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Rockwood Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:ROC)

Q2 2008 Earnings Call Transcript

July 30, 2008 11:00 am ET

Executives

Tim McKenna – VP, IR

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO

Bob Zatta – SVP & CFO

Analysts

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Silke Kueck – J.P. Morgan

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

Chris Shaw – UBS

William Matthews – Canyon Capital

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Rockwood Holdings second quarter conference call. At this time, all lines are in a listen-only mode. Later there’ll be an opportunity for questions and instructions will be given at that time. (Operator instructions) I’ll now turn the conference over to Tim McKenna, Vice President, Investor Relations and Communications. Please go ahead, sir.

Tim McKenna

Cathy, thanks. Good morning. Thanks for joining us. This is our second quarter results conference call. Seifi Ghasemi, our Chairman and Chief Executive, and Bob Zatta, our CFO will conduct the call. We’ll make a formal presentation, which is available on rocksp.com. Then we’ll follow it with a Q&A.

Before I start the call and turn it over to Seifi, I need to read the forward-looking statements. This conference call may contain certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 concerning the business operations and financial condition of Rockwood Holdings Inc. and its subsidiaries. Although Rockwood believes the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, there can be no assurance that the expectations will be realized. Forward-looking statements consist of all non-historical information, including risk statements reflecting or referring to the prospects and future performance of Rockwood. Actual results could differ materially from those projected due to numerous known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including, among other things, the risk factors described in Rockwood’s 10-K filed with the SEC. We do not undertake any obligation to publicly update forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which such statements are made.

Seifi, we’ll turn it over to you. Thanks.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you very much, Tim, and good morning to all of you and welcome to Rockwood’s twelfth quarterly conference call. I thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to listen to our presentation.

For the discussion today, I will use the presentation material that we have posted on our Web site. I am very pleased to report that Rockwood had an excellent performance in the second quarter of 2008. We are reporting good results despite an economic environment that has created significant head bins in some of our markets.

The fundamental strategic strengths of Rockwood are the key factors in enabling us to continue to grow sales and profit. These fundamental strategic strengths, as you know, are, number one, our strong portfolio of market leading global businesses; number two, our diversified exposure to end markets; number three, our basically inorganic raw material base, which is not subject to significant change due to (inaudible); number four, our balanced exposure to the economies of North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific; and, lastly, our constant focus on innovation and improved productivity. The above factors have been the drivers of our past performance, and they will be the drivers as we move forward to achieve our goals.

At this point, would you please turn to page six of our presentation material. As you will note, we achieved net sales growth of 17.8%, including the 2.6% price increase. Our adjusted EBITDA was $178.3 million, which is up 11.1%, compared to second quarter of 2007. Even on a constant currency basis, both sales and EBITDA are ahead of last year.

In the second quarter, we also generated more than $48 million of free cash flow. Our growth was primarily driven by a strong performance in our specialty chemicals and advanced ceramic businesses. This is line with what we had been telling you for the past three years that these two businesses, which generate more than 70% of our profit, are the key drivers of our growth and profitability.

As you have noted from our press release, we continue to see a significant slowdown in construction-related businesses in the US, which has impacted the results of our performance additives business. Also, please note that due to strong – very strong cash flow, our leverage ratio, that is net debt over EBITDA, is now at 3.47, which is below our expected target of 3.5.

Now, please turn to page eight. I have already commented on the EBITDA numbers. You will note that as reported, net income and earnings per share are very significantly ahead of last year. Some of these is due to one time gains that our CFO, Mr. Bob Zatta, will explain to you later on this call. But please note that our adjusted net income and earnings per share are more than 45% ahead of last year. A very good performance.

Now, please turn to page nine of our presentation. We always break down the details of our sales growth. Out of the 17.8% increase in sales for the second quarter, 2.6% was pricing, 9.4% was currency, and 5.8% was volume mix and acquisitions.

