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Executives

Isac Roffé Zagury - CFO

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

Analysts

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Debbie Bobovnikova - J. P. Morgan

Tereza Mello - Citigroup

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Aracruz Celulose S. A. (ARA) Q3 2007 Earnings Call October 9, 2007 11:00 AM ET

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and thank you for standing by. Welcome to Aracruz conference call to discuss the third quarter of 2007 results. If you do not have a copy of the Aracruz press release, it is available at the company's website at www.aracruz.com.br at Investors Relations link. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session, and instructions for participations will be given at that time. [Operator Instructions]. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

With us today in São Paulo is Mr. Isac Zagury, Aracruz's Chief Financial Officer, who will open the teleconference and Mr. João Felipe Carsalade, Commercial Director. It is now my pleasure to turn the call over to Mr. Zagury. Mr. Zagury, you may now begin.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to be here with you and to have the opportunity to talk about Aracruz third quarter 2007 results. I will provide some highlights before we get into the Q&A section. Just in case, you didn't know, it will help you to follow this brief introduction if you use a presentation that's available on our website at the Conference Call link.

In the second slide, I would like to start with some highlights. The net income in the third quarter '07 was $105 million, equivalent to $1.02 per ADR. The main reasons for the 14% decrease when compared to the second quarter '07 were the 9% lower sales volume and the lower gain from derivative transactions. When compared to the fourth quarter '06, the result was 26% lower, mainly due to higher taxes as can be noted from the net income before taxes, because of the real's appreciation against U. S. dollars.

The net income for the last 12 months is $455 million or $4.41 per ADR. Adjusted EBITDA for the third quarter '07 was $210 million, 7% lower than in the second quarter '07 and in line with the figure for the third quarter '06. The adjusted EBITDA in the last 12 months amounts to $855 million.

In the slide 3, we draw your attention to the fact that during the quarter, a new list was released for Dow Jones World Sustainability Index with Aracruz Celulose included for the third straight year. The Dow Jones World Sustainability Index highlights the best corporate sustainability practices around the world, based on the analysis of economic, environmental and social criteria. Moreover, Aracruz was once again the only forestry company selected, out of the 13 forestry companies worldwide that were up for consideration this year.

In September, the rating agency Moody's announced its second annual report on the forestry industry, along with the ratings of the world's leading companies in the sector. At Baa2, Aracruz Celulose is rated today amongst the top five companies in the sector, of a total of 61 ahead of major European and North American corporations.

In the next slide, we comment on the completion of Optimization project at the Barra do Riacho unit, increasing its end capacity by 200,000 tons. It is expected to reduce the cash production cost by approximately $5 per ton, through gains in scale and the lower consumption of raw materials such as chemicals and wood. The unit is expected to be running at full capacity within 30 days.

It's important to mention that Aracruz is finalizing the budget for the expansion of the Guaíba Unit and expects to be submitted for final shareholder approval in 2007 or early 2008. The total investment in the expansion of the Guaíba Unit is estimated at around $2 billion in land and forest, mill and infrastructure. The capacity of the unit will be increased from 2010, by an additional 1.3 million tons a year, raising its total annual pulp production to 1.8 million tons.

The next side provides the information about the market scenario. By the end of August, total market pulp demand had already surpassed the 2006 level by 3% or 796,000 tons, with the inventories holding at 31 days of supply, according to World-19 figures. When broken down by grade, softwood stands at 27 days of supply, while hardwood is at 33 days, at a level which, under normal market conditions, should be closer to 37 or 38 days. On the consumer side, European inventories remained at low level, closing August at 24 days of supply.

The strong demand and supply disruption due to pulp mill closure in Indonesia, Chile and Korea, insufficient logging of mixed Tropical Hardwood in Indonesia and relatively short supply in other areas lead to another price increase, effective from October 1st.

Moving on to slide 6. Production volume was in line with that of same period of last year, when there was also maintenance downtime. The sales volume totaled 753,000 mills... 753,000 tons in the third quarter '07, 1% higher than the third quarter '06. The pulp sales volume was constant by the production capacity. Inventory level at the end of September closed at 33 days below the target.

