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Executives

Kevin McMullen - Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

Mike Hicks - Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Lucy Watson - Jefferies & Co.

Jason Miner - Deutsche Bank Securities

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

OMNOVA Solutions Inc. (OMN) Q4 2009 Earnings Call January 19, 2010 11:00 AM ET

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the OMNOVA Solutions fourth quarter earnings discussion conference call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question-and-answer session and instructions will be given at that time (Operator Instructions).

At this time I will turn the conference call over to your host, CEO and Chairman, Kevin McMullen. Please go ahead, sir.

Kevin Mcmullen

Good morning and thank you for joining us for our conference call to discuss fourth quarter 2009 results. Joining me today is Mike Hicks, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

I’d like to turn the call over to Mike to make comments on forward-looking statements.

Mike Hicks

During this conference call OMNOVA representatives may make forward-looking statements as encouraged by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements in this conference call and in subsequent discussions with the company’s management, other than historical information are forward-looking statements.

These statements represent management’s current judgment on expectations for future operation. A variety of risk factors highlighted in the company’s 2008 10-K and our most recent earnings release could cause business conditions and the company’s actual results to differ materially from those expected by the company or expressed in the company’s forward-looking statements. Kevin.

Kevin Mcmullen

Thanks Mike. I am pleased to report that our OMNOVA Solutions capped off a very successful 2009 with record fourth quarter earnings per share, diluted earnings per share of $0.25 in the quarter was $0.23 higher than the prior year. With sustained performance improvement throughout 2009, OMNOVA delivered positive year-over-year and sequential EPS increases in every quarter.

I am especially proud of the great work of our associates to bring about such tremendous progress in the midst of the worst global economic recession in many decades. As it did throughout the year, our Performance Chemicals segment led the fourth quarter improvement, volume is in our chemicals businesses continue their improving trend over the last several quarters and were up 8% in the fourth quarter versus 2008.

This growth was due to wins in new applications and share gains in our existing core markets on the strength of new products and consistent commitment to technical service. While raw material costs were below the record highs we experienced in last year’s fourth quarter, they were still the highest of 2009. This margin improvement highlights how actions we have taken in our chemicals business and across the company are helping us improve profitability even as raw material costs rise.

Also, encouraging were the fourth quarter results of our Decorative Products segment, which posted its best quarterly operating profit of the year and its third consecutive profitable quarter. Leading the way was the continued improvement in profits from our Asian operations. Volumes across Decorative Products, North American markets were mixed in the fourth quarter.

While commercial wallcovering remains weak, sales of performance fabrics were down only 2% year-over-year and laminates were up 4%. OMNOVA’s strong earnings improvement also reflects aggressive ongoing efforts across the company to streamline our business processes and reduce cost. The cost actions we have taken exceeded $24 million in 2009. We continued to generate strong cash flow from operations in the fourth quarter, which allowed us to further reduce our debt and increase our future flexibility.

Net debt declined $11.5 million in the quarter, bringing the total reductions over the past 12 months to nearly $68 million. As a result, OMNOVA’s leverage ratio was two times, well below our debt covenant of 5.5 times. This flexibility has enabled us to make targeted investments in new products, process improvements, globalization and productivity initiatives, even as many of our competitors have been unable or unwilling to invest in their businesses.

In a moment I’ll provide more details on Individual Business segment performance and opportunities, but first I would like to summarize our fourth quarter financial results as reported in our earnings release. OMNOVA Solutions reported net income of $11.1 million or $0.25 per share compared to net income of $800,000 or $0.02 per share for the fourth quarter of 2008.

Selling, general and administrative expense was flat compared to a year ago at $25.6 million. For the full year SG&A declined almost $5 million, reflecting our continued focus on reducing our cost structure and controlling discretionary spending. While fourth quarter consolidated volumes were positive, sales revenue was down $30.8 million from last year to nearly $189 million. The fourth quarter continued to trend at higher sequential quarterly sales over the last nine months.

