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Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU)

Credit Suisse Global Industrials Conference Call

December 04, 2013 09:45 AM ET

Executives

Bill Galligan - VP of IR

Analysts

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

Okay, so we’re going to get started with Kansas City Southern. Today, we have Bill Galligan with us who is the Vice President of Investor Relations of the Company. He has been with KSU for many-many years, and certainly note for all that dead bodies are buried. Ashley Thorne is also here today and she is the Director of IR, so she is here to answer any questions as well. And Bill I’ll just kick it over to you.

Bill Galligan

Thank you, Allison. And Allison, thank you for having giving us the opportunity; Ashley and I to represent the KCS today. We’ve had a good long relationship with Credit Suisse and Allison certainly looking forward to continuing that in 2014 and beyond, so it’s a real pleasure to be here for the conference. I’ll let you read this at your leisure, basically our Safe-Harbor statement. I think most of you probably have some familiarity with KCS. We’re certainly by far the smallest of the Class I railroads, 6,300 track miles mainly from Kansas City down through the Southern Tier of the U.S. into Mexico, throughout Mexico, and over to the Southwestern part of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean of Lázaro Cárdenas.

Revenues in 2012 were at $2.2 billion and we have been for the last few years one of the really best positioned growth stories in the rail industry. Very quickly, really quickly going over to some of the Q3 numbers since there kind of stale at this point; third quarter volumes were up about 3% over the year before; revenues were up 8%; our operating ratio improved by about one point; and our adjusted EPS grew 16% over the prior third quarter.

I will spend a little bit more time on this slide not so much looking at what we’ve talked about in 2013 but just give you a rough idea what’s going on in 2014 since we’re about two thirds done now. Chemical and petroleum really kind of reflecting the economy right now, I would call it just a little bit sluggish holding their own there is now kind of warning signs of being negative if there is anything that maybe kind of a slight positive trend but it’s hard to get too- too excited about that at this point. It’ll be interesting to see and I think we all know the production number seem to be pretty good these days in the U.S. and so we hope that maybe there will be a little bit more growth in the GDP since this lengthy area is very much affected by that.

Certainly industrial consumer the other group is the second group is much the same. This is kind of a catch off for Kansas City Southern that’s metals scrap paper pulp and paper products appliances. This is really if you look at our fourth quarter number, volume numbers to-date really are attracting GDP. For the last few years and we put our forecast together we don’t see a huge amount of growth in the first two segments and that was totally caused by the economy since there is so closely tied (Ph) to the economy. It would be a nice surprise let’s say if our economy to accept a little bit because really I can tell you our forecast for 2014 is very modest in these areas as it has been for the last few years so any kind of pick up in the economy would be a nice kind of plus it is not now really written into our 2014 thinking.

Ag and minerals, we’re having extremely strong fourth quarter as I think most people know and that’s really caused by the great harvest that has been -- is now done and now we’re moving a lot of product from the Kansas City area and even Illinois area down to Central Mexico. We’re moving at near into record or new record levels. All categories under ag and minerals are up in the fourth quarter. The problem is that if you look at over the whole year we dug ourselves such a hole for the first three quarters caused totally by the draught and the lack of our product to move that while we’re catching up we’ll never quite get up back the even for the year. So we expect our revenues for 2013 to be single-digit down over 2012.

Energy, I’m going to talk about crude in a few minutes so I really want to talk about that in this area right now. But just to say the kind of drag and you probably hear this over a number of talks on the railroads is coal. Now our coal exposure is less than our colleagues. We’re about 8% of consolidated revenues our tie to coal. We have one customer that’s been pretty well documented for the unregulated utility company in that’s in the Texas and they really just cannot compete against low natural gas prices. And so what has happened last year they closed down two generating units of one of their plants in December this year they closed down those same two generating units in October plus they’ve closed down another one at another plant in December. So that’s causing our volumes and coal to remain double-digits down about 20 somewhat percent down for the quarter so much and that is kind of our drag as it is for some of the other rails too and that will persist through December. The flow good news is not too much more can be done on the negative side for our coal franchise, so worst case scenario perhaps the best case scenario come to be the same. I think we’re hitting the new normal here so 2014 will be a much more flattish line so you won’t see the kind of drag in our revenue growth and volume growth that we’ve had in 2013 caused by coal. Again I’ll talk about crude in a few minutes.

