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Polypore International (NYSE:PPO)

Q4 2012 Earnings Call

February 20, 2013 4:45 pm ET

Executives

Robert B. Toth - Chairman of The Board, Chief Executive Officer, President and Member of Executive Committee

Lynn K. Amos - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Secretary and Treasurer

Analysts

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Richard C. Eastman - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Kevin R. Maczka - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Christopher Kapsch - Topeka Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Jeffrey D. Osborne - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

JinMing Liu - Ardour Capital Investments, LLC, Research Division

Craig E. Irwin - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Polypore International Inc. Fourth Quarter 2012 Conference Call. Today's conference is being recorded. At this time, I'd like to turn the call over to Kathy Brosco [ph]. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Unknown Executive

Thank you, and hello, and thank you for joining us today and welcome to our conference call to discuss our fourth quarter and full year 2012 financial results. The results we discuss today can be found in our earnings announcement that we released today and furnished on Form 8-K with the SEC. And as always, a copy of the release is also on our website at polypore.net in the Investor Relations section. And in conjunction with the release, we issued supplemental financial information, which we filed as an 8-K and also posted on our investor relations website. Adjusted EBITDA, adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share are non-GAAP financial measures discussed in this call. I refer you to the reconciliation of these non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial measure included in the earnings release.

As always, before we begin today, I'd like to remind you of some important considerations. This conference call and webcast might contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Federal Securities Laws. We intend these forward-looking statements to be covered by the Safe Harbor Provisions for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions made by management about Polypore and the industry and environment in which we operate. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and may differ materially from actual events or results because they involve estimates, assumptions and uncertainties. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements which speak only as of the date which they are made, which is Wednesday, February 20, 2013. Polypore undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of a new information, future events or otherwise. You are also directed to consider the risks, uncertainties and other factors discussed in documents filed by us with the SEC, including those matters summarized under the captions Item 1A Risk Factors in our most recent 10-K filing with the SEC. Today, I'm joined by Bob Toth, President and Chief Executive Officer; Lynn Amos, Chief Financial Officer; Rob Whitsett, Vice President of Finance; and Paul Clegg, Director of Investor Relations. At this point, I'll turn the call over to Bob for some opening comments.

Robert B. Toth

Thank you, Kathy [ph] . The results we reported today did not meet our expectations for the quarter or for the year. When we talked to you last October, we provided guidance that our quarterly performance would improve over the third quarter and it did, yet our adjusted EPS guidance was premised on several factors: The continued favorable trends in the health care and lead-acid separator businesses, as well as certain specific factors associated with the electronics and electric drive vehicle segment, namely the start-up of and production levels at certain EDV facilities anticipated late in the quarter and no further weakening of the consumer electronics market.

We experienced solid performance in both the Separations Media and Transportation and Industrial segments in the quarter. However, in Consumer Electronics, despite the addition of new accounts, sales declined due to a further weakening in end market demand. And in EDVs, the production levels of certain high separator content EDVs was lower than anticipated. While we're disappointed that the drivers for anticipated improvement in electronics and EDVs did not materialize in the quarter, specific factors in those markets, combined with the strength of our other businesses, position us for growth, not necessarily in the first quarter but over the course of 2013. And I'll come back to that in just a moment.

We do not see any change in the long-term demand drivers for our products, and we continue to see favorable trends developing around EDVs, where we believe our technology and products provide us with a distinct competitive advantage. And with our capacity investments now substantially complete, we're moving to a period of significant cash generation, and we're well positioned for earnings growth potential. Before I expand on these points, I'd like to turn the call over to Lynn for the financial discussion.

Lynn K. Amos

Thanks, Bob. As we reported this afternoon, in the fourth quarter, sales were $180.2 million. Adjusted EPS was $0.43. Segment operating income was $39.3 million, and adjusted EBITDA was $53.4 million. For the full year, sales were $717.4 million. Adjusted EPS was $1.78. Segment operating income was $158.1 million, and adjusted EBITDA was $214.1 million.

CapEx was approximately $13 million in the quarter, bringing the total to approximately $137 million for the full year. For 2013, we expect total capital expenditures to be approximately $50 million.

Moving on now to the segment results, beginning with the Transportation and Industrial segment. Excluding the effect of foreign exchange, sales in the quarter were 9% above the prior year period. We had strong growth in Asia, and a more typical lead-acid battery build season this winter in Europe. Segment operating income was 23% of sales. The decrease in segment operating income margin was due to the cost of exporting goods from the U.S. and European manufacturing facilities to Asia, and also costs associated with the growth investment necessary to meet growing demand in Asia. Asia is growing at a double-digit pace, with expectations for that to continue into 2013. The Americas were slightly down, and although winter in Europe is having a positive impact so far on the battery build season, Europe is still experiencing economic weakness. The year-over-year decline in segment operating income margin is driven by the continued cost of meeting this growing demand in Asia, by exporting from our U.S. and European facilities.

And while exporting from the U.S. and Europe does impact margin, it also maximizes capacity utilization around the world, allows us to capture growth occurring in Asia, and de-risks our future capacity investment in that region. As a higher proportion of our shipments to Asian customers are supplied from local manufacturing operations over time, we would expect a favorable effect on margin.

In the electronics and EDV segment, as Bob mentioned, we had previously identified several factors for driving improvement in this segment, namely, the start-up of and production levels at certain EDV facilities anticipated late in the quarter, and no further weakening of consumer electronics market. In consumer electronics, even if certain devices sold well, the overall market weakened, and weakened further and remained so early in 2013. Our sales decline in the quarter was also impacted by the fact that we had to walk away from some business in 2011 due to prior capacity limitations, which caused us to miss some qualification opportunities.

Consumer electronics has always exhibited quarter-to-quarter variability in order patterns that can impact the near term. Importantly, the longer-term trends of power mobility and device proliferation that drive the growth trajectory remain positive.

