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The Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW)

Q3 2013 Earnings Call

October 25, 2013 11:00 am ET

Executives

Robert J. Wells - Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs

Christopher M. Connor - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Sean P. Hennessy - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance

Analysts

Ghansham Panjabi - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Christopher J. Nocella - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Duffy Fischer - Barclays Capital, Research Division

P. J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Charles A. Dan - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Robert A. Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Matthew McGinley - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Charles Edward Cerankosky - Northcoast Research

Ivan M. Marcuse - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Dmitry Silversteyn - Longbow Research LLC

Dennis McGill - Zelman & Associates, LLC

Eric Bosshard - Cleveland Research Company

Nils-Bertil Wallin - CLSA Limited, Research Division

John Roberts - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Christopher Noon - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Richard O'Reilly

Operator

Good morning. Thank you for joining the Sherwin-Williams Company's Review of the Third Quarter 2013 Financial Results and Expectations for the Full Year. With us on today's call are Chris Connor, Chairman and CEO; Sean Hennessy, Senior Vice President, Finance and CFO; Al Mistysyn, Vice President, Corporate Controller; and Bob Wells, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.

This conference call is being webcast simultaneously in listen-only mode via Vcall via the Internet at www.sherwin.com. An archived replay of this webcast will be available at www.sherwin.com, beginning approximately 2 hours after this conference call concludes, and will be available until Thursday, November 14, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.

This conference call will include certain forward-looking statements as defined under U.S. federal securities laws with respect to sales, earnings and other matters. Any forward-looking statements speak only as of the date on which the statement is made, and the company undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

A full declaration regarding forward-looking statements is provided in the company's earnings release transmitted earlier this morning. After the review of the third quarter results, we will open this session to questions. I will now turn the call over to Bob Wells.

Robert J. Wells

Thanks, Rob. In order to allow more time for questions, we provided balance sheet items and other selected information on our website at sherwin.com, under Investor Relations third quarter press release.

Summarizing overall company performance for the third quarter 2013 versus third quarter 2012, consolidated net sales increased 9.4% to $2.85 billion, due primarily to higher paint sales volumes in our Paint Stores Group.

Acquisition increased consolidated net sales 1.1% in the quarter, and unfavorable currency translation decreased net sales 0.8%. Gross profit dollars increased $145.7 million to $1.3 billion. Gross margin increased 130 basis points to 45.5% of sales from 44.2% in the third quarter last year. The increase in gross margin was primarily due to improved fixed cost absorption from increased sales volumes that were partially offset by import duty assessments related to our Brazilian operations. These import duty assessments reduced gross margin by 60 basis points in the quarter.

Selling, general and administrative expense for the quarter increased 11.2% to $889.7 million. As a percent of sales, SG&A increased to 31.2% in the third quarter this year from 30.7% last year. Incremental SG&A from new stores, customer service investments and acquisitions accounted for the majority of the SG&A increase in the quarter.

Interest expense increased approximately $5 million to $15.4 million, due primarily to prefunding of the Comex acquisition. Consolidated profit before taxes in the quarter increased $44.5 million, or 13%, to $387.5 million. Profit before tax as a percent of sales increased to 13.6% from 13.2% last year. Our effective tax rate in the third quarter this year was 32.1%, compared to 31.5% in the third quarter of 2012.

Year-to-date, our effective tax rate is 32.1%, which is in line with our expectation for full year 2013. Consolidated net income increased $28 million to $263 million compared to $235 million in the third quarter of 2012. Net income as a percent of sales increased to 9.2% from 9% in the third quarter last year. Diluted net income per common share for the quarter increased 13.8% to $2.55 per share from $2.24 per share in the same period last year.

Third quarter 2013 reported EPS includes the Brazilian import duty assessment, which decreased diluted net income per common share $0.13 in the quarter. Currency translation increased earnings per share in the quarter by $0.02 and acquisitions reduced earnings per share $0.02.

Looking at our results by operating segment. Sales for our Paint Stores Group in the third quarter increased 13.5% to $1.76 billion. Higher paint sales volumes across all end market segments accounted for most of the increase in sales. Acquisitions increased sales by 1.5% in the quarter.

Comparable store sales, that is sales by stores opened more than 12 calendar months, increased 10.9% in the quarter compared to the third quarter last year. Regionally in the third quarter, our Southeastern division led the sales performance, followed by Southwestern division, Midwestern division and Eastern division. 3 of the 4 Paint Stores divisions reported double-digit sales increases compared to last year.

Segment profit for the group increased $58.8 million, or 19.6%, to $359.4 million in the quarter, as higher sales volumes were partially offset by higher year-over-year selling, general and administrative expenses and dilution from the Comex acquisition. Acquisitions decreased segment profit by $2.6 million. Operating margin increased to 20.4% from 19.3% in the third quarter last year.

Turning to our Consumer Group. Sales in the third quarter increased 5.4% to $366.8 million, due primarily to the timing of seasonal shipments to some customers. Acquisitions increased Consumer Group net sales 0.2% in the quarter. Third quarter segment profit for the Consumer Group increased $16 million or 28% to $73.1 million, due primarily to higher sales volume and improved operating efficiencies.

Segment profit as a percent of external sales increased to 19.9% from 16.4% in the same period last year. For our Global Finishes Group, sales in U.S. dollars increased 3.1% to $507.3 million in the quarter, due primarily to selling price increases and acquisitions.

In the quarter, acquisitions increased net sales in U.S. dollars by approximately 1.3%, and unfavorable currency translation rate changes decreased sales by 0.4%. Stated in U.S. dollars, third quarter segment profit increased $8.1 million, or 22.2%, to $44.5 million, due primarily to higher selling prices, improved operating efficiency and positive currency translation. Currency rate changes increased segment profit in the quarter by $3.4 million.

