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Edited Transcript of BRG.OL earnings conference call or presentation 18-Oct-19 6:00am GMT

Q3 2019 Borregaard ASA Earnings Presentation

Oslo Oct 21, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Borregaard ASA earnings conference call or presentation Friday, October 18, 2019 at 6:00:00am GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Per Arthur Sørlie

Borregaard ASA - President & CEO

* Per Bjarne Lyngstad

Borregaard ASA - CFO

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Presentation

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Per Arthur Sørlie, Borregaard ASA - President & CEO [1]

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Good morning, and welcome to this third quarter 2019 presentation for Borregaard. My name is Per Sørlie. I'm the President and CEO, and I'll be joined this morning by our CFO, Per Bjarne Lyngstad.

The agenda for today is that I'll go and take you through the highlights in the quarter. I'll give you an update, market update for the different business areas, also a slight project update on a new project that we announced yesterday and then the outlook for the remainder of the year. Then Per Bjarne will take over and talk about the financial performance.

The EBITA adjusted came in at NOK 180 million in the quarter, up from NOK 145 million last year. All business areas had an improvement in their result. In Performance Chemicals, we had a favorable product mix but a lower volume. Specialty Cellulose had both an improved product mix and also a very high production in the quarter. Continued strong improvement in Ingredients. That is the fourth quarter in a row where we had good performance there. And finally, also all business areas benefited from a positive net currency impact.

If we turn to Performance Chemicals, the average price in sales currency came down 1%. The price in Norwegian kroner increased just below 5%. However, with the reduced price in sales currency, we saw a -- at the same time, we saw a favorable product mix, which means that on average, the cost of production per tonne sold was below what we have seen before, which is due to the mix. So the profit level came up even though the average price came slightly down. And of course, also in this business area you have positive foreign exchange effects.

If we look at the sales volume, the sales volume came down 2% versus the last quarter, which is a bit disappointing, especially also compared with our previous guidance. The reason for that is that the strong competition that we see in Construction has an impact and also that certain low-value applications in industrial, which means that these are fairly simple standard binding applications came down in volume. We see now that when we look at the cement and -- consumption worldwide, we see that there is a reduction in the cement consumption so the building activity is down. And this is reflected -- not fully reflected, but somehow reflected in our volume numbers on Construction.

So that means that both Construction and Industrial has slightly lower volumes than the same quarter last year. However, Specialties continue to grow and also had growth in this quarter. So that contributed to the favorable product mix.

The Florida sales volume is in accordance with the ramp-up plan, so there are spaces made for the ramp-up of the Florida plant. Also, I should remind you that back in May, we sent out a press release saying that our supplier in -- raw material supplier in Flambeau, Flambeau in North America has financial difficulties. They are in Chapter 11. In the quarter, we had reduced raw material supply from Flambeau. So that contributes in a way to balancing the production and the sales in the quarter.

If we look at Speciality Cellulose markets, the price in Norwegian kroner here came up just above 4%. In sales currency, the pricing is fairly flat. It was marginally lower in this particular quarter. And this is driven by lower prices in acetate and textile cellulose. And this is compensated when you calculate the average price by the fact that we have a stronger product mix. We have an increased share of the highly specialized products, that drives up the average price. Also, in this quarter, we had a fairly decent sales volume, better than in the same quarter last year. And this area also, of course, has a positive FX impact since all these products are produced in Norway and exported.

Then the Ingredients and Fine Chemicals. The Ingredients had its fourth strong quarter in a row. As you can see from the tables on the left-hand side, the sales volume or sales revenues came up in the fourth quarter 2018, and it has continued at roughly the same level into 2019. So the comparable price, comparable profitability in third quarter as we have seen in the previous 2 quarters this year.

And in Fine Chemicals, we also had a decent quarter. We had high deliveries and also a favorable product mix that contributed to a good result in Fine Chemicals.

