is expected healthy spreads for PE and PVC. In the United States, higher PP production and sales is expected with expectations to normalize production at all plants, following the impact from weather events in the first quarter of '21. Additionally, it is expected a healthier PP propylene spread in the U.S. due to the continued strong demand and gradual recovery in PP supply. Finally, for Braskem Idesa, PE production sales should be higher due to the return of gas transportation service and expectation higher ethane supply through Fast Track solution generation a higher product availability. Regarding spreads, in line with what we presented for the other regions, PE spreads in the U.S. should be healthier. Moving to the next slide.

To conclude the presentation, we will recap the main objectives of the company for 2021. For this year, the company developed six main objectives in its strategy: continue with the advances related to the event in Alagoas; find a constructive way to solve the charge in Mexico; ensure the company's continued financial healthy, risk management and discipline in capital allocation; strengthening Braskem image and recognition with team members, clients, suppliers, investors and society; increased effectivities innovation and speed up digital transformation; and finally, advancing the implementation of our ESG commitments. Lastly, but not least, safety in our operations are perpetual and nonnegotiable value in our strategy.

That concludes today's presentation. Thank you for your patience. Let's move to the question-and-answer session.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Ben Isaacson from Scotiabank. Mr. Isaacson, you may proceed.

Ben Isaacson -- Scotiabank -- Analyst

Thank you very much and good afternoon everyone. Congratulations on the great quarter, and thank you for the comprehensive review. My first question is on spreads. And how do you see spreads playing out over the next few quarters? And do you see any lingering impact from the Texas freeze in Q2 as it relates to Braskem?

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Thank you very much and good afternoon everyone. Congratulations on the great quarter, and thank you for the comprehensive review. My first question is on spreads. And how do you see spreads playing out over the next few quarters? And do you see any lingering impact from the Texas freeze in Q2 as it relates to Braskem?

Ben Isaacson -- Scotiabank -- Analyst

Just one more question on the spreads before I get to the leverage. So how would you rank PE, PP and PVC in terms of how tight those markets are, whether you look at inventories, I guess, in terms of how long it will take for inventory levels to get back to normal?

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

All of them are pretty tight, Ben. If I were to guess, I would guess that it's different per region, OK? So I would say that in Brazil, we already see some inventories getting back to normal or closer to normal, maybe not yet as normal. It usually takes about two to three months for inventories to normalize, but the lingering impact of the freeze in Texas means that it's taking longer for those inventories to be normalized.

So we're still at lower inventory levels in the value chain compared to the, I would say, the five year average. I mean, still very low inventory levels. If I were to get, I would say that probably PVC is a bit price globally, especially because we have not seen a lot of new investments in PVC globally. And then PE, PP seems to be like they are in a similar position. But we think that PE is going to structurally, I mean, you have more over capacity, right? So to the record end of the year, we think that the issue should become softer compared to the PE. But again, as I said, PE, in very good levels.

Ben Isaacson -- Scotiabank -- Analyst

Great. And then just my last question. Your leverage has improved a lot. I don't have the number in front of me, but I believe it's sub two, if I'm not mistaken. And on point, what does that mean -- so what does that mean in terms of timing to and get to investment grade? And then what do you do once you're there? I mean, do you want to keep your balance sheet at that level or are you trying to build up some firepower to do some acquisitions? What are you thinking about your balance sheet as you move toward investment grade?

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Ben, we like to have our leverage below 2.5, right? So that's part in our dividend policy. We would like to go back to paying dividends to our shareholders. So we're looking at that possibility in the future as leverage comes down. But always following our dividend policy, which is -- I mean, we have to look at current leverage plus the forecasted leverage for the next two years. And that number needs to be below 2.5 for us to be able to pay dividends accepted, right? Brazil, have the minimum dividend, which is mandatory, but I say any that dividend.

That's what we would like to do, I mean, retain the capability of paying dividends. So this year, we don't have that capability. We had a loss last year. So we cannot pay dividends. What we are really looking at today is: First, second half of last year was pretty bad, right? Middle of COVID, curtailing production. So we anticipate that the second half -- second quarter of this year is going to be better than the second quarter of last year. So we see leverage coming further down in the second quarter. So we keep getting this type of question, right? What we're going to do with all this money? And how does that play out into investment grade.