As a percent to external net sales, segment profit increased to 8.8% from 7.4% in the third quarter last year. For our Latin America Coatings Group, third quarter net sales in U.S. dollars were flat to last year at $208.6 million. Selling price increases and higher sales volumes in the quarter were offset by unfavorable currency rate changes. Unfavorable currency decreased net sales by 8.9% in the quarter.

Stated in U.S. dollars, segment profit decreased to a loss of $1 million in the quarter, compared to profit of $21.9 million last year, primarily due to charges related to an import duty tax assessment in Brazil. Charges of $19.8 million were recorded in the quarter to resolve a dispute by the Brazilian government over our handling of import duties through the year 2012.

We believe the second and third quarter payments to the Brazilian government totaling $31.6 million fully resolve all claims related to import duties.

Currency translation rate changes had no significant impact on third quarter segment profit. And as a percent of net sales, segment operating profit was a negative 0.5% from 10.5% in the third quarter 2012.

I'll conclude my remarks from the quarter with a brief update on the status of our lead pigment litigation. Arguments in the Santa Clara County case involving public nuisance claims brought by 10 California cities and counties against 5 defendant companies concluded on September 23. As a reminder, this is a bench trial. The outcome will be determined by the judge presiding over the case.

By statute, the judge has 90 days from the date of closing arguments to deliberate and render a judgment. At this point, we have no further indication or sense of timing on the decision.

That concludes our review of the results for third quarter 2013. So I'll turn the call over to Chris Connor, who will make some general comments and highlight our expectations for the remainder of the year. Chris?

Christopher M. Connor

Thank you, Bob. Good morning, everybody. Thanks for joining us today. The third quarter was another solid quarter for Sherwin-Williams in terms of sales momentum, profit improvement and cash generation.

Consolidated sales, net income and earnings per share each set new record highs for any quarter in our company's history. Net operating cash increased more than $100 million compared to the third quarter of 2012. It stands at just over 10% of sales through our first 9 months.

Excluding the import duty assessments in Brazil, our flow-through on pretax income was more than 37% through 9 months. Paint Stores Group continued to deliver strong year-over-year sales growth at the pace we believe is comfortably ahead of the market. Comp store revenue and gallon volume both posted strong double-digit gains in the quarter. And for the second consecutive quarter, segment profits, as a percent of sales, exceeded 20%.

Our investments in new store openings and superior store staffing continues to drive profitable market share growth for this team. Consumer Group reported solid sales growth in the quarter as well. It is somewhat by the timing of seasonal shipments to some customers. The strong profit performance in Consumer Group was the result of gross margin expansion from significantly higher manufacturing volumes, primarily to support Paints Service Group, as well as good SG&A expense control.

Our Global Finishes Group also turned in a strong profit performance in the quarter, despite weak demand in many regions where they compete in the world. Backing up the effects of acquisitions and currency, sales grew just over 2%, while segment profit increased nearly 13%.

Through 9 months, Global Finishes segment profit margin has increased 110 basis points, solid progress towards the double-digit operating margin target we've commented on in the past. Latin American Coatings Group continues to face significant headwinds from currency devaluation and softening market condition. Sales in local currencies and volumes were positive in the quarter, but segment profit continued to be pressured by weak currency and a tepid demand environment.

On the raw material front. Over the past few quarters, we've seen a steady stream of price increase announcements across a broad range of commodity categories. Many of the major chloride TiO2 producers announced first and second quarter price increases in the range of $0.10 per pound, followed by a third round of price increase announcements in September, with nominal effective dates around October 1.

Crude oil and propylene are also trading above their average pricing levels in the first half. Given the timing and impact of these announcements, we think that most of these increases are unlikely to gain traction over the balance of 2013. 2014 remains uncertain, and we will give more guidance on this topic during our year-end call in late January.

Our full year outlook for average raw material cost for the industry should be down low single-digits compared to 2012, still feels about right to us. Although input costs have shifted from a strong headwind to a slight tailwind over the past 24 months, the majority of a 130-basis-point increase in our third quarter gross margin resulted from volume-driven operating efficiencies in our global supply chain.

The SG&A spending was up almost $90 million in the quarter and increased 50 basis points as a percent of sales. Most of this increase was attributable to a higher service expense across our existing store base to 84 net new stores we've opened in the past 12 months, and incremental SG&A from acquisitions. We've commented in the past about the benefits of investing ahead of market growth. I clearly believe the SG&A investments we made in our Paint Stores Group in the back half of 2012 contributed significantly to the strong revenue and volume growth they've reported these past 9 months.

In the third quarter, we generated $476 million in net operating cash, bringing our 9-month net operating cash to $778 million. Our 9-month free cash flow, net operating cash, less CapEx and dividends, was $550 million. We continue to invest the company's cash to expand the controlled distribution platform, complete suitable acquisitions, increase our dividends, and purchase shares of stock from the treasury.

In the first 9 months, our Paint Stores Group added 42 net new stores, 20 of which were opened in the third quarter. In September, we completed the acquisition of the Comex business in the U.S. and Canada, which added 306 stores. We finished the quarter with 3,868 stores in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, compared to 3,478 stores a year ago.

Today, we're increasing our guidance for Paint Stores Group to accelerate net new store openings up to 80 to 90 during this year. In the third quarter, we bought back 1.5 million shares of our common stock in the open market, bringing our year-to-date total to 2.8 million shares at an average price of $175.72.

In September 30, we have remaining authorization require 13.65 million shares. Last week, our Board of Directors approved the quarterly dividend of $0.50 per share, up from $0.39 last year. On the eve of our second quarter earnings call, we received word that the Federal Competition Commission in Mexico had voted to block our acquisition of the Comex business in Mexico. Since that time, we worked closely with the regulatory authorities to secure approval and complete the transaction.

Last Tuesday, the newly seated competition commission held a hearing to consider our case. We expect the ruling within 5 business days of the hearing, and both parties stand ready to complete this transaction promptly if and when we receive regulatory clearance.

