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Apogee Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:APOG)

Wall Street Analyst Forum

February 13, 2007 9:10 am ET

Executives

Rachael - Wall Street Analyst Forum

Russell Huffer - Chairman and CEO

Jim Porter - CFO

Presentation

Rachael

Apogee Enterprises. Apogee is headquartered in Minneapolis, and they sort of provide distinctive value-added glass solutions for enclosing commercial buildings and framing arts.

Comprising the majority of the company, Apogee's Architectural segment engineers fabricates, installs and repairs the walls of glass and windows that enclose buildings and often provide energy efficiency, hurricane protection or glass protection. The Company's picture framing glass reduces reflectivity and heating from sunlight.

Speaking today on behalf of Apogee Enterprises is Chairman and CEO, Russ Huffer.

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Russell Huffer

Thank you and good morning. We really are very pleased to be here today. And as she said, we are about commercial construction. So we really are not -- the only residences we do -- residential work is really multifamily or high-rise, and even that is very typically building more like an office building than a high-rise condo. So it really -- we really are about glass. Buildings with glass with lots of glass on them -- that's the kind of buildings where you'll find our Apogee products and services in the commercial marketplace.

Certainly, over 80% of the Company is in Architectural revenue, and we are seeing this business enjoying a very favorable part of the commercial construction cycle. So today, our revenues are up. Our earnings are up. We're growing our income year-on-year, and we are projecting a very nice improvement for the following years.

You saw our earnings announcement earlier this week. You're able to see that things are moving well in the current fiscal year for us, and as well as we've given guidance now for the next fiscal year. This year, we expect -- we are in the final months. We are in calendar in February fiscal year. So we're in our final month, as we speak today.

And we believe that that's going to be a strong year for us with earnings guidance of $1.04 to $1.10 and looking at nice growth -- bottomline growth for the next several years of nearly 20% a year. With this current positive trend of the commercial construction cycle, we believe we will continue at a topline growth of about 8%.

Certainly, there will be forward-looking comments made today throughout the presentation, and I need to remind you that to keep all of my counselors happy.

Jim Porter is with me this morning. Jim is our CFO. Both of us have been at Apogee for now over nine years in our roles. Mine is CEO. His is -- in the beginning as Controller, VP of Strategy and Business Development and now CFO. I've been filling that role. So he's been a very integral part of the development of the strategy and the company over the time that I have been CEO. So we've been great partners throughout that period.

And we talk about -- and we'll get into, sort of, the nuts and bolts a little bit here. But let me talk about a couple of things that are important for you to understand when you look at Apogee's products and services. What is it that really drives value? How are we able to get -- earn these profits, improve our business, and still sustain itself in this commercial cycle?

I would tell you that there are two value propositions that we serve. The first is with the architect and the owner or the developer of a commercial construction project. That value proposition quite simply is to design and build a building that will command a premium in terms of lease rates from the leaseholders. Frankly, it's all about that.

When we're able to do that, when we're able to give the architect a choice of design, when we're able to give the developer a building that's air and water tight, that's comfortable to the people inside, where they're not fidgeting over the heating and cooling, they're not worrying about being able to read their computer screen because of glare or other issues, where we make the building really efficient, likable, it commands a premium. And that's what we do.

So we're doing that. The architect understands and the developer understands, when they use architectural -- Apogee's Architectural Products and Services, they're going to get a building that will meet or exceed their expectations and that will be a desirable place for people to come and lease the businesses to locate and they will pay a premium to be in that facility. That's a very important of our -- that's our number one value proposition, and I can tell great stories about how that happened.

The second value proposition is actually starting to see that construction project itself. When you think about a commercial building -- well, let me put your mind to an all-glass commercial building. You know, World Trade Center 7 is one of our glass products. It's on here in the city. And it's nice, attractive building, all-glass, and it's under construction, if you will.