In EDVs, we remain confident in the direction of this business, and we expect improved performance as the year progresses. While the timing of specific factors to drive improvement did not materialize in the fourth quarter as anticipated, we do expect that they will materialize over the course of 2013. And Bob is going to talk more about that.

Segment operating income was 16% of sales. The decline was due to the lack of operating leverage from lower sales, and costs associated with the recent capacity expansions. We understand the costs associated with our EDV capacity.

During the quarter, we reduced headcount, which eliminated approximately $2 million of cost on an annualized basis. We will continue to monitor and adjust our capacity and cost structure to meet near-term expected levels of demand.

Moving on now to the Separations Media segment. Excluding the effect of foreign exchange, sales were up 6% in the quarter. Health care sales reflected the restart of production by customers that had been impacted by the earthquakes in Italy earlier in the year.

And in Filtration, sales were comparable to the prior year period even though the Microelectronics portion of that business continues to be impacted by the economy. Segment operating income in Separations Media was strong in the quarter at 32% of sales due to product mix and production timing.

Switching gears now to our capital structure. With a period of substantial investment of approximately $400 million since 2009 now behind us, and a strong capital structure in place, we are well positioned for future growth. More specifically, the significantly lower capital expenditures planned for 2013 will effectively create a new source of available cash, in addition to the cash we generate from operations. We are continuing our previously announced evaluation of alternatives for the lead-acid battery separator facilities in Piney Flats, Tennessee and Feistritz, Austria. Should we end up divesting those assets, we will generate additional cash proceeds from the sale. Going forward, we intend to main [ph] a leverage ratio of approximately 3x or less, which is roughly where we are currently. With the additional cash we generate, we are focused on ways to drive shareholder value. The share repurchase authorization we announced today is an example of that.

Finally, I'd like to comment on our outlook. In the Lead-acid business, we see continued improvement based on last year's mild winter weather. As a reminder, fourth quarter is the typical build season for winter, and often a bit stronger than first quarter. In the Separations Media business, we expect good performance, though quarter-to-quarter results vary depending on product timing, product mix and order patterns.

In the Lithium business, while we see very specific factors positively impacting performance over the course of 2013, and you'll hear more about those in a moment, the near-term dynamics we saw in the fourth quarter have carried into the first quarter. Our first quarter is the fourth fiscal quarter for many of our Asian customers. This year, we're seeing those customers manage inventory levels more carefully for their year-end. And for the first time since the mid-2000s, we saw many of our Chinese customers shut down for the Chinese New Year holiday. At this point, I'll turn the call over to Bob to provide additional details regarding expectations for 2013.

Robert B. Toth

Thank you, Lynn. We've been clear about the factors that have been and are impacting our business and about the fact that performance did not meet our expectations. Having said that, we expect improved performance in 2013, and we're moving to a period of substantial cash generation. I want to highlight our announcement that the board has authorized the company to repurchase up to 4 million shares of common stock by December 31 of this year. We remain confident in the direction and the value of our company and we're pleased to have this option available to us.

We have 4 solid businesses and the long-term trends driving growing demand for our products remain intact. Three of those businesses, Lead-acid Separators, Health Care and Filtration represent the majority of our company. They have high recurring revenue and a nice mix of stability and growth, as well as opportunities that are generally more established, with less variability over the short term. We experienced growth in these businesses during 2012, and we're well positioned to generate cash and capture growth going forward.

In Lead-acid, we remain focused on continued growth in Asia. And in Health Care and Filtration, we're intent on growing our core products while supporting the development of new applications beyond 2013.

Taking a step back, the solid performance in cash flow of these businesses gave us the confidence to make the major capacity investments we made in Electronics and EDV segments. Our capital structure and our cash flows are strong, and we didn't put the company at risk to make these investments. Rather, we made a significant investment into an area of our business that can provide step change growth. In energy storage applications, lithium is the disruptive technology, and we continue to see very positive trends developing, even though we can experience variability in the short term. Consumer Electronics has been and is sensitive to the economy. While we can impact the technical success and applications, we can't control the commercial success related to the sales of the end products. We've had a key presence in this market since it emerged, and we have experienced similar demand patterns before. Given our strong market position, we're well prepared to serve the market as sales recover, and we expect to continue to gain a representative share of the consumers electronics market going forward.

In electric drive vehicles, where we have long identified a step change growth opportunity, there are distinct items, specific to 2013, compared to 2012 that will positively impact performance over the course of the year. First, the plug-in vehicle produced in the United States, and I believe you know the model and its derivative models that I'm referring to, is now compliant with the high occupancy vehicle lane requirements in California, which is a very large potential market for this vehicle. That was not the case for a large part of early 2012. Also, the battery pack of that vehicle was modified in 2012 for additional safety considerations that arose during the NHTSA crash testing. So the downtime and consumer impact we saw last year related to those items are now behind us. Also for this vehicle, the level of inventory in the system last year had to be rationalized to reflect actual production, compared with the much higher levels of production and sales initially projected to occur. This supply chain inventory correction is not expected to repeat in 2013.

Separately, another automaker with a particular battery electric vehicle, instead of having just one plant in Japan, which as you know, is a higher cost country currently operating also with an unfavorable foreign exchange rate environment, now has 2 new production facilities beginning to ramp up in early 2013, one in Smyrna, Tennessee and another in Sunderland, U.K. This will result in some short-term transitioning of production and sales. This automaker has also introduced some warranty improvements, different option offerings and levels, and pricing and lease promotions as the plants are now ramping up. Those items should positively impact sales as we progress through 2013.

Finally, hybrids are selling well, and regulations around the world are driving development and more introductions. New hybrids are coming to market, and some high separator content vehicles have just been introduced into Europe. Based on the factors I just mentioned, we believe electric drive vehicle demand will be higher in 2013 than it was last year. How much higher ultimately comes down to how well the vehicles sell. This isn't a question of whether or not the electrification of vehicles is happening, it is. The variables are the adoption rate and the slope of growth.