In the fourth quarter Performance Chemicals sales were down $21 million, while sales in Decorative Products were off $10 million. The declines were due primarily to reduced pricing in certain markets in light of lower year-over-year raw material costs. However it was very encouraging that consolidated volumes were positive after six consecutive quarters of year-over-year declines due to the deep global recession. For the full year sales were $696 million down 20% from 2008, volumes were down 12.5% for the year.

Gross profit in the fourth quarter was $44 million, up $9.4 million from a year ago. Gross profit margin was up 750 basis points to 23.3% compared to 15.8% in the 2008 fourth quarter. Full year gross profit improved $21.7 million to $159.7 million. The increase in gross profit for the quarter and the year reflects the hard work we’ve done to drive down manufacturing expenses and increase productivity, as well as a reduction in raw material costs.

As I mentioned earlier, OMNOVA finished the year with net debt of $111.2 million, down 9% or $11.5 million in the quarter and down 38% or nearly $68 million for the year. Our debt is comprised of $142.3 million outstanding under our term loan credit facility, which matures in 2014 and $1.8 million in short term debt in Asia. The company also has a revolving asset based credit facility, which as of the end of the fourth quarter was not being used it had available borrowing capacity of $62.1 million.

Our quarter end consolidated cash balance grew $11.9 million, finishing the year at $41.5 million. The weighted average cost of borrowing during the fourth quarter of 2009 was 4.5%, down from 5.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008. Bank covenant EBITDA improved to $18.3 million for the quarter versus $16.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2008. Our loan covenant leverage ratio of net debt-to-EBITDA at quarter end was two times.

The fourth quarter was the sixth consecutive quarter of improvement in our leverage. The bank covenant EBITDA definition is disclosed in our earnings release. Bank covenant EBITDA had several items that differed from our reported results, excluded from bank EBITDA our income from our Asian operations, LIFO and non-cash pension and 401(k) expense.

Turning to business segment results, first in Decorative Products, sales in the fourth quarter were $78 million, down 11% from the prior year, driven primarily by weak commercial wallcovering demand. However, we achieved year-over-year sales increases for laminates, certain segments of performance fabrics and for our China business in the fourth quarter.

Segment operating profit was $3.6 million, which was $8.9 million better than the fourth quarter of last year and the best quarter in 2009. Operating profit for the Decorative Products Asian businesses was $1.9 million up nearly $4 million from a year ago. The improvement was driven by increased demand for our products in China and by our cost actions in Thailand.

We are very pleased with the progress that has been made by our Decorative Products operations in China and Thailand, after OMNOVA acquired sole ownership of these businesses in early 2008. We have upgraded the leadership and capabilities of both businesses. Productivity is up and as with the domestic Decorative Products businesses, our Asian operations have worked hard to significantly reduced costs.

Cost actions across the segment, as well as improving pricing have contributed to immediate margin expansion. Clearly we still have work to do in this area, and which remains a top priority, but our actions have created a leaner, more profitable Decorative Products business.

In addition, we have achieved important new business wins in existing and new, but related markets by delivering value added products and services and leveraging our global capabilities. The fragmented competitive landscape in the Decorative Products markets has been consolidating and we expect this trend to continue. We are benefiting as weakened competitors exit businesses and we are able to step in with outstanding products and services and a stable financial position.

Our commitment to these industries and our ability to serve customer needs around the world have resulted in key business wins and position us to grow as these markets regain momentum. Taking a look now at the individual product lines in Decorative Products, first commercial wallcovering, which represents less than 12% of OMNOVA’s 2009 sales? Global sales were down in the fourth quarter as spending on commercial refurbishment and new construction continued to be tightly curtailed across virtually all market segments.

OMNOVA has invested in several innovative products for the commercial wallcovering market including a strong environmentally preferred offering that expands our branded portfolios. We continue to gain significant interest in sales from these new products, despite the market conditions. Entering 2010 we anticipate that demand of the commercial wallcovering market will continue to face challenges as commercial construction and refurbishment remain depressed.

