GATX's (GATX) CEO Brian Kenny on Q4 2017 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: GATX Corp. (GATX)

GATX Corp. (NYSE:GATX) Q4 2017 Results Earnings Conference Call January 18, 2018 11:00 AM ET

Executives

Jennifer McManus - IR

Brian Kenny - President & CEO

Bob Lyons - EVP & CFO

Analysts

Allison Poliniak - Wells Fargo

Prashant Rao - Citi

Matt Elkott - Cowen

Justin Long - Stephens

Matt Brooklier - Buckingham Research

Justin Bergner - Gabelli & Company

Barry Haimes - Sage Asset Management

Willard Milby - Seaport Global Securities

Steve O'Hara - Sidoti & Company

Operator

Good day and welcome to the GATX Fourth Quarter Conference Call. Today's conference is being recorded.

At this time, I'd like to turn the conference over to Jennifer McManus. Please go ahead.

Jennifer McManus

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining GATX's fourth quarter and 2017 year end earnings conference call. I am joined today by Brian Kenny, President and CEO; and Bob Lyons, Executive Vice President and CFO.

Please note that some of the information you'll hear during our discussion today will consist of forward-looking statements. Actual results or trends could differ materially from statements or forecast. For more information, please refer to the risk factors discussed in GATX's Form 10-K for 2016. GATX assumes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

I will provide a brief overview of our 2017 fourth quarter and full year results and then Brian will provide some commentary on what to expect going into 2018. After that we will open for questions.

Today GATX reported 2017 fourth quarter net income of $342.1 million or $8.83 per diluted share. These results include an estimated one-time non-cash net tax benefit of $315.9 million or $8.15 per diluted share resulting from the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law on December 22, 2017.

This compares to 2016 fourth quarter net income of $38.9 million or $0.77 per diluted share which includes a net negative impact from tax adjustments and other items of $0.37 per diluted share.

To the full year 2017 GATX reported net income of $502 million or $12.75 per diluted share. This compares to net income of $257.1 million or $6.29 per diluted share for 2016. The 2017 full year results included net benefit from tax adjustments and other items of $8.05 per diluted share. For 2016 full year results also included the positive impact from a number of tax adjustments and other items all of which are detailed in our press release.

In 2017, investment volume was $603.4 million which is another solid year on that front. In addition in 2017 GATX repurchased over 1.6 million shares for approximately $100 million. This brings our total repurchase activity over the past two years to approximately $220 million.

With that quick overview, I'll now turn the call over to Brian.

Brian Kenny

Okay. Thanks Jennifer.

As she said I'll take the next few minutes to give you some color on our business outlook and guidance.

In 2018, the North American rail car market is entering its fourth year of oversupply. But again, we entered the year in outstanding condition. At the end of last year, our North American fleet utilization remained above 98%. We have placed the majority of our 2018 committed new car deliveries. Our fully composition and our average lease term remaining -- positions us very well to withstand the continued weak market.

Now as I said in the press release, we outperformed our original financial expectations pretty much across all our business segments in 2017. So let me put 2017 earnings in perspective.

As we reported this morning, as Jennifer said ignoring large positive impact of the new tax law, we earned $4.70 per share in 2017 that's with the upper end of our guidance, and although, we were operating in the third year of the downturn in the railcar leasing market these earnings in 2017 of $4.70 are still well above our peak earnings of $3.49 per share that we earned at the top of the last railcar cycle. So that shows me the great job our commercial team did during the strong market making good investments, locking in high rates for a long lease terms.

Now with less than 14,000 railcars scheduled for renewal in North America in 2018 along with some continued cost control. We're projecting another strong year of financial performance especially given where we are in the business cycle.

So let me go over the 2018 outlook by each business segment, and then I'll start with rail in North America.

So in rail, North America, we expect lease revenue to decline again in 2018. But, the good news it's compared to our outlook a year ago is that absolute lease rates for most car types increased during 2017. However, today's market lease rates as well as the rates we're anticipating to see moving through 2018 will still not be high enough to offset the fact that the average expiring rate for cars coming up for renewal is also increasing this year. So it's definitely a better lease rate environment than it was coming into 2017. But, we still expect lease renewal rate pressure in 2018.

As I said, we were able to hold utilization over 98% throughout the year -- last year and that was better performance from a few point drop in utilization we originally anticipated. We're more optimistic this year. We still anticipate some downward pressure on utilization. So we project a slight drop in 2018.

So the impact of the negative revenue assumptions is muted somewhat by the fact I mentioned that less than 14,000 cars are scheduled for renewal in 2018 that's lower than the exposure coming in the last year much lower than the average number of cars that were renewing in the strong markets of 2012 to 2015. So once again the good work done by our commercial team in extending those lease terms in the strong market is really paying off now.

On the investment side, I expect a strong level of railcar investment in 2018, $500 million or more. Again, the majority of these cars are already placed with customers, so new car additions will obviously positively contribute to revenue this year. And the net effect on revenue in North American rail, if you combine the placement of new cars delivering declining renewal rates on existing fleet and slightly lower fleet utilization, it results in 2018 revenue that we expect to be decreasing a little under 4% from last year.

