Kirby's CEO Presents at Citi 2012 Global Industrials Conference (Transcript)

| About: Kirby Corporation (KEX)

Kirby Corporation (NYSE:KEX)

Citi 2012 Global Industrials Conference

September 20, 2012 2:00 p.m. ET


Greg Binion - President and COO

David Grzebinski - CFO


[Unidentified Analyst]

Greg Binion

Thank you for having us and we appreciate your interest in Kirby Corporation. I’m going to start today’s comments with an overview of what Kirby – who Kirby is and what we do and then David’s going to follow up with the current financial outlook and financial performance.

So Kirby is essentially in two key businesses -- the marine transportation that delivers about two-thirds of our revenue and our diesel engine segment that delivers about one-third. Some public facts about our company, you can see we have close to 56 million shares outstanding at the current share price, delivers a market cap of about $3.2 billion. Debt about $800 million given this enterprise of just over $4 billion and today we have 4250 employees.

Some facts about Kirby, we’re the nation's largest inland and coastal tank barge operator. There are some details on the fleet size and we’ll dig into these little more deeply in a moment. In the inland space about 75% of our revenue comes from term contracts a year or longer, and about 55% of that comes from term -- from time charters which protect us from short-term market fluctuations and weather risk.

And in the coastal space, about 60% of our revenue is under term contracts, 90% of that is under time charters. And you may have noticed that we announced the signing of agreement to purchase Allied Transportation Company’s marine assets which includes 10 tank barges which are predominantly in the petrochemical trade coastwise and three dry bulk cargoes along with seven tugboats.

We’re also in the diesel engine business serving as a nationwide service provider and parts provider for medium and high speed engines, and we’re also engaged in the manufacturing and remanufacturing of oilfield service equipment and compression equipment serving predominantly the natural gas business. And I point out we’re the successful integration of 30 marine and 16 diesel acquisitions. These are the 30 marine acquisitions, you can see dating back to 1986. Those in red are the shipper owned fleets. So you will recognize some of their names, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide, MC River and then most recently Lyondell that occurred in 2012.

And then you can also see the activity that we've had since 2011, including Kinder Morgan facility, the enterprise acquisition, which is the ship bunkering operation in Miami, the KC acquisition of tuck-in of Seaboats and finally the Lyondell acquisition. And then the 16 acquisitions that are in the diesel engine space, most recently the United Holdings which occurred in April of 2001. So this acquisition activity has driven our revenue growth rate to 16.5% from 1988 to 2011 to just over $1.8 billion in 2011. And our earnings-per-share have grown by 15% annually from 1994 to 2011.

Digging into the marine transportation business a little bit deeper, this chart depicts our service area and we’re one of the few operators which can serve our customer base on – in all U.S. coasts, the Gulfs, the Atlantic and West Coast along with Alaska and Hawaii as well as the entire Western River systems as the Mississippi and Ohio and Illinois are known as long as along the Gulf Coast – the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which is that red ribbon running along the Gulf Coast.

On any given day in the inland space, two-thirds of our barges can be found operating along the Gulf Coast with about one-third of river. And I’ll also point out that Texas and Louisiana, it’s where 80% of the U.S. petrochemical production resides.

Just some more facts about the barge industry, and of course we serve the operating area that I previously mentioned. The tank barge inland space is part of a much larger dry cargo network, there’s 18,000 dry cargo barges and 3100 tank barges in the inland space. And then the coastwise business which includes all coasts, Alaska and Hawaii is about 270 barges.

Kirby is in the liquid business predominantly but we do serve our customer in the coastal business delivering coal across the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. is protected from foreign competition by the Jones Act as our many countries have a law of – capitalist law protecting indigenous transportation. Our equipment, because of the inland equipment, because of the locks and dams and the shape of the inland waterway space is not subject to economic obsolescence. And barging is one of the most environmentally green and safest ways to move a customer’s cargo.

This slide gives you an idea of the types of cargoes that we move. Just over 50% is petrochemical. You can see the types of cargoes that we move and the demand drivers are 70% of the volumes we touch, still in the consumer nondurable and 30% in durables, 25% refined products, just under 20% black oil products which are refinery intermediates as well as fuel for ships as for power plant production and then 4% serve agricultural markets.