We believe our new products, industry leading distribution network and our financial stability provide OMNOVA with a competitive advantage to work through this challenging market environment. Our performance fabrics product line includes a wide variety of end uses. Year-over-year sales were down only 2% in North America.

However, some of our product line grew, such as the North American transportation segment where sales were up substantially during the quarter, driven by school bus and mass transit demand. This is also where OMNOVA’s capability in China is providing a significant advantage.

Fourth quarter sales for the China operations were up 18% year-over-year, largely due to transportation and automotive seating applications. We do not serve automotive OEMs in a significant way in North America, but we do supply the large and fast growing Chinese automotive market. In a very short time OMNOVA has become one of the leading coated fabrics seating suppliers to automotive OEMs in China.

In addition to automotive and transportation, OMNOVA Asian capability is a major asset across a variety of other applications. Asian manufacturing provides OMNOVA with an important advantage over domestic competitors who lack this capability. As customers expand their manufacturing to Asia, they strongly prefer suppliers who can serve them with consistently high quality products on a global basis.

At the same time OMNOVA’s performance fabrics produced in both Asia and domestically are finding applications in new, exciting markets such as medical devices and healthcare equipment and seating. Although we have already been serving those markets, we see exciting opportunities for OMNOVA to grow our position through differentiated products and services.

Sales in North American laminates were up 4% in the fourth quarter from a year ago. This is great progress considering the significant downturn in market demand over the past couple of years. With recent introductions that truly differentiate our laminate product offering, we grew fourth quarter sales in the kitchen and bath, electronics, specialty applications by double digits.

In addition, we continue to win business in retail store fixture applications and are expanding our presence in the healthcare market as well. Two big users of laminates, flooring and manufactured housing, were still weak in the 2009 fourth quarter, but are expected to improve in 2010.

Finally, taking a look at the raw material environment in Decorative Products, raw material costs were flat with the third quarter, but they are starting to increase in our Asian businesses as we enter 2010. Looking ahead in Decorative Products most markets, except for commercial wallcovering, appear to have bottomed and we are encouraged by an improving demand trend.

While the recovery in North America will likely be choppy, we believe we can more than offset weakness in the wallcovering business with volume improvements in our other domestic markets and continued expansion in Asia. We remain steadfastly committed to controlling costs, increasing productivity and seizing opportunities to win new business in a consolidating industry. We have already taken many steps to bring our products inline with demand. We will continue to monitor the situation and take further actions as needed to improve profitability.

Turning now to Performance Chemicals, this segment had another very good quarter achieving necessary improvements in profitability. We were also very encouraged to achieve 8% year-over-year volume growth in the quarter in this segment. Sales of $110.8 million in the fourth quarter were off from last year, but were the highest of the year. The decline in revenue was driven primarily by lower selling prices due to raw material declines during the year and index pricing in several segments of our business.

Performance Chemicals has experienced an improving volume trend over the past five quarters. Year-over-year volume and pounds were down 29% in the fourth quarter of 2008. They were off 27% in the first quarter of 2009, down 17% in the second quarter of 2009, down 3% in the third quarter of 2009 and as I said, up 8% in the fourth quarter of 2009. Operating profit improved to $14 million compared to $10.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. Higher volumes, reductions in manufacturing and SG&A costs and lower raw material costs all contributed to the profit gain.

Turning to the performance chemical product lines, first for coated paper, OMNOVA’s latex volume was up double digits in the fourth quarter compared to last year, despite continued industry wide softness. This increase reflects the full effect of new business won at two mills late in the first quarter of 2009 with our GenCryl PT latex technology.

In addition OMNOVA has increased sales to new, specialty paper applications with proprietary technology. The paper industry is forecasting growth in 2010 versus 2009. Last quarter OMNOVA announced it has agreed to buy Hollow Sphere Plastic Pigment Product Line. This transaction is pending federal trade commission approval. This acquisition will further enhance OMNOVA’s paper coating portfolio.

