Adient plc (NYSE:ADNT) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

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Adient plc (NYSE:ADNT) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript February 7, 2024

Adient plc beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.4808, expectations were $0.47. ADNT isn't one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here).

Operator: Welcome to the Adient First Quarter Financial Results Conference Call. The lines have been placed in a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] Today's conference is being recorded. Now, I'll turn the call over to Eric Deighton. Sir, you may begin.

Eric Deighton: Thank you, Shirley. Good morning, and thank you for joining us, as we review Adient's results for the first quarter of fiscal 2024. The press release and presentation slides for our call today have been posted to the Investors section of our website at This morning, I'm joined by Jerome Dorlack, Adient's President and Chief Executive Officer; and Mark Oswald, our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. On today's call, Jerome will provide an update on the business followed by Mark, who will review our Q1 financial results and outlook for the remainder fiscal 2024. After our prepared remarks, we will open the call to your questions. Before I turn the call over to Jerome and Mark, there are few items I'd like to cover.

First, today's conference call will include forward-looking statements. These statements are based on the environment as we see it today, and therefore involve risks and uncertainties. I would caution you that our actual results could differ materially from these forward-looking statements made on the call. Please refer to Slide 2 of the presentation for our complete Safe Harbor statement. In addition to the financial results presented on a GAAP basis, we will be discussing non-GAAP information that we believe is useful in evaluating the company's operating performance. Reconciliations for these non-GAAP measures to the closest GAAP equivalent can be found in the appendix of our full earnings release. This concludes my comments. I'll now turn the call over to Jerome Dorlack.

Jerome Dorlack: Thanks, Eric. Good morning. Thank you to our investors, prospective investors and analysts joining the call, as we review our first quarter results for fiscal year 2024. Turning to Slide 4, let me begin with a few comments related to the quarter. As we began fiscal 2024, the company maintained its laser focus on business performance, including launch, execution and continuous improvement. The team navigated challenges from strike-related production disruptions, while maintaining focus on the day-to-day operational execution that is driving the business forward. Despite the challenges in the beginning of the quarter, the focus on operational execution and cash management actions, allowed us to successfully navigate any short-term impacts.

Turning to Adient's key financial metrics for the quarter, which are shown on the right hand side of the slide. Revenue for the quarter, which totaled $3.7 billion was down about 1% compared to last year's fiscal quarter, first quarter. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter totaled $216 million, up 2%. The UAW at strike in certain of our North American customers, ultimately impacted Adient by approximately $125 million in sales and $25 million in EBITDA. Adient ended the quarter with a strong cash balance and total liquidity of $990 million and $1.9 billion, respectively. We continue to drive the business forward, winning both new and replacement business with customers that are expected to drive continued margin improvement in the coming years. We are demonstrating our ability to add value to customers through our engineering capabilities, manufacturing footprint and process discipline.

At the bottom of the slide, we've highlighted a number of customers and industry awards received in each of our regions in Q1 as proof points of our commitment to delivering excellence. Both the business we have been awarded and the recognition we've received show that our strong business performance, operational excellence and mindfulness towards sustainability are driving value to Adient stakeholders and shareholders including customers, suppliers and employees. As the production environment became clearer, following the resolution of strike-related production disruptions, the company resumed its return of capital to shareholders, through its balanced capital allocation strategy. We deployed $100 million towards share repurchases within the quarter, which Mark will talk more about in a moment.

Again, our commitment to return capital to shareholders is an important part of our balanced capital allocation strategy. The last point on the slide shows we've released our 2023 Sustainability Report, highlighting a number of accomplishments and commitments, marking our path toward a long-term sustainable transformation. I'll discuss this in more detail on the next slide, but the achievements that we highlight demonstrate that Adient has firmly integrated sustainability into the core of our business. Turning to Slide 5 and further on that point. Since we began publishing our annual sustainability report four years ago, a lot has changed. As both the environment in which we operate and our ESG development has evolved, our goals have evolved as well.

