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Arch Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:ARJ)

Q1 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

May 6, 2010 11:00 am ET

Executives

Mike Campbell – Chairman, President & CEO

Joe Shaulson –SVP, Wood Protection, Industrial Coatings & Personal Care Ingredients

Steve Giuliano – SVP & CFO

Analysts

Sabina Chatterjee – BB&T Capital Markets

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer & Co.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

Operator

Good morning, and welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Arch Chemicals first quarter 2010 earnings conference call. At this time, I would like to inform you that the conference call is available to the public, including media is being recorded for re-broadcasting and that all participants are in a listen-only mode.

This call is being broadcast live at www.archchemicals.com and is Real Media Player and Windows Media Player compatible. If you wish to access the replay for this call, you may do so by dialing 800-642-1687 or if you are outside the U.S. by dialing 706-645-9291. The access number is 679-11-110.

I’d now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Michael Campbell, Chairman, President and CEO. Please go ahead, sir.

Mike Campbell

Thank you very much, operator. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. With me today are Steve Giuliano, Chief Financial Officer; and Mark Faford, Vice President of Investor Relations.

I said that on each of these calls we have one of our Senior Vice Presidents of Operations participate. Joe Shaulson, Senior Vice President of our Global Wood Protection and Personal Care Ingredients business has joined us today. Joe is also had responsibility for the Industrial Coatings business and most recently led the Arch’s team and divesting this business to Sherwin-Williams on March 31st.

I’m very pleased to report that we’re off to a great start in 2010, both strategically, and financially. I’m certain you’ll all agree that our sale of the non-core industrial coatings business was welcome news. We’re excited because it provides us with additional resources to invest in growing our Biocides businesses, which now comprise over 85% of our portfolio.

Before I comment on the quarter I wanted to remind you that throughout this call we’ll make statements regarding estimates of future performance. Actual results could differ significantly from those projected and some of the factors that could cause such differences are described in our earnings release.

Earlier today, we filed our earnings release, as part of an 8-K that’s been posted on the Arch Chemicals Web site, in the Investor Relation section. In the release, we announced that first quarter sales increased 14% year-over-year due to higher volumes and favorable foreign exchange. In fact, we achieved record quarterly sales of Biocides used and personal care products such as antidandruff shampoos and cosmetics.

First quarter earnings from continuing operations of $0.27 per share exceeded our expectations driven by the higher demand. Earnings from continuing operations in the year ago period were $0.19 a share.

Taking a closer look at the quarter our newly renamed Biocides product segment posted double-digit sales and operating income growth compared to last year due to higher volumes across all businesses and favorable foreign exchange.

Within the segment HTH water product sales were up over last year’s quarter due to favorable foreign exchange and higher volumes in North America. The increases volumes were from repacker, branded distribution and surface water segments as well as from several new mass retail accounts.

As forecast, water products operating income was below 2009. Higher volumes were more than offset by increased raw materials, packaging costs, and sales mix.

As expected, sales were lower in the overall mass retail segment because as we discussed on our last call one of our strategic customers move the placement of our products from their toy department to the lawn and garden department. As a result we forecasted lower demand in the first quarter due to the new department’s different replenishment strategy. Simply put, they manage inventory levels more in line with seasonal consumer demand.

This change in replenishment strategy as we anticipated adversely impacted first quarter sales and operating income. Overall though, we expect sales and profits for the full year will improve because of the shift to the lawn and garden department and we’ll see the benefit of that shift starting in the second quarter.

In short while other products remain very much on track it has met all of our expectations for the first quarter and we anticipate the same will be true in the second quarter.

In our Personal Care and Industrial Biocides businesses, sales and operating income increased significantly year-over-year. The record sales of Biocides used in antidandruff shampoo was driven by growth in Asia, particularly, in China where antidandruff shampoos account for 50% of all shampoos sold.

And the record sales of our Personal Care Ingredients were a result of improved demand and customer restocking in North America and Europe. These ingredients are used primarily in skin care cosmetics.

