Reynolds American Inc. CEO Discusses Q3 2010 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Reynolds American, (RAI)

Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE:RAI)

Q3 2010 Earnings Call

October 21, 2010 10:30 am ET


Morris Moore - IR

Susan Ivey - Chairman, President and CEO

Tom Adams - EVP and CFO

Dan Delen - Chairman, President and CEO, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company


Nik Modi - UBS

David Adelman - Morgan Stanley

Ann Gurkin – Davenport

Karen Lemark - Federated Investors

Christine Farkas - Bank of America Merrill Lynch


Good day, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Reynolds American third quarter earnings conference call. At this time, all participants are in listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session and instructions will be given at that time. (Operator Instructions). As a reminder today's conference call is being recorded.

I'd now like to turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Morris Moore, Head of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Morris Moore

Good morning and thank you for joining us. Today we'll discuss Reynolds American's results for the third quarter and nine months. We'll discuss our results on both the reported and adjusted basis. A reconciliation of reported to adjusted earnings is in our press release, which is on our website at

Joining me this morning are RAI's, Chairman and CEO, Susan Ivey; our CFO, Tom Adams; and Dan Delen, R.J. Reynolds, Chairman and CEO.

We advise that the information we are about to discuss includes forward-looking statements. When we talk about future results or events, a number of factors could generate results materially different from our projections today. These factors include, but are not limited to items detailed in our press release and SEC filings. Except as provided by Federal Securities laws, we are not required to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.

Additionally, is a primary source for publicly disclosed information about our company. And we encourage investors and others to sign up to receive email alerts, whenever news about the company has been posted.

And now, I'll turn the call over to Susan.

Susan Ivey

Good morning, I am very pleased with RAI's strong third quarter results, which reflect the positive momentum of our business. As we reported today, increases in adjusted earnings and margins were driven by gains in our operating company's powerful key brands, all of which posted record consumer uptake market share in the third quarter.

It is clear that both of our reportable business segments continue to effectively execute their strategies in a changing tobacco environment, and we remain on track for a strong year.

I'd like to remind you of several significant recent developments at RAI. As we announced on October 15, RAI Board of Directors approved an increase of 8.9% in our dividend, reflecting RAI's strong financial performance and it is further evident of our deep commitment to returning value to our shareholders.

The Board also approved a two-for-one stock split that will be effective on November 15. We also announced last week that I plan to retire on February 28th. I've had a long and rewarding career in the tobacco industry, with the last ten years in the CEO role.

Dan Delen who has led R.J. Reynolds Tobacco for the past four years will succeed me as CEO. Dan and I have worked closely to develop the successful strategies that have helped to transform RAI's business model. With Dan's depth of knowledge and experience in the global tobacco industry and with Brown & Williamson and R.J. Reynolds' domestically, I believe that he is extremely well prepared to assume his new leadership role. Dan and I look forward to seeing all of you next month at our Investor Day presentation.

The expansion of R.J. Reynolds' field trade-marketing organization to serve American Snuff, through a services agreement has been largely completed. This change gives both companies greater speed to market, provides stronger support for the retail trade, and gives the company's brand a strong retail presence, and will significantly benefit American Snuff brand. The transition has been a very smooth one and we expect this strategic move to offer both operating companies substantial benefit and efficiencies.

Also, the move to consolidate cigarette manufacturing and expand moist-snuff production capacity, are progressing well. The Puerto Rico cigarette factory was closed this summer and the Whitaker Park factory is on schedule to close by the middle of next year. Production is being consolidated at R.J. Reynolds' Tobaccoville manufacturing facility. The construction of American Snuff facilities to increase their smokeless-tobacco processing and manufacturing capacity is well underway.

On the regulatory front, RAI's operating companies continue to be in compliance with the emerging requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration and our operating companies are demonstrating that they can effectively compete in this new regulatory environment.

Now turning to RAI's outlook, based on our results through the third quarter, the company has reaffirmed and tightened its earnings outlook for the full-year. And we now expect adjusted EPS of $4.95 to $5.05.

I would note that, our guidance excludes charges related to cigarette plant closings, the expansion of R.J. Reynolds' field trade-marketing organization, changes in federal health-care laws and the Canadian governments' settlements.