OMNOVA’s volumes in carpet latex were up high single digits in the fourth quarter compared to last year. However, new construction and refurbishment remained sluggish. OMNOVA benefited from business wins at two mills in the second quarter of 2009 with proprietary new technology. Among recent new product introductions in carpet was NovaGreen high solids latex, suitable for both commercial and residential carpet backing.

Customers who use NovaGreen can see dry patterns along with energy usage in their mills reduced significantly. While overall the carpet industry is expected to be flat in 2010, residential carpeting, where OMNOVA had a relatively stronger position, is expected to outperform the commercial segment. Sales in the specialty chemical markets for the quarter were off only slightly from a year ago.

OMNOVA is ramping up new business with innovative technologies across a broad spectrum of core and adjacent applications such as oil and gas drilling, commercial floor polishes, adhesives, nonwovens construction and infrastructure. Our specialty chemicals serve a growing and diverse customer base around the globe. Specialty markets are expected to grow at above GDP rates in 2010. On the raw material front our Performance Chemicals business uses oil based styrene butadiene and various acrylics.

After reaching all time highs in 2008, styrene costs were down in the first half of 2009, but began to claim in the third quarter. OMNOVA buys over 200 million pounds of styrene year and a $0.01 a pound change in styrene impacts our raw material spending by approximately $2 million a year. Styrene prices were 9% higher in the fourth quarter of 2009 versus the third quarter, but down 36% compared in the fourth quarter of last year. Industry experts believe styrene will increase moderately in 2010.

Turning to butadiene, the cost was significantly lower in the first half of 2009 versus last year, but began to rise in the third quarter and sequentially it increased sharply by almost 50% in the fourth quarter. However year-over-year fourth quarter butadiene costs were down 38%. We purchase about 130 million pounds of butadiene a year and a $0.01 of pound change impacts our raw material spending by approximately $1.3 million annually.

Butadiene is expected to be in tight supply and costs are expected to continue to increase as 2010 progresses. Looking ahead in Performance Chemicals, we expect volumes to continue to improve over the course of 2010 across our end use markets. At the same time we expect raw material costs to increase as the year progresses. We expect that our broader based index pricing should contribute to greater earnings stability compared to prior inflationary periods.

In summary, 2009 fourth quarter and both full year results demonstrate OMNOVA’s dead fast commitment to delivering performance improvement and enhanced shareholder value, even in the wake of the worst recession in generations. We have achieved significant improvement in earnings and cash flow and have improved our balance sheet, providing greater flexibility.

We have made good progress in improving margins to more acceptable levels as we work towards achieving your ultimate goal of sustained double digit returns. We have many examples of growth at above market rates through our three pronged strategy of leveraging our leadership position with innovative products in our existing markets, penetrating new adjacent markets where we have the capability to win and globalizing our company.

While volume was down in 2009 due to the recession, we are encouraged by the recent volume trends, which indicate that most of our end use markets have bottomed and that demand is improving. We believe that the actions we have taken to leaner, our cost structure to drive productivity and margin improvements and to make strategic investments in our business, position us well as our markets rebound.

Turning to 2010 there are two housekeeping matters I would like to comment on for the year. Despite freezing future pension benefits for the vast majority of our workforce, the company’s pension expense will go up $1.5 million or $0.04 per share. In addition, the share count of OMNOVA stock is expected to increase approximately 250,000 shares per quarter due to vesting of prior year restricted stock awards and options. The impact of the share count is estimated to be approximately $0.03 per share.

We enter 2010 with great confidence and eagerness to build on the momentum we have created in 2009. While we know that the recovery in a global economy, especially in North America and Europe, is likely to be choppy, we do expect that volumes will clearly be stronger in 2010 versus 2009 for OMNOVA. At the same time, we anticipate raw material costs to increase as the economy improves.

Therefore, we are being ever vigilant ensuring that we continue to operate within a lean, flexible cost structure. That will continuously improve our value to customers through innovative products and services. That we accelerate our entry into attractive adjacent markets and improve our market position in our core markets.