Now, turning to page ten, we have the details of the performance of each one of our reported business units. I’m not going to read the details of this page since I would like to comment separately on each one of their business units.

So would you please turn to page 12 of our presentation. Our specialty chemicals sector continues to have an outstanding performance. Sales for the second quarter was up 23.8% and EBITDA was up 23.8%. Year-to-date for the first half, sales are up more than 20% and EBITDA is up more than 20% also. These outstanding results are driven by a strong pricing and volume for our lithium products, and in addition, our surface treatment business is performing favorably due to increased volumes, particularly in European automotive, aerospace, and general industrial applications; higher selling prices; and, a small bolt-on-acquisition that we made late in 2007, which was basically the acquisition of the surface technology businesses of GE. We continue to believe that this business sector will perform well for the balance of the year.

Now turning to page 13, our performance additives sector. Here, the increase in sales, which is 17.8% is fundamentally due to the acquisition of the color pigments business of Elementis that we made last year. Otherwise, on a pro forma basis, volumes in this sector are significantly down. We have told you that this sector is exposed to the construction business in the United States and we see our volumes down 20% to 30%. But despite that, because of improved productivity and additional selling prices, we have maintained the EBITDA margin of this business at 15.1% despite the very strong, very unfavorable market conditions.

Now, (inaudible) turn to page 14, titanium dioxide business. The significant impact on this business where we are behind last year is basically due to pricing, and that, as we have explained to you before, is because of the very strong Euro. It is easier for the American producers to export to Europe and enjoy higher prices that they can get in the United States. We are facing that situation that I don’t think will get diminished, but we believe that this business sector will perform better once they execute the joint venture that they have proposed with Kemira

Moving on to page 15, our advanced ceramics sector is performing excellently. Sales are up to 22.5% and EBITDA is up 37.3%. And those are kind of in line with what we have seen for the first half. And please note that the margins for business now are at 29.9% due to a very good job that our business unit is doing in improving productivity and improving margins.

At this point, I would like to turn it over to Mr. Bob Zatta, our Chief Financial Officer, to give you more details about the numbers. And then I will come back to comment about our businesses as we move forward. Bob.

Bob Zatta

Thank you, Seifi, and good morning to everyone. As Seifi has already covered the second quarter results, I’d like to go straight to page 19 of the presentation.

As you can see, Rockwood has sales growth of 17.8% and 8.4% on a constant currency basis. EBITDA growth was 11.1% and 1.2% at constant currency. So the total company EBITDA percent sales was 18.9% in the quarter versus 20% last year. Of note, Rockwood specialty chemicals and advanced ceramics businesses both reported strong margins in the quarter, with advanced ceramics at almost 31%. Performance additives in TiO2 pigments have seen margins come down versus last year, as those sectors have had the most exposure to the slowdown in the economy.

For total Rockwood, the solid EBITDA performance in the quarter, despite the uncertain economic environment, reflects strength and diversity of Rockwood’s global portfolio as Seifi had discussed. Page 20 of the presentation provides the operating results of the first half. As you can see, Rockwood’s EBITDA margin for the first half is 19.3%, well within our target range.

Page 21 of the presentation presents Rockwood’s income statement for the quarter and first half. The results through operating income are driven by the operating performance of the company as we had discussed. In addition, depreciation and amortization in the quarter – excuse me – is higher than last year. It is 63.8 million in ’08 versus 51.2 million in ’07, and this is due largely to purchase accounting impacts of recent acquisitions and normal capital additions.

The middle section of this chart deals with interest expense. As you can see, we recorded a net interest expense of $8.3 million for the quarter. However, this made is made up of expense of 9.7 and income of 1.4. The $9.7 million of expense is detailed at the bottom of the page where it would show interest expense on debt of $41.3 million, deferred financing costs of $2.4 million, and a mark-to-market gain on our interest rate swaps of $34 million. Regarding the mark-to-market and as we have discussed in the past, the expected movement of interest rates impacts the fair market value calculation for swap contracts, and since we are not using hedge accounting, the change in the fair market value from one period to the next runs through our P&L. This can be a gain or a loss. Since the swaps are remaining in place, there is no cash or economic impact on the company.