In the fourth quarter, the Comex stores in the U.S. and Canada should generate sales in the range of $95 million to $105 million, and earnings dilution of $0.20 to $0.40 per share. The wide range in earnings impact is due to uncertainty of the timing of various integration activities. A significant amount of the anticipated integration work in the U.S. and Canada will fall under calendar year 2014 as well, resulting in earnings dilution next year for this business. These stores should be accretive to earnings by 2015, and we will keep you posted on our progress throughout next year.

Without the Comex U.S. and Canada business, we expect fourth quarter 2013 consolidated net sales to increase 5% to 7% compared to last year's fourth quarter. With sales of that level, we expect core diluted net income per common share for the quarter to be in the range of $1.29 to $1.39 per share, compared to $0.65 per share in 2012, which included a $0.47 per share charge for our deal of settlement.

For the full year 2013, we expect consolidated net sales to increase by mid-single digit percentage over last year. With annual sales of that level, we're updating guidance for diluted net income per common share for the year to be in the range of $7 to $7.30 per share, including the Brazil import duty assessment and dilution from the domestic Comex business, compared to $6.02 per share earned in 2012.

Again, thanks to all of you for joining us this morning. And now we'd be happy to take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question is from the line of Ghansham Panjabi with Robert W. Baird.

Ghansham Panjabi - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Okay. Obviously, there's been some concern over the impacts of higher interest rates on some of the housing fundamentals here in the U.S. You obviously reported a very strong quarter regardless. So was there any sort of cautionary indicators that you saw during 3Q, either by geographic region or specific channel?

Christopher M. Connor

Ghansham, I'd say no. The pure suite we have on market demand is always through our Paint Stores Group. In recent quarters, the new residential segment has been our strongest performer, followed by residential repaint. So those are the 2 categories that would be impacted by any of that. And frankly, we're just not seeing any of that impacting our business.

Ghansham Panjabi - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Okay, that's helpful. And then on Comex, you provided some parameters on 4Q. And Chris, you mentioned some commentary on 2014 in dilution as well. But how should we think about it on '14 on a quarterly basis?

Sean P. Hennessy

On a quarterly basis -- this is Sean Hennessy. And let me just try to give you a little more color on this, and maybe this will help you. We think instead of trying to look at the quarter through the first 12 months, let's take a look at the first 15 months. That would take us to the end of 2014. We think during that time frame, we'll lose $0.60 to $0.65 of this Comex U.S. and Canada piece. That would include all the synergy and the integration cost as well as -- right now, this asset is losing operating profit at this current time. But I think that $0.60 to $0.65 is all win. So when we get to calendar 2015, we'll have positive operating profits from this acquisition. So when you look at quarters, I think we'll try to give you a little more color by first, second, third, fourth quarter. But I think, especially when we try to give you that guidance of $0.20 to $0.40, if you ask the follow-up questions that mean if we did all $0.40, then next year would be $0.20 to $0.25, I'd say yes. If it becomes around $0.20 because of the integration costs not being able to be booked in the fourth quarter, then I think next year would be $0.40 to $0.45 by quarter, that's not exactly clear yet and as they're termed by a few things. But by 2015, we see this is a positive operating profit.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Chris Nocella with RBC Capital Markets.

Christopher J. Nocella - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

The increments of flow-through to earnings in the stores business was a little bit lower this quarter than the past years. Your SG&A ticked a little bit higher. So is this incremental margin progression kind of more in line with the normalized range? Or is there some upside maybe as you acclimate some new stores into your network?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. I think after the second quarter's results, Chris, and stores posted over 50% incremental margin, we caution you not to get too comfortable with that number as much as we would like to see that. So I think what you're seeing in the quarter and the year-to-date numbers are more typical. We commented around that up to 30% incremental margin and more comfortable signing up to that through the remainder of the year.

Christopher J. Nocella - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Got you. And on the Comex Mexico deal, it seems like you're still pretty confident that it gets done here. Do you think that it goes forward as originally planned or maybe will there be some concessions as you get that through?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. The last commission, we had gotten to a point with them where we had proposed remedies to address some of their concerns. I think it would be premature to comment on how this next commission will look at that. We're certainly aware of those remedies and maybe will be available to them, if necessary. And at this time, we're just not sure how it's going to go. We have commented that we remain optimistic and prepare to move forward. And hopefully next week, we're going to have some good news.

Christopher J. Nocella - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Great. And just one last for me for my account. Just what spurred your decision to accelerate the store growth year-on-year?

Christopher M. Connor

Well I think we're seeing terrific results out of the group. Our confidence in the market is going forward. Over the next several years, we're going to be that we're going to continue to see high demand for these products as housing rebounds and we yet begin to see with any sustained volume, the rebound in the commercial markets, which will also impact that segment of the company as well. So I think you should read into that the confidence we have going forward.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Duffy Fischer with Barclays.

Duffy Fischer - Barclays Capital, Research Division

I was hoping you could just comment, same-store sales last quarter were up about 7%, this quarter about 10%, 9%, so a pretty big acceleration. Is that real in that sequentially, it was improving that much? Or might it be that just last year was a lower base in Q3? What was the differential there in your mind?

Christopher M. Connor

I think you hit it. I think last year's second quarter was very, very strong in 2012. And the third quarter was the opposite. We probably had our weakest comp stores in 2012. So we felt pretty good about going up against that history in the third quarter. But I think when you look at the sales per store and so forth, we feel the market was pretty much the same in the third, as well as the second, really more has to do with the history.

Duffy Fischer - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay. And then just 2 quick questions on the Comex and the commission down there. First one is, are any of the people the same on this commission versus the first? And then the second is, is this an official process where they kind of have to give a declaration of the said time? Or is this something that they could reach out to you and kind of negotiate quietly, where they don't have to put out, say, a press release on this until it's finished?