And I'm going to use round numbers. They're not actual numbers. But let's assume that that building cost $100 million to build. The glass, metal and labor to install, engineering to put through enclose -- just enclose the building, just to put that part on is going to be about 10% of the cost of construction. The glass itself will only be 1% of the total building cost and the metal 1% and labor starts to become a big factor.

So I'm trying to get at this value proposition. How do we affect the value? Why there is a general contractor or any other contractors want us on the job? It's because commercial construction projects are very labor intensive. When you're building these nice big projects, beautiful commercial buildings, where labor is your biggest factor in those and that's construction projects.

And when we're efficient, when we deliver the right product at the right time, and it's a high quality and it goes on to the -- when the truck arrives at 7, and it's supposed to be there at 7, and the crane is taking the product off, and it's a seventh floor and north elevation and that's what's on the truck to come off first on to that building, that makes this project goes smoothly.

And if we get that done in an efficient manner, if we're a facilitator of getting this building well underway, long enclosed, then all of the other trades can come in, and it's labor. Labor, labor, labor, it’s all about labor in commercial construction and we are a very definitive leverage play in terms of getting that building in close because nothing happens until it’s closed off. And so that’s real important that we are able to do this. So I started it with 100 million cost of building, 10 for the labor, metal and glass. You can see how important these supplies and getting them there and into the right places are and that’s how we get great value.

So what happens, so the general contractor were bidding, or the glazing contractor were bidding on the next project when they understand our value proposition to them, they are going beat us up so hard on our price, on our bid. You know they understand that they can pay a premium to us and they are willing to be more efficient, their labor costs are going to be less, it actually is a better value of the buy from an Apogee Company than one of our competitor. So two important value propositions, one is, building is more attractive, it’s more functional, it delivers what the tenants is willing to pay a premium for and the second one, they can build it more efficiently.

So inside of everything else, we do a lot of things to get that in this value added buildings, buildings of style, buildings of character, buildings of names, not just addresses, commercial construction projects, that’s our reputation, that’s how we get value out of those buildings.

Now in this chart, this actually gives you a little bit more of a look inside of our Apogee products and services, architectural products and services. So Viracon is our glass fabricator. They have been the supplier of glass to many of the major buildings around the world. They supplied to Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, they did the Bangkok Airport, the largest project in the world, Hong Kong Airport extension. They have done one financial center in Taipei, Taiwan. They are supplying glass today to Samsung headquarters in South Korea as well as World Trade Center 7, One Bryant Park, Bank of America, New York Times. They are a leading provider of glass for commercial buildings throughout the United States, North America and the Pacific Rim.

If you went to the Pacific Rim and looked at a major project today, you would specify Viracon. If you look at a major project in the US, as we look at the -- Viracon’s products are architect’s preference for these projects. That’s a great brand and great reputation and we typically are going to out of the top 100 projects that are build in the United States each year, going to have our glass on 70 on them. Now that doesn’t mean we have 70% market share throughout this whole commercial construction market, but if it’s a building of character, it’s a large market share. It’s probably 40-50% of all size buildings that had a lot of glass lines. So great market share.

And inside of here -- inside of the presentation there are more details about competitors, suppliers, markets, things like that. But what they are really doing, they are just transforming raw glass into something that meets the customer's needs in terms of aesthetics and performance, whether its energy efficiency, blast resistant, hurricane resistant, things like that that are important to safety requirements.

Next business in this group is Harmon. Harmon is the largest glazing contractor. Remember I talked about the $100 million and the $10 million for installation. They are the largest glazing contractor in the United States. However, they don't service the right pinnacle of major monumental buildings. So the monumental buildings are done by others. We sell glass to them, Viracon does, but Harmon would be an installer sort of the next here now.

Still building the character, but less complex in the engineering, less risky, more projects smaller ones than the top tier, but stilt building some character. So they are still very important in terms of aesthetics, in terms of construction efficiencies. The same value proposition applies here as well as it does to glass supply.