And now I’d like to recap several highlights in the third quarter. R.J. Reynolds again delivered adjusted operating income and margin at higher levels. This was supported by gains in both volume and share on the company's two growth brands, Camel and Pall Mall, with continued pricing and promotional efficiencies and productivity improvement.

American Snuff also posted record adjusted operating income and margin, while delivering higher moist-snuff volume. With respect to RAI's Santa Fe subsidiary, Santa Fe continue to deliver excellent results in the third quarter, as its Natural American Spirit brand again drove gains in earnings and volume and posted record market share.

Another highlight worth mentioning is RAI's selection to the Dow Jones sustainability North American Index for the third consecutive year. This independent recognition of our growing sustainability efforts, which we have embedded across the organization and it, reflects our commitment to mitigating our business risk.

Now let's look at our operating companies in more detail. R.J. Reynolds' total cigarette market share was up slightly from the prior year quarter. Strong growth brand gains offset losses in support and non-support brands', including the private label brands, which the company continues to de-emphasize and to eliminate.

Excluding the impact of these de-emphasized private label brands, R.J. Reynolds' total cigarette market share actually increased by 1.2 share points. This performance is clear evidence that R.J. Reynolds' brand portfolio strategy is working well and the company's volume performance, excluding private label brand has been better than that of the industry this year.

R.J. Reynolds' growth brands, Camel and Pall Mall again delivered excellent performance in the third quarter. These two brands continue to play an increasing role in R.J. Reynolds progress and account for more than half of the company’s total cigarette volume and share. Camel further strengthened its market place position in the third quarter and is benefiting from strong performance on Camel’s menthol styles, the use of R.J. Reynolds' capsule technology on these styles offers adult menthol smokers fresh flavor when they chew.

Camel Crush which uses the same technology to offer the choice of regular or menthol with each cigarette also enhanced the brand's market share performance in this growing menthol segment. Camel increased its menthol market share by half a share point in the third quarter and Camel continues to see improvements in its overall brand demographics, which provides a good base for the brand's long-term growth.

Camel continues to improve its position as a total tobacco brand, by focusing on equity enhancements and consumer relevant innovation. Camel SNUS, R.J. Reynolds first modern smoke-free tobacco product continues to show steady volume performance with lower levels of promotional support this year.

During the third quarter, Camel SNUS introduced two new styles, Robust and Winterchill and they are attracting strong interest. These new products are packed in larger pouches and offer adult tobacco consumers a richer more full body tobacco taste as well as smoke-free and spit-free convenience. All four Camel SNUS styles are being sold in select stores nationwide.

Turning to Camel's new line of dissolvable tobacco products, Camel Orbs, Sticks and Strips are still is tracking [ph] consumer interest and feedback from adult tobacco consumer is helping the company refine the products and the packaging to better meet consumer preferences.

Now, turning to Pall Mall, our R.J. Reynolds second growth brand, Pall Mall is the nation's fourth largest and fastest growing major cigarette brand. In the third quarter, Pall Mall continue to deliver significant market share and volume gain when compared with the prior year quarter and the second quarter of this year.

Consumers continue to seek even greater value because of the weak economy and adult smokers are no exception. They are increasingly discovering that Pall Mall is a high-quality longer lasting cigarette that delivers the great value that they are seeking and as a result, trial and conversion to Pall Mall continues to increase.

R.J. Reynolds also continues to make progress on the productivity front with improvements across its operation. During the quarter, the company further streamlined its portfolio of cigarette products, including its private label brands.

R.J. Reynolds has made great strides on this front, and expects to end the year with a 135 style, with further reductions expected next year. This is down dramatically from its more than 800 styles in 2004. R.J. Reynolds will also see additional manufacturing efficiencies as cigarette production is consolidated into its largest facility by the middle of next year. This focus on improving efficiency as well as strengthening the growth brands is essential for R.J. Reynolds growth, both now and into the future.

So, I am extremely pleased with R.J. Reynolds achievements through the third quarter. The company has a powerful product portfolio with a wide range of choices for all adult tobacco consumers and this strategic crafting of strong brand at a variety of price point is proving to be very effective.