Additionally, our dry process products continue to be preferred in the large-format lithium ion batteries for electric drive vehicles and for energy storage systems. And even at accounts where we didn't have available product for first-generation battery development, those same accounts are working with us on next-generation batteries, which is a further sign that we have the right products and technology for the market going forward. Currently, we're working on next-generation batteries to be introduced in 2015, 2016 time frame, reflecting just how long lead time qualifications are for this business, just like where our products are already approved and specified into applications and locked in with our customers for lengthy periods.

Our Lithium business is a high operating leverage business. At the end of the day, the ultimate driver is increasing sales. And while consumer electronics will exhibit attractive growth over time, electric drive vehicles and eventually, energy storage systems, have disproportionately larger upsides. The high separator content in these applications, along with the magnitude of this application space can cause volumes to move quickly, and fairly minor changes in end market demand can have a significant impact on our results.

The factors that influenced our decision to expand capacity remain valid, although we clearly would've preferred to see a couple of high separator content vehicles sell better in the short term. We'd like to peg the sales of EDV and ESS as it grows precisely quarter-to-quarter, but that's just not realistic. And I'd be cautious of extrapolating what happens in any given quarter to represent the future growth or broader trend line of the electrification of vehicles.

In summary, we had higher expectations for 2012 and we're not satisfied with our performance. We will always seek to optimize results in the short-term without compromising our growth potential. And we'll manage diligently, with a particular focus on additional cash generation. We're optimistic about our growth potential as we progress through 2013, and beyond 2013 for several reasons. First, the capital and financial structure of the company is the strongest it's ever been. The capacity investments we've made provide significant earnings leverage and cash generation capability. We know we have the preferred products and technology, our markets are driven by positive long-term secular trends, and we have the opportunity for step change growth in electric drive vehicles with the next layer of growth being energy storage systems.

At this point, Melissa, I'd like to go ahead and open up the call for questions. I know there are some, because there were several in queue before the call began.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our first question will come from Brian Drab from William Blair.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

First question, when you say that you're expecting the first quarter to be challenging, can you tell us if you expect revenue or earnings to be down sequentially from the fourth quarter, or talk about how challenging it will be, relative to the fourth quarter in some way?

Robert B. Toth

Brian, we're not going to get into kind of guessing what orders occur in which quarters, because that's always, given the operating leverage in our business, we've always talked about the timing of orders can have a significant impact one quarter to another, which really don't mean anything in the long term trend line. I think the takeaway is, and I'll kind of take through it and Lynn can build, but I think he said it well, right? At the end of the day, our Lead-acid business is strong, and we're seeing a nice recovery from last year's mild winter, but fourth quarter can be a bit stronger than first quarter, historically. In Separations Media, we see Health Care was very robust in the fourth quarter, and we always talk about looking at that business over more of an annual basis. And in Lithium, there wasn't any magical wand that changed things at the beginning of the year, January 1. We decided the factors here. Consumer Electronics weakened in the fourth quarter. We see -- and our first quarter is most of our customers' fourth fiscal quarter. We see people managing inventories more carefully this year. We've seen, since the first time since '05 or '06, many of our Chinese customers take shutdowns, and you've got new EDV facilities just beginning to ramp up. So we've tried to describe and be very transparent about the variables, but I'm not going to get into guessing precisely what the quarter will be. That's just not something we're going to make a practice of.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Okay. And one other thing on the first quarter that I'm trying to reconcile is that, you're pretty clear that the fourth quarter was challenged by delay and start-up of this electric vehicle facility, or the 2 facilities. But at this point, seeing both of those facilities come online, they're making batteries at the one in the U.K, they're making vehicles and batteries at the facility in Tennessee. That's happening in the first quarter. So if you're not, -- are you expecting to see a benefit from that? And if not, does that mean that there's still inventory that they're working through? Because you've made some comments on inventory, and it sounded like inventory isn't a big factor this year. So I can't reconcile it.

Robert B. Toth

I think there's a couple of things to think about. Yes, those plants are ramping up. The question is, which isn't very transparent, how many batteries and cars are they producing, right? And you've probably seen assembly plants, and they can take some time to ramp up, especially completely new ones that are designed for a new type of vehicle. That's one variable. You also have a variable called the plant in Japan that's shifting production to these facilities, and a plant in Japan that's in the fourth fiscal quarter. So again I'm not going to get into speculate, what we see is very positive, right? What we see is very positive. We see Nissan having invested a huge amount of money in the new facilities you're talking about. We see them introducing new warranty improvements. We see them introducing new pricing and leasing options, but the plants are just starting up. So trying to guess the precise timing of these things is a little difficult to do. And we also see, as we've talked about with the plug-in vehicle that they've made some improvements on that. They've offered some different pricing, they have different leasing arrangements available, and they don't have to live through some of the changes that they made last year as it relates to the -- making the exhaust system, HOV lane compliant and relates to enhancing, further enhancing the safety of the battery pack. So those are all positive trends and developments and bode well. And I also mentioned that there's a couple of vehicles that were just introduced in Europe that didn't get out last year, that are out going forward. So those are all positive trends. But trying to guess the precise timing of those things, we just don't control that.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

And then, can you talk a little bit about the Consumer Electronics side of the business and how big a factor -- you talked about demand there, but how big a factor has pricing pressure been in that business in the second half of 2012?

Robert B. Toth

Well, in actuality, pricing was about what we've seen in the last 10 or 15 years. Over the course of 2012 we saw the impact of pricing. We disclosed that, so it's not a secret.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

You haven't issued the 10-K yet. You will put that in the 10-K?

Robert B. Toth

The price and product mix was about 2%, which is what we've seen for the last, what, 10 or 15 years.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

In terms of the typical decline you're saying, not flat year-over-year, you're saying that the typical decline will --?

