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Arch Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:ARJ)

Q2 2010 Earnings Conference Call

August 4, 2010 11:00 AM ET

Executives

Mike Campbell – Chairman, President and CEO

Rick Walden – SVP – Health and Hygiene and Preservation and Protection Biocides, Performance Products and Asia Pacific

Steve Giuliano – Corporate SVP and CFO

Analysts

Frank Mitch – BB&T Capital Market

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

Douglas Chudy – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Operator

Good morning and welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Arch Chemicals second quarter 2010 earnings conference call. Today’s conference call is available to the public including the media is being recorded for re-broadcasting and all participants are in a listen-only mode.

Today’s conference 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 today’s conference, you may do so by dialing 888-203-1112 or if you are outside the U.S. by dialing 719-457-0820. The access number is 732-4316.

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

Mike Campbell

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

Also on today’s call is Rick Walden, Rick as you undoubtedly know is responsible for Arch’s Global Biocides and Performance Products businesses as well as our operations in Asia.

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 website, in the Investor Relation section. I’m extremely pleased to report that we had another excellent quarter, in fact we achieved record earnings in the second quarter.

In the release, we announced that second quarter sales increased 17% year-over-year as a result of strong demand for our Biocides products. This marks the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year volume improvement. Second quarter earnings from continuing operations of $1.73 per share exceeded even our expectations. These record quarterly earnings represent a 40% increase over the year ago period of $1.23 per share.

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

Within the segment in HTH water product sales were up 19% over last year’s quarter due to shipment – increased shipments to mass retail accounts both in the US and in Canada. These increased shipments were principally a result of favorable weather comparisons and different replenishment strategies employed by some of our customers. Second quarter results were favorably impacted by these replenishment strategies as certain shipments were shifted from the first and third quarters.

In addition the quarter included increased shipments to the hardware store channel as well as new mass retail accounts acquired last year. The favorable weather patterns we saw in the second quarter occurred primarily in the Northeast and Midwest as well as in Canada.

Water’s operating income was well above the year ago period due mostly to the higher North American volumes. Furthermore raw material and plant costs were favorable to last year’s quarter.

Now our Personal Care and Industrial Biocides businesses, were sales and operating income increased significantly year-over-year. Sales volumes were up 19% due to increased demand for our Biocides used in personal care products and to a lesser extent industrial applications.

Sales of our Biocides for antidandruff shampoo nearly equaled last quarter’s record. This improved demand was driven by growth in Asia particularly in China, market share gains and we suspect some customer restocking. Furthermore demand for our products used in various surface disinfection applications in the health and hygienic markets continues to grow.

We also experienced increased demand for our industrial Biocides used in building products. The increase is attributable to a modest improvement in the global construction markets. In addition, we saw growth in new applications and markets. As an example our ZOE Biocide used in wet state preservation is seeing a lot of traction as paint formulators convert to low VOC paints and we’re also growing sales in Asia, where our Biocides are replacing older, less environmentally friendly technologies in paints and other building products. And finally demand for our Biocides used in metal working fluids has rebounded from last year as automotive production ramped up.

That’s the sale story. Operating income for Personal Care and Industrial Biocides rose by $10 million over the year ago period. This excellent performance was chiefly due to the higher sales, and favorable product costs resulting from higher plant utilization. The Wood Protection business posted much improved sales and operating results from last year’s second quarter. Sales rose by almost 10% due to improved volumes primarily in North America and in Europe. Favorable foreign exchange rates in Asia were offset by the impact on our average selling prices due to competitive pressures and product mix across all of the region.

Now Wood Protection’s operating results improved from last year, mainly because of lower raw material cost for copper and the increased volumes that I mentioned. On to our Performance Products segment, here, the quarter sales were well above the year ago period while operating results were comparable. Urethane sales increased by approximately 25% year-over-year due to higher selling prices.

Price increases were implemented during the quarter to recover higher oil based raw material cost incurred earlier in the year. Volumes were consistent with last year. Now despite headwinds caused by the expiration of the contract manufacturing arrangement that we have referred to in the past, Urethane’s operating results were comparable to the second quarter of 2009.

Improved pricing negated the impact of higher raw material cost and the loss of the contract income. And finally, in Hydrazine, we posted sales and operating income that were comparable to the year-ago period.