Christopher M. Connor

Duffy, there are no commissioners seated on this body that were on the previous commission. So the answer to your first question is no. And then, secondarily, my understanding is, by Mexican law, they have 5 business days to respond to the case that was put in front of them. I don't think there's going to be negotiations at this point. I think we're just going to get an up or down vote.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of P.J. Juvekar with Citigroup.

P. J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Can you talk about the commercial or nonresidential market? I know it goes up with the lag, but what kind of growth are you seeing or you could see in 2014?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes, P.J. What we're seeing is kind of a staggered start of the commercial market. You're correct that it typically moves with the 12- to 18-month lag to residential. We are seeing that pickup in certain nonresidential categories, like office space and hospitality have been relatively strong. That strength has been offset by weakness in retail in some of the manufacturing segments, and anything that relies on public funding is pretty soft. So schools, libraries, government buildings, et cetera, has been very weak year-over-year, actually, down pretty significantly year-over-year. So it's a mixed bag. But in total, it's just barely better than flat thus far. We do expect to pick up in many of those other categories, and we'll see growth in the market when that happens.

P. J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Great. And your same-store sales in Paint group were up 10.9%. Even that there was very little pricing this year, is it all volumes? And could you -- also can you make a quick comment on what you're seeing in DIY with this contractor?

Sean P. Hennessy

Yes. So I think, P.J., we've been commenting all year that all of the growth is, in fact, Vi [ph] is running a little bit higher than sales because we have some mixed shift in the business. We've commented that the new residential business is leading the pack, and that's by design is the lower average selling price per gallon. So a little deflationary pricing in the mix. So with the 10.9% revenue from the comp stores, the volume was actually stronger than that. So again, we can expect that to continue going forward. DIY has been a good story for us as well. It lags a little bit. The residential new construction and residential repaint segments, but it's been a strong contributing performer for the company now for several years.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Charles Dan with Morgan Stanley.

Charles A. Dan - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

I was hoping you could give us a little bit more color about the Consumer Group. I saw the comments about the timing of certain sales. How much of an impact does that have on the group? And is there any way to adjust for that and figure out what sort of the trend is?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. So I think that we've been commenting that as a result of the loss of these 2 types of business that we're anniversarying, both the Walmart domestically and Home Depot in Mexico, that this business was going to be off slightly low-single digits down in revenue for the year. We've been chalking [ph] at that through the first 2 quarters. We did see a spike in kind of shipments as we commented. Most of that happened in the last month of the quarter. And so that was kind of the timing comment. We would expect that the fourth quarter will be back to kind of that soft performance. So nothing really different there in terms of the company job [ph] position or program, and just riding along with the friends of [ph] customers we enjoy in that business.

Charles A. Dan - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And just a couple of housekeeping items. Were there any significant diesel [ph] or closing cost regarding the Comex North America businesses and the SG&A line or elsewhere? And could you give the gross profit year-over-year change by segment?

Sean P. Hennessy

Sure. When you look at the Comex, we commented that it was $0.02 in the quarter. And that $0.02 is really imposed. It's all-in at $0.02. We're probably not going to break out gross margin and SG&A at Comex for 1 month. On the incremental dollars, the gross profit dollars that we will have in the Q. Store Group was up $129 million. Consumer was up $17 million. Global was up -- segment was up $13 million. LACG was down $12 million, and as from that Bob's script and Chris also mentioned that was depressed by approximately by $20 million due to the Brazilian situation. So without the Brazilian tax situation, LACG would have been up high-single digits.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Robert Koort of Goldman Sachs.

Robert A. Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

I was wondering if you could guys talk a little bit about why Comex's business isn't making an operating profit. It seems most of the times, when you buy regionalized businesses, they've done well. So is it just their spread too far? Their density is not high enough? What is it about the business that's not as currently profitable that other acquisitions have been?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. I would say their spread in density, Bob, is terrific, actually. They've got really good brand recognition, store locations and penetration in the geographies that they're operating in. This is a business that, at the time of Comex's acquisition, was really focused on new residential construction, almost fully. And last, the product line and/or the discipline to really expand into all the other professional painting contractor segments and DIY that have been kind of the hallmark of the Sherwin-Williams Paint Stores. Over the years, their timing was a little bit unfortunate in that they rode the housing market down and really didn't do a lot to try to mitigate that, with standing to different segments. So as we did these businesses and quickly get them ramped up, with a broader product selection, better inventory control, better associated product sales, which Sherwin-Williams always has brought to all of these acquisitions, and a little bit of a better DIY present. So we would expect to start to see them rebound, closer to Sherwin-Williams' typical store margins. And I think Sean really articulated that well how we kind of get from where we are today to these integrations and to a positive return in 2015. And then from that platform begin to move them up to our traditional stores' operating margins. So thrilled to have these stores. The talent that came with them in terms of store management, sales reps, the folks that face customers are great. And we're excited to get them up and running.

Robert A. Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Chris, will they be rebranded as Sherwin stores? Or will they remain Comex?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. Well first of all, they're not called Comex in United States. They operate under 5 different brand names that were the original names of these businesses. We may have been rolled up back in late 1990s. And Comex did nothing to really change that or integrate that. Our practice has been, Bob, over time, to carefully secure all the customer relationships and, at the appropriate time, rebrand these stores under Sherwin-Williams. That process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years or longer, depending on the individual market and strength of the brand. And that same kind of thoughtful process that we use for Duron and MAB and some of the other recent acquisitions will be the case here as well.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Kevin McCarthy of Bank of America.

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Chris, I was wondering if you could speak to the expected growth in U.S. architectural gallon at the industry level for 2013.