That we fully leverage our global competitive advantage and that we obtain even higher levels of quality and productivity in our daily operations, because of seasonality, the first quarter, which begins for OMNOVA on December 1, is notoriously the weakest demand quarter for our company. Even so, we expect solid improvement in first quarter profitability versus last year. After the tremendous progress in 2009 we are excited by the opportunities before us and ready to meet the challenges of a New Year.

With that Michael and I will be happy to answer any questions that you have. Operator if you could please open the lines for question with our callers.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Lucy Watson - Jefferies & Co.

Lucy Watson - Jefferies & Co.

This is Lucy Watson on for Laurence today. I am just wondering if you could quantify in Decorative Products the price volume and mix effects on sales this quarter.

Mike Hicks

Yes, price was up about $700,000. Let me get that for you see, raw materials were down about $3 million, a volume was up about $3 million, impact of profit and then we had lower manufacturing costs of about $3 million.

Lucy Watson - Jefferies & Co.

What should we be using for an effective tax rate going forward next year?

Mike Hicks

The only taxes we will be paying will be in China and we would expect profitability to be up in China next year, so I would have an estimated tax number in the $2 million range that would be my best guess for now.

Kevin McMullen

For those being new to the call we have on the tax situation, we have NOLs of approximately $130 million that would allow us not to pay federal taxes here in the United States. That’s why our tax liability would only be in foreign operations.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jason Miner - Deutsche Bank Securities.

Jason Miner - Deutsche Bank Securities

As we think of the $24 million in cost reductions, I wonder how much if any of that you might think could come back as volumes rise.

Kevin McMullen

We think approximately two/thirds of that plus are more fixed cost reduction and therefore probably third or less would likely come back as volumes rise. We certainly would work hard to keep as much of that as possible as volumes improved that is our estimate at this point.

Jason Miner - Deutsche Bank Securities

Then on rising volumes, if you see most markets bottoming at this point, do you think there could be some outsized or restocking before then a normalization demand, is there any visibility to inventory trends at customers like that?

Kevin McMullen

Yes, we don’t many of our customers don’t keep a lot of inventory of our products. So, the issue would be two steps removed from us in terms of inventory that they have of their product in their channels and it is not totally clear what that situation is I think inventories are fairly lean in most of the channels, but certainly in our product there just isn’t a lot of inventory between us and our customers.

Jason Miner - Deutsche Bank Securities

Then lastly and it is a bit of a shifting target, but given the new business wins that you have in hand incremental to ‘09, how much could Performance Chemicals volumes grow in 2010, just what you are really have? Thank you.

Kevin McMullen

W doesn’t give guidance on 2010 specific guidance, but we are encouraged that volumes were up in the fourth quarter. We talked about the five consecutive quarters of volume trend improvement. That is certainly a very encouraging sign and so entered 2010 with a great deal of optimism on the volume side in our chemicals business.

We think we will continue to build on that as we go through 2010. So, that the volume trend has been quite clear in our chemicals business in terms of this five consecutive quarters off of the bottom and the 8% volume improvement in the fourth quarter for us. So, we look to build off that as we go forward.

Operator

Your final question comes from Mike Sison – KeyBanc.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

In terms of Decorative Products, the operating margin, we haven’t seen that level of profitability for quite sometime. Is that a good run rate going forward maybe one way to ask is there any reason why you wouldn’t be able to keep that level of profitability going forward?

Kevin McMullen

I think the positives we were most enthused about with Decorative Products are the Asian turnaround and we think we will continue to build on that and continue to expand. I think we will see improved demand in most of the domestic markets for Decorative Products, with the exception of commercial wallcovering.

So I think that will help from a profitability standpoint. That the one caveat I’d make to that is commercial wallcovering, we think will be weak and historically it has been our most profitable product line within Decorative Products. It has the thing that could put some margin pressure on the business overall as enter 2010.

Mike Hicks

As you and others put out numbers for next year, you need to remember there still is a lot of seasonality effect in our first quarter, especially in the Decorative Products business.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

So, in Asia the ability to keep that $1 million to $2 million per quarter type of profitability is possible in terms of contribution?

