EnerCare's (CSUWF) CEO John Macdonald on Q2 2016 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Enercare, Inc. (CSUWF)

EnerCare, Inc. (OTCPK:CSUWF) Q2 2016 Earnings Conference Call August 8, 2016 10:00 AM ET

Executives

Trish Moran – Investor Relations

John Macdonald – President, Chief Executive Officer & Director

Evelyn Sutherland – Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Damir Gunja – TD Securities, Inc.

Nelson Ng – RBC Dominion Securities, Inc.

Mark Jarvi – Desjardins Securities, Inc.

Trevor Johnson – National Bank Financial, Inc.

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to Enercare's Conference Call for the Second Quarter of 2016. As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded today, Monday, August 8, 2016.

Your host for today is Trish Moran, Investor Relations. Ms. Moran, please go ahead.

Trish Moran

Thank you, and good morning, everyone. With me on today's call is John Macdonald, Enercare's President and Chief Executive Officer, and Evelyn Sutherland, our Chief Financial Officer. Following management's presentation this morning, we will then open up the lines for questions.

Just to note, we are experiencing some technical issues with posting our slides on our website today. They should be up shortly. And once they are, I would like to remind everyone to please view page two of the financial highlights slide presentation to view our caution regarding forward-looking statements and the risk factors pertaining to these statements. We apologize for the delay.

And now, over to John Macdonald.

John Macdonald

Thank you, Trish, and good morning, everyone. Our presentation just came up in the last minute, so those of you who are looking for it can try to get it up on the website.

Turning to slide four. It was a really strong quarter and first half of the year. We're making great progress against our strategic priorities. Service Experts had an outstanding results that exceeded our expectations. And as demonstrated by our record revenue and EBITDA, we're winning in a competitive market.

Slide five outlines the strategic priorities we set out for 2016. Each one supports our overarching goal, which is EBITDA growth. This quarter marks fourth consecutive quarters of net rental unit growth for the Enercare Home Services segment. Unit additions were up by 13%, while attrition continued to decline by a further 20%. Achieving net rental unit growth is one of our top priorities, and I am pleased to say that our rental base is growing at a pace not seen in over a decade.

Turning to slide seven, I want to talk about HVAC rentals for a moment. It's our fastest-growing area in the Enercare Home Services segment. And in the second quarter, HVAC rentals grew by 30%. Currently, we're renting 3.5 times more HVAC units than we were 24 months ago. The effect of this growth is twofold. Our asset base is increasing, and so is our average monthly rental rate.

The average monthly rental rate in addition this quarter, was more than CAD 42 a month, which compares to CAD 38 in the prior year, and CAD 26 two years ago in the second quarter of 2014. Increasing the HVAC rental base is capital-intensive. However, our long-term value creation vastly outweighs the short-term impact on our financials. With the success Enercare is having, we're excited about pursuing similar HVAC rental strategy across Service Experts' broad footprint in the U.S. and Canada.

Turning to slide eight, growing protection plans is a top priority. They are complementary and profitable extension of Enercare's Home Services product and service offering, and they act as a potential pipeline for HVAC rental additions. Year-to-date, 65% of HVAC rental units originated from protection plan relationships. Given their importance, we're spending a lot of time and effort on customer acquisition and retention.

One such initiative, focused on maintaining customer relationships, is an extended protection program on HVAC sales, which was launched last year. This has been a great addition to our portfolio and really successful. Since inception, 78% of our rental HVAC unit sales have included an extended production plan. Our extended plan allows us to maintain a relationship with a customer who choose to purchase rather than rent an HVAC unit for up to 11 years. Conventional protection plans usually only have a term of one year. Overall, it was a very good quarter and first half for Enercare's Home Services segment.

Moving onto Sub-metering, it was a solid quarter. And long-term agreements were renewed with two large property management companies which together represent 12% of our current billing base. Additionally, we received accreditation by the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating.

Also importantly, we continue to see great unit growth, as shown on slide 10. Contracted units increased by double digits again this quarter, and currently outnumber billing units by a little more than two-to-one, creating a large pipeline for growth. What's also encouraging is the change in the mix that we're seeing. Historically, nearly all of our meters were for electricity. However, in the first half of 2016, approximately 50% of the contracted units added were from thermal or water meters. Our multi-commodity strategy is clearly starting to bear fruit.