Robert B. Toth

Yes, that's typical.

Lynn K. Amos

Yes, and what you'll see in our 10-K, is you're going to see the volume was a big chunk of the sales down, there'll be some customer mix, and to a much smaller extent, the 2% that Bob referenced, I would phrase as product and price mix, meaning which -- exactly which products the customers buy, and what the price is. And even of the 2%, price was probably well less than 1%. Most of the 2% was product mix. So the 2 big dynamics in your sales movement from the 2 -- from the years, is it's volume, and it's customer mix. Where we made a strategic choice a couple of years ago, that we were going to serve the big players in hopes of a big uptick in demand. And unfortunately, we sacrificed some smaller customers. And unfortunately, smaller customers are higher price. So it's what we're living with right now. And with a weak consumer electronics market, it's compounding, right. There's not a lot of Consumers Electronics business to go back and fight for.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Okay, thanks. And so I think I made a mistake of talking over you when you'd said that 2%. So the 2%, you said is what? Year-over-year 2012 over 2011, in pricing and mix?

Lynn K. Amos

Well, yes.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

And it's primarily --?

Lynn K. Amos

It's a majority of mix.

Robert B. Toth

It's a majority product mix, so very little pricing delta.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Got it, okay. And then, can you make any further comment on whether that pricing got more challenging in the second half of '12 versus the first half? I know it sounds like no pricing across the year.

Robert B. Toth

I can't really comment on that. I think it is important, Brian, I mean it's no secret that lithium demand goes through peaks and valleys, right? And so I think this is going to be an unbelievably intuitive way to think about it, but right now of course, we've been clear, we've in a cyclically weak period. Consumer demand is soft. As I said, it's fourth fiscal quarter for our Asian customers, they're managing inventory levels. Many have shut down in China. So at the end of the day, given that, purchasing managers make a living out of trying to lever these situations to drive price down, right? Some mislead, some don't tell all the truth and some frankly, fabricate. And we understand that, and anyone that is, or has been in sales certainly understands that. And we disclose, on top of that, we disclose more than anyone else in the world. So it isn't hard for any astute people to kind of figure out that our volume's off in the near-term, and purchasing managers, to their credit, will always try to use that to their advantage, even by doing simple things, like timing orders, or withholding orders, et cetera. But at the end of the day, when demand exceeds capacity, it will be clear where the long-term relationships are, and they've been demonstrated and valued. So we're going to see people ask for a lower price, make no mistake. We're going to hear things, but we just gave you the fact of what's kind of transpiring.

Brian Drab - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

And then one more quick one. Can you give the breakdown between CE and EDV within Lithium?

Lynn K. Amos

It's been about half and half for the year, or now it's been for a while. It's not significantly changed from that. And if it does significantly change, we'll certainly comment on that. But I just want to make one comment on what Bob said. I mean, make no mistake. This is a drab [ph] demand industry, with little to no short-term price elasticity. Even if we give our separator away, it wouldn't spur more industry consumption. The demand for our product is ultimately derived from the end product sales. And we offer a tremendous amount of value for the applications that we serve, and they're very sensitive to quality and safety, and we have superior technology and a preferred product. And it's -- we're not going to go out and make bad decisions fast in a weak market.

Operator

And next we'll go to Richard Eastman from Robert W. Baird.

Richard C. Eastman - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Just a couple of things. I just want to follow up on the mix you talked about, Lynn. You're kind of suggesting maybe it was a 50-50 split for the full year, as well as for the fourth quarter. As we go forward with -- does that mix start to shift towards the EDV market here, or is there an intent, 12 months out to perhaps keep it 50-50 and rebuild some of the CE business? Because you're implying, yes, maybe we're not pursuing the CE market as hard because of price. So how does that mix look in 12 months? Do we need to worry about that from a margin standpoint?

Robert B. Toth

I think the way to think about it, Rick, is in any given quarter, as Lynn said, just based on pure order patterns, it can bounce around a bit, but around 50-50 is where we're at today. Clearly, as you go forward, there's far more volume leverage associated with electric drive vehicles than energy storage systems. I mean look, Consumer Electronics is going to be a good business at the end of the day, and it's going to grow. The discontinuity in growth comes from EDVs happening. It just doesn't take many of those to make a big impact as we've seen before, one way or the other. And so going forward, as EDV demand continues to materialize, I would expect that to grow at a faster rate than consumer electronics. Just purely the way the math works, it should do that. We're not ignoring Consumer Electronics, but at the end of the day, electric drive vehicles and energy storage systems are the biggest drivers, period, right?

Richard C. Eastman - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

I know, and volumes, so I understand. And then just as, you've kind of laid out the sequential demand for the Lithium business fourth quarter to first quarter, and I think we can all kind of grasp those variables. But when we get past the second quarter, does your lithium growth rate, holding price pretty constant -- does your lithium separator growth rate start to look anything like EDV sales growth year-over-year? Because it's just been --?

Robert B. Toth

I don't know exactly how to answer that. I mean the noise of the rationalization of the supply chain inventory should be corrected, right? That'll correct. If it's not fully corrected, it's in short order, getting corrected. And then, I think it's going to be a function of how well these vehicle sell, and what the content of course, of those vehicles will be. I don't think -- so I think the way you're thinking about it is` the right way. But keep in mind, depending on whether and how people ship, you can have -- you don't have it, even though they try to get just-in-time, it's not going to be just-in-time, right? You could always have a 6 or 8 weeks of, at least, of kind of differentiation between when sales occur, to when batteries are produced or when the cars are produced, right? So you'll still have some differentiation. You can't track it 1 for 1 at that point. But to your point, it should be -- there should be a better correlation than what occurred last year, because of the disconnect in the supply chain from expecting a big ramp-up, and a much higher level of production and sales that just didn't occur, and then had to correct, and you had to wean that back out through the supply chain.

