Consolidated sales for the third quarter increased by 14.85 percent from the previous quarter, to $78.6 million from $68.4 million, Interceramic announced recently.

Sales growth over the third quarter of 2001 was more modest at an increase of 3.49 percent, Interceramic said.

Sales in Mexico during the third quarter of 2002 were in line with sales in the same period last year, at $44.5 million compared to $45.1 million, a 1.42 percent decrease, the company said.

In the international markets sales improved to $34.1 million for the quarter, setting a company record and posting a 10.68 percent increase over sales of $30.8 million for the third quarter of 2001.

Overall operating expenses increased over recent quarters and stood at 27.03 percent of sales in the third quarter of 2002 compared to 25.34 percent of sales in the third quarter of 2001.

The operating income stood at $7.7 million for this quarter, 21.36 percent higher than the second quarter this year, but lower than the record operating income of $10.1 million hit by the company in the third quarter last year.

A period EBITDA of $11.4 million totalled 16.47 percent below the $13.7 million recorded in the same period last year.

The company's debt service coverage ratio improved to 4.02 compared to 3.3 at the end of the third quarter last year and the ratio of debt to EBITDA at 2.7.

Capital expenditures over the course of the year have aggregated $12.7 million to date, the company said.