Service Experts is off to a fabulous start. Even though the transaction did not close till mid-May and only seven-and-a-half weeks of results are included in the quarter, the results were a great contribution. It was a hot June in many of the areas in Service Experts' territory which is shown on slide 11. This bolstered the demand for air conditioning sales and services. Therefore, while the second quarter is seasonally the Service Experts' strongest, our results were buoyed by favorable weather conditions. And for these two reasons, they're not indicative of full year's results. As we indicated at the time of the acquisition, Service Experts is expected to deliver accretion of 25% through normalized pro forma distributable cash per common share, and we're on track to achieve this.

Slide 12 outlines the progress of the Service Experts integration. We're working on a number of these programs and initiatives concurrently. Of these, there are two key priorities. The first priority is to launch HVAC rentals through our newly acquired customer relationships. We are targeting the second half of 2016 for the Canadian launch and the first half of 2017 to commence a select state-by-state roll-out in our U.S. network. The secondary focus is to achieve procurement cost savings.

At our Investor Day in early June, we indicated we're targeting cost synergies in the range of CAD 0.05 per common share to CAD 0.08 per common share on an annualized basis by the end of 2017. Together, Enercare and Service Experts have tremendous purchasing power, and we believe, there's significant opportunity to reduce procurement costs.

And finally, turning to slide 13, we're very proud of our track record of creating value and returning capital to our shareholders through dividends and buying back our shares. It's through initiatives such as the DE acquisition and the Service Experts transaction and our rental HVAC strategy that we intend to create incremental value going forward.

And now, over to Evelyn, who will review the financial highlights of the quarter. Evelyn?

Evelyn Sutherland

Good morning, everyone. Thank you, John. This quarter stood out for many reasons. Enercare's Home Services achieved its fourth straight quarter of growth, the first time it has done this in more than 10 years. Sub-metering's momentum continued, and the Service Experts acquisition, which closed on May 11, is off to a great start.

Service Experts is a large and defining acquisition for Enercare. Therefore, as you would expect, our financial results were quite different following the closing. To assist you with your analysis of our results, let me highlight a couple of items which I believe require a little more explanation.

The key items of note on the P&L are summarized on slide 15. Let's discuss the main ones relating to the CAD 241 million of subscription receipts. In accordance with their term, each sub receipt was exchanged for one share and a dividend equivalent cash payment. The total cash payment on closing of CAD 2.2 million was treated as an interest expense, half in Q1 and half in Q2. This expense was partially offset by the investment income earned on the restricted cash of approximately CAD 192,000.

Next, we indicated previously that we will be updating our tax guidance following the closing of the Service Experts' acquisition. Following extensive tax work and planning, we are maintaining our guidance for current taxes of between CAD 46 million and CAD 53 million.

Now, over to slide 16. There are several major balance sheet items to note with respect to the acquisition of Service Experts. In terms of current assets, we added accounts receivable totaling nearly CAD 32 million and capital assets totaling CAD 31 million, representing vehicles and land and buildings. On the current liabilities side, one of the biggest changes was to accounts payable and accrued liabilities. At the time of acquisition, CAD 57 million of stock appreciation rights, taxes and other provisions were included in the transaction, but funded through essentially a cash holdback. Subsequent to the close, many of these items have been paid.

Nevertheless, Service Experts does run on a different working capital model. They do take most of their big box inventory on consignment. As such, there is a significant lag between the time Service Experts receives a payment from a customer and the time they pay the supplier for the HVAC equipment.

With respect to long-term liabilities, the acquisition of Service Experts was paid for using a combination of debt and equity. In addition to the CAD 241 million on subscription receipts, I just mentioned, we added $200 million in U.S. denominated bank debt. The term of this loan goes out four years to 2020.

Now, let's get into the details of our second quarter results starting with total revenue, which as shown on slide 17, grew by 81% to CAD 244 million. While CAD 102 million of the revenue increase was due to Service Experts, we also benefited from Enercare's Home Services net rental unit growth, and from Sub-metering, which grew primarily as a result of the increase in commodity charges and billable units.