Moving on to the slide 6... sorry, moving on to the slide 7, on the left hand side, we can see that even with the maintenance downtime at fiberlines A and C at a Barra do Riacho Unit and with the Guaíba Units, annual maintenance downtime being brought forward the cash production cost came out as predicted at $219 per ton in the third quarter '07, compared to $223 per ton in the third... in the second quarter '07 and $191 per ton in the third quarter '06. If you were to consider a year-to-date figure after hedging gains, it is in line with the cost level anticipated last year.

With regard to cash flow current currency protection, given all the recent turbulence in the financial markets, the company decided to unwind its previous short position in dollars which was $550 million at the end of second quarter '07, until it develops a better understanding of the current environment. Despite having no outstanding position at the end of third quarter '07, there was a gain of $24 million which would be equivalent to a $25 per ton, based on the full year production target of approximately 3.15 million tons this year.

That's all I have to say for the moment. Thank you very much for giving your time. We will be pleased to answer now any questions that you might have.

Question And Answer

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions]. Our first question comes from Mr. Marco Quezada [ph] with Merrill Lynch.

Unidentified Analyst

Good morning everyone. First question is regarding cash cost per ton. Isac, I would like to understand there the performance of the cash cost per ton, because even with the maintenance shutdowns in Barra do Riacho lines A and C, you posted the declining cash cost in the third quarter. I also would like to understand is the unexpected shutdown in Barra do Riacho mill, with the blackout in Espírito Santo State have any impact in the cash cost during the third quarter? And how do you expect this line, the cash cost per ton to behave in the next quarters going forward?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

As we predicted in the last call, the cash cost of the second... of the third quarter was $219, even though we had anticipation of the bottom... maintenance downtime in Guaíba Unit. So, we had all the downtime maintenance already then, you see here. And probably in the next quarter, in the fourth quarter we are going to have lower cash cost. Our guess is around $200 per ton.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. And did you have any impact from the blackout in Espírito Santo State?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

No, we didn't have any impact.

Unidentified Analyst

And will you have any impact in the fourth quarter because of these events?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

No.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. Second question is regarding the hedging strategy. I understood that you unwound the strategy from now. But for us, the analyst here, what should we expect from the strategy going forward? Should it be just zero, these gains that you were having in the past for next quarters, or do you think that you will continue doing that in a lower extent?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

The strategy started in 2004. So, we had in the last three years gain of about $200 million. All this year, the number is about $79 million through September. We have reduced dramatically the exposure in the end of the quarter, becausewe understood at that time that the appreciation of real was too much. We don't believe that real will be below 180. So this process is very dynamic. So we can increase and reduce the level of exposure according to our assumptions. But anyhow, we are going to follow with this strategy for the next quarters. We are studying so far, what will be the best timing to reconstruct this position.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. Great and if I can, the last question here regarding the Guaiba expansion. I would like to understand, how many hectares, more or less you already have bought for this expansion? And how much you still need to buy in order to put in place your expansion growth in Guaiba, 40,000 in land which I think is already in anticipation to what you were saying before?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Yes, for this expansion in Guaiba, we have already bought about 100,000 hectares from... we are going to need about 150,000 hectares. So we bought about two thirds of our needs. Regarding Veracel expansion, we have already bought about 40,000 hectares and we are going to need a total 130,000 hectares. So for the Guaiba expansion, we have already bought two thirds of our needs and for Veracel expansion we bought about one third of our needs.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. And this is total land required right, not planted?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Yes, this is total land required.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. Thank you very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from Richard Skidmore from Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs

Hi, good morning Isac. Just wanted to follow up on the tax rate for a few minutes. If you can help us just walk through, how we should be thinking the tax rate going forward, it's been a little bit higher than what we had been expecting in the last couple of quarters and given your... perhaps your view on the currency, how we should be thinking about the tax rate over the next quarter or the next year?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Yes this is Isac, Richard. The basic reason for this difference was the exchange variation when you compared the third quarter of '07 with the third quarter of '06. We have in '06 a negative exchange variation and now we have a very positive impact. So we have a very positive effective tax rate in the third quarter of '07. If you look at numbers year-to-date, we had about 24% of effective tax rate. But you need to consider that only 9% was currency effective tax rate. So, according to the legislation since '05, the company has adopted to settle income tax and social contribution liabilities in the period that we are going to pay the effective the debt. So, we have postponed this payment, and you can see in the page 9 of our release, this information. So, it's very important to consider exactly, what is the currency effective tax rate. In terms of the last quarter, I believe that we are going to have a lower tax rate, because we don't believe in a material real appreciation for the last quarter. So probably, you are going to see a lower effective tax rate. And for the whole year, we're starting to seeing lower than 30% in the total.

