Yara International ASA ADR (OTCPK:YARIY) Q1 2016 Earnings Conference Call April 21, 2016 3:30 AM ET
Thor Giaever – Head-Investor Relations
Svein Tore Holsether – Chief Executive Officer
Torgeir Kvidal – Chief Financial Officer
Eivind Veddeng – DNB Markets
Eirik Melle – Danske Markets
Anne Gjoen – Handelsbanken
Okay. Good morning to everyone and welcome to the presentation of Yara's First Quarter Results. Today's presentation will be by our CEO, Svein Tore Holsether, and our CFO, Torgeir Kvidal. And as usual, after the presentation we will have a Q&A session.
So now, it's my pleasure to introduce Yara's CEO, Svein Tore Holsether.
Svein Tore Holsether
Thank you very much, Thor, and good morning to all of you. We start with safety, and safety remains at the very top of our agenda. And safe operations and productivity go hand in hand. And as I mentioned in connection with the fourth quarter results, starting from January 1, we would include our Galvani operation and OFD into our figures. And as you see here, we have gone from a recordable rate of 3.4 at the end of last year to 4.1 for rolling 12-month period ending first quarter. And this is a result of us including Galvani and OFD from January 1 on a 12-month basis.
These operations in OFD and Galvani have had a higher total recordable rate than the rest of Yara. But I have been impressed when I see how the Yara way of working on Safe by Choice has been adopted into these operations. And we see a tremendous improvement in the safety in both locations.
And if you look at year-to-date numbers for the OFD operation in Cartagena, that's at the total recordable rate of 3.2. And for Galvani, we're at 1.7 for year-to-date total recordable rate. For Yara in total for the first quarter, we're at 2.8. So, I'm pleased with the improvement. I'm not satisfied with where we're at. There's still further improvement potential in safety.
For the first quarter, we're reporting a strong result in a challenging market. And in Yara we define a cash return on gross investment of more than 10%, a CROGI of more than 10%, as being strong. And CROGI, excluding special items for the quarter, came in at 12% for the quarter in isolation. And it's at 11.7% for the last 12 months. The results are lower compared with a year ago and they reflect a tougher market with lower prices and lower deliveries, partly offset by currency effects and lower energy costs.
We continue to see growth in Brazil, both for standard and premium products. I'm also pleased to see improved production reliability compared with fourth quarter, with production in the first quarter running at high levels. And industrial delivered another strong quarterly result, with a CROGI of 28% for the quarter and 22% for the last 12 months.
Yara's underlying result is 9% lower than last year if you adjust that we have no longer the ownership of 50% of GrowHow UK. We had NOK124 million net income last year, which would be approximately NOK0.45 per share. This is included in the NOK10.51 per share underlying result for last year.
As already mentioned, even though our sales prices and deliveries were lower, so were our energy costs and non-dollar fixed costs. Our reported earnings this year are – were higher than the underlying result, mainly due to a NOK349 million foreign exchange gain as the U.S. dollar has depreciated during the quarter. Last year's reported earnings were impacted by the NOK929 million impairment of the Lifeco joint venture plant in Libya.
Now some brief comments on the fertilizer market developments. Global nitrogen fertilizer prices continue to be strongly influenced by China, the biggest producer and exporter of urea. Following broadly lower prices and increasing exports over the last couple of years, so far in 2016 we have seen a slight increase in domestic prices and lower export volumes compared with a year ago. However, export capacity has increased elsewhere, in Iran and Egypt and from new plants in the U.S., Algeria and Saudi Arabia, which in total have contributed to significantly lower nitrogen prices compared with a year earlier.
Both European and U.S. season-to-date nitrogen industry deliveries were lower than a year earlier by 4% and 2% respectively, but were close to normal level compared with earlier seasons. In Europe, the lower deliveries primarily reflected lower domestic production and late planting.
In Brazil, improved agricultural export competitiveness and credit availability have positively impacted demand. Industry deliveries were up 7% year-over-year, while Yara deliveries increased 15%, with premium products up almost 35%. The continued strong performance of our premium products business in Brazil confirms the business case for expanding our footprint in the country and also for ongoing expansions in our Nordic NPK production plants to grow our exports to Brazil and to other cash crop markets.
