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Executives

Martin Jarosick – IR

Paul Carrico – President & CEO

Greg Thomson – CFO

Analysts

Kristin Duffy [ph]

Sabina Chatterjee

Roger Spitz

Tarek Hamid

Gregg Goodnight

Silke Kueck

Georgia Gulf Corporation (GGC) Q1 2010 Earnings Call Transcript May 6, 2010 10:00 AM ET

Operator

Good morning. My name is Jasper and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone the Georgia Gulf first quarter financial results conference call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers’ remarks there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator instructions) Thank you. I’ll now like to turn the call over to Mr. Martin Jarosick. Sir, you may begin.

Martin Jarosick

Thank you, Jasper and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for participating in today's conference call to discuss Georgia Gulf's 2010 first quarter financial results. There are slides available to you on the Georgia Gulf Web site. These slides are for your reference, but we will not be speaking directly to the bullets on each slide. Participating on today's call are Paul Carrico, President and Chief Executive Officer and Greg Thomson, Chief Financial Officer.

During this call we will be making forward-looking statements. As you will appreciate any business projections and assumptions about future events are subject to risks and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our current outlook. A listing of factors that could affect future results is included in our 2009 Form 10-K. Any forward-looking statements made on this call should be considered in light of those factors.

In addition, during this conference call we may refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures. We have provided a reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures as an appendix in the slides on our Web site.

I will now turn the call over to Paul to begin the review of the first quarter. Paul?

Paul Carrico

Thanks, Martin and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. In reviewing the first quarter we delivered $13 million of adjusted EBITDA compared to $10.9 million of adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter of 2009. There was a significant reduction in our Chlorovinyl segment as it generated $5.2 million of adjusted EBITDA compared to $38.7 million in the first quarter of 2009. The results declined due to several factors.

First, much lower ECU values are realized as caustic prices were measurably lower compared to the near peak level in the first quarter of 2009. Second, PVC margins were squeezed by ethylene costs increases that outpace PVC price increases through the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year.

And two scheduled turnarounds were completed this quarter compared to one in the first quarter of 2009. These negative items were partially offset by a lower natural gas cost.

Building Product segment generated $5.5 million of adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter 2010 compared to negative $21.4 million of adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter of last year. This dramatic turnaround and large improvement was driven by the cost reductions and profitability improvements implemented during the past two years and by a double-digit increase in volume.

Our Aromatics segment generated $10 million of adjusted EBITDA compared to $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2009. This strong performance was driven by a significant volume increase in phenol and cumene. There were various industry planned outages both planned and unplanned that we were able to take advantage of during the quarter. Also higher benzene and propylene prices across the quarter support the positive result in the inventory holding values.

At this time, I will turn the call over to Greg to review our financial results in greater detail.

Greg Thompson

Thank you, Paul. Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Before I review our financial results I’d like to point out a change in our segment reporting. Starting this quarter our Window and Door Profiles and Mouldings and the Outdoor Building Products have been combined into one Building Products segment.

This change in external reporting is consistent with the changes we have made to our operating and internal reporting structure. Prior periods have been adjusted to show consistent presentation of the new segment.

Net sales in the first quarter were $631.5 million, an increase of 55% over the same quarter last year. The sales increase is primarily due to increased sales volumes particularly in Aromatics and Building Products and higher prices in vinyl resins and Aromatics products, partially offset by much lower caustic soda prices.

Now let's look at our performance from continuing operations during the first quarter. Georgia Gulf reported an operating loss of $10.5 million for the first quarter of 2010 compared to an operating loss of $25.7 million during the same quarter in the previous year. Excluding net restructuring income of 300,000 in the first quarter of 2010 and restructuring expenses of 8 million in the first quarter of 2009, we recorded an operating loss of 10.8 million in the first quarter of 2010 compared to an operating loss of 17.7 million for the first quarter of 2009.

Adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter of 2010 was $13 million versus $10.9 million in the same quarter last year. SG&A expense for the first quarter of 2010 was $37.9 million, $5.2 million higher than the same period last year. The increase is primarily due to unfavorable impact of 5.3 million gains from litigation settlement and insurance proceeds in the three months ended March 31, 2009.

A 2.5 million from the unfavorable currency impact on our costs in Canada is resulting from the strengthening of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar and 2.1 million increase in incentive compensation and sales commissions. These were offset by a decrease in the discount on sales interest in our trade receivables of 2.9 million due to the December 2009 refinancing of our off balance sheet, assets, securitization program and 2.3 million decreases in bad debt expense.

Our interest expense for the first quarter was $17.8 million compared to $35.2 million last year.

For the first quarter of 2010, we had reported $9.3 million tax benefit compared to a provision for income taxes of 11.9 million in the first quarter of 2009. Our effective tax rate for the quarter was 32.8% compared to 19.8% in the same period last year.

While our tax rate for the current quarter is relatively close to the top federal statutory rate of 35% I want to remind you that our consolidated tax calculations are very sensitive to changes in the level of earnings before taxes in the U.S. losses before taxes in Canada. The slight changes in those levels can have a large impact from the tax rate.

In the Chlorovinyl segment, first quarter 2010 sales increased 19% to $287.7 million from $241.7 million during the first quarter of 2009 driven by higher volumes and higher PVC prices partially offset by the lower caustic prices.

This segment posted an operating loss of $8.7 million compared to an operating income of $20.5 million during the same quarter in the prior year. The decrease in operating income was primarily due to much lower ECU values in the current period, compressed PVC margins due to the ethylene cost increases outpacing PVC price increases and two turnaround this year compared to just one last year.

In the Building Products segment, sales were $153.1 million for the first quarter of 2010 compared to $114.1 million during the same quarter in the prior quarter. Sales on a constant currency basis increased 21%. The increase in sales reflects improvement in the North American housing and construction markets and mild weather across the northern United States and Canada.

The segment’s operating loss was $3.7 million for the first quarter of 2010 compared to an operating loss of $34.3 million during the same quarter in the prior year. The improved operating result is primarily the result of higher sales volumes and the benefit of numerous cost reduction and profit improvement action we have implemented over the last two years.

In the Aromatics segment, sales increased to $190.7 million for the first quarter of 2010 from $51.5 million during the first quarter of 2009. The significant increase was due to much higher volumes and higher prices. During the first quarter of 2010, the segment recorded an operating income of $9.6 million compared to operating income of $500,000 during the same quarter in 2009. The increase in operating income was driven by much higher volume due to competitor planned outages as well as higher sales prices.

The total vital impact for the first quarter was a positive $13.2 million compared to a negative $4 million FIFO impact in the same period last year.

Now let's discuss working capital. As you know we invest working capital into the business in eth first half of the year and recover working capital in the second half. If you compare our balance sheet from the first quarter of 2010 and 2009, you will see the increase in accounts receivable over last year.

This is mainly due to our refinancing of the old asset securitization agreement which was off balance sheet with an asset-based loan which is on balance sheet financing. To accurately compare accounts receivable before and after this change, the AR securitized of $81.4 million as of March 31, 2009 should be added back to controllable working capital.

Controllable working capital defined as on balance sheet and off balance sheet accounts receivable plus inventory less accounts payable increased by about $50 million compared to March 31, 2009. This year-over-year increase reflects the impact of the higher sales we are generating in 2010. Compared sequentially controllable working capital increased by 67 million compared to December 31 2009. We believe the sequential increase reflects the majority of our normal seasonal investment in working capital.

Since completing the debt exchange at long-term refinancing last year, we have steadily improved our vendor terms, including longer payment period and reduced letters of credit. During the first quarter we reduced the letters of credit by 5.4 million and have increased our AP days back to toward a more normal level.

Additionally, our ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency of our inventory and receivables investment continued to show positive results as we again improve our inventory and receivable days during the quarter.