Turning to American Snuff, as expected the company significantly improved its financial performance in the third quarter, reporting record adjusted operating income and margin. American Snuff continues to face a challenging environment, with high-levels of competitive promotional activity and line extension. Even so, the company's brands have proved to be very resilient with higher moist-snuff pricing and volume in the third quarter.

The company's total moist snuff shipment volume increased in both the third quarter and the first nine months of the year. American Snuff totaled moist-snuff share of shipments was down in the third quarter. However, on a consumer off-take basis which better reflects actual consumer purchases, the company's share was in line with the prior year quarter.

Levels of competitive promotional shipment, as well as changes in the reporting of returned good, and value priced line extensions by the competitors continued to distort industry moist-snuff shipment.

Grizzly, American Snuff's flagship brand, continued to perform well in this competitive environment. The brand which has maintained low promotional levels, increased third quarter shipment volume, but its share of shipments was slightly lower. But again, when you look at it on a consumer off-take basis, Grizzly's share increased.

In fact, Grizzly's share of consumer off-take reached a new high-level of 25.8% in the third quarter. This growth follows the company's recent packaging upgrade to embossed metal lids, which is improving the equity of the Grizzly family. Within the fast-growing pouch segment, Grizzly again gained market share, with the brand holding the number one Wintergreen pouch product in the marketplace.

So, overall, American Snuff is making great progress, despite a challenging environment and they are focused on delivering additional volume and earnings gains for the full-year. So that's a look at some of Reynolds Americans achievements in the third quarter.

And now, Tom will give you a few more details.

Tom Adams

Thank you, Susan and good morning. As usual during my discussion, I'll focus primarily on adjusted results to provide perspective on our underlying business. Reconciliations of adjusted to reported results are in our press release, which is on our website. As our results show today, RAI is firmly on track to deliver earnings growth in the high single-digits this year.

Now let's look at the third quarter and nine months in more detail. On a reported basis, RAI's third quarter EPS was $1.30 per share, up 4.8% from the prior year quarter, including charges of $0.05 per share related to the cigarette plant closings and expansion of R.J. Reynolds' field trade-marketing organization. Excluding those charges RAI's adjusted earnings per share increased 8.9% in the third quarter to $1.35.

For the first nine months of 2010, adjusted EPS was $3.78 per share, up 6.8%. Adjusted earnings excludes second and third quarter charges related to the plant closings and expansion of R.J. Reynolds' field trade-marketing organization, as well as the first quarter charges for the change in federal health care laws and Canadian governments' settlements.

The adjusted results also exclude trademark impairment charges in the first quarter of last year. Nine months reported EPS was $2.75 per share, up 7.4% from the prior year period. Higher pricing and productivity at our operating companies also drove Reynolds American’s adjusted operating margins higher.

For the third quarter, adjusted operating margin increased 1 percentage point to 30.6% and for the nine months it was up eight-tenths of the percentage point to 29.8%.

Turning to R.J. Reynolds' performance; R.J. Reynolds' third quarter adjusted operating income increased 7.5% from the prior year quarter to $572 million, as higher cigarette pricing, promotional and pricing efficiencies and productivity gains more than offset lower cigarette volume. For the nine months, adjusted operating income rose 4.1% to $1.6 billion. R.J. Reynolds' third quarter adjusted operating margin was significantly higher at 29.8%, up 1.3 percentage points from the prior year quarter.

Now turning to total cigarette market share, R.J. Reynolds' total third quarter cigarette market share was up slightly at 28.2%. As you’ve heard from Susan, total cigarette market share excluding private label brand was up by 1.2 share points driven by strong growth in Camel and Pall Mall.

R.J. Reynolds' private label brands now account for only three-tenths of the share point. With respect to cigarette shipment volume, R.J. Reynolds' third quarter cigarette shipment volume declined 2.6% from the prior year quarter, but excluding private label brands, volumes increased 1.2%. That compares with an industry volume decline of eight-tenths of 1%. Adjusting for wholesale inventory changes, industry volume was down 3.2% for the quarter.

Looking across the nine months, the company’s cigarette shipment volume was down 5.1%. Again, if we exclude the private label brand, volume was down only 2.2%, a better performance than that of the industry declined as 3.5%.