Robert J. Wells

Kevin, this is Bob. As you know, an industry that is not well tracked and measured, there's a lot of estimates out there. The estimates by the American Coatings Association is that the industry, through the first half, went up mid-single digits, stronger in the second quarter than in the first, to actually upper single-digit in the second quarter. We have not seen any indication that market growth in the third quarter thus far. And the ACA typically lags the end of the quarter by a month or so. So -- and frankly, we're not very well versed on their methodology, so I don't know how they're gathering this data. But it feels to us like mid single-digits is probably not out of the realm of possibilities for the market.

Christopher M. Connor

And that was on top of 3.7% increase in 2012, which was pretty well-corroborated by the ability to look back, which you can tie a bunch of different sources. So to Bob's point, an accelerating market was a better industry gallon numbers this year than last year. Hence, more support for the earlier questions about why we're deciding to open more stores.

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

That's helpful. I guess, speaking of acceleration. I want to come back to your store count. I guess you're 42 year-to-date, so 80 to 90 would imply something like 38 to 48 in 4Q, if my math is right there. So a couple of questions. Have you done that many in a quarter before? And as you look at integrating the U.S. portion of Comex, should we think of that number as a grosser net number, given any rationalization that you may need to do as integration progresses?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. So this staying on the 80 to 90 estimates for the core incremental growth, we absolutely, Kevin, despite our best efforts, haven't gotten to open that many stores in the quarter. This process always ends up being a back half-loaded exercise, despite how hard we push on various real estate developers to get these stores into us sooner. In fact, last year, in the fourth quarter, we opened 42 stores. So we'll have to get that done and to know how to do that and we expect to go forward on that. We haven't commented yet on the 306 Comex stores relative to what the likely closings would be there as a result of overlapping locations. I think, if you would look historically at past transactions we've made, somewhere in the 15% to 20% store count would be kind of at the high end of the closings that we would affect. That would put you, in this particular scenario, in a 40 to 60 store count. Don't forget, Kevin, that as we've shown various maps, these stores are actually falling into geographies where our penetration is slightly less than it had been in more of our denser markets. And so our expectation is that we probably won't see numbers that high, maybe 10% to 15% range will be a better -- we'll have to think about. And those announcements will come up out as leases expire and then we get a better chance to get our hands in the business. Again, as we commented, we'll give you a lot more color as we go through 2014 on this business.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Matt McGinley with ISI Group.

Matthew McGinley - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

A year ago, when you introduced us to Comex, you had said that the business, when you purchased it, it was like maybe worth somewhere around $1 in earnings in the first year. And you indicated that there will be charges related to U.S. operations will be $0.60 to $0.65. Does that imply that the Mexico assets are worth about $1.60 in year 1? Or is this more of a fixer-upper than you had anticipated in that dollar earnings that you had talked about a year ago as off the table?

Sean P. Hennessy

Just to clarify one thing, what you said is if we could close that Comex field by the end of the first quarter, so once you given us 9 months to do a lot of integration work that we're just talking about now with the U.S. and Canada piece, we would start to look at the dollar in -- a year later. Number one, that's down a little deeper. We're able to close this on September 16. But your sense of -- it's not apples and oranges, it's a little -- it's closer than apples but it's not totally apples-to-apples. But Kevin said what you just said, you're absolutely right. All of the indication would be -- is that the Mexican asset would be able to -- is a very strong asset, producing nice operating margin.

Matthew McGinley - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

And the U.S. assets were maybe not as good as you had anticipated when you first looked at the total operation, or the Mexican asset was as good as they were 1 year ago?

Sean P. Hennessy

No. Yes. Both of those things. I think, we're not that surprised of where we ended up in the U.S. and Canada assets. They're pretty much where we thought they would be. And the Mexican piece is doing fine. When -- we get asked every once in a while, "Would you continue to whet your appetite?" Our appetite is still there for that Mexican piece because that Mexican piece will create shareholder value.

Matthew McGinley - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

Last quarter, you discussed some distortions related to weather that may be interior versus exterior mix shift. And in fact negative and positive [ph] did that reverse in the third quarter? And how much do you think that perhaps pent up demand helped the unit growth in the third quarter?

Sean P. Hennessy

Yes. I think, we actually were mentioning that in the first quarter, because in the first quarter 2012, there was repainting going on in Chicago in February. And so there was really no winter as compared to a normal winter. So that first quarter was when we really mentioned it. And I would tell you that pent up, year-to-date, I think, it's evened itself out. But when you talk about that, I don't think it changed any of the pent up. In the third quarter, I think it had more to do with last year in the third quarter was our lowest comp store increase. But I don't see that as a factor.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of John McNulty of Crédit Suisse group.

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Just 2 quick ones. On the Consumer segment, the margins were noticeably higher, actually, than they've ever been for a third quarter. How much of it is tied to the strength in Paint Stores versus the lumpiness that you were talking about in terms of order patterns? And is this kind of a sustainable level now that the Paint Store Group is kind of as big as it is?

Sean P. Hennessy

Yes. I would say that's 60-40. I think the lumpiness of the sales was 60% of that improvement. Store group was 40%. I think that if you look at the beginning of the quarter, we were managing our SG&A and so forth. Nothing [ph] is as strong as sales. But that strong improvement in sales, the consumer for the timing really helped the margins in the third quarter, but the Paint Stores group having that volume go through and it was nice. I would tell you, over the years, we've continually talked about this consumer group being more in the flattish long-term and we've said that the margins, and you've correctly pointed out, one of the strongest margins we've ever had, will be a little more choppy than stores. But there'll be times when these quarters, we will have quarters like this because of the volume going through and certain things hitting. The operating margins will be higher than stores. But over the long term, we think that it will be slightly higher because of where stores group in. But it won't be this high. In fact, every fourth quarter, that operating margin is depressed a little bit in that Consumer Group.

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Okay. Fair enough. And then, just so we understand what may come out in next week in terms of the decision from the commission, is that a -- that's the end of the game kind of decision and it's either a yes or a no? Or is there a further appeal process, or is your appeal already in and you can get some derivation of an answer, whether it's yes/no, or yes, if you do the following? How should we think about what the decision actually could potentially be?