The next item on the chart is the FX gain or loss resulting from the translation impact of converting non-US dollar in the company’s debt and receivables to dollars. Since there was no real change in the Euro-dollar rate at the end of June versus March, the impact in the second quarter was very small.

The next item is our income tax acquisition, which we all discussed in detail on the next page. So if you would please turn to page 22, here I have presented a reconciliation of Rockwood’s reported to normalized income from continuing operations’ tax provision and tax rate. Rockwood’s reported tax rate for the second quarter was 21%. This compares with a 40.8% reported tax rate in the first quarter. Now, the primary reason for the reported rate came down so much in the second quarter is that our reported profit before tax included a gain of $34 million on the mark-to-market of interest rate swaps. As I discussed in the last chart, this accounting treatment comes about as a result of changes in interest rate expectations since the first quarter and the implied gain or loss just (inaudible) on our interest rates swap contracts.

However, from a tax perspective, and since we are in an NOL position in the US and have a full valuation allowance against our NOLs, there is no tax provision against the US mark-to-market gain nor would it be a tax benefit if it was a loss as in the first quarter. Therefore, as page 22 shows, it is important to look through this accounting gain in determining the normalized tax rate for the quarter of 28%. There are a couple of other minor adjustments, but the mark-to-market is a major impact. The normalized tax rate in the first quarter was 31% resulting in a normalized rate of about 30% for the first half of ’08.

We are very pleased with the low tax rate for the quarter and first half. We are benefiting from lower tax rates in Germany and the UK, and from very effective tax planning. I will provide some additional metrics on the full year at the end of my presentation, but we are currently seeing a normalized tax rate of about 35% to 36% in the second half resulting in a full year normalized rate of about 33%. The reason we expect the second half normalized rate to be higher than the first half is due to the seasonal pattern of earnings we are now forecasting in the US.

I would like you to turn to page 23. Here we provide our standard reconciliation of net income to adjusted EBITDA. You can see for the second quarter, net income of $78 million, a tax provision of $21.1 million resulting in income from continuing operations before tax and minority interest of $99.1 million. We then add that interest expense depreciation and amortization coming to a subtotal of $171.2 million. We then have several normal one-time charges, mostly related to our recent acquisitions, resulting in adjusted EBITDA of $178.3 million.

Turning to page 24 is our net income and EPS chart. At the top of the chart is the second quarter reported net income and EPS of $78 million and a $1.01, respectively. In coming to adjusted net income and adjusted EPS for the quarter, the most important item is the mark-to-market adjustment on the interest rates swaps, which I discussed already. Making this adjustment and a few others, as noted on the chart, resulted in adjusted net income of $52.3 million and EPS of 68% per share. For the first half of ’08, this is net income of $96.7 million and adjusted EPS of $1.26 per share.

Page 25 shows our consolidated net debt position. As you can see, we had cash of $342 million at the end of June, and net debt of just under $2.3 billion. Using the latest 12-months’ EBITDA of $663 million yields a leverage ratio of 3.47x. This is below where we where at the end of March and at year-end ’07, and as Seifi has already mentioned, this is slightly below our 3.5 target. The slight increase in net debt that you see at the end of June versus year-end ’07 is entirely due to foreign exchange movements.

Page 26, thus, show our long term trend in continuing to reduce the company’s leverage ratio, something which we are obviously very proud of.

Page 27 shows our free cash flow. As you can see and as Seifi has mentioned, we generated $48 million of free cash flow in the second quarter, which is right in line with our expectations. And we are right on target to reach our full year free cash flow goals.

