World Fuel's CEO Presents at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference (Transcript)

| About: World Fuel (INT)

World Fuel Services Corp. (NYSE:INT)

Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference Transcript

May 16, 2013 10:00 AM ET


Michael Kasbar - Chief Executive Officer

Ira Birns - Chief Financial Officer


Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Great. Next we’ve got World Fuel Services. World Fuel is a $3 billion market cap company, about a $40 billion in revenues. So quite sizable on the revenue side. It’s an interesting company for us. When we picked it up we were one of only, I think two other analysts or three other analysts on the street following the name. So an interesting fun, given that it was one of the best performing stock in the S&P over the prior decade. So an exciting story.

With us today we’ve got Michael Kasbar, Chief Executive Officer; and Ira Birns, Chief Financial Officer of World Fuel. The company is a global fuel logistics company engaged in marketing, sale and distribution of aviation, marine and land fuel products and related services. So a little bit of different type of company in the middle of the railway here but figured we’d give you something a little to change it up a little bit.

With that, let me hand it over to Michael.

Michael Kasbar

Good morning, everybody. I’m going to try to cut through this pretty quickly so that we could leave a little bit of time for Q&A. So, I guess, my first thing that I want to say is, we don't really have very many comparables in marketplace. So I really appreciate Ken’s effort to spend a lot of time on it. We are not an airline. We are not a trucking company. So those businesses have been sliced and diced then you’ve got a lot of sort of obvious metrics and information on the markets that they serve.

So, it seems like, we've got a lot of moving parts in our business. We look at it as all relating to each other and supporting each other, creating synergies and healthy diversity, and the focus on growth opportunities in a changing global marketplace.

So we feel like the way that we would describe ourselves is a global intermodal third-party fuel and energy marketing and logistics provider. We like that description. It's the orientation that we have our entire lives.

I've been in this space for about 37 years. So, frankly, to be honest, the thing I have ever done. And a lot of our folks around the world has been in this business activity for 15, 20, 25 years. So we have a tremendous global organization. We are truly global.

A lot of companies use that title, but we truly have a global business with exposure to those diverse global markets, and there is a heck a lot of change going on in the marketplace and we think that diversity of different market segments and different geographies gives us a healthy approach. I don’t know what page we have. I don’t know, (inaudible) doing this, okay, all right, I’ve seen that. Here we go.

So I think I've talked a little bit about that, that’s all self-evident in terms of our statistics. One other thing, I think is interesting is on the Fortune 500 ranking that just came out. We did capture a Number 1 ranking in 10-year revenue growth. Now that’s growth sales. Obviously, you’ve got price of oil there.

We beat out Apple computer as number two. I’m sure they wondering who the heck we are. I think the significant aspect of this is it talks about our ability to successfully scale our business. So despite the fact that that’s the top line, we still have to manage that. So I think it’s noteworthy

So we have diversity here in terms of our three lines of business are aviation, marine, and land. Our land business started really about 2008 so that’s come on quite strong. That’s diesel and gasoline distribution.

However, we’ve diversified into crude oil transportation marketing. We thought that we were taking about 5% of the crude oil coming out of the Bakken. We now have information that shows the Bakken to be twice the size what it originally thought it was so. Now, we’re about 2.5% of that. But I think it demonstrates our ability to entrepreneurial -- entrepreneurially go after different markets, using our core skills of marketing and logistics to look at opportunities in various different parts of the world.

And we’re doing this in Indonesia, in China and Norway, all over the world. And I think that’s really the big story here is that we’ve got truly global business that is really focused on the musical chairs. You got massive amounts of divestiture from the large oil companies that are getting out of the downstream. You’ve got new folks that are coming into that market space, some of them are very localized. You’ve got car dealerships that are buying significant assets in various different parts of the world.