The third and fourth businesses are really -- one. They are the metal and finishing -- design engineering of metal and finishing for commercial structures. JFK Airport here in the city is a very complex building design-wise, a lot of irregular shapes and facets to it. So there are highly engineered metal systems to support the glass. That's Warsaw's capability.

Warsaw also has a distinctive advantage in supplying operating windows for high end condos, for universities, schools, hospital where ventilation is important. Most commercial structures don't have windows than open and close, but they actually design windows that really work. You don't have to be a gorilla to open or close them. They really do not leak air, they don't leak water. They are thermally broken. They are comfortable to be around summer and winter. That's their niche and what they have been able do.

So that gives you a piece -- sort of a look then inside of that group. Let's talk to a minute about our markets and the cycle that we're within. We said we're in the commercial construction cycle. This chart shows you -- is FW Dodge, a couple of points about the Dodge, the numbers on here are year-on-year. So they're really not trend lines. There -- so this last part, 14% going to 6%, that's still a growth. Even though the line goes down that's 6% better that Dodge is forecasting calendar '07 to be than in calendar '06, if you will. The calendar is along the bottom.

Our fiscal year is along the top. Our fiscal year trails that where I said it was February yearend, but our revenue trails permitting through about 9 to 12 months. So the Dodge numbers permits, our number is revenue so that's why there is the shift. So when we do the inquiry and see it historically, we've outperformed Dodge, we're actually widening the gap, gaining market share as we go forward, we will talk about why in just a second.

But the point of this chart is, is that where are we in the cycle. We're starting to get through a strong point in it. We are slowing our cent, if you will, Dodge is forecasting a slower cent next year this calendar year than last calendar year, but still our growth market, they in our other economies are predicting is probably to calendar ten, that it will then peak before it starts to move down.

We think that's very important probably there was slower growth rate than it has been in the last couple of years, but still positiveness for a few more years. Biggest indicator of that positiveness will be probably be from office constructions, office constructions in this past year was a 33 million square feet put in place, 88 million squared absorbed with vacancy range dropping almost to 4 points.

Dodge and McGraw-Hill and CB Richard Ellis are predicting a similar set of statistics for this calendar year. So again, nearly a 90% net absorption of office space probably 30, 35 million square feet put in place vacancy rates dropping yet again. That will put us in a position where we'll start to see more offices being planned and built in the coming years, that's why we believe this commercial construction cycle is sustainable for a few more years.

So schools, hospitals, those are sustainable because the demographics is cheaper to build a hospital and renovate there is just a need for more schools, our high-end hotels are doing well, condos will probably slow down a little bit, but not for a couple of more years.

You all remember these are long-term projects that are in, so office seems to be the part that's likely to sustain this marketplace. When we look at our backlog, our backlog is more balanced than it was in the last peak, so when we talk about margins to where our performance is, clearly with our backlog spread out last time at the peak was 50% office.

Now we're about 35 condos -- condos, 25 be careful when I say that, our condos has always been high-end condos has always been a high -- an important part of our business, and will continue to be an important part of our business, but if it's a condo, it looks more like an office building, if it's your typical condo, where have this peak of construction, we have been involved in that anyway.

So you know, our condo, when that was happening people said are you enjoy that? I said well, no, and it's going down, are you affected? Well, no. and it is what it is. So I want to be clear about that. And now I’m going through some of these other numbers here. We do ask you to -- as you want to check that, look at aia.org, aia.org will give you -- tell you months to months what the architectural activity is. So that’s a great way to balance the large numbers. Is to look at architectural activity to look into the future and then making few rates.

We think those are the three important areas for you to track. If you want to know how we’re going to do in the future. Now, looking at this market even if this market is going to level off at a lower level and when it did the last time. Actually the percentage is dropped, so most of our competitors are out of business, and we’re happy with the market structure, the way it is today.