Before I review our 2010 forecast, I’d like to briefly mention the successful efforts of our business teams in reducing Arch’s working capital this year. Accounts receivable as of June 30 were comparable with the prior year period despite much higher sales. Our days sales outstanding or DSO improved by 3 days as a result of our continued focus on collections and tight credit controls. And we reduced inventories by 30% compared to June 2009.

We’ll continue to closely monitor the quality of our accounts receivable and manage inventory levels without impacting our ability to supply our customers. Okay, now let’s turn to our outlook for the third quarter.

We are forecasting third quarter earnings from continuing operations to be $0.30 to $0.40. Last year’s third quarter earnings from continuing operations were $0.41 per share, which included a charge related to executive severance of $0.03 per share. We expect operating income for the Biocides segment to be comparable with the year ago period, where results of the performance product segment are projected to be somewhat lower.

Let’s take a look at the third quarter forecast for our Biocides business segment starting with HTH water products. This business is forecast to report lower operating results than last year. As I mentioned second quarter results benefited from the timing of some shipments to mass retail customers in the US as sales were shifted from the third quarter. We also expect operating expenses to be higher due to investments in various growth initiatives in the US and Latin America and this would include more investments in the area of innovation.

This business remains on track to deliver double-digit topline growth and much improved bottom line results for the full year as a result of favorable weather comparisons and growth at key strategic accounts including new mass retail customers.

In our Personal Care and Industrial Biocides businesses we expect to see higher sales as a result of new products, market share expansion and improving market conditions. Increased demand for our industrial Biocides businesses used in building products and marine anti anti-fouling paints should drive this growth.

Personal Care and Industrial Biocides operating income in the third quarter is projected to be above last year’s quarter. This improvement should result from stronger demand, and increased production rates partially offset by slightly higher raw material and sourcing costs.

Turning to Wood Protection we expect a modest year-over-year improvement in operating income as housing and construction markets particularly in North America continue to struggle. That said, North America is our largest growth opportunity and although we’re not forecasting a recovery in the second half of this year, we remain very well positioned to profitably capitalize on the growth of housing and construction markets when they do recover.

Let’s now turn to the third quarter outlook for our non-strategic performance product segment. We’re forecasting Urethane sales to be higher than last year due to increased selling prices. While operating results are projected to be below the year ago period. Price increases were implemented during the second quarter to recover higher oil based raw material costs incurred earlier in the year.

This improved pricing should partially mitigate the impact of higher year-over-year raw material costs and the contract manufacturing arrangement that expired last year. And the Hydrazine business should report sales and operating results they’re comparable to 2009.

Finally we expect slightly higher general corporate expenses in the third quarter to be offset by lower income tax expenses reflecting a reduction of the full year 2010 effective tax rate to the 32% to 33% range. Looking at our outlook for the full year, we’re very encouraged by the strongly improved global demand we experienced for our Biocides products in the first half of this year, and we expect this positive trend to continue for the remainder of the year.

As a result of this, we’ve increased our guidance for full year earnings from continuing operations to be $22.25 to $2.40 per share range from our previous guidance of $1.90 to $2.10 range. We maintained our capital spending forecast for the year to be in the $30 million to $35 million range and our depreciation and amortization forecast remains in the $40 million to $45 million.

In short, 2010 will be another very strong profitable year for us. And once again we expect to generate strong cash flow. Before wrapping up, I want to assure you that we continue to actively pursue the sale of the performance products businesses. These are not Biocides businesses and they are not strategic to Arch. They’re sale will mark the final step in achieving our goal of having a 100% Biocides portfolio. And will give us additional resources to grow both organically and through complementary acquisitions.

And on that topic, we continue to pursue Biocides-related acquisitions that are in excellent strategic fit and consistent with our disciplined track record, meeting our strict financial targets. You can be certain that as soon as we have something to announce on either front, you’ll hear from us. In conclusion, I’m very pleased with our stronger than expected first half results which has led to increase our full year guidance. I’m excited about the earnings growth potential from our core Biocides businesses.

Our business fundamentals remain strong. Innovation which will play an even greater role in our future success will drive the development in commercialization of new products. We have a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity to invest in our core Biocides portfolio. In summary, we’re 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 now to fill any questions you have and to facilitate this, let me turn the call back over to our operator.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you, Mr. Campbell. (Operator Instructions) We’ll turn to Frank Mitch with BB&T Capital Market.