Another driver of segment profit at North America rail is obviously net maintenance expense. We continue to have success with our strategy of moving our maintenance into our own network and away from certain third party providers particularly tank car and especially freight car maintenance.

But, looking at the maintenance cost driver I will start with tank qualifications which is one of the main maintenance cost drivers. The number of cars that we technically have due in 2018 is about 1000 cars higher than what was due in 2017. However, as we discussed in the past for efficiency purposes in our network, we tried to maintain an even flow of that compliance work year-to-year to the extent possible. So we try to pull cars forward that are due in later years. We try to complete qualification work on cars that are not due but are in the network for other reasons. Thus we actually anticipate completing just a few hundred more tank qualifications in 2018 and 2017.

We also expect higher boxcar assignment cost as we put some of the idle portion of that fleet back to work which is good news. The overall effect is that net maintenance expense in 2018 is expected to increase approximately 3% to 4% from the 2017 level.

The last factor I'll discuss for North America rail's remarketing income. So we continue to optimize our fleet as we do every year through the secondary market sale of railcars but we continue to be surprised by how robust that market is given where we are in the cycle. We have not seen it let up. So, our realistic projection is remarketing income will be up again in 2018, it's really the economic thing for us to do.

So summarizing North American rail, the net effect of low revenue increased ownership costs from new car investment, slightly higher maintenance expense and higher remarketing income will result in North American rail segment profit, we expect to be down in 2018 between 10% and 15% from last year.

Let's talk about international rail and first GATX Rail Europe. They continue to focus on maintaining utilization in the difficult market remember the 80% of their fleet is serving the petroleum and LPG markets. And over the last several years, their customers are finding margins that suffered and it's been a tough market although it seems to be getting better now.

GATX Rail Europe will continue its fleet modernization plan that you have seen in the last few years. They are investing in modern higher capacity more efficient rail cars and they are either scrapping the older cars and smaller cars or redeploying them in other service. We currently plan that GATX Rail Europe will add over 1000 new cars to the fleet in 2018 and even with the high level of scrapping if that continues they will still see net fleet growth.

That fleet growth will be offset somewhat by slightly lower lease rates that we anticipate will be required to maintain their high level of utilization on their existing fleet and that should result in slightly higher revenue in 2018 in euros. That small revenue increase, however, we offset by higher ownership cost from new car investment also on the cost side, we expect net maintenance expense to increase between 7% and 10% in euros in 2018 that's due to higher wheel set and tank revisions than we experienced in 2017.

So, the net effect of those factors as we expect GATX Rail Europe segment profit to be fairly flat in 2018 in local currency but up on a U.S. dollar basis due to the much weaker dollar.

Now, adding to this increase in segment profit in Rail International in 2018, it's increased profitability of GATX Rail India. We are currently experiencing increased fleet growth and more importantly fleet diversification. Now, I'm really excited about the prospects in our Indian rail business. It's not a huge contributor to GATX's overall profitability, but they do generate a few million dollars of segment profit and they will again this year. But, they are well positioned as the number one rail leasor in a fast growing economy and rail market. And their outlook fits perfectly within our strategy of taking what we do well in North America and applying it more attractive growth markets.

So, summarizing our expectations for International Rail, European and Indian fleet growth and revenue growth will be offset somewhat by having ownership and maintenance expense in Europe and the stronger euro should help overall segment profit in Rail International increased over 5% in 2018.

As we indicated in the press release, American Steamship outperformed our expectations in 2017. We originally expected they would carry similar tonnages to the prior year, but carry it more efficiently using fewer vessels as well as realizing some other cost efficiencies through the return to leased in vessels from efficiencies and labor contract et cetera. They were able to realize the efficiencies as we plan. But, they actually ended up the year delivering over $2 million more tons than we anticipated and that was due to spot iron ore and limestone tonnage that developed later in the year.

So, looking to 2018, we anticipate Steamship will carry less tonnage than last year; however, we do expect they will produce slightly higher segment profit due to freight rate increases and continued gain of fleet efficiencies. So, expect that they will increase our strong performance in 2018.

Now in portfolio management, we expect to see lower segment profit this year. We anticipate that Rolls Royce and affiliates will continue their excellent investment in financial performance again this year. But, it will be offset by lower residual income in our managed portfolio. You might remember for instance the large gain from the nuclear facility residual last year in our legacy managed portfolio. So that's not going to repeat itself. So, we will also have some lower earnings from marine assets that were sold in 2017 and the net effect that we expect portfolio management segment profit despite Rolls Royce's performance to be down approximately 15% in 2018.

On the corporate side, we expect a modest reduction in SG&A in 2018 in the range of 2% or so. SG&A did come in higher than we originally projected in 2017 but that was due to some unusual items that we don't anticipate reoccurring this year.

So prior to the recent tax law change, we would have expected 2018s effective rate to be lower than 2017 due to the fact that our U.S. operations which are generally taxed at a higher rate than our foreign operations. We are expected to generate a lower percentage of pretax income in 2018. Now that's still true, but with the new tax law passed, we now expect that 2018 tax rate to approximate 25%.