As mentioned at our Capital Markets Day and recent press release, we are still harvesting synergies from the Bunge acquisition from 2013. And the Rio Grande plant expansion and consolidation is our latest effort in this front. Combining the former Bunge, you see the Rio Grande 2 and 3 units that were former Bunge units and the former Yara unit, the Rio Grande 1 site, into one bigger and more efficient operation. By consolidating our operations into one site, we reduce fixed cost and avoid substantial maintenance investments associated with the Rio Grande 2 facility that you see up there.
We also achieve increased capacity, both in fertilizer production and blending to meet growing demand in the market. Automated fertilizer bagging reduces both cost and safety risk. Reduced material flow between the units also gives lower handling costs, lower product losses and lower safety exposure. Product quality is improved with better storage and handling processes. The combination of growth and improved efficiency gives a strong profitability for this project, with an about 20% internal rate of return.
Our operational performance improved compared with the fourth quarter, with both ammonia and finished fertilizer production running at high levels, in line with a year ago, which, as you see from this chart, was also at a high level.
I consider that Yara has a strong base in its operations, but I'm also convinced that we can get more out of our existing resources, including delivering consistently higher production regularity throughout the year. And as mentioned at the Capital Markets Day, we intend to spend some time this year identifying the total improvement potential within the organization with a view to setting overall targets in the fourth quarter.
Now, this concludes my remarks for this part of the presentation. But before I – before proceeding, there is one issue I would very much like to address. The Panama Papers have received substantial media attention worldwide and rightfully so. However, in this connection, in some of the Norwegian media a lot of focus had been on certain payments, which has made many believe, wrongfully believe that Yara is involved in a new corruption case.
Without dwelling on news stories of the past, I would like to emphasize that Yara indeed did disclose these payments already in March of 2012. So what we have seen in this case is that these payments have been disclosed. They have been reported to the police authorities and also confirmed by them.
So for me, this proves that in this case Yara has been open and transparent with the information. Yara has a strong focus on compliance. It is at the very top of our agenda. When I joined Yara back in September of last year, I learnt about what is being done here. And I have been impressed with the work that is being done in this area. The attitudes, the systems and the routines in this area are very strong in Yara.
The Chief Compliance Officer in Yara reports directly to me, leading a team of 12 people, 6 people at headquarter and 6 people in the regions. Our code of conduct is clear. Our anticorruption commitment is firm. We work with compliance throughout the line organization. It is embedded in how we run our operations worldwide.
And a vital part of that is to be out there, to be present and to do trainings. And in fact in 2013, 1,654 of our employees went through face-to-face training on ethics and compliance, together with representatives of central compliance. In 2014 we had 1,599 people going through face-to-face training. In 2015 that number is 5,621 people going through training. In addition, we do e-learning, consisting of instructional films, dilemma training and questions. 4,246 people in the Yara organization have gone through this learning.
Compliance is at the very top of our agenda. So I hope that through this I've been able to shed some light on how passionately we work on compliance in Yara.
But we also work passionately in our markets and with our customers, and one such market is Mexico and one such farmer is Diego Hill. I had the pleasure of meeting him here in Oslo last week, learning more about his background. He is a lawyer by education, but is passionate about agriculture and has been a farmer for 10 years. And we discussed how he, together with Yara, have worked on improving the productivity of his farm.
Through the right use of our fertilizer he has been able to increase his crop yields by 25%. He's also a distributor, and since joining with and teaming up with Yara in 2014 he has tripled his sales volume of fertilizer from 2014 until today. A tremendous story. And I will now show a video of how our colleagues in Yara Mexico work together with Diego Hill.
Good morning to all of you from me too. It's now my pleasure to go into some more details of Yara's strong financial performance in the quarter. Before I look at Yara in total, let me then give you some comments and facts on Yara Mexico, which you saw in this video.
Yara Mexico was established in 1993 and it has been growing substantial over the last years. In 2011 we sold roughly 200,000 tonnes of fertilizer in Mexico. Last year, 2015, we sold roughly 0.5 million tonne of fertilizer. So Mexico is now our third biggest market in Latin America, only smaller than Brazil and Colombia.