Moving now to slide 18. Revenue, net of Sub-metering commodity charges, nearly doubled to CAD 219 million. In the quarter, 62% of HVAC transactions were rentals. This rapid growth is well beyond our expectation and we are very pleased. However, I would like to highlight that had all of the HVAC rental units added during the quarter actually been sales, revenue and EBITDA would have been higher by CAD 8.1 million and CAD 3.5 million respectively. This impact to short-term, as a stream from the rental unit has far greater value over the long-term.

Moving now to slide 19, excluding corporate, both EBITDA and acquisition adjusted EBITDA increased by 21% and 23% respectively. There are several items to note in your analysis of this metric. First, there were several one-time improvements to EBITDA in 2015, including CAD 1.3 million for supplier reimbursements in Enercare Home Services and a settlement of CAD 580,000 from a Sub-metering supplier. Second, Enercare Home Services incurred CAD 695,000 of integration expenses related to the DE acquisition. And finally, Service Experts recorded CAD 6.7 million of acquisition-related expenses in the quarter, CAD 2.8 million of which was recorded by Enercare Home Services prior to the close of the Service Experts transaction.

Moving now to slide 20. While EBITDA margins fluctuate from quarter-to-quarter, currently, Enercare Home Services and Sub-metering are running in the 40% to 60% range. The roll-out of our HVAC strategy through Service Experts, first in Canada and then through select states in the U.S., provides us with the opportunity to expand Service Experts margins over time.

Moving to slide 21. I would like to highlight that this quarter we changed our definition of distributable cash, and it is now reduced by the amount related to vehicle additions. Our maintenance payout ratio was up by 8 percentage points due primarily to the increase in HVAC rental units this quarter and increased current taxes. On a tax-normalized basis, our payout ratio improved by 2 percentage points to 47%.

Turning to slide 22, we continue to have ample liquidity to fund growth initiatives with CAD 28 million in cash and CAD 90 million undrawn on our revolver. And three months following the closing of Service Experts transaction, our credit ratios are where we thought they would be or even better.

In the last five years, we've shared a significant portion of our growth through dividends and the share buyback program. The graph on slide 23 shows the growth of our dividend including our latest increase of 10% in May. Since 2011, we have raised Enercare's dividend by 42% from CAD 0.65 to CAD 0.92 on an annualized basis. Our intent is to continue to create value for our shareholders through the execution of our strategic plan including achieving of our synergy and accretion targets relating to Service Experts.

We look forward to updating you with our progress on our third quarter conference call in November. Operator, you may now open the lines for questions. [Operator Instructions]

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Your first question today comes from the line of Damir Gunja of TD Securities. Your line is open.

Damir Gunja

Well, thanks. Good morning. Thanks for taking my questions. Just wanted to drill into the seasonality a little bit at Service Experts. The quarter was quite strong, and I just want to make sure we have the cadence right for the rest of the year on the revenues side?

John Macdonald

So Damir, thanks for the question. We were helped by, really, two factors. One, we closed the transaction May 11. And then, so we've got effectively the best of the second quarter season. And so, in most of North America, it became quite hot in second and third week of May and that continued through June. So, there's a couple of effects going on. One is we sort of picked off the best seven-and-a-half weeks of the 13 weeks in the quarter. And then secondly, weather was hotter than normal in most of North America. So, we basically had two effects happening.

The second quarter is traditionally the best quarter for the Service Experts business. It tends to get more work due to air conditioning rather than heating. So typically, the third quarter has obviously, cooling needs in it as well, and July and August are often warm as well, followed by the heating season, which begins in the fourth quarter, tends to be the next strongest quarter. And the first quarter tends to be the weakest quarter because it's the backend of the heating season and there's less demand there. So, it sort of was accentuated by the fact that we just got the sort of effectively the best part of the season. We would have had profitability in the first part of the second quarter as well, but nothing as extensive as what we've seen in the second part of the quarter when we owned the business.

The business is more seasonal than ours, because it doesn't have the recurring revenue that we have, the historic business, Enercare Home Services. But there is an effect of having greater geography, which sometimes will act as a hedge depending on the season. So, it's tough to give good forward-looking guidance, because due to certain extent we're at the mercy of the weather. But I have to say, the team did a fabulous job and delivered great, great results, worked incredibly hard to take advantage of the warm weather. And we're really pleased with how the Service Experts management team and the employees really dug in and delivered on the quarter.