Intermodal continues to be strong our cross border intermodal which has been growing roughly at 70% every quarter is still growing in that kind of number, that kind of range. The rest of our intermodal franchise is very strong too and we see no reason why that should change certainly in December but also in 2014 should remain very strong. Automotive I will talk little bit more specifically about the growth opportunities in a second but just to say in fourth quarter automotive numbers are quite good and so we’re really on track to stay within that range that we’ve talked about in the third quarter.

Little bit more about the fourth quarter update; if you see the yellow bars on the left you see that basically through Thanksgiving week our volumes and revenues are pretty close to what they were in the third quarter, varying between 7% to 8% but again what we go we were look at it volume growth in the three sometimes up to three and half again it’s very, very much slighter. If you take out coal we’re at about 4% volume growth and between 11%-12% on the revenue side so you see that coal does have a significant impact on our revenues.

Want to take a look this is our crude by rail slide and really the point of this slide more than anything else is if you look back it like beginning of June of the year really through the end of July there is variance there but you see that there was mostly that black line represents Canadian crude movement, the yellow is Bakken. So you see sometimes it would fluctuate but we had a fairly significant amount of Bakken crude movement. If you start looking in the second and third quarter, that’s really starting to decline it goes away basically it’s come back a little bit earlier in the fourth quarter but really the long term picture here is that for Kansas City Southern is that black line it’s the Canadian crude that really is our future. And so we’ve talked about this many times and I’ll get back to this in a few minutes. But I think this really more than anything else shows that KCS is more involved with the Canadian crude picture the heavy crude work with CP and CN, and that certainly where our future lies in that business.

Looking ahead a little bit more if you take basically the grain will remain strong through the first quarter we probably because we have easy comps in the second quarter that should be good. Second quarters we have really a big grain quarter for us but the comps are so easy the numbers should look pretty good. By the second half of the year that will level out I’ll get back to that a little bit just because the comps get much tougher. But grain for the first half of the year should be very solid. On top of that coal will not be the drag on our numbers whether that’s in 2013 we see some modest core business growth tied to GDP and then the final yellow thing is the growth in strategic areas, that’s mainly crude, frac sand, intermodal, automotive and to a degree Lázaro Cárdenas, that has good growth. So we’re very comfortable today saying that our volumes will up at least a double in 2014 over what we’re going to end in 2013.

Going into those numbers just a little bit more this slide has been shown many times that’s three of the new auto plants coming online in Mexico I think the Nissan has already opened its door, Honda and Mazda will open up in the first quarter. In all, if you add up to that slide the capacity number for finished vehicles that comes to 614,000 from these new plants. What we’ve heard from these companies and with the allotments that we’ve gotten so far, it seem to suggest that basically that number in 2014 is going to be more like 300,000 finished autos coming from those three plants.

If you look at the universe of KCS ownership of the Mexican market, this is all cars manufactured in Mexico whether we touch them or whether they go to a place that we can serve or not, we have between 30% and 35% of the marketplace the rest going to our the other railroad Ferromax (Ph) in trucks. I would say that if I would model in the number first for next year I would use that same range it’s 30% to 35%. And if you want to cut a little bit more fine we usually figure about 12 finished vehicles per railcar. And so we’re quite comfortable as the growth that we’ll see in 2014 and 2015 out of these plants above roughly in this area.

Without getting too gray I would like to point out that that 30% to 35% because about 75% to 80% of that is going into the United States so we have a long linked pause (Ph). Many of those cars are distance at the East Coast, Midwest and Canada really that 30% to 35% if you look that over the revenue basis compares very favorably with the remainder 65% to 70% because we have longest length of haul.