So consolidating all this individual segment guidance results of the 2000 total net income that's somewhat lower than 2017, but when combined with anticipated share repurchase results and annual guidance in the range of $4.55 to $4.75 for 2018 that Jennifer referenced.

So a little more color on that guidance because we get a lot of questions about what kind of economic assumptions we're using for our EPS buildup. What are the assumptions for railcar loadings, railroad performance, variety of variables? You know as far as the economic backdrop, it's not really a direct input into how we build our model for financial performance. As I said in the past, we build our 2018 expectations based on a lease contract by lease contract review of what cars are coming up for renewal this year. What we think the commercial and operational outcome will be for those cars as well as for new cars that are delivering.

So obviously, those expectations are based on what we're hearing from our customers and their expectations for their business as well as what the railcar supply situation is in the market. What I will say is our 2018 guidance does not reflect a significant increase in economic growth over what North America has been experiencing over the last few years.

Also in the press release, I did mention a positive year-over-year move in a number of market metrics relevant to our business in North America such as railcar loadings and absolute lease rates, all positive indicators for railcar demand. So it does appear the railcar leasing market is moving off the bottom. But again, absent that currently unforeseen demand catalyst, we think the trend is one of continued slow recovery this year. So with that as our assumption, we have not assumed any significant increase in absolute lease rates across the fleet in 2018 from where they are today.

So if a demand catalyst does appear as I said it's unforeseen, so the economy say it grows much stronger than we anticipate. There is some minor upside for our earnings guidance and why do I say minor? Well, obviously, one of the unique characteristics of our business is the term structure of our lease revenue. It may take some time for market trends to show up in a material way in our financial statements. Much of our revenue performance is fairly well known coming into the year. So for instance coming in 2018, for example, we've placed the majority of our 2018 new deliveries at 2017 market rate.

As I said, I think, we have a pretty solid view on what may happen with our 2018 lease renewals on the existing fleet. So if we have underestimated the pace of recovery in the leasing market, there is some minor upside in 2018, but it's going to be much more impactful for our outlook in 2019 and beyond. So either way, our focus is continue to outperform our competitors as well as take advantage of any growth opportunities that we see.

The last thing I'll mention before we open it up to questions that 2018 will mark our 100th consecutive year of paying a dividend. That's a track record that we're proud of. I don't think very many companies can match that. The GATX Board meets next week, will announce their dividend decision at that time. I will say they understand the importance of the dividend and I think our almost century long streak. Through last year is a great example of our long-term record of success and our commitment to our shareholders

So that's all I have. Let's open it up to questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We'll take our first question from Allison Poliniak with Wells Fargo. Please go ahead.

Allison Poliniak

Hey, guys good morning. You mentioned obviously the secondary market still being very active. Could you talk to maybe the absolute values are becoming more realistic. And then, also with tax reform is there I guess increased interest from new entrants into this market today?

Bob Lyons

Well, I would say the tax reform piece, the parties that have been bidding on our assets in the past we haven't seen any material change in terms of the composition of that group. I don't anticipate it. I would add that it continue to be very robust; a good number of bidders a lot of interest across the Board, different asset types. At good valuations for GATX and as Brian mentioned, the economics make sense for us to continue to optimize the fleet and we'll see good opportunity to do that in 2018.

Allison Poliniak

That's great. And then, obviously, the storage numbers are still very high. There's obviously talk of accelerated retirements improved traffic outside of coal. What do you think that number is [indiscernible] get too realistically before we see a bit more of an inflection and lease rates, do you have any sense of that?

Brian Kenny

You're not going to like the answer. But, it really depends; it's a car type by car type analysis, so as you said there's still a lot of idle cars in the industry. But as you saw last year like in small cube covered hoppers that market took off reached equilibrium very quickly within a quarter or two and lease rates took off.

But, if you want to speak generally about, I think the 19% of the industry fleet that hasn't moved in 60 days and it's called idle. I think the best that's ever been is that 12% to 13%. So that's just us that a lot of those cars not all of them, but a lot of those cars need to either leave the market or start moving in order for lease rates to really get some traction here.

It's not -- hasn't been helped tremendously by scrap rates. I mean that did increase through 2017. Think it started the year around 200, ended the year at 265, in January it's up to 295. It's moving in the right direction. But, it's really not enough to stop a net growth in the industry fleet which I think has continued for the last six years.

So if scrap rates continue at the current level or increase that would certainly help and maybe we'll see that move the other way, but hasn't been a big help over the last couple of years.

Allison Poliniak

Great. Thanks guys.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Prashant Rao with Citi. Please go ahead.

Prashant Rao

Good morning. Thanks for taking the question. Brian, last quarter I think we talked a little bit about how the manufacturing side delivery expectations are starting to pull up for 2018 and you compared to where demand was inflecting, it seem to you that this could be kind of a warning signal for oversupply. It sounds like demand is slowly moving, but like you said that you don't have the catalyst yet. I just wanted to kind of get an update on how you think about the ordering levels and the delivery level we are seeing on the order book versus demand in other words one quarter later if your view has changed or if there's a little bit more detail on that front.