Lynn K. Amos

One other point I'll make is -- and perhaps it's clear from these statements that, if you assume that car sales, that the car sales that we're talking about, are the same this year as they were last year, we're still going to grow, just from not having the inventory depletion that took place in 2012.

Richard C. Eastman - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Okay, no, that make sense. And then just lastly, and I'll jump back out then. Bob, when you look at the hybrid market verse the full-electrified, or the plug-in, the battery size is quite small. The amount of material that goes into that battery, obviously much smaller, I think by your division of 10, I guess. But do you get better pricing in, if the materials going into a hybrid versus a full EV?

Robert B. Toth

Well, a couple of points there, Rick. I think, first of all, a hybrid, as we've talked about, could have anywhere from kind of pick your math, 40, 50 square meters up to over 100. So that's kind of the bid and ask, if you will, on hybrids, mild hybrids. Whereas a plug-in, will get you into several hundreds in a full-battery electric vehicle will get you kind of, several hundreds to mid-hundreds, right? So that's kind of the way to think about it. So I don't know what I'd say, it's a factor of 10, but it's certainly, it's a factor of, pick your math, kind of 5 to 8, depending on what math you use there. So that's proportionally the case. And then I think, the pricing as we've talked about it, is typically more in our case a function of the volume that the customer uses, and the grade of course, because there's very different grades. So it's less -- pricing is really not kind of linked to the application. It's linked to the demands of the cell, and the particular products that, that backs up in. So there's no rule of thumb there. It depends on -- just like it depends on a consumer electronic. It depends on the energy density, and the power density and the complexity of that particular system.

Lynn K. Amos

But we don't really think of it that way, Rick as, we get better pricing or less pricing on an EV or a hybrid. That's not -- that really doesn't factor into the thought process.

Richard C. Eastman - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Yes, no, that's fine. If they want to inventory some, they order a lot, and they presumably get a little better price, right?

Robert B. Toth

I don't know that I'd say it that way. It tends to be based on usage over a period of time.

Operator

Our next question will come from Kevin Maczka from BB&T Capital Markets.

Kevin R. Maczka - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

First question, Bob. You mentioned adjusting capacity and cost structure if need be, to kind of correspond with near-term demand levels. I'm just wondering, with the paint barely dry on the new facilities, and a lot of new people you've just trained, can you just talk about that, what exactly that means, and what you can actually, or could actually do, given those circumstances?

Robert B. Toth

Well, sure. I mean, it's actually pretty easy, right? We can't take the facility and equipment away, which frankly is a huge competitive advantage. I mean, we've got the investment made to scale it up further and to get capacity we don't have to add a substantial amount of cost, right? So you think of that in reverse. What we talked about last year through, basically today, and Lynn mentioned it, is we put the equipment in place -- we built the facility, put equipment in place, got approvals on the facility, tested out the vast majority of the equipment, and got ahead of the growth curve. So as Lynn said, we adjusted capacity and cost in the -- late in the year, which results in a couple million dollars of annualized savings, and we'll continue to do that. I mean, the environment we're living in today is short term. What we've got, if you think about this, just very, very simplistically, what we've got is a market clearing point that fundamentally changed in the short-term because demand is down, and we haven't changed capacity. Well, how do you address that? You change capacity. And we can change it pretty quickly. We obviously try to work closely with our customers and understand their demand expectations, but make no mistake, we're not going to sit around with excess cost waiting and hoping. So the way you address that, is you address it by taking capacity out, and then scaling it up, over time. We can't be instantly responsive to your point, but you can be responsive over a period of time.

Lynn K. Amos

But I'll highlight, while we reduce some headcount to get a little bit of savings in Q4, and depending on levels, we'll have to, we'll continue to assess that level of demand, the driver of success here though, isn't cutting -- we can't cut costs on our way to success, if that was your point. And the ultimate driver of our business is sales. And that's why we built the capacity, that why we've invested in our technology, and that's what we're getting our arms around with our customers, is where the demand levels are going to be. I can't tell you any better than you could guess at what car sales are going to be this year. But we do see that there's no change in people's intent to deliver vehicles or the investments they've made in the vehicles and in the offerings, which would suggest that the movement towards hybrids or electrification of the vehicle fleet is going away. In fact, we're continuing to see cars come to market, and people work hard to get them out into this -- on to the market.

Kevin R. Maczka - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Yes, Lynn, I get that. I appreciate that part. I was just wondering why, or what would trigger you to make the decision to reduce headcount for skilled people that you just trained, if you think, in fact the back half of the year, or once we get past Q1, that we're at a cyclical low point, that those volumes will pick up materially in the back half of the year?

Robert B. Toth

Well, it's always a balance. I mean, you're spot on. It's always a balance. You want to have the right cost structure and the right level of capacity for the expected level of demand, but you're not going to set on a bunch of excess capacity in the short term. You'll add it, then add the resources back as you need them.

Kevin R. Maczka - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Right. And Bob, I know you don't want to talk too much about Q1, but I guess with what you did say, I just want to make sure I understood it right. It sounds to me like you're talking -- the lithium revenue's down sequentially in Q1, because the consumer electronics market is still soft and you've got this inventory management happening, which you haven't seen in a number of years. Is that fair?

Robert B. Toth

Well, I mean, we gave you the facts, to be honest with you, and we're not going to speculate on whether it's up, down or sideways. What we're telling you though, is there are some differences, relative to what we've seen in prior years, and we tried to be as clear, qualitatively as we can about what's going on first quarter. But look, at the end of the day, this business has big customers that can place big orders, and we're not going to try to get into guessing whether things happen in March, or April or May, right? The good news is, there are distinct signs here that this is all moving the right direction, very distinct signs, very distinct investments being made. But the near term is what it is. It's the fourth fiscal quarter and, I mean, look, you can read about all the consumer electronics stuff being soft and all the announcements the major producers of devices have made. So I can't really predict how things will start to sell toward the end of the first quarter, and what the economic impact on the sales of those devices will be toward the end of the first quarter.

