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Western Refining, Inc. (NYSE:WNR)

Q3 2009 Earnings Call

November 9, 2009 4:00 pm ET

Executives

Scott D. Weaver – Senior Vice President, Treasurer & Director of Investor Relations

Gary R. Dalke – CFO

Paul L. Foster – Chairman & CEO

Jeff A. Stevens – Director, President & Chief Operating Officer

Mark Smith – President Refining and Marketing

Analysts

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Jeffrey Dietert – Simmons & Company

Arjun Murti – Goldman Sachs

Adrayll Askew – Hartford Investment Management

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Gary Stromberg – Barclays Capital

Presentation

Operator

Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the third quarter 2009 Western Refining, Inc. earnings conference call. My name is Crystal and I will be your operator for today. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session. (Operator’s instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Mr. Scott Weaver, Vice President and Treasurer, please proceed.

Scott D. Weaver

Thank you, Crystal. Good afternoon. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to listen in today. We appreciate your continued interest in Western Refining. My name is Scott Weaver and I’m the company’s Treasurer and Director of Investor Relations. Joining me for today’s call are Paul Foster our CEO, Gary Dalke our CFO, Jeff Stevens our President and COO, Mark Smith our President Refining and Marketing and other members of our senior management team.

If you need a copy of the earnings release you may obtain one from the investor relations section of our website at wnr.com.

Today on our call Gary will provide an overview of our third quarter financial results. Paul and Jeff will comment relative to our operations and market conditions. And then we will open up the call for your questions.

However, before we proceed I need to make the following Safe Harbor statement. Today’s presentation will contain forward-looking statements and I incorporate and refer you to the forward-looking statement section of our earnings release and most recent filings with the SEC. We assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement to reflect new or changed events or circumstances.

In addition to reporting financial results in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP, we report certain non-GAAP financial results. Investors are encouraged to review the reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to the comparable GAAP results which can be found in the earnings release and on the investor relations section of our website.

I’ll now turn the call over to Gary.

Gary R. Dalke

Thank you, Scott. As stated in our press release, we reported a net loss of $4.8 million or $0.05 per diluted share for the third quarter of 2009. Our adjusted EBITDA for the third quarter of 2009 was approximately $44.7 million. The definition of adjusted EBITDA is contained in our earnings release, but essentially it represents earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, lower costs from market inventory adjustments, maintenance turnaround expense and goodwill impairment.

In the quarter a change in our lower of cost remark and inventory reserve increase pretax net income by approximately $11.7 million.

For the three months that ended September 30, 2009, we generated cash flow from operations of approximately $28 million. In year-to-date we have generated cash flow from operations of approximately $148.6 million. As of September 30, 2009 we have no cash borrowing outstanding under the company’s revolving credit facility.

Total capital expenditures for the three months ended September 30, 2009 were $24 million. Capital expenditures in the quarter primarily consisted of spending on regulatory projects at our refineries.

Thank you. I’ll now turn the call over to Paul.

Paul L. Foster

Thank you, Gary. The third quarter was challenging for the refining industry as margins were adversely impacted by weak values for finished products, relative to crude and other fee stock prices.

Several factors including high inventories and soft demand for finished products weighted down margins and impacted the financial performance of all of our refineries.

As I’ve mentioned on prior conference calls we’ve been focused on managing our balance sheet. Over the last 12 months, through our equity offering and working capital management, we’ve decreased long term debt by more than $300 million and reduced our term loan balance to below $360 million.

For the third quarter we were in compliance with the covenants under our term and revolver credit agreements. However, given the difficult refining margin environment we have begun a process to seek amendments to certain of the convents in our credit agreements. We are pleased with the progress thus far and will share more information about this as it is available.

From an operations standpoint we continue to process of reviewing all of our businesses to find cost savings and to determine the best means of operating our assets. As part of this process, we have made the decision to consolidate the refining operations of our two Four Corners facilities into one operation at the Gallup refinery.