Frank Mitch – BB&T Capital Market

Nice job here in the quarter. Hey Mike, I was struck by the discussion on the HTH side where you were suggesting that you had obviously a record quarter and you were suggesting that perhaps there were some sales pulled from the first quarter as well as pulled from third quarter into the second quarter. Can you talk a little more about that and help explain that to me?

Mike Campbell

It is really a function of the order pattern coming primarily from a strategic customer who shifted buying from one department to another. We’ve talked about that. And if you take a look at the second quarter pull from the third quarter, of course we talked about the first quarter in the last call. But if you take a look at the third quarter pulled to the second quarter – second quarter was up, sales were up mid-teens compared to last year. The third quarter pull through is we estimate somewhere to be 3% to $% so even if you net (ph) that out, it was an incredible quarter. Net sales up in the low-digit, double-digit amount from last year.

Frank Mitch – BB&T Capital Market

So you’re saying, you’re suggesting that both the first and the third quarter were impacted by that strategic customer?

Mike Campbell

Yes.

Frank Mitch – BB&T Capital Market

All right, that’s fair and yes, we have talked about that.

Mike Campbell

But you know, as we said in the past, Frank, we believe that that switch, we got to get used to the timing of their orders, we believe that that switch on a full-year basis will benefit us because we will continue to be on the shelves longer. If we go back to where we were last year with this particular customer, we were actually starting to box up product right around this time of year where we still remain very much on the shelves in the new department. So it’s a very positive move for us on a full year basis.

Frank Mitch – BB&T Capital Market

All right, terrific and I just heard, year-to-date, you guys had spent about $9 million on CapEx. You’re guiding to $30 million to $35 million. Well, can you talk a little bit more about where that spend is and is it really going to be $20-plus million in the back half of the year?

Mike Campbell

Well, if you take a look at it, this is about where we were last year. So we do tend to spend much more heavily in the second half. Part of that is driven by the fact that our trust (ph) in Tennessee plant goes down for their yearly turnaround after the bulk of the pull season is done so that doesn’t occur until late in the third quarter or early fourth quarter. We’re watching capital very carefully. If we can spend less than that while continuing to support, our strategic growth will do that. But I don’t think it’s all that unusual to be where we are. This will be the full year at this point frame.

Frank Mitch – BB&T Capital Market

All right, terrific. Thank you so much and I look forward to seeing you later this week.

Mike Campbell

Thank you, Frank. We look forward to it, too.

Operator

And our next question will come from Ian Zaffino with Oppenheimer.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

Very good quarter.

Mike Campbell

We were very pleased with it.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

Someone wants to be buying that pool chemicals.

Mike Campbell

Yes.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

Question would be on the cost side. I know you guys have, or you’re spoken in the past about potentially doing some type of – it may be comp study where you look at your cost versus some of your competitors and trying to bring that down. I’m just wondering what the status of that was and as we look further out, if we’d see any of that benefit, sometime this year or will we have to wait until 2011? Thanks.

Mike Campbell

What impact we will see from that is going to be relatively modest this year and has already factored into our forecast. But what we intent to do, Ian, is we intent to lay out this fall in a more comprehensive package, how we believe we can significantly move our margins up, and that’s going to be a combination of cost reduction, portfolio, management, growth with new products, innovation to bring even more new products to market.

So it is our intent this fall to lay out to shareholders the multi-faceted part of this effort that I think you’ll be very pleased within and really something I’m very excited about because I think that we really have an opportunity over a relatively short period of time couple of years, say, to significantly move those margins up.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

And if you looked at the potential margin expansion that you’d be targeting or do we still dwell (ph) on devices?

Mike Campbell

Well, I don’t want to be locked into a number but somewhere 3%, 4% would be, I think, a reasonable target for us to have.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

Okay. And that would be –

Mike Campbell

You do 4% on $1.25 billion or $1.4 billion whatever the sales number ends up being. It has a significant impact both on EBITDA and on earnings per share.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

Right, right. So we can almost see probably a 40% increase in operating income, just from these initiatives alone?

Mike Campbell

Yes, about that.

Ian Zaffino – Oppenheimer

All right, good. Thank you very much. Good quarter.

Mike Campbell

Thank you. Thanks very much, Ian.

Operator

Douglas Chudy with KeyBanc Capital Markets has the next question.

Douglas Chudy – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Good morning. Nice quarter.

Mike Campbell

Hi, thanks Doug.