Given what we move and who we move it for, we have an extremely strong emphasis on safety. We have our own internal training process that covers new hires coming in as deckhands all the way to getting our mariners ready to get the pilot’s license and drive the boats. That picture in the right-hand side is actually a simulator that we use to make our training process more effective. And safety has been part of our culture for a very long time. We were the first winner of the Benkert award which is awarded by the department of transportation. We received this award in the early ‘90s just to give you an idea, that is for a very long time.

Moving to the broader markets, this gives you a view of the number of tank barges in service in the United States and you can see that over the last several years we’ve been stable at 3100 barges. And this histogram gives you a breakdown of the age of the fleet. And while there's been quite a bit of renewal in this area, there are over 900 barges that are still 30 years or older in this space.

Size matters in our business. As the nation's largest provider of this -- of inland transportation services, we’re more likely to have the right barge in the right bottoms at the right place at the right time for our customers, which allows us to do movements without having our customers clean barges into the next cargo and also enables us to do more movements of backhaul opportunities and also respond to customers’ changing demands more quickly than our competition.

And our towboat fleet which is about 240 barges has a charter component that makes up about a third of that which gives us the ability to right-size our horsepower fleet, which is where most of the cost of our tow is as you consider the crew and the fuel burn is all associated with the operation of the vessels.

This gives you an idea of Kirby size relative to the competition. You can see our fleet of 835 barges, that’s more than two and half times the next largest competitor of ACL. And again in red are the shipper-owned fleets, Marathon has a fairly large fleet of over 170 barges and several others but this gives you an idea of who we complete with in the marketplace.

Turning to the coastal tank barge markets, Kirby is an operator participating in the coastal business, primarily focused on refined products as it relates to the first two acquisitions we made in the space, that’s K-Sea and Seaboats. Now as we’ve said earlier in the presentation we've announced our intention to acquire Allied which is primarily focused on the chemical business. Our current fleet consists of 57 tank barges with 3.9 million barrels of capacity and of this, 54 are doubles can, and our boat fleet is 64.

But the outlook for the U.S. tank barge market – coastal tank barge market is improving. We’re beginning to see kind of regional areas of firmness at specific times on the marketplace, which we think is a sign of improving marketplace. We’d also point out that 8% of the industry's current capacity of single hole and by law -- the open 90 law will be required to be removed from service by the end of 2014.

This gives you an idea of where Kirby is relative to the competition that we have in the space which we consider to be 195,000 barrels or less. It’s really two tiers of equipment size in this market that is a larger – the larger units which are 200,000 and above that is predominantly ship size lots and then the smaller piece is in a market which we participate.

Turning now to diesel engine services market, this gives you an idea out of where our revenue comes from by end markets. You can see 73% of our revenue is associated with the United acquisition and focused on the land-based drilling, servicing customers in the oil and gas business, power generation, transportation and compression markets.

Our heritage – diesel engine service business is focused in the marine markets in really all aspects, including transportation of both dry and liquid cargoes, the offshore drilling, harbor services and dredging and then 6% of our business comes from the power generation market, which includes both the nuclear and industrial markets. It includes power generation of water pumping stations and industrial reduction years.

So these are the types of equipment that we work on in this space, really the most popular engines for those applications in the medium speed business, our largest engine is EMD, in the high-speed space all the popular names, Cat, Cummins, MTU and then we are the largest Allison off-road distributor in North America.

In terms of the land-based services market, we see shale gas as the energy – oil and gas as an energy game changer and it’s really remarkable from our perspective how hydraulic fracturing technology has expanded and the breadth of hydrocarbons that are now available and has reduced the cost of producing U.S. oil and gas reserves.

As we said, we’re the manufacturer and remanufacturer of oilfield equipment and participate into those markets in that way. And what really gets us excited about this market is the heavy-duty cycle associated with use of hydraulic fracturing pumps in the space and the service requirements for those units. As you think about the amount of horsepower that’s in the install base and that there is between 7000 and 8000 units out there every day working hard and that the service interval is probably in the 3 to 5 year range. You can see why we’re excited about the service annuity associated with bringing those hydraulic pumping units in and doing a remanufacturing and basically an overhaul of all the components tree on that trailer and helping our customers keep their service to their customer base reliable and affordable.