We also experienced significantly increased demand for our Industrial Biocides used in building products. This increase is attributable to a modest improvement in the global construction markets.

In addition, we saw a growth in new applications in market. There is an example. Our ZOE biocide used in wet state preservation is seeing a lot of traction as paint formulators convert to low VOC paints.

We’re also growing sales in Asia, where our Biocides are replacing older less environmentally friendly technologies in both paints and building products. And finally demand for our biocide used in metal working fluids has rebounded from last year as automotive production has ramped up.

Operating income for Personal Care and Industrial Biocides rose by more than $7 million over the year ago period. This excellent performance was chiefly due to the higher sales, foreign currency gains and favorable product costs. The favorable product costs resulted from lower raw material cost, cost reduction actions and higher plant utilization.

The Wood Protection business posted much improved sales and operating results over the last year’s first quarter. Sales rose by more than 20% due to improved volumes and favorable foreign exchange rate.

Demand increased for both industrial and residential wood preservatives in North America and Europe and to a lesser extent in the Asia-Pacific region due to market share gains and a modest improvement in construction markets.

Wood Protection’s operating results improved by over $2 million from last year, chiefly because of the improved demand and lower raw material cost.

Now to our Performance Products segment, here, sales were comparable to last year while operating results were lower by $4 million. Urethane sales were slightly below the year ago period as higher selling prices were more than offset by lower volume.

The increased pricing was directly attributable to higher oil-based raw material cost. The lower volumes resulted from decreased demand for propylene glycol products and the reduction in contract manufacturing.

Urethane’s operating results were significantly lower than last year, principally due to the completion of the end of 2009 of a significant contract manufacturing arrangement.

Additionally, while we have implemented price increases to pass-through the higher raw material costs, our margins are under pressure as propylene and ethylene costs rolls more sharply than our selling prices.

Finally, in our Hydrazine business, we posted sales and operating income that were comparable to the year-ago period.

Let’s turn to our outlook for the second quarter. It’s traditionally the strongest of the year, primarily because it marks the peak of the North American water products season.

We are forecasting a record second quarter earnings from continuing operations in the $1.50 per share range to $1.65 per share range. Last year’s second quarter earnings from continuing operations were $1.23 per share. Our forecast reflects improved year-over-year operating income from all of our Biocides businesses.

Let’s take a closer look at the second quarter forecast regions of businesses starting with HTA to water products. This business should deliver significantly higher top-line and bottom-line results driven by increased volumes in North America.

The sales growth should be a result of better weather conditions and improving economic environment and the pickup of new customers. We will also benefit from the timing of shipments from the first quarter due to the different replenishment strategies employed by key mass retail customers.

In our first look here in Industrial Biocides businesses we expect to see higher sales as a result of improving market conditions, customer restocking, new products and market share expansion. Increased demand for a Biocide used in anti dandruff shampoo and personal care ingredients as well as building products should drive this growth.

Personal Care and Industrial Biocides operating income in the second quarter is projected to be well above last year’s quarter. This improvement should result from stronger demand, favorable raw material and plant cost.

Turning now to Wood Protection we expect improved year-over-year sales of operating income driven by share gains continued, but modest improvements in construction markets and favorable raw material costs.

We’re confident that once global housing and construction markets recover and they will, we’re ideally positioned to profitably capitalize on the improvement.

Now, I would like to ask Joe Shaulson to give you some insight into our plans in the Wood Protection business. Joe?

Joe Shaulson

Thanks, Mike. I agree that our Wood Protection business is very well positioned to benefit when global housing and construction markets rebound. We are already the world leading provider of pretreatment protection solution for wood. We have a fundamentally sound business but we’re dependant on global housing and construction activity.

Not surprisingly, we’ve been hurt badly by the ongoing economic downturn which has featured the worst housing market anyone has seen in decades. In response, we took aggressive cost reduction actions last year. However, the challenging macroeconomic condition and persistently volatile raw material costs have caused operating results to be below both our potential and our expectation.