That growth have happened both organically by developing new segments for our cash crop fertilizer, but also through stepped growth as OFD, which we purchased in 2014, also had an activity in Mexico. So we now have more than 200 employees working for us in Mexico and more than – or roughly 30 agronomists, all in the field supporting farmers like you saw in this video.
But let me then turn over to Yara in total and the financial figures in more detail. We reported an EBITDA in the quarter of NOK5.055 billion. That is 4% up from first quarter last year. If we adjust for the special items, and we had a big negative special item with the write-down of a LifeCo joint venture in first quarter last year, the EBITDA is down 12%.
And let us look a little bit further into what created that decrease in EBITDA. And as you see, the special item effect was NOK954 million. We had NOK5 million positive special items in 2016. That was an embedded derivative effect in our ammonia plant in Pilbara that had a negative effect last year, where the main part was the LifeCo write-down of NOK929 million.
If you look at it underlying then, what you see is that we had lower sales volumes this quarter than last year. We sold 5% less fertilizer than last year. And that was mainly related to Europe or I would say it was related to most countries except Brazil. Europe were down 5% as we also – as we had a late or wet spring in Europe, while Brazil partly compensating or compensating for a decline of the markets outside Europe by being up 15%, as our CEO already have commented about.
Then you see that the major explanation for the decline in profitability from last year have been lower fertilizer prices. Realized urea prices were down 20% from last year. If you look at the price references at trading hubs, they were actually down 30%. But all realized prices were down 20%, showing the value of being in the market with plants in the market and distribution in the market. But also nitrate and NPK prices were down, with 15% and 12% respectively. Then you can see that the price declines were almost offset by positive cost effects on energy prices and currency effects.
We had close to NOK1.2 billion lower energy costs this year compared to last year, so decline in energy cost of 32% globally.
And then the positive currency effect year over year, the dollar is stronger than euro, than Norwegian krone and Brazilian reais. It's roughly 10% stronger than the euro and Norwegian krone. And in the quarter, compared to last year, the dollar appreciated with 37% compared to reais. So this gives positive operating income effects for Yara.
And then you can see we had close to zero other effects, but that is a mix. We had a negative effect by the fact that we no longer operate the GrowHow UK joint venture, which had an EBITDA last year of NOK124 million. But when we look at the price we got for that sale, we are still very happy with the realized profit of that sale. And then that was partly compensated by two effects, where we had a compensation for an insurance claim back in 2013. And we also sold some energy efficiency certificates that we got from an improvement project, improving the energy efficiency in our plant in Ferrara.
If you then look at the three operating segments, you can see that the earnings in crop nutrition and industrial were very stable from last year. And not only stable; maybe even more important, they were strong.
Our CEO mentioned that the CROGI for Yara in total in isolation in the quarter were 12%. If you look at crop nutrition, it was 19%. If you look at industrial, it had a very strong result, giving a CROGI of 28%. And then you can say the segment that took the major hit, with lower fertilizer prices, were the production having a CROGI of 9%, but then partly compensated by the lower energy cost.
As you saw in the deviation analysis, our energy costs were down NOK1,186 million from last year. The major part of that is related to Europe, where energy costs were down 34% from last year. You can – if you look closely at this slide you can see that our average energy cost in Europe declined from $7.6 per million BTU down to $5 per million BTU. And if you look at the forward market and use that into our pricing contracts, you'll see that we also expect significant savings year over year for the next two quarters. In combination we see savings over the next half year of close to NOK2.2 billion.
But it was not only in Europe that we saw lower energy cost. We had an energy cost reduction of NOK923 million in Europe, but then we had NOK250 million also outside Europe. Part of that is linked to ammonia price-linked contracts, like in Trinidad. But it's also lower gas cost in North America, where we get savings in our Belle Plaine plant in Canada.
If you then go back to our product pricing, I said that realized urea prices were down 20%. If you look at hubs, they were down 30%. Our nitrate prices were down 15%. So that means that the upgrading margin that we have on top of urea slightly improved.
And then an explanation for that is that there are more production starting up and coming into the market on urea, while you don't see the same magnitude on new production coming in on nitrates. In addition there have also been some production problems on nitrate plants in Europe. It's quite an old industry in Europe where new plants haven't been built for a long time.