Kevin R. Maczka - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

And just finally for me, Bob. Reporting costs in lead-acid, things that you've done on the capacity side already, or are planning to do, do you think that dynamic will continue where you'llhave to absorb those costs, or maybe, to your point earlier, is it even beneficial to do so?

Robert B. Toth

Well, it's a -- think of it, Kevin, almost like running on a treadmill, right? We're building capacity there, which is great, but we're growing very rapidly there, right? And so it's a margin impact. It optimizes the asset effectiveness you have around the world, as Lynn said, but it's a margin impact. Over time, we'll continue to put more and more capacity there, and over time, as we do that, it will have an effect on margin, but what we're not -- what you didn't hear us saying is that we're going to just stop today and go put a, whatever, a $100 million or $150 million of capacity and then try to catch up, right? I would rather utilize the assets we have, take that margin impact. It goes away over time, right? It works away over time as you continue to build capacity there, and you're building capacity that's in effect de-risked, because you've got the business there and you've captured the growth. So to some extent, the answer to your question rests with how fast we continue to grow, and how fast Asia continues to grow, right? Lynn, you want add anything to that?

Lynn K. Amos

No. That's it.

Operator

And now we'll go to Chris Kapsch with Topeka Capital Markets.

Christopher Kapsch - Topeka Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

I had a couple of questions. First, just on the EDV space, I'm just wondering as you see incremental plug-in or EV models ramp, is there anything to make you believe that, in the past you've said that these large format batteries, the dry format has a distinct advantage and therefore, you have a disproportionate share in those in that space and those vehicles is, are the ramps that you've seeing there -- is that still consistent with that view in terms of the technology advantage in the large format?

Robert B. Toth

You mean our drive products and technology?

Christopher Kapsch - Topeka Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

I'm sorry, the drive products, that's quite right.

Robert B. Toth

Yes, absolutely. I mean that's what -- that's absolutely what we're saying. I mean as I mentioned, even where we, when all this development started, we couldn't service everyone, and we had to walk away from a number of first-generation batteries. And even where we see that, we see people talking to us and working with us on next-generation batteries. That was my -- the reference to we see and are working on next generation batteries, which should start to arrive in the 2015, 2016, 2017 and beyond time frame. And in many of those cases, those are people that we didn't work with the first time. So we're clearly seeing a gravitation to the -- and remaining with the drive process technology that we have.

Christopher Kapsch - Topeka Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Got you. I just had some questions around the CapEx and then the stock buyback. The -- is there -- I think you said $50 million for CapEx is expected for 2013. Just wondering how that compares to maintenance CapEx, and so is there any growth CapEx in that number?

Lynn K. Amos

Yes, there is growth capital. The maintenance CapEx for us is, let's call it $20 million, $25 million. Say, $25 million is maintenance and $25 million is growth. The $25 million or so that's growth capital is targeted for expansion of our lead-acid capacity in Asia. We haven't announced it specifically, but I mean, in our expectation for this year is that we will embark on another production line, or an expansion of our Asian capacity for lead-acid.

Christopher Kapsch - Topeka Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Got you. And with -- just on that, does that -- is that addressing this relationship with Camel, or is it something?

Robert B. Toth

We already have that line going in as we speak. The first line is up and running, and the second line's going in.

Lynn K. Amos

Right. And the -- this will be incremental to that. The location, we haven't formally announced that yet, but we'll put that on the ground in Asia, and it will be to address the broader Asian market.

Christopher Kapsch - Topeka Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Got you. Okay, and then, just on the stock buyback and your comments about maintaining your leverage ratio at 3x. Obviously there's some guesswork here, but doing sort of back of the envelope math, it looks like, that if you were to try to maintain that leverage ratio that, would you be willing to borrow in order to execute that entire share repurchase program during the course of 2013? It looks like, obviously, depending on probably the wild card being working capital, it looks like, the free cash flow that you generate, given the commentary about the direction of EBITDA for 2013, probably not enough to cover that entire 4 million shares obviously depending on where you bought the stock in. So I'm just wondering, are you comfortable borrowing more to -- with the intent of completing that purchase and that repurchase program in 2013?

Lynn K. Amos

Well, I will just say that our focus would be on keeping our leverage in the neighborhood of 3x, whether it's 3.2 or 2.8, I mean that's -- it's in the neighborhood of 3x. What you didn't mention in your commentary there was what the potential proceeds would be if we divested the 2 facilities within the lead-acid business, and that's the Feistritz, Austria facility and the Piney Flats facility. So, those proceeds could be an additional source of funds as well. So at this point, whether we fund the repurchase through cash from operations, through utilization of available liquidity, or through use of proceeds, that's going to play out over the course of the year.

Robert B. Toth

Yes, I think the easy way to say it is, all options are open, and we're on the very front end of moving into a significant cash generation period following a period of significant capital investment or capacity investment. So I think we can, I think we'll see several options. And then certainly, how much cash we generate will be a function of the growth, going forward.

Lynn K. Amos

Yes, and we're authorized to buy these shares. We have a time window to do it. We're not required to buy them, but we're authorized to buy them. And we have a significant amount of current liquidity, and we have potential proceeds coming in. So that would be the sources. But we're not going to [indiscernible] 3x.

Operator

And now we'll go to Jeff Osborne with Stifel, Nicolaus.

Jeffrey D. Osborne - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Just a couple quick ones here. I was wondering if you could detail, give us some incremental color on your consumer business. How do we think about the mix of notebooks verse tablets, phones? Any color that you can pass on there?