So what are we going to do about it? In short, we are going to grow because at its roots, this is a growth story, not a turnaround story. Macro factors will undoubtedly be important. While housing and construction activity maybe slow to recover to pre-crash level we are starting to see sometimes that recovery is underway. And with these initial signs of recovery we expect to see the business return to profitability in 2010.

And as the recovery progresses we should see increased demand for wood in pilings and poles, in framing, in decking, in mill work and in a host of other uses. And much of this wood will need to be treated and will be there to provide the treatment solution, whether they are for traditional pressure treatment application or other uses that might require new products and technologies.

Here are just a few examples of what we have planned. We believe we offer the highest levels of service support and innovation in the industry and we expect these investments to continue paying off in the form of increased market share in the traditional pressure treated lumber business.

At the same time we will establish leadership positions in other application areas. Here, innovation and service as well as marketing will drive organic growth in applications like moldicides for whitewood, fire retardants, wood modification, whole house treatment, engineered wood products and anti-testing.

We will also continue to expand our customer base and geographic reach in emerging markets by developing new business models tailored to those opportunities.

And we’ll leverage Arch wide resources in operational excellence, purchasing and sustainability to optimize our cost space, minimize our environmental footprint and create additional opportunities for customers to use renewable, treated softwoods in place of hardwoods and other construction materials.

Finally, we’ll keep looking for selected acquisitions and alliances to accelerate growth. I hope by giving you some insight into the Arch Wood Protection business in our growth plan, we expect sales to grow significantly over the next few years and profitability to return to peak historical levels. Our team is extremely motivated to deliver on this plan.

And with that I will turn the call back to Mike.

Mike Campbell

Thanks, Joe. As you know, I share your enthusiasm and optimism for this core business and I’m excited about our future.

Let’s now turn to the second quarter outlook for a non-strategic Performance Products segment. We are forecasting urethane sales to be higher than last year due to increased selling prices driven by the higher raw material costs.

Urethane’s operating results are projected to be below the year-ago period. The shortfall from last year will be due to the completion of a contract manufacturing arrangement at the end of 2009. We expect to successfully implement price increases that were more than offset the significantly higher raw material cost that we’re facing. Lastly, the Hydrazine business should report sales and operating results that are comparable to 2009.

Looking at our outlook for the full year, we’re maintaining at least for now our guidance of earnings from continuing operations to be in the $1.90 per share range to $2.10 per share range, although we now expect to be towards the high end of this range.

Our full year results are extremely dependent upon the peak season second quarter, which is historically accounted for 60% to 70% of full-year earnings.

While we are encouraged by the global demand improvements in our Biocides businesses and positive economic indicators whether in the sustainability of improved demand remain unknown.

Continuing with our full year guidance we have reduced our capital spending forecast for 2010 to $30 million to $35 million to reflect the divestiture of the Industrial Coatings business. And our depreciation and amortization now forecast to be reduced to the $40 million to $45 million range for the same reason.

2010 will be another very strong profitable year for us and once again we expect to generate significant free cash flow.

Before wrapping up I’d like to make it abundantly clear just as we have divested our Industrial Coatings business, we are actively and aggressively seeking buyers for our Performance Products businesses.

These are not Biocides businesses and they are not strategic to Arch, their sale would mark the final step in achieving our goal of having a 100% Biocide portfolio and would give us additional resources to grow those businesses both organically and through complementary acquisitions. Just as soon as we have something to announce you will hear about it.

In conclusion, as I said, at the outset, I am very pleased that we got off to an excellent start to the year, both strategically and financially. And I am excited about earnings growth and the potential that our core Biocides business have.

Our business fundamentals remain strong; innovation will play an even greater role in our future success and will drive the development and commercialization of new products. We have a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity to invest in our core Biocides portfolio.

In summary, we are working to enhance shareholder value by continuing our efforts to increase margins, maximize cash generation, improve operational excellence, optimize our portfolio and maintain an attractive dividend.

