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Rockwood Holdings (NYSE:ROC)

Q2 2011 Earnings Call

July 27, 2011 11:00 am ET

Executives

Robert Zatta - Chief Financial officer, Interim Principal Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President, Senior Vice President of Rockwood Specialties Group and Chief Financial officer of Rockwood Specialties Group and Interim Principal Accounting Office of Rockwood Specialties Group

Timothy McKenna - Vice President of Investor Relations & Communications

Seifi Ghasemi - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President, Chairman of Rockwood Specialties Group and Chief Executive Officer of Rockwood Specialties Group

Analysts

Steven Schwartz - First Analysis Securities Corporation

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG

Silke Kueck-Valdes - JP Morgan Chase & Co

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG

Edlain Rodriguez - Gleacher & Company, Inc.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Rockwood Holdings 2011 Second Quarter Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] And as a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I'll now turn the conference over to Tim McKenna, Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Timothy McKenna

Thank you. Good morning, and welcome to Rockwood Second Quarter Earnings Call. Seifi Ghasemi, our Chairman and Chief Executive; and Bob Zatta, our Chief Financial Officer, will give a formal presentation. After that, we will have a Q&A session. You can follow the slides for the call on our website at rocksp.com.

Before the call begins, I'll read a short statement. This conference call may contain certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, concerning the business operations and financial condition of Rockwood Holdings and its subsidiaries. Although Rockwood believes the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, there can be no assurance that its expectations will be realized.

Forward-looking statements consist of all nonhistorical information, including statements referring to the prospects and future performance of Rockwood. Actual results could differ materially from those projected in Rockwood's forward-looking statements due to numerous known and unknown risks and uncertainties including, among other things, the risk factors described in Rockwood's Form 10-K filed with the SEC. We do not undertake any obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which any statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Seifi.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you, Tim. Good morning, everyone. We thank you for taking time off from your busy schedule to join our conference call today. During our presentation, we will refer to the material we have posted on the Internet. I am very pleased to report that Rockwood had another excellent quarter. Our businesses continued to perform well.

A strong demand for our products, combined with improvements in pricing and productivity, enabled us to achieve an all-time high adjusted EBITDA-to-sales margin of 23.4%. The company's adjusted EBITDA in the quarter improved by almost $70 million to a total of $233.6 million versus last year, which was an improvement of 43.1%. And our adjusted earnings per share for the quarter more than doubled to $1.17 versus $0.50 last year. Earnings improved in all of our business sectors. Highlighting the fact that Rockwood has a focused portfolio of world-class businesses. In addition, we are fortunate to have a talented, dedicated and committed team of 10,000 employees who work hard every day to improve our performance and serve our customers.

Now, would you please turn to Page 6 of our presentation. Net sales of $1 billion for the quarter was up 22.9% versus prior year, and it was up 12.2% on a constant currency basis. We saw continued strong demand in most of our markets. Especially, we saw strong organic growth in our Specialty Chemicals and Advanced Ceramics sectors. High prices and product mix improvements in TiO2 pigments also helped improve our sales.

Our adjusted EBITDA of $233.6 million was up 43.1% versus prior year, and it was up 30% on a constant currency basis. And as I mentioned before, we achieved the all-time high margin of adjusted to EBITDA to sales of 23.4%.

Our earning per share of $1.17 was more than 100% ahead of last year. And this was mainly due to higher adjusted EBITDA, as well as lower interest expense from debt repayment and refinancing.

Our debt-debt -- our net debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio now stands at 2.06, a goal that we have announced for 2012, so we are very ahead of that in accomplishing that goal. In the second quarter, we generated $61.4 million of free cash after paying for CapEx, cash taxes and the change in, obviously, in our working capital and interest on our loans. We expect our cash flow to significantly improve in the next 2 quarters.

As I mentioned before, I'd like to stress that we continue to focus on delevering the company.

At this time, I'd like you to please turn to Page 7. I have talked about most of the numbers already, but please note the very last line, adjusted EBITDA was up -- was $1.17, which was up 134%. And for the first half of the year, EPS was $2.05 versus $0.91 last year, an improvement of 125%.

Now please turn to page 8. As usual, we do break down our sales to demonstrate the effects of pricing, exchange rate and volumes. The numbers are self explanatory and I will be more than happy to answer any questions that you have during the Q&A part on this -- on the volumes and pricing and all of that. Now please turn on -- to Page 9.

You will notice on this page that sales and EBITDA improved in all of our businesses, demonstrating the strength of our portfolio. I will make specific comments about each one of the businesses. So now, please turn to Page 11.