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs

Lower than 30% for the full year?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Yes.

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs

Okay. Just shifting topics, last year in the fourth quarter of 2006, you had some volume discounts that were given to large customers because of some contracts. Can you talk about perhaps, where you are in that... in the volume to those large customers? Should we expect an impact in this current fourth quarter, because of the volumes to those large customers and perhaps, lower net price realizations in this coming quarter?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

I am going to move to our Commercial Director to answer this question.

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

I don't think, Richard, there is going to be much change. The contracting are in place, and what we did last year, in the last quarter were some anticipations also. And... but I don't expect anything different. From a finance [ph] standpoint there is going to be similar to what we have been done. We hope that we can have a little bit more volume to sell it. And again, the contracts are in place, the long-term ones, and they should stay pretty much in the same level.

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs

Okay. I guess from my recollection, last year, it was a certain amount of volume that trigged perhaps some rebates to those large customers. And so, in this fourth quarter, you would not expect to either hit those triggers, or those trigger aren't in place in the current quarter?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Yes. The triggers are in place. But of course... and it was related also to volumes. And we don't expect to reach anything different than what we have from the previous year.

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question... our next question comes from Marcelo Luna from Deutsche Bank.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Good morning, Isac, and good... and, Dennis [ph]. First question... couple of questions. First question is can you share with us your volume breakdown per region?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

The sales volume?

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Yes, exactly. Sales volume breakdown per region.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Mentioned in the page... let me see. Page 4... page 3.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Do you... Isac, do you...

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

In the last quarter was 43% to Europe, 35% to U. S. and 20% for Asia. If you look at the whole year, you have 41% to Europe 35% to U. S. and 23% to Asia. And Brazil is only 2% of the total.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Isac, do you expect the percentages to change going forward? We have seen very strong demand from Asia and possibly demand slowing in Europe because of the paper demand there and would you... have you seen anything so far in October or would you expect a significant change going forward?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

No, not at all. Let me comment. Of course you are right that Asia it's increasing demand but we have been pretty much focused on our... in main accounts. So the distribution, if you look back, and it's always going to be in the same... rather perhaps you are going to see some increase in Asia from 22% to 25%, but that's... basically distribution will be around 40% in Europe, our main market, and after that I mean the U. S. and Asia with 25%, 22%, 25%. And this is going to be the pattern for the future also, unless something dramatic happens, which we don't expect. So the issue now is, when we add new capacity then there will be some changes and definitely Asia will have a bigger participation, and we don't see as it's I mean closing down machines, in Europe. We don't see impact in our main business activity in Europe. I mean our customers on the contrary in some cases are growing.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Okay, so from 2010, you could see the share... Asian share of your demand increasing and that might have some impact in your market because I am guessing the Asian... sales to Asia have slightly lower margins?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Not necessarily. I mean if you look into what's going on in Europe and the U. S. and you'll see that the margins in Asia are quite good actually. So, definitely we'll change from a volume standpoint but that doesn't mean that this will impact margins.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Okay, clear. The second question is regarding prices, can you... I know it's very early in the fourth quarter, but we know that Aracruz and other pulp producers are implementing price increases now, and we also know that there is a higher price increase for Europe, $30. It looks like European papermakers are struggling a little bit with their margins because of the weak dollar. Can you, João, give us any color on how price implementation is going, particularly in Europe?