In addition to that, you also see that we continue to develop new markets for nitrates. And our CEO showed the increase in sales that we had in so-called added-value products in Brazil. And a major part of that is increased nitrate sales in Brazil. So although the spring has been late in Europe and deliveries are somewhat down in Europe, it has partly been compensated by good markets also in Europe, also explaining that nitrate premiums keep up.
Another important premium for Yara is the premium we get on our NPK sales above commodity nutrient values. And you see the same picture here. New commodity values declined. And you can see on the right side, you see the development in phosphate fertilizer, where the DAP price, the commodity phosphate fertilizer have declined significantly. That reduced somewhat the value generation in the commodity part of our production stream for NPKs.
Then you can that that is partly compensated that some of the input factors, like ammonia and sulfur, is also declining. So that benefits especially our plants where we use sulfur for NPK production.
On the right side, although you see that the margin we keep to have above those commodity prices, our NPK premium stays quite stable. So even though phosphate and potash consumption globally have been declining somewhat due to the lower crop prices, the demand for our premium products keep up quite well. I say quite well because of course in some markets it's slightly more challenging, so we've seen some decline in some markets also for our NPK sales.
Then let me turn to a subject close to my heart then, Yara's cash generation. We continue to have a strong cash generation. We started the quarter with a net interest-bearing debt at NOK11.9 billion, which gives a solid balance sheet and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.16. Then during the quarter we invested close to NOK2.5 billion.
That's less than we foresee as an average for the quarter. We have updated you and you'll find in the handout an update on our investment guiding, where we have taken the planned maintenance program that we have this year and included announced growth projects. And you will see that we guide now for an annual investment of close to NOK18 billion. So NOK2.5 billion reflects that first quarter is outside our main maintenance season and that there will be a step up of construction and growth projects through the year according to announced plans.
Then you can see that the NOK2.5 billion in investment is more than offset by our cash – strong cash earnings of NOK3.9 billion from our consolidated companies, as well as NOK315 million received in dividends from our joint venture companies, mainly from our QAFCO joint venture.
Then we further released the cash by reducing net operating capital. The biggest part of that NOK700 million is increased prepayments in Brazil. And that's also reflecting the strong sales in Brazil, where we have sold 15% more. And what we see there is that Yara is also a preferred supplier when it comes to prepayments because we are looked upon as a more solid company than many probably of the smaller local fertilizer suppliers in Brazil.
And then we have a foreign exchange gain on our debt, reducing our debt. As even though year-over-year dollars have strengthened, if you look from the end of last quarter to the end of this quarter, the Norwegian krone have strengthened slightly back, giving us a positive effect on our debt.
So we end the quarter with a net interest-bearing debt at NOK8.5 billion, so and even stronger balance sheet with a debt/equity ratio of 0.11. And we are going to use that balance sheet both to pay back to our shareholders. We have proposed to the general assembly a dividend this year of NOK4.1 billion, representing 51% of 2015 net income. And in addition we will use this balance sheet for profitable growth. As mentioned, we have already communicated to you plans of close to NOK18 billion investment this year.
So with this slightly forward-looking ending, I hand the word back to our CEO for him to summarize Yara's prospects.
Svein Tore Holsether
So to conclude, let me round up with some comments on the prospects going forward. The global farm margin outlook incentives for fertilizer application remain supportive overall especially export profitability in Brazil has improved with a weaker local currency.
Chinese urea production and export costs continue to be the main reference points for global nitrogen pricing. And current FOB China prices are likely close to a breakeven level for high-cost Chinese producers.
We expect some catch-up in European nitrogen industry deliveries during second quarter. And we expect a further NOK2.2 billion improvement in European natural gas cost in the next two quarters.
Finally, phosphate and potash demand in commodity crop sectors is impacted by lower crop prices as application of these nutrients in some cases can be reduced without an immediate impact on yield. However, we see continued growth in Brazil, both in standard and for premium products. Thank you.
A - Thor Giaever
Okay we are then ready for the Q&A session where Holsether and Kvidal will also be joined by Dag Tore Mo, Yara's Head of Market Intelligence.
So if you have a question, please raise your hand and my colleague, Kjetil Storas, will get the microphone to you. Yes. We can start with DNB.
