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Edited Transcript of AVNS earnings conference call or presentation 25-Feb-20 2:00pm GMT

·41 mins read

Q4 2019 Avanos Medical Inc Earnings Call Atlanta Mar 10, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Avanos Medical Inc earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 2:00:00pm GMT TEXT version of Transcript ================================================================================ Corporate Participants ================================================================================ * David Crawford Avanos Medical, Inc. - VP of FP&A and IR and Treasurer * Joseph F. Woody Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director * Michael C. Greiner Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO ================================================================================ Conference Call Participants ================================================================================ * Andrew Christopher Ranieri Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - Associate * Christopher Cook Cooley Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD * David Ryan Lewis Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD * Emily Bodnar Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG, Research Division - Equity Research Associate * Kristen Marie Stewart Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst * Lawrence Soren Keusch Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD * Matthew Ian Mishan KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst ================================================================================ Presentation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good day, and welcome to the Avanos Fourth Quarter 2019 Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) Please note, this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Dave Crawford. Please go ahead. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- David Crawford, Avanos Medical, Inc. - VP of FP&A and IR and Treasurer [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us. It's my pleasure to welcome you to the Avanos fourth quarter earnings conference call. With me this morning are Joe Woody, CEO; and Michael Greiner, Senior Vice President and CFO. Joe will begin with an update on our business, followed by an overview of our 2020 priorities. Then Michael will review our results, offer details on our financial performance and earnings outlook for 2020. We'll finish the call with Q&A. A presentation for today's call is available on the Investors section of our website, avanos.com. As a reminder, our comments today contain forward-looking statements related to the company, our expected performance, economic conditions and our industry. No assurance can be given as to future financial results. Actual results could differ materially from those in forward-looking statements. For more information about forward-looking statements and the risk factors that could influence future results, please see today's press release and risk factors described in our filings with the SEC. Additionally, we will be referring to adjusted results and outlook. The press release has information on these adjustments and reconciliations to comparable GAAP financial measures. Now I'll turn the call over to Joe. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Dave. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for your interest in Avanos. I'd like to start by welcoming Michael Greiner, who joined the team at the beginning of the year and has been busy immersing himself in the business. Michael has deep experience in change management and portfolio optimization, and we're excited to have him on board at a time when we're focused on driving efficiencies and accelerating revenue and earnings growth. Now I'll turn to the fourth quarter results and the progress we made on our key focus areas of growing sales and executing against our strategic goals. We ended the year with a strong fourth quarter. Sales increased 12% to $190 million, and we earned $0.34 of adjusted diluted earnings per share. For the year, sales increased 7% to $698 million and we earned $1.07 of adjusted diluted earnings per share. During the quarter, our Chronic Care business delivered solid mid-single digit top line organic growth. Growth partially benefited from the recaptured sales missed from our third quarter back orders. Pain Management delivered positive organic growth for the quarter. In our Acute Pain business, ON-Q sales declined by low single digits, in line with our expectations. In Interventional Pain, as expected, performance was driven by continued double-digit growth in COOLIEF. As we announced yesterday, the FDA cleared for marketing our new 80-Watt COOLIEF radiofrequency system for neurological lesion procedures. This new easy-to-use system, comprised of a newly designed RF generator, peristaltic pump and therapy cables, enables physicians to perform a full spectrum of procedures. This advanced COOLIEF RF generator demonstrates our commitment to introduce innovation to the marketplace as the cooled RF authority. We're excited to debut our new system at the upcoming American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians Annual Meeting. During the quarter, we continued to show clinical differentiation for COOLIEF as reported in several studies. First, at the 18th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, we reported the 12-month results from a clinical study comparing COOLIEF to hyaluronic acid. These results demonstrated that study participants who received COOLIEF experienced clinically relevant pain relief that lasted up to 12 months. In addition, the 24-month data from a clinical trial that compared COOLIEF to a steroid injection was published in the medical journal Pain Practice. This newly published data demonstrates that up to 2 years of pain relief is possible following a single COOLIEF treatment. Turning to 2020. We plan to execute on the priorities set last year centered around positioning the company for long-term revenue and earnings growth. At the same time, we recognize that some of our 2019 results were below our expectations. Therefore, we're focused not only on doing what it takes to meet our long-term objectives, but