Brian Kenny

The latest forecast I saw was I think 45000 for deliveries in 2018. I like to be lower absolutely. I think some of the orders that have been announced are also there's some international flavor to that as well. I don't really know. It doesn't seem that the market can support this level of new cars absent that demand catalyst. So I would reiterate what we said last quarter. We'd like that number to go down like it has in the past cycles to really get traction. Utilization has been fine but to really get traction on lease rate.

Prashant Rao

Okay. Thanks. And then, just a follow up on the remarketing income question. When you look at the package for this year maybe compared to last year or prior years. Is there anything -- what has a mix of types of cars or what you're expecting to be able to remarket? Is there anything notable or any color on a shift there this year versus last year prior years in car types and maybe what that might portend for the particular end markets, anything to read there?

Bob Lyons

Sure. I'll take that one. And, first of all, there are a number of sales initiatives throughout the course of the year it's not just one. One initiative, so we're constantly in the market and testing what buyers appetites are for different assets at different valuations. I can say for 2018 where we sit today and looking at we -- what we have gone to market with in May as the year progresses there's no notable difference in the asset mix from last year to this year. So it's still a pretty broad cut across the fleet.

Brian Kenny

But what I'll add to that is the strength you've seen despite the market being weak overall I think has been exacerbated by financial players coming into the market. GATX is very focused, when we remarket railcars on our equipment. And our customer and our lease expiration schedule that's what we're trying to optimize. It seems increasingly that the people that buy railcars are focused mostly on the cash flow. So we're much more focused on the equipment and the residual than the average buyer these days. And that's been good for the market and that's why you've seen that remarketing number so high at GATX.

Prashant Rao

Okay. Thanks very much guys. I'll turn it over.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Matt Elkott with Cowen.

Matt Elkott

Good morning. Thank you for taking my question. Ron, you mentioned how the earnings floor may be trending higher for you guys as you go through more cycles. And I wanted to ask a question about you said that there's less than 14000 railcars scheduled for renewal in 2018. If you think about that as a percentage of your active fleet and if you think back historically throughout the cycles at that percentage of the active fleet come in for renewal every year. Is that a meaningful number, is that a number that you guys look at. Is that a number that you want to make smaller so that the cyclicality is smoothed out.

Brian Kenny

Yes, absolutely. That's why you see us extend term dramatically during the upturn. And that's what we were able to do in 2012 to 2015. We had 20,000, 22,000 cars, we renewing each one of those years. We pushed the pedal on both rate, but also even more so on term and that's why you see that number relatively low during the downturn. That's the whole idea of recognizing we're in a very cyclical business.

And as you just said trying to smooth out that pattern to the extent you can. Now the longer this last obviously it gets us to, but at least so far we've had lower renewals because of the extended term that we put on during the upturn. So you're right that's the objective, it depends on when things turnaround about if you're completely successful.

Bob Lyons

The other thing I'd add to is, we provide a data point with regards to the average renewal term and you can see how long it was during 2012 through really up through 2015. Also keep in mind that as new cars were coming into the fleet at that point in time, we were also very much focused on term. So the majority of those new cars that came into the fleet during that period were put on very long term lease.

Matt Elkott

Fair enough. And given the sharp drop in those average lease terms, you mentioned Bob in beginning 2016 really. So you have that 2012 through 2015 where you had long average lease terms ranging from five to six years I think. And then it dropped down to about 3 years in 2016. What is the most realistic chance of swinging back to revenue and profit growth in the North American lease segment? Is it 2020, is that the first realistic chance or is it or could it happen before or if we continue going with the macro as we are now?

Brian Kenny

It's a really tough question to answer about when that happens. I will say the average expiring rate, we said in the past that it's climbing -- it climbed in 2016, it climbed in 2017, it climbs again in 2018. But that hill is getting smaller to climb as we renew leases in the weak market and keep a very short-term that average expiring rate is coming down so that hill is not as big as it was before.

But as far as when the market gets back to equilibrium that's the question. You saw for small cubes in 2017, when does that happen for the entire fleet. As I said in the past, it's really hard to answer. I can describe the math, but I can't do the calculation. The hardest part of the calculation it's not demand, it's not scrapping, it's really the backlog.

There's no reliable detail on the nature of the backlog. We don't know if a sizable chunk of that backlog is not needed by the actual end user in the near term. I don't really have an idea how real it is. How much has been deferred although still technically part of the number. We don't know how much of it may be canceled. How much of it is [indiscernible] captive fleets. So we don't have great visibility into the backlog and without that it's hard to tell you how fast this market will turn.

Matt Elkott

Fair enough. And just one last quick one, do you guys, sorry if I missed it. But, did you mention the sequential improvement in lease rates in the fourth quarter?

Brian Kenny

In general, I'd say for -- there are certain flammable cars and certain high pressure cars that had a nice increase in lease rates although off a very low base. Those on the tank car side like I said high pressure, some flammables increased 10% or more. The rest of the fleet was pretty flat in the fourth quarter on a lease rate basis up substantially for the year.

In fact, I think tank on average which is always dangerous to say because it really -- you have to look at stuff on a car type basis. But if you look at average increase per tank throughout the year was probably about 10% or more. Average increase for freight generally 20%, 25%, I would say. But, in the quarter pretty flat except for flammables and high pressure.

