CHIHUAHUA, Mexico -- Interceramic reported record sales of $259.8 million in 2000, a 10.4% increase over the $235.3 million in sales achieved in 1999. Better selling prices in both Mexico and the international markets, and a reduction in certain costs, led to improved operating results, with the company reporting record operating income of $27.0 million, a 28.2% increase over 1999 operating income of $21.1 million.

In addition, Interceramic said its operating margin of 10.39% for 2000 was 1.5 points better than its 8.90% margin in 1999. The company also reported record EBITDA of $40.1 million in 2000, a 17% increase over EBITDA of $34.2 million in 1999. More free cash translated to lower debt, with net debt decreasing from $138.9 million at the end of 1999 to $115.2 million at the end of 2000.

Although the company ended the year with 13% fewer employees in the same operations compared to the end of 1999, sales per employee in 2000 jumped 26% over sales per employee during 1999, and operating income per employee also increased by 46% over 1999.

The Mexican market continues to lead the Interceramic's growth, with sales in Mexico of $148.0 million for 2000 expanding 26.2% over Mexican sales of $117.3 million in 1999.

In the international markets, the company turned in mixed results, with 2000 sales decreasing 5.3% to $111.8 million compared to $118.0 million in the year-earlier period. The company said it has focused for the past two years on improving the product mix that it sells in the U.S. market and has seen a 5.5% increase in average selling price in 2000. The better pricing and some reduction in costs allowed production at Interceramic’s Garland, Texas, wall tile facility to contribute $8.0 million in gross income during 2000, compared to a $4.9 million in 1999.

Interceramic's 2000 results were generally aided by a good fourth quarter of the year. Fourth quarter sales of $66.1 million rose 8.1% compared to fourth quarter 1999 sales of $61.2 million. Fourth quarter 2000 operating income of $6.8 million increased 26.2% over operating income of $5.4 million in the fourth quarter of 1999. EBITDA of $9.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2000 was 7.3% more than fourth quarter 1999 EBITDA of $8.9 million.