So this is a EIA chart that gives you some insight into the amount of hydrocarbons and the remarkable unlocking of American’s petroleum reserves that directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing have delivered to the U.S. And then finally this – if you’re not familiar with hydraulic fracturing, this gives you an overview of how it actually works. Typically the wells are done at depths of 7500 feet, a double case through the water table. And then after the pipe is perforated, then they pump at very high pressures a mixture of material and water to break open the shale fractures – the shale formations forming fractures that are propped open by propping typically sands to allow the oil and gas flow back up to the surface where it’s contained.

And with that, I am going to turn it over to David Grzebinski who will take you through the outlook and through the financial piece.

David Grzebinski

Thanks Greg. Good afternoon. Let me just run through the outlook here to just give you a feel for our third-quarter. We recently reaffirmed our third-quarter guidance $0.87 to $0.97. We reaffirmed that when we announced the Allied acquisition. The marine transportation business continues to be strong. Particularly in the inland space we’re running 80 -- excuse me 90% to 95% utilization. Anytime you run up north of 85% utilization, it’s usually a fairly positive pricing environment and year-over-year we've seen pricing up about mid single digits.

The coastwise business is a little different part of that cycle. It’s towards the bottom of the cycle, coming off the bottom, utilizations in the 70 – mid 70% range, and similar to the inland space we need mid-80s to get pricing, as Greg mentioned, it’s – we think we’re at the bottom and things are starting to improve. We’re seeing some regional tightness. Occasionally it will tighten up for a bit and get lose again. But things look to be improving and as Greg mentioned, we just purchased – or we signed a contract to purchase Allied, we won’t close on that until probably sometime in the fourth quarter. But we indicated in our conference call that, that would add about $0.06 to $0.08 of earnings to next year.

Allied is a coastwise barge company, they have predominantly petrochemical capacity, which is very important for us because about two-thirds of what we do on the inland barge space is petrochemical. And as you know petrochemicals are – this is kind of a renaissance time for the U.S. petrochemical business. So by getting coastwise petrochemical capability we’re able to expand our service offerings to our inland petrochemical customers. So we’re very excited to have the Allied acquisition and we look forward to add to our coastwise platform.

Diesel -- diesel engine services as you know, the frac business because of the fallen natural gas prices it’s been tough and not much new equipment is being ordered. We’re certainly going through that. But what is happening as Greg described is the remanufacturing environment is very strong. And we’re in the midst of ramping that up in our legacy margin diesel engine services business, that business is doing well. The Gulf of Mexico oil service business has picked up a little bit, the rig count is up a little bit in the Gulf of Mexico that helps drive the marine engine repair business. And then you see our full year guidance there.

Just real quick, these are kind of historical slides but it shows our second quarter versus a year ago, you can see revenues are up about 17% and operating income was up about that much, this is a six-month, I won’t go into that. Let’s spend a little bit of time on operating margins for our two businesses. The yellow line represents the marine transportation segment operating margins, the red line are the diesel engine services margins. A couple takeaways, on the marine business what you will see is that basically represents – that chart represents the inland marine business. We didn't enter coastwise business until mid 2011. So let me just describe it.

The last trough we had was back – you can see in the 2002-2003 timeframe. Our margins inland marine business troughed to around 15%. They peaked in ’09, up about 24% and then we had a very – the quick cycle that started in the fourth quarter of 2008 and kind of ended 2010, and you will see our margins troughed to -- actually one quarter they dove below 20% but they troughed around 21%. So what’s the point I want to make here is that we’ve got a higher trough this time and why is that, we took a lot of cost out of the business over the ’07, ’08, ‘09 timeframe we took 22% of our source staff out. We’ve got smarter about how we did business and it’s allowed us to keep higher margins.

Now with the acquisition of coastwise business, as I said is in a different part of its business cycle. The margins are in the low single digits. So that’s actually dampening the margins in the segment. If you were to pull out the coastwise margins and just look at the inland margins, we’d be in the mid-20, 25% range for the inland space. Now coastwise – as I said the margins are in the low single digits, that’s because the utilization is low, pricing is low. Back the peak, that business in ’07 and ‘08 before we acquired them was running in the mid-teens. We would expect the coastwise business to get into the mid-teens.