Thank you. Eivind Veddeng, DNB Markets. Two questions from me, please, first on nitrates in Europe. Industry deliveries were down 6% in Q1. Your volumes were down 9%. So you're seeing a catch up in Q2? But you also, if I understand correctly, see a risk for a lag on total demand for the entire season. I was wondering if you could elaborate that – a bit on that, and also on pricing and eventual discounts to your list price.
The second question is relating to Brazil and the volume increase in premium products. How much has that really moved the needle in terms of profits, margins, etc., for the total business? Thank you.
Yes. If we start with Europe then, you could say the second quarter in Europe is always the most interesting, and often also the most exciting then as it’s the residual of the rest of the season. As we said that so far this season, total deliveries in nitrogen is down 4%. Crop prices are down so that could indicate some decline in nutrient consumption. But at the same time, because of the yield effect of nitrogen is so immediate or the drop is so immediate that we believe that there are good reasons to – that there should be some catch up.
It’s also related to weather then in effect that there have been quite wet in Europe. I think in the Capital Markets Day we described the problems that the farmers had with tractors over the field. So clearly that the weather have given some delay and should anything else equal, give some catch-up then.
And then I think it’s also an element, and I’ve seen declining commodity prices, where urea prices have declined quite significantly through the quarter. And [indiscernible], I think you’ll find it typically seasonal. There are big variations, of course, from here, but that also gives some incentive for the delays. So with that element you could expect some catch-up. But we should be – you should be careful to try to be clear on estimating that. So we have to be prepared for some catch-up, minor catch-up or significant catch-up, as such.
It’s of course also linked to how we conclude our commercial policy on pricing. You could say because you always have a pattern, where, at one point in time during the second quarter, you take down prices to start to motivate for sales into the new season. And you would of course like to do that in a way as late as possible to avoid having to discount for a new season for farmers who need the product this year. And how early that will happen, we will follow closely over the next weeks. So it will also be influenced by those decisions.
And typically a new season price is set sometimes in – during May, earlier May if you have a weak season with an early spring, later in May if you have a later season which kicks off the demand then. So as you probably understood, I neither could or commercially would give would give you an exact answer on that.
Svein Tore Holsether
On Brazil then, we are very pleased with the development in Brazil. And we don’t break down our results into the region of Brazil. But as you saw in the Capital Markets Day, we showed some of the development on the margin for premium products and we have strong margins on these. We have demonstrated the potential also for the farmer. And we see that we are able to translate that into additional sales. And the contribution from Brazil from this is meaningful for the bottom line of Yara in total.
But a good thing you could say is that it’s still relatively small to the big bulk business that we have, a bulk blending business we have in Brazil. So it’s a huge potential to use that infrastructure distribution and sales infrastructure to gradually build more premium products. But we would like to do it gradually. We don’t want to introduce the new premium products by discounting them, but by selling in the increased advantages they have for the farmers.
Okay. I think technically it was Handelsbanken next, but maybe logistically it’s easier to do Danske first, if that’s okay, Anne.
Thank you. Eirik Melle, Danske Markets. Two questions. One on your reported nitrate premium, if you just can comment on – it seems to be a change in the level of how you report it.
Svein Tore Holsether
And then the second one, when it comes to production reliability and the last quarter, we’ve seen now you’re almost at the Q1 last-year level and above all other levels. Do you see, without coming into the overall targets which you’re coming into in Q4, could you comment a little bit though on short-term and long-term potential from this level? Yes. Thanks.
Yes. Maybe I start with the nitrate premium. I didn’t comment upon that when I presented. But you are right, we have changed the way we calculate the nitrate premium. But we have also changed it, you could say, back in time so it is comparable. And it’s probably the most important that you compare back in time.
Because what we have done then is to change reference point for urea. We used to use urea for Black Sea; we now use granulated from Egypt. And the reason for that is that it’s more – mainly granulated going into Europe. It’s a little bit less liquid market. It has been easier to get good crop price quote references from the Black Sea. But with increased gas supply also in Egypt now it’s easier than more of a liquid market there. So that’s one area. It becomes more comparable so you could say it’s more equal to what is the real alternative for some of the European farmers which may sit and think about urea versus nitrates.