Douglas Chudy – KeyBanc Capital Markets

First, you mentioned some increased growth initiatives or spending for the HTH Water Products business here in the third quarter. Can you give us a sense of maybe what type of increase we’re looking at and then maybe give us a better sense of what some of these growth initiatives you’re working on are?

Mike Campbell

What we’re talking about is maybe a couple of million dollars. If you take a look at second half of this year in water, you’ve got an impact from those investments which I’ll detail in just a second.

You’ve got some increased sourcing costs, you’ve got some increased rate in distribution and that’s why although we should see a kick up in sales. We’re not expecting a strong and operating income performance from them in the second half.

Now, on the investments, which I say are in the $1 million to $2 million area, a lot of it has do with the new hires both in the US and in Latin America in pursuit of new product markets, and then investing in R&D and support of the innovation effort.

Douglas Chudy – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Okay, that’s helpful. And then, I guess, secondly, within the Wood Protection business, did you see any sort of sequential demand improvement as the quarter progressed or has it been pretty stable at these lower levels?

Mike Campbell

It’s been pretty stable at the lower levels. What we’re seeing is not a strong uptick in demand on the residential area and we wouldn’t expect to see that.

We did see some improvement in industrial applications and we believe some of that is being driven by infrastructure spending as a result of the stimulus package that was passed a year-ago January or a year-ago February. But we saw some from that industrial segment. I think we might actually see a little improvement in housing in the second half. And, certainly, we have seen really good demand in both Europe and in Asia Pacific, and that continues.

Douglas Chudy – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Okay. And then just finally, one last question here. You’ve mentioned the shift within one of your customers to, I guess, maybe the lawn and garden section. Early indications, do you think this is going to be a positive overall move or will it take a full year to really be able to quantify that?

Mike Campbell

Well, certainly on the yearend call, I’ll have a better feel for it, but I will tell you we thought going in, it would be beneficial and we still believe that for the reason I explained to Frank Mitsch that it’s staying on the shelves longer. And it is a more logical place for consumers to be looking for the product in lawn and garden rather than in the tour department.

Douglas Chudy – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Okay, great. Thanks guys.

Mike Campbell

Thanks Doug.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). And, we’ll now hear from Christopher Butler with Sidoti & Company

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

Hi, good morning, guys. Looking at the Water Products business a little bit more here, being that this is the first year of kind of the shift in the replenishment strategy, did that help improve your operating efficiency or was that a negative to your operating efficiency producing the chemicals this year?

Mike Campbell

I don’t think it had any impact one way or another. And it didn’t have any impact on our – on the costs associated with serving that customer. So I haven’t seen any impact on margins as a result of that.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

And with less of a reliance on third quarter purchases and restocking, would this increase be the variability to second quarter numbers coming from this customer?

Mike Campbell

Say that again, I’m sorry.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

I’m just thinking that if they’re doing more purchases in the second quarter, that if it’s a particularly rainy summer, maybe they’ll end up holding more inventory over the winter and they will increase the volatility of the demand from them in the second quarter each year.

Mike Campbell

No, I don’t think so, because I think that part of their order pattern for the second quarter was driven by the very good weather comparisons in the Northeast and Midwest. So I think if you we were to get into a rainy season, they would adjust their order patterns accordingly.

And, secondly, this is a customer that we take back any unsolved inventory at the end of the year. All of that has forecasted in our – both our budget and our forecast. We do not expect those cost to be anything unusual this year versus what they have historically been. So I don’t think that this will resolve in the sort of overhang in the supply chain that could happen if you had a rainy summer. Other factors could impact that, but not this particular customer.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

And shifting gears to Personal Care, I apologize if I missed this earlier, but you had mentioned that there’s a possibility of some restocking in the quarter. Could you offer any idea of what you think that may be? And was that – should we minus that with the – do you think the operating margins would slip below that 20% line that you seem to have crested here in the first half of the year?

Rick Walden

Hi Chris, it’s Rick. I’ll take that question if I can. The restocking will not be that tremendous we don’t think and should not affect our 20% total year earnings in that way. Some of the restocking we’re seeing is primarily in Asia as they gear up for the Asian Games, we’re seeing some increased sales in the third quarter for that. But, year-over-year, the second half is going to be increased on 2009, and for the total years, we are still going to be up in the double digit increase in sales. So it’s going to be a great year for our personal care and Biocides.