These are not companies that understand international markets of selling fuel to ships and planes. And they need a global distribution platform that’s going to insulate them from the credit risk. It’s going to understand quality control, derivatives, the price risk management you name it. So we’ve got a significant opportunity for our business space. Our Multi Service acquisition is primarily reported within our land business because most of that activity is in our land space. I’ll talk about that one a little bit.

Here is our distribution of our business activity. You can see that it’s a heck of a lot of activity in the U.S. that’s primarily in the Americas rather. That’s primarily because of our expansion of our land space that we do see a significant opportunity within Asia. So we’re going to be focusing on it.

We hang out and spent most of our time in the downstream market, creating ratable demand for those suppliers, insulating them on the credit side. We go up the supply chain in terms of taking bulk inventory in order to achieve pricing that we can't get on a retail basis.

Historically, that creates a little bit of volatility. We've managed to quiet that down in terms of using reasonable hedging strategies. We know that all of us pray at the altar of predictability. We try to balance that in terms of growth opportunities and predictable earnings.

We don’t show it here but from crude production to refinery process, we've now entered that space in terms of grabbing crude oil from the Bakken and that came to us by virtue of our Western acquisition of 2010. So why do we exist. We’ve got truly global network. It’s all connected with one instance of Oracle. My CIO says we’re one of the few Fortune 500 companies that has one instance of Oracle.

We spent a lot of time and energy on technology. It’s a big part of our company in terms of what makes it work. We’ve got a huge amount of market information that allows us to respond to just all of the different movements. And it’s moving pretty quickly.

Typically, our customers will have one purchasing office. They’ve got ships and planes that are going all over the place in airports, seaports, truck-loading racks. You’ve got price of oil that moves around pretty quickly. Oil like politics is local. So you really do need to have a local team that’s understanding fees, taxes, logistics, quality and we do that intensively with 2500 people just focused on this, somewhat arcane but very important part of global commerce.

Its pricing, its credit, its price risk management, quality control, logistics coordination and outpayment solutions by virtue of our Multi Service acquisition. Purchasing power to suppliers, they wanted distribution platform. They don't want to have an intermediary that has balance sheet like some of the customers that are existing in the marketplace were unleveraged. We do have [securing] matter of credit management.

We’ll sort out the billing. We will take hundreds of tickets and we’ll sort them out, give them one consolidated document. It saves the money of the back office. So we’re doing a little bit of business process outsourcing.

You do have inevitable claims. We've got technical groups all over the world. So that's a bit of our value to the suppliers, who make it easy to do business.

Here is the diversity of our customer base and we continue to grow this list. We continue to go into different markets, different market segments, anybody that is using fuel oil. It’s not only shipping companies, you’ve got industrial and commercial users of fuel, of diesel, gasoline. So we continue to expand the definition of what our marketplaces from our classic aviation and marine.

Our land business has certainly expanded that significantly. And we continue to expand our geographic penetration of different markets around the world, whether it’s India, Australia, Russia, you name it. We’ve got confident people that have been in our company for a long, long time.

So it's relatively small market share that we have. We think we've got significant growth opportunities in all of our businesses, and we continue to add more products and services to provide solutions. And once again, our Multi Service acquisition allows us to apply technology and software solutions to make doing business a lot easier and more efficient for both buyers and sellers.

Well, diversified customer base, that shows you some of the volume, shows you some of the locations. I’ll let you guys look at this on your own, but it’s really everyone and anyone. It tells how we take some of our services in our various different segments and replicate, so that we can get a little bit of leverage.

Let’s see, global market presence in land. You see that we don't have that. We only operate in three countries. It’s Brazil, the U.S. and the U.K., but that is a global business and we are developing our presence in those markets around the world.

Here is our acquisition. Well, let me actually just go back here. So, I think if something that is useful for you is the diversity of our customer base. Natural gas, electricity, you are starting to see more of this come into the mix here in terms of those products and those commodities being used in the various segments. So we are providing some dimension of service level. We do settlement of natural gas, electricity and hauling by virtue of our Multi Service acquisition.