The other thing that we have done is to take out from that comparison nitrates with sulfur, which has a higher price and higher value. And we are gradually increasing the amount of nitrates that we sell with sulfur. But even if you compare historically, that gives an increase in nitrate premium, which is not an increased price, as such, to the farmer, but just the fact that he got a new product. So it may later on, as that grows, from time to time start to show you also the value generation that we get in adding sulfur also to the nitrates. And we are close to, I believe, now of selling about one-third of our nitrates in Europe with sulfur.
Svein Tore Holsether
And then on production performance in the quarter, we’re pleased to see that we had a significant step up in the reliability in first quarter. We had a few days of interruption in Pilbara in January. But since then it’s been stable and good operation and at level then with first quarter of last year. Second, third and fourth quarters were all impacted by turnarounds, but also by quite a few production interruptions.
And we, as I mentioned, we are pleased to see that it has stabilized now in the first quarter. But I wouldn’t say it’s a fundamental shift from where we were in the fourth quarter. It takes a much longer time than that to stabilize it. But we can see, we are at a good level now. And we still see that there is further upside potential when it comes to improving our reliability but also our efficiency. And we are working through that and that will be included as we establish our long-term targets for what we can do within the production area.
Okay. We continue to Handelsbanken and Carnegie after that.
Anne Gjoen, Handelsbanken. I have two questions. First one on maintenance. Since you have a rather high maintenance CapEx this year, it’s not changed, but is it some particular plants that you plan for significant maintenance in the coming quarters now?
And secondly, when it comes to CapEx, CapEx is rather unchanged this year but it changed to some extent next year, it’s higher. It looks to be related to BASF and Sluiskil. So is it somewhat higher costs related to those expansions?
Yes. Maybe I should – could take that one. It’s not increases in cost, but there are some phasing that, as we develop the projects, you see that some of the cost comes, I would say, fortunately slightly later. So it’s a little bit of phasing.
But there is also a couple of new projects. And the biggest one of them is the Rio Grande project that Svein Tore referred to in the presentation, which we have been developing over time but it just includes the growth projects in this guiding when we have announced it. So those two are the major changes in that. And there are a couple of smaller projects also which have been added on over the last quarter.
When it comes to the maintenance level, where you rightly so say that it’s slightly higher this year than going forward, there is one major project there. And that’s an upgrade of our Siilinjarvi mine in Finland, where we need to build what they call the paste plant which is thickening the tailings there to be able to stack more tailings at the same location over the next 20 years.
So it isn’t a kind of investment that make a CFO most enthusiastic, but it is to continue to run a profitable mine and not at least NPK production in Siilinjarvi. So that’s the major part of that somewhat step up in 2016.
Okay. We move onto Carnegie
And that one was also included in the guiding a couple of months ago then. But that’s maybe didn’t give that answer then or that question came up.
Okay. A couple of questions, I think. In your report you’re saying that nitrate volumes in Europe is down 18%. But we’ve also seen that imports of urea into Europe is up in January at least. Are the farmers trading down to a cheaper product?
On the ramp-up of production capacity, are still all plants supposed to ramp up at the previous announcements? So are there any delays there?
And final – no, I think that’s it.
Yes, you are right, if I start on nitrates then. Yes, as you said, it’s 18% down on nitrates in the quarter. I think part of that is related to the potential delay, as we talked about, that farmers are waiting somewhat to buy to see if prices drops with lower commodity prices. So the answer of that we will get during the second quarter now.
But it’s also reflecting then that we have sold more outside Europe. It’s not fully compensating for that, but you could say of the decline that we had in Europe in the second quarter, slightly or roughly 40% of that was compensated by more sales outside Europe, mainly in Brazil but we also had higher nitrate sales in the rest of Latin America, in Asia and Africa, although smaller numbers then.
Svein Tore Holsether
On the ramp-up, as you mentioned, there is no – there are no changes to the expected ramp-up of new investments compared to what was communicated at the Capital Markets Day.
Are there any more questions at this stage? If not, there will be another opportunity at 2:00 PM Oslo time when we have a phone conference.
And then only one more thing before I let you go is that if you haven’t already done your main fertilizer application on your lawn at home today, or if you still have the side dressing to do, there is – there are some samples of NPK for you to pick up on your way out.
And on that note, thank you very much for attending our presentation.
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