Due to the limited volumes of economically available crude oil in the region the company has not been able to run these two refineries at their total capacity in recent quarters. In combining the operations of both refineries we will eliminate approximately $25 million in operating costs per year while maintaining the capability to process the same volumes of crude that we have recently processed at Bloomfield and Gallup combined.

The consolidation process will get underway immediately. And the majority of the cost savings will be realized starting in the first quarter of 2010.

Alternative uses for the Bloomfield refinery are being evaluated including possible bio fuel production or relocating certain equipment to the Gallup refinery. We will continue to operate the Bloomfield product’s terminal and we’ll continue to supply the Bloomfield area with refined products by utilizing new pipeline connection and exchange supply agreements.

We plan to retain the retail, wholesale, transportation operations that we have in the Four Corners area. The long term exchange agreement allows us to supply barrels to the Bloomfield area in exchange for barrels produced at our El Paso refinery.

As a result of the refinery consolidation we expect to take pretax charge against earnings in the fourth quarter of approximately $55-$65 million, the majority of which will be non-cash. These charges are primarily related to asset impairment and idling costs.

The decision to idle the Bloomfield refinery does not come easily. Actions that negatively impact employees are always difficult. Western appreciates the dedication of our employees and is committed to treating them fairly and with respect as we work through this transition.

We continue to identify, evaluate, and implement other cost savings initiatives. We will see significant savings through reductions in contract re-services at our refineries, reductions in employee costs, changes in our wholesale operations to better reflect a competitive marketplace, reductions in executive compensation, and the closure of a limited number of underperforming retail outlets.

These actions among others will generate approximately $25 million in annualized cost savings. The majority of these initiatives are already in the early stages. Some of the savings have been realized starting in the third quarter and we begin to be fully realized in the first quarter of 2010.

Lastly, we have reduced our capital spending in the quarter and we are now on track for less than $120 million in capital expenditures in 2009, down from the originally budgeted amount of $155 million.

I’ll now as Jeff to give us an update on what we’re seeing in our markets.

Jeff A. Stevens

Thanks Paul. As Paul mentioned the economic slowdown is continued to impact the refining industry. Throughout the US, diesel margins continue to be soft as a result of high inventory levels and lower than normal seasonal demand.

In the southwest gas demand was good. Which allowed us to run our refineries at planned rates. And markets started out relatively strong, but feel quickly during the later part of the quarter. However, the margin decline in the southwest was not as significant as the drop in the Gulf Coast 3-2-1 benchmark. Which helped mitigate the effects of the overall market conditions.

Turning to Yorktown, east coast refinery margins improved in the beginning of the quarter but began falling significantly toward the end of July. Ending the quarter at very low levels. In addition, the refinery continued to be negatively impacted by narrow heavy oil differentials and lower coking margins.

On a positive note, our retail operations performed well in the quarter as gasoline volumes were stable and margins were good. While merchandise sales and gross profit were up compared to the same period last year.

Our wholesale business continues to feel the effects of the soft marketplace in Arizona. But our fuel volumes and margins stabilized during the quarter.

Paul, I’ll turn it back over to you.

Paul L. Foster

Thank you, Jeff. Our guidance for the fourth quarter is as follows. We expect crude oil through-put in our refineries to be approximately 187,000 barrels per day during the quarter. We expect total refinery through-put at our refineries to be approximately 212,000 barrels per day. These projections are slightly below our normal through-puts due to a crude unit outage at Yorktown and a reformer regeneration at El Paso.

In the fourth quarter we expect operating costs to be approximately $4.36 per barrel at El Paso, approximately $8.71 per barrel at the Four Corners refineries and approximately $5.42 per barrel at Yorktown.

We expect total SG&A in the quarter to be approximately $27.5 million. Interest expense will be about $34 million. And depreciation and amortization will be $35 million for the quarter.