Matt Elkott

So the 3% broad based increase, you saw in the third quarter, what would that number be in the fourth quarter? Is it flat or is it slightly 1% or?

Brian Kenny

I'd say it's slightly positive.

Matt Elkott

Okay, great. Thank you very much.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Justin Long with Stephens. Please go ahead.

Justin Long

Thanks and good morning. So just to start, I wanted to ask about how tax reform could change your strategy on capital allocation? And I'm curious if this could drive a more aggressive approach to buybacks and/or acquisitions going forward just given the impact it could have to your leverage?

Bob Lyons

Well, the biggest component of that really is to keep in mind where we have been historically from a tax position. The Tax Reform Act has not really materially changed our overall outlook with regards to our tax position. Given the fact that there's already accelerated tax depreciation available on railcars and we've recognized that over the years. We tend to generate net operating losses not a significant cash tax payer. None of that will change on a go forward basis.

So we're keeping a close eye on how this may impact some other investors in the market or from GATX's perspective not a significant -- not a sea change in the way we think about the asset class we're in and our level of investment.

Justin Long

Okay. That's helpful. And secondly, I wanted to follow-up on some of the commentary you made on the last call. And Brian, I think you talked about lease rates still being 30%, 40% below what you would consider are attractive levels for investment. Can you just update where we stand in terms of that number and how that number compares between tank and non-tank today?

Brian Kenny

Yes. I'd say it's -- rates got a little bit better in fourth quarter, so it's pretty much in the same place.

Justin Long

And going back historically what's the most you've ever seen lease rates improve over the course of a year just on an absolute basis?

Bob Lyons

I can't answer that question off the top of my head. I will say that the last two recoveries. Particularly this one in 2011 and 2012, when rates began to improve and found their footing they increased pretty dramatically. Now that -- there was a big catalyst for that which was the energy boom here in North America. But once they turned in and started to move in the right direction they moved pretty sharply and quickly.

Brian Kenny

I would agree with that. Things moved very fast once that market gets back in equilibrium.

Justin Long

Okay. And then, lastly, I wanted to ask about crude oil prices. We've seen a recent rally on that front. Could you talk about the potential impact that could have to your business. I'm just curious how much this matters and if you think this improvement could have a meaningful impact as it relates to absorbing the oversupply of tank cars in the market?

Brian Kenny

Sure. It's a good question. In fact that I would say our utilization out performance is 2017 to a large part. We did better in coal for instance, but the lease rates are so low. The new releases versus expiring leases it didn't matter to the bottom line. But the other source of strength in utilization was in cars and flammable service in 2017. And as you said, I believe the price of crude was 42 in June and 60 something today. So that obviously had had an impact. You're seeing more crude by rail demand especially in Mexico and Canada for different reasons.

But, we are seeing and as I said that was just one source of lease rate strength in the fourth quarter was on 30s and high pressure cars and that's once again driven by some of these flammable liquid movements where there is more demand now. So, yes, it matters and hopefully it will soak up the excess capacity in the tank car market and not prompt further new car builds and tank. So that's -- that would be very helpful.

But as far as what it means to our business long-term? So if you look at Mexico for instance. They've been increasingly importing refined product to meet their growing demand because Mexican production is dropping. They don't have the pipeline capacity to do it, but they're working on it. So there's a lot of demand we're starting to see. People are trying to build up their inventory to reasonable levels. And the legacy thirty's are in demand for instance in Mexico.

In Canada, it's a little bit different. It's more a function of new oil sands projects coming online. Once again that production is exceeding pipeline capacity they're working on that as well. That's probably just a couple of year phenomena though it really doesn't change our long-term view of that market, which is eventually it will be served more efficiently by pipeline. But as far as soaking up excess cars in the market it can be very helpful in the near term. So yes, I would say that's an upside to the tank car market in general if those trends take off.

But it's different this time. So, the oil sand projects have come online. But the Canadian rails aren't that excited about increasing their service because they too think it will be short-term in nature. So that's why you see the price differential you do between I think Western Canadian Select and WTI in the Gulf.

So there is increasing demand. We don't think it's a long-term phenomenon, but it could soak up cars in the short-term, if people don't build to meet the demand.

Justin Long

It all makes sense. I appreciate the time today.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We'll take our next question from Matt Brooklier with Buckingham Research. Please go ahead.

Matt Brooklier

Yes, thanks. Good morning. Appreciate it. The tank car color there that was helpful. Any other car types that maybe saw a little better demand in fourth quarter or as you look out to 2018 are there any other railcar types that maybe are a little bit more bullish on that you think and potentially see, I guess a pickup outside of, I guess the tank car commentary that you gave?

Brian Kenny

It was small cube covered hoppers you know about that that was really a 2017 phenomena that continues. As far as what affects, I mean intermodal is strong. We have a very low exposure there. Probably a stronger car type and actually saw it get stronger through 2017 and we do have decent amount of exposure to the boxcar fleet. So we expect the utilization to slip there, it did. I think it was down close to 90% at the end of the second quarter, its back up to 92.6% now.