Damir Gunja

Okay. Thanks. And just the second one for me. On the procurement savings, just wondering if you can elaborate a little bit on the timeline there? I was surprised to hear that some of them could take us as long as the end of 2017 to come in?

John Macdonald

Yeah. So, perhaps, Damir, you're seeing a bit of institutional conservatism about timing. I'll just suggest some of them we should be able to capture more quickly than that. So, there's a couple of types of things that make up a fairly big portion of our spend. So, first of all, there's things that are indirect spend, so things that we're not necessarily providing to consumers or businesses, homes or businesses. So, those types of things are more a question of negotiation and we're looking at not the inputs to our business, but often they're impacted by contract. So, if we have a contract for a particular service that may not expire till the first quarter of 2017, we have no ability to really get substantial savings until that time. So, we have inventoried all of those things and we're looking to renegotiate them on when they come due.

The more complicated are the direct spend items, so things like the furnaces, air conditioning and related parts. Those do require changes to our supply chain in many cases, because our supply chain is tied to them. And so, it does take longer, and we want – maintaining a great customer experience is paramount. And so, we change supply chains. It does require significant internal changes. And we're careful not to make those types of changes during a peak season when we have potential impact. We are certainly looking through our supplier base and discussions have begun. So I think we've been quite conservative on the time line, but we wanted to be sure we capture the objective.

Damir Gunja

Okay. Thanks for that.

Operator

Your next question today comes from the line of Nelson Ng of RBC Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Nelson Ng

Great. Thanks. Just a follow-up on Damir's question on seasonality. So from a historical perspective, for Service Experts, what proportion of EBITDA would you typically see generated in Q2?

John Macdonald

So, I haven't gotten the numbers at my fingertips, Nelson. It's something that we're looking to provide as guidance sometime in the future, because this quarter, it's also an anomaly, seven-and-a-half weeks of 13 weeks. It's a tough one to really base that type of calculation off. So it's something that we're looking to try and provide later this year as our target to the community, so people can get a sense of what seasonality will look like, because we know that it's something that is of keen interest. But yeah, at this time, I can't really give you a specific number for the proportion of the whole year.

Nelson Ng

Okay. So I guess another kind of question around that is, in terms of the actual results you've seen in Q2, does that change any of your internal, I guess – like your internal business plan, or your internal expectations in terms of the year? I think you reiterated that that guidance is – or you reiterated that the accretion was about 25%? So, does that imply that what was generated in Q2 was kind of what you expected or slightly better than?

John Macdonald

It is better than we expected, significantly better than what we expected. It's only seven-and-a-half weeks of 52 weeks, though. And so, we're not trying to – we didn't feel as appropriate at this point to update our guidance. We still feel comfortable with it. Obviously, as the year goes by, if we continue to have results that exceed our expectations, we'll assess whether we want to reset our guidance for accretion.

Nelson Ng

I see. Okay. The next question relates to integration. I believe the level of integration, or the level of integration activity is pretty limited for Service Experts. So, going forward in Q3 and beyond, are the acquisition-related expenses expected to trail off fairly significantly?

Evelyn Sutherland

I'll take that, Nelson. So, we continue to think that we'll spend around the target that we sort of gave out before. For integration, sort of less than CAD 5 million or so, and I think, we're on plan for that. So, I would suggest, in the next couple of quarters, you'll still see that coming through. We'll update our guidance further if there is any other additional expenses that come through in early 2017. But, I think, that they would be pretty nominal at that point.

Nelson Ng

Okay. Just one last question, I read that the pilot program to finance HVACs has been – the program has been running longer than expected. Could you provide a bit more color as to the reason for that? And like has demand for financing been what you've expected and are you trying to tweak the product or the offering?

John Macdonald

So, I'll deal with your last question first. So we haven't decided to change the design of the program. However, the success of the rental HVAC proposition has put a lot less – has lowered the emphasis on the financing program. I guess the other aspect is with the Service Experts transaction, some of the resources that we would have used for other programs have been diverted. And so, that – and we've got a lot more priorities in 2016 and 2017.