Our Specialty Chemicals sector continued its strong performance. Sales were up 24.9% in actual rates and 14.6% in constant currency, and we maintained the margin of about 25% in this business. We continue to see strong volume growth for our lithium products and our Surface Treatment chemicals. We expect the sector to continue to do well as we move forward.

Now please turn to Page 12. Our Performance Additives sector, as you know, is where we have significant exposure to the construction business in the United States, especially, and also in Europe. As we have -- we pointed out last quarter, the activity in construction sector continues to remain depressed. We have not nor do we expect to see any growth in this sector for the balance of the year and probably 2012. Our improved profit results in this sector are primarily the result of increased prices for our premium products and continued focus on productivity. Our management team in this sector has done an excellent job to deliver an adjusted EBITDA margin for this business of 20.8%, despite the depressed market demand. We expect to do -- this business to do very well than construction activity in the U.S. returns to normal in 2015 and beyond.

Now please turn to Page 13. Our TiO2 business had an excellent performance in the second quarter. Sales increased 35% and adjusted EBITDA more than doubled. There are 2 key reasons for this significant improvement. First, in 2008, Rockwood and Kemira made a strategic decision to combine their TiO2 businesses. This combination created the world's leading specialty producer of TiO2 special products, barium sulfate and zinc sulfite, with significant resources and research and development and introducing new products into the market. In addition, the combination resulted in significant synergies that are now reflected in our results. The combination of these 2 businesses has been a great success. The second driver of performance is the higher prices for our products as a result of the current supply demand dynamics in the marketplace. We expect this business to continue its superior performance for the foreseeable future. I would like to add that in the past few years, both Rockwood and Kemira have stated that they do not consider TiO2 to be a long-term core business for them. Therefore, although we are currently very happy with the performance of this business and we expect that performance to continue very well, we do -- we continue to consider and evaluate our strategic options for this business for the very long term.

Now please turn to Page 14. Our Ceramic business, as usual, had another great quarter. Adjusted EBITDA to sales now stands at 32.6%. This is a great accomplishment, thanks to the very competent management team we have in this sector. Our ceramic hip joint products continued to enjoy double-digit growth.

Now please -- I'm going to turn the presentation to Mr. Bob Zatta, our Chief Financial Officer, and then I will come back with a few comments before we open the session for questions. Bob?

Robert Zatta

Thank you, Seifi, and good morning, everyone. I'm on Page 16 of the presentation. This is our reported income statement for the second quarter of 2011 and the first half of the year. Please note, for all data and periods presented, the results of the AlphaGary plastic compounding business, which we sold in January of this year, have been accounted for in discontinued operations. Rockwood reported net sales of $1 billion for the second quarter as compared with $813.7 million in the same period last year, an increase of 22.9%. For the first half of the year, net sales were $1.9 billion for an increase of 20.2% over last year. We reported gross profit for the quarter of $345.6 million, or 34.6% of sales, as compared with $269.9 million, or 33.2% of sales last year. For the first half of the year, gross profit as a percent of sales was 34.8% as compared to 33% last year.

The improvement in gross margin year-on-year in the quarter and for the full year was due to higher pricing to offset raw material and other cost increases, increased volume and a better mix. For the second quarter, SG&A as a percent of sales was 18.1%, down from 20.8% last year. For the first half of the year, SG&A as a percent of sales was 18.9% down from 21% last year. We also had some restructuring and severance accruals in the second quarter related to the continued streamlining of operations. And this brings us to operating income of $116.2 million for the quarter and $299.6 million for the first half of the year. For the quarter, this is 16% of sales versus 12.2% last year, and for the first half, it is 15.7% of sales versus 11.8%.

The next major item is net interest expense. The composition of interest expense, as usual, is shown at the bottom of the page. In the quarter, net cash interest was $22.1 million, mark-to-market losses on interest rate swaps was $1.4 million and deferred financing costs was $1.2 million. Net interest expense was lower than the same period last year, primarily due to the prepayment of debt and lower interest rates as a result of the refinancing of our senior secured term loans in February of 2011. Also, the mark-to-market loss on interest rate swaps was $1.4 million in the quarter as compared with mark-to-market gains of $5.6 million last year. As we have discussed in the past, we expect the movement in interest rates impacts the fair market value calculation of the interest rate contracts, and since we do not use hedge accounting to change in the fair market value for one period to the next, runs through the P&L. For the first half of the year net interest expense was lower than the same period last year, due to the same reasons noted above for the quarter. This brings us to income from continuing operations before taxes, which is $137.3 million for the second quarter and $239.5 million for the first half. Against this, the income tax provision is $37.8 million for the quarter for the first half of the year, the income tax provision is $66.6 million. On adjusted basis, the effective tax rate for the quarter is in the 27% range. We then show the income from continued -- discontinued operations and the gain on sale on discontinued operations, which all relates to the AlphaGary sale and the adjustment for the net income attributable to the not controlling interest in the TiO2 and several joint ventures. The gain on sale of discontinued operations in the second quarter includes a true up of taxes in connection with the sale of the AlphaGary business in January. This resulted in net income of $94.5 million for the second quarter and $272.5 million for the first half of the year.

