Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc Presents at Barclays Back-to-School Conference - Transcript

| About: Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE)

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc (NYSE:CCE)

Coca-Cola Enterprises at Barclays Back to School Conference

September 04, 2013 9:45 a.m. ET


John Brock – Chairman and CEO

Bill Douglas – EVP and CFO


Michael Branca – Barclays Capital

Oscar Veldhuijzen – Children's Investment Fund Management

Michael Branca - Barclays Capital

Okay. We’re going to get started with our next presentation this morning. We’re certainly delighted to welcome back Coca-Cola Enterprises’ CEO, John Brock; and Chief Financial Officer, Bill Douglas. They’ll speak about their significant progress that the Company has made since their deal with the Coca-Cola Company back in 2010 and more importantly the ongoing strategic improvements they’re committed to down the road.

The Company has certainly managed the business prudently and have weathered some daunting challenges as of late in their core western European market. We look forward to hearing their read of the latest trends in Europe and the vision they have for the business going forward.

And with that, I'll hand things over to John.

John Brock

Thank you very much, Michael, and good morning, everyone. I'm pleased to be with you here today to provide an overview of Coca-Cola Enterprises, as well as to talk about our outlook, our objectives, and then to answer your questions. Joining me today, as you just heard from Michael, are Bill Douglas, our Chief Financial Officer; and Thor Erickson, our Vice President of Investor Relations.

Before we begin, I would like to remind you that our presentation today will contain forward-looking statements that should be considered in conjunction with the cautionary language in our most recent annual report on Form 10-K, as well as other SEC filings. A copy of this info is available on our website.

As you probably know, Coca-Cola Enterprises is the leading Western European Coca-Cola bottler and one of the Coca-Cola Company's largest global bottling partners. Today, we’re going to talk about the strength of our foundation and the important growth opportunities that lie ahead. We’re also going to talk about our focus on creating value for shareowners and our commitment to managing business the right way.

Let's take a quick look at the scope of CCE today. We are a company with 2012 net sales of $8.1 billion. We serve some 170 million consumers across seven countries and one principality. They consume more than 30 billion servings of our products each year. We produce our products at 17 factories, each a component of our pan-European supply chain. We have a total workforce of some 13,000 talented people and, importantly, that includes one of the largest sales forces of any consumer packaged goods company in our territories.

Very importantly, CCE has the size, scope, plans and teams to be a very effective competitor in an attractive category as well as an ability to navigate a challenging macroeconomic environment. At the very core of our business is, in fact, our global operating framework. This framework has guided our business and our work for more than six years. It has created a very clear vision, clear priorities and clear financial objectives.

Our vision is very simple. We want to be the best beverage sales and customer service company, and our path to that goal is built on three very clear and simple strategic priorities.

First, to be number one or a strong number two in each category in which we choose to compete. Second, to be our customers' most valued supplier. And, third, to create a winning, inclusive culture that attracts, develops and retains a highly talented and very diverse workforce. These priorities are absolutely essential to our success, as we continue to drive consistent long-term profitable growth.

We believe in our ability over time to create sustained growth in line with our long-term objectives. Part of the reason for this is, in fact, our track record and the fundamentals of our business. The Non-Alcoholic Ready-To-Drink category, or what we call NARTD, is growing, with compound annual growth of some 6% over the last three years, and generates about $65 billion in sales, retail sales, each year.

Within this category, we have brands that our consumers prefer, as well as a successful position in both volume and value share across all of our territories. We continue to create a track record of growth and have successfully managed through dynamic and often very challenging times, while meeting or exceeding our long-term targets on a three- and a five-year compound annual basis. Importantly, we have a solid and flexible balance sheet, strong free cash flow and a clear focus on driving shareowner value.

Now, let's talk about the opportunities, strategies and initiatives that are at the very heart of that growth and which will enable us to continue to deliver value for our shareowners. We operate in the large, growing retail beverage market. This market, in all segments and channels, represents some $160 billion in retail value across our territories.