We expect our tax rate to be 28%. As mentioned before, our full year 2009 capital expenditures estimate is less than $120 million. Which is approximately a $20 million reduction since our last earnings call.

Regarding our 2010 capital expenditures, we are currently finalizing our budgets and pending approval from our board of directors we expect our 2010 capital spending to be approximately $100 million.

Before we take your questions I’d like to make a couple of closing comments. As Gary mentioned we generated positive cash flow from operations of approximately $28 million in the third quarter. An year-to-date we’ve generated cash flow from operations of $148.6 million.

Our liquidity continues to be good. And as you’ve heard on this call, we are actively managing our business in order to reduce costs and operate more efficiency.

Lastly, I would like to thank our employees throughout the company for their hard work, their efforts in managing costs, and for their continued focus on safety. Notwithstanding this difficult environment we remain focused on the things that we can control. And we will continue to operate our refineries and our other businesses in a safe and reliable manner.

Thank you again for listening. And now we’d like to open up the call for questions. Crystal, we’re ready for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator’s instruction) Your first question comes from the line of Paul Sankey with Deutsch Bank. Please go ahead.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

The net change in LCM reserve. To be clear, does that increases your Yorktown refinery gross margin by $1.97? It would have been $1.97 lower than the $2.67 that’s in the release, (inaudible) for that change?

Gary R. Dalke

That is correct. And that’s the reason why we noted on the Yorktown margin table. But it does flow - the LCM adjustment does flow through cost of sales. So that’s why it’s categorized there. And that’ll be putting up the difference.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

And how – I’m thinking that you can only kind of doing it once and then –

Gary R. Dalke

Well, it’s a reserve that’s set off of our LIFO of value of inventory. So, if you recall at the end of the fourth quarter of 2008 our LIFO inventory value was above market and we had to take a $61 million LCM write-down to reduce that LIFO inventory down to market value. And with prices moving up this year we fully reversed that LCM rate down. So currently as of 9:30 there is no more LCM reserve. But we did take a portion in each of the three quarters.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

Okay. I understand. So basically – I guess what you’d say is that going forward if it was to be a difference it would be a negative from here. But it could equally be no change kind of thing.

Gary R. Dalke

Correct.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

And so I was wondering the performance that Yorktown in terms of the gross margin, now I’m assuming that it’s no better in Q4 today, October then it was in the third quarter?

Gary R. Dalke

Yeah, Paul. I mean, as you know, really the New York east coast margins really started to deteriorate fast in September. And remain that way for most of October. The last week of October they have started to improve and slightly improving in November.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

Okay. And the through-put there looks quite high, I guess, given how weak the margins were. I can see the difference in the amount of (inaudible) you ran. But it seems quite a high number of through-put that you’re running. The point being wouldn’t we expect to see that cut back over time?

Gary R. Dalke

Well, we look almost on a weekly basis and try to model what the most efficient way to run that facility and mitigate any losses there. Part of the reason the through-put can be higher is, we do bring in other fee stocks besides crude. I mean, we bring in blend stocks, high sulfur gasoline. And a lot of times we have margins on those products. So you’re right as far as the crude through-put has – and fourth quarter has dropped from where it was in the third quarter. But we continue to look at all blend stocks and try to maximize margins the most we can there.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

Sure. I understand. And the rationalization that you talked about. Just to confirm, you said that the overall level of, I guess, through-puts are going to be about the same but you’re going to rationalize the two assets into one.

Paul L. Foster

Yeah. The plan – both of those refineries are kind of running it at half capacity or a little more. And Gallup has the capacity to run all the crude that we’re buying for both of those refineries or virtually all of it. And so the plan is that we’ll be able to run Gallup full and it’ll be a much more efficient operation for us.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

Yeah. Okay. And then you’ll be overseeing – as you clearly stated the other will become a terminal which can continue to supply the local market?