Page 17 presents the reconciliation of net income to adjusted EBITDA. For the quarter, beginning with net income of $94.5 million, we've added back the items, which gets us to pretax income from continuing operations of $137.3 million. Then adding back interest expense and D&A brings us to a subtotal of $29.8 million. We then have several one-time adjusting items, which brings us to adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations in the quarter of $233.6 million.

Turning to Page 18. Page 18 provides a detailed reconciliation of net income and EPS from continuing operations on a reported basis to net income and EPS from continuing operations as adjusted.

As you can see, the adjustments are shown on an after-tax basis and include the same items already identified on the previous charts. This gives us an adjusted EPS of $1.17 per share for the second quarter and $2.05 per share for the first half of the year.

Page 19 provides the detailed reconciliation, firstly, between the income from continuing operations before tax of $137.3 million to the normalized, as adjusted profit before tax, which is $142.6 million. And secondly, for the reported income tax provision of $37.8 million to the normalized tax charge of $38.4 million. This gives us an effective tax rate of 27% in the quarter. This effective tax rate continues to be driven by certain domestic income, not being tax-affected due to valuation allowance and the beneficial foreign earnings mix.

Page 20 provides a summary of our cash and debt position at June 30, 2011. As we discussed already, we prepaid $409 million of senior secured debt and refinanced $850 million of senior secured debt in February of this year, at a reduced interest rate from what we have been paying. As you can see from the chart, at June 30, our total debt was $1.7905 billion and our total cash was $235.2 million, resulting in a net debt $1.5553 billion. Total debt is up slightly versus March 31 due to the impact of foreign exchange, and which is partially offset by scheduled debt repayments.

Turning to Page 21. Page 21 shows the long-term trend in Rockwood's leverage ratio. We've included the pro forma calculation at December 31, 2010, to illustrate how we have continued to deleverage the company in accordance with our plan. And finally, on page 22, presents our free cash flow for the first quarter -- for the second quarter. As you can see, we generated free cash flow of $61.4 million in the second quarter, which brings us to $73.1 million for the first half of the year, moving us in line with our full year free cash flow target of $300-plus million. And with that, Seifi, I'll turn it back to you.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you, Bob. As we have now seen from reviewing the details of our results, we had an excellent quarter. The key elements and trends that helped us achieve these results continue to be in place as we move forward. Therefore, we remain optimistic about the performance of our businesses. Demand for our key products continues to be strong. We expect to maintain our higher margins, improve earnings per share and generate significant amount of free cash that we will use to promote organic growth and reduce leverage, in line with our long-term objectives.

At this time, now, we will be more than happy to answer your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Silke Kueck with JPMorgan.

Silke Kueck-Valdes - JP Morgan Chase & Co

A couple of questions. What grade of wire does Rockwood purchased for its own TiO2 plant and for the Kemira plant, is it the aluminide or rutile or synthetic rutile?

Seifi Ghasemi

We purchased titanium bearing slag, which we use mainly in our plant in Doishvik [ph] . The source for that is from Canada. Then for the operation in Pori, Finland, we can use both slag and we can use ilmenite, and the ilmenite we buy from Norway, we buy from India, we buy from Africa, we buy from China, we have many, many sources.

Silke Kueck-Valdes - JP Morgan Chase & Co

That's helpful. Secondly, there was a price increase announced for lithium as of July 1. Is this for lithium carbonate or is this for all grades?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well, it was mainly for lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. But we continue to increase prices on our specialty products, too.

Silke Kueck-Valdes - JP Morgan Chase & Co

Okay. If I just look at the carbonate market, which normally is something like I think 20% of Lithium business, and if a 20% price increase goes through, is that an annualized $6 million or so in EBIT?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well, that's approximately $100 million -- as you said, $100 million, $110 million of sales. 20% increase will be $20 million and usually all the price increase goes to the bottom line on an annual basis. Some of it is, obviously, the price increases, because we have to pay more for soda ash and so on. But yes, order of magnitude, something $10 million to $15 million should fall to the bottom line.