One thing that has not changed is our commitment to have a long-term sustainable transformation focused on limiting our negative environmental impacts on the planet and focusing on social and economic changes to create a better environment for everyone. The sustainability report outlines how we are aligning our strategic priorities to where our sustainability activities can deliver the greatest impact. This includes our ongoing focus on product design to support not only our own sustainability goals, but those of our customers as well. You can see on the slide a number of highlights and accomplishments achieved in fiscal year 2023. I won't read each of these and there are more highlights within the report, but these examples reflect the milestones as we advance our sustainability mission focused on products, processes and people.

We've included a link to the full report. Please take a few minutes to see the progress we've made in our sustainability journey and the commitments we intend to deliver on in the future. Now turning to Slide 6. Let's take a look at our business wins and launch performance. As you can see on Slide 6, we highlight several of the important recent and ongoing launches. Although the production environment in the Americas was disrupted in the quarter, our process discipline and execution enabled us to effectively execute on launches, including launches in our JIT, foam, trim and metals business that support the deepening levels of vertical integration and business that we are winning. We are able to successfully navigate the delays caused by strike-related production stoppages at our customers that caused certain program starts to be delayed.

The team continues to maintain process discipline, which is key to managing the number and complexity of launches scheduled for this fiscal year. Now turning to Slide 7. As usual, several recent new business awards are highlighted here. These new business awards once again represent a strong mix of customers, geographies, various levels of electric, hybrid and ICE platforms. Important to also note, our deepening levels of vertical integration and recent wins. More than 90% of business awarded by sales volume in the last fiscal year contained some level of vertical integration in foam, trim and/or metals. This continues and advances a trend starting in fiscal year '22, driven by our deep expertise in engineering, logistics, purchasing and operational execution that allows us to drive value for Adient and our customers when we control a greater portion of the seeding value chain.

I'd like to especially highlight a new business sourcing on a BEV program that is supported by our Bridgewater Interiors joint venture. As a reminder, BWI is a successful diverse joint venture that we have been involved in for more than 25 years. We're particularly proud of this partnership and the competitive advantage that it brings to Adient, along with our Avanzar joint venture, which is also a diverse JV. We'll provide more details on this win at a later time. Flipping to Slide 8. We've talked about the emerging trend that we're seeing in increased seeding content as an opportunity recently. Customers in China specifically have reimagined the vehicle interior around creature comforts like deep recline, long rails, massage and sound and seat to name a few.

Safety features like delta seat and pelvic crash management are becoming increasingly relevant as the comfort features change the cabin interior configuration. And sustainable innovations like non-leather seeding surface materials and low carbon steel are driven by both ESG goals and cost reduction efforts. These trends represent an opportunity for Adient, but also increase a level of complexity that we will have to manage. As content increases, we see that the JIT assembly environment can become increasingly complicated unless properly managed, seed content features and industrialize them in a way that is cost effective driving win-win solutions for Adient and our customers. This is especially relevant as our customers look to offset increasing labor costs at their assembly plants.

We demonstrated a few of our strategies for driving process efficiencies to investors recently at our Plymouth Tech campus, as well as at a recent conference. Our ES3 process leverages available knowledge to create opportunities and value for our customers, which can identify opportunities for reducing operational waste, engineering simplification, and network optimization. We use value stream mapping to identify manufacturing processes improvements that we can bring to our customers and industrialize. We're able to leverage our world-class manufacturing footprint capabilities to engineer and execute solutions like modular assembly. By leveraging the metals business that we own, we can assemble seat, back frame and cushion pan modules in our existing footprint and enable labor, freight and inventory efficiencies that not only reduce carbon footprint, but also cost.