Switching to the diesel engine services business, you’ll see it's relatively stable at right around 10%. Back in ’06, ’07, ‘08 timeframe the Gulf of Mexico oil service business was very strong, and we had very strong margins in marine, diesel engine repair business. Since then in 2011, we did acquire United, which is the land-based business. Those margins are a little lower right now given the fall-off in manufacturing, probably high single digits and the good traditional marine transportation -- marine engine repair business is probably in the low double digits.

And to give you a feel for the margin, this is a chart of (indiscernible) per share just to give you a feel for the cash flow generation capability of the company. This probably describes a little better, what you see here the green bars are cash from operations, the yellow bars are capital expenditures. The point of the slide really is to show you that the green bars are always above the yellow bars, and we expect that to be the case here in 2012.

Now you will notice fairly high capital spending in 2011 and 2012. Basically what we’ve just concluded is a replacement cycle where we’ve taken average age of our fleet from about 24 years, down I think it’s around 16, this year – at the end of this year. So we’ve really upgraded our fleet during this time and we've also built two very large barges that, that will be delivered this year. So next year capital spending all things being equal should be down a bit and we should have more free cash flow next year but we fully expect to continue our free cash flow generation.

This gives you a better feel for our balance sheet. This is debt to total cap, you can see we’re right around 34%. Each of the blips on the chart really are acquisition related. We tend to delever and then buy counter cyclically. Kirby’s acquisition process and indeed its capital spending processes is based on discounted cash flow. We run – we look at whatever assets we’re building or buying and we look at its useful life. We know what is going to earn through its cycle. We know how much it costs to maintain it, we come up with a free cash flow. We discount it at 12% after-tax that tells us whether we should make investment.

That’s the process we stick with, we try and keep that capital discipline throughout the cycle. What it leads you to do is to acquire companies when business is in bad, so you will notice, we’ve acquired couple – three coastwise companies now. They are at the bottom of their cycle. The inland business is probably in a more robust right now. You wouldn't see us – be able to do any acquisitions there because the price is designed (ph).

So – and then also it’s progress, when we’re building capacity, or not building capacity but when building stuff in the shipyards, usually it’s replacement capacity, we don't like to expand capacity generally very much. But when we're in the shipyards it's when pricing in the shipyard is good. Now we may add a little of capacity, but it will be modest, on the order of 300,000 barrels next year. We haven't officially declared that because as you know we can always retire capacity as well. We have the flexibility to retire depending on market conditions.

Just a little more on the balance sheet, we are A minus with Standard & Poor's, BAA3 with Moody’s, BBB flat with Fitch. We’re one of the few investment-grade company – I think we’re the only investment grade company in the US Jones Act barge business, and we have a revolver $325 million and we’ve got a private placement out there that comes due next year.

So that’s kind of the financial summary. I guess just to recap, Kirby is built on a series of acquisitions, as Greg shows you, 30 marine transportation acquisitions, 16 diesel acquisitions. We’re a consolidator – industry consolidator. We try and buy capacity rather than build capacity. We will continue to do that. Marine transportation, solid base of business, inland marine about 75% of our business is under term contract. 60% of our business -- in the coastwise business is under contract. And good solid base of customers that have the volumes year in and year out.

Diesel engine services, we’re the largest marine engine repair company in the country. We’re trying to build the land-based engine repair business and trying to be the largest in that sector as well. And again you see the recap of the acquisitions there below and just the last point really is that we try and keep a very strong capital discipline. Our chairman and our board – particularly our chairman Joe Pyne, it's the one thing to have an operating mistake because it will go away in a quarter or two. But if you make a capital mistake, it's with you for a long time. So we try and keep that in mind all the time, we’re trying to be very disciplined on that.

But that’s – Chris, that’s general. That’s what we have. We’d love to open up the questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

Yeah, well thank you very much. It was a very helpful presentation. So maybe I will kick off with a couple of questions. I can see if we have other comments or questions from the audience but I guess maybe my first question, I’ve asked a lot of transport related companies kind of business condition questions right after that. So I guess number one, Kirby specific, how are river conditions currently, it feels like they haven't been, as has been as negative, maybe you felt like it could've been at some point in the summer from the drought perspective but update on river conditions and then maybe little bit of an update from what customers are kind of thinking about telling you as they look at their volumes or kind of production and maintenance cycles over the course of the next quarter or two?

