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Edited Transcript of BRSS earnings conference call or presentation 1-Mar-19 3:00pm GMT

Q4 2018 Global Brass and Copper Holdings Inc Earnings Call

Schaumburg Mar 2, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Global Brass and Copper Holdings Inc earnings conference call or presentation Friday, March 1, 2019 at 3:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Anne-Marie W. D'Angelo

Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - General Counsel & Corporate Secretary

* Christopher J. Kodosky

Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CFO

* John J. Wasz

Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Daniel Joseph Moore

CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Q4 2018 Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Anne-Marie D'Angelo, General Counsel. You may begin.

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Anne-Marie W. D'Angelo, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - General Counsel & Corporate Secretary [2]

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Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our fourth quarter 2018 earnings call. My name is Anne-Marie D'Angelo, and I am Global Brass and Copper's General Counsel. Joining me on the conference call today are John Wasz, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Christopher Kodosky, our Chief Financial Officer. An archived version of this call will be available later this morning on the Investor Relations section of our corporate website at www.gbcholdings.com.

Before beginning our discussion, we'd like to remind everyone that our prepared remarks and responses to questions may include forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Federal Securities laws. These statements are subject to a variety of risks, uncertainties and assumptions that may cause actual results to differ materially from those stated or implied by the forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statements represent our views only as of today and should not be relied upon as of any subsequent date. Information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ from those in the forward-looking statements may be found in the risk factors contained in our most recent annual report on Form 10-K and our other filings with the SEC. This call will discuss non-GAAP financial measures such as adjusted EBITDA, adjusted sales and adjusted diluted earnings per common share. Reconciliations to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures are provided in our earnings release for the fiscal quarter and year ended December 31, 2018.

I now would like to turn the call over to John Wasz.

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [3]

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Thank you, Anne-Marie. Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us in today's call. Overall, we're pleased with the progress and improvements made at Global Brass and Copper in 2018. Adjusted EBITDA was on par with the prior year, despite the prior year benefiting from a $7.4 million of insurance proceeds. In 2018, we managed through some operational challenges at Chase Brass and delivered solid financial performance through our continued focus and improvements in manufacturing excellence, commercial pricing strategies and supply chain initiatives. A.J. Oster had a notable year, and the integration of the Alumet acquisition continues to progress very well and it's delivering better-than-expected results.

During 2018, we refinanced our term loan debt, which reduced our interest rate by 75 basis points. We increased our quarterly dividend. We initiated a share repurchase program resulting in a repurchase of 400,000 shares, and we generated $96 million in cash. We remain committed to improving the strategic foundation of our business, generating significant cash flows, strengthening our balance sheet and driving long-term profitable growth by expanding the depth and breadth of our existing businesses and through accretive acquisitions. The improvements we have experienced across our enterprise are