Finally, on page 28, we have prepared our 2008 metrics versus what we’ve provided in February. The challenges [ph] to depreciation and amortization interest expense are due to movements in the – primarily movements in the dollar and Euro foreign exchange rate and some other exchange rates, and I have already discussed our tax rate expectations.

So with that, Seifi, I’ll turn it back to you.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you very much, Bob. Before we open this call to questions, I would like to make a few comments about the balance of the year. At the end of last year, we have stated our goals for 2008, which was to grow sales by 8% while maintaining an EBITDA margin of about 19%, and to grow earnings per share by double digits.

We have had two quarters of our strong results now, and therefore, we continue to believe that despite the economic – the difficult economic environment, we should be able to achieve our stated goals for the full year.

Now at this time, I would like – we would – I am very much looking forward to answering your questions. Cathy.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator instructions) And our first question comes from Robert Koort with Goldman Sachs. Go ahead please.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Thanks. Good morning, guys.

Seifi Ghasemi

Good morning, Rob. How are you?

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Good. A couple of quick questions, Seifi, on 05/09 you talked about in the quarter volume and acquisitions added 5.8%. Can you tell us how of that, if we strip out the acquisition, was pure organic volume and what variability there might have been between regions?

Seifi Ghasemi

If you would strip out the acquisitions, then be kind of our – kind of volume wise, we have factors as last year. And on that front, we obviously have seen a significant slowdown in construction-related business in the US, as we did mention to you before, 20% to 30%, but that has been compensated by the strong performance and volume growth in our lithium business and in our ceramics business. In terms of invest in Europe, we have not yet seen any significant slowdown. There has been a slowdown as we mentioned before in construction in Spain, construction in UK as we – and we have seen some sign of weakness in construction in Germany. But other than that, industrial production, at least related to our businesses, have been a steady invest in Europe, Rob.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Great. Then the last question, your competitor down in Chile, SQM, announced that they are going to spend about a $1 billion over a three-year period, including a 33% expansion of lithium carbonates that’s supposed to be concluded this quarter. Can you give us some sense of what you’re seeing on the supply-demand areas for lithium right now?

Seifi Ghasemi

We believe that the supply-demand for lithium continues to be tight, and I think that it is appropriate to think about expanding capacity in order to meet the demands of the future. And all of us who are in this business need to demonstrate to the other companies that they do have the capacity and the willingness to expand in order to meet the requirements of hybrid and electric cars of the future.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

So is that in a sense, Seifi, you’ve got to build it so they will come?

Seifi Ghasemi

Kind of.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Great. Thank you very much.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you, sir.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Silke – excuse me – Silke Kueck with J.P. Morgan. Please go ahead.

Seifi Ghasemi

Good morning.

Silke Kueck – J.P. Morgan

Good morning. I’m doing well, thanks. A couple of questions, the – not to spend too much time on the acquisition benefits, but can you lay out how much the acquisition benefits were in advanced ceramics and maybe on the specialty chemicals side? Because by my own calculations, I think that the acquisition benefits are side over this quarter in the order of 64 million if you count Elementis and the (inaudible) acquisition, and maybe a little bit acquisition from the –

Seifi Ghasemi

Silke, acquisition effects in – on our specialty chemicals and in our advanced ceramics, which have had excellent performance, are minimal, that is not that significant. The acquisition benefit is mainly the significant acquisition of Elementis color pigments that we bought last year. That is where the – that’s where the benefit is coming from. That is the significant – that’s almost $50 million right there. So in ceramics and specialty chemicals, there’s really no acquisitions, and in – especially chemicals is a small acquisition, which is adding, on a quarterly basis, only $4 million of sales. And on ceramics that is minimal, nothing. Okay.

Silke Kueck – J.P. Morgan

Okay. Regarding the tax rate, why wouldn’t a lower tax be sustainable for the remainder of the year? And that is the guidance, two quarters in a row, has sort of been above what you’ve reported. Even if you strip out, I guess, the effects from the – from (inaudible) and mark-to-market issues. Why would the rate go up in the second half of the year?