We've been talking to the rating agencies and showing them that our situation is much better than it was one year ago when they took the investment pacing, right? So just to explore this a little bit further on the rating agency side, last year, they told us, look, there are three factors that are -- that were more relevant in their decision. One was the moment in the cycle with overcapacity -- potential overcapacity. And I mean, 2019 was -- I mean, very low results, right? And leverage was pretty high as well.

Second point was our goals and the uncertainties around that. And third point was COVID and uncertainties around COVID. So right now, what we have is a much better financial situation, much lower leverage below two, as you mentioned, at 1.8 forecast for even lower leverage in the coming quarters. We see Alagoas in a different light today, much lower uncertainty with the settlement that we had in December. And COVID, I mean, in the end, you saw the results of the past three quarters since the second half of last year, will be doing pretty well despite of COVID. So in all the arguments that the rating agencies brought us in last July, they are no longer on the table.

And actually like we have on the table with a much more favorable situation. So our goal now is to recover the investment grade. We've been talking to them. And let's see how they decide, right? It's their decision, but we've been emphasizing those points with now. And then on what to do with the cash rate and what we are doing is we are retiring gross debt. So we are paying back debt. We did that with the perpetual bond, $500 million on March. As the expected cash flow materializes over the coming months and quarters, we expect to keep retiring gross debt. As we cannot pay dividends, we don't have substantial growth projects or new investments in the company. So in the end, that's what we are looking at for this year. For next year, if we have a net profit on a basis, then we also anticipate paying some dividends, of course, within the metrics that I mentioned in our

Ben Isaacson -- Scotiabank -- Analyst

That's very helpful. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.


Our next question comes from Christian from Santander. Sir Christian, you may proceed.

Christian -- Santander -- Analyst

Thank you. Hello, Roberto, Pedro, and Rosana. First of all, congratulations on these results, record and really amazing across the board, so congratulations to the whole team. I wanted to focus on three questions. The operation was going so well, but I wanted to touch on the topics that will be on operational to get your latest views. More specifically, number one, you've done a lot on the Alagoas front and you've been very transparent with the market.

But if you could comment on these recent developments, in terms of is there really anything new there or not that would be helpful? Second, again, you've been working very hard as well on Mexico. Could you give us an update on how the negotiations are going and if from a timing point of view, you believe that by the fourth quarter, these could be resolved or do we just not have visibility to be able to talk about timing for them -- for these negotiations to be concluded?

And then the third and final one is, if you have had any discussions, Pedro, with Petrobras from the point of view of their potential sale of their stake on Braskem because it is something that can create noise, generates potential overhangs, which obviously is not helpful to your stock. Thank you.

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Hi Christian, thank you for your questions. On Alagoas, I mean Rosana showed the substantial improvement we did in relocating people and submitting proposals to them and also in getting acceptance on the proposals at 99.6% in the first quarter of proposals accepted and also in actually making the disbursements, right? So we had, I would say, very substantial improvements or advances in Alagoas in that regard.

And also, I mean, you are learning, right? You saw that we had a reversion of very, I would say, it's a large number of BRL139 million reversion in the provision comes out of learning and out of improving the operation so that we reduce the cost of -- or call it, kind of cost of overhang in managing the situation there. So that was -- those were substantially advanced. We didn't have yesterday at these of news that came out in Brazil around some, I would say, loans by a community in our goals. And what they said was that they were more isolated because kind of the neighborhood is being relocated and a portion of that is not in the relocation program.

So they're saying, look, I mean, we had clients in our businesses that were across the street. They are no longer there, that sort of thing, right? Kind of more on the social impacts of relocating people and looking at the people that are remaining in their original homes. The concept of the settlement that we had back in December was we will relocate people that are at You can see Alagoas as a huge risk mitigation effort, right? I mean, it's really getting people out of a potentially risky situation. And that area -- that was -- the reason for this piece of news is not in a risky situation. I mean, when we look at the criticality and even local authorities, they mean that -- and they've done this publicly, I agree that it's not a critical area for risk it's more of a social impact.

And then I'd like to remind everybody that the other settlement that we had was on the social and urban environmental aspects of the case. And there is about BRL1.6 billion already in the provision to be invested or according to projects to mitigate the social impact of the situation in Alagoas. So we believe that, I mean, once the -- if the city wants to allocate a portion of that BRL1.6 billion to that part of the community, we would be fine with that. It's important that the city needs to still adhere to the settlement so that we can start implementing the actions.

