Results for the first six months of 2018 were net earnings attributable to the corporation of $244 million, or 68 cents per diluted share, on sales of $5.89 billion compared to $167 million, or 47 cents per diluted share, on sales of $5.33 billion for the first six months of 2017. Ball’s second quarter and year-to-date 2018 comparable earnings per diluted share were 58 cents and $1.09, respectively versus second quarter and year-to-date 2017 comparable earnings per diluted share of 53 cents and 91 cents, respectively.
“Positive momentum in our businesses continues. Our improved second quarter results were driven by excellent operational performance, solid global demand for environmentally friendly aluminum packaging, achieving more value for our innovative packages and lower corporate costs. Anticipated start-up costs, out-of-pattern freight and declines in our US beverage can volumes, as well as the short-term impact from the Brazilian truckers’ strike, were effectively managed by the respective businesses during the quarter and we expect that these issues should moderate in the second half,” said John A. Hayes, chairman, president and CEO.
“Our global team continues to execute,” added Hayes. “We successfully ramped up production at two new beverage can facilities during the quarter, advanced progress on network optimization projects to align our beverage can portfolio in the US and Brazil, and our aerospace business continued to secure additional contracts to further grow our contracted backlog. With this momentum and the proceeds from the US steel food and steel aerosol asset sale, we are expanding the 2018 return of capital to our shareholders via share repurchases and dividends to be in excess of $800 million. In addition, we continue to reaffirm our financial goals of $2 billion of comparable EBITDA and in excess of $1 billion of free cash flow in 2019.”
“We expect 2018 capital spending to be in excess of $700 million as excellent progress on projects allows us to bring spending forward,” Hayes observed. “The increased capital expenditures along with the timing of the sale of the US steel food and steel aerosol business will put our 2018 free cash flow in the range of $800 million. The deleveraging is right on track and we anticipate net debt to comparable EBITDA ratios being in the range of 3.0 to 3.5 times by year end,” said Scott C. Morrison, SVP and CFO.