Christopher Butler – Sidoti & Co.

You had mentioned the new tax rate for the remainder of this year is for modeling purposes, should we think similarly for 2011 and beyond?

Steve Giuliano

No, the reduction in the income tax rate for this year is a reflection of a benefit that we’re going to record related to the expiration of the statute of limitations for certain tax jurisdictions. So I don’t think you should model that as a reoccurring item going forward. On the other hand, this is consistent with our tax rate for 2009.

Operator

Moving on to Ivan Marcuse with North Coast Research.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

In the Industrial Biocides, you said that you’re seeing building materials still expected to decrease a little bit in the second half. Building materials, in what areas are you seeing the increase in? Is it wallboard or is it new products? Can you give a little bit more detail on that?

Rick Walden

It’s really all across the board. If you look at our building products sales, they are up 20% this year. Our plastic sales are up, our metal working fluid sales are up. So it’s generally the across the board and a lot of that is penetration into the Asian market, now that we are up and running in China as well as the Indian market, but a big of it is also North America with new product introductions as we were actively putting in new product line last year to replace some of the high-VOC type paints. So we are seeing it across the board but a big push is coming from the paint industry from a global initiative that we have going on with new products and the right products in the right part of the world for that market.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

When you say paints, are you including marine in there, or is that a different area?

Rick Walden

That would be different. When I talk about paints, I am talking about the home and decorative paints. The antifouling paint business, we keep separate. And it’s pretty static with what we saw in 2009, which is a little bit better than we were concerned about going into 2010 with all the shifts being in lay-up. So we are still watching that for 2011 and 2012 with the ship building backlog is going on and we will have a little bit better foresight in that in the fourth quarter but marine paint is very – we are very pleased that it’s on level of what it was last year and performing quite well.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Great, and then looking at China, how is the plant you built for the Personal Care business there, have you increased utilization rates there, or is it still going along at a pretty low level?

Rick Walden

No we have so basically increased operating rates over there as we’ve ramped up not only on the personal care products and the antidandruff but also in the building products line as well. So that continues to ramp up, that plant is performing marvelously, great response of a care performance and it’s a pleasure to take customers in and see a world (inaudible) plant in China.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Great, and Steve so you paid down a slugged debt this quarter. Do you plan paying down more, and how should I be looking at interest expense going forward and how are you still looking at the overall structure of your balance sheet right now?

Steve Giuliano

Ivan, we’ve got two sources of liquidity that are coming due next June, our revolver and our term loan. Both of those will look at refinancing during this second half. So we are likely to see higher interest rates with those items. So from an interest perspective, probably $1 million, in the range of higher expense year-over-year and a little bit higher than what we’ve been running through the first couple of quarters.

Mike Campbell

All included in our forecast (ph).

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Great, and are you planning on paying down any more debt, or is it pretty much going to be as is for the time being?

Steve Giuliano

We can, depending on what items – how we term out some of those debts. We would look to generating roughly $50 million of free cash flow this year I think – and also including the proceeds from the coatings acquisition and after we pay the dividend, we should have ability to pay down debt of roughly $70 million, so we’ll also be ultimately making some pension contributions towards the second half of the year as well.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

The cash from the divestiture that you had, is that in Europe, or if have you brought it back, and is there debt or anything to pay down in Europe or is there investment application uses the cash, what sort of the plan there?

Steve Giuliano

Regarding the cash we have brought back substantially all of that – of those proceeds and used it to pay down debt in the interim.

Ivan Marcuse – North Coast Research

Okay, great. Thanks a lot for taking my questions.

Mike Campbell

Thanks Ivan.

Operator

Mr. Campbell, we have no further questions. So I’ll turn things back to you for closing or additional remarks.

Mike Campbell

Thank you Kelsey. Let me take just a few moments to make a couple of comments. As I have emphasized, we are very positive about Arch’s future. Our global markets are improving. We’re introducing new products, we’re increasing market share and we’re continuing our relentless focus on tightly managing working capital optimizing the portfolio and improving operating margins. I can assure you that all Arch leaders are committed to our goal of enhancing shareholder value by delivering strong topline and bottom line results. That’s all for now. I want to thank you for your participation and thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this update. Have a great day.

Operator

Thank you Mr. Campbell. Again ladies and gentlemen that does conclude our conference for today on behalf of Arch Chemicals, I would like to thank you for your participation. Enjoy the rest of your day all.

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