balancing that with achieving near-term goals to ensure our business reaches its full potential. Our 4 priorities for 2020 are: one, build sales momentum across our 4 product categories, both domestically and internationally; two, integrate our recent acquisitions; three, generate positive free cash flow; and four, realize efficiencies from our IT system. Now I'll cover a bit about each of these priorities, beginning with our focus on accelerating top line growth across our categories. Let's begin with our Pain Management business. We continue to see demand for a reduction in the use of opioids in our portfolio of elastomeric and electronic pumps offers a compelling solution in acute pain. Through the acquisition of Summit and the portfolio of electronic pumps, we have complemented our offering to customers. So far, this addition has been well received and helped us reinforce relationships with ON-Q customers. Within ON-Q, we are leveraging our strong brand to win back customers impacted by the industry-wide pre-filler disruption. While this remains a near to mid-term headwind, we are seeing signs of improvement. The shifting of customers to Leiters resulted again in double-digit growth sequentially in the number of customers sourcing volume through Leiters. Additionally, overall purchases of ON-Q by customers who have moved to Leiters increased by double digits in 2019 compared to the prior year. In Interventional Pain, we plan to continue to invest in clinical evidence and marketing to maintain COOLIEF's double-digit growth. As I mentioned earlier, we're building a strong compendium of clinical evidence that demonstrates the value of COOLIEF to both patients and payers while differentiating COOLIEF from alternative therapies. This year, we expect publication of several studies in orthopedic journals comparing COOLIEF to hyaluronic acid in the treatment of OA knee pain. We're also reaching new audiences, including sports medicine doctors and orthopedists, through our participation in conferences and symposiums. On the marketing front to build on last year's direct-to-patient TV ad campaign, we're focusing on driving demand and increasing awareness of COOLIEF through our social media campaign. Turning to Chronic Care. Our focus remains on growing our market-leading positions in digestive and respiratory health. Chronic Care represents 60% of our business and has strong fundamentals, including stable revenue growth and significant cash flow generation. The upcoming launch of our next-generation enteral feeding tube, MIC-KEY SF, demonstrates how investment in innovation helps us maintain our market-leading positions. MIC-KEY SF guards against tube dislodgment through a balloon indicator that provides a visual cue when the balloon is below the recommended level. In Respiratory Health, our recent acquisition of endOclear demonstrates our commitment to open innovation and provides a strategic addition to our portfolio. Across each of our product categories, we continue to view International as an important catalyst for long-term growth. In 2019, we accelerated growth to double digits in our Asia Pacific region that we fell short of our growth plan in EMEA and Latin America. We are confident that we can enhance our performance across these regions but recognize that it will take longer with new teams in EMEA and Latin America compared to the more established Asia Pac team. Our second priority is the integration of our recent acquisitions of Game Ready, NeoMed and Summit. A more stable IT platform yields more efficient integration of our acquisitions, helping us to more quickly realize targeted synergies. Both NeoMed and Summit are performing in line with expectations and positioning us to strengthen our customer relationships. Although our near-term focus is on integrating recent acquisitions, future M&A remains a catalyst in our overall long-term growth. With that as a backdrop, our business development team continues to identify and evaluate potential future opportunities. Our third priority is to return the business to positive free cash flow in 2020. As we progress in stabilizing our IT systems, we will, over time, recapture the working capital inefficiencies experienced last year. In addition, with the IT implementation behind us, we expect to return to a normalized level of capital spending. Finally, we expect a decline in unusual or nonrecurring costs following the IT implementation and completion of last year's S&IP divestiture. Combined, these 3 factors position us to be cash flow positive for the year. Our final priority is to stabilize our IT environment and realize planned operational efficiencies and cost savings. Implementation of our global IT system was a huge undertaking, and I want to thank the team for their effort throughout this process. We've made significant inroads in addressing the challenges we faced last quarter and have a detailed road map to address the remaining issues. While we worked through certain inefficiencies in the first half of the year, back order levels have closed to normalized, and no additional issues have surfaced. In summary, over the course of 2019, we took significant and necessary steps to fundamentally transform our business. We completed the separation of the S&IP business and launched a new global IT system. We invested to drive future growth and deploy capital for 3 acquisitions, increasing scale across our categories. We have the right strategy in place to create shareholder value, and I'm confident in our ability to deliver on our 2020 priorities and financial guidance. Now I'll turn the call over to Michael. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Joe, and good morning, everyone. Let me start by saying I'm excited to be part of the Avanos team. I spent the past 2 months meeting with members of our team to learn more about the business and the challenges and opportunities we face. In my short time here, I've been impressed with the talent on the team and their dedication and focus on accelerating growth across each of our businesses. I look forward to partnering with Joe and the rest of the leadership team to accomplish our 2020 priorities and execute on the strategy in place. Now let me begin with the review of our fourth quarter results. As Joe shared, we delivered sales of $190 million, a 12% increase compared to the prior year. Organic sales growth of 4% was driven by increased volume, while price and sales mix had minimal impact compared to the prior year. Our acquisitions of NeoMed and Summit contributed 7% of that growth. In Chronic Care, we returned to mid-single-digit growth as we made progress in reducing back orders, as Joe mentioned earlier, ending the year at a close to normalized level. In Pain Management, we're encouraged that organic sales growth was positive in line with our expectations. Within Pain Management, we're continuing to see signs of improvement in our ON-Q business as sales declined in the quarter by low single digits. As we enter 2020, there is more work ahead for us to return ON-Q to growth. Our partnership with Leiters continues to benefit customers who move to this option. Sales through Leiters for the quarter increased by double digits sequentially. Finally, moving to Interventional Pain. COOLIEF continued to grow double digits this quarter. International sales increased by mid-single digits as our team worked to resolve some of the headwinds that stems from the IT system implementation. Positive performance was driven by continued strong execution in our Asia Pacific region, where sales increased by double digits for the second consecutive quarter. Overall, our International business remains a key growth catalyst for Avanos, and we're confident we can deliver consistent mid-single-digit growth in the coming year. For the quarter, adjusted gross margin was 60%, in line with the prior year. Sequentially, margin expanded 260 basis points, reflecting the recovery from last quarter's IT implementation that required disrupting our manufacturing facilities and increasing distribution cost to minimize back orders. Looking ahead, we continue to see the business as having a gross margin in the low 60s, with the opportunity for expansion over time, driven by cost savings and mix shift. Adjusted operating profit totaled $26 million for the quarter compared to $20 million last year, while adjusted EBITDA totaled $31 million, up from $22 million on higher sales volume. The incremental step-up in adjusted EBITDA compared to adjusted operating profit reflects the impact of depreciation of our new IT system. In 2020, we expect EBITDA growth to continue to accelerate faster than EPS growth. Adjusted net income totaled $16 million compared to $14 million a year ago, and we earned $0.34 of adjusted diluted earnings per share compared to $0.30 a year ago. Now for a brief recap of our full year results. Net sales increased to $698 million, a 7% increase compared to 2018. This includes sales from Game Ready, NeoMed and Summit, which contributed almost all of that growth. Organic sales volume was up 2%, while unfavorable price and selling mix negatively impacted growth by 1%. Performance was driven by continued strong demand in Interventional Pain from COOLIEF and growth in Chronic Care. Adjusted gross margin for the year was 60% compared to 61% a year ago. Our 2019 adjusted gross margin reflects the net impact of cost savings programs that were offset by the impact of last quarter's IT implementation as well as recent acquisitions with a lower margin profile. Adjusted operating profit for the year totaled $76 million compared to $62 million in 2018. Shifting to our balance sheet. We ended the year in a solid financial position with $205 million of cash on hand and significant available capital that will allow us to be opportunistic regarding M&A and other strategic investments. While we did see sequential improvement in free cash flow, we saw increases in both accounts receivable and inventory related to issues stemming from our IT implementation. As Joe mentioned, stabilizing and realizing the efficiencies from our IT system is a strategic priority for the year and something I'm particularly focused on. We made significant advances with the implementation and the team continues to prioritize commercial-related front-end impacts. As we resolve these IT challenges during the first half of 2020, our focus will be on providing greater visibility into the business for our teams and eliminating manual intervention in the system so we can more effectively manage each of our businesses and drive working capital outcomes to the levels that are appropriate for our business. As I mentioned, my primary focus in the near term is to stabilize the IT environment. Once the system is stabilized, we will be better positioned to establish the appropriate cost structure for the company; deliver operational and working capital efficiencies, as previously mentioned; as well as successfully integrate our current and future acquisitions. The progress our team has made to date gives me confidence that we'll enter the second half of the year with these challenges mostly behind us. Now let's move to our 2020 outlook and key planning assumptions. Based on current trends in our business, we expect net sales on a constant currency basis to increase 5% to 7% compared to the prior year. For the year, we expect to earn between $1 and $1.20 of adjusted diluted earnings per share. The following 2 planning assumptions are incorporated into our sales and earnings guidance: One, foreign currency translation is not expected to have an impact on 2020; and two, adjusted effective tax rate is anticipated to range between 25% and 27%. In conclusion, I'm excited to be part of this team and look forward to driving value-creating outcomes that help the business realize its full potential. We are focused on the right drivers to create long-term shareholder value and I believe we will identify additional drivers once we start to leverage the capabilities associated with the implementation of our new IT system. Operator, we're ready for questions. ================================================================================ Questions and Answers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Larry Keusch with Raymond James. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lawrence Soren Keusch, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joe, I guess, first question, just starting out with you. So it sounds like there are a number of factors that are impacting ON-Q. And I guess, as I tally them up, I see just challenges in getting customers that had switched away back on to the ON-Q pump, moving customers onto Leiters as you've certainly discussed. And then I guess there's probably some competitive pricing dynamic out there. So could you talk about the different dynamics in the business? And whether you still expect to get the pump back into growth mode in the second half of the year? And then I had a follow-up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Larry. So a couple of things. On a global basis, Acute Pain was a low single-digit negative business for the quarter. And in North America, that was low mid-single digit. We did show sequential improvement, and we've outlined that the biggest issue really around the return of Acute Pain to growth is moving customers that we're filling with PharMEDium, as an example, and other 503Bs over to Leiters. And when we do that, we definitely see strong growth. I think we've got it in the slides there. We talked about double-digit growth amongst those customers. Secondary to that, we're seeing some real positive reception of customers on the Summit acquisition of the electronic pump. As we move into kind of in the middle of Q2 and into the summer, we think that, that will be strong. We've said our aim is for level growth this year in that business. It's possible to get into H2 into some growth. And we, again, are seeing a lot of customers queue up for Leiters and even larger customers wanting to come back. So I think it's possible and we are showing improvement. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lawrence Soren Keusch, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. That's definitely helpful. And I guess, 2 other quick ones here. So just, Michael, perhaps if you could just speak to what are the inefficiencies that you are anticipating in the first half from the ERP implementation. And how do you get past those? And then secondly, just on the LRP, I know that's still sitting out there. Certainly, it would feel like that those goals are extended or maybe not doable at this point. But again, how should we be thinking about the LRP that's still sitting out there? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think what I'm going to do is -- Michael has been doing a lot of work on the inefficiencies in IT and really grab the bull by the horns or he wants to say a couple of things, and then I'll come back to your second question. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Great. Thanks, Larry. So in the first half of the year, as we talked about in our prepared remarks, we're very focused on ensuring we don't have some of those self-inflicted foot faults we had in the back half of last year. And the team has been incredibly diligent on those kind of front-end commercial-related activities, whether that be on the manufacturing and supply chain front or just on the core analysis we do with our customers. But I don't anticipate the first half to have any of those types of issues. What I'm more excited looking forward to is what we'll start to be able to use the system for in the second half of the year. And that's really leveraging it for what we spent all the money to do in the first place, which is to get that front-end analysis with customers, be able to make some strategic choices that we haven't had the information available and to make sure that we're using a system broadly across the company. And that's going to create a lot of training needs in this first half of the year. We did a bunch of training out of the gate a couple of years ago. Many of those folks have moved on for one reason or another, and one of the things that we've identified as simple as it seems is that a lot of people -- new people are in seats using the system, and we need to reinvigorate that training so that we're using the system as intended. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Great. And Larry, can you just repeat the LRP question or the guidance question you had? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lawrence Soren Keusch, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD [8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. No, the question, Joe, was, obviously, that 3-year LRP is -- was sitting out there. And again, just trying to wrap my arms around whether we should still be thinking about that as those objectives as doable. Will there be an LRP update? Just -- again, just trying to put that existing LRP into context right now given where the business is. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [9] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Definitely, and we communicated a bit of this at JPMorgan. We definitely believe that EBITDA can be in the mid-20s and operating margin in the low 20s and that, for example, high single digit is possible for our business over a number of years. Obviously, M&A and our performance can enhance that. What we want to do, though -- and we also did communicate that's going to be over a longer period of time than we originally laid out. Obviously, the big change in fortune there being the Acute Pain market dislodgment that we're dealing with which has changed the time frame there. And so what we want to do is, probably in the summer after we go through our strategic process with our Board of Directors, is update and refresh the LRP, and that also gives Michael a chance to not only ingrain initially in the business, but run through a strategic cycle with us, get a couple of quarters under his belt, and then we'll likely be talking about new numbers then. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [10] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Matthew Mishan with KeyBanc. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [11] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Just a first one on a clarification. What is the M&A contribution to the constant currency revenue growth this year? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [12] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For -- you're talking about for 2020? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [13] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [14] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About 3.5 points of growth, Matt. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [15] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Excellent. So it's about 1.5% to 3.5% organic? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [16] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That's a good range, absolutely. Yes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [17] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That's right, yes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [18] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And then just, Joe, Michael, how did you approach guidance this year kind of versus the last several years? And I guess, how much cushion have you put in this plan? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [19] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I -- a couple of things I can say and then let Michael add because it's important that Michael put his eyes on things. And it's nice having an outside view coming in. But if you think about our Q4, it was strong. But there was some seasonality. There was some recovery in Chronic Care, the backlog, and we've talked about, I think, in the release and outlined about a point or so of growth in IV infusion. That said, we still think that the implied organic growth, if you take out the unusual factors, we entered the year sort of 2% to 3% organic growth. But we have seasonality in the business. You have to balance the risks and the opportunities. And we see our Chronic Care business as a mid-single-digit top line grower. We obviously are happy with COOLIEF remaining at double digit. There's been a little bit of a change in our outlook on International being more of a mid-single-digit grower. We just still think it can get to high single-digit over time. So it's actually a catalyst for our business. So that was some of the thinking on the top line. I'll let Michael maybe give you his views and sort of how he is also viewing EPS a little bit. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [20] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Great. Thanks, Joe. Yes, Matt, I think to add to what Joe was just saying, we've learned a lot over the last 2 years. So a lot of the effort I made in the first month is to really understand what were some of the puts and takes that we experienced. What were some of the things that could have been avoided. What are some of the competitive dynamics, and let's make sure we capture with Warren, who, as you know, did a great job as interim for the last handful of months. Let's make sure that we capture the puts and takes as we go into 2020. So by no stretch do I think -- are we putting out guidance that is super conservative, if that's where your question was headed, but I do think we've done a very good job looking at the various factors as we enter the year to make sure that we understand what are some of the downside in headwinds, but also what are some of the attractive tailwinds that could kick in, especially as we get to the back half of the year. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [21] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Last thing I would say, Matt, I think we're well prepared to compete against Medtronic, and we're proving that so far. But you do have that to consider. And then we also have hereon entering Acute Pain. So for all the upsides that we actually, in fact, do have and opportunities, we're balancing that risk. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [22] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Excellent. And I just wanted to clarify, I think you guys made a point where you still think you are a low 60s gross margin company. Do you think you're going to be at 60% plus gross margin? And does the plan imply that for 2020? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [23] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matt, I think that's possible. Michael is welcome to share some of his views. But we have a lot of things. Distribution costs won't be the same in '20 as an example. We've got a lot of COGS efficiencies that we're working on. So I think that that's possible. Michael, do you want to add your thoughts? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [24] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Look, Matt, I think that there's upwards of 125 basis points or more of cost savings initiatives that we're executing against. And obviously, all those have to come through. And of course, there is some headwinds, including some mix headwinds, as we think about the revenue with the acquisitions we did, which are all below our corporate level gross margins. But the sense that we are absolutely a low 60% gross margin player with opportunities for a couple of hundred basis points above that a little bit midterm, I think, is absolutely realistic. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [25] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Excellent. Welcome, Michael. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [26] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Matt. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [27] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Chris Cooley with Stephens. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christopher Cook Cooley, Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD [28] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Just want to circle back on your comments as it pertains to the increase in accounts receivable and inventory, which is during the fourth quarter. Just hoping you could kind of help us frame how much of that was transitory when we think about the cash flow in the 4Q. And while it sounds like the LRP guidance is tabled until late summer, early fall, just thoughts on cash flow as we go through the year, both in terms of the cadence and the amount of cash flow we could see there for 2020. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [29] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. I'll say just a couple of tips and then let Michael take that. He's been working really hard in this area as well, but we did have a sequential improvement of about $13 million and obviously, fewer unusual costs. But Michael, do you want to take Chris through that? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [30] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, I think a couple of things on anything working capital-related and the systems. We have built some manual workarounds in the near term to ensure that the things in working capital that aren't where we want to be are starting to move forward, but that's obviously not a sustainable solution. So as I look through 2020, one of the reasons that we have confidence in having positive free cash flow for the full year is the fixes that we're putting into the system, being able to ensure that we have timely collections on AR and making sure that we're managing our payables appropriately. With regards to inventory, one thing we're not going to do this year is fall short of product at any stage. So if we have to have a little extra build at any given time to make sure that we're meeting front-end demand, we will do that. So we're not making any commitments on working capital improvement with regards to inventory this year, although I will tell you the manufacturing facilities are definitely focused on that. But with AR and AP, we are absolutely putting in sustainable fixes, and we do anticipate seeing improvements in both of those current asset and current liability categories. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christopher Cook Cooley, Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD [31] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That's really helpful. And if I could just squeeze one other quick one in, and then I'll get back in queue. Just when we think about the COOLIEF growth in the quarter, you're continuing to see good double-digit growth there. Could you give us some additional color as to the types of accounts or where you're seeing the greatest amount of growth? Just curious, candidly, if there's been any change in the end market environment that you're sensing in terms of purchasing patterns or utilization. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [32] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So obviously, there's still the greater portion of the -- Chris, the greater portion of the growth of that, not the growth that the business itself is in the spine area, but the higher growing areas, osteoarthritis of the knee, and I think that the positive CMS reimbursement that we received towards the end of last year is helping us outline, and our primary customer is still the Interventional Pain specialist. But these studies are drawing in a lot of orthopedic surgeons, and we're working behind the scenes to try to get reimbursement in the Ambulatory Surgical Center, which should be an even greater catalyst for that business. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [33] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Kristen Stewart with Barclays. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kristen Marie Stewart, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [34] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Can you guys hear me okay? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [35] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We can hear you, Kristen. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kristen Marie Stewart, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [36] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Great. And welcome, Michael, to Avanos call. Great to have you on board. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [37] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, Kristen. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kristen Marie Stewart, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [38] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was just wondering if you can maybe help us just frame in terms of the previous -- we identified $30 million to $40 million of restructuring savings. I know some of that, we've kind of seen come through and being reinvested. With the number last year was 7% to 10%, the numbers for 2020 have been kind of moving a little bit. How should we just think about that in terms of what the numbers are going to be for 2020? I realize some of that probably will be reinvested. And then just going forward, how much of that will actually flow through the bottom line or that will be earmarked to go forward through investments or just need to be reinvested back into the business? And I have a follow-up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [39] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, Kristen, just a couple of things, and I think Michael was going to want to weigh in on this, but we've really been getting the costs in each year. And they've obviously primarily been COGS-related to date until we stabilize our IT system. But obviously, we have cost headwinds coming in, like short-term incentive and other areas. And we talked a little bit at JPMorgan about really the inflection point being in 2021. But Michael, do you want to add? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [40] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No, I think that's right, Joe. I mean just numbers-wise, I anticipate $12 million to $16 million of cost savings in 2020. But as Joe just referenced, there'll be quite a bit of offsetting of those. So the net savings will be quite a bit less, and then $11 million to $14 million or so in 2021, and we have some good line of sight that most of that will drop to the bottom line. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [41] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from David Lewis with Morgan Stanley. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- David Ryan Lewis, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD [42] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Just maybe a few for me here. Just first for Joe. Just for COOLIEF for 2020, what's embedded in guidance in terms of growth for that product? And what assumptions sort of are made around the Medtronic entry in the market? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [43] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So we are continuing in double-digit growth with COOLIEF. To date, David, we have not seen a strong competition from COOLIEF. We've now, as the press release went out I believe last night, introduced a new council in technology that we think is even further advanced. So we -- between that and the fact that we're the only COOLIEF technology right now approved for treatment of OA of the knee, we feel pretty strong about that COOLIEF growth. It looks -- is there anything further you want to say? No? Michael is just agreeing with me. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- David Ryan Lewis, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD [44] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And just 2 more for me, I'll ask them both up front. Joe, I think you may have said this, but I think about the back half of the year, organic growth in the third quarter versus the fourth quarter, 4% in the fourth. For the second half of '19, organic growth came out around 2%. Is that the right way to think about how you think this business is entering 2020? And then for Michael, guidance sort of implies flat EBIT margin in 2020. You said low 60s GM. So is the right way to think about SG&A 2 points of deleverage, something around the 43% range? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [45] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, David, and I'll take the first part and then Michael will take the second part of the call. But when you think about the 4% organic in Q4 and what you're looking at for Q3 -- and we did talk a little bit earlier on the call about IV infusion being about a point. We do think our implied organic growth without the unusual factors is more like 2% to 3% entering the year. Obviously, there's seasonality in our business, especially on the pain side of the business that we take into effect as we go through Q1 and Q2. So that's how we see entering the year. And then, Michael? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [46] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So I think you're directionally correct on your assessment of the math. We do anticipate EBITDA on an absolute value to grow strongly double digits -- teens double digits, and we do anticipate EBITDA margin to increase about 100 basis points. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [47] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Ravi Misra with Berenberg. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Emily Bodnar, Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG, Research Division - Equity Research Associate [48] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is Emily on for Ravi. Just to start, what the FDA approved 80-Watt COOLIEF system. Can you just briefly talk about what the new features for this are and what benefits they bring? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [49] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. This is Joe. It has a better interface for our customers. It does allow for a faster throughput of the procedures in a more broad utilization of the probe. So just think of it as sort of a state-of-the-art console that's going to allow for a faster and better procedure. So we're excited about it, especially given the fact that we now have another entrant in COOLIEF and Medtronic. We think it's a jump in technology. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Emily Bodnar, Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG, Research Division - Equity Research Associate [50] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And if I could just ask one more. R&D was a bit lower than we had anticipated. Was there any reason for this? And how can we think about R&D for 2020? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [51] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Just a couple of things, and I think Michael wants to say something. But essentially, our target is to be at 6% of sales for R&D. It can change in any given quarter, obviously, due to just project spend, and we're looking at and reviewing projects and what their returns are. At the same time, we also invest alongside an open innovation like BioQ. So -- and that was a $5 million investment, a couple of quarters ago, to get an electronic state-of-the-art pump into the Acute Pain business, but our intention is to maintain sort of that 5% to 6% range. Did you want to add? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [52] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No. Nothing to add. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [53] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Rick Wise with Stifel. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Andrew Christopher Ranieri, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - Associate [54] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joe and Michael, it's Drew Ranieri on for Rick. I just wanted to start on M&A integration. Just with the IT stabilization continuing to progress, could you talk about maybe the steps for M&A integration and where could you capture potential revenue synergies? And as the IT system stabilizes, how are your thoughts evolving on growth and profitability of the prior transactions? Should we think about their growth rates and profitability as continuing to meet your expectations? Or could we potentially see an acceleration in 2020 and 2021? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [55] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So the way we view the integrations is that, obviously, as you can imagine, we have 3 major project teams going on, plus some of the things that we're doing on our own structure. But the bulk of those benefits happen as we begin H2 as we stabilize the IT system and really get the benefits of those synergies really as we're sort of ending the year and into the second half. We do think that -- and I think Corpak is a good example of this, that we can enhance profitability, certainly, gross margin and sales for these acquisitions. And NeoMed is the example on the gross margin side. Michael, anything? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [56] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Drew, I think as you asked about the integrations from a system standpoint, most of that synergy is really a cost synergy and our ability to leverage the system and business processes. And then also, as I mentioned earlier, in the back half of the year, as we start to leverage our new system from an analysis standpoint, those are the types of things that will lead to insights that will hopefully have some revenue outcomes -- positive revenue outcomes. But on the front end of our integrations, especially systems related, those are going to be all cost-focused synergies. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Andrew Christopher Ranieri, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - Associate [57] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Got it. And then just on -- back to COOLIEF. Just with the new 80-Watt system, can you touch on maybe the opportunity there in the near term? Is it about converting existing accounts? And how quickly could that happen? Or is it more about getting adoption from new accounts? And just us tell us what's in there, does the 80-Watt system really kind of helped you drive adoption or start to drive adoption in the Ambulatory Surgical Center? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [58] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think a couple of things. So one is, I think you'll see some upgrade opportunity. People are going to want the newer system for the efficiencies. I also think it's a good way now that we have another entrant into the market to differentiate ourselves from that perspective. But really, the Ambulatory Surgical Center component of this is more about reimbursement than it is about technology. So once there's a reimbursement that makes economic sense, for example, for orthopedic surgeons, I think that there's an opportunity for us to expand into Ambulatory Surgical Center. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [59] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) Our next question is a follow-up from Matthew Mishan with KeyBanc. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [60] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the press release, you talked about a couple -- in the script, you talked about a couple of the surveys, but one specifically with COOLIEF versus HLA or hyaluronic acid at 12 months versus 6 months. Could you go into a little bit more detail on how big the difference in pain relief was for COOLIEF at the 1-year mark versus HLA? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [61] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, Matt, it's very similar to the corticosteroid study. And then obviously, at the midpoint, I believe that sort of showed 12 months. And then as the study went on, we're able to talk about a 24-month pain relief. So I think it's pretty strong, pretty significant. And if you think about HA, in some cases, that may work a few weeks or a few months. So I think there's a really strong economic story as well. Again, how that becomes a catalyst for us in our business is oriented to reimbursement in the Ambulatory Surgical Center. We're going to have -- and that's why we're doing the data, by the way, as the clinical studies are going to allow for that. It's also going to allow for us to have a better conversation with commercial payers. So it's a several year process, but it's a good thing for us in the future. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Ian Mishan, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Senior Equity Research Analyst [62] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And then last one for Michael. I think a lot of the stuff you're talking about is exiting momentum -- exiting 2020 with a lot of momentum on the cost side. Could you also talk to your expectation on the potential to reprice long-term debt at the end of the year? And then also, how do you get the tax rate closer to peers? I think 25% to 27% was a little bit of a surprise. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael C. Greiner, Avanos Medical, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [63] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, great. Thanks, Matt. I'll take the tax one first. So the tax one, definitely longer term, we anticipate being in that 23% to 25% range. We have a couple of years here where, from a tax standpoint, we're in a loss position. We're not able to benefit from things like foreign tax credits. There's a variety of things going on there as well with GILTI. And so it's just -- this is a little bit of a temporal factor for our taxes. Cash taxes, however, will continue to be very low. And so that's what I tend to focus on more than the effective tax rate, which can bounce around a bit. But from a modeling standpoint, I anticipate, longer term, our 23% to 25% effective tax rate. With regards to our debt, we do have the opportunity. You correctly state around ability to reprice our debt at the -- in the fall time period. Dave and I will closely monitor where the markets are at that point, what our capacity needs are from an M&A standpoint and what our strategy looks like from M&A., whether that be tuck-in or larger types of opportunities. So that will all be -- all of those factors will be incumbent upon what we do from a debt standpoint. But I do anticipate that we will look at that piece of our capital structure in the fall when the opportunity to reprice arises. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [64] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Joe Woody for any closing remarks. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph F. Woody, Avanos Medical, Inc. - CEO & Director [65] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I want to thank everybody for your interest in Avanos. As you can tell, I'm confident in the business outlook and our ability to deliver against the priorities that we have outlined today and continue to outline. I believe in the solid fundamentals of this business and that we're well positioned to create value for our shareholders. Also, Michael and Dave will be at the upcoming Raymond James Institutional Conference in Orlando, and the 3 of us will be at the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference in Miami Beach. I believe that's the week after that meeting. Information about how to access the presentations can be found on the Investor Relations section of our website at avanos.com. Thank you. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [66] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The conference has now concluded. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.