More specifically, we are actively and profitably operating in the $65 billion NARTD category that includes both measured and non-measured channels. This category is substantially less developed in Europe than it is in the United States, and this gap alone represents an opportunity of some $50 billion in retail value. And, while we expect the European market will always maintain certain contrast with the US, we believe this difference clearly demonstrates a big opportunity to grow the NARTD category in the markets in which we play.

So, as we work to broaden our portfolio, it is important to remember that we benefit from a favorable value mix within the NARTD category. The majority of our volume, some 85%, is in fact generated through sparkling beverages, which is a very high value segment of the category, and it creates a very solid profit base from which we can grow, as well expand our business.

As for historical growth, looking since 2000, we have achieved a compound annual growth rate of 1% to 2% in per capita consumption. And even with this long track record of growth, compared to other developed economies, per capita consumption in our territories remains relatively low, which, again, we believe creates added room for long-term growth.

Clearly, our core Coca-Cola trademark sparkling brands, including one of the world's most recognized brands, Coca-Cola, remain integral to our success and will continue to drive a substantial amount of our growth. These brands represent some 68% of our volume mix. Sparkling flavors and energy represent some 18% of our volume mix. And here we have popular flavor brands like Fanta, Sprite, Dr. Pepper and Schweppes, and these add depth to our sparkling portfolio.

We continue to achieve important volume and profit growth through our energy brands, which are Monster, Burn and Relentless. We also continue to drive growth through our broad still portfolio, which is about 14% of our volume. We have excellent juice and juice drink brands, such as Minute Maid, Capri Sun and Ocean Spray; and then we have waters, which include Schweppes, Abbey Well and Chaudfontaine.

Our successful brands, coupled with excellent marketing and execution, have driven growth above that of the NARTD category and key segments. In fact, in the first six months of 2013, CCE realized volume and value share growth in the NARTD category, as well as the segments for sparkling with energy and colas. These types of results demonstrate the value of our broad portfolio as well as innovation initiatives. As we will build on our successful Coca-Cola trademark brands, we will continue to enhance our ability to successfully compete in other segments. Even as we broaden our portfolio, Coca-Cola trademark brands remain at the very core of our business. They are number one in both volume and value cola share in every one of our territories. While brand Coca-Cola remains our most popular brand, Coca-Cola Zero continues to achieve significant growth with double-digit annual growth every year since its introduction in 2007.

Importantly, we continue to innovate. We must make certain to match brands and packages with evolving consumer and customer preferences and tastes. We are offering new price points with our 375 ml and 1.75-liter packages, as well as new brand extensions, such as Coca-Cola Zero Cherry and the expansion of Vanilla Coke into new territories.

To enhance the important Sparkling Flavors and Energy segment of our portfolio, which represents some 18% of our total volume, we continue to innovate with the introduction of both new flavors, as well as new packages. An example – we’ve added new packages for Fanta, including 1-liter bottles and take-home fridge packs, and we’ve added new packaging for our Relentless and Burn energy drinks. We also continue to expand Sprite with Stevia. Stevia, of course, is a new alternative no-calorie sweetener, and we are building on our very successful multi-brand strategy in the energy segment with package, flavor and sweetener innovations.

Stills continue to provide important growth opportunities, though this segment represents a smaller portion of our total volume mix. To capture these opportunities, we continue to innovate with new packaging, brand extensions, new flavors, as well as new sweeteners. An example here, we’ve added 2-liter packaging and new flavors for Oasis. We’ve added new packaging for Nestea and initiated the use of Stevia for certain Nestea and Oasis products. Going forward, growing our share within this Stills segment remains a very essential element of our overall growth strategy.

A robust marketing plan is essential to activate our core brands and to drive growth. For 2013, we are executing a solid marketing calendar, including events supporting the 30th anniversary of the introduction of Diet Coke, Coke Light, in Europe, of course, and a yearlong focus on Coke with meals. In addition, we have an expanded online presence with consumers, special summer promotions through A Taste of Summer effort, and we are already looking forward to our traditional holiday and Christmas programs.

Importantly, we have introduced the Share a Coke campaign in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company. This program brings to market bottles and cans with individual names replacing the Coca-Cola logo. To date, we are achieving our main objective of linking the brand with friends, fun and refreshment. It's also helping us connect with target shoppers and consumers, driving purchases and reinforcing the quality of the Coca-Cola brand.