On the cash flow statement, you will note that we used $42 million of cash in operating activities as compared with using $38 million for the first quarter of 2009, again consistent with our normal seasonal investments in working capital. The increase this quarter is a result of higher sales in first quarter 2010 compared to first quarter of 2009.

We continue to tightly manage our capital expenditures while supporting the maintenance requirements and growth opportunities of our businesses. Capital expenditures were $11 million for the first quarter. For the full year we are planning capital expenditures of $45 million to $50 million.

Now I will turn the call back over to Paul for the 2010 outlook.

Paul Carrico

Thanks, Greg. The first quarter clearly provided volumes, price changes and cost movements that were not anticipated as we started the year. Looking at some of these developments that were significant the following provide some more insights into our results.

First, recent housing starts data from the U.S. have been encouraging and Canadian housing starts ahead of what we expected. The cost of natural gas continues to beat the prior forecast to the low side and it supports a favorable North American PVC export position.

While natural gas costs have been below our expectations, ethylene costs have been above the forecast resulting in a squeeze on PVC margins. The Aromatics business has been boosted by strong volumes in 2010 and limited movement of benzene and propylene prices when compared to last year.

We’re currently completing an unplanned outage in our cost of chlorine unit due to a cooling tower failure. At this time we expect the expenses and about two weeks of last caustic sales to reduce Chlorovinyl’s EBITDA by $6 million to $8 million. So far into the second quarter we are seeing volumes that exceed 2009 levels and are moving closer to 2008 levels, especially in Building Products.

In Aromatics, we do expect more moderate volumes for the rest of the year as competitors return from planned outages. In addition, we have a turnaround to complete in the second quarter and propelling prices have been dropping off recently. All of these factors will moderate the profitability of the Aromatics business in the second quarter.

Based on our first quarter results and a reasonable continuation of favorable business conditions starting in the second quarter and our outlook for the rest of the year we are maintaining our 2010 adjusted EBITDA guidance of $140 million to $160 million.

Consistent with the normal seasonality of our businesses the second quarter and third quarters are key parts of the year for the industry as volumes and prices are typically more favorable than the first quarter.

Now, I'll now turn the call over to the operator, so we can take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator instructions)

Martin Jarosick

Jasper?

Operator

Yes, sir.

Martin Jarosick

On the com line we got questions coming in.

Operator

Right. Okay, we have questions coming in the queue. Your first question comes from the line of Kristin Duffy [ph].

Kristin Duffy

Yes, hello, I was wondering if you could give us the EBITDA impact of the two turnarounds that you experienced during the quarter.

Paul Carrico

We don’t typically put out that information but it was in the low double-digits I’ll call it.

Kristin Duffy

Okay. Do you buy all of your ethylene based on current contract prices? I thought in the past you might have some contracts allowed you to buy some lower cost ethylene.

Paul Carrico

We continue to have some agreements that vary depending on the agreements we’ve made over the past years. Yes, it’s a mix of contract and other agreements.

Kristin Duffy

And could you just give us a sense for what percentage of your ethylene you buy at, at lower than contract prices?

Paul Carrico

No, I’d say we really don’t that out either. It’s confidential information.

Kristin Duffy

Okay. And on the $80 caustic price increase, could you comment on how successful that’s been so far in the second quarter?

Paul Carrico

Yes, we feel very firm about that. We think the industry supply/demand balances coming back into normal range with the spring demand and all the activity in the market and so the $80 from our point of view will be implemented this quarter.

Kristin Duffy

Great, thank you.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Sabina Chatterjee.

Sabina Chatterjee

Good morning.

Greg Thompson

Good morning.

Paul Carrico

Good morning, Sabina.

Sabina Chatterjee

Good morning. Just a question on the corporate expense line. It declined to less than $8 million in Q1 and I understand your refinancing partially explains some of that decline, but going forward, is this a reasonable run rate, or was there something else in the Q1 number that we should be offsetting?