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

I mean it's... the way that we assume, this a non-issue. The prices have been accepted, the market is very, very tight. There has been some shortage on the supply side and I don't think that we or anybody else is having any difficulties in implementing the new price.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Have you... are you seeing more substitution in the third quarter and then going into the fourth quarter versus past quarters more substitution towards eucalyptus away from other hardwood grade and from softwood's?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Well, I think this, I mean of course when we talk about hardwood, that is a fact but... and it's because birch disappeared from the market, because of lack of wood, because of, I mean, more profitability on producing softwood instead of hardwood. So, this is a fact and we believe that this will continue. When it comes to softwood substitution, this is some more of a slow process, but it is happening. And this kind of substitution, it always comes for good. You know once they move, they learn how to operate with the higher percentage of hardwood, and specifically, eucalyptus doesn't change. So, I think this is going to be a continuous trend, and there is a lot of incentive, now that to move in this direction which is about a $100 price differential.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Great. And the last quick question... thank you last, quick question. Isac, on the Guaíba expansion, it looks like you might be able to initiate production there in the first half of 2010. And I haven't seen any guidance and I know you are talking about starting up in 2010 in the press release. Can you talk about whether it would be more likely first half or second half?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

No. First, our idea is to submit to our Board the industrial budget, probably by the end of this year or beginning of '08. After this approval, we are going to start the bids and the procurement process. But our idea is to start the new mill in the 2010, not exactly in the first half but probably in the third quarter.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Okay. So, in third quarter, right, probably or could be?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Between July and September probably.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Okay.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Probably, in next year we are going to provide information more complete.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Great. And that would be 1.3 million tons for sure. There is no possibility it could be higher than that.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

No. It will be up to 1.2 million tons.

Marcelo Luna - Deutsche Bank

Okay, great. Thanks Isac, thanks João.

Operator

Our next question comes from Debbie Bobovnikova from J. P. Morgan. Please go ahead.

Debbie Bobovnikova - J. P. Morgan

Yes, hi. Good morning. Returning to your cash costs, I was pleasantly surprised that they were coming down again this quarter with the effect of maintenance downtime that you had. I just wanted to make sure that this is something that we are going to see investment for, let's say in the fourth quarter, based on your accounting? Do you think that the way cash costs are shown in this quarter, does that fully account for the maintenance downtime, or can we see some effect of it in next quarter?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

The level of production is very important to establish, the level of cash cost, because one-third of our total costs are fixed. So, in the third quarter we had several downtimes in mill A, in mill C, and in Guaíba Unit. So, it affects the performance of the production. So, the cash cost was about $219. So for the last quarter with no downtime, we believe that the cash cost will be lower. We continue with our guess around $200 per ton. It will depend of course of the level of the foreign exchange rate, but between 1.85 to... around 1.85, it will be reasonable to forecast about $200 per ton.

Debbie Bobovnikova - J. P. Morgan

Okay. Thank you. And then another question is on your freight rates. I know you have long-term contracts. Can you just remind us when those are due, and what are your expectations for the next price reset?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

We have most of our contracts due in about five year's time. We have one contract for Asia, which is due at the end of 2008. So, in that area we are pretty much covered. So, five years to the mature markets.

Debbie Bobovnikova - J. P. Morgan

And is there any annual price reset in those contracts or is the price set for the five years?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

No, it's... of course not on this contract, in all shipping contracts. But it... what has an impact is the bunker surcharge and it has to do with oil price. So but other than that the freight rates are fixed.

Debbie Bobovnikova - J. P. Morgan

And that surcharge is taken quarterly, annually, how often?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

It depends. I mean there is... if there is any variation on oil price above a certain level, which is $200, I guess, we would be charging just about a dime.

Debbie Bobovnikova - J. P. Morgan

Okay. So, it's softwood, I see. Great, thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Tereza Mello from Citi. Please go ahead.

Tereza Mello - Citigroup

Hi, good morning. Two questions more on the long term. We talked a little bit about the outlook for prices in the fourth quarter and you mentioned that you see, I think there's no issue of the price increase. That's relative [ph] for 2008 at this point. Do you expect there is more ForEx in the first half with the impact on different parts of let's say, Suzano and Botnia? What's your expectation for Botnia at this point, if you have an idea on that? In fact, the second on the tissue market. You've mentioned in your press release that... but you are bringing tons of tissue capacity coming in line in the next, into 2009. What do you think is the current average rate of eucalyptus pulp used by your customers when they produce tissue? It's 6%; it's 8% and do you already have new capacity that's on your line, it's from your clients or it's new capacity for new clients? Thank you.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Well it's a long question, let's try to...