Now, to illustrate Share a Coke, I would like to show you an informational video that outlines this program. Let's roll the video, please.


Well, we hope you enjoyed that, and based on the success of this program, we have decided to extend it beyond the original summer time frame.

So, in addition to our marketing efforts, being our customers' most valued supplier is a very key element of our strategic operating framework and it’s central to continuing to make our Company move forward. This means that excellence in our customer-centric supply chain is absolutely essential with outstanding procurement, production and logistics operations. We will continue to enhance our pan-European supply chain, leverage our flexible distribution system and drive increasing effectiveness and efficiency. We’ll accomplish this in a responsible and sustainable way with a clear goal, and that is to enhance our customer relationships and continually improve our service, ultimately creating sustainable growth and value for our customers.

Going forward, ensuring our future success also demands that our organization is structured optimally to drive results. To increase effectiveness, we initiated a business transformation program that is streamlining our support structure, restructuring our sales and marketing organization and enhancing our operating model to drive sustainable future growth.

This channel-centric sales and marketing structure, which has been proven in the past in our Benelux region, will deliver increased productivity, step change-operating efficiency and enhance the adoption of best practices. We’re on track to deliver approximately $100 million in ongoing benefits by 2015. And, importantly, we will accomplish this while we ensure that we remain focused on delivering our high levels of customer service.

As we evolve our customer strategies, we also seek ways to operate more effectively. To that end, we began transforming our business in Norway more than one year ago. Our goal in Norway was to better match our distribution system to the desires of our customers and to unlock value by offering our products in a variety of packages in order to address consumer and customer needs.

We have made excellent progress. We’ve moved from two primary packages that were refillable to an assortment of small and large PET packages that are recyclable and non-refillable. This differentiates our brands in the marketplace and creates value for both consumers and customers.

In addition, in Norway, we have transitioned from Direct Store Delivery to central warehouse delivery, enhancing efficiency for our customers. These changes have operating and commercial benefits. And, by reducing our overall operating impact, there are important environmental benefits as well.

As a whole, we are seeing outstanding results from our initiative in Norway. We are again growing volume, increasing our market share and, importantly, deepening bonds with our customers, as we work together to grow the beverage business.

And of course, people are core to our business. We have a proven, experienced management team, creating deep bench strength at every level of our Company. In addition, we continue to invest in our people, providing the tools and training needed to meet the challenges of our business, as well as the needs of our customers.

In fact, one of the key strategic priorities is to attract, develop and retain a talented and diverse workforce. We believe our people comprise the industry's most talented, dedicated workforce, and they are working to grow our business as well as the businesses of our customers, every day.

Consistent with these principles, we today are announcing an important evolution in our senior management team. Effective November 1, Nik Jhangiani will succeed Bill Douglas as Chief Financial Officer. Bill will retain responsibility for our supply chain team, which he recently assumed. His background and capabilities will be valuable to our supply chain team.

Nik is a highly talented and accomplished finance executive with a wealth of experience in the Coca-Cola system, all of which will make this a smooth transition. I want to personally thank Bill for the enormous contributions he has made as CFO and for being such an outstanding partner to me. Together, we have guided CCE through some of the most eventful years in the Company's history while generating significant shareowner value.

We’re fortunate that Bill will remain a key member of our executive team going forward. We believe a deep and talented management team is a true competitive advantage, and Bill and Nik are examples of that.

Now, I’d like to ask Bill to come up and discuss our financial outlook and our work to create shareowner value.

Bill Douglas

Thanks, John. It's always a pleasure to be here and speak at this conference.

We have a clear set of financial priorities that guide us in our financial decision-making. First, it is essential that we deliver consistent earnings growth in line with our stated long-term objectives.

Second, we want to maximize free cash flow while optimizing our capital structure and maintaining our financial flexibility.

Finally, we will increase return on invested capital and drive shareowner value. Ultimately, we have a clear goal for the future, driving consistent long-term profitable growth.

To achieve our goals, we are executing a focused financial approach to our business. There are three key steps in this process.