So that's something that we're still working on the city. But once that is done, we will be able to allocate part of those resources to that community. So that's our view on how this should be seen and address in the future. So that's the Alagoass aspect. On Mexico, I will be very brief. I mean, negotiations are still ongoing. I think everybody knows the underlying issue is the life of ethane in the country. We've been putting a lot of effort in increasing the supply of imported ethane.

So our capacity to import right now is at about 20,000 barrels per day of ethane, and we are expanding that capacity to 26,000 barrels per day in the coming, I would say, month or so. So -- and then PEMEX has been suppling another 30,000, 35,000 barrels per day. So if you look at those numbers, the potential maximum capacity right now would be or in the near future, would be at about 55,000 to 60,000 barrels per day.

And so that's about 80%, 85% of capacity utilization. Going back to the negotiation, again, it's ongoing. Terms still need to be aligned and get to a final agreement. The timing is really, as you said, end of the year. And we have no control on timing, right? The negotiation can be shorter, it can be longer. But right now, the outlook is for the end of the year to perform by it. And finally, on Petrobras, I mean there was some rumor in the market last Friday. And what we got from all of that with Petrobras made a public statement last Friday saying that: First, one thing that has been telling everybody, their equity in Braskem is not a core asset for them. So it's part of their divestment plan.

But they also said last Friday that they don't have any definition or decision about the sale model. So we don't have any other information about this. And it's their decision. But we don't have any news that they are really moving on selling their stake. So we know as part of the divestment program. We don't have any information about any short-term decisions by them.

Christian -- Santander -- Analyst

Very clear, Pedro. And just a follow-up on Alagoas. The recent news implies in any way that you would need to do anything beyond all the work that you've already done in provisioning for these events or know that would be a development that's part of the monies you've put a side that you've provisioned to be over the situation?

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

The short answer question is that, we believe the provision is adequate and correct, given the settlement and all the knowledge that we have at this moment. Of course, it is a situation that may evolve. So we may see changes. There is no way for us to control that. But right now and even in light of the piece of news yesterday, we believe that the provision is adequate, and we don't intend to change that.

Christian -- Santander -- Analyst

Alright. Thank you very much Pedro.


Our next question comes from Guilherme Levy from Morgan Stanley. Mr. Guilherme you may proceed.

Guilherme Levy -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi, good afternoon. Thanks for taking my questions. My first question is actually a follow-up from the last one on Alagoas. I just wanted to put in all the way the question. How easy it is for the civil defense or the municipality or any other public entity to like go and reopen the agreements that were already signed? I just wanted to understand to what level the agreements already signed are written in stone or they can still be modified? And the next one, we saw a material impact of working capital and cash generation. I just wanted to get your view on what should we expect into the next quarters and for the full year? Thank you.

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Hi Guilherme, on your different way of framing the question around the labor, we settled the two settlements back in December. They had first. The map that was a part of that settlement was the December map. And there is no provision for that to be changed automatically, OK? So that's the basis for the area. And those two civil actions were extinguished in December. So of course, a new action could be proposed against the company. But right now, I mean, the civil actions were extinguished.

They don't exist anymore. And the basis for the settlement and our obligation relates to the map that was published back in December. And even a new map would not change that basis. The second point I would bring is the concept and reinforce the concept that I just mentioned around what is behind those two segments, right? One is behind risk, OK. So if the risk to people that in the settlement has left to relocate. So we would need to ascertain that there was risk in a different area for us to start even potentially, start a discussion around including that in the relocation program. So that's the first point. And as I said, we don't have an indication.

And we have substantially upgraded the monitoring -- the geological monitoring of the area. We don't have an indication of risk there. And we even have local authorities, again, saying that it's not a matter of criticality or risk in that region. It's a social impact. So that's the first concept, OK? Our location is linked to risk in our mind and the settlement was done in a specific back in December around that on the relocation. On the other part of the settlement, the concept is social remediation, right, which links to what we're seeing potentially in that zone because, I mean, we only heard of all of this OK, we don't have any official position by anybody. So that's how we are addressing it.

So if it's a social impact, we have funds that are targeted for project yet to be defined around social remediation. So that's where this is coming, at least, in our perspective. That's where it's coming from, and it would be taken care of in that way. So again, to be more direct in your answer, how we need is to reopen? There is no reopening. They were extinguished. Of course, a new one could be proposed, and that it would be a new discussion. But our concept is relocation is linked to risk, and we don't have an indication of so. Okay.