That concludes my prepared remarks. We’d be glad to field any questions you might have. To facilitate this, let me turn the call back over to the operator.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator instructions) Our first quarter comes from Sabina Chatterjee from BB&T Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Sabina Chatterjee – BB&T Capital Markets

Good morning, guys. Sabina Chatterjee here.

Mike Campbell

Morning, Sabina.

Sabina Chatterjee – BB&T Capital Markets

Just given the midpoint of your Q2 guidance and layering in your full-year outlook, to me implies roughly $0.25 of earnings in the back half of the year. Mike, what's preventing you from being more optimistic, especially since you easily doubled that in the second half of ‘09 when conditions were actually much less favorable?

Mike Campbell

Well, in comparing to '09 you got to remember that urethane’s contract was in the back half of '09 and will be here this year, but there’s still, obviously, if you look at it at the buyer side portfolio, there is more upside than downside. But that being said we’re taking perhaps some more cautious approach in saying that we want to get through the second half because the second half will give us a sense of how the weather patterns or how the consumer demand is shaping up as a result of that.

And also we will confirm that the volume demand that we’re seeing in our other Biocides business is being driven by underlying demand and it is not a result of restocking. It feels to me as though the demand is real that is that there is underlying support for the demand and not solely restocking, but I’d like a little more time to confirm that. The second quarter is such an important pivotal quarter to us and there’s so many unknowns going into it in terms of weather and sustainability of demand that we just think it’s more prudent to wait until mid-year to do any re-forecasting.

Sabina Chatterjee – BB&T Capital Markets

Okay, fair enough. Can you just update us on the M&A pipeline? You briefly talked about Performance Products but what are you seeing in the way of Biocides and if you could just talk to valuation a little bit; has valuation actually adjusted to levels where you feel comfortable with going into the M&A market?

Mike Campbell

We definitely are comfortable in the M&A market. I’d say thought that it looks as though valuations may be firming up rather than continuing to deteriorate. The bigger issue for us in concluding acquisitions is finding assets that are for sale. Quite frankly, the Biocides arena is a very attractive one.

Other people are coming to realize this and they have a greater reluctance to let those assets go. That being said we brought Joe Shaulson in a couple of years back to head up the M&A area and then moved him over to operations and we now have Sarah O’Connor heading that up. And we’re putting a lot of resources behind it. There is a great deal of activity. The frustration is trying to convert that activity into results.

Sabina Chatterjee – BB&T Capital Markets

Okay. And just in terms of Forex, can you tell us what sort of benefit that was for both the top line and bottom line?

Steve Giuliano

Regarding the top line for the quarter is about 6% total Arch and from a pre-tax was about $4 million of benefit. It’s not something we expect to continue as we go through the year. It’s that favorable sort of comparison whether weaker dollar this quarter compared to first quarter of ’09. That’s the magnitude.

Mike Campbell

But that’s factored into the anticipation that, that won’t be replicated, it’s factored into our forecast, correct.

Sabina Chatterjee – BB&T Capital Markets

All right, thank you.

Steve Giuliano

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Ivan Marcuse from North Coast Research. Your line is open.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Hey, guys. How’re you doing?

Mike Campbell

Hi, Ivan. How’s the new firm doing for you?

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Good. Going great. Thanks for asking.

Mike Campbell

Good.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

A couple of quick questions. On the Personal Care and Industrial Biocides business your margins were pretty strong in the quarter. You pointed out that raw materials were favorable and some cost savings from the manufacturing plant. How much were the cost savings? And was that just due to higher utilization in China? And what was sort of the financial impact there? Then raw materials lower; they’ve sort of been trending higher everywhere else. Is there a specific reason they went lower or is it more just the mix or how does that sort of work out going forward?