Kind of an interesting situation we often get asked about the Puerto de Veracruz and that is the port that we don’t serve presently under the terms of the concession. But the port is building out the Kansas City Southern. And it’s expected that sometime in 2014 that will be open to us. The good news is it’s probably going to increase the volumes it’s kind of goes on but why we don’t necessarily talk about it in all our presentation is because it’s a shorter haul move. So we’re excited about the fact that our ownership our 30% to 35% ownership of the Mexican market is mainly a long haul market and very exciting for us.

From 2013 to 2018, its projected by Autocast that manufacturing in Mexico will grow by 1 million vehicles. Again I think it’s simplistic but you probably think of KCS’s share is somewhere around 35% of that growth over that time. Interestingly though that number maybe on the low side because it doesn’t represent BMW is going to announce their plant selection eminently and it doesn’t really matter where it was or where it is because it will be dual serve whether it’s on our line or Ferromax (Ph) or whatever they’re all dual serve basically. Mercedes will be doing a joint venture and that will be in a existing plant down the line. Nissan is already talking about a third facility coming online in that time frame and Toyota has announced that they will be looking very soon building their plant in Mexico. So what’s really exciting for us is; number one, that 4 million number maybe modest; number two, the growth projection those be on 2015-’16 but we’re now in the 20-20 range. So we expect good automotive growth for an extended period of time.

Just briefly I don’t want to get back too much on the corn. Again the first two quarters of 2014 should be very strong because our comps are so tough that since we’re getting from September onto the rest of the year it’s been a huge kind of volume gain from that area. We expect to be somewhat flatter in the second half. I’ll just comment briefly on the 13.8 compared to the 12.4, some people said well that’s a 1.4 million -- 1.4 billion more bushel for that could equate the huge growth. But more than half of that extra is going in the store so you really don’t have a huge opportunity for growth beyond what we’re seeing right now.

Little bit about 2015 and beyond. Well, before I go to that let me go back and take one more -- let me talk about crude for a few minutes because this is kind of a good bridge between 2014 and 2015. Don’t have a slide on this. Going back to what I talked about before is that our future is very much tied with the Canadian Western Canada heavy crude. There is about a 1.7 million to 2 million barrel a day of demand in the area we serve for heavy crude. There is no pipeline Keystone XL hasn’t been built and who knows whether will be. If it does get built, we would probably be able to handle maybe 700,000 barrels a day so wouldn’t even take a faster demand.

So this heavy crude has been largely coming from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela to bring Mexico. And as recently as a week and a half ago what a conference energy conference talked about that really they expect in the next 10 years that it will not be end of the import will come that all be obtained through North American sources. Whether that’s totally true or not we’ll see. But it looks like there is going to be a tremendous opportunity. The area we serve in the Port Arthur, Lake Charles area is the home of like 26 big copper refineries and that’s, they take the heavy slug like crude and start making refined products. That is the Canadian crude that we hope to move.

Now there are ample pipelines by the way to take the lighter crude from the Bakken or from West Texas into the Gulf area so that’s why you’re seeing in our numbers that it goes away at various times and I don’t think you may have a quarter or two where you might see that because it spreads really widely, you might see some on the spot market. But it’s not going to be a big opportunity for us that heavy crude is as it is for obviously CP and CN. About mid-2014 and I think the first half you’ll kind of see a continuation of what you’ve been seeing in our numbers anyway, reasonable growth, nothing crazy, but nice growth in that area. The second half has potential for growth and the reason for that is; first of all, the Canadian origins have been trailing the Bakken origins. But now by the mid-next year, they’ll be pretty much in place. They’ll still be more growth in that area.

The problem is on the termination side in that area there has not been ample spaces to really receive the heavy crude. A couple of facilities will be opening by June of next year plus the Port of Beaumont should have its steamers in place to be able to take the heavy crude and the storage facilities. But there are other facilities that are on track to open about mid-year that could mean that we could start handling really a meaningful amount of additional crude in the second half of next year.

Now our timing has been so bad in projecting things in terms of exactly what they’re going happen that’s why I said a good transitional statement between 2014 and 2015 whether this happens in the third quarter or the fourth quarter, it’s really hard to project. But it really looks like there are about two or three opportunities for growth next year going into 2015. And of course famous Port Arthur crude terminal discussion, which we’ve had many times and many people feel that it’s off track, it really isn’t and every ones alike here from an investor well we’ve heard that there is permitting issues and there are wetland issues.

