The year 2015 had an uncommon environment, signs of an economic slowdown of some emerging and developed countries; the possibility of an increase of interest rates in the United States; strong turmoil in stock markets; appreciation of the American dollar regarding other currencies, and a pronounced fall of the international oil prices all favored a reduction of public expenses by the Federal Government in Mexico, which announced the cancellation of important infrastructure works; but the continuity of works that had already started and the investment of the private sector in the construction sector promoted a 2.6% growth of the GDP of the construction, compared with the year 2014, with a slightly greater growth to the 2.5% increase of the national GDP.
Without a doubt, the orchestration of our business strategy and the application of efforts and resources by the members of Corporacion Moctezuma® benefited by the combination of particularly favorable events and conditions for the cement industry and for our company: an important increase in the demand by the construction sector, the historic fall of the prices of energy supplies to levels not seen in many years, and an increase in the product's price.
For those of us who are part of the cement industry, 2015 was a great year where a high volume of cement and concrete was moved. It was an extraordinary year specially, for Corporacion Moctezuma® as we broke records. Thanks to a high cement demand, it was possible to report sales of a total of $11,026 million, a record level for the company, which exceeds 20.0% to what was reported the previous year.
Due to the price reduction of energy because of the international price fall of oil and the adjustments of prices of power, it was possible to reduce our production cost, benefiting our gross margin, which reached a 41.7%, above the 36.2% recorded in 2014.
Our EBITDA increased $4,512 million, which is an increase of 36.6% in the year variance, which reinforced our capacity to generate cash flows; in the 2015 fiscal year, our net margin reached 25.9%, which exceeds the 22.1% margin reported in 2014.
During 2015, we invested a total of $781 million, of which, approximately 60% was destined to the second production line of Apazapan Plant, and we paid dividends to the shareholders for a total of $1,761 million, so for each share corresponded a payment of two pesos in the fiscal year of 2015.
To get these results, a decisive role was the focus on efficiency of our operations, the experienced production team, and the preventive maintenance we continuously give to their modern cement plants gave fruits and made possible to they run at full capacity; also, our logistics team delivered the Cemento Moctezuma® to the 29 where we are present.
The sales area, the brand positioning, and the customer orientation made possible to Break Records by having the preference of our customers.
In 2015 we started building the new production line in the Apazapan plant, which we estimate will start operations during the first half of 2017 and which will increase the production capacity to 2.6 million tons in this plant. This means, an additional 20% to our current cement production capacity.
For our Corporacion Moctezuma® and our Cement and Concrete Divisions, having a clean operation is a priority, for achieving this, we made investments that meant having the least possible environmental impact, completely adhered to the current environmental legislations.
We kept and strengthened the support to communities neighboring their main facilities with programs promoting health, education, and labor training, favoring the development of the members, especially those who require more support and opportunities. Years of dedication and investment in our social programs identify us as a good neighbor and a trustworthy partner.
Good results are only possible thanks to the committed work of our collaborators, who everyday make an effort to Break Records.
At Corporacion Moctezuma® we aim to provide them a good environment for performing their duties while they invest on developing their technical and academic training. In el 2015 we were included in the ranking Super Empresas Expansion 2015, the places where everybody wants to work, we are convinced that this award, as well as the one granted by Great Place to Work in 2014, are not a company's achievement, but they are the result of each and every one of our workers, part of the Moctezuma family.
They year 2015 had extremely favorable conditions, which will be difficult to be repeated simultaneously. The reported results are a reflection that we could take advantage of the conditions and that the work carried out on previous years, focused on the control costs and expenses, an appropriate sales strategy, and the talent of our managerial team in decision-making, will allow us to exceed the challenges of the future and continue saying that in Corporacion Moctezuma® we Breaks Records.
President of the Board of Directors