Our consolidated sales for the third quarter of 2021 were US$473.2 million, an increase of 22% compared to US$388.3 million in the same period last year. Sales for the third quarter of 2021 include $20 million in sales related to our acquisition of Normerica. The beneficial effect of foreign exchange on sales was approximately US$6 million, an increase of 2% over the previous year. Operating income was US$60.6 million, accounting for 12.8% of sales, compared with US$48.5 million in the previous year, accounting for 12.5% of sales. Operating income for the third quarter of 2021 includes $1.5 million in acquisition-related expenses and $1.1 million in restructuring and other projects. Operating income for the third quarter of 2020 includes US$1.5 million in restructuring and other projects and US$1.5 million in litigation costs related to Novenda’s bankruptcy. Net income was US$41.4 million, compared to US$28.3 million in the third quarter of 2020. Diluted earnings per share for the third quarter ended October 3, 2021 were US$1.22 per share, compared to US$0.83 per share in the third quarter of 2020.
As the demand in many of our end markets continues to improve, the third quarter of 2021 has strong performance, and our sales and operating income in each of our market segments have achieved growth. In addition, the operational measures we have taken to increase profit margins have helped us achieve higher returns. The company has also made progress in our strategic growth plan through the commercialization and geographic expansion of value-added products.
On July 26, 2021, the company completed the acquisition of Normerica Inc., a leading high-quality cat litter supplier in North America. As a leader in the pet product industry, they provide world-class retailers with high-quality products, including brands and private labels, and their product portfolio mainly includes bentonite-based cat litter products. In addition, in November, we acquired the Specialty PCC assets of a company in the Midwestern United States, which helped us expand our manufacturing range and provided us with a strategic logistics footprint at key points along the Mississippi River.
Our balance sheet continues to be strong. As of October 3, 2021, cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments were US$311.3 million, and the company has more than US$500 million in available liquidity, including cash on hand and available funds under revolving credit lines. We believe that these factors will enable us to meet the anticipated funding needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not have a significant impact on our reported performance in the third quarter of 2021, and we do not expect it to have a negative impact on our business and operating results in the fourth quarter. However, the extent to which our business is affected by the pandemic will largely depend on future developments, including the severity of future outbreaks and the actions taken by government authorities to contain or deal with its impact. These are highly uncertain and cannot be accurately predicted. We will continue to actively monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the company will continue to focus on innovation and new product development, as well as other sales growth opportunities for existing businesses, as follows:
? Increase our presence and infiltrate our bentonite-based foundries
Customers in the metal casting industry in emerging markets, such as China and
? Increase our influence and market share in global pet care products,
? Deploy new products in the pet care field, such as lightweight cat litter.
? Increase our influence and market share of powder coatings in Asia and the world
? Continue to develop our FLUORO-SORB® products to repair
Pollution of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and perfluorooctane
? Seek opportunities for our products in the field of environment and construction
Construction markets in the Middle East, Asia Pacific and South America
? Increase our presence and market share in geosynthetic clay lining
? Continue to develop our agricultural proprietary products
? Development of multiple high filling technologies under the FulFill® platform
Products to improve the fill rate of single-sheet paper and continue to improve
Commercial discussions and comprehensive paper machine trials.
? Develop products and processes for waste management and recycling opportunities
Reduce the environmental impact of paper mills and reduce energy consumption
And improve the sustainability of the papermaking process, including our
NewYield® and ENVIROFIL® products.
? Further penetrate into the packaging field of the paper industry.
? Increase our paper PCC sales by further penetrating the paper market
Liberty paper and mill paper filling, especially in emerging markets
? Use satellite models to expand the company's PCC coating product line.
? Improve the company's expertise in crystal engineering, especially in helping
Paper manufacturers customize PCC forms for specific paper applications.
? Expand PCC production for paper filling applications through cooperation with the industry
Partners develop new methods to increase the proportion of PCC in fibers
? Develop unique calcium carbonate and talc products for manufacturing
New biopolymers, new market opportunities.
? Deploy new talc and GCC products in paint, coatings and packaging applications.
? Deploying value-added formulations of refractory materials can not only reduce
? Deploy our laser measurement technology to new applications.
? Extend our refractory maintenance model to other steel manufacturers around the world.
? Deploy the principles of operational excellence to all aspects of the organization,
Including system infrastructure and lean principles.
? Continue to explore selective acquisitions to adapt to our core competitiveness
Mineral and fine particle technology.
However, there is no guarantee that we will succeed in implementing any one or more of these opportunities.
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