Robert J. Wells

That's a fair question, John, and I wish I had more certainty on how I answer this. This is a brand-new commission, and we are one of the first rulings that they're going to distribute. There's a possibility that their decision is in line with our proposal to them and we accept it and we're good to go. There may be things that don't agree with what we had prepared to do and they're asking for more. At which point, we would have the ability to discuss that further with them. So it's a little bit of a difficult answer for us to give until we actually get into the arena.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Chuck Cerankosky with Northcoast Research.

Charles Edward Cerankosky - Northcoast Research

If we look at that -- Sean, if we look at that $0.60 to $0.65 you suggested for the next 4 quarters for Comex U.S., Canada, I'd like to think about it in 3 pieces. One would be noncash-type charges related to, say, write-offs or impairment. And then, what's the underlying operating losses for the business? And then, thirdly, what the percentage of that amount would be, cash integration expenses?

Sean P. Hennessy

Chuck, over the next 12 months of doing the purchase accounting, we're having evaluations. And so we probably have a better answer for you maybe in 2 quarters. And the reason I say that is it really depends on how much value we put on certain assets that we eventually are going to eliminate. And so that would be, back to your point, the noncash charges. But we'll see what happens. I think, when you take a look at the cash and [indiscernible] our cash, and I would tell you when you think about $0.60 to $0.65, and I'll use $0.60 and 100 million shares, so you're talking $60 million, I would tell you that, cash wise, probably 80%, 85% of that $60 million will be cash depression that we get from -- that will occur over the next 15 months.

Charles Edward Cerankosky - Northcoast Research

And of that 85%, Sean, how would you break that down between the ongoing operating loss there or the startup operating loss, and then voluntary expenditures when Sherwin-Williams integrate the business?

Sean P. Hennessy

I would probably cut the 80% about 70-30, 30% cost of integration and closing cost, 70% from the operation. Then, I think, by that time, then the operations will be cash positive in 2015 -- 2016, very nicely, cash positive.

Charles Edward Cerankosky - Northcoast Research

All right. How should we think about capital expenditures for next year? I don't think there would be a lot to go with what you've already purchased from Comex. But if you can give us perhaps a scenario to consider if you do indeed get your wish and the deal with Mexico -- with Mexican assets goes forward?

Sean P. Hennessy

I think that if you look at the core, I think just when you think about increasing the number of stores, the CapEx will be up this year just in the core piece. I think that there are -- some of the -- majority of the stores that we just -- the 306, are long-term stores for us, long-term markets. And I think you're going to see us put some CapEx into those. I'll just sort of put this answer in that 3. So I think store CapEx is going to be up because of increased stores. Number 2, these stores, we are going to put some POS devices in the [indiscernible] stores, shaking equipment, I mean tinting equipment, color equipment that we have. And then, if we complete Comex, there'll be another step change there, Chuck, that if we do complete it, we'll give you that number.

Charles Edward Cerankosky - Northcoast Research

All right. And how should we think about share repurchases in light of how these deals shape up? Originally, you indicated you would abstain for most repo activity because of the size of the deal. Now it's taken place in cases and you have bought back some in the most recent quarter?

Sean P. Hennessy

I think that what really motivated us there to buy back stock is when you look at the cash generation, Chuck, if you look at our cash generation, and in Chris' comments, he talked about 10%. We've never been at 10% of sales through the third quarter in our history, and I think that's huge because, as you know, we're negative in the first quarter. It used to be if we could be slightly positive through the second quarter, we were over 4% year-to-date. And now we're over 10% for the first time in the third quarter. And I think we've consistently said that we're not going to hold cash. We feel that the cash generation from the acquisition will take care of itself. And we're going to buy back stock with that cash. We're not going to hold it.

Charles Edward Cerankosky - Northcoast Research

That's great. One last question. Just because I don't think anybody mentioned it, paint stores pricing in the third quarter, I'm going to take that that was flattish?

Sean P. Hennessy

Yes.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Ivan Marcuse with KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Ivan M. Marcuse - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

A couple of quick questions. On Comex in the U.S., you talked about being more focused on the new residential construction. Will that be -- if that goes through next year, will that be a drag a little bit on your mix as you get new products in there that would be noticeable? And then, also, with the losses, is this going to help or how do you expect your tax rate to be impacted next year, assuming just the U.S. assets?

Sean P. Hennessy

Ivan, on the drag of Comex. I think that it's $500 million. It's not a small piece when you think about the Stores group. But in total, the gross margins and the operating margins won't be a drag on stores group. On the selling price, I don't think that -- as time goes on, it will be slightly. But I think that there's no doubt that the operating margin in the Stores group next year, because of that $0.60 to $0.65, will be a drag. On the tax rate, again, we think that if we do complete the Comex acquisition, that could give us an opportunity to have a step change in our tax rate. The U.S. piece is going to change -- is going to have that kind of a step change.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Dmitry Silversteyn with Longbow Research.

Dmitry Silversteyn - Longbow Research LLC

I just wanted to understand a little bit on the Latin American piece. You've done over the 2 quarters as far as paying the Brazilian duty catch-up for 2 years. So in the fourth quarter, should we expect the margins in this business to sort of get back to whatever normal level is on a year-over-year basis, something in the mid to high single-digits? Or is it that we're going to see a sort of a drag in the business that goes beyond the Brazilian duties?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. So you're correct that the Brazilian import tax issue is behind us. So that will not be recurring or anything from that in the fourth quarter. We'll be back to the business' performance. I think what you'll see there, Dmitry, is the impact that we've been talking about for a while now on just the softening market conditions as well as the currency impact in the margins. Don't forget that Latin America, like all of the coatings businesses, buy their raw materials on a dollar-denominated basis. And so despite the fact that we can manufacture and sell in-country, we do have this impact of a global dollar denominator raw material, and we shared with you in the past the sizable amount of cost facility with our raw material basket. So we're probably going to see Latin American margins running lower than their normal run rate, even after this tax issue, and that will rebound as pricing activities take place, raw materials moderate and the dollar versus local currencies gets back online.