Camel and Pall Mall, each reported higher cigarette volume and share. Camel's third quarter cigarette market share of 8% was up four-tenths of a point from the prior year quarter and Pall Mall continued its strong growth momentum increasing its third quarter market share to 7.8%; that was up 2.8 percentage points from the year-ago quarter and up eight-tenths of a share point from the prior quarter. So, that’s a quick look at R.J. Reynolds' key results.

Now let’s take a look at American Snuff. Third quarter adjusted operating income was a record $102 million, up 9% from the prior year quarter. That increase was driven by higher moist-snuff pricing and volume. Nine months adjusted operating income of $271 million was up seven-tenths of 1% from the prior year period.

Adjusted results exclude 2010 charges related to the field trade-marketing changes and first quarter 2009 trademark impairments. The company’s third quarter adjusted operating margin was 54.9%, up 2.2 percentage points.

Turning to moist-snuff volume and share, American Snuff’s total moist-snuff shipment volume grew 1.2% in the third quarter and was up 5% for the first nine months. Total moist-snuff share of shipments for the third quarter was 29.2% down seven-tenths of 1%.

However on a consumer off-take basis the company's share was in line with the prior year quarter at 30.3%. Industry shipments were up 8.6% in the third quarter, but on a consumer off-take basis they were up 6%.

Grizzly's third quarter shipment volume increased by 2.3% and for the nine months volumes increased 5.7%. Grizzly's share of shipments were slightly lower by three-tenth of 1% at 25.3% in the quarter. However, on a consumer off-take basis, Grizzly's share increased three-tenth of 1% to a new high at 25.8% in the third quarter. So, American Snuff is doing very well and it is positioned to deliver additional gains this year.

Now, I’d like to give you some additional details on Reynolds American. As part of RAI's commitment to maintaining a 75% dividend payout target and returning value to our shareholders, we announced last week that the dividend will increase 8.9%. This equates to an annualized increase of $0.32 per share from $3.60 to $3.92. I would note that RAI has paid the dividend every quarter, since becoming a publicly traded company in 2004 and this is our sixth dividend increase.

With respect to our balance sheet, Reynolds American ended the quarter with cash balances at $2.3 billion, after the company repaid $300 million in debt on July 15. As a result our leverage ratio is now 1.5 times debt to EBITDA.

In the fourth quarter, the company plans to contribute an additional $500 million to our pension plans. We also continue to evaluate additional opportunities to effectively use our cash and return value to our shareholders.

So to close, based on our strong performance through the third quarter, Reynolds American has reaffirmed and tightened its forecast for the full year, with an adjusted EPS range of $4.95 to $5.05. That's an earnings increase of 6.7% to 8.8% from 2009. This guidance excludes charges related to the plant closings, expansion of R.J. Reynolds' field trade-marketing organization, changes in federal health care laws, and the Canadian governments' settlement.

Thank you. And we'll now turn to the Q&A portion of the call. Ally, would you remind our callers how to get in the queue.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions).Our first question comes from Judy Hong of Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Judy Hong - Goldman Sachs

Susan, the industry volume decline in the quarter for the cigarette market being down 3.2% adjusted for inventory, looks a little bit better than what's been tracking. Is that a reflection of a little bit better underlying consumption trends, if so, what do you think is driving slight improvement on the underlying consumption?

Susan Ivey

I'm going to turn that question over to Dan.

Dan Delen

Really I think if we take a look at the projection for the year, we still see the market down around 4% and the key drivers of that obviously are some of the comparators to last year and a relatively good taxation environment from the state excise tax point of view where we are tracking about $0.085 is our expectation for the year.

Judy Hong - Goldman Sachs

Even though 3.2% in the third quarter is slightly better than your outlook, you are still looking for that 4% decline for the industry as a whole?

Dan Delen

As the year average, yeah.

Judy Hong - Goldman Sachs

And then Dan as you look at your mix on the cigarette side, Pall Mall is now as big as Camel, so you clearly have a portfolio where it's more evenly split between premium and the value brand and given the growth in Pall Mall that we've seen, I guess it's inconceivable that to maybe think of Pall Mall could get bigger as we go forward. So, is that mix of kind of premium versus value split that you have right now and then going forward, is that where you kind of want the portfolio to be, do you want premium to show more of an acceleration so that your portfolio skews a little bit more premium, how do you kind of think about that portfolio mix?