So we’ve got a lot of opportunity to blend these different components into different geographies and to different end markets and to provide services and different commodities. Here is our acquisition history. We think we're pretty good at it. We are getting better all the day in terms of -- all the time in terms of building out technology platforms and I’m not going to spend time going through it.

Carter and Multi Service, our recent acquisitions, fantastic operation in the Midwest and Kansas City. Ironically, both of these companies are in Overland Park, and I don’t even know where Overland Park was a little while ago. So we now have about 400 people in Overland Park. It’s our second-largest locations, so two extremely well-run companies. Cartel gives us a tremendous capability within our land distribution business and Multi Service really puts us on the map for transaction and payment processing. Ira?

Ira Birns

Good morning, everybody. I can first start by attesting to the fact that we truly are global. I’ve spend 24 of the last 40 hours in the air, crossing the entire globe. So we’re definitely doing business everywhere.

Mike just talked briefly about acquisitions. Just to continue on that theme, if you saw a couple slides back I don’t know if you counted but over the last five years, we’ve done 10, what we referred was meaningfully sized acquisitions in addition to some smaller tucking type opportunities.

And that crosses all three of the segments that we operate in, aviation, marine and land. And now, Multi Services is an actual extension of our land business in many different ways from a service standpoint. So we get the question all the time because we’ve a very strong balance sheet. We certainly are continuing to focus on both organic opportunities across the segments, which we serve as well as M&A opportunities.

And this slide talks a little bit about what that’s all about. Just to elaborate on the words on the slide, we’re obviously focusing on things like returns, accretiveness of a deal, day one and obviously further down the road, our cash flows, risk profile, but most importantly how does it strategically fit within the framework of World Fuel and what incremental growth opportunities does that new opportunity bring with it?

There are lot of opportunities out there. Sometimes there are way too many to digest in a given week or month. But there is certainly a lot of opportunities for us to pick up more strategic acquisitions to complement our current profile and of course on a day-to-day basis, we’re focused on significant organic growth opportunities as well.

You saw the market share stats earlier. You saw what our land business has done in just five years, growing from with couple 100 million gallons of business to a 3 plus billion gallon run rate.

So a lot of good things to come and Mike, by the way mentioned, not sure this fits in perfectly, mentioned the Fortune rank. So, of course, we were benefit -- we benefited a lot from the price of fuel, but its still pretty impressive stat. What maybe more impressive is the fact that we finished 15th in five-year total returns to shareholders and 25th in 10-year total return, and that those numbers have nothing to do with the price of fuel, has lot to do with how well we’ve performed consistently over the past decade.

One of the reasons we’ve been able to perform so well is, we truly, we talked about this quite a bit. Look at risk management is a core competency. We have a $2.5 billion receivables portfolio, which is distributed geographically, as well as cross segment, marines, the biggest piece, followed by aviation and land, and we just have done a fabulous job at making sure that whatever business we do is well protected, and that’s shown in our bad debt history. I wouldn’t even put a number up there, because there would be a lot of zeros after the decimal point before you got to a number other than zero.

So that’s a testament to our 100 plus member credit team, as well as many unique tricks and trade that we have in terms of protecting ourselves when something does go wrong and collecting in (inaudible). So that served us very well and we continue to manage that very carefully.

And at the bottom, the last bullet point, talking about being a strong financial partner. One other things we do for those of you who don't know, we sell oil, in addition to selling fuel. We may also sell derivative instrument to a customer of airlines looking to buy a ratable amount of fuel over the next 12 months. They want to lock their pricing today.

We offer the one-stop shopping component they could buy the fuel from us and also enter into a derivative or a fixed-price deal with us and we will hedge that on the other side. So we are not taking risk there but it’s an incremental profit opportunity for us. And we look at those derivative counterparties no differently than we would look at a customer from a credit risk standpoint.