It's essential that we own the metals real estate to execute on this particular opportunity. We are able to share these efficiencies with our customer in order to manage the increasing complexity, while driving financial benefits. It's important to note that, we have modular assembly processes planned to go into production during this fiscal year. We are continually evaluating and improving how we operate the business. The key takeaway is that, ES3 encompasses a range of benchmarking, continuous improvement and VA/VE practices that give us the ability to demonstrate opportunities for both our customers and Adient, that enable us to deliver our commitments on business performance. Turning to Slide 9 now. Pending into the end of fiscal year '23, there were reasons to be cautious and conserve cash.

With the strike looming at the time, our strategy was to prepare our balance sheet for a longer-term production disruption in the Americas. As the uncertainty around the length and breadth of production disruption was resolved, we are able to get clear line of sight on our ability to generate cash. With cash in the balance sheet and good clarity around free cash flow for the year, the company returned $100 million to shareholders via repurchases, totaling approximately 3 million shares. Our capital allocation plan remains balanced. We're committed to returning capital to shareholders, while also balancing the cash needs of the business. I'll also point out that our ability to improve margins, generate cash and prudently manage our balance sheet was recognized by both S&P Global and Moody's recently.

The company's corporate credit ratings were upgraded by both in recent months. Our balance sheet strength and financial performance also enabled us to amend and extend our Term Loan B subsequent to the quarter. Safe to say that our confidence in the company's ability to generate cash, along with the flexibility we have built into the capital structure is expected to underpin significant returns to our shareholders. With that, I will turn it over to Mark to cover the financials.

Mark Oswald: Thanks, Jerome. Let's jump into the financials on Slide 11. Adhering to our typical format, the page is formatted with our reported results on the left side and our adjusted results on the right side. We will focus our commentary on the adjusted results, which exclude special items that we view as either one-time in nature or otherwise skew important trends in the underlying performance. For the quarter, the biggest drivers of the difference between our reported and adjusted results were related to purchase accounting amortization and restructuring and impairment costs. Details of all adjustments for the quarter are in the appendix of the presentation. High level for the quarter, sales were approximately $3.7 billion, down about 1% compared to our first quarter results last year.

A carpenter assembling an automotive seating system, using components, frames and mechanisms.
A carpenter assembling an automotive seating system, using components, frames and mechanisms.

Lower volumes, primarily in the Americas resulting from strike-related production stoppages at our customers, were partially offset with positive FX movements between the two periods. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $216 million, up 2% year-on-year. The increase is primarily attributed to benefits associated with improved business performance. These benefits were partially offset by the impact of lower volume and mix, and to a lesser extent, the negative impact of currency movements between the periods and timing of material economics. I'll expand on these drivers in just a minute. Finally, at the bottom line, Adient reported adjusted net income of $29 million or $0.31 per share. Let's break down our first quarter results in more detail.

I'll cover the next few slides rather quickly as details for the results are included on these slides. This should ensure we have adequate time for the Q&A portion of the call. Starting with the revenue on Slide 12, we reported consolidated sales of approximately $3.7 billion, a decrease of $39 million compared with Q1 fiscal year '23. The primary driver of the year-on-year decrease was lower volume and pricing, call it, $95 million including about $36 million of lower commodity recoveries. The favorable impact of FX movements between the two periods benefited the quarter by $56 million. Focusing on the table on the right hand side of the slide, Adient consolidated sales were lower in the Americas and Asia Pacific, while sales in EMEA grew by about 1%.

America’s market performance was primarily driven by key platforms that were impacted by strike-related production stoppages, like the RAM, Wrangler and GM's midsize SUVs, as well as program launches that were taking place in the quarter, such as The Tacoma. In Europe, the top-line benefited from new program launches and favorable program mix, which was offset by certain planned program exits. In China, end of production of certain programs and model year changeovers resulted in lower year-on-year sales. Important to note, we still expect to outpace regional production in China on a full year basis. With regard to Adient's unconsolidated seeding revenue, year-on-year results were up about 10% adjusted for FX. In China, where a large majority of Adient's unconsolidated sales are derived, the strong increase in sales was driven by customers like FVW and Toyota.