On the second point around working capital, we had an increase in prices, right, in the first quarter. So that leads to higher inventory costs, of course, higher payables, which helps in working capital, but also higher accounts receivable. So the net effect in working capital with higher prices is a consumption of cash. In the next quarters, we should see still some increase in inventories. I mean, we've been running as well as, as I said, the whole supply chain has been running at lower than average inventory. But also, we anticipate a drop in some product prices or decrease, right?

Not a drop maybe too strong, but a decrease in product prices. So that -- the net impact of that, I think -- I mean, it's -- I think it could be a positive effect or neutral. I don't see a bigger cash consumption going forward because of that. We also have a lot of taxes to monetize yet. So we have BRL1.4 billion of the typical fees tax to monetize that are already booked in our balance sheet, and about BRL800 million in cases that we're not final in the court yet. But so those are also positive effect that could come through the year.

Guilherme Levy -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

[Indecipherable] and Thank you.


Our next question comes from Anne Milne from Bank of America. Mr. Anne, you may proceed.

Anne Milne -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thank you. Congratulations, fantastic quarter. Happy to see that. Last year was tough at times. So I have a -- some of my questions have been answered, but just two questions. One, just to understand the main drivers of your purchase of naphtha, whether it's imported or from the local market, Petrobras. It sounds like prices are roughly equal, but you get better financing terms internationally.

So that obviously will help your working capital and cash flow and so forth or maybe there are pricing differentials that you discussed? And then the second is just on the comments that you made regarding what some of the rating agencies we're looking for. One was the place in the cycle and talking about potential new capacity and overcapacity in the industry coming online. Maybe you could talk about where we are now with China supply or from other locations, although I think China was then the big worry, a number of the agencies and what you see there right now? Thank you.

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Hi Anne, nice talking to you. About this time, we would be in Miami, right, Bank of America. So the imported naphtha, it does help our working capital. We can expand naphtha payments with international suppliers up to a year. So that's part of our cash management policy, and we've been increasing the imports of naphtha.

Last year, we had about 55% coming from Petrobras and 45% imported. The first quarter of this year, it was already 70% imported and 30% Brazilian naphtha. And we think that the balance will remain that way for the remainder of the year. So 70% imported now, the 30% Petrobras naphtha. With the new feedstock contracts that we signed last year with Petrobras.

The volume of the contract to Petrobras was reduced, and we've been taking that kind of that ratio -- the first quarter and I think going forward, that's going to be the norm. So we keep, I would say, benefiting from that in working capital. Of course, in the first quarter, we had kind of increasing prices and lower interest rates. But over time, that's going to normalize, and we should see some benefit in cash flow and working capital coming from this strategy.

In terms of China supply, we believe our assumption is that it's going to come to the market. The point or the question is when, right? We see that some of it will come this year and some of it will come next year. I believe IHS is probably a little bit more bullish than us. They are anticipating less capacity coming on this year and a bit more next year. So if you look at the balance of new capacity, we tend to be more conservative.

We are preparing for, I would say, a bit longer market still this year, they are saying it's more for next year. But we do see the capacity in China coming online, about 4.5 million tons of polyethylene. That's our assumption. And I think the other aspect -- a couple of other aspects for us to -- just to point that out. I mean, last year, we were short about 15% of the new capacity that were supposed to come online. 15% did not come online last year in polyethylene. So we are seeing some of that coming along this year.

The other aspect that is interesting, I mean, the forecast that IHS has for global demand, again, for the thing is about 5%, about 6% for polypropylene. The historical average for polyethlene has been globally has been at around 3%. So 5% is a 2% higher, right? The same price in PP, historical average at around 4%, this year 6%. So even with more new capacity coming online, we also are going to see a bit more demand.

So the -- I would say, the downturn in the cycle, the industry view and our view is that it's not going to be substantial. And that's why we've been saying, look, our view is that the second quarter is still going to be very strong. We're still having very high spreads, some disruption in value chain -- in supply chain, sorry. And then we see second half of the year softer, but still at good levels in terms of gross margins. Sorry, we tend to be more conservative than the average of the industry. So we could be out -- our internal view, we could have a surprise to the upside.

Anne Milne -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks. And just a quick follow-up on the supply agreement that you have with Petrobras and the difference between imported in Brazil, are prices roughly equal between the 2?