Silke Kueck-Valdes - JP Morgan Chase & Co

And my last question, do you have a free cash flow target for the year?

Seifi Ghasemi

Yes, in excess of $250 million.

Operator

Next, we have Edlain Rodriguez with Gleacher & Company.

Edlain Rodriguez - Gleacher & Company, Inc.

Seifi, quick question for you. The volume this quarter only grew like 2%, I mean, last quarter, it was up like 9%. Are you seeing any softness out there? And if yes, which businesses have been impacted by this softness you've seen recently?

Seifi Ghasemi

We do not see any softness. The reason for that is a one time -- there are 2 reasons for that. The first one is that on an annual basis, we have to take our TiO2 plant down for a month in order to do the repairs. In the month of June, we took down the plant in Doishvik [ph] . That plant produces 10,000 ton a month. So at today's prices, that's almost $30 million of sale. We didn't lose all of that because we did sell out of inventory, but at least that affected our bottom line sales for about $10 million, which is another 1.5% of our sales. The second thing is that the volumes in our Color Pigment business are lower. And that is basically because the market is dead and we are not pursuing low priced opportunities. In that color pigment business, although volumes were down, prices were up. We are chasing prices more than your volumes, considering the depressed nature of the market.

Edlain Rodriguez - Gleacher & Company, Inc.

Okay, that make sense. And also, going into the summer and as we get into the summer season, can you talk about the seasonality of some of the businesses and, especially, with Europe tending to shut down in August. So how do things look sequentially from the second quarter to the third quarter?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well, I mean, every year is different, because we don't shut down anything. The issue is usually in August, a lot of our customers in Europe do take shutdowns. So it depends on whether they decide to do that or not. This year, it seems to be better than the previous years, some of the other companies in Europe are actually going to continue through August. So we remain optimistic about the third quarter.

Operator

We'll go next to David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank.

David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG

On your lithium price increase, has SKU followed your pricing initiatives?

Seifi Ghasemi

David, I obviously have no idea of what our competitors do. They do their thing, and we do our thing. All I know is that they have increased the prices, and life goes on. And we haven't lost any volume.

David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG

Are you realizing the price increase as of July 1?

Seifi Ghasemi

For the contracts that they could increase, yes. And we have some contracts that expire in October, November, and the prices will go up for them.

David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG

And onto TiO2. What's the timetable for evaluating these options? And is an IPO a possibility here?

Seifi Ghasemi

David, I obviously cannot comment on that. The business is doing excellent. And I say the business is doing excellent, and then the next quarter, I have to come and say the business is doing excellent, excellent. The business is improving significantly. As you know, their market dynamics are very much in favor of increasing prices, and you have seen every price increases. And we have our act together. We have some very good specialty products. We have the zinc sulfite and the barium sulfate, which is helping us. And so we remain very optimistic about the business. So I just made a comment to be consistent with what we have said in the past, but the long term, it depends on your definition of long term about what we want to do.

Operator

Your next is Robert Koort with Goldman Sachs.

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

This is Manav Gupta. First question is, what kind of price increases have you seen in the TiO2 orders?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well year-to-date, price increases in TiO2 is probably around 30%, 40%.

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Okay. The orders. I'm talking about the orders.

Seifi Ghasemi

In orders? In the raw materials. In the raw materials, the price increases have not had -- have had some effect, but it is not a huge effect on our business, because we had our sales covered. So the price increases, we are obviously going to see increases in raw material prices, but that will be mainly in 2012 basically.

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Okay. Secondly, on the Clay-based Additives side, you also announced about 5% price hike, so what part of the total segment will be affected by it so?

Seifi Ghasemi

I'm sorry, I didn't hear your question though.

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The Clay-based Additives price hike, what part of the segment will be affected by them?

Seifi Ghasemi

Clay-based Additives has been across the board.

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

So in terms of sales, what could be the increase in, like, we could look at in the second half based on these price hikes?

Seifi Ghasemi

For our Clay-based Additives?

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

For the total segment.

Seifi Ghasemi

For the total Performance Additives segment?

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Yes.

Seifi Ghasemi

We probably realized about $5 million of price increases. In the second quarter, we expect something like that in the second quarter. But on that front, you realize that raw material prices are going up. So not all of that will translate to the bottom line.

Manav Gupta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Okay. And the last question is, what kind of capital expenditures are you implementing in the lithium side? And when can you increase your capacity of lithium?

Seifi Ghasemi

We are investing heavily in our Lithium business, order of magnitude $60 million, $70 million a year. We expect that to continue. And in terms of increasing capacity, we continue to increase capacity to meet market demand, which is very strong.