So, we want to continue with the program, but it just doesn't have the same prominence. As an example, recurring revenue introduction or the introduction of rental products we see as both having a bigger impact on our business and being more accretive if we were to roll it out more generally. So to us, that's a higher priority.

Nelson Ng

I see. Thanks, John. Those are my questions. [Operator Instructions]

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Mark Jarvi of Desjardins Securities. Your line is open.

Mark Jarvi

Good morning, everyone.

John Macdonald

Morning, Mark.

Mark Jarvi

Yeah. A quick question on the HVAC rental business. If you look back over the last two years, the sort of units deployed in 2Q and 3Q historically been pretty similar, so I'm wondering based on what we saw this quarter, that's something which you run for within the third quarter, or with the warmer weather, do you think you'll see sort of an uptick going forward in the back half of this year?

John Macdonald

So, we're pretty comfortable with the proportion of sales that are – transactions that are rentals, which we've been sort of – the last couple of quarters, we've been in the 60% to 65% range. And so, we feel we're at about the right balance in terms of sale versus rental. In the third quarter, July has been warm, but it's hard to say what the rest of the quarter will bring in terms of seasonality. So, I mean, that's sort of the missing element to be able to provide a good sense of where our results will be. And we don't forecast our result out of quarter. So, and I'm not sure if I can help you a lot more than that, sorry.

Mark Jarvi

But in terms of lead generation, or sort of transaction volumes you see coming in or inbound calls, similar levels, or you see an uptick with the warmer weather?

John Macdonald

Well, definitely, warmer weather helps us. So, two things had happened with – I'll pick on warmer weather in the summer. Initially, at the early part of the season, you tend to get a lot of people to turn their equipment on for the first time and discover that it's through the winter months it's no longer functioning, perhaps their refrigerant has leaked out or something of that nature. Maybe they've inadvertently switched off a switch or something. So that triggers a lot more service calls, and then obviously, a lot more replacement calls.

As the season drags on, or continues on, you start having wear-out type failures. A particular interest is in some climates as you get towards the end of summer, people will defer replacement if they feel it's not money well spent. They'll say they'll tough it out for the last few weeks of the year and take their chances that it won't be that hot. We don't see the same phenomenon in heating. If your furnace is broken, pretty much, people get it fixed.

So, having a long hot summer is good for us, and it's surreal because we get those wear-out barriers as well as the initial cool-down failures, their impact on volume. This summer has been quite a warm one for most of North America. In some places, it's the hottest in the last 25 years. That's not true generally, but it's certainly – it's true in a couple of key markets. So, weather in July was also quite warm, so that's helpful for us, but hard to predict for the next couple of months.

Mark Jarvi

Okay. And then, going back to Service Experts, you've talked about the warmer weather and how that benefited in a seasonally stronger quarter. Was there anything else inside the results in terms of average system price or the revenue mix between service and replacement which would have been a tailwind this quarter?

John Macdonald

So, one of the things that we see as a long-term macro trend is that people in the U.S. markets particularly are replacing more systems because they had deferred maintenance in the past or deferred replacement and just elected to maintain the system. So, we think there's a long-term trend that's favorable.

Also, there's some refrigerants are significantly restricted for environmental reasons. And so, when people go to repair that type of equipment, the cost to replenish the refrigerant is much higher. And it ends as a bit of a catalyst for people to replace their system and put in – or you can put another refrigerants. I think people realize it. Maybe they're spending good money after that. So those are both helpful.

We've seen, so over the last couple of years, more of a focus on replacement revenue rather than service revenue. And best we can tell that trend will probably continue this way, because historically, I want to say historically, a few years ago, what we were seeing is replacement rates that were lower than the typical replacement rates that you'd see based on the lifespan of the equipment. And to state it more clearly, people were trying to stretch more life out of their existing equipment. You can only do that for so long before a replacement is required.

The other thing that we're seeing, particularly in some jurisdictions where people use air conditioning a lot more extensively, is there is a real focus on increasing the efficiency because there are significant savings that could be had by upgrading your equipment to higher efficiency levels. And so that's another impact, particularly where people use it for a long period of time, six months, and it becomes a significant expense to provide the electricity to the equipment.

Mark Jarvi

Okay. But there was nothing particular in this quarter in terms of the revenue mix that was abnormal or anything like that in terms of why you saw such solid results this quarter?