Robert B. Toth

No. We don't actually get that granular. I mean, we cover the universe. We work in all the applications. Frankly, it is even hard to fully understand that, because our customers make so many different devices. So we don't get that granular. You can certainly, we've referenced before, there's a number of industry studies that kind of cite what's going on by category. They don't necessarily cite particular devices within the category, but you can at least see categories, and I'd actually just refer you to that.

Lynn K. Amos

Yes, I mean we're in all types of those applications. I would just, but I think if you, but just to help you understand the size, relative size of these. You're talking, obviously there's more separator content in notebooks than there are on tablets, and there's more in tablets there are in smartphones. So there's that dynamic of going on of how is the separator content shift happening in the market. And then, of course, you've got to consider that even those 3 applications are only a portion of the cells produced with lithium out there. We've got whole categories out there around things like power tools, sanitary products. So a lot of good sources of data. But there is -- if you're alluding to the movement between notebooks and laptops, I mean yes, tablets are a little smaller than notebooks.

Jeffrey D. Osborne - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

I guess where I'm going with this is, if you've been kind of deemphasizing consumer for the past 18 months, and I think it would probably be fair to say, historically, you were more focused on cylindrical batteries, and as the world's moved to tablets and other devices, perhaps you missed out on that design cycle. And so in the near term, you're more exposed to cylindrical batteries in notebooks. Is that a fair conclusion, or no?

Robert B. Toth

No. I wouldn't make that leap of faith. And really, there's not -- design cycles are daily, right? There's new things being designed every day. So what we missed out on was a period of time of having capacity when our customers were asking us to qualify stuff.

Lynn K. Amos

We've been a significant player in prismatic cell since they were first invented.

Jeffrey D. Osborne - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Okay. A couple of other quick ones here. Any sense, Lynn, that you could pass on to give us comfort in the revenue trajectory, as that develops for the year, what the incremental lithium margin would be for the company?

Robert B. Toth

No. I mean, we're not going to go into predicting quarters or margin, but I think there's an easy way to think about this, right? I don't have the numbers right in front of me, but if you go back to, what, '08, '09, when the world ended and sales were low, before we had built the capacity expansions we've built, we saw operating income margins, what, around 30, maybe even the high 20s, I'm working from memory back then. And then what you saw happen was it rode up to mid-40s as we filled that capacity, and then we started layering in cost and capacity, which we all are well aware of, and at that same time, sales turned down. And so we've seen -- we've seen it work, we've seen it could go up, dramatically, and then now we've layered in the cost and capacity. We fully expect a similar kind of operating leverage, because we've -- as the capacity -- as the volume comes back, we've even enhanced our cost position.

Lynn K. Amos

I mean, mathematically, you can come to pretty quickly that as we hit a peak operating income level in that business of 47%, you can come to a pretty quick conclusion that our contribution margins have to be well in excess of 50%.

Jeffrey D. Osborne - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

That was my assumption. I just wanted to make sure nothing had changed. And then, last one here. The Boeing situation, does that present a risk, a liability, an opportunity for you folks? Just what's your thoughts on that?

Robert B. Toth

Well, that's not a short -- super short answer. As always, let me be clear up front, we make a practice of not commenting on specific battery applications or customer situations. And we're not particularly familiar with the specifics of this one. But let me offer some context first, right? There's a billions of cells in use and produced annually for myriad applications as we just talked about. And I think it's important, especially because of what shows up in the press, talking solely about the cell, or the battery, is a bit like saying all car fires are caused by gas, and that's true. Gas burns right? But the question is, what's the root cause of that. And when you look at something like this, like on that particular device or plane, you have very complex systems? Right. They have circuitry, they have wire harnesses, they have software, they have packed designs, they have charge, discharge rates and frequency, they have temperatures and consideration and load, et cetera and I could go on. And the cause could be related to any one or more of the things I just said. So through analysis, they'll get to that, and there'll engineer that. So while we're not particularly familiar though with the specifics here, I'd also add a couple of comments. These are large format cells. We've talked about our distinct product and technology advantages in large format cells, and if you've followed us, you know our products have been used successfully for years in military and aerospace applications. And additionally, I think this highlights the complexity of these systems, and it's why it's important for battery producers, that it actually makes the case for why it's important for battery producers to work with very highly capable, very proven, very qualified suppliers, why they design in multiple and redundant safety features and it's exactly why some people use our proprietary trilayer products that shutdown performance, and it's why, some of you may have heard, many in the industry are moving towards ceramic coating technology, where again we have proprietary technology and a strong intellectual property position which we'll plan to enforce and protect going forward. So long answer, but I think you've got to put that all in some context.

Operator

And our next question will come from JinMing Liu from Ardour Capital.

JinMing Liu - Ardour Capital Investments, LLC, Research Division

First, Bob, I want to just clarify the relationship between your sales and the final EDV production or customer electronic production. What's the typical lead time from you either shipping out or to the production of EDV in comparison to Customer Electronics?

Robert B. Toth

My goodness, it's different for everybody and about every application. I don't know that there is a typical, right? No matter what, again, it gets back to, where is the device going, how many suppliers are in this step, is it going to -- we sell to a battery producer. What does the battery producer do with it, right? Do they put it in a pack, do they send it to somebody that puts it in a pack, does the pack go into a device, or some subdevice that goes to the device manufacturer, when does it come back to the market? I mean look, it is really, really difficult to peg, but the fact of the matter is, it's -- certainly in EDV, it's weeks, right? It's not days, because we've got to ship to someone, they've got other make it into a cell, they've got to make that cell into a pack, and they've got to ship that pack to where the car's produced. And then in Consumer Electronics, it'd be shorter, but it's still meaningful, right? And if you think about it, each and every battery is unique, as we've talked about. So they can move their production schedule and they have to have the particular product on hand. So there's always some lag, but there's no good rule of thumb there.

JinMing Liu - Ardour Capital Investments, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And to switch gear to your cost of production, what's in your -- in the onetime charges in the fourth quarter numbers, how should we think about that cost production, going forward?

