the year 2015 was both challenging and successful for Evonik.
Although the global economic situation deteriorated noticeably as the year progressed, all in all we were nevertheless able to defend and improve our market positions. The consistent focus of our business portfolio on customer-oriented specialty chemicals, the further selective expansion of capacities, and our continued investment in research and development all paid off for our company and its shareholders.
Our total sales increased by 5 percent to €13,507 million, and adjusted EBITDA rose even faster, by 31 percent to €2,465 million. Our EBITDA margin thus increased significantly to 18.2 percent, which is an outstanding result both in general and within our own industry. Our return on capital employed (ROCE) of 16.6 percent was also very high.
Adjusted net income rose by 44 percent to €1,128 million. In order to ensure our shareholders benefit from our positive business development, the Executive Board and Supervisory Board will propose to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting in May that the dividend be increased from €1.00 per share to €1.15 per share.
Our strategy is paying off
Our strategy is based on profitable growth, efficiency, and values. We aim to further expand our leading market positions and our leadership in technology. We will focus here on attractive growth businesses and emerging markets, use our innovations to gain access to new growth areas, and continually improve our cost positions. The successful reorganization of our management and portfolio structure last year noticeably improved the organizational conditions required for the implementation of this strategy.
Chairman of the Executive Board of Evonik Industries AG
Our measures here included the sale of our remaining 10.3 percent interest in Vivawest GmbH to RAG Aktiengesellschaft. We have thus completely withdrawn from the real estate business and are now focused on specialty chemicals.
We invest in growth
In 2015, we once again invested substantially in innovations and new and improved production facilities. The requirements of local consumers in various markets around the world are constantly changing. We are responding to these developments together with our customers, for whom we develop innovative tailor-made products.
Our innovations improve and simplify the lives of people in many different ways, and we are also helping to ensure the basis for existence of a growing population.
For example, the rising global population will also result in a further increase in demand for animal protein in the future. At the same time, growing prosperity is leading to greater demand for high-quality food products. This in turn is leading to more intensive livestock farming, which presents major challenges in terms of ensuring sustainable and environmentally sound food production.
Essential amino acids from Evonik help reduce water consumption and excess nitrate concentrations in soil, and also contribute to the conservation of natural protein resources. In an effort to meet the continually growing global demand for amino acids, we plan to build an additional production facility right next to the plant that was so successfully commissioned on Jurong Island in Singapore in November 2014. We have already constructed a new manufacturing facility in Castro (Brazil) for our Biolys® amino acid feed additive. We have also invested in new formulations that are tailored to food production requirements outside of the poultry sector. A production plant for the Mepron® feed additive for dairy cows has been built in Mobile (Alabama, USA). We have developed the new AQUAVI® Met-Met additive for aquaculture feed. The first manufacturing facility for this is now being built in Antwerp (Belgium).
Demand for quality personal care products and cosmetics is also increasing, so we are expanding our global production network for specialty oleochemical surfactants.
In order to improve resource efficiency, we have also expanded our manufacturing capacity for precipitated silicas. Especially when used in combination with silanes, these silicas enable the production of automobile tires that noticeably reduce fuel consumption. A new plant for precipitated silicas is now being built in São Paulo (Brazil) and is scheduled to open later this year. It will be the first facility to produce highly dispersible silicas for the South American tire industry. Just last fall, we also started up new capacity at the extended production facility for specialty silicas in Ako (Japan).
We expect additional growth momentum to be generated by the doubling of our oil additive production capacity in Singapore, as well as by the acquisition of the Indian catalyst manufacturer Monarch and the Dutch hydrogen peroxide manufacturer PeroxyChem.
In our Performance Materials Segment, we have invested in new facilities in Antwerp (Belgium) and Marl (Germany) that have expanded our production capacities for the isononanol plasticizer alcohol, butadiene, and MTBE. This investment has also improved our flexibility in terms of resource utilization. In addition, we will be launching a production joint venture with AkzoNobel in Ibbenbüren (Germany) at the end of 2017 to build and operate a chlorine-potassium hydroxide membrane electrolysis plant.
We are customer-focused and cosmopolitan
In our diverse and globalized world, it is becoming more and more important to gain a better understanding of the requirements of our customers and end-consumers. Changing our perspective to view the world through the eyes of our customers allows us to see things differently and thus develop exceptional solutions. Our willingness to remain open to new things and to think in a flexible manner is the key to our culture of learning and innovation. This culture helps us identify good ideas at an early stage of their development and then quickly bring them to market in order to create added value for our customers and Evonik.
The ability to change the way we look at things also requires us to remain objective, impartial, and open, and to accept different ways of thinking and working. Narrow-mindedness and intolerance therefore have no place in our cosmopolitan corporate culture. This culture also forms the foundation of our employees’ commitment to social responsibility around the world—for example, the commitment to help people who have been forced to flee their homes due to war and hunger.
I invite you to use this Annual Report to get to know our markets and customers from a new and different point of view, and I hope this perspective change will bring you many new and interesting insights.