Mike Hicks

Yes, it is. You also need to factor in seasonality in Asia, because there is always the Chinese New Years that is going to impact us in the first quarter, but for a full year run rate we would expect Asia to be better than what we were in 2009.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

On a sequential basis does commercial wallcoverings become more denting in terms of volume declines as we head into the year and then maybe stabilizes toward the end?

Kevin McMullen

I think that is a question that we are looking at all the time. It does not appear to have hit bottom yet. We’ll it hit bottom during the course of 2010 remains to be seen I think we’re in a very strong position with our very strong distribution network and a number of new products that are getting a lot of interest in the marketplace to do better than the market, but I think the market weakness in commercial construction remains and remains when that improves is yet to be determined.

A key thing to keep in mind here is about two/thirds of our business goes into refurbishment as opposed to new construction. So, while a new construction is going to be off for a period of time into the future, I think refurbishment will not be as negative as it is right now.

Mike Hicks

Wallcovering has been about 12% of our sales and for 2009. So, it has become a smaller component of OMNOVA’s portfolio and again that Kevin said, it will be down and it is a good margin business, but we think we’ve got process on the year through Decorative other businesses.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

So, when you think about volumes for the year, I guess the one way to think about it is that wallcoverings will still likely be down, hopefully stabilizing. The other laminates and coated fabrics are up and for the full year sort of a flattish to up type year, assuming that wallcoverings continues to have difficulties?

Kevin McMullen

We certainly are looking it up overall for the year, but you’re right, wallcovering will be the one that will be put some downward pressure on that.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

Is there more cost savings in Decorative Products to kick in it seems to me that, I guess, the restructuring efforts kicked in gear in the fourth quarter and that should continue to be a benefit in the upcoming quarters for Decorative Products?

Kevin McMullen

We will continue to look for cost actions that we can take to streamline our business. We have now implemented SAP a crossed virtually all Decorative Products domestically here. I think there are opportunities for us to leverage benefits from that further and we will get the full year effect of the cost actions we’ve taken in 2009.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

In terms of Performance Chemicals, can you Kevin, sort of outline how much sales volume is let’s say recoupable over the next two to three years? You probably still have a lot of capacity that you could bring on stream and maybe apply an incremental margin to that so we can see what the earnings potential for this segment is once volume returns overtime.

Kevin McMullen

We’ve talked about the volume improvement that we have seen and we expect to build on that I think demand will improve in our coated paper market in 2010 of a very weak 2009. I think demand will improve considerably in some of the specialty markets that we serve, the carpet overall market demand probably flattish.

We continue to be very enthused about the new products that we’ve introduced across all those markets and our ability to grow at above market rates in those businesses and our ability to find adjacent markets to grow in as well. So we think that as we can find new volume opportunities that can fall through very significantly, but our commitment is still to improve margins across those businesses as well, so we will be balancing both as we go through 2010.

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

I mean if you look back, it looks like your volumes in Performance Chemicals were down somewhere close to $100 million throughout the downturn in ‘08 and ‘09. If you recoup all that volume back, is the incremental margins for Performance Chemicals in that 20% range now versus mid teens historically?

Mike Hicks

Yes.

Operator

At this time there are no additional questions. Please continue.

Kevin McMullen

Okay, I’d like to thank you all for joining us for our fourth quarter conference call. We look forward to talking with you at the end of our first quarter. Thanks for your interest, and have a great day.

Operator

Thank you and ladies and gentlemen, a digitized telephone replay is scheduled today starting at 1 pm Eastern through February 9, 2010 at midnight. You may access the AT&T teleconference replay system at anytime by dialing 1-800-475-6701 and entering the access code of 138596. International parties may dial 320-365-3844.

Once again those phone numbers are 800-475-6701 and 320-365-3844, using the access code of 138596. Also, an audio replay will be available on the OMNOVA Solutions website, www.omnova.com, until noon Eastern on February 9. That does conclude your conference call for today. We do thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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