John Macdonald

No. That's right.

Mark Jarvi

Yeah. Okay. Thanks. Those are my questions for now.

John Macdonald

Thanks, Mark.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Trevor Johnson of National Bank. Your line is open.

Trevor Johnson

Hey. Good morning, folks.

John Macdonald

Good morning.

Trevor Johnson

Just the timeline for the acquisition and integration of Service Experts. You show that Q4 or by the end of the year you expect to launch the HVAC rental program in Canada. Can you just give us any, maybe, some preliminary steps that you're going through with that process, and any, maybe, lessons learned or takeaways that we can, maybe, then extrapolate into the U.S.? I know they're quite different markets, but just curious what you've seen so far with the Canadian potential?

John Macdonald

So, we've been doing some studies to try and pick the ideal markets and try to assess to what extent we'll be successful. Starting off in Canada, Service Experts has extensive operations in Ontario. And so, that market shouldn't be very different from the market that we're already in, it's the same geographically. So we see that as a natural starting point.

But we also do business in Manitoba and Alberta. And we think there's certain interest in those communities as well. So, some of the things we have to do though to provide that service is that the billing system that we have has to have – there's different consumer legislation associated with rentals and financing programs in general that has to be incorporated. But also, there's different tax regimes, different sales tax style that have to be programmed and then tested.

With respect to the U.S., we've been doing a fair bit of research in terms of the best starting point. We picked our initial geographies and we're working towards introducing them. A big part of the introduction that can't be understated is it requires extensive training of the sales folks so that they understand the value proposition well and can present it appropriately to customers. What we don't want to have happened is when people present that that they have a lower closing percentage than they otherwise would. We would expect they'd have a somewhat higher closing percentage. But it takes time to train people and for people to get really comfortable with the proposition. So, that's one of the reasons why it's taken a few years in our current geography to go from sort of 10%, 20% of sales to sort of the low 60%s in sales.

We do know that a fairly high percentage of customers in the U.S. finance their equipment. It's in the low 30% range. And so, that would be one of our targets in terms of presenting it as another opportunity. And we do think there's potential to get significant success in this area. It's hard to see us going to 65% anytime soon. That would be, I think – it took us five years to get there in our current territory.

Trevor Johnson

Yeah.

John Macdonald

I'm not sure that that will be realistic as we enter other territories. But there's a lot of like, I'd call it, legwork. A lot of research that have to be done to make sure that what we do is well-supported both from a legal regulatory perspective, but also, that our teams can properly execute against it. What we don't want to have is a failed program, because if you have things not working correctly, then the sales force and so forth get discouraged and we don't want that to happen.

Trevor Johnson

Do you have to ramp up your training function to get people to be able to be your champions and then go down and teach these individuals kind of a new selling process, or is that something that you have enough internal capabilities already with your talent?

John Macdonald

We have some great, great training folks. And so, it's really more a question of taking the training materials that we have now and modifying them to really allow our reps to present the whole spectrum of options. Today, they would typically present an outright purchase and a finance option in the Service Experts areas. And so, we now would be incorporating three options, the sale, rental, purchase. It does take extra time to explain the rental proposition to consumers, but consumers generally would presumably like to have another option available to them. So, we have good strong training capabilities. It's just a question of modifying them and changing how we do it with specific geographies that we'll be rolling the program out to.

Trevor Johnson

And are you able to share – I'm guessing you probably don't want to or can't, but in terms of the geographies that you are targeting originally for the roll-out?

John Macdonald

Yeah. As you say, for competitive reasons...

Trevor Johnson

Yeah.

John Macdonald

...we'd like to – yeah. But certainly, as soon as we've entered the area, we'll be sharing with you where we're going. Just a little bit more, we did a survey of our most – of the areas where we have the greatest concentration and where we had a consumer survey to try and get a sense of which areas the country have the highest interest in this type of proposition. And so, both that size and the propensity to be interested in this proposition guided us in the selection of the states we're interested in entering first.

Trevor Johnson

Okay. That's very helpful. Thanks, John.

John Macdonald

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you for all of your questions today. This concludes our conference call for today. Please disconnect your lines, and have a good day.

John Macdonald

Thank you.

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