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Animal Health International, Inc. (NASDAQ:AHII)

F2Q09 Earnings Call

February 5, 2009 10:00 am ET

Executives

James C. Robison – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

William F. Lacey - Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Mark Arnold – Piper Jaffray

Analyst for Lisa Gill – JP Morgan

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

Operator

Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Animal Health International second quarter earnings conference call. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. A brief question and answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. James Robison, for Animal Health International, Chairman and CEO.

James C. Robison

Good morning. I’m Jim Robison, Chairman and CEO of Animal Health International. With me is Bill Lacey, our Chief Financial Officer. Bill will review the results for the quarter and year-to-date and then I will make some comments, then we’ll open it to questions and answers.

William F. Lacey

Thanks, Jim. Good morning, and thanks for joining us for today’s earnings release. Before I begin I’d like to point out that today’s conference call is being recorded and will be available for replay on our web page at AHII.com under Investor Relations.

In addition, I’d like to remind everyone that some of the information discussed on this call, particularly our guidance for fiscal year 2009, are competitive position, future business prospects, revenue growth, and market opportunities for the upcoming fiscal year and contain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainty.

This statements are based on current expectations. Actual results may vary materially from those set forth in such statements. Additional information concerning risks and other factors that may cause actual results to differ can be found in the company’s filings with the SEC. Please note that in addition to reporting financial results in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP, AHI reports certain non-GAAP financial results, including EBITDA.

Investors are encouraged to review the reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to the comparable GAAP results which can be found in the press release. Additionally, AHI has provided in its earnings release and will provide in this conference call forward-looking guidance. We will not provide any further guidance or updates on our performance during the year unless we do so in a public forum.

AHI does not assume any obligation to update its forward-looking statements provided to reflect events, occurrences, or circumstances that exist after the date on which they are made.

I will now provide you with the financial results for our second quarter of fiscal year 2009.

For the second quarter, net sales decreased 9.2% or $18.7 million to $184.5 million for the three months ended December 31, 2008 from $203.2 million for the same quarter last year. Lower spending by production animal customers whose profits have been constrained by commodity prices are primarily to blame.

Gross profit as a percentage of sales was 17.5% compared to 19.6% in the same period last year. Gross margin declined $7.6 million with $7 million due to lower rebates from vendors. Transactional margins increased $2.6 million. Margins declined $3.3 million due to the lower sales volume.

SG&A expenses declined $1.9 million from last year as a result of lower variable selling expense as lowered bonuses and severance expense. EBITDA for the quarter was $8.1 million which was a decrease of $5.8 million from the year earlier quarter of $13.9 million. Net income for the quarter was $2.3 million, down from the second quarter last year net income of $5.5 million.

GAAP diluted income was $0.09 per share for the quarter. The non-cash amortization of intangibles was $1.2 million for the quarter for those of you who added back into your models. Earnings per share without non-cash amortization was $0.14.

Now I’ll talk a little bit about the year-to-date. Net sales declined $14.1 million or 3.8% to $353.5 million for the six months ended December 31, 2008. Acquisitions accounted for $10.8 million of sales resulting in an organic sales decline of 6.8% or $24.9 million.

Gross margin declined $6 million with $6.3 million due to lower rebates from vendors. Transactional margins increased $2.4 million. The decline in organic sales volume resulted in a $4.5 million decline in gross margin but was offset $2.7 million by margin generated in the first quarter by Kane Vet Supplies. Last year reflected only second quarter operations for Kane as it was acquired in October 2007. Margin in the six months for 17.7% of net sales compared to 18.6% last year.

SG&A expenses increased $0.8 million from last year. Kane, acquired in October of 2007, contributed $2.1 million to the increase in SG&A this year. Professional fees, severance, and bonuses were down $1.3 million for the year to date. Earnings before tax, depreciation, and amortization or EBITDA for the first half was $13 million, a decrease of $6.9 million as compared to the same period last year.

Net income for the year-to-date was $2.6 million down from last year’s net income of $6.6 million. GAAP diluted income was $0.10 per share for the year. The non-cash amortization of intangibles was $2.4 million for the six months. Earnings per share without amortization was $0.20.

Now I’ll talk a little bit about asset management. At the end of December there were 42 days of working capital. Our average for the last 12 months was 44 days. Debt decreased during the three month period by $1.9 million in spite of $2.9 million of earn outs paid to 70 shareholders of prior acquisitions. That will [inaudible] to $700,000.