As I said, we expected the utilization drop -- really boxcars had been under pressure since 2016 due to railroad velocity increasing prior to that. We had some planned releases from certain customers; obviously CSX returned theirs to us. And there was kind of mediocre car loadings forest products things like that, but it's gotten better in 2017. Now part of that has been the CSX service issues; part of that has been certain railroads emphasizing 60 foot boxcars and ours is more of a 50 foot fleet which our customers like. These have seen a velocity decrease of about 4%, I think among the class ones excluding CSX in 2017 that helps the boxcar market.

So I mentioned I think in my opening that part of our maintenance increase we expect in 2018 is some boxcar cost as we put them back to work. So that market is stronger and obviously that helps us as well. Outside of that it's just been a steady slow march you saw in 2017.

Matt Brooklier

Okay. Do you have the number for what your flammable services, tank car fleet looks like I guess at the end of this year? I can always get it offline and maybe…

Bob Lyons

I'm sorry Matt, are you talking about the total flammable fleet?

Matt Brooklier

Yes. What is your total flammables services fleet look like right now?

Brian Kenny

Yes. It's about 13,500 cars.

Matt Brooklier

Okay.

Brian Kenny

But only I believe 1600 of those are in crude and ethanol.

Jennifer McManus

2,300.

Brian Kenny

2,300 in ethanol. So very low exposure to those commodities and most of ours are in other products fuel oils things like that. So that fleet actually has grown somewhat not by 500 cars in the last year and a half. But it's been pretty constant over our crude in ethanol -- the crude exposure especially has come down pretty seriously over the last couple of years.

Matt Brooklier

And then, amongst the 30,000 cars, roughly how many of those cars [do you own] [ph] coiled and insulated cars i.e. cars that could be utilized in the Canadian market?

Brian Kenny

Yes, we do. I don't have that number right from me.

Matt Brooklier

Okay. And then, you gave color on what's potentially contributing to [carbon] [ph] on the tank car side i.e., demand. What about on the supply side? I know we're working through the first tranche of regulation change. Do you think some of the older cars being cold from the North American plant will service tank car fleet using that also contributing to maybe a slightly tighter market and rates directionally moving up here?

Brian Kenny

You mean on the tank car side. I'm sorry.

Matt Brooklier

Yes. So I just -- I believe in 2018, [DoD] [ph] weren't allowing cars on the flammable services side no longer [valid] [ph] can't use those cars anymore. I'm just curious, if regulation is starting to pull cars out of the market and maybe like the supply side of things. The market is getting a little tighter because there's less available cars now in 2018.

Brian Kenny

No, I don't. We haven't seen widespread scrapping. I'm trying to remember the retrofit number I believe about 7500 retrofits have been done in the industry. We've had zero retrofit requests from our customers on our legacy thirty's by no others have done them. That's a very expensive retrofit. But others have younger legacy fleets, so it might make more sense for them. I think you need tank cars probably 60% of that market of retrofitting legacy 30s. I haven't seen widespread scrapping yet. We haven't had requests from our customers for legacy 30 retrofit. So hopefully as the scrap rate increases and holds, we'll start to see that fleet transition out if these regulations come in. But I don't know that it's moved the market tremendously to this point.

Matt Brooklier

Okay. That's helpful. Appreciate the time.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Justin Bergner with Gabelli & Company.

Justin Bergner

Thank you for taking my questions. Hi, everyone.

Bob Lyons

Morning.

Justin Bergner

Morning. First question just relates to sequential lease rates in your 2018 guide, are you assuming lease rates are sequentially flat from 2017 fourth quarter?

Brian Kenny

I would say there are no broad widespread increases assumed in our fleet. There are certain car types we assume are going to be better in 2018. But, I wouldn't say it's broadly across the fleet that we're not assuming a lot of lease rate increase from today's rates in 2018.

Justin Bergner

Okay. Secondly, with respect to the financial buyers who are out there buying railcars which I guess the phenomenon seems to be continuing relatively unabated. Are you hearing or seen any signs that the increase in interest rates is starting to slow some of that interest down or are there other factors are starting to slow some of that interest down?

Bob Lyons

We haven't seen the impact -- any impact from the up tick in interest rates in terms of the number of buyers or the valuations they're putting on the assets. Now, if that trend continues and interest rates continue to move up, yes, my expectation and my thought would be that there may be some of some other alternatives that some of these investors begin to look at away from rail. But we certainly have not seen that yet.

Brian Kenny

Yes. The other thing is the higher interest rates historically especially in commodities and asset prices that reflects higher inflation has been extraordinarily helpful to our business and the value of our fleet. So inflation has generally been our friend. So higher interest rates that could be good.

Bob Lyons

And even from a funding standpoint not a big impact on GATX. So net-net I would take that scenario where rates gradually continue to move up.

Justin Bergner

Okay. And then, one more question, on the portfolio management business in the Rolls Royce joint venture. I guess the segment operating profit or the affiliate income came in relatively flat for 2017 versus 2016 sort of in the high 40s -- high 40 million range. And then that was sort of a step down from sort of the 60 million range that occurred in the prior years.