First, drive cash from operations by achieving our long-term targets and investing prudently in the business, while maximizing utilization of our existing asset base.

Second, we continue to optimize our capital structure and expect to reach and operate within our long-term range.

Finally, we will maintain a disciplined approach to M&A and we’ll continue to return cash to share owners through a competitive dividend payout and share repurchases. All of this is essential in our efforts to create increasing value for our shareowners.

Key to this increasing value is continuing to meet the demanding growth objectives that we established with the creation of our Company back in 2010. Long-term, we expect annual net sales growth of 4% to 6% and operating income growth of 6% to 8%. We also expect to invest in capital expenditures in a range of 4% to 4.5% of our net sales revenue over time and annually demonstrate a 20-basis-point improvement in our return on invested capital.

We expect this growth to be driven by a balance of volume, price and mix and benefits of disciplined operational efficiencies, capital management and cost containment. By investing in the long term and effectively driving top-line growth and operating leverage, we will continue to generate the solid free cash flow that has fueled our business.

As we invest for the long-term, we will continue to seek ways to optimize our capital structure. In fact, we expect to end 2013 within our long-term net debt to EBITDA target of 2.5 to 3 times and expect to continue operating within this range going forward. It’s important to note that our current debt is structured well, with a balance of maturities near or below our annual free cash flow. Also, a benefit, our weighted average cost of debt is currently a little less than 3%.

Going forward, we will use the leverage of our balance sheet, as we carefully evaluate high return investment opportunities, including potential acquisitions. We will determine what strengths CCE can bring to the business and decide whether the opportunity will create additional value for stakeholders. Importantly, any opportunity will be evaluated for its impact on cash flows, the incremental value to our core business and associated risk and cost. Ultimately, any actions will also be evaluated against several alternatives, including returning additional cash to share owners.

Our goal of creating increasing value for shareowners is supported by a demonstrated commitment of returning cash through share repurchase, as well as dividends. In 2012, we completed our second share repurchase program since 2010, repurchasing $1.8 billion in shares cumulatively under both programs. And, earlier this year, we initiated a new $1.5 billion program with the goal of repurchasing at least $1 billion by the end of 2013. These programs, coupled with dividends, have allowed us to return cash to our shareowners equal to more than 10% of our market cap in both 2011 and 2012, and we expect similar results in 2013.

We have also continued to demonstrate our commitment to increasing dividends. As you have seen, we increased our dividend rate by 25% earlier this year and have increased it by at least that much in each of the past four years. In fact, our current dividend rate of $0.80 per share is more than double the dividend rate that we had back in 2009.

In total, through share repurchase, dividends and cash returns, we expect to have returned almost $7 billion to share owners from the time of the transaction through the end of calendar year 2013. This means that in a little more than three years, we will have returned cash to share owners equal to approximately 70% of today's current market capitalization.

However, as investors, your focus is on the future. Looking ahead, we see opportunities to continue to generate significant cash. In 2013, we expect to generate strong free cash flow equal to approximately 5% of our current market cap. This is after nonrecurring cash costs which are approximately 2% of our current market cap.

Looked at differently, without these cash costs, we would have approximately 7% annual cash available. Going forward, we believe that we will be growing in line with our long-term objective. And, if you maintain our debt leverage, this would contribute an additional 2% to 3% of our current market cap in free cash flow.

Bringing all this together, in a normalized environment, we see an opportunity of approximately 9% to 10% of our current market cap to be available annually in cash for M&A, returning cash to share owners or some combination of both.

Now, as we look forward toward the remainder of 2013, today we have firmed our guidance for the full year net sales growth in a low-single-digit range versus prior year. Full-year operating income is expected to grow in a low- to mid-single-digit range. Guidance for both net sales and operating income is comparable and currency-neutral, consistent with our normal practice. We also expect comparable earnings per diluted share in the upper half of a range of $2.45 to $2.50 with a positive currency translation impact at recent rates of less than 1%. For the near-term, we expect the performance of the business and our share repurchase efforts to drive EPS growth above our stated long-term objective.

In closing this financial discussion, let me summarize with a few key thoughts.

First, we are and remain realistic about the challenging environment in which we operate.