Bob Zatta

The rate would go up in the second half of the year primarily because of the seasonal pattern and what we’re expecting as far as the US business to generate in terms of earnings. The second quarter, as you know, is generally our strongest quarter and it’s also our strongest quarter for our US businesses, and that has a very beneficial effect on our tax rate as I think I had said at the end of the first quarter. So as we look at the numbers right now, we’re expecting a normal result for the third and fourth, and that has that effect on the tax rate.

Silke Kueck – J.P. Morgan

In terms of the – on the specialty chemicals side, can you talk about demand for lithium in your largest sector? So how does the amount look like for battery fuse, electronic devices? How is pure lithium faring used in lab sciences and plastic and chemical applications?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well Silke, we have told you that on the battery side, for hand tools, we are seeing 15% increase in volumes. For the batteries, which goes into cell phones and computers, and so on, the growth is in line with the growth of cell phones and notebook computers, and all of that. So we are seeing good growth in our lithium demand as we go forward. But as you very well know, because of the very competitive nature of our business, they do not comment too much about their, our growth is, and all of that. But overall, the growth is still there. You just can’t – you see it in the numbers.

Silke Kueck – J.P. Morgan

And then maybe lastly, do you – if the acquisition of the Nalco business closest this year? And once the Kimera joint venture concludes, do you expect either of these to be accretive or dilutive to your results this year?

Seifi Ghasemi

I don’t think they are going to make much of a difference in our results in 2008 because we haven’t Kimera yet. That remains to be closed, and we don’t know when we are going to close now because of – we have to go through the anti-trust screen. So I do not expect those two acquisitions to have any material impact on our results in 2008, but they certainly are going to be accretive in 2009.

Silke Kueck – J.P. Morgan

Thanks very much. I’ll get back in the queue.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you very much, Silke.

Operator

Thank you. We’ll go next to David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank. Please go ahead.

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Thank you. Good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi

Good morning, David.

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Seifi, can you comment on listing and pricing versus year-end and the impact of the Chinese producers on that pricing?

Seifi Ghasemi

We are not seeing any impact, and our lithium prices are higher than they were at the end of last year.

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Very good. And the margins in advanced ceramics, are these at these levels sustainable, and if they grow stronger from the medical side, cutting tools, or new applications?

Seifi Ghasemi

The margins are – we have always said that the margins for our ceramics business will be 26%, 27%. We have done better this quarter, and that has been driven by the increased demands in medical and cutting tools.

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Very good. And on the Nalco acquisition, what was the EBITDA of that business in the last 12 months?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well, I think there is an agreement between us and Nalco not to disclose that for competitive reasons, but the margins are good.

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Very good. And just on TiO2 prior to the JV closing, has this business, in your mind, hit bottom or there’s another leg down perhaps before the JV closes?

Seifi Ghasemi

I think the – I don’t expect it to go further down.

David Begleiter with Deutsche Bank

Thank you very much.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you, David.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Mike Harrison with First Analysis. Please go ahead.

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

Hi. Good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi

Good morning, Mike. How are you?

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

Doing well. Thank you. You’ve talked about – previously about doing some pre-buying in the iron oxide raw material. Can you talk about how you’re dealing with some of the other raw material and energy issues both in performance additives as well as in other segments? And as you look at pricing as maybe your primary means for maintaining margins given these higher costs, where are you seeing the most traction and what segments are maybe giving you the biggest headaches in terms of trying to get prices higher?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well Mike, as I have mentioned many times, fortunately, our raw material basis is basically inorganic and we are not seeing 20%, 30% increase in our raw material base. You have seen that the – got 2.6% increase in pricing in the second quarter. It’s 2.5% for the first half, and that is basically compensating properly for any raw material price increases that we have seen.