Well, first why you’re in the water so of course there are wetlands there, but that’s not really the case. That land is heavily permitted the permits are all with Kansas City Southern. And if we made any kind of mistake in time of timing at all it’s assumed that we could transfer those permits a little bit easier to a third party who is actually going to build the facility and operate the facility. The government doesn’t work quite on that time frame. But don’t think that there is all sorts of investigations all kinds of impact studies being done.

Don’t expect that any kind of exotic cuttlefish will arise it’s the structure and we’ll destroy the ecology at the Southeast it’s not going to happen. This is a kind of a paperwork facility which is going through I think we’ll be able to make some announcements in 2014 which will come via a public noun as far as that concern. The area desperately needs the Port Arthur crude terminal will it be the biggest area for taking crude. So I think that there is extremely higher likelihood that is going to be built. And this goes beyond KCS obviously we want it but CP wants to see in walls of the third party, the refineries want it as this has really been a take-off this crude is going to take off like everyone thinks; the experts think that terminal will be build. Probably won’t provide revenues for us until 2016 but it will be built.

Moving on this is, we're starting to get into area where it’ll sketch you we don’t have numbers to provide you of course at this point but I would like to bring your attention to this. This is the Energy Reform and in Mexico in those areas highlighted there is really a shale both natural gas and oil that is expected to be about twice the size of what is located in Texas. We don’t have any numbers around that yet what it could mean for us but why really bring it off is that which could we being everybody in this room and everybody hearing something very-very soon like before to some of the ’15 on this project that’s some of the 15th is what in the Mexican Congress adjourns for the holidays. Great deal of optimism down there.

Now how, predicting what’s going to happen in the political arena is never easy you can’t do in the United States why should we think we could do it in Mexico. I will tell you this there is a great deal of optimism that something is going to be announced by then. We’ll see what happens. Let’s just hypothetically say by the fifth that they come to an agreement, the parties come to an agreement. Really 2014 will really start the infrastructure move first of all you have to select who is going to do the drilling specially the inland areas where it’s supposed to be very rich is really doesn’t have a good infrastructure but we’re there and we can get things there but you really have to have trans-load facilities you have to have more roads. So a lot of work has to be done there by the pipe and everything else.

I can tell you that we’ve already talked with the people in Mexico about the moving of frac sand down there basically it would be coming from Wisconsin just like it does in the United States so it’d be a good long haul move for us. And that could be something that develops later in 2014 more likely 2015 if again the announcement is a positive one in the next couple of weeks. We don’t have any numbers internally right now because a lot has to be determined before we can do this. But it’s an exciting opportunity both for Mexico and of course for KCS. This is the famous slide we show on the right you see all those little white dots so drill pads and those are all in Texas.

You go over the border if there is nothing. So we either have taken a big straw and sucking up all the oil and natural gas from Mexico or there is rich deposits on the other side and so it’s a really I think Mexico understands the importance for their economy of this and I think we’ll all benefit from it down the line.

I’m not going to spend too much time but this is the recent ethylene polyethylene announcements of siding the plants. I know Allison is working on this project it’s a big project. Again it’s so early in the stage it’s very hard to put solid numbers behind it. But look at it this way the U.S. is by far now have the low cost producer of natural gas. It just makes perfect sense that you’ll have this kind of development for plastics out of these big plants. I can tell you it’s gone beyond just wishing a whole stage for us. We are talking to some major companies who want to develop there. I mean to the point of going rail rates, land rates, operational details this is becoming more and more real. And it’s hope at the Kansas City Southern level that probably in the second half of 2014 we can start talking about this in somewhat more concrete terms than I can today.

But while many of these units or some of these facilities may not get built it really stands a reason that this is an area which will get developed. And really this is you start looking out of this is really a 2017, 2018, 2019 event. But the exciting thing for us is that if you take automotive intermodal growth all the time if you talk about crude, if you talk about the other energy things you start looking out no longer as a three year opportunity but as a 10 year opportunity and that’s what really excited us about the way this is all coming on in stages for us.