Paul L. Foster

Right. We will continue to supply all of our customers in that area. So, from a customer standpoint they are not impacted at all.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

And then obviously I guess the issue here as you mentioned in the (inaudible) with the covenants is that it’s kind of predictable that there’s going to be an issue, certainly by Q1, I guess, and therefore you’re taking preemptive action to renegotiate those and you’re going to keep us updated?

Gary R. Dalke

That is absolutely correct, Paul. We are in compliance at the end of the third quarter. And we’re being proactive on that. And as soon as we have something to report on that we will get back to you.

Paul Sankey – Deutsche Bank

Sure. Okay. I understand guys. Thanks a lot.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Jacques Rousseau with Back Bay Research. Please go ahead.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Just wanted to get some more color on the costs. I guess, first starting in the Four Corners, with this change where do you envision the unit operating costs dropping to?

Gary R. Dalke

Yeah. I think we’re going to see probably a $2.00 reduction from where we’re at. So we’ll probably be in the range of $6.50-$7.00 per barrel.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

And what type of total volume? You said it’ll be pretty close to what you’re doing at this point.

Gary R. Dalke

Right, 23,000-24,000 a day.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Great. And then I notice El Paso had a large reduction in the costs there. What should we attribute that to in thinking about going forward?

Gary R. Dalke

In the third quarter there were two primary drivers. There was energy costs, reduced costs in natural gas and we had a rebate on our property taxes as a onetime effect for the rebate, but kind of an ongoing reduction in property tax as well.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

How large was the rebate?

Gary R. Dalke

It was $6.5 million - $5.5 million.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Okay. Great. And one last one if I could. I remember the decisions were regarding the Four Corners of pipeline to bring crude into the region. Now, how did that factor in to the whole equation here?

Paul L. Foster

That pipeline, Jacques is something that – but prior to us acquiring Giant that they had started and we completed that project. And actually shipped crude up there for a short time. But it really proved to be uneconomical. It put too much product into the region, number one. And the cost of the crude itself was uneconomical for us. And so we emptied that line more than a year ago. The line is still there and still operable. And we’re examining uses for it and may put it back in service at some time. But we’re not moving crude up that line right now.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Okay. One last one, if I could, I just thought, wanted to double check the timing. I had it down that there was going to be a turnaround in Yorktown in the second quarter of ‘010. Is that still on?

Gary R. Dalke

It’s currently planned for the third quarter of ‘010.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Third quarter now?

Gary R. Dalke

Right.

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

About $25 million or so?

Gary R. Dalke

Yeah. It’s in that range. The crude and coking (inaudible).

Jacques Rousseau – Back Bay Research

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Dietert with Simmons & Company. Please go ahead.

Jeffrey Dietert – Simmons & Company

I think you’re amended debt covenant agreement calls for 2010 Cap Ex not to exceed $100 million which is the number that you mentioned earlier. Is it safe for us to assume that minimum capital is not much lower than that for 2010?

Paul L. Foster

Yeah. And the covenant is actually $100 million plus required regulatory spending.

Jeffrey Dietert – Simmons & Company

Oh, good. Thank you.

Paul L. Foster

And a good chunk of that $100 million is regulatory marked, probably what percentage?

Gary R. Dalke

Going forward it’s about –

Paul L. Foster

For 2010.

Gary R. Dalke

2010, it’s about 85% regulatory spending.

Jeffrey Dietert – Simmons & Company

Okay. Good. Thanks for the clarification. I believe there's two $25 million cash operating savings, one's associated with the consolidation at Four Corners and I believe there's a second, an incremental one, that you talked about showing up in the first quarter of 2010. Where will see those cost savings in the financial statements?

Paul L. Foster

Well, the Bloomfield or the Four Corners consolation will be primarily a function of primarily direct operating costs at the refinery level. A lot of the others —

Gary R. Dalke

They are going to split between direct OpEx and SG&A. I don't think I have the exact breakdown between those two categories right here.