Greg Thompson

I think that should be a fairly reasonable run rate in the first quarter of this year and throughout the year. I mean that can bounce around a little bit related to bonus accruals and the things like that, but I think it’s pretty reasonable. We talked more in terms of guidance related to SG&A, which we talked about when we release year-end and I think it’s still good on a quarterly basis SG&A which all incorporate is SG&A but there’s also SG&A elsewhere and the guidance of around $38 million to the $40 million per quarter for SG&A.

Sabina Chatterjee

And I’m going to take another attempt at a previous question. If we excluded the impact of the plant turnarounds in the Chlorovinyl segment, would it be a safe assumption to say that it would actually be profitable in Q1?

Paul Carrico

Difficult to say. I haven’t gone through all of that math, but it has impacts on not only the VCM operations but a little bit on chlorine caustic and on PVC. So we’ve been have to be multiple segment added up there to get to that answer.

Greg Thompson

But also on a comparative basis we had one more, but there is still one last year too on the turnaround.

Sabina Chatterjee

Okay. And I think that’s it. But if you could just share maybe a little more about your outlook in housing and construction. You talked about better housing starts in Canada, but what do you think will deter the pick up there in construction?

Paul Carrico

Well, on the Canadian market, we feel still fairly good about that market. I think there’s some concern about taxes being implemented later in the year, which could cause it to slow down and I think even the forecast suggest it will slow down later in the year. Relative to the U.S. market I’m not sure how much revenues new housing how much of it is remodeling, but we see that market picking up in the current timeframe too based upon the demand levels we’re seeing out there, so we feel pretty good about U.S. kicking in a little bit later than Canadian market as is normally in the case, when the weather starts to moderate, so, all in all, I’d say we feel fairly good about it over the next two quarters.

Sabina Chatterjee

Okay, great, thank you.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Roger Spitz.

Roger Spitz

Thank you, good morning. Hey, how much of the Aromatics benefit this quarter was due to FIFO inventory holding gains versus volume gains? Or another way to put the question is, is, can you split up the FIFO impact which you did provide of $13.4 million between Chlorovinyls and Aromatics?

Paul Carrico

Yes, I mean, overall the 13.2 million I think it was a FIFO impact, about half of that was Chlorovinyls, the next largest amount was Aromatics, maybe, I guess a third or so of it is Aromatics, so it was a portion of the Aromatics benefit, but the biggest reason for the performance in Aromatics with the competitor outages we’re able to run our plans a little harder than normal as well as (inaudible) better pricing and margins.

Roger Spitz

And your sense of the timing of the competitors getting their plants as well as their inventories back so they can supply, I mean, does the first month or two in Q2 look closer to Q1 or how fast is this going to go away with their getting their plants back online?

Paul Carrico

That’s tough to say, I think, generally speaking, things are coming back from where they were and there’s a quite a bit of disruption early in the year, but there’s still things lingering out there, there’s a plant in Europe that’s at a commission or at least cut back right now and well still some things going on in the U.S. market. So, some continuation of that into the second quarter, but not as intense on (inaudible) as the first quarter.

Roger Spitz

In the Royal business, is there any metric you can provide such as operating rates or volumes on a year-over-year sequential basis that we can gain some insight into the progress and earnings potential of the segment?

Paul Carrico

Generally speaking, the volumes have definitely improved over the last year in a measurable way, representing what we’ve referred to earlier between both the Canadian market pick up as well as the U.S. starting to pick up. We kind of expect that to continue, assuming some unforeseen economic event into the next couple of quarters, this quarter, and next quarter.

And operating rate it varies across all the businesses, there is still room as we had cut back substantially during the slowdown in the last year, particularly, and we face back on operations and adjusted our manpower accordingly. Now as the businesses demands pick up, we’ll readjust that back up and have room to run there on the operating rates at this point.

Roger Spitz

Okay. And lastly, which two plants underwent the Q1 turnarounds and which Aromatics plants will undergo a turnaround in Q2?