The company confirms its guidance for fiscal year 2009. Net sales for fiscal year 2009 are expected to be in the range of $650 million to $680 million. EBITDA is estimated to be in the range of $29 million to $33 million and its net income for the fiscal year to be in the range of $7.l3 million to $9.3 million. This excludes any projections of future acquisitions.

At December 31, 2008 the company’s availability under its revolver or asset based loan totaled $31.4 million. The company believes it has sufficient liquidity in its line of credit to conduct its operations in the normal course for the next 12 months. The company is in compliance with all of its financial covenants and expects to remain so for the next 12 months.

Now I’ll turn it back over to Jim.

James C. Robison

Thanks, Bill. While results for the quarter are in line with our revised 2009 internal forecast and we are firming our forecast for the year, I believe that it’s important for our investors to understand the challenges facing our industry.

Extreme volatility and commodity prices have negatively affected our customers, causing them to reduce their spending where possible. Specifically, milk and beef prices are down 50% and 25% approximately, especially over the last six months of 2008. Generally in the past these marks have corrected within a quarter or two unless we believe that prices moving up will normalize these markets and cause our customers to return to profitability.

I want to note that in the 12 years that I’ve been with the business, we have never seen our dairy business contract and yet we’re forecasting a contraction in this fiscal year. We’ve seen our beef business contract as much as 3% and grow as much as 7%. We’re going to see a contraction of about 6% this year and then we’ve never seen our vet business contract and it is contracting as well. Again, most of this is related to activities around the production animal business.

Given the current environment, as we told you on the last call, our plans were... We did freeze wages and salaries. We suspended management bonuses. We have consolidated and mostly completed our plans to consolidated low or marginally performing locations. We have reduced operating expenses by over $7 million. We have improved our transactional margins by 131 basis points. We have tightened our credit management policies and disciplines.

We continue to invest in the long term by developing and introducing proprietary products and services. We are also working to expand our general offering of products and services to our customers. We’re continuing to target what we refer to as financially rationalized acquisitions. We are investing the business intelligence and productivity system and we are continuing to build our presence in the companion market, although we have slowed that significantly given the current challenges that we’re facing.

We have commented in the past that we feel the long term opportunities to expand and improve our business are very good. While we’re dealing with these short term challenges, the management team remains very positive and enthusiastic about our future opportunities.

With that I’ll turn it over and up for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Mark Arnold of Piper Jaffray.

Mark Arnold – Piper Jaffray

Jim, could you maybe just talk a little bit... you mentioned the milk and beef prices down 50% and 25% respectively here in recent months. Can you talk a little bit about what’s happened just in the last couple months of the quarter, it’s a big deep price drop and that kind of happened after you guys gave guidance in September. It looks like that’s come back a bit. Can you just talk about the trends that we’ve seen in both of those areas over since your last conference call?

James C. Robison

Quite frankly we’ve not seen anything that’s encouraging to us to date although we do see indications that it will become feasible to place calves in feed lots and just get profitability based on hedging strategies. The dairy men are losing pretty substantial amounts of money as milk prices have come down much more quickly than their costs of operations would allow them to be profitable and we see activity. Creameries are working to accomplish a $300,000 to $350,000 per reduction. It’s probably or would have to be financed out of the normal means. That would obviously affect prices.

We also think that we’re seeing a problem in the beef business. The middle cuts mostly served at the high end, choice, and prime markets have been off substantially and thus prices have been down for fat cattle. We think that will turn around as well, but it’s been one of those situations where it precipitously got bad and if you will running sideways right now. In the beef business, most of the close downs are around live cattle are losing between $200 and $300 and the break even numbers in the dairy market are generally in the $13 to $17 per hundred weight range with milk prices below $10. I think creamery prices are more in the $10 to $12 range. So a tough situation there as well.

Mark Arnold – Piper Jaffray

Just one more comment on that. Are we starting to see maybe some normalization of or balance of supply and demand, maybe just at a lower demand curve in say the beef markets or do you still think we have a little bit of ways to go before we reach a little bit more of an equilibrium point?

James C. Robison

I don’t have any quantitative metrics that would tell me we’re seeing that. I think in the beef market our guts are telling us we’re close but there’s no indication that there’s a time in which that there’s some time in which things are going to get definitively better and for the dairy market I’d have to say that it’s just continuing to be very tough.

Mark Arnold – Piper Jaffray

Just one more question for me. The lower rebates in the quarter, were they strictly volume related or was it the result of any changes in vendor payments in the quarter?

James C. Robison

If you recall, we’ve been saying this all along this year. These are all volume rebates from last year and we really didn’t... what rebates were available with this vendor, we chose not to chase because of the low margins associated so this was expected and was in our guidance all along.