So on lower peak actually, works very well for us, and what we would tell you is what’s going on inside of the commercial construction market, is that energy efficiency has become more important. Domestic demand through Green construction and through the legislation. All three of those are promoted in the use of highly energy efficient products, when I described that last year, we think it was 35 -- around 35% of the glass was energy efficient put in place.

Out of $40 million, we put square feet, we put in price, sales, we saved over 2 million barrels a lot of this year and every year thereafter. And the leverage on that is enormous in the terms of the economics. So having Green construction -- Green construction is not a fetish we owe it, because there is economics behind it.

Legislation is helping driving to our people have to consider high performance products and we are the leader in that area. So our market share has traditionally come from that high performance sector in all of our businesses. And we expect it to continue to do so and it will support us going into the future.

Architectural glass again, we think it’s a nice growth per year, so we think our window and curtainwall business has been able to be more selective today in the positive phases of markets. So that’s improving margins, improving efficiencies and operations and we think we can continue to build upon our excellence in window design as well.

Let me spend a moment on picture-framing glass and I’ll get to some of the numbers and then we’ll take some questions. Picture-framing glass on large scale optical on pattern -- Jim is passing around a display, but fundamentally, this is a market that’s pretty -- it’s a bad event, year-to-year about 170 million square feet of glass. We are growing market share, we are specifically growing market shares and the value added to it.

So the display is passed around our all value added pieces of glass. We have several large big box merchants that have now converted their customer-framing. Michael’s joined others to a 100% value added Tru Vue picture-framing glass. And so that’s really helping us well this value added sector. We are a dominant supplier with the products you'll see if they have passed around. We are the only supplier of those to the market place. There's limited supply of other value added glass from competitors. So we are in a great position.

As we look at this market our most – our most profitable and best driving product in here is what we call Museum. Museum is an anti-reflective piece of glass that I -- what I tell people what is does is it brings your art into high definition. It's suddenly when you look at the art it's like looking at the HD, a high-definition picture television versus a regular television.

It's that dramatic and it's ability to show you the art and the photographs behind it. And we think it’s very compelling. And [Jorans] is an interesting data point. Jorans is a company that uses our value added products and is mixing this and easily into the, you know, 20% and above in terms of consumers using this product in there custom framing.

And that's a sort of a mid-sector framing company. So we believe though where we were 3% today there's significant potential for this product to grow and to really help this division do well. We think that it’s still a division where you’re going to see some results for about two more quarters be mixed, because of the ships that are taking in inventories in this major big boxes.

Other things going on in the Company, certainly we're very nicely we're investing in things to make our backlog more efficient. We have significant Six Sigma/LEAN efforts that have been very successful in taking cost out and leveraging our high asset business areas. And we are meaning away – what you'll see in terms of auto glass in the past would have simply disappear. So Auto glass is a thing of the past, even though they are still cash positive and drawing some profitability.

As we look forward through fiscal year '10 we really see this as a market that will sustain annual growing – growth and earnings of 20% with about a 8% topline growth for us. We think that we'll be able to manage our businesses through this cycle, because of the continuing demand for the value propositions that we deliver aesthetic and efficiencies. Aesthetic premiums lease rate and efficiency of construction.

And we think that will help drive our business. Even with our significant investments we’ve actually – been able to achieve some positive free cash flows. When we look at our third quarter this year versus a year ago, you can really see that there was robustness of growth and improvement that's taking place and that continued improvement is what's supporting our – supported the improvement in guidance that just came out this week and we're now providing our F'08 guidance which is consistent with our long-term goals of growing the topline and bottomline through the fiscal '10.

When we look within the segment, you can see that the segment performance primarily performance is being coming out of the architectural segment where topline and bottom line are growing significantly. We think that will -- we can sustain this performance and get to new records in terms of our operating margins. We have great backlogs and inside those backlogs the data is providing us with the confidence to be able to make these statements to you today.