Robert B. Toth

I'm not sure what you're referring to as onetime charges.

JinMing Liu - Ardour Capital Investments, LLC, Research Division

I mean, like you say, you reduced your cost structure during the fourth quarter, whether you paid.

Lynn K. Amos

Nothing really significant. There was a little bit of severance cost associated with the costs but it wasn't material.

Operator

And then we'll got to Craig Irwin from Wedbush Securities.

Craig E. Irwin - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

First thing I wanted to ask about was elevated start-up costs. This is something that's impacted you over the last couple of quarters. And when we assume, when we put up an incremental or decremental margin assumption on the sequential revenue progression in lithium, it sort of seems like there was limited progress there on reducing the start-up cost. Can you talk about whether or not there was progress during the quarter, and whether or not we should expect the start-up costs that have been impacting the company to continue in 2013?

Robert B. Toth

Well, I think about it a little bit differently, Craig. I mean we called out some very specific -- and we spent the money on it last year, technical trials, and things like that, product trials that we ran. We did scale up the equipment, and we did, now, take out a couple of million dollars of annualized cost, relative to 2012, right? So we can't and won't, dismantle the building or equipment, so that stays. So when you kind of talk about start-up costs, the start-up costs are proving out the equipment, getting it up and running, testing it and then ultimately, the driver for us is sales. It's really not a cost. Like Lynn said earlier, we can't save our way to prosperity here. We'll optimize our cost structure and we'll manage capacity accordingly. But at the end of the day, the fourth quarter was largely driven by the lack of operating leverage from sales, right.?

Craig E. Irwin - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Understood. Understood. Next question I had was, if we used the 50% number, as far as the mix of EDVs and consumer, and combined that with what you said last year, about this time that 40% of your prior year sales was from EDV. Sort of looks like your EDV sales are flattish in the year, but your consumer sales will be down about 25%, can you confirm that, that's roughly accurate? And can maybe you talk a little bit, or maybe give us a little bit of detail about what in consumer is down that significantly, and whether or not this was skewed more in the back half of the year, and whether or not you would expect consumer to grow for you in 2013?

Robert B. Toth

Well, we're not going to provide any more guidance than what we have, which I think is actually pretty good qualitative guidance. And again, the math doesn't lie. The math's the math, right? So but also keep in mind there's some variability around that half and half. We're not going to try to get into precisely pegging it quarter-to-quarter and in some cases, some of the products may go into both, so it's often hard to clearly differentiate at a particular customer. But the way to think about it is, the math tells the story of what transpired. We don't walk away from, and didn't walk away from particular devices, or anything like that. We just didn't have enough for customers who were getting things qualified at that point in time. So we've always talked about the fact that some of our consumer electronics issue is self-inflicted, and it indeed was. And then on top of that, you've just -- worse yet, as we're getting stuff back, and winning some business back, in terms of qualification, it doesn't do us any good if the devices don't sell, right? And that's kind of what we're seeing in terms of the overall market being weak now.

Craig E. Irwin - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

So Bob, can you maybe give us some color, as far as what flavors of device would benefit you the most if we saw growth in those applications out there? Is there any particular area of the market where you have leverage or more specific leverage to your customer success other than EDV?

Robert B. Toth

Well, we cover it. I'm not actually sure how to quite answer that. We cover the universe in consumer electronics, right? And we were growing nicely in consumer electronics. We were growing faster than the market, until we didn't have product available because the world asked us for product, and we got sold out, and we didn't have it, right? So I have confidence that we cover the universe in consumer electronics, have no issue there at all. And, better yet, and that's part of why we got sold out, we work better in large format cells, which is where the world's going with electric drive vehicles and energy storage systems and even larger from consumer electronics anyway, larger things, like home appliances and power tools, et cetera. So I have no fear at all that we have any kind of a product fit issue. We've got great products. That was part and parcel of our problem, and now, as we're getting business back, the world's turned down. I wish we could've done that differently, but we didn't. And so we're living with it. So we cover the universe. Electric drive vehicles are going to be large, and energy storage systems will be large. And we're front and center in those.

Operator

And we have time for one more question today and that question will come from Jeff Zekauskas from JPMorgan.

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Just 2 things, quickly. One of the things that you did very nicely this year is to really cut your corporate costs. So on an adjusted basis, there were maybe $25 million versus something like $43 million in the year-ago period. How did you do that, and what's your expectation for 2013 for that one?

Robert B. Toth

Well, Jeff, the -- corporately, we don't have a lot of excess costs, right? We run a pretty lean operation corporately. The biggest delta year-to-year is, we've got a very results-driven organization, and we've got results linked to incentive comp. And needless to say, that was the biggest delta in corporate, because that's where that resides.

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Okay. And then it sounds like to some degree, your share repurchase effort is linked to the asset sales that are the, I guess the legacy Microporous business. What steps have you taken so far to sell the assets? And all things being equal, is this likely to be a second half event or a fourth quarter event or a third quarter event? Can you update us on what you've accomplished thus far, and how you see the year in that respect?

Lynn K. Amos

Well, Jeff, I think it was in November we announced that we've engaged Wells Fargo to evaluate the options.

Robert B. Toth

Based on all the interest we've been receiving.

Lynn K. Amos

And so certainly there was a whole list of candidates that we started evaluating and having discussions with. And these processes are fairly typical, and we were kind of progressing through at a normal pace. I'm not going to sit here today and get ahead of any other kind of public disclosure on this call because we're not in a position to disclose that today. But things are progressing at a normal pace, as you would expect in one of these type of processes.

Robert B. Toth

Yes, I mean it's proceeding. It's proceeding nicely. Okay. Thank you, Melissa, for all the help. We appreciate it. I know we probably didn't get to all the questions today. There were a lot. We've got a time commitment. Be happy, as always are, to schedule some time separately, and we certainly look forward to reporting progress through 2013. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. That does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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