We also announced yesterday that we will upgrade our caustic soda production facility in Sarpsborg. Caustic soda is an important strategic raw material for us. It's very -- we consume a lot of caustic soda, both in the high specialties in cellulose and also in the vanillin production, the wood-based vanillin. So this is a strategic raw material and we have decided to produce most of that raw material captively. And we have done that for a very long time. It's necessary to upgrade and modernize this plant and we have decided to invest NOK 207 million, and this is very important for the Borregaard's competitive position in those 3 areas because producing -- to have a captive production in this area gives us a cost advantage compared to competition in Specialty Cellulose and also compared to alternative technologies in wood-based vanillin. We produce roughly 2/3 of our total needs. The rest is sourced externally from other producers of caustic soda.

So this will be modernized by the end of 2021. I think the important point here is also that this investment is a replacement investment and as we have guided before, our replacement CapEx over time should be equal to our depreciation. This investment will be included inside the replacement CapEx, and we expect to stay within our depreciation over this period. So this is just a priority project within the replacement CapEx.

We have previously given guidance and there's actually guidance at Page 25 in the quarterly presentation pack as well that gives you guidance for investment CapEx in the next -- this year and next year, and this project has been included in that guidance for some time. So this is all -- it will not lead to additional CapEx over what we have guided for in the past.

Then I'm onto the outlook. In Performance Chemicals, we now expect the sales volume in the fourth quarter to be in line with the same quarter last year. And this will imply a 2% full year volume increase. So this is lower than we had expected before, and it's coming back to the same reasons that I mentioned earlier that we see quite strong price and volume competition in concrete admixtures and certain low-value applications within Industrial segment. But this will be largely compensated by a more favorable product mix, in line with what we have seen in previous quarters.

Specialty Cellulose. The average price will stay more -- much in line with what we saw last year. The improved product mix, as I said, will compensate for lower pricing in acetate and textile cellulose. On the other hand, a more specialized product mix also drives cost. It's more costly to produce more specialized products, so a better mix costs more to produce.

In the next quarter we expect to have a sales volume and mix in line with the same level that we saw in the quarter that we just left. But I should also remind you maybe that what we don't say here, but in the fourth quarter we always do the major maintenance stuff at our facility in Sarpsborg so that's why we have reduced production in the fourth quarter, and this is usually reflected in our results.

Other businesses. The level that we have seen for wood-based vanillin, pricing-wise and revenue-wise, is expected to continue. I should remind you that in line with what we have said at previous quarters that we think that for the time being, the price level has flattened out at this level as we have seen in the last 4 quarters now. But we expect that to continue at the same level. Deliveries in Fine Chemicals are expected to be in line with the third quarter, but with a slightly weaker product mix. So the level of deliveries is at the same level, but not as profitable as we saw in the third quarter. Cellulose Fibrils and net corporate costs are expected to be at the same level that we saw in the third -- fourth quarter last year.

So that completes the outlook. Then I will hand over to Per Bjarne for the financial performance.

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Per Bjarne Lyngstad, Borregaard ASA - CFO [2]

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Thank you, Per, and good morning, everyone. Borregaard's operating revenues increased by 8% compared with the third quarter last year. EBITA adjusted increased by NOK 35 million to NOK 180 million and, as Per said, all our business areas improved their results.

The net currency effects were in total positive by NOK 20 million compared with the third quarter last year, and the positive impact was quite equally spread between the 3 segments. The EBITA adjusted margin for the group was 14.5%, close to 2 percentage points improvement compared with the third quarter last year.

Earnings per share ended at NOK 1.31 compared with NOK 1.27 last year. In the third quarter, net financial items were negatively impacted by NOK 6 million from the implementation of IFRS 16 leases while in the third quarter last year, net financial items were positively affected by a NOK 20 million gain on sale of a minority stake in a U.S. chemical company. Both of these items affected the change in earnings per share.