Operator

Your next question comes from Lisa Gill with JP Morgan.

Analyst for Lisa Gill – JP Morgan

A question on the cash flows, could you provide us with the cash flow number for the quarter and what your outlook is for the year and then secondly as it relates to acquisitions going forward, what’s your goal there and are there any opportunities in the market?

William F. Lacey

Let me answer that. and I’m not going to deal with your GAAP cash flow, I’m going to tell you that our debt declined about $1.9 million during this quarter and we did make almost $3 million of earn out payments to prior acquisitions. We had about $5 million of that didn’t get applied to our revolver at the end of the month there so if you put all those together, it was pretty good cash flow month. We made a conscious effort to reduce our inventories at the end of the quarter and inventories dropped about $9 million in December from the November numbers. Our DSOs are at about 38.6 days compared to last year’s 40 days. Inventories are down substantially over last year as well.

Analyst for Lisa Gill – JP Morgan

If you look at the back half of the year you’ve done about $2.6 million in net income [inaudible] your guidance [inaudible] I’m hoping the back half of the year on net income and given that the conditions aren’t improving materially, is this going to be mainly a cost driven kind of initiative to get you up to that level or what else do you expect to have a better second half of ‘09?

William F. Lacey

If you go back to last year, last year’s back half wasn’t very good either, so we’re not annualizing against great numbers anymore. Basically we may miss it some in volume in the comps to last year. We’ll make it up in better transactional margins and through some of the cost cutting measures.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jeff Johnson from Robert W. Baird.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

I guess Bill I'll just start with you, some basic ones. What was the FX impact in the quarter and then following on your last comment there, so it sounds like gross margins can be flat to up over the back two quarters of the year? Is that accurate?

William F. Lacey

Yes and the foreign exchange number for the quarter would have been in revenues about $1.4 million and in EBITDA there was... I’m not sure exactly what the exchange difference was there, I’ll look at it.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

I’ll follow up offline, but top line was a $1.4 million drag?

William F. Lacey

Yes.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Do you have a bigger picture of the Pfizer – Wyatt deal? We followed up with this when it was announced but it’s been a couple weeks. Any thoughts at this point on how that impacts your business and how you deal with potentially greater margin pressures from that combined entity?

William F. Lacey

If you analyze the businesses by category there’s a lot of overlap between Pfizer and Cortage in key categories on both the production side and the companion side. I’m not sure if and how those two businesses will come together. Obviously if they were to come together as they are configured today that would create pretty significant challenges for us for Dodge, the study in [apologies] over the last 10 years, Pfizer not being steady , we’ve seen three years’ consecutively of margin reduction from Pfizer. So it’s something we’re watching very closely. I’d be happy to discuss that more in depth on a call with you. It’s not material to our near term results but it is something that we’re looking at strategically.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Okay, if I hear you correctly though, you think there could be some FDC issues at least in some of those product lines that could somewhat mitigate those concerns in as we get into fiscal ’10?

William F. Lacey

If we look back at what happened with Schering and Intervet to the Organon acquisition of Schering, by Schering of Organon, there were concerns much less overlap there and there were concerns by the FDC, and they’re pretty active on it. So I would anticipate that they will exercise the same kind of diligence around this potential merger and there will be some issues there.

William F. Lacey

The foreign exchange and EBITDA, our pre tax levels would have been about $400,000.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

$400,000 is what flowed through from that top line drag, is that how I read that?

William F. Lacey

Yes.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Then Bill, you had given us last quarter kind of, I think you said $13 million downside cushion to your EBITDA guidance and you’d still pay above your fixed charge ratio in the covenant. Is that level I would assume your guidance isn’t changing, the level stays the same?

William F. Lacey

No, you were looking at where we were last quarter. Our last 12 months EBITDA numbers is down by the $6 million but it still gives us about a $9.6 million cushion at the EBITDA level.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Then last question for me, Jim, I guess another big picture question. We’ve got some head count or herd size reductions going on both the beef and dairy side. Those cycles tend to as we look at them anyway, be several years long at least. So if the herd size continues to go down over the next year before we get protein prices to go back up, can your dairy and your beef customers both come back and start spending maybe more per head of cattle even if its fewer head of cattle and you still get gross out of the business, or how do we offset kind of the or think about the push and the pull of smaller herd size versus reduced willingness to spend on the herd at least as it stands today?