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

They are -- a couple of relevant points there. If you look at just the raw price of naphtha, what we buy outside Brazil is cheaper. If we include logistics, the landed cost in Brazil depends on where we are buying. In some places, it's higher imported naphtha. In some places imported naphtha could be still cheaper. So it depends on the supplier, the shift, etc., right? So then it's more matched, more evenly matched, landed in Brazil. But the benefit that we have with imported naphtha is that we can choose the quality of naphtha.

So if we need a naphtha that is more aromatic that will produce more bending, etc., we buy that. If we need naphtha that is more for a that goes more toward the old ethane, propane, we buy that. So on the international market, you have more flexibility around the quality of the product. And then, I mean, that helps us or say, have a higher value composition of products in our sales. So it does not change the cost itself, but it could add -- generate, I would say, a portfolio of sales that is higher value added for us when we import.

Anne Milne -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks and good luck for the rest of the year.

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Thanks Anne.


Our next question comes from Banco SBB.

Luiz Carvalho -- UBS -- Analyst

It's from UBS. Thank you for taking my questions. My first question is, there have been some news of specific players interest in some assets of Braskem, not in the company as a whole. But we were thinking here, what are the potential losses from Braskem assets as separate units instead of wide companies? I mean, are there any significant losses in synergy either operationally or in terms of taxes that will make this -- make less sense in a way? And that's my first question. For my second question, just a follow-up on Mexico. What are -- are there any advancements in thinking of the long-term supply for -- a long-term solution for the ethane supply? That's it, thank you.

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Thank you for your questions. So on the first one, I mean, it's -- the sale process is not a process that we are driving or participating in other than by buying information, right? When we look at -- having said that, we saw that I think everybody has said of this idea of breaking Braskem up. So we've been putting some thought around that to see if there are any opportunities or ideas that could increase the value for all of our current shareholders.

And some of the thoughts around your question, in terms of synergy, I think that the Brazilian operation, the integrated operation that we have today is highly synergistic. So breaking up Brazil, I think, would bring very significant synergies to the business. So that's the first consideration that I would make. It's an integrated production planning, integrated inventory planning, integrated commercial planning, integrated as feedstock procurement planning. So everything is integrated.

It's a single overhead. So there are lots of economies that pay as well. So I would say that Brazil is highly synergistic within Brazil. The synergy across regions, and I tend to think of our region at South America,as one region, U.S., Mexico and Europe, right? So that's how we tend to think of our regions. There is, I would say, more substantial synergy commercially between Brazil and Europe because I would say, after South America, the largest export hub for us is Europe. So there are commercial synergy in there. And also our feedstock trading debt is in the Netherlands.

So if you're thinking about the PP plants in Europe, I would say, much fewer synergies. But if you're thinking about Europe as a whole, then you have commercial synergies, especially because of the Dutch operation. And then the other area where I see some synergy across the different businesses is in the industrial area. I mean we do internal benchmarking. We do -- I mean, we have every single improvement that one team in one plant identifies and then spread out to the other plan.

So you have a lot of cross utilization in the industrial areas, which, I mean, is another way of gathering synergies, right? I don't think that's very substantial, but anyway, it's another area of synergy. And then the third one is you asked about tax. I mean, there could be tax implications of a breakup like that. But it will depend a lot on the format, right? And we don't have, I would say, a very depth analysis of this. I mean it's more kind of a feeling and no numbers than the cost of acquisition of the assets in the U.S. and Europe, for example.

So there could be a substantial tax burden or not, depending a lot on the structure of how such a deal could be done. But having said that, I mean, we are not, at this moment, doing that, right? So we're not working on that. There is no ask for us to do that. The shareholders have not decided to do that as far as we know. So far, it's more curiosity. I mean, we hear the news. We look at it. We discuss a little bit to see what potential But in the end -- at the end of the day, I think that anything that maximizes the value for the shareholders is what we should be looking at, right?

So this is kind of the -- where we are coming from. Is there anything in these rumors that could be ture some value unlocking for shareholders? So OK, let's entertain that. If not then, OK. We're not going there. But as far as we understand the sale of Braskem is an integrated sale of the whole company, that's how we understand it at this point.

Luiz Carvalho -- UBS -- Analyst

Thank you. And on the update on Mexico, do you have any updates on the...

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

I'm sorry. Yes. So we are working on a terminal, right, on the project of a terminal to import ethane into Mexico. So that's part of the that we're having and that also is part of the discussions with right? So it's still project in development. We don't have any final decision or even, I would say, the format of that is still being discussed for the conceptual approach to the terminal. It's still something that we are narrowing down to one solution, but we don't have that yet defined. The other aspect of supply of, I think, into Mexico with the Fast Track right.