Dmitry Silversteyn - Longbow Research LLC

Got it. Okay. That's helpful. And then, just I know the question was asked about this already, but I couldn't follow the answer, so maybe I'll ask it again. The seasonal shipments that you mentioned in the Consumer business, I think, you said they took place in September, which improved the growth in that division in the third quarter. Was that sort of pulled forward from the fourth quarter? How should we think about the Consumer business performance in the fourth quarter, understanding that it's going up against somewhat tougher comp as well?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. So unlike our stores business, where every single days sales are reported based on the gallons that go out the door, consumers selling into supply chain of our customers, and so whatever their inventory needs are, stocking issues are, can impact a quarter like this. And we've commented on this in years past. There were just a couple of our customers that placed significantly stronger orders on the business in September than we had forecasted for. And their businesses are doing well and maybe we won't see a fall from that, but our guidance for the fourth quarter would be that the consumer segment will post the same kind of numbers that we've been seeing throughout the year and that we expect them to be negative for the year in the low single-digit range.

Dmitry Silversteyn - Longbow Research LLC

Got it. That's helpful. Then finally, and that leads me to my next question. From what you're seeing your store growth at least, because you get out a little bit sooner, with the feedback loop, how is the October looking as far as [indiscernible], 5-year day [ph], the weather up until recently has been rather warm, so I would expect the [indiscernible] to extend a little bit. Are you benefiting from that in the month of October from what you can see?

Christopher M. Connor

Dmitry, I had 4 inches of snow in my house yesterday, so I'm not sure I'm buying the extension of this beautiful Indian summer across America. I think we've been pretty consistent over the years in not commenting or blaming weather either for goodness or difficult times. We're going to have pockets of good and bad weather in every quarter across the country. I think this will be a very typical fourth quarter for the industry in terms of kind of demand cycle. And certainly, there are those jobs that you pointed out that we're seeing next year work still being wrapped up, but those are coming to an end quickly and it should be a pretty stable mix environment, as it would've been historically.

Dmitry Silversteyn - Longbow Research LLC

Got it. And the last question on the store openings as opposed to Comex. You're accelerating your fourth quarter store openings, as you've done in the last year or 2. But you're going to be adding over 300 stores in Comex, it sounds like you're going to have your hands full in getting those stores' product life and customers over the line with the market. How should we think about your store openings sort of in 2014 and maybe 2015 before the Comex integration is completed?

Christopher M. Connor

We'll have a lot more clarity on that in January call, Dmitry. But what I would comment is that we have consistently said for quite some time now that we see 5,000 stores as a reasonable expectation in North America. And we have an infrastructure in place that knows how to get these stores sourced, discovered, built, opened and running. I don't think you'll see us fall off that 80 to 90 base at all going toward next year.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Dennis McGill with Zelman & Associates.

Dennis McGill - Zelman & Associates, LLC

First question. Just with the revenue trend, I guess, in the third quarter organically, we get to about a 9% growth number and you're guiding to 5% to 7% in the fourth. Obviously, there's a lot of stuff that goes into that timing-wise and year ago comps. As you guys plan for fourth quarter, are you thinking on a seasonally adjusted basis that demand is stable, up or down relative to the third quarter?

Christopher M. Connor

I think it's stable. I think that we feel very good about the stableness of 3 segments. The one piece that I think that Chris did mention in our guidance is we do not have the fourth quarter repeating and over 5% sales gain in the Consumer group.

Dennis McGill - Zelman & Associates, LLC

Okay. And then for the Comex stores domestically, can you just compare and contrast the physical either location of the stores or size of the stores relative to a typical Sherwin store? Is the capacity of those stores on the revenue side similar or different?

Christopher M. Connor

Very similar, Dennis. They would be a typical 4,000 to 5,000 square foot box, which is right in line with ours. I think every single one of these 300 stores is leased, Sean, if I'm not mistaken?

Sean P. Hennessy

Yes.

Christopher M. Connor

So they're all leasehold locations. They would be in fairly similar traffic pattern locations, standalone facilities in small strip centers. I would say there's a good number of these that are in locations that we have coveted to be and we're actually pleased to get a number of outstanding paint stores in new neighborhoods that we currently -- in that locations. And nothing about the physical locations or box size of these stores will limit our ability to run them at the same kind of average store sales or productivity that we get out of our current format.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Eric Bosshard with Cleveland Research.

Eric Bosshard - Cleveland Research Company

Margin in the quarter excluding the Brazilian import duties, it looks like the overall gross margin was 46, which is the upper end of that range that you historically have talked about or recently talked about getting to. Curious on how you think about where gross margins go from here also in regards to pricing and mix? And again, obviously, without Comex, where you think the gross margin path might go over the next 6 or 12 months for the company?

Robert J. Wells

We feel pretty good about the quarter, Eric. We actually grow 46 1 without -- well, we computed but when you look at it, for the full year, we're in that mid 40, 45. Last quarter, we talked about that we think the full year was going to be right in between that 45 year-to-date that we were at the end of the second quarter and the high end of 46. We feel good about this, that we're in that same answer. A couple of things. Number one, LIFO last year was a big nice improvement. We were 43 9 going into that fourth quarter, we're now at 44 8. We're not going to have a 9/10 improvement between year-to-date and the fourth quarter this year. And it's because that LIFO credit that we brought back in the fourth quarter, the way raws came in. You're right that Comex will depress our gross margin a little bit, but I think that we still feel good about where our gross margin is. I think that the volatility in raw materials seems to be a little calmer as with the business. Markets that Chris mentioned, a little more confident in the market and the volumes tremendously more stable than they were in '09 and '10. I think that our gross margin stays in the range we're in right now, depressed a little bit by the Comex, but improved because of the volumes that we're putting through subgroup.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Nils Wallin of CLSA.