So our balance sheet, as I already mentioned, is very strong and quite liquid. We always try to keep $100 million plus of cash on our balance sheet, probably more so to keep you guys happy than other reason. But it’s certainly a good, sweet insurance to have the cash there, got for bit some crazy crisis that was unforeseen occur in the marketplace.

So $160 million worth of cash as of March 31st, very little debt, we've got a term loan $50 million, that's basically all the debt we have outstanding. We’ve got an $800 million revolver, which is basic. So that’s $800 million worth of liquidity. If you add our cash to that, so we have about a $1 billion liquidity position today, which puts us in a very strong position, we are going out there and negotiate, because we are always viewed as a very serious and interested potential buyer.

So, from a leverage standpoint, not even levered one-time and that’s good, not that we wouldn’t be willing to that number to be a little bit higher. So if there are opportunities out there to buy a company for cash, we are not afraid to go and do that, and increase that number a bit, although we wouldn’t want to take it too far.

From a P&L standpoint, you could see the trend over the longer term from 2008 to 2012. You could see not quite doubling our performance but getting pretty close to that. Gross profit was about $400 million in 2008 and it’s almost $200 million in the first quarter. So substantial increase there and you could see on the operating income side $257 million in 2012. We did $67 million in the first quarter.

A little disappointed with our one of the key metrics we look at is, is operating income as a percentage of gross profit, some of that has to do with the nature of the company's we just purchased that have somewhat different metrics than our historical norm. Some of that has to do with the fact that we still need to get more efficient from the cost standpoint. So we continue to work on that.

You could see, EPS somewhat flattened out in 2012 versus 2011, driven principally by what’s been going on in the marine segment, as many of you may know if you follow that at all. It’s been a tough, we’ve maintain the kind of status quo been somewhat conservative in terms of taking additional risk. So our marine business is not growing dramatically in the last couple years, but our land business has picked up a lot of steam and the aviation business is doing very well. So there is lot of positive going forward especially if marine starts turning around sometime in the near future.

So, in summary, our business model certainly remains asset light, for a company our size with $40 billion worth of revenue and several billion dollars worth of assets, we only have about $110 million worth of fixed asset. So we’re not invested in trucks and terminals or ships in any big way. A lot of what we do we get done without the need to make those types of investments. But we’ll make investments like that if we find them to be strategic, but it’s never going to be the cornerstone of what we do.

Significant scale and scope, which Mike talked about and we’re continuing to diversify our focus, as Mike mentioned, may make a little more complicated to follow us, but we’re looking at ways to grow the business actually over and above the core fuel activity that we’ve had for many, many years.

Our balance sheet remains very strong with a relatively conservative capitalization policy and our organic growth opportunities and M&A opportunities still abound, and we think that there are lot of opportunities for us going forward that may not be in the second quarter of this year, but I think there are lot of opportunities as we go through 2013 and into 2014 and beyond.

So, with that, we’ve got seven minutes left for questions, and I guess, we’ll open the floor up now.

Question-and-Answer Session

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Thanks Ira. Let me jump in on, maybe just step back and think about, obviously oil last few years, we saw it fall all the way from 135 down to 20-35 back all the way up now, what’s the ideal market for you to be selling in and growing -- and growing?

Michael Kasbar

Hello, now you guys can tell me…

Ira Birns

Well, the one (inaudible) answer.

Michael Kasbar

Okay. Yeah. This is certainly volatility. We certainly thrive in volatile market. So while you don’t exactly have a lot of price volatility right now. You’ve got a lot of volatility in terms of what’s going on in the marketplace in terms of the musical chairs. We’ve seen the well-publicized divestiture, with hash on the downstream. So now someone is going to buy those assets. It’s going to be a new player, maybe an existing player or maybe somebody completely new to the marketplace, if they’re going to need our products and services.

So, we don’t have perhaps the same price volatility. You’ve got slacked demand. You’ve got oversupply. You’ve got displacement, dislocation Shell oil, Shell gas. You’ve got airlines buying refineries. You’ve got crude oil that was coming from west Africa to East Coast that’s now going to the Far East.