Here, as I mentioned a bit earlier, we are increasing the Fast Track to -- by about 30% to improve and bring more imports into Mexico in the short term. It's the second expansion already. And just to bring out another aspect for these items, given the expanded spread in the first quarter of the year, which -- I mean, we all know they were very high, EBITDA margin in the fourth quarter was at around 40% with the operation running at about 60%, right? So again, very, very positive results from Mexico in the first quarter. So that shows it's really very good access that we have there. Once it gets 100% supply, we would, of course, see even better.

Luiz Carvalho -- UBS -- Analyst

Yeah, thank you and congratulations with your result.


Our next question comes from Regis Cardoso from Credit Suisse. Mr. Regis, you may proceed.

Regis Cardoso -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hi guys, good afternoon.Thanks Pedro and Rosana for taking my question. I have a few follow-ups. I mean, it's been a while, I don't participate in the conference call. So if you could maybe expand a little bit some of the topics you've already discussed in this call, in particular, in relation to the cash flow dynamics, it appears that -- I mean, you had a lower free cash flow than would otherwise expect from the very strong operating results. I know you already commented about inventories. If you could also comment on the tax credits you've already received, on which there is still to monetize going ahead? It seems it's a very high pace.

And then it appears that the liabilities in Alagoas might as well be part of that working capital dynamics. So just a follow-up on the cash flow dynamics to understand whether the operating results are translating into cash flow dynamics? The other follow-up is regarding Alagoas and what I will call sort of a new normal after the moment of crisis, where you had the actual risk to people. But I understand there is a social impact to having such a big area in the city empty. And I imagine there will be -- I mean there will plans around revitalizing that area and other social implications. So I wanted to get your sense, and I believe there's no certain answer at this point, but I wanted to get your views on what happened after this?

And what will be Braskem's role, let's say, revitalizing that area? And then maybe last one of the follow-ups is regarding the sale. If you could maybe just comment if the management team is involved in any way in that process for a strategic partner, data rooms, etc. And then finally, I mean, maybe the only new topic is around ESG and the role of plastics? In particular, if you see any angle for Braskem in the many discussions we see taking place right now around green refineries, hydrogen plants and so on. So those follow-ups and then just that new one. Thanks.

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Okay Regis, thank you for all the questions. On cash flow, besides working capital that we already covered, as you mentioned, in January, we also had a substantial interest payments which are half yearly, right, for the bond. And with the FX depreciation, when you look at the numbers in reals, those numbers are higher, right? In dollars, they are not. But in reals, they are. The other aspect still of cash flow, we spent about BRL500, a little bit more in that in our Board, which also take away some of the free cash flow of the company. And finally, even though we have a separate bank account for that, so some of that is coming from dividend account.

But we're putting the full amount in our free cash flow calculation here. And the other aspect is around the tax credit that you asked. We have monetized BRL650 million in the first quarter. We still have about BRL1.4 billion to monetize and plus BRL800 million yet to be provisioned because they are not yet final decisions by the courts. So it's still, I would say -- we still have some runway in terms of monetizing credit. As I said, working capital impact should be lower in the coming quarters, if prices don't give us any surprise and the interest payments are half yearly. So that should give you a view on the rest of the year. Then because of the increased results, our tax payments have been a bit above what we would expect with lower results, right? With higher results, we're paying a little bit more income tax. But that, again, is not defined.

As you saw in the chart there, it's about BRL300 in the quarter. Switching over to Alagoas and the question around the space there, I mean it's still categorized as a risky area, right? So nobody should be there. We do have people in the area to work on the backfilling of the wells filling some of the wells with sand. So we do have operators in the area. We do monitor the risk. And as I said, we have substantially increase the monitoring and the instrument, the sensors the area to make sure that nobody is in an unsafe situation. But we don't have any plans today around working with that in the future. It's the area -- so far, still a risky area, and nobody should be doing anything in there until there is stability and there is -- I mean, kind of the their mind is really setting. And that's just going to take a few years.

On the sale, we have put together a data room for them to mean to work on the sale, of course, taking care of confidentiality, antitrust or any competition, competitive issues. But that has been the extent of our involvement so far. We do believe that in the future, we will be a bit more involved especially as it goes into a stage where management presentations are required or even when a contract is being discussed. So we do believe that in the future, we should be more involved. But right now, the extent has been to kind of prepare including the And finally, around ESG, thank you very much for this question. I think this is an area where Braskem is really improving on already very good basis that we have.