Jeffrey Dietert – Simmons & Company

Okay, all right. And on the new pipeline connection at Bloomfield, what incremental source of supply is it accessing?

Paul L. Foster

We've entered into a pipeline connection agreement with HCP that bring product up from Holly's Artesia refinery, and the exchange is between Western and Holly and so that's the source of the supply.

Jeffrey Dietert – Simmons & Company

Very good. Thanks for your comments.

Operator

(Operator's Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Arjun Murti with Goldman Sachs.

Arjun Murti – Goldman Sachs

Thank you. Just a follow up on the cost savings, can you just confirm, it sounds like based on your last answer that those are all cash cost savings, you're not including any D&A savings in there?

Gary R. Dalke

That's correct.

Arjun Murti – Goldman Sachs

That's great, thank you. And then you mentioned you're working on the covenant arrangements, just wondering if you could comment at all on if you're also contemplating other solutions to your leverage, whether — I think in the past you've mentioned some possibility of asset sales or a dead offering or a preferred offering — is it primarily the amendments that we should be looking for or might you be thinking of other steps as well?

Gary R. Dalke

My comment there I guess is just that we continue to be very, very focused on the balance sheet and on reducing debt overall and our term debt and we are continuing to look at whatever options and alternatives are out there and I guess that's —

Arjun Murti – Goldman Sachs

The covenant amendment at least gives you some breathing room as you consider other steps as well —

Paul L. Foster

Right. I think maybe we're evaluating all the options that are out there and certainly the covenant is the one that we're working on right now, but we'll evaluate all of them and do what we feel is best for the shareholders and the other stakeholders.

Arjun Murti – Goldman Sachs

That's terrific. Thank you very much.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Adrayll Askew with Hartford Investment Management.

Adrayll Askew – Hartford Investment Management

Yes, thanks. What's going to be the cash impact of the idling of the refinery, Four Corners?

Gary R. Dalke

As we mentioned we have a total of $55-$65 million non cash. Most of that is non cash. The cash component of that is expected to be around $5 million which would be recognized in the fourth quarter. Not all of that would be funded in Q4, but it's around $5 million for the cash piece.

Adrayll Askew – Hartford Investment Management

Okay. That is very helpful. And then the $25 million additional cost savings, how much cash will go out to realize those cost savings?

Gary R. Dalke

None. They're all cash savings. We're not investing to get those.

Adrayll Askew – Hartford Investment Management

Okay. Well, I mean can you kind of explain the nature of those cost savings? I mean, it'd have to be some type of cash outlay to realize those, right?

Paul L. Foster

Yeah. It's a combination of a number of things. We've undertaken a big effort here to identify areas where we can save costs and become more efficient and it's a big reduction in outside contractors at the refining level, senior management — executive salary cuts, some benefit savings, and costs saved from closing some unprofitable retail locations. It's a number of different things that we've identified.

Adrayll Askew – Hartford Investment Management

Okay. But it will be a minimal impact to cash on that for those?

Paul L. Foster

Well, it's all cash savings. There are no cash costs involved in achieving these savings.

Adrayll Askew – Hartford Investment Management

Okay, thank you.

Operator

Your final question comes from the line of Ann Kohler with Caris & Company.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

Great. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I have a question kind of somewhat related. So is the turnaround the only turnaround for next year or are there other turnarounds at the other two refineries?

Gary R. Dalke

In El Paso we have a 20 day turnaround in late January and then of course the Yorktown turnaround in the fall of 2010. Those are the two turnarounds.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

Okay, great. By doing the math here I guess basically you're looking at having your maintenance cap of $15 million this year. That seems quite low to me. What was maintenance cap in 2009 for the company?

Gary R. Dalke

It was at about $20-$25 million.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

And so where are we seeing the savings of $5-$10 million coming from, in, I guess where you're cutting that out of the maintenance budget?