So all of that volatility if you will, in terms of the change of the complexion in the marketplace is extremely good for us. It was -- we love price volatility because it allows us to contribute a lot of value add in terms of smoothing out those curves for both buyers and sellers.

So I’m not sure that world peace and stability is going to break out permanently anytime soon so it will come back. But certainly we’re definitely in a pause right now, which is pretty salutary for global economy and we are well-positioned. It gives us an opportunity to pickup some properties we've been. It’s a tad bit conservative in a number of different areas where we are sort of looking for obviously that large transformational type of acquisition.

We’ve never bite the farm. We’ve done bite-size pieces and have continued to build up our sort of platform and network and have gone to diversity, which I know may lead to a little bit of complexity for you, folks to say, what the heck are these guys really doing. But it all ties together in terms of downstream solutions to create surety of supply and visibility for buyers and sellers. So that’s maybe a long weighted answer to your volatility question.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

What do you view is the growth rate of the underlying market, if you look at each of the air, ocean and land markets?

Ira Birns

Yeah. I don't have sort of hard core statistics. Certainly, air travel is going to continue, as you see the middle-class emerge in various different markets. Those folks want to travel. Travel is relatively affordable and East European getting on a low-cost carrier to leave the Czech Republic and go to London. So you are seeing growth in air travel. That I think is something that's here to stay. So that part of the market will grow.

On marine trade, you’ve got a significant quantity of the world's products shipped on marine trade, that's not going to out of style anytime soon. You’ve got an oversupply of ships. You’ve got a slack global economy, as we know. You’ve got eco-ships that consume about 30% less, but you are still going to see some amount of small percentage growth. So it’s going to be capturing market share for us. Those two markets are growing, but not in any 20% or 25% rate, that's for sure.

On the land side, gasoline is an enormous melting iceberg. You’ve got diesel emission engine, which is increasing. You’ve got alternative energy, which sounds intriguing, but I think Exxon’s pretty much right that's still going to be a fairly small part of the overall energy space. We certainly are involved with it in our products and services. We don't really need to put too many big chips on the table in terms of, is it going to be LG or is it going to be natural gas. We play in those spaces and we are playing in more of them everyday.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

And just, is there anything different, if we change more from oil to nat gas or you are indifferent?

Ira Birns

The more change, the better.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch


Ira Birns

The more complexity -- if you look at the Colonial Pipeline, which is kind of a major ordering for energy in this country. When it was built about 35 years ago, they had about three or four products on it in three or four different grades of product. Now, it’s about 150. So the more moving parts, the more complexity and more regulations, fees, taxes. All that stuff is great for us. It's certainly a more complex world. Our ability to get on top of regulation and all that sort of jazz is good. So you’ve got increasing fragmentation and increasing, increasing complexity, and all of that allow us to take our professionals and our technology solutions and create value.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

I get that but does it also then decrease your bulk purchasing there is so much complexity in there that you’re not buying that product in bulk?

Michael Kasbar

It really varies market-by-market. So it’s -- we've got -- we segment and value prop everything. So every single market, every single location whether we’re going to do a back to back resell, whether we’re going to have a mixture of different contracts, whether we’re going to take inventory. Inventory is sort of our last choice. I mean, we’re not dying to have inventory and working capital tied up but if nobody is doing it and there is a return there, then we’ve got the capability.

We do own a couple of terminals. We own some trucks and barges, that sort of thing. It’s not a first choice but if there is a return and it’s a sustainable return, we can set up shop. So I don’t want to say there isn’t anything we can’t do, there is certain things we’re not going to do. I don’t think you’re going to see buy a refinery any time soon. But we just look at it in terms of its sustainable return.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Ira, you mentioned the cash and having it on hand let’s you sleep at night. We’re seeing cash actually decline for four years in a row. Is that kind of planned reduction and just you’ve recognized as the business gets all the access to cash or is there a reason why we’re seeing that decline on the cash?