I mean, we've been working on ESG and stand with development for more than a decade now. And we do have some numbers to show around our historical reduction in emissions around some of the work we've been doing around recycling and other aspects of the business that are very favorable. Just to give an example of the recognition we get from there, Braskem is a AAA company in the carbon disclosure project for water efficiency, for energy efficiency and also for the work with our suppliers. So it is an area where we have been investing for a few years now.

And looking at the future and as you asked about the role of plastics, I mean plastics are a very good solution for mankind, right? And so we see that there is an issue with plastics around the post-consumption disposal of plastics and how we work on that. We see that as a business opportunity, and we are -- we have set up for -- now for two, three years, recycling business teams to develop opportunities around recycling. It is a different business model compared to what we have at Braskem so far. I mean, if you look at the world, it is a few very high scale, very large factories that are producing a lot of volume. So it's very few, very large scale investments, right?

And with recycling, it's going to be many low scale projects and developing that is a challenge. Last year, we sold 10,000 tons of recycled polymer. Our goal -- public goal for 2025 is to sell 300,000 tons. So it's multiplying by 30, 3-0, the quantity or the amount of recycled plastic we sold last year. It is a substantial challenge, and we are organizing ourselves to attract that. And we see that as a business opportunity. The other area that we are also evolving a lot is around renewable chemicals. We have announced in January the expansion of our green polyethylene business. We are going to increase the size of that plant by 30%. It's a $16 million investment that will come online in the second half of next year. So it's going to increase our footprint in that -- the renewals business substantially. It's a very -- again, very, very exciting development. And we do see a lot of market potential for this.

So we are looking even for ways to accelerate the expansion of that business looking at how we can fund that in different ways so that it doesn't hurt or doesn't change our credit metrics. But in the same time, we are able to access new sources of funds to be able to accelerate the capture of that value. So that's another area that we've been looking at very closely. We have also R&D developments around renewables, one that is public is green energy. We are not in the energy business today.

But with this development, green energy could be a breakthrough that could even be, depending on how the technology grows, is still in demonstration scale in terms of the technology. But if it progresses well and then goes into industrial scale, could be a very sizable market for us to get to in the future, again, also investing in developing our footprint in renewable chemicals, which is another way of mitigating the carbon footprint of the company.


[Operator Instructions] Now I'll turn it over for the company's closing remarks.

Roberto Lopes Pontes Simoes -- Chief Executive Officer

So I'd like to thank everyone for joining us in this call. And I just wanted to end with a couple of remarks. First, as you all noticed, it was a very strong first quarter, driven only by an international scenario, but also by the ability of Braskem's team members and the teams around the world to really operate very efficiently and to capture all the opportunities that the market put out there for us.

So in this scenario, we closed the quarter with a very positive cash flow generation and the leverage of 1.8 turns, which is a very important reduction from what we had in the last quarter. I mean, in three months, we reduced our leverage by more than one turn of EBITDA. Also important to comment that we reduced our gross debt by about $700 million in this three month period, which shows our commitment to keep reducing our gross bench going forward. We're very committed to our financial liquidity and also to get that investment grade from the rating agency. The second point I'd like to emphasize that we are very confident that in the second quarter, we will also have a very good industry dynamics and that our operations will run well.

We will continue to -- we expect to continue to have a good financial performance, given the scenario and also the way that we've been running the business. We will keep deleveraging Braskem, which is one of the main priorities for us this year. So I'd like to thank all of you for your participation and look to talking with you both when we release our second quarter results. But also just to remind everyone, we are holding an ESG Day in May 17. So about a couple -- 10 days from now, 11 days from now, we're having an ESG Day where we're going to disclose some of our achievements and also some new commitments around sustainable development for the company. So thank you all very much.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 90 minutes

Call participants:

Rosana Avolio -- Investor Relation Manager

Pedro van Langendonck Teixeira de Freitas -- Finance, Procurement and Institutional Relations

Roberto Lopes Pontes Simoes -- Chief Executive Officer

Ben Isaacson -- Scotiabank -- Analyst

Christian -- Santander -- Analyst

Guilherme Levy -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Anne Milne -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Luiz Carvalho -- UBS -- Analyst

Regis Cardoso -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

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