Second, we have demonstrated a solid history and commitment to managing each of the levers of our business to deliver growth.

Third, we have a flexible capital structure that provides significant opportunities with regard to acquisitions, returning cash, and ultimately creating shareholder value.

And last, we have long-term objectives that are challenging yet achievable and represent levels of performance that we believe will drive increasing value.

Thank you very much, and now I will turn it back over to John for a few closing thoughts before we open up for Q&A.

John Brock

Thanks, Bill. As we work to build our Company for the benefit of all of our stakeholders, we are convinced that it's imperative that we do so in a sustainable and responsible fashion. And for that reason, we continue to integrate corporate responsibility and sustainability, or CRS, into every aspect of our business.

In 2012, we made significant progress, reducing our overall carbon footprint, making new inroads toward increased recycling, investing in communities and expanding our investment in active and healthy living programs.

We are also proud of our new sustainability plan, which is called “Deliver for Today and Inspire for Tomorrow”, and it offers a strategic platform for us to achieve ongoing progress and, in fact, to achieve industry leadership in key sustainability areas.

So, in closing, let me discuss with you a few current risks to our business and then provide some key takeaways.

We've continued to face the ongoing impact of a dynamic and challenging macroeconomic environment. Commodity costs remain volatile as well. We face evolving consumer tastes and preferences with an increasing focus on health and well-being and are continually working to meet these changing needs. And, of course, there's always the potential for new taxes on our products and packages.

While we are optimistic about our future, as well as our long-term outlook, it is very important that we remain realistic about the risks of our current business environment. And, while we are very well aware of these risks, as well as the challenges that lie ahead, our team is focused on managing through these challenges, growing our business and driving value for our share owners. We are executing every day against our strategic priorities, and we are building on our history of solid growth. Our financial priorities are to drive consistent, long-term profitable growth that will, in fact, in turn deliver increasing shareowner value.

Thank you very much for your time and interest in our Company today. And now, we will be happy to take a couple of your questions. Michael?

Question-and-Answer Session

Michael Branca – Barclays Capital

John, I was hoping you could elaborate first just on the promotional environment, namely in GB and how that’s progressing; and then, more broadly, provide some color on your overall business in light of those challenges and, in particular, the health and wellness concerns around the sparkling category, which perhaps is less important today in your market. But if you could give us your thoughts over the longer-term.

John Brock

Yes. Well, specifically in Great Britain, we are, I’d say, encouraged by what we see happening in the promotional arena right now. It's – for all of 2013, has been better than 2012. And certainly the last three months, I think, offer increasing – we see increasing confidence that we are in a more rational and reasonable promotional program. And that's good. We have, in the midst of all that, grown both volume and value share, and we are pleased with that.

I would say also, in France, we are seeing our customer relationships return to a more normal kind of place, and that's a good place to be. The French excise tax that went into place on January 1, 2012 represented a pretty significant dislocation in that market, and the customers all played with it differently. And, again, the good news is now, 18 months down the road, we are largely in a position where that's behind us.

And in terms of the overall state of the business, as we said in our outlook, or as we said in our second-quarter results call, July was an exceptional month for good weather. That followed six months of pretty miserable weather, the first six months of 2013, and so we indicated that in our results announcement.

And I would say August has not continued at the torrid pace of July, where the sun basically was shining every day, but it’s been much more normal. And that’s a good thing, and are – we assume – when we do our business plan, we assume normal weather. And that's what we are tending to have right now, and that's encouraging.

In terms of health and wellness, it's clearly something that I think we've got to deal with and address head-on. I would remind everyone that we have consistently grown our carbonated or our sparkling business in Europe. We saw some of the numbers on the charts.

If you look over the past six years, same thing. There are certain markets around the world where that has not been the case. That's not the case in our markets. We have grown our carbonated soft drink business. And with an overall per capita consumption level of Coca-Cola brands in our market that are broadly half of the United States and some other significant markets, we remain optimistic, in fact, confident that we can grow our business going forward.

In terms of health and wellness, I think we and the Coca-Cola Company are addressing it head-on, whether it's the obesity issue per se or whether it's all about offering consumers greater choice. A third of our products are now low- and no-calorie products.