Tereza Mello - Citigroup

Yes, sorry.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Very long one, let's try to go on. In 2008, without trying to make any kind of forecast on price which we will not do. The way we see things, it's a very let's say stable situation for next year, despite the entrance in the new capacity as you said from Botnia and from Suzano. If you look in terms of the reduction in the supply of birch which is around 400,000 to 500,000 tons. If you would assume also difficulties in the supply of Indonesian fiber to Asian producers... paper producers. If you assume a normal growth of 2% to 3% in demand and if you assume there will be some kind of substitution and if you put all of that together you are going to see that maybe what is produced today it's not enough. And we are not saying anything about new closures, capacity closures in the North America or even in European. So, our perspective is that we are going to see a very balanced market perhaps not as tight as we assume a second half of this year but on a very, very balanced situation, which is a positive scenario.

Now, when it comes to the tissue side, tissue is of course a main area in which eucalyptus is used and for you to understand I mean the portion of eucalyptus is used on the top quality tissues. The growth I mean indices what we have said is it's general growth but not necessarily, this is going to be in the areas of where our eucalyptus is used. But, if you look in terms of new demand being generated in Asia, more specifically in China, if you see growth in demand in the U. S. for top quality, if you see more competition on private labels needing to use better fibers to improve quality to match with those branded products, this scenario continues to be very positive. I cannot say how many tons of those 1,500 tons would be per ton million will be used from eucalyptus, but a great portion that we see from our own customers that demand has been growing, and not only on the existing facilities but on new ones. So, again, the scenario is positive and contribute for growth in next year also.

Tereza Mello - Citigroup

Okay. And this new capacity in your line, is it your existing clients or is it new producers?

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Some is new producers, some are existing customers, some are debottlenecking and growth in production capacity. And definitely, there are some new producers, especially in Asia.

Tereza Mello - Citigroup

Okay. Thank you very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from Victoria Santaella from Santander. Please go ahead.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Hi. Good morning gentlemen. Most of my questions have been answered, but I would like to get an update on two issues. The first one is environmental issue. If there is any update on some of the certifications that are still pending on your forest? And the second one is if you can give us an update if there is any potential M&A transaction that we should be aware and if you are open right now for making any acquisitions?

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

I couldn't understand the second part of your question.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

And then it's regarding any potential M&A transaction?

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

Oh, M&A? Okay.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Yes. Acquisition.

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

Perhaps I'll elaborate a little more on environmental issue and then I will leave it Isac for the tough question.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Perfect.

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

I don't have the answer but anyway. Well, in terms of environmental issues, I think as Isac mentioned in the beginning, I mean, the Dow Jones gives us a pretty good stat in terms of our procedures on the environmental side. In terms of certification, as you know, we are certified by Cerflor on our forests. We also are certified by European System. We are currently in the process of the value... of certifying Veracel operation with FSC, and we are continuously looking internally what can improve, and what kind of a certification would be required. And this includes of course the whole thing, in terms of chain of custody, and everything that is required on this issue. And we hope that by the end of this year, the Veracel will be up for... certified by FSC, and in the future we will evaluate about Aracruz on forest on FSC also.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

With regards to the second question about M&A transactions. It's a very theoretical answer, but if you look our sector, Aracruz is the global leader for market pulp producer with only 7% of the total market... total world market. The average in the basic material sectors is that a leader has about 50%, so you can see that our sector is too very fragmented. So it's wrong for future consolidation. I don't know how it will happen and when, if in Brazil or outside Brazil, but theoretically it would make sense.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Excellent, thank you very much. And my last question is, if you can share with us the last prices paid on land in Brazil.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Price for?

João Felipe Carsalade - Commercial Director

Land.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Land.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

The average is around $1600, $1700. This is the average that we have been paying... and value by unit.

Victoria Santaella - Santander

Excellent. Thank you very much gentlemen.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

This concludes today's question-and-answer session. Mr. Zagury, at this time you may proceed with your closing statements.

Isac Roffé Zagury - Chief Financial Officer

Okay. Thank you very much for your time, for your attention. If you have any future doubts, please call our Investor Relations team. Thank you very much, good afternoon.

Operator

That does conclude our Aracruz conference for today. Thank you very much for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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Source: Aracruz Celulose S.A. Q3 2007 Earnings Call Transcript

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