Dan Delen

I think the way we would look at it internally is we are very much focused on Camel above all else, but very happy and confident that we can continue the growth on Pall Mall as well. I think from both brands points of view they both have significant product differentiation. They carry innovation, they both have strong brand equities and as we go through different economic cycles over time, I think they both play an extremely important role within the portfolio, and obviously happy to report today that both continue on their very strong growth tracks.

Judy Hong - Goldman Sachs

Okay. And then just on American Snuff, just the disconnect between your shipment growth versus the consumer takeaway trend that you are, the category seems to be growing 6%, you said you held shares, so is really the difference what’s happening at the trade inventory level and is the trade inventory down year-over-year in the quarter end and that’s really the difference?

Dan Delen

Yeah, I think you are on the right track there. The shipment volumes are affected by inventory levels, but they are also affected by the timing of promotion. We saw significant shift in inventory levels during the quarter, the competitive inventories rose and ours went down.

What’s important in all of this I think is the consumer, which we measure through some of the off-take measures. When we look at those off-take measures, we've seen sequential quarterly growth throughout 2010 and off-take was at a record level of 25.8% in the third quarter.

Susan Ivey

The other thing Judy I would just add to that, we’ve just completed the transition of two R.J. Reynolds services. So we have seen sequential growth on Grizzly quarter-after-quarter and we have had 350 guys chasing 2400 and now that Grizzly will be handled by this much larger sales force, I think there is nothing but upside for Grizzly and continued growth.


Our next question comes from Nik Modi of UBS. Please go ahead

Nik Modi - UBS

It seems like you have a lot of stuff going on the cost side, and I was hoping that may be you can give us some perspective on how to think about the magnitude of those numbers, because any time a company shuts down a facility, typically leads to significant savings. So, if you can give us some perspective on that, that'll be helpful?

Tom Adams

With respect to the cost savings, we've kind of combined them with not only the manufacturing consolidation, but the field trade-marketing organization combination as well. We're estimating, we'll see somewhere between $10 million and $15 million this year, which is actually built into our guidance, as well as probably about $25 million to $35 million next year, and then a little bit less than that in 2012 incrementally.

Nik Modi - UBS

How do we think about share buybacks in 2011, any thoughts on that?

Tom Adams

Well, as I mentioned in my remarks, we are continuing to look for additional ways to return money to shareholders. And naturally that's the share buyback is in the mix, but we have not reached to decision on that at this point.


Our next question comes from David Adelman of Morgan Stanley. Please go ahead.

David Adelman - Morgan Stanley

Three things I wanted to ask you, one was on Pall Mall and the long-term ability to raise pricing on the brand, even on an absolute basis or relative to other products, I mean, clearly, Pall Mall has more brand equity than other value brands overtime, and as reached a share that none of them have historically. But even in your own portfolio, there were point in time where a GPC or a Doral had reached a particular level of share, and then as you tried to or move to maximize and enhance profitability, as you took pricing, those brands subsequently lost share, in some instances substantial share. So, how do you think about the capacity over time to put through pricing and enhance Pall Mall's margin?

Dan Delen

I think I'm actually quite confident we can achieve that and it comes back really to the strong equity we have in the brands, relative to its competitive set in that price tier. The product differentiation, this is the longer lasting proposition, and that really is helping to drive not only trial, but really conversion and we continue to see increased rates of trial, and increased rates of conversion sticking to the brand.

And so, when we take a look at our recent history, during 2010, we actually were able to take pricing on the brands. We were able to take more pricing than the category and throughout that period, we were actually able to continue our rate of growth. So, based on some of the inherent proposition and recent experience, I'm extremely confident that we can continue the growth on that brand, for the foreseeable future.

David Adelman - Morgan Stanley

And then second question Dan for you. I'm not arguing that the company needs any strategic change, but just out of curiosity you are different person, are there certain things you envision over the next few years putting either a greater relative emphasis on or reduced relative emphasis on, then has been the case over the last several years at the company?