You saw in my presentation a number of brands that we are introducing with Stevia as a sweetener. We are putting caloric information on all of our principal display panels. We’re offering smaller portion control packages and offering consumers a variety of choices. So, we think, by tackling all of these things in a head-on fashion, frankly, it is doable and we can continue to grow our business.

Oscar Veldhuijzen – Children's Investment Fund Management

Hi, it's Oscar from TCI. I've got two questions. The first one is related to your guidance of 4% to 6% top-line growth. You’re guiding for like 1% to 2% sector growth in terms of volume. Is it a stretch to assume 2% pricing? And if so, what do you assume in terms of share gain? That's my first question.

And then the second question is related to your target leverage ratio of 2.5 to 3 times. Is the three times a function of M&A, or not necessarily?

John Brock

I will address your first question and I will ask Bill to address the second. Our revenue growth of 4% to 6%, of course, is revenue, which is comprised of volume, price and mix. And if you look, again, long-term, over the past 6 or 7 years we’ve generally been able to do that pretty much with the exception of 2012 and the first half of 2013, where we had the most, again, miserable weather in Europe we've had in probably 50 years. But yes, we remain confident that that is achievable. We've done it in the past and I think the past is probably the best predictor of the future.

Importantly, we don't talk about particular volume targets. We talk about revenue because we think we are in the best position to determine what the mix of those should be. Candidly, if you look at the year that we achieved our highest volume growth out of the last six or seven years, it was the same year we had the highest price increase, which I think was ‘09.

So we think it is very achievable. We think it is important for us to go into our retailers and present them an annual plan and let us – for us to show them how we can grow our business together, and a price increase is, in fact, part of that. So I think, going forward, we will continue to follow the same kind of value creation plan for them, and it should work.

Bill, do you want to comment on the leverage ratio?

Bill Douglas

Sure. The target of 2.5 to 3 times net debt to EBITDA is a long-term target. Heretofore, we’ve been operating meaningfully under that. We anticipate getting to the bottom end of that range at 12/31/2013. And then, going forward, operating within that range.

It is not necessarily directly related to M&A. I think, as we have now utilized our balance sheet for returning cash to share owners to get within that range, if and when a meaningful M&A opportunity were to come about, we would not be uncomfortable for a period of time exceeding that three times leverage cap on the upper end, recognizing that, with our strong free cash flow – and, quite frankly, with additional free cash flow from that acquired business, be able to use that to pay down debt to get within that 2.5 to 3 times range within an acceptable period of time.

Michael Branca – Barclays Capital

One more? Thank you.

Unidentified Speaker

I just have a question on M&A. Is there anything in the franchise agreement that you have with the Coca-Cola Company that would prevent you from doing anything outside of NARTD?

John Brock

Yes. It depends. The question was – is there anything in our franchise agreement that would keep us from doing certain products in the NARTD category?

And the answer is yes, certainly. In the world of colas, our franchise agreement would not allow us to have a competitive product. But we do have – and we always go to the Coca-Cola Company as our first port of call. The vast majority of our products come from them.

But when there are situations where they don't have a product in a particular category, we certainly have the right, then, to go out and to put that product into our portfolio. A good example of that is Capri Sun. We've had that product successfully in our portfolio for some time in Great Britain. We’ve expanded it throughout the rest of our territories. Monster is another one in the same category.

Unidentified Speaker

How about outside of beverages?

John Brock

Absolutely, yes. The contract only includes – only covers beverages; has nothing to do with any other adjacencies or any other categories that are even further afield.

Unidentified Speaker

And strategically, do you have an appetite to go outside of beverages?

John Brock

Well, you never say never, but I think I've been pretty clear over the years in terms of our strategic priorities, is expanding our geographic footprint in Western Europe, if we can do so at attractive economics. It's broadening our product portfolio in Western Europe, if we can do so at attractive economics. And then, beyond that, it would be our footprint in the rest of the world.

Michael Branca – Barclays Capital

Okay. I think we’ll break there. Please join me in thanking John and the team for their presentation.

John Brock

Thank you, Mike.

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