Should we think about sort of high 40s range as the go forward range where the prior years 60 million plus type profit figure is more a function of just higher remarketing income in the Rolls Royce joint venture?

Bob Lyons

Actually Rolls Royce came in the high 50s. Justin, if you look at the portfolio management line about $58 million of affiliate income. And almost all of that is Rolls Royce. So our share of that was about $57 million, an excellent year for Rolls Royce. Yes, that number will move around a little bit from the mid 50s to the mid 60s depending on what happens with remarketing and asset sales. Longer term, we expect that business to continue to generate very attractive returns and rising income over time.

I'd also add within Rolls Royce, while we had north of $600 million of investment volume at GATX this year. Our Rolls Royce affiliate did close to $400 million in investment volume which was a record level. So we saw outstanding investment opportunity there and that's all self funding obviously off the credit facilities and cash flow of the business so it continues to grow quite nicely.

Justin Bergner

Okay. I apologize for it, must have been looking the wrong line on the P&L there with my comments. That's helpful. And then finally, on the Tax Reform Act, I guess I'm somewhat surprised that from a book tax rate point of view, you're not seeing more of an earnings benefit than the $0.20 per share which I guess only suggests that your tax rates on a book basis is coming down a few hundred basis points.

Is there any sort of reason why the book rate wouldn't come down by more 2018 sort of a smaller benefit versus out years? Any clarification there will be helpful.

Bob Lyons

Yes, it's definitely a smaller benefit in 2018 than the out years given the fact that where we are in the cycle. For rail U.S. and keep in mind that domestic U.S. only, where we will see that benefit. We have obviously very large operations in Canada, Mexico, Europe and Rolls Royce is almost entirely already taxed at foreign rates. So this happens to be enacted at a point in time when the rail U.S. income contribution is at a low point in the cycle. So as it improves and grow and hopefully the gradual recovery will continue, the impact will be greater as we go out.

Justin Bergner

Great. Thanks for taking my questions.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Barry Haimes with Sage Asset Management. Please go ahead.

Barry Haimes

Thanks very much. I had just a follow up question on the 19% excess cars that you mentioned earlier. And I wonder if you just took sort of the range by car types if you could give us some feel for which car types are meaningfully above or below that sort of 19% average? Thanks very much.

Brian Kenny

We don't have that data or do we? That 19%, or it's [AR] [ph] cars that haven't moved in the last 60 days.

Bob Lyons

Yes. That's an industry data point not a GATX specific data point. So our ability to parse that data is limited.

Barry Haimes

Okay. So even directionally in terms of above or below that you don't have any feel for that.

Bob Lyons

By car category? Tanker freight? This market has been equally challenging on all car types.

Barry Haimes

Got. Okay. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Willard Milby with Seaport Global Securities.

Willard Milby

Hey, good morning everybody. I wanted to focus on Rail International. Looking into the last couple of quarters you've had a good single-digit growth in lease revenue per car type. I was kind of curious, if you thought that was sustainable as we move into 2018 or maybe with some easier comps coming in the first two quarters, you could see some double-digit growth in that lease revenue per car?

Brian Kenny

No. I don't know about that. But, I will say the market is generally a lot more positive in Europe than it has been over the last few years. So as I said earlier the mineral oil or petroleum market as we know it in the U.S. is the biggest portion of their fleet is 60%. I mean that's been under pressure with the price of crude dropping and refiners margins dropping which is their customers.

But in the last half in the fourth quarter of 2017, we started to see more customer inquiries more new projects and customer is actually requesting additional cars which we haven't seen in a while. Now a lot of them are requesting for very short lease terms so they're not quite sure about the sustainability of a market recovery there. So we'll see if this recent upturn has legs and 2018. But, GRE did very well in that market in 2017 as I said they placed all -- virtually all their new deliveries -- cars that were returned to release for either scrap or remarket it successfully many in Eastern Europe. They had a very high success rate.

And when I say lease rates on renewal are down in Europe as I said in the past for instance the mineral fleet it's less than 1% down on renewal. So it's a much less volatile business than it is in North America. And the outlook both in mineral oil, LPG and especially chemicals which is about 13% of the fleet in Europe is much more positive than it was a year ago.

For instance on the chemical side, it's hard to generalize on that market there's a very wide variety of car types and commodities in our chemical fleet. Generally it's been more volatile and had lower utilization. But recently there's been some really good data. The European Chemistry Industry Council, they had very solid data on chemical output, chemical prices, consumption and exports. And we started to see that strength show up in our fleet in the last quarter. Utilization was up, renewal rate pricing was up. So across the markets that Rail Europe things look a lot better coming into 2018 than it has in recent years. So hopefully that recovery which we've just seen in the first quarter will have some legs.

Willard Milby

Okay. And it sounds like with a strong demand. Do you think there's a risk to any kind of over supply coming online anytime soon like we've seen in North America?

Brian Kenny

I think that's one when I said it's a less volatile market in Europe. I think your question is right on point. With the manufacturing the supply situation, I mean there are excess cars that there have been it's been a very competitive market over the last couple of years especially in mineral oil. But it hasn't been the insane oversupply that you've seen in the U.S. And I think that's one of the sources of the lower volatility. It's been a more rational market. So hopefully that continues.