Paul Carrico

In the Q1 it was our VCM plant in Plaquemines and our VCM plant in Lake Charles, one of our VCM plants in Lake Charles and Aromatics wise it will be the phenol operation in Plaquemines in the second quarter.

Roger Spitz

Got it. When is the chlor-alkali hard turnaround?

Paul Carrico

We had that last year early in the year, first quarter last year actually, so that will not come around for a while yet.

Roger Spitz

You mean number of years?

Paul Carrico

Not this year and I guess we’ll discuss next year across when we’ll get a little bit closer to that year, but most likely would be couple of years from this point of time.

Roger Spitz

Great, thank you very much.

Paul Carrico

All right.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Tarek Hamid.

Tarek Hamid

Good morning.

Paul Carrico

Hi, Tarek

Greg Thompson

Good morning.

Tarek Hamid

Just talk a little bit about PVC exports right now, with ethylene costs a little bit higher, and demand up, are you exporting as much PVC as you were in the first quarter?

Paul Carrico

No, I think we’ve cut back, my guess is the industry’s cut back, the domestic demand has displaced, the need to really do is many exports as what we’re doing before and which you normally see is April, May and June, a significant pick up versus the first quarter and that’s kind of what happened. And as you’ve pointed out in addition to the ethylene spot pricing really limited the ability to do that if you were buying in the open market so perhaps mostly the biggest factor is that the domestic demand has picked up and so we needed to divert whatever we’re doing in export back to domestic.

Tarek Hamid

Secondly, on Building Products, the $30 million improvement in operating income roughly year-over-year, anyway you could break that out between how much of that is sort of fixed cost savings and how much of that is volume pick up?

Paul Carrico

I don’t, I don’t think we have numbers on that, the split between the two, it’s very important when you get the volume pick up we saw so I don’t want to downplay that, but also the cost structure has significantly changed and it’s not only those two things that the fact that we now have our management group there that is really monitoring where our prices and our costs are and so we have much different control than we did before. So it’s multiple things coming together. I think what you’re seeing is the last three quarters of last year plus the first quarter this year if you look at that sequence of quarters you start to see some momentum that is where we were trying to get to so you see that developing.

Tarek Hamid

Definitely. Thanks, guys.

Paul Carrico

Thanks, Tarek.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Gregg Goodnight.

Gregg Goodnight

Good morning, gentlemen.

Greg Thompson

Good morning.

Paul Carrico

Good morning, Gregg.

Gregg Goodnight

A couple questions. You mentioned gas prices headed down in the second quarter. Do you have any hedging positions on that would prevent you from taking full advantage of any pricing decrease?

Paul Carrico

We typically do very minimal hedging depending upon the circumstances in the current case. We’ve done a little bit but now for the most part will reflect what happens in the market as we go forward.

Gregg Goodnight

Okay. Certainly –

Greg Thompson

And with where they are, we look to maybe hedge the more than we typically do.

Gregg Goodnight

Okay, excellent. Ethylene prices, I believe I heard that contract ethylene was down $0.03 in April. My question to you is do you have any leverage to spot ethylene prices or do you predominantly fill your needs on a contract basis?

Paul Carrico

Yes, generally speaking, we limit our stock purchases, particularly; when you had the run up that we did recently. So that wasn’t much of a factor to us and we will make decisions based on that spot pricing. So when it goes that high, we can’t really justify playing in the vinyls market with those kind of costs.

Gregg Goodnight

Would you estimate a percentage or a percentage range of contract versus spot pricing for your purchases?

Paul Carrico

Minimal to, just really not much.

Gregg Goodnight

Excellent. Final question. Would you comment on your announced increase for PVC or how successful was that and what are the prospects for trying to hold prices going through the second quarter?

Paul Carrico

You’re speaking about the increases during the first quarter?

Gregg Goodnight

Specifically for April.

Paul Carrico

On the PVC side?

Gregg Goodnight

Yes.