Additionally, our Kuiper joint venture benefited from production growth with domestic Chinese customers, including FAIC, Cherry and BYD. Moving to Slide 13, we've provided a bridge of adjusted EBITDA to show the performance of our segments between periods. Big picture, adjusted EBITDA was $216 million in the current quarter versus $212 million reported a year ago. The primary drivers of the year-on-year comparison are detailed on the page and are consistent with what we expected heading into the quarter. Improved business performance was the primary driver of these results, benefiting the quarter by $39 million. Looking deeper within that bucket, the biggest positive driver was improved net material margin of $30 million. In addition, freight costs were $23 million improved year-on-year, as well as improvements we saw in labor and overhead.

Partial offsets within business performance were launching tooling costs, as we manage increased launch volume and complexity, as well as the timing of engineering spend and other one-time SG&A costs. I'll note that SG&A cost comparison is driven in part by certain asset sales in the year ago period that did not repeat. Headwinds partially offsetting the business performance included, volume and mix impacts of about $18 million. Adient's program mix in the Americas was influenced by the UAW strike-related production stoppages. Outside of the strike, Tacoma volumes were impacted as the program moved through the launch curve. In APAC, certain programs reached year end production or model year changeovers, resulting in lower Adient production volumes.

The timing of commodity-related recoveries drove the lower net commodities, call it, $8 million for the quarter. The negative impact of currency movements between the two periods was $7 million, note that the favorable translational impact on our sales, primarily driven by the euro were more than offset by transactional FX headwinds in America’s and Asia. As we indicated in November, we expect the FX to be a headwind for the quarter and we expect the FX pressures to intensify, as we move through the fiscal year. I'll have additional commentary on what we can expect for the remainder of the year in just a few minutes. And finally, equity income was lower by $2 million. This was a result of certain one-time benefits in the prior period that did not repeat and to a lesser extent, the restructured pricing agreement within Adient KEIPER joint venture.

Important to note, the improved net material margin within the business performance bucket was aided by that change. All in all, a quarter very much in line with our internal expectations, driven by continued strong execution. Similar to past quarters, we've provided our detailed segment performance slides in the appendix of the presentation. High level for the Americas, improved business performance was the primary factor driving positive results. Business performance was driven by increased net material margin, inclusive of the benefit of the restructured pricing agreement at our KEIPER joint venture, lower freight costs, improved labor and overhead performance and partially offsetting these benefits were increased launch and tooling. In EMEA, the year-on-year comparison was influenced by several factors such as improved net commodities, favorable currency movements, improved business performance, partial offsets within business performance were higher SG&A costs, as certain one-time benefits recognized last year did not repeat, as well as the timing of customer launches, which drove engineering and launch spend.

Volume and mix was a slight headwind resulting from program mix. In Asia, business performance reflected the negative impact of lower year-on-year commercial recoveries as well as the timing of launch activity, which drove increased engineering and launch spend. These headwinds, which we view as temporary, more than offset the efficiencies in labor and overhead. Equity income was driven lower by the revised pricing agreement between the joint venture partners at our KEIPER JV. Again, our consolidated Americas business benefited from the revised pricing agreement. Currency movements between the periods resulted in a $4 million headwind, primarily related to the Japanese yen and the Thai baht. And finally, volume and mix was a modest headwind.

As I mentioned on the previous slide, Adient’s program mix in that region was impacted by certain model year changeovers and end of production of other models. We continue to expect strong regional performance in volume and mix for the balance of the year. Let me now shift to our cash, liquidity and capital structure on Slides 14 and 15. Starting with cash on Slide 14, adjusted free cash flow defined as operating cash flow less CapEx was an outflow of $14 million. This compares to an outflow of $17 million in last year's first quarter. The relative improvement despite the UAW strike impact for the quarter is a testament to the cash management actions the team was able to execute within the quarter. The primary drivers of the year-on-year improvement are listed on the right hand side of the slide.