Flat revenues and decreasing income in Large-Scale Optical, again, you know, these are still good numbers. These are great numbers. They are just down from where they were in the prior year. And that’s due to mix-shift that are taking place, it is not a problem inside of this market or industry. We simply have customers that are changing their inventory towards the value-added products.

And rearranging lineups and as they do that, they go away from a very high value added to lower. We introduced new products and then we will see the markets. I believe, we’ll see the markets change that’s probably about six more months of that kind of activity before we see that so well.

And then as I said before, auto glass revenue is really just disappearing and that segment going off the balance sheet.

As we look at our cash flow, we’re very pleased to be able talk about the positive cash flow this fiscal year. Even with the significant investments that have been made in capacity, especially in our glass fabrication division. We will continue to invest in that division as well as others. And we anticipate that the strong flow of cash will continue and we’ll be able to show that we’re in a great position from that point of view as well.

So our fiscal ‘08, certainly, the important thing is understanding, even though we’ve changed our guidance to $1.40 to $1.10. Our architectural products and services really are just coming at the top end of the prior range. And we’ve had some other minor things that are really moved so fast.

The R&D rebates and cash flow has being stronger. Interest is being lower. Health care came in normal at the end of the year. So a lot of things sort of help boost these earnings at the end of the year. But clearly put us in a great position to forecast our -- our fiscal ’08 and that’s why we have this guidance now at $1.20 to $1.30. And that -- and it clearly supports our growth through fiscal ’10.

With that all conclusion, I’ll take any questions.

Question-and-Answer-Session

Jim Porter

Just a minute.

Unidentified Audience Member

Can talk about how much did you think you’re saying on CapEx in the next couple of years and what your kind of return over?

Jim Porter

Return 15% is our return hurdle. We are looking at about -- normal CapEx is going to run 20 million to 25 million. We’re probably are going to be in the 45 million range in capital spending. We will continue to invest in architectural product and services especially our glass and as well as in our large scale optical.

Unidentified Audience Member

Does that mean that after CapEx you guys won’t actually be generating a lot of free cash flow? I mean…

Russell Huffer

We're still generating free cash flow above CapEx.

Unidentified Audience Member

You are?

Russell Huffer

Yes, and expect to continue to do so. Yes.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Russell Huffer

Yeah. We’ve -- you know, it's about reflected in our -- the question is, what is the mix in the backlog as we go forward. And was -- as I outlined in the presentation, we’ve about 35% office, 28% condole and the other categories. We expect that to continue to be about the same. There will be some shifts, plus or minus 5%, but I don't anticipate any major shifts. Probably office up five and condole is down a little bit, but the others who are placed in are pretty well balanced.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Russell Huffer

Okay. The question is, which are the buildings are going to demand more of our value-added products and services. We see that expanding. We see the marketplace vary -- you know, green is real. And when we talk about green buildings, World Trade Center 7, Bank of America are planning for Green certification.

Governor Schwarzenegger said all government buildings in Northern California will be built to Green certification. Washington DC, Baltimore, see more cities now demand that new buildings rebuilt to Green certification.

Why are they doing that? Because it's lowering the peak demand on the power grip. It's a very important solution for them to do this, because it actually controls the energy cost. It's an economic decision to build this way. It is a great economics. And what we are seeing is that's one of the areas that's pushing people in our direction, because our product and services are superior in terms of their energy efficiencies for a commercial building.

And hurricanes is another thing that's driving the market to use more value-added products. The more value-added are they, the market demand that's where our ability are strongest, because we've already pre-certified, designed the systems and products. We have them out there, and we continue to introduce new products with new esthetics that the architect wants to choose from to meet those needs. So those are drivers in our favor. Did that answer your question, John. Okay.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Russell Huffer

Yes, great question. What is the pay-back period on energy-efficient glass versus non-energy efficient glass?

If the building is over half glass, most of the time to pay-back is at point of construction. I mean, it's amazing you can actually reduced the heating and air-conditioning capital cost to offset the increased cost in the high performance glass wall. So we actually build the building to last, if it's more than half glass.