Paul Carrico

Yes, what we have seen since the beginning of the year is the two (inaudible) increases and a $0.03 increase and so those are continuing on. I don’t think they’re going to see much change in the near-term. The demand is fairly good domestically, so it depends upon how the industry reacts but demand is fairly decent on the domestic side right now.

Gregg Goodnight

Okay. Thank you, gentlemen.

Operator

(Operator instructions) And your next question comes from the line of Silke Kueck.

Silke Kueck

Good morning. This is Silke Kueck for Jeff.

Greg Thompson

Good morning, Silke.

Silke Kueck

Good morning. Couple of questions. Does the high end of the EBITDA guidance that you gave, factor in caustic prices, including the $80 increase and then remaining flat through the remainder of the year? Does it reflect the caustic price of phenol going up or down from those levels?

Paul Carrico

Yes, we typically have our own take on what the pricing is going to be going into the future. So I don’t think we’re prepared to comment on that. You’d have to kind of do the math based upon what the published numbers are out there and come to some conclusion based on those numbers.

Greg Thompson

So we factor all those things including the PVC margins and driving some further margin expansion there which has been on the other side of that.

Silke Kueck

With all things being equal, it seems that there’s (inaudible) healthy demand at this point so some of the price increases are going through. And in fact you have an outage which should tighten the market even further there were outages early in the year so it seems that those caustic prices could continue to rise or do you see differently?

Paul Carrico

Well I’ll refer you back to last year. We had predictions early in the year. They both are predictions and the industry forecasters’ prediction is way off base. So when you get into a year like this, yes, I’d say that general fundamental suggests the things ought to be headed in the right direction, better supply/demand balance, more predictability, just overall demand improving, so you would think that the industry would be in a position to where it’d be tough to take very low margins in that kind of environment.

Silke Kueck

And secondly, I just want to understand the FIFO benefit in the Chlorovinyls business. Is that tied to VCM that was produced in the fourth quarter at low ethylene price and it was produced in advance of the shut downs taken in the first quarter? Is that what led to the FIFO gain?

Greg Thompson

I guess that would be a small part of it, but it was really more of just the increasing cost environment ethylene, in particular, throughout the first quarter resulting in a FIFO benefit as of March 31st because of higher cost of manufacturing of the Chlorovinyls.

Silke Kueck

So essentially because you had inventories, you didn’t absorb all of these costs?

Greg Thompson

Yes, that’s right and at the end of the quarter.

Silke Kueck

Was that (inaudible) headwind in the second quarter or it shouldn’t?

Greg Thompson

Well, it could. Yes, if you’re looking at on a replacement cost basis, it certainly will reverse out in the second quarter, but that’s why we think it’s important to drive through the PVC price increases in the second quarter.

Silke Kueck

In terms of PVC prices, so it seems that the ability to hold on to PVC prices, even though ethylene costs are rolling off are pretty good, because demand looks healthy, this is like the seasonally stronger season. Is that the way you see it or do you see it differently?

Greg Thompson

Yes, we’re looking to expand the PVC margins and so, yes, I’d say on balance that is the way we see it to get the margins back to a more normal level.

Silke Kueck

And then lastly it seems there’s been a more capacity maybe brought on by (inaudible) at year-end. Are demand levels healthy enough to just absorb that or is that a worry going forward?

Paul Carrico

I think that’s a position you have to look at for next year if it comes on at the end of the year, clearly in the fourth quarter, in the first quarter, there’s not a demand to absorb that, it’s more about what you predict for the next year’s economics and how the situation and I think you can make the case both ways. I think one positive factor and one that we value really is the export situation should still be there if you believe the natural gas position will stay in the same general range. That’s a fairly significant difference for the industry in the current environment.

Silke Kueck

And that’s very helpful. I’ll get back into queue. Thank you.

Operator

There are no further questions in the queue.

Martin Jarosick

If there are no further questions, then thank you everyone for joining us and we look forward to providing update on the second quarter.

Operator

And this concludes today’s conference call. You may now disconnect.

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