William F. Lacey

You’ve got it right. The herd size movements are generally measured in the low single digit range. Generally in normal times 1% to 2% either way. We’re seeing a little bit greater reduction in the dairy prospectively with this current action underway but if you compare that to the swings or switch products off, they call as opposed to trade, so to answer your question yes, the underlying economics of the business affect spending more than the contraction or the expansion of the herd size.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

So as we monitor your business and try to think about when we maybe get stabilization when we start to see growth out of your business. We really need to see those protein prices, both beef and dairy, move up to a point where we get some profitability and even against culling of the herd, you guys could then grow in that environment at least theoretically.

James C. Robison

Historically we have, yes.

Operator

Your next question comes from John Kreiger of William Blair and Company.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

Jim, just to expand on the last topic, in the short term, given the pressures that the dairies and beef producers are experiencing, how does that flow through to you other than in changes in herd size? What are the actions that they are taking to try to save money and how does it impact your business? I’m thinking about changes in the pharmaceutical consumption per animal, perhaps more aggressive changes to private label and generics. How are you seeing this actually filter through to your business?

James C. Robison

It’s hard for us to measure it in an absolute way, but generally what people do is they spend less money on treatment. They might use lower cost products for example an oxymycin versus a more currently dated antibiotic. They might skip a vaccination regiment. The biggest problem we’re seeing right now is we’re seeing very heavy animals be placed in feed lots and they’re going in at over 800 pounds versus the historical norm of around 600 to 700 so they’re in the feed lot for four months approximately versus five or five and a half. They take fewer vaccines, they take fewer implants. There’s less spending on that animal.

So on the dairy side, typically the question is on marginal animals that are marginal production or low on their production, the question is do we treat them or do we cull them and the general conclusion is that you cull them. So everywhere that a dairy man or cattle man can cut marginal costs, they generally tend to do so. Having said that, on the calf side, most of the operators are more hobbyists but that’s not really where the spend to our business comes from. But it does affect their decisions around how they treat their animals.

I guess the best way I can explain it to you is that are you going to treat your child with amoxicillin or are you going to give them a Z pack for their sinus infection? In these times our customers choose the lesser expensive treatments.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

Follow up to that, are you seeing any changes in collections? Are you making any changes to your bad debt accruals given the environment?

James C. Robison

No, we have not. We monitor our agings frequently, daily, weekly, and we have seen no deterioration in our agings and keeping up with individual customers as well, haven’t seen any trends there yet.

William F. Lacey

We’re coming decisively more action oriented around talking with our customers about where they are and what their plans are and we’ve got a very actively engaged home office credit group and line management group discussing these issues and revealing them on a regular basis. It’s getting a huge amount of attention.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

Then you mentioned rebates at least with Pfizer, rebates and margins going down over the last three years. As you look out over the next year, do you think we’re going to be stabilizing or do we take another leg down? Where do you think the trend is on that line?

James C. Robison

The people that we’ve had consistent relationships with and would say normalized margins, early signs are that their businesses are going to grow. I don’t know what Pfizer’s business will do but I’m anticipating that we’ll sell less Pfizer this year because of their margin initiatives. If Pfizer cut margins any further we’d have to pay them to sell their product so I don’t think that’s going to happen and we’ve seen pretty good activity with other manufacturers that want us to emphasize their products in the marketplace, so I feel like after three years of reducing margins...

By the way, let me comment on that. I don’t... I think Pfizer has been pushed by their corporate, their home office situation and a desire to contract or reduce expenses across the board. We studied this issue very, very hard when we bought the business back in 1997 and it just doesn’t seem to make long term sense to us given the economics of their business and now Pfizer’s company is going through substantial headcount reductions and it just doesn’t seem to add up in the long term, so point of it is I think we’ve kind of reached the bottom here.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

Just a final question, Bill, your comments about debt coverage and compliance. I don’t remember the 12 month comment in previous discussions. Is there anything specific that made you add that? Is anything happening when we get beyond the 12 month window? And if you could just maybe talk a little bit more broadly, assuming your EBITDA is stable and improving from here, what’s kind of the next key point when some of those credit lines would come up for renewal?

William F. Lacey

The 12 month comment... Our calculations are always on a rolling 12 month period. When I have discussed these things, I’m talking about the last 12 months. Again, when we talked last time, our ratio was bout 2.2 as a result of the December numbers falling off from last year and adding this quarter and the $6 million in rebates falling out, then you drop to about $30 million to $31 million and we think we’ll probably end the year. That puts us at about 1.8 coverage ratio right now and there’s a few other pieces of the calculation like taxes and capital expenditures but it feels like we’ll probably end in the 2 range, 2 times coverage, and again there are always on a rolling 12 so I just didn’t make that clear earlier. What was the last part of that question, I’m sorry.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

Just when will these credit lines come up for renewal, any help?