Ira Birns

While we’ve made -- we've made several investments over the last couple of years. I think the cash level that we had a couple of years back was driven principally by the significant reduction in price that we saw after the oil bubble when the barrel of crude went to 147 in 2008 and then came down almost $100. And we’ve -- it was good from an investment standpoint how to utilize that cash and reinvest in the business.

I don’t think we have any long-term desires to be holding $200 million, $300 million, $400 million worth of cash that would imply that there weren’t any opportunities out there for us. So $100 million, $150 million seems to be the sweet spot. And back then we had that cash, we didn’t have any debt. So with some debt on the books recently, obviously our first move would be to pay down debt rather than show a greater cash balance in a larger gross debt balance.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Is there any question from the audience?

Unidentified Analyst

How do you see the mix of transportation fuel demand in the U.S. changing over the next three to five years? Can you just provide some thoughts on what you expect?

Michael Kasbar

I’m not going to claim to be a complete subject matter, I suppose. I'm sure there is plenty of smarter people out there than myself. We’ve certainly seen CNG and LNG probably more news about it compared to what the reality is of the consumption. But you’re seeing heavy utilization waste foliage. I think waste management is virtually 100% CNG.

You’re seeing the overload truck market with engine conversions on LNG. You’re saying Burlington Northern talk about having an LNG locomotive. So you’re certainly going to see some of that. Those paybacks, I think, are compelling. So that is going to have some additional piece of the market place. It’s going to displace some diesel and gasoline. You’ve got pretty interesting mix.

I’m sure that whatever we think is going to happen is probably going to be something different that’s going to happen because you’ve got this continuing evolution. Lot of folks were thinking that it’s all about gas while it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to the price of diesel as you have sort of an oversupplied market.

So we don’t really have a horse in the race. A big part of what we do is just provide services around all of it and continue to expand our capabilities to make doing business easier. The underwriting logistics, the marketing side of it and all that sort of, yeah. So it’s definitely going to be a broader mix of products that people going to be using and that’s fundamentally good for us.

Unidentified Analyst

And just one follow-up, on the U.S. long haul trucker fleet what converted from gas to diesel. How long did that take?

Ira Birns

I’m going to have to tell you, I really don’t know. I’m moderately embarrassed to say that I’m learning the trucking business by virtue of buying Multi Service. And they focus on smaller truck fleet. So I can tell you there is about 3.5 million over-the-road trucks. I learnt this about three seconds here. 50% of that market is small trucking companies. Three are about 500,000 trucking companies in this country and half of them are 10 trucks or less and that's what Multi Service currently focuses on.

Unidentified Analyst

When you look at building your business long term, do you think yourself as being kind of an arbitrage opportunity between connecting local supplies and demands together or do you think of it more as building a much bigger supply pipeline that could eventually take advantage of all the different dislocations that are currently happening?

Ira Birns

It’s really both. It’s really both and yeah, so, we just basically decide who we are depending on what the situation is.

Unidentified Analyst


Ira Birns

Sure. Of course.

Unidentified Analyst

How the competitive environment evolved over the last several years for you guys? You look at operating margins so forth and quite attractive and so just thinking about where the competition is going and what they are doing?

Ira Birns

Yeah. it always -- it’s the natural evolution. I don’t know what company, sort of, evolution of the market place. But I mean, I think the Bakken is a great -- a robust example when we first got into that market place it was, sorry -- it was very constrained with logistics and we’re making pretty good money there. It sort itself out, became efficient and our margins came down.

So we expect and plan for margin compression and continue to try to get the efficiency of our operation and continue to look for the innovation of that next market place and how are we bundling services and bring them together. So the market just continues to get more and more competitive.

Ken Hoexter - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Thank you, Ira. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

Ira Birns


Michael Kasbar


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 All other use is prohibited.


If you have any additional questions about our online transcripts, please contact us at: Thank you!