Okay. So how often is the more than half glass? Well glass is still -- even with -- is still a preferred material to other materials in terms of competitiveness, cost competitiveness on the exterior of building. So it's a great competitive product to begin with. And actually in a glass, a very reflective glass. If it's less than half 25% to 50% to pay-back period, may or may not be immediate or may be a year or two.

But even at lower glass levels the pay back period is very short. It's priced still within three years, to use high performance glass. So its -- unless some one is building and expect builders in flipping it. You don't care about the energy costs. It’s a good decision to use these products in commercial buildings.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Russell Huffer

Yes, a less capital – it takes less tonnage to cool or heat the building.

Jim Porter

Exactly. Questions over here.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Jim Porter

Yes.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Jim Porter

The question is what are our value proposition with servicing construction project and specifically, how do we measure impact on the project?

With them we want to measure is schedule. If the scheduled slips on the project, because of our lateness or incompleteness in supply, that's a problem. And clearly there are always damages associated with a scheduled implications. So if you are the cause of the commercial project slipping.

You can get into actual damages, liquidated damages, there's lots of measures, contractually those are regulated. So, you know we always try to avoid those in our contracts as much, but they are always there. But schedule is the first one and when scheduled slips that drives the other cost, and everybody knows that, it’s driving other cost. So there in rely the real [words] -- with that market -- that particular project.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Jim Porter

Okay. The question is Viracon, the glass supplier, who were there competitors?

Viracon will have about $270 million in sales this year. About half of their sales will be products that are not available in North America from other suppliers. About half of their products will be available from competitors. The -- its sounds -- it’s a great position to be in by the way. We really enjoyed, but it’s not a perfect position to hire.

There is still as competition you cannot raise prices so much, until people will specify the competitive products. So we you know, we do our best to maximize our market pricing in those products and services. And then we try to leverage our value proposition of complete non-time, great quality to the marketplace to extract the premium for the commodity products.

And we believe we do. And we believe we do. And we're sold out, so that’s a good measure there I believe. Another question, John.

Unidentified Audience Member

On the international side, you fit in the number of high prestige, so did you turn internationally. I think you don't have any manufacturing over there to ready to put some of the issues of Green you know competitive cost of product somewhere over there as well. Are we going to make some more initiatives to go after international and effect the requirement of significant investment?

Russell Huffer

The international business is glass supply only. The question was about international business we've done some prestige projects. What is our strategy going forward from an international point of view? Clearly, we will continue to do, select projects where it’s less than influence and a demand for our product.

But it will be done out of premium. We are not competitive, the time you put duty and freight on our products going to specific cram we are not competitive from a price standpoint. So it will be sold out of a premium and we'll also. So that is so important business.

It is important to understand that that same values exist going the inlay, so that's good news in that equation. But as far as investing overseas, we've actually felt that we had better opportunities to invest and grow in a market that's expanding its demand of all kinds of things in US rather than doing it overseas.

So we what -- we looked at that, we consider that, we think that the non-Chinese investment is eventual. But right now, its priority would be below that is continuing to improve our operations in North America.

Unidentified Audience Member

What about the MNA and the other segments I know, I think you all traded in last couple of years I heard [tornado] is on the block.

Russell Huffer

Right.

Unidentified Audience Member

You guys look at those involved…

Russell Huffer

MNA and the other segments of installation and window installation, we acquired walls about 18 months ago. We would -- the installation business is a people project management business. I would acquire other installation businesses as long as you acquire people and skilled people.

If there’s a retirement plan for the owner, than it’s not a acquisition target. On the window side (inaudible) you described list to all some of those kinds of things. We would be interested in window companies especially, if they would compliment our strategy of focusing on high quality operable window systems.

We believe that there are engineering capability will leverage our products and abilities in the market that is legalist. We think its legalist today. Okay, are we out of time? We are out of time. Thank you very much for your questions.

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