Dan Delen

I think, really the way that I would like to characterize is that Susan and I have been working very closely together now for a number of years. And she's really now leaving the company in a fantastic shape. And I'm not planning any significant changes to our strategic direction, now does that mean we won't need to react to certain things going on in the marketplace throughout the environment, of course, we will, but really from a macro strategic direction no significant change.

David Adelman - Morgan Stanley

And then lastly perhaps for Tom is the pension, the envisioned fourth quarter pension contribution, is that entirely deductible from an income tax perspective?

Tom Adams

Yes it is. And that’s actually why our rates picked up.


(Operator Instructions).Our next question comes from Ann Gurkin of Davenport. Please go ahead.

Ann Gurkin – Davenport

I just wanted to start with respect to the MSA money and dispute. Do you think we’ll reach a conclusion by year end, regarding that money?

Susan Ivey

No, I am sure we won’t. The arbitration process has started. There have been several preliminary hearings and really we would expect that to resolve sometime late next year. And remember that arbitration process is for the 2003 adjustment and of course we are hopeful that there is a possibility once we reach a settlement or an arbitration output on that year then that we may have a potential to settle the further years, but we’ll keep you posted.

Ann Gurkin - Davenport

And then secondly just with respect to MST not really asking specifics, but are there any geographic spots that are becoming more difficult or changing or are moving against your strategy, any place, any detail there you need to revamp any kind of strategy?

Dan Delen

I don’t really think there is anything of note from a geographic perspective in moist-snuff as we speak.


Our next question comes from Karen Lemark, Federated Investors. Please go ahead.

Karen Lemark - Federated Investors

Just on Pall Mall are you still experiencing around the 50% retention after trial? And then separately Tom, can you remind us what your targeted leverage ratios are? Thanks.

Tom Adams

Yeah, Karen, I can confirm that we are still seeing around that 50% retention rate after trial.

Dan Delen

With respect to our targeted ratios, we're trying to target 1.5 to 2.5 and clearly on the debt side we're at 1.5 today, but if we put in the pension plans, we're more or like at 2, but after the $0.5 billion we'll tick that down to about 1.8. So, we are strengthening the balance sheet by doing this and frankly it’s doing as David mentioned, tax deductible, so frankly it only costs us $0.60 on the dollar.


Our next question comes from Christine Farkas of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Please go ahead.

Christine Farkas - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

A couple of questions if I could, I just want to understand on housekeeping, the charges that were in the quarter, is that largely allocated to R.J.R.T among the segments?

Tom Adams

It's actually, I think broken out between R.J.R.T and American Snuff, depending upon if there are redundancy charges, it would fall in there and I think that’s actually in some of our supporting schedules in the press release.

Christine Farkas - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

I’ll take another look, thanks for that. And then looking at some of your smaller volumes but still critical, it’s been so consistent but just would love your comments on Santa Fe if you are seeing continued strength with the high end brands or there has been any changes in consumer behavior?

Susan Ivey

Santa Fe is having a rocking year Christine and they hit a record market share, marching towards the one share point area. And we see double-digit volume and double-digit earnings growth at Santa Fe. And so, despite the economy this uniquely positioned super-premium all natural product is continuing its growth trend.

Christine Farkas - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Then lastly on snuff, certainly your press release indicated on the good trends despite lower promos. I'm just wondering perhaps anecdotally, how you are finding consumers accepting the product, are there any necessary tweaks without showing your hand of course, but just how that's doing in the market and what you are learning from this exposure?

Dan Delen

I think snuff is going extremely, extremely well. If we take a look really this year and early in the year, we changed our pricing strategy, where historically we had a fair amount of promotion on there. We have an everyday consistent price out there as we speak, and have significantly reduced the amount of promotion on it. And so we've actually seen a significant increase through that in paid sales.

Christine Farkas - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

So, the repeat is going as you would expect or better?

Dan Delen

Going better and continuing to increase.


And I'm showing no further questions at this time.

Morris Moore

Thank you again for joining us today. I'd like to remind everyone our Investor Day presentation that will be held on November 15, and will be available by webcast at Thank you.


And ladies and gentlemen that does conclude today's conference. You may all disconnect and have a wonderful day.

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