So if you go – if you convert that, our raw materials – we buy about $1 billion a year of raw material, and we are seeing an increase of about 5%, 6% there. And if you have 2%, 2.6% increase in sales in pricing, it compensates for that. So we are not under any particular pressure in any of the sectors.

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

Okay. And I was wondering if you could talk about productivity improvements. The segment where we have seen, I think the most progress has been the advanced ceramics business, but I was wondering if you could talk about opportunities for productivity improvements in other businesses, particularly curious about what we could see happen in the color pigments business since you’ve had the Elementis acquisition under your belt for a few quarters now.

Seifi Ghasemi

I think the synergies and the productivity improvement because of that acquisition is going to give us the capability, and has given us, actually, the capability, to preserve the margins in that business from going further down because with losing 20% to 30% volume, you would expect that the margins would be a lot lower than what they are. So we are seeing the benefit of the acquisition at Elementis, and this work is for productivity across all of our businesses, but we have always said that for Rockwood, we are shooting for a margin of about 19% to 20%, which means that any raw material increases, we do compensate with pricing, which we have done. And any other cost increases that we have like having to pay our people more, 3%, 4% a year to retain them. We compensate that with productivity. And therefore, we will be able to maintain our margins.

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

And then, I was also wondering if you could talk about the Kimera TiO2 joint venture and sort of how that came to be, and also in the context of another one of your TiO2 competitors potentially facing some significant financial trouble. Are you satisfied with the two plants that this JV would give you? Or would you still consider adding a third plant to the mix?

Seifi Ghasemi

First of all, the joint venture with Kimera, it makes a lot of sense because the two companies, together, will be stronger than each one of us separately. We are still looking forward to closing that acquisition. It’s taking time because of anti-trust and all of the things that we have to do, but by the fourth quarter of this year, we hopefully will have that closed. So it made logical sense. It was the right thing to do for both companies.

Now, to your other question about whether we would be interested in a third plant, we have always said that the plant – the earlier plant that you are mentioning – referring to in Germany, that has synergies with our business. So we continue to be interested in that, but obviously at the right price.

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

And the last question I had for you today is, I think when the market opened today, there was some interesting article that was in Financial Times about BASF potentially having some interest in Rockwood. Any comments on interest from BASF or any other potential buyer?

Seifi Ghasemi

Mike, you know that we don’t comment on rumors. We have been there before. There were rumors before. There are rumors now. So we do not have anything to announce.

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

All right. Appreciate it.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you, sir.

Operator

Thank you. And we’ll go next to Chris Shaw with UBS. Go ahead please.

Chris Shaw – UBS

Hi. Good morning, guys. How are you doing?

Seifi Ghasemi

Hi, Chris. How are you?

Chris Shaw – UBS

Good. Before we were talking, Bob, you were giving a volume number, I guess ex-MNA activity. Was that for a segment or was that for the company as a whole?

Bob Zatta

It was for the company as a whole.

Chris Shaw – UBS

The volumes are flat for the company as a whole. Okay.

Bob Zatta

As a whole, right, but different sectors – performance additives sector is down 20% to 30%, but then the other sectors are up. But for the whole company as a whole that was the comment. Yes, sir.

Chris Shaw – UBS

Okay. So in the Nalco Finishing Technologies acquisition, what sort of market share will you guys have now in sort of surface technology? Is it still small or is it – I mean you’re getting bigger, I guess? But do you have a number on that?

Bob Zatta

Chris, we just made the acquisition and we are filing with the Justice Department. You don’t really want me to comment on market shares on that.

Chris Shaw – UBS

That’s a good point, good point. Also, I saw in the income statement, the minority interest was zero. Is that just got away or is it really to zero for the quarter?

Bob Zatta

It was just zero for the quarter.

Chris Shaw – UBS

All right. So there’s no minority interest there. Okay. And then, what else do I have? That’s really it for my questions for today. Thanks guys.

Bob Zatta

Appreciate that.