Nils-Bertil Wallin - CLSA Limited, Research Division

Just on Comex, bringing the negative margin in that business to positive and to actually accretive in the U.S. stores, what needs to happen from rationalization, from a new product and then just from normal market growth? What -- those 3 buckets, what needs to happen in order to get to your goal?

Christopher M. Connor

I think, a good way to about this, Nils, is no different than Sherwin opening a new store in kind of the ramp from dilutive impact up to contributing and eventually, when you're 3 or 4 running kind of on a comp store profitability level. So what needs to happen here is mostly productivity. We need more volume, more gallons going through those boxes than they've been enjoying. I think Sean has done a nice job of taking you through the cost impact that were diluted. As we rationalized, we comment on maybe 10% to 15% store count needs to come out. There'll be some SG&A adds to strengthen the stores staffing in these facilities. But it's pretty much the same kind of blocking impact that we do each and every day in these districts to service these customers that we know how to do, and we expect we can get these volumes up to the level where they'll be performing. And I think, Sean made the comment, accretive by 2015. And by 2016, really accretive. So therein lies the path forward.

Nils-Bertil Wallin - CLSA Limited, Research Division

Got it. And just because of the timing differences between the Comex U.S. -- Canada and Comex Mexico, assuming that the commission has a favorable decision, is there anything that changes, besides obviously just the timing, is there anything that changes the pace of integration? Do they -- are they dependent at all on one another?

Christopher M. Connor

No, 2 entirely different businesses, run separately by Comex, for that matter. So our integration teams are entirely different. We moved forward on this U.S. and Canadian teams because it entirely resides inside our Paint Store Group. And that team was ready, chomping at the bit and wanting to go. And then, of course, the Mexican piece will be embedded in our Latin American Coatings Group. An equally talented team down there prepared to get engaged when that one comes. No issues at all bifurcating these transactions from an integration standpoint.

Nils-Bertil Wallin - CLSA Limited, Research Division

Great. And then, just finally, the same-store sales growth, is there -- were you taking any share? Because it certainly was a dramatic year-on-year improvement.

Christopher M. Connor

Yes. I think, we have to assume we were. We've seen the release of some of our public competitors. Bob commented earlier on the call, this is the kind of market environment where we think gallons are growing in that mid single-digit range and our gallons were double-digit. So we're feeling good about the share position of the company right now.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of John Roberts of UBS.

John Roberts - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Did you say how fast you could close Comex deal if you get a favorable ruling next week?

Robert J. Wells

Yes. We didn't say it. But I think, Chris used the word prompt. And it really depends on if we get next week, I mean, we'd like to do it October 1 -- or I'm sorry, November 1.

John Roberts - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Yes, October 1 would be great. Secondly, if you get surprised by the lead paint ruling, is the appeal process any different for a bench case versus what you paid in Rhode Island that was a jury case?

Christopher M. Connor

No, John. To our knowledge, it's the same. And it's likely a multiyear process.

John Roberts - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

And then just thirdly, above average growth that you're seeing relative to the market, do you think that's just professionally applied paint versus DIY? I would think there's more recovery comment in the professional painter market than DIY just because DIY doesn't cycle as much?

Christopher M. Connor

Yes, I think you're right on that. We certainly are benefiting from the rebound in the professional painting contractor. That will be a portion of the share gain. I do think that some of these gallons are coming from our competitors as well.

Operator

The next question is from the line of Don Carson of Susquehanna Financial Group.

Christopher Noon - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

This is Chris Noon stepping in for Don. Most of my questions have been answered. But I guess, you guys have given some color on U.S. architectural volume growth year-to-date and I was wondering if you could just give us a little more color on why you've been outpacing it in the year and why you feel confident that you'll be able to continue outpacing the market?

Robert J. Wells

Well, yes, Chris, I think it is a combination of factors that have led to our Paint Stores Group outpacing market growth. I mean, number one, we were among -- we were in very rare company opening stores during this downturn, and as a result, we're emerging into the recovery with a much higher store count and with mature stores in markets where we didn't have them prior to the downturn. Secondly, as was indicated earlier by John, just in the previous question, the painting contractor market appears to be growing faster than the DIY market, and that is where the majority of our exposure is in Paint Stores Group. We introduced a lot of new product lines during this downturn that are getting traction. So there's a whole -- and we've made significant investments in SG&A in store service level, which certainly helps attract new customers and more business from current customers in the recovery. So it's a broad combination of factors.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Next question comes from the line of Richard O'Reilly with Revere Associates.

Richard O'Reilly

I was also going to ask about the weather because in New Jersey, it's been beautiful here, but I think you've already answered that. But on the same-store, it was up 10.9%, 1 year ago, it was up 8.9%, so that's an average of about 10%. Do you think that's a real number or is that the year-to-date, the 7.4% of data [ph] number that we should be looking at?

Christopher M. Connor

Well, I think, the 7.4% is the better number. I mean, there's 9 months of activity there. If the market's growing in the mid single-digit range and we're running at 7.5% on revenue and volume is a little bit higher, that's a pretty strong performance. I think that's more kind of typical. We have had periods of time in rebounding markets where we posted multiple quarters in a row of double-digit comp store sales gains, but we've never been one to give that kind of robust guidance. And so I think, the 7.4% feels about right.

Operator

At this time, we've come to the end of our question-and-answer session for today. I'll now turn the floor back over to Bob Wells for closing comments.

Robert J. Wells

Thanks, Rob. We appreciate all of you joining us on the call this morning. As usual, I will be available over the balance of the day and Monday for any follow-up questions you might have. Thanks again for your participation and thank you for interest in Sherwin-Williams.

Operator

Thank you. This concludes today's teleconference. You may now disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.

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