I won't read each, but important to point out that the modest cash outflow in the quarter is in line with our internal expectations. One last point, as we called out on the slide, Adient continues to utilize various factoring programs as a low cost source of liquidity. At December 31, 2023, we had $85 million of factored receivables versus $171 million at fiscal year-end. Flipping to Slide 15. As noted on the right hand side of the slide, we ended the quarter with about $1.9 billion total liquidity comprised of cash on hand of $990 million and $938 million of undrawn capacity under Adient's revolving line of credit. Adient's debt and net debt position totaled about $2.5 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively, at December 31, 2023. On the lower right hand side of the page, we have noted several important highlights with respect to our debt and capital structure.

First, as Jerome discussed earlier, we returned $100 million to our shareholders in the quarter. As we indicated previously, the cash on the balance sheet combined with our confidence in our ability to generate cash underpins the company's ability to execute our share repurchase program. As a reminder, we have $435 million remaining on our share repurchase authorization. Our commitment to execute opportunistically on share repurchases is an important part of the capital allocation strategy. Both S&P Global and Moody's recognize the company's earnings growth, the ability to generate cash, and the flexibility of our capital structure with upgrades to the company's corporate credit ratings in December and January, respectively. This is a good external validation of the progress we've made in reshaping our balance sheet over the past couple of years as well as the company's positive trend in earnings and cash generation.

The recent amend and extend to our Term Loan B demonstrates we're not sitting still. The amendment improves our pricing to sulfur+275, a 50 basis point improvement as well as extended the maturity to 2031. The average tenure of our outstanding debt after the deal increased from 4.2 years to 4.8 years. We ended the quarter with a net leverage ratio of 1.65x, well within our targeted range of 1.5x to 2x. The team will continue to evaluate and execute actions that will further enhance the strength and flexibility of our cap structure. With that, let's flip the Slide 16 and review our outlook for the remainder of fiscal 2024. Adient's fiscal year '24 guidance has been updated to reflect our Q1 results and current market conditions, including revised production assumptions in current FX rates.

Adient’s consolidated sales are expected to land between $15.4 billion and $15.5 billion. We've seen currency movements, particularly the euro, favorably impact our top-line forecast. That said, while S&P production forecasts have increased, catching up to what we already were aware of based on customer releases, certain of Adient's programs are moving in the opposite direction, driven primarily by launch delays and alignment with customer demand. In China, the recent upward revisions to production forecast are weighted towards a select group of local manufacturers with limited Adient content, such as BYD, SAIC and Geely. The net result is revenue outlook that is more heavily weighted towards H2 versus H1. For adjusted EBITDA, we're reaffirming our previous guide at $985 million.

Business performance is expected to be a significant driver of the year-on-year earnings and margin growth. Based on the current guide, the implied all in EBITDA margin of 6.4% represents an FX adjusted 70 basis points of margin expansion over fiscal year 2023. Important to note, given the revenue outlook just discussed as well as the normal seasonality of our equity income, we expect Adient's second half EBITDA to outpace the first half, as business performance continues to improve for the second half volumes pull through. With regard to equity income, consistent with prior years, it's common to see a significant decrease as we move sequentially from our first quarter into Q2, driven, of course, by the China New Year. Last year, for example, Adient's equity income was $15 million lower in Q2 versus Q1.

I anticipate a similar decrease this year. One last point on the cadence of our earnings, the timing of our commercial settlements is also a key driver of lumpiness between quarters. Moving on, interest expense is still expected at about $185 million, given our expected debt and cash balances as well as interest rate expectations. Note that the recently completed Term Loan B actions were planned and contemplated within our previous guidance. Cash taxes continue to be forecast at about $105 million. For modeling purposes, tax expense is estimated at $115 million. CapEx, largely based on customer launch schedules, is forecast at $310 million, no change from the November guide. And finally, our free cash flow is expected at $300 million as the calls for cash remain stable.

Again, no change from November. With that, let's move to the question-and-answer portion of the call. Operator, can we have our first question, please?

Operator: Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Rod Lache with Wolfe Research. Your line is open. You may ask your question.

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