Willard Milby

All right. Thanks. And just one housekeeping follow up. Did you say what your share repurchases were during the quarter and what you forecasted from a dollar point of view in 2018?

Bob Lyons

Yes. We had $25 million of repurchase in the fourth quarter. For the full year was $100 million. And what we've assumed in 2018 is that we continue in that range for the year ahead.

Willard Milby

All right. Perfect. Thanks very much.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Steve O'Hara with Sidoti & Company. Please go ahead. Steve, hi, it's open. You can unmute yourself.

Steve O'Hara

Yes. Can you hear me now?

Bob Lyons

Yes.

Steve O'Hara

All right. Thank you. Just on the guidance you provided for Rail North America and can you just talk, I don't think you mentioned it maybe I missed it, but the total gain on -- net gain on asset disposition you're expecting for 2018. I would assume you're talking flat up maybe, but can you talk about that a little bit?

Bob Lyons

Sure. The disposition gains on the owned assets in Rail North America. Just for reference was $46 million in 2016, $44 million last year, we expect to be in the range of $50 million maybe slightly above that this year.

Steve O'Hara

Okay. And then, the total amount I mean it was -- in 2016, I think it was about 84, last year 54. I mean looking back it looks like maybe the normal levels higher I mean how do you expect that to be in 2018 overall?

Bob Lyons

Well, the biggest driver is going to be the number I just gave you. We don't anticipate for -- obviously for GATX overall brand reference. We had about $10 million residual sharing fee at portfolio management on a new facility that will not reoccur in 2018. So really the main driver, or the primary driver of the remarketing activity in 2018 will be North American rail.

Steve O'Hara

Okay. Okay. And then just on the SG&A, you'd mentioned that you thought that there was some onetime items. I think it was in the fourth quarter was a pretty big jump there. I mean overall you expect SG&A to be kind of flattish. Is that -- does that make sense?

Bob Lyons

Yes. Down a little bit in 2018. From where we finished the year at 181 in change. So hopefully coming in maybe a little less than the 180 number. I'd also point out that this past year was our fifth straight year of when you kind of normalize for pension items and others that we've called out before being in that 175, 180 range. So I think we've held the line pretty well on SG&A, despite the fact obviously we've continued to invest heavily grow the business. We have a bigger balance sheet today and a much bigger European presence today entering in -- emerging market presence today than we had five years ago. But SG&A is pretty much in the same range.

Brian Kenny

To give you some data there about how I look at that in 2008 and that was our last peak earnings year. SG&A was about $168 million. We had assets just over $5 billion. So if we can get to that $175 million level in 2018 with our assets will be more in the $8 billion range that's 50% growth and SG& will increase less than 5%. So we're really focused on leveraging our current infrastructure and trying to stay where we are.

Steve O'Hara

Okay. All right. Thank you very much.

Operator

And we'll take our next question from Justin Long with Stephens.

Justin Long

Thanks for the follow up. Just had a quick question, I wanted to fit in on LPI. Do you have an expectation for where that shakes out in 2018 and when you [Technical Difficulty]

Bob Lyons

Justin you were -- you were breaking up there a little bit. We did catch the first part of the question which was kind of 2018 and the LPI. So we'll go and answer that one. But we missed the back half of your question.

Brian Kenny

Yes. So in 2017, I believe we said 30% plus decline in the LPI, we ended up just under 30. If I have to put a range on 2018, it's going to be in the 25% plus range down on LPI.

Justin Long

That's helpful. And if you can hear me a little bit better now. Then the second part of that question was on the car type of renewals. I think you mentioned around 14,000 cars renewing. So I know that's a consideration when thinking about that LPI numbers. So, just curious if those renewals will be more weighted towards a particular car type.

Brian Kenny

No. Actually with the LPI as a constant weighting of our current fleet. So it is influenced by activity, but not by the amount of activity. As far as I did say utilization might slip a little bit. We have a much better expectation there than we did coming into 2017 although we outperformed. We do have with the 2500 coal renewals and 2018 to less but there's still enough that it's a tough market you could see a little bit of slippage there.

Justin Long

Okay. That's helpful. Thanks again for the time.

Operator

And we'll take our last question from Willard Milby with Seaport Global. Please go ahead.

Willard Milby

Hey thanks for the follow up. On the North American gains on dispositions, are you aware of any quarterly lumpiness at this point. Anything we should be aware of?

Bob Lyons

Yes. It's actually a good question. Probably should have pointed that out when we were talking about an earlier. Yes, where we sit today, quarterly it's a little hard to lay out exactly, but certainly I think we'll see more of that probably materially more of that in the early part of the year. Call first half of the year just based on the level of activity we have underway currently.

Willard Milby

All right. Thanks very much.

Operator

And that does conclude our question-and-answer session. I'd like to turn the conference back over to Jennifer for any additional or closing remarks.

Jennifer McManus

I'd like to thank everyone for their participation on the call this morning. So please contact me with any follow-up questions. Thanks.

Operator

And once again, that concludes today's presentation. We thank you all for your participation and you may now disconnect.

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