In Performance Chemicals, operating revenues increased by 1% compared with the third quarter 2018, mainly from a positive currency impact. EBITA adjusted increased by NOK 12 million to NOK 67 million. Distribution costs were lower than last year when we had interruptions in raw material supply, and the ramp-up in Florida resulted in a higher-than-normal cost. Favorable product mix and positive currency effects also contributed to the improved result. The favorable product mix more than compensated for 1% lower average price in sales currency. And higher depreciation related to the start-up of the upgraded lignin operation and the new warehouse in Norway had a negative impact on EBITA adjusted in this quarter. The EBITA adjusted margin increased by approximately 2 percentage points compared with last year.

Speciality Cellulose's operating revenues increased by 12% compared with the third quarter 2018 as a result of higher sales volume and positive currency effects. EBITA adjusted ended at NOK 82 million compared with NOK 76 million last year. An improved but more costly product mix contributed to the increased result. In addition, a high production volume and a positive net currency impact contributed positively. On the other hand, higher wood costs had a negative impact compared with last year.

Bioethanol's result increased due to higher production volume and lower production costs. And EBITA adjusted margin in this area was 19.3%, close to the margin level in the third quarter last year.

Operating revenues in other businesses increased by as much as 19% compared with the third quarter last year, mainly from higher sales in both Ingredients and Fine Chemicals and from currency effects. EBITA adjusted improved by NOK 17 million to NOK 31 million, mainly from increased prices for wood-based vanillin. Fine Chemicals' result improved due to higher deliveries and a favorable product mix.

Cellulose Fibrils had a weaker result as reduced cost cover ratio from EU's Horizon 2020 grant was not fully compensated by higher sales and improved productivity in this quarter. Net corporate costs were in line with the same quarter last year. And also here, the net currency impact was positive.

As I said earlier, the net currency impact on EBITA adjusted was positive by approximately NOK 20 million compared with the third quarter 2018. The positive impact came from a weaker Norwegian kroner, which weakened by approximately 6% compared with the third quarter last year if you are using Borregaard's currency basket. Hedging losses were NOK 23 million compared with a loss of NOK 7 million in the third quarter last year, and this was partly offsetting the positive impact from a weaker Norwegian kroner.

Year-to-date, the net currency impact on EBITA adjusted was positive by approximately NOK 80 million, and hedging losses were NOK 44 million compared with a loss of NOK 10 million last year. Using currency rates as of yesterday when the Norwegian kroner was at its weakest level since late 2018 -- 2008, the impact from currency in the fourth quarter is estimated to be positive by about NOK 15 million compared with the fourth quarter 2018. And then, the corresponding impact for the full year of 2019 is estimated as a consequence to be approximately NOK 95 million.

The cash flow from operation was higher than in the previous 3 quarters. However the cash flow from operation was lower than in the third quarter of 2018 mainly as a result of an unfavorable development in net working capital compared with the same quarter last year. In the third quarter, net working capital increased by NOK 37 million, mainly as a result of a weaker Norwegian kroner, high production and increased inventories, reduced investments resulting in lower accounts payable and utilization of the prepaid EU grant.

Investments in the third quarter was NOK 101 million. Expansion investments were mainly related to the upgrade of the lignin operation in Norway. Net interest-bearing debt, excluding the impact from IFRS 16 leases, decreased by NOK 51 million in the third quarter, mainly from a good cash flow from operation and reduced investments. At the end of the third quarter, Borregaard is well capitalized with an equity ratio of 50% and a leverage ratio of 1.65 if we exclude IFRS 16 leases impact.

And that concludes today's presentation. Now Per Sørlie and I will be ready for any questions.

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Per Arthur Sørlie, Borregaard ASA - President & CEO [3]

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Okay. Perfect. So everything was crystal clear for the audience. Thank you very much.

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Per Bjarne Lyngstad, Borregaard ASA - CFO [4]

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Thank you.