Gary R. Dalke

Yeah. Some of the savings is coming out of the Bloomfield capital budget and I'd say that the balance of it is coming out evenly split between El Paso and Yorktown.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

Okay. And then also, what is the size in the reduction of the outside contracts, is that split evenly across all the refineries or does it fall more heavily on some of the refineries?

Gary R. Dalke

It's primarily from Yorktown and El Paso and the total savings was around $6 million.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

And how much of the $25 million in cost savings that you talked about did you start to realize in the third quarter?

Gary R. Dalke

Of the $25 million about a third of it was started in the third quarter, about a third will start in the fourth quarter, and the rest will be coming in, in 2010.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

So just a point of clarification, when you say was started, that means that you basically started the procedures, but you may not yet have realized those cost savings?

Gary R. Dalke

Absolutely. We did not realize all of them in the third quarter that we started in that quarter.

Ann Kohler – Caris & Company

Okay great. Thank you very much.

Operator

We do have another question from Kelly Krenger with Banc of America.

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Good afternoon. Just a couple of questions, one with regard to your working capital, I guess more specifically your inventories. Are your inventories at a stable level now or is there more you can squeeze out of inventory particularly?

Paul L. Foster

I think at 9:30 — Mark, and you can confirm this, we were close to a stable level, but we're always looking for ways to reduce that, and of course with Bloom closing down we'll take those inventories down and we'll look at all the other opportunities in the other refineries as well.

Mark Smith

We did have, early in this quarter with the outage at Yorktown, and actually built inventory early in the quarter, but we expect to have that normalized before the end of the quarter.

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Okay. How much do you think you'll rationalize at Bloomfield or as —

Gary R. Dalke

About 100,000 barrels.

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Okay. And then the retail and wholesale businesses looked strong in the fourth quarter, is there anything new or different there that we should expect or should we look for kind of a higher run rate going forward or was it just a more favorable market?

Paul L. Foster

You're right, Kelly. The third quarter was very good considering the market conditions for those two business units. I would tell you the retail's probably started off a little bit hit on the margin side. At the start of the fourth quarter as you're probably aware of, when crude runs up like it did in October, it takes awhile for the street to catch up with retail margins, so we're off to a little slower start on the retail side. Wholesale business volumes, they remain pretty good but it's competitive out there. The margins have been pressured a little bit, but from a volume standpoint both business units are performing well, but we are off to a little slower start than we were in the third quarter.

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Okay. And then lastly, can you tell us what the borrowing basis was or is at the time of the end of the third or is now and how many LCs you had outstanding?

Gary R. Dalke

Certainly At the end of September 30th we had a borrowing base just slightly above $500 million. We had LCs outstanding of about $290 million so net availability plus cash, we're just shy of $300 million.

And then as we sit here today, the borrowing basis about $545 million, $271 million of LCs outstanding, and their total availability including cash or liquidity, however you want to call that, would be about $327 million.

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Okay. I'm sorry, could you tell me what that 327 corresponded to at the end of the third quarter?

Gary R. Dalke

At the end of the third quarter it was 293.

Kelly Krenger – Banc of America

Okay. All right, thank you.

Operator

And your final question comes from the line of Gary Stromberg with Barclays Capital.

Gary Stromberg – Barclays Capital

Good afternoon. Kelly actually asked most of my questions, just a followup on the inventory question at Bloomfield. If you rationalize some inventory at Bloomfield, do you need to build some of that in Gallup? Is there an offset there?

Gary R. Dalke

No. There's no intention to build any additional inventory at Gallup.

Gary Stromberg – Barclays Capital

Okay. So even if you were running at half utilization you could still run with the same inventory?

Gary R. Dalke

Yes.

Gary Stromberg – Barclays Capital

Okay. That's all I have, thank you.

Operator

There are no further questions. I would like to turn the call back over to Paul Foster for closing comments.

Paul L. Foster

Thank you, operator. Again I just want to thank everybody for listening in, for supporting Western, and we look forward to talking to you in another quarter. Thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes today's conference. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect, and have a great day.

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