Greg Binion

Yeah, the last two years have been challenging on the Mississippi River. I think if I recall last year we had 500 year flood and this year we have low water conditions that are almost as bad as it were 1988 when it was very low. So it’s been – the last two years have been extremely difficult. And the low water conditions this year started in May which is again very unusual. Typically low water conditions will happen in tail end of the summer starting about July. What set this up is that there really wasn’t a winter in the Northeast and as a result you didn’t have snow accumulations. And so you didn’t have those melting snow accumulations in the spring that really support the water levels that you need for navigation in the western river system.

And so that coupled with a very dry summer puts us where we are today. We had some very difficult times about a month ago when a lot of the dry cargo tows were being stopped by the low water. The rainwater that we received over the last couple of weeks has really eliminated that problem. So we’ve got a little bump coming down the river, it’s cleared up all the current delays but the problem is that the rain stopped and there’s really not enough water to allow operators to begin to load to deeper drafts that are typically (indiscernible) at this time of the year. So while the rain is welcome and it’s been very helpful, at this point does not appear to be something that’s going to be sustainable and it appears given the current forecast by the core that the water levels will fall back down to low levels and we might continue to see some challenges as we finish the year.

And the second part of your question around volumes is that I think David described it right that the chemical renaissance is something that is firmly front of mind in our customer base. We are enthusiastic about the opportunities that low-priced natural gas was a very important feedstock for the petro chemical business, provides around today and also it’s investment opportunities to go forward. You will see that in some plant and some announced expansions, both inside defense line in terms of debottlenecking but longer-term we’ll scale ethylene cracking capability that’s been announced in the U.S. which three, four years ago he said that everybody thinks he’s crazy.

So I think our customers are pretty optimistic about their fortune short-term and longer-term and so we’re optimistic as well. So that’s on the petrochemical side and then in the crude oil business, of course there's again hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling has unlocked not only natural gas but also these crude supplies will be coming out of South Texas and Balkan area and Utica that will come shortly. These also present additional opportunities for additional volumes to be moved by inland mode and by the coastwise mode. So we’re pretty optimistic about volumes that we see going into 2013.

Unidentified Analyst

And I guess a follow up first on the river levels, how do you think about utilization? I know you mentioned some pretty high utilization numbers but what’s the kind of impact or kind of short-term utilization because of the water?

Greg Binion

As we went into the low water situation, we were at 90s and 95% utilization levels. So whereas if you are mid 80s to 90% you might get a utilization bump. We’re at -- those current levels where we are is really effectively fully utilized over the large degree. So we didn’t see any additional utilization. Now a question you might be – is that going to create some deferred demand, as some pent-up demand that might be worked off and that’s pop over that might be the case.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. And then when you think about the mix, particularly within the inland piece of the business, these are petro-chemicals, with kind of crude opportunities maybe seem like there is a decent amount of growth potential in the not too distant future, how do you think about that mix going forward, stay two-thirds petrochemical or do you see some of that change around a little bit if you look out one to two, or three years down the road?

Greg Binion

Yeah our relationship with our customers is a long term relationship. And so it’s been built over literally decades in many cases. And so our plan as we go forward is that we’re going to continue to focus on the industry players that have become our partners over time and continue to serve them in their core markets. Now we do have some that have come to us that are great customers and say, we really are willing to do that in those cases but for the most part, what we've been trying to do is really not focus on these new crude opportunities, as there is players in the marketplace that can satisfy those demands and continue to serve our customers that we’ve been with for a very long time. And David, do you comment on the offshore side?

David Grzebinski

Yeah, no, on the offshore space there, we are seeing some crude make its way to coastwise barging. In the Corpus Christi area, coming out of the Eagle Ford some crude’s making its way to barges and we’re starting to see some of that go cross Gulf, large barge (indiscernible) now 80,000, 100,000 barrel barges movements from Corpus to the New Orleans, Baton Rouge area. So that actually is helping a little bit, that's why we feel like we’re hitting the – we’re coming off the bottom, maybe of the coastwise business because that little bit of incremental demand is starting to tighten the market a little bit. It’s early days and it can turn around but it’s certainly helping.