William F. Lacey

End of ’10 the asset based revolver expires. In May of ’11 on the term note.

John Kreger - William Blair & Company, L.L.C

May of ’11 on the term note and when’s the revolver?

William F. Lacey

June of ’10.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jeff Johnson of Robert W. Baird and Company.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Just one follow up here. I was a little surprised on the companion side. Jim, you seemed to indicate that it was down as well. I think you lump equine in there. Is that an equine driven comment or your true companion animal, the dogs and cats part of the business down as well, and how do we think about that maybe over the next few quarters?

James C. Robison

Equine mostly and we’re doing relatively well in the companion business and we seem to be executing well on that business and we’re encouraged about the opportunities for it.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

And equine we should think of similar to beef and dairy as far as just down and then obviously we don’t look at the protein prices there. How do we think about what may get that market to improve going forward?

James C. Robison

We think it’s just the general economy and discretionary spending.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

And Bill, just to clarify, I think John’s comment on the 12 month question. Is the wording of your press release, do you think we have enough, and I don’t have it in front of me here, but the 12 month comment in the press release itself. Is anything materially worsened to make you think that as we get beyond 12 months maybe problems accelerate?

James C. Robison

That’s a big question and I asked that question because originally when I scripted this thing I said that we would be in compliance for the remaining term of the agreements and I was told that I really shouldn’t go out beyond 12 months.

Jeff Johnson - Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

So this is just a legalese lawyery problem?

William F. Lacey

That’s exactly right.

Operator

Your next question comes from Mark Arnold of Piper Jaffray.

Mark Arnold – Piper Jaffray

Just one follow up. Obviously the market here is still challenging for you guys, but the numbers that you guys put up here in the quarter here seem pretty in line with what you guys have talked about both in your last call, I think Bill talked about at our Healthcare Conference back in December, can you just talk a little bit about the March quarter, and I’m not looking for a guidance number, but historically you’ve seen a really strong December and then a drop off in March. The fall run didn’t happen the way it normally does. Can you talk about how you see on a sequential basis the March quarter kind of shaping up?

William F. Lacey

Without going into a lot of detail, I think our sales which at this point will all be organic, we don’t have any acquisitions that we’re merging with anymore, I think we expect to see sales down certainly, probably in the 5% to 6% range, and margins slightly improving. Something pretty close to, very slight and put it over EBITDA over last year.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. I’d like to hand the floor back over to management for any closing comments.

James C. Robison

Thanks for joining us. Have a good day.

Operator

This concludes today’s teleconference. You may disconnect your liens at this time. Thank you for your participation.

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THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HERE IS A TEXTUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S CONFERENCE CALL, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION OR OTHER AUDIO PRESENTATION, AND WHILE EFFORTS ARE MADE TO PROVIDE AN ACCURATE TRANSCRIPTION, THERE MAY BE MATERIAL ERRORS, OMISSIONS, OR INACCURACIES IN THE REPORTING OF THE SUBSTANCE OF THE AUDIO PRESENTATIONS. IN NO WAY DOES SEEKING ALPHA ASSUME ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS MADE BASED UPON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEB SITE OR IN ANY TRANSCRIPT. USERS ARE ADVISED TO REVIEW THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S AUDIO PRESENTATION ITSELF AND THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S SEC FILINGS BEFORE MAKING ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS.

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Copyright policy: All transcripts on this site are the copyright of Seeking Alpha. However, we view them as an important resource for bloggers and journalists, and are excited to contribute to the democratization of financial information on the Internet. (Until now investors have had to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees for transcripts.) So our reproduction policy is as follows: You may quote up to 400 words of any transcript on the condition that you attribute the transcript to Seeking Alpha and either link to the original transcript or to www.SeekingAlpha.com. All other use is prohibited.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HERE IS A TEXTUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S CONFERENCE CALL, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION OR OTHER AUDIO PRESENTATION, AND WHILE EFFORTS ARE MADE TO PROVIDE AN ACCURATE TRANSCRIPTION, THERE MAY BE MATERIAL ERRORS, OMISSIONS, OR INACCURACIES IN THE REPORTING OF THE SUBSTANCE OF THE AUDIO PRESENTATIONS. IN NO WAY DOES SEEKING ALPHA ASSUME ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS MADE BASED UPON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEB SITE OR IN ANY TRANSCRIPT. USERS ARE ADVISED TO REVIEW THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S AUDIO PRESENTATION ITSELF AND THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S SEC FILINGS BEFORE MAKING ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS.

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