Quickly since we’re running low in time CapEx this year pretty high and number 26% I think that at least for the foreseeable future this is probably mark the high point in our capital spending. But if you look back of all the growth opportunities I talked to you about it’s probably reasonable to project that our capital spending will be continue to be above the industry average of 17% to 18% going forward. In the fourth quarter, we’ve raised $450 million over time the rest of some cost about 8%, 6% and 8% debt thing that but primarily we’re using it to buyout some of our leases. I’ll get to that in a second. Overall, not much to say about this we are happy with our capital structure.

We now have the lowest coupon debt within the rail industry timing being everything and we’ve really extended our maturities at right deal. We became investment grade this year we’re at the low end of that we’d like to go up a notch we don’t feel we have to do anything but operate effectively and some time along the line probably not too-too distant future we might look forward to another upgrade. Basically about buying equipment because for years KCS is cash constrained. We had at least more equipment. So you see the industry is largely owned about 66% if you strike out KCS of cars and locomotives are owned by rail companies to at least 34%. We’ve up above we’d leased 73% owned 27%. So as a percentage of revenue a lot more goes to leasing that we pay out than the rest of the industry percentage basis.

We feel that we could, we've already taken out about 45 basis points on our margin on our operating ratio from buying out some leases. We feel that there is still a 100 basis point to 200 basis points that we can reduce and are operating ratio just do this. Expect to see us very active in that market in the beginning of next year during the first quarter. It’s our goal to get to about 50% owned lease which will be a significant change by the end of 2014. It will take longer to get to the industry average just because some people don’t want to be bought out their lease, their business. And so that may take three to five years for us to finalize this. But it’s another thing showing the strength to the company how and it’s going to help our profitability going forward.

Look at our interest expense in the $70 million range for 2014. And with that we’ll go through this but this is basic slide about our opportunities and where we see we are. With that I’ll just hold it up for any questions.

Question-And-Answer-Session

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

I’ll kick it off Bill and with a longer term sort of big picture question obviously KCS has no shortage of growth opportunities for years to come. But if we think maybe on a three year view or even a three to five year view, what do you see is the three largest revenue opportunities and how would you rank those?

Bill Galligan

Right, one I haven’t really talked about today is the intermodal opportunity. I mean that is such a constant going through our number it almost getting short strip. But again we have been growing our cross border intermodal which is good margin business at about a 70% cliff. That number is going to continue to be very high because we’ve really seen we’re only have converted about 2% of 3 million truckload marketplace that we’re attacking right now. And we see that there is opportunities for us to actually accelerate that growth in some respects as our service improves, so that’s a very big area.

I think in the automotive in maybe the three year area will grow both in terms of market share, length of haul and other opportunities that we haven’t even discussed today of growing our business in that area. And then I think if you look out just the three year Allison I think that in terms of the growth opportunities I think really the crude has an opportunity to grow in a faster rate. It’s not going to be no one anyone think that this is going to transform the company and the something totally different but it will be a nice growth there over the next few years.

Unidentified Analyst

Bill, just two question one just you’ve talked about the 45 basis point operating ratio benefit from reducing the lease mix of your fleet. Just so and as an starting point if you’re at 73% there what was the starting point on the lease mix so we can see how much of it down shift you’ve got to get to the 45 basis points of benefit?

Bill Galligan

Will be about 80 to 20, we’re about 80% leased at the time we started the program.

Unidentified Analyst

So you went from 80% to 73% and got to 45 basis points?

Bill Galligan

Yes, roughly.

Unidentified Analyst

But to go from 75 to, or say 73% to 50% by the end of next year you’re only going to get that.

Bill Galligan

It’s a little hard for us to really give the exact number because [we’re] negotiating the buyout rates. But it should be somewhere in that range of 100 basis points to somewhat more than that.

Unidentified Analyst

So the essence of the question is there is no reason to think that the move in lease mix going forward is going to result in different economics for you than the change in lease mix up to this point?