Long run, a lot of this crude will make its way to pipeline – crude has really just moved in pipeline. I think the issue is that the sources of the crude whether it’s Bakken, Eagle Ford, Marcellus, Utica, and they are so spread out in the quality of the crude, the API differences of the crude, it’s a variable. There will always be a portion, we’ve come to believe there will always be a portion that will be moved on the water. So we are trying to be very cautious about that. And as Greg mentioned we have a very long term focus and we want to get the ratable volumes that are going to be there year in, year out. So we’re working with our customers to that end.

Unidentified Analyst

And then from crude on the coastwise trade, there is obviously a little bit of a bifurcation of the size of the vessels that you operate relative to some of the largest ones. Where do you think the crude opportunity in the next couple of years in the coastwise that falls most heavily, is it in the size that you guys play in as opposed to some of the bigger vessels that are out there?

Greg Binion

That’s a good question. I think in the near term it is in the maybe the smaller and what you will see is some crude – there is some unit trains making its way from the Bakken to Albany for example and then so there's some coastwise moves from down the Hudson and all to the Gulf Coast – excuse me, the East Coast and then there is Corpus Christi move cross Gulf. Those are probably about the size barges that we’re planning from 80,000 to 150,000 barrels.

Now if you’re going to take crude from the Gulf Coast up to the East Coast, you can see those refineries that are trying to stay alive. You’d use a much larger vessels for that, 330,000 barrels type vessels, not an area that we play in but it would be for some larger vessels.

Unidentified Analyst

And then the size there, I just want to get – apologize for my ignorance, clean versus dirty, when you are thinking about refined products relative to crude and the interchangeability of your assets relative to that, do you have a lot of flexibility?

Greg Binion

Yeah, some, you can take a clean barge and some dirty it, usually we will do that in the inland space and we will do it in the coastwise space. But what you have to do is usually you have the customer agree to a clean out barges, where if they return it, they have to pay for the cleaning of the – cleaning service which actually is a nice thing because it makes them less likely to shop at around, one, but two, they’re only going to turn it back unless if they have to, right because they have to incur that cleaning costs which is not insignificant.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. We only have a couple minutes left. I just want to make sure that everybody got a chance to ask a question if they could.

Unidentified Analyst

What percentage of the business is marine transportation versus diesel engine services?

Greg Binion

Two-thirds marine transportation and one-third diesel engine services.

Unidentified Analyst

And of the diesel engine service business, in terms of the refurb of the fracking business, what – how large is that percentage for the diesel engine services?

Greg Binion

Let me answer this way. In 2011 our parts and service business as opposed to manufacturing business, manufacturing made up about 55% of our land-based diesel engine service business. And as we rolled into 2012 with the decline in demand for new special pumping products, that makes a change to where it’s now currently about 40% manufacturing and 60% service.

Unidentified Analyst

Similar to that, when you get the movement over to the inland business, what kind of margins do you think are sustainable if your 15% was really driven by Gulf of Mexico one time strength, I know you used to run at 10%. Where do you think you are when that flattens out?

Greg Binion

Yeah, let me take a shot of that. In the manufacturing side of the land-based, in other words, making the OEM frac spreads if you will, margins usually are in the high single digits. The refurbishment margins should be mid double-digit – mid-teens kind of margins. We’re not there yet, so we’re still in this ramp up phase where we’re just starting to get the volumes to our plant. Paradoxically we’re talking about a downturn, we’re talking about unemployment levels in the United States. We can't hire enough people in our Oklahoma facility to get the throughput and we’re trying to add shifts, we can’t add shifts, we can’t get people, we’re trying to get more overtime, we can’t get it. We’re just in that startup phase. So our margins are little lower but, the target for the remanufacturing should be mid-teens. We will get there. It's just going to take a few months to get there as we ramp it up. And hopefully can answer people get the supply chain to find out.

Unidentified Analyst

I think we’re going to have to leave it there. We’re out of time but thanks very much gentlemen for the presentation. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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