Mike Campbell

Well, we’re not going to break down the specific dollars from each one of those segments, but the cost reduction is a separate positive picture from the plant utilization. In other words plant utilization is not the only driver behind improved costs. It was taking out costs. And in terms of the raw materials those were not huge drivers in the Personal Care and Industrial Biocides area, but they were favorable in comparison to where we were in the first quarter of last year, but that’s not a huge driver.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

So with demand at least looking out at the second quarter, appears from what you’re saying still seems to be pretty strong. It should be stronger in the construction side. It’s going to more seasonality and Personal Care should remain pretty stable. I mean should margin or pass level or profitability be equal to the first quarter going to the second quarter and third quarter or through the year or why wouldn’t it to be?

Mike Campbell

What we’re waiting to see, Ivan, is certainly the demand in Personal Care was very strong. The demand in Building Products was encouraging. We just want to make sure that this is in an inventory build and is not supported by that underlying demand. And we will have a better field for that I feel in another three months and can better answer your question about what the impact would be in the second half.

Steve Giuliano

And, Ivan, I was talking a little bit before about the FX benefit, they’re probably half of that $4 million benefit in the first quarter. That’s obviously positive impact on the margins in the first quarter.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

In the Personal Care segment, it’s about half?

Steve Giuliano

Personal Care, Industrial and Biocides, yes

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

All right, Okay. And then in your second quarter guidance, is there any sort of antidumping duty benefit in that guidance –

Steve Giuliano

No.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Are you expecting some this year and when would you think it’s going to fall?

Steve Giuliano

We’re expecting to get some rulings on the first peer review and the fourth peer review; we’re looking up both of them in the fourth quarter or at least the latter part of the second half of the year.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Okay. A couple of quick questions, with where the Euro is doing now, what’s the impact of the loans on the corporate expense? Like how should we look at it going out for the year? So you had a benefit this year but now the Euro is going against you, right. Or how should I look at that in the corporate expense line?

Steve Giuliano

I wouldn’t from the corporate expense line say anything too much into the Euro. There’s other currencies that are in play there, the pound, I mean it’s also other cross currencies, so…

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

What was the loan impact on this quarter?

Steve Giuliano

Less than a $1 million.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Okay. So would that reverse going into the second quarter or should it remain where it is right now or it’s an unknown?

Steve Giuliano

It’s a little bit unknown. It’s multiple currencies, multiple loans, but if you look at our corporate costs, Ivan, I think we’re looking at a number that’s going to be close to what it was last year. We’re looking about $32 million to $33 million and I’m thinking it’s going to be roughly a run rate of $8 million a quarter. We had a little bit of benefit from FX this quarter plus a little bit of timing. That’s why it was lower than $8 million, but I think as you forecast ahead it should be in that range.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

And then interest expense; any reason that changes going through the rest of the year should that be about the same?

Steve Giuliano

We are anticipating that to be higher in the second half of the year. We assume a bit of increase in interest rates, but more importantly, we think there will be some sort of refinancing that we’ll do in the second half of the year that will cause that interest expense to pick up.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Okay, great. I’ll jump back in the queue. Thanks.

Mike Campbell

Thanks, Ivan.

Operator

Our next question comes from Ian Zaffino with Oppenheimer & Co. Your line is open.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer & Co. Great, thank you. Question would be, Mike, I know you’d mentioned divestitures and you talked about performance, for a while, you were saying you were going to sell and then it was oh, well, look, there might not be any buyers right now given where the market is and we’re just going to (inaudible) for cash. Now, seems like your tone is changing again, but does that mean that just the M&A market right now has opened up and it’s become more amenable for divestitures or is there really a change in your thinking on this? Thanks.

Mike Campbell

No, I wouldn’t say that there is a change either in some market acceptance or our view of the business I want shareholders to understand however, that we are very focused on moving these businesses out of our portfolio and if anything again starting a couple of years back when we brought Joe in for a strategic development we’ve ramped up the effort in moving these businesses out of the portfolio. We continue to run them for cash. They continue to be cash positive. And that’s going to be an important factor in any valuation that we make from as to any offer we might receive, but my comments I think reflect more not a change in strategy, but a heightened level of activity to execute on that strategy.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer & Co. Okay. And I hate to ask you this, but can you give us a time frame or when we do expect?