Operator

Thank you. Then we have a question from Robert Koort with Goldman Sachs. Go ahead please.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Hi, Seifi. This is (inaudible).

Seifi Ghasemi

How are you?

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Two quick questions, if I can? I’m doing well. The first one on the Nalco, you mentioned that – the Nalco acquisition, I’m sorry. You mentioned that the margins are good and the question (inaudible) is can they get better and what steps are you going to be taking to make them better?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well obviously, we believe that by combining that business with our business, there will be synergies in terms of SG&A. And we think that there are good technologies there that we can use to expand our offering to our customers. That will put us in a stronger position to give them more of a package of products. That would be a good acquisition for us actually.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Are we talking about like 100 base – I mean I don’t know how this business has been performing, but are we talking about 100 basis points, 200 basis points, 300 basis points improvements?

Seifi Ghasemi

We’re talking about maybe 400% basis.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Oh excellent, excellent. And then, this is real quick, any updates from the ceramics keep replacement issues with the Strikers Strident [ph]. How is your Rockwood approaching those concerns? And do you have any money allocated or any potential liabilities for that? Behind you, can you just tell us what’s happening?

Seifi Ghasemi

Well there is nothing new, and we have not allocated any money because we don’t think there are any issues and there is no – nothing has changed since last time.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs

Okay. Thanks, Seifi.

Seifi Ghasemi

Two questions.

Operator

Thank you. We’ll go to William Matthews with Canyon Capital.

William Matthews – Canyon Capital

Good morning.

Seifi Ghasemi

Good morning, sir.

William Matthews – Canyon Capital

If we look at the margins in the performance additives and titanium dioxide pigments business, obviously depressed right now, can we use, as a proxy of when we’re in the year forward and in a normalized environment kind of the margins that were in effect this time about a year ago, to stay closer to 20% for performance additives and 19% for pigments? Is that what we should think about for normalized for these businesses?

Seifi Ghasemi

Yes, you should. We, at Rockwood, do not have a lot of patience for businesses that over a long period of time are not close to 19% to 20%. That is our goal, and we believe these businesses, once we get into normal economic conditions, they will get back those margins. That is correct, sir.

William Matthews – Canyon Capital

Okay. So then, on the flipside, should we expect specialty chemicals and advanced ceramics to trend down to the 20% or could we see in the future something where you have the businesses that are currently underperforming get back up to your 20% while your specialty and specialty chemicals and ceramics businesses maintain these above EBITDA-type margins, above 20% EBITDA margins?

Seifi Ghasemi

On the specialty chemicals business, we have always said that we think that that business will perform at around 22% to 24%. And our ceramics business, we have always said that it would be between 26% to 28%.

William Matthews – Canyon Capital

Great. Thank you.

Seifi Ghasemi

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. We’ll go to Chris Shaw with UBS. Please go ahead.

Chris Shaw – UBS

Yes. Hi. What I wanted to ask, what are kind of the multiples you guys are paying for these acquisitions that you’ve done recently? I guess, even if you look at the JV – I mean I guess I’m more concerned of what you think the multiple looks like, and then post any sort of margin improvements or synergies you get from them.

Seifi Ghasemi

The multiples that we have been paying for these businesses on the – as reported results that these businesses have, have been anywhere from 6% to 7.7%, 7.8%, 7.8x. And obviously, after the synergies, then they become attractive.

Chris Shaw – UBS

Okay. That does sound attractive. Thanks guys.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator instructions) And Mr. Ghasemi, we have no further questions.

Seifi Ghasemi

Well, thank you very much. I would like to thank everybody for, again, listening to our call, and if there’s any additional questions later on, all of us, including Mr. McKenna, me, and Bob are available to answer your calls on a separate basis. And once again, thank you. And we look forward to reporting the results for you next quarter. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you, and ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and fusing AT&T executive teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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Source: Rockwood Holdings, Inc. Q2 2008 Earnings Call Transcript
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