Bill Galligan

Not substantially.

Unidentified Analyst

Right and then mentioning is there a couple of large auto parts contracts that are coming up for bid aside from the plants? And any update on where those stand and have those already been completed, did you not win those contracts? Just trying to understand what the timing is on some of those large bids that are out there?

Bill Galligan

Honestly I’m not too, too familiar with that. I would say that our kind of internal view is that for us I don’t think that our auto parts business is going to change very dramatically in 2014 largely it will be us taking a good share of the auto parts south of the border to the plants but not too, too much movement north of the border really that will be done through other railroad.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay and then just last question from me. Anything else from the steel industry have there never plans on their schedule to come online but as you looked forward to the pipeline is there any sense that that’s going to continue to the contributor or is it sort of a onetime effect that seeing in this year in terms of new [multiple speakers]?

Bill Galligan

I don’t know if we’ll see any additional plans but I think bill expand significantly in 2014-’15. The Ternium, Vidal, and Nippon plants in Mexico expect to get bigger there.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, thanks.

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

Bill, in your precipice this morning mentioned a new cross-border service with Ferromex going through one of the other gateways and up in the Chicago. Could you comment on sort of what Ferromex is doing I guess just broadly if you improve their intermodal service and is that business that I know there is a lot the crop market is really whether the share is coming from, but is that business that you’re also competing for?

Bill Galligan

Strangely enough, Allison, I think it provides us with some opportunities I can’t really speak for the operations at Ferromex I am sure that they’ve improved certainly working with UP as an advantage. What lie isn’t I want to say confer it’s really addressing the market that we’re not all that interested in. I mean I shouldn’t say that as a close statement but basically what that would do is take some business potentially from us that right now is going from Monterrey full rate and then we hand it off to the Union Pacific.

We’re talking about a 200 to 300 mile haul of, and so that is not really the ballpark that we want to be playing in hugely. We want the 1,000, 1,500 mile haul into the U.S. on our line. So we’ll just have to see. The advantage of our gateway is Laredo has the customs facility we pretend a lot to 44, 45 trains a day over Laredo bridge, Eagle Pass can only take a few a day, I am not putting it down but I don’t think we’re awfully concerned about this.

And for that announcement I don’t know if people are aware but at the IANA conference what KCS may be announce so it will be just started a new service from Central Mexico to Chicago with Schneider and CN so we feel very good about the marketplace Schneider feels that they can really compete very effectively against that service into the Midwest.

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

On the grain side, the two new customers that came online this year. Were they or are they a big contributor to the volume growth this quarter?

Bill Galligan

I think you’re talking about the two facilities on in Springfield, the Illinois and the other one outside of Kansas City. They’re important contributors, because it is security of, first of all the Illinois when gives us a longer length of haul it gives us a more security. And I do think it does get some incremental advantages to us. The nice thing the potential nice thing that we haven’t really seen last year our partner as largest partner in the grain business in 2012 won the fourth largest grain export contract in the history of the U.S. and it was all going to go on the KCS to Mexico.

Well, they have to satisfy that contract even though we didn’t have the grain to move it so they have to get it from other parts of the world Brazil being one. This year they want it again it is all going on KCS. Plus it gives them the opportunities to go after additional business because the grain is available, so those two could play a part in some incremental gains as the year goes on, 2014 goes on.

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

And thinking about the sort of broad guidance you gave for 2014 in terms of doubling the pace of growth for volumes, and so far in 2013 year-to-date roughly or 3%. So I think I would think that the market is anticipating volume growth somewhat higher than the 6% next year. Do you think that there is just an element of conservatism on your part or are there some things that maybe or making you feel a little bit more cautious?

Bill Galligan

I would say conservatism is a good word for it. I mean we’ve been, we want to look at the economies there are upside potential yes I will say there is upside potential but we don’t want to mislead anybody at this point. We just think what we see today without significant help from the economy we’re talking about a 6% to 7% volume gain for next year, a percent or two.

Allison Landry - Credit Suisse

Okay, thank you very much.

Bill Galligan

Thank you.

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