Mike Campbell

(inaudible) Ian.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer & Co.

All right, I'll leave it at that.

Mike Campbell

I didn’t mean to cut you off and is the question was that the time limit on in an announcement. I can’t give you that. It’s finding already willing enable seller and we’re actively pursuing that and as soon as we have something to report, we’ll let you know.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer & Co.

Okay, great. Thank you and (inaudible)

Mike Campbell

Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from Christopher Butler from Sidoti & Co. Your line is open.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

Hi, good morning, guys.

Mike Campbell

Hi, Chris.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

Wanted to ask for pool chemicals on the mass retailer side, do you have any early indications of success of moving to the garden center or we still coming out of winter here?

Mike Campbell

We’re still coming out of winter, I mean, obviously, we’ve got and early look at April sales versus March sales, but although you forecast entire sales in April than you do in March, the real demand comes in May and June and then into the third quarter of course, but we don’t have enough data yet to give us clear insight as to how the second quarter is going to shake out in the mass segment. It really requires looking at May and June.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

And looking at the –

Mike Campbell

Let me just make a further comment. I will tell you that the transition to lawn and garden has gone very well. We’re very impressed by the buyers there and their understanding of the market and how they’re managing their inventory and they understand the seasonal rush, they’re used to that seasonal rush. There could have been some bumps in the road in making that transition within the customer, but it’s gone very, very well and we’re very happy about how it’s gone.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

And looking at your guidance, I know you had said that there were some purchases that were made in the second quarter that normally take place in the first quarter. With the full year guidance in mind, is there any concern that the second quarter could be strong with sort of a weaker third quarter as a result?

Mike Campbell

No. No, I don’t think so. I think that the way lawn and garden is managing their inventory, they’re managing it, as I said in my prepared remarks, more consistent with consumer seasonal demand. And consumer seasonal demand really ramps up in May and continues into the third quarter. So we are not forecasting that we’re going to be stealing sales from the third quarter and pushing it into the second quarter.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

And shifting gears to the Wood Protection, we had a PolyOne Conference Call this week, they make vinyl and PVC, heavily exposed into housing and they indicated that the normal seasonal strengthening that they have from the first quarter to the second quarter, may not take place this year just due to only a slow improvement to housing-related demand, is that kind of the way the things are working out for Wood Protection as well?

Mike Campbell

Chris, I’ll let Joe answer that.

Joe Shaulson

Chris, I think we see that we probably don’t disagree with the assessment that the improvement in demand is a slow one. Having said that I think we do expect to see some seasonal improvement in the business, just owing to the change in the environmental condition, you tend to see more building activity even if it’s happening at a relatively low rate, compared to historical rate.

Mike Campbell

And also the demand in Europe is holding up well and we’re taking market share there and that probably wouldn’t be reflected in the market viewed by PolyOne.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

And my last question. If we’re looking at performance, urethane, I know the raw material costs there are coming up and there maybe a bit of a lag with pricing. I mean should we look at operating losses in the second quarter that are similar to what we saw here in the first quarter? Is this going to get better as the year progresses? Could you give us some help there?

Mike Campbell

It’s going to get better and will be on the cusp of loss or profitability for the second quarter but it’s going to get better, as we go through the year.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

I appreciate your time.

Mike Campbell

Thank you, Chris. We appreciate it.

Operator

As there are no further questions I’d now turn the conference back over to Mr. Campbell.

Mike Campbell

Thank you, operator. Let me just make a few closing comments. As I’ve emphasized, we remain very confident about our Arch’s future. Our global markets are improving, we are increasing market share, we are introducing new products, and we are continuing our relentless focus on tightly managing our working capital, improving our operating margins, and optimizing our portfolio.

And I can assure you that all Arch’s leaders are committed to our goal of enhancing shareholder value by delivering strong top-line and bottom-line results. That’s all for now. Thank you for your participation and the opportunity to provide you with this update. Have a good day.

Operator

All parties may now disconnect.

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