Operator

Your next question comes from Mike Harrison with First Analysis.

Steven Schwartz - First Analysis Securities Corporation

It's Steve Schwartz sitting in for Mike today. I guess, in terms of Japan and what happened there in the second -- first quarter, to what extent did that impact you guys in the Color Pigments business?

Seifi Ghasemi

No effect. We didn't see any effect as a result of that.

Steven Schwartz - First Analysis Securities Corporation

Okay. And then you mentioned Surface Treatment and the release and higher volumes there that goes to automotive, so no effect there either?

Seifi Ghasemi

No, because the customers, the automotive customers that we have, they don't really do any business with the big 3 or the Japanese implants. Our main customers for our automotive products are the premium manufacturers of autos, basically in Germany. And they didn't have much of a dependency, and they didn't see any slowdown.

Steven Schwartz - First Analysis Securities Corporation

Okay. And then in terms of the Ceramics business, you've see strength there. Can you give us a little color on where the source or that volume strength is coming from in medical?

Seifi Ghasemi

Yes, it is medical. It's hip joints. It is the -- what we are seeing is the penetration of the hip joints in ceramic-to-ceramic replacing metal-to-metal.

Steven Schwartz - First Analysis Securities Corporation

And so you think those volumes are sustainable?

Seifi Ghasemi

Yes.

Steven Schwartz - First Analysis Securities Corporation

Okay. And then just last one. As far as German exports are concerned, auto, industrial, not seeing any slowdown there?

Seifi Ghasemi

Not at all.

Operator

And next, we have John McNulty with Crédit Suisse.

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG

Just a couple of quick questions. On the Titanium Dioxide business that you've got, it looks like, of the price increases that you put through this year, a little bit more than 50% of that fell to the bottom line. When you think about the raw material hikes that you may see in 2012 and beyond, do you think you can get enough price so that you can kind of hold that incremental margin or how much is actually going to fall to the bottom line?

Seifi Ghasemi

John, we have to see, in terms of what the raw material price increases are in 2012. But in general, you know us very well. Our philosophy is that we do not want to lose margin. Therefore, we expect our TiO2 business to get to a margin of somewhere between 25% to 30%, and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to maintain that margin. So if raw material prices go up, we can obviously push then market prices in order to maintain our margins.

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG

Okay, great. And then in the Performance business, clearly, you've done a lot in terms of cost cutting, and I understand there's some seasonality to the business, so I know it's not fair to think about it the same types of earnings levels from 2Q to 3 and 4Q. But in terms of the year-over-year growth where with that business improved by about $9 million, is that a reasonable kind of growth rate, in terms of actual EBITDA growth for the kind of quarters coming up in the second half of the year?

Seifi Ghasemi

John, again, you know the businesses very well. The main driver -- the growth in that business related to construction, there is no growth. And as I mentioned before, we are walking away from some of the low priced items. The main growth in that business that we have seen, and we expect it to continue, is coming from the oil fields. That is one of the areas that is significantly helping us in that sector. And that is, as you know, is for the trading of natural gas and all. We expect that to continue throughout. We should be able to see the growth there. The partnership is very encouraging for me in that business is that they have now got in the margin in that business to about 20%, when you're building 400,000 units of housing versus 2 million before, so.

John McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG

Okay, fair enough. And then, I guess the last question would be, when I think about the cash flow used to generate in the second half of the year and also the kind of incremental EBITDA that you'll have in the back half as well, it looks like, on a net-to-EBITDA basis, you're going to be somewhere in 1.5 range, kind of year end, which is a well below the 2x target that you laid out, I guess, 1.5 years ago at your Investor Day. So I guess I'm wondering what, in terms of -- if you do get to that level, how should we think about uses for cash going forward. Is it still likely paying down debt? Or is it returning more to the shareholder? How should we think about that mix and how it might change towards the end of the year?

Seifi Ghasemi

John, we are very consistent. We have always said that our priority is investing in our own businesses, that's the first use of free cash and we have plenty of opportunity in our Lithium business and our Additive businesses to do that. The second priority has been to reduce debt; and as you said, we are getting close to 2 and we might be lower than that by the end of the year. The third priority has been if we have a small bolt-on acquisitions, we pursue those. And then after that, if we have excess cash, we start thinking about paying dividends, John.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have no one else in queue, Mr. Ghasemi.

Seifi Ghasemi

Well, thank you very much, and I'd like to thank everybody for being on our call. We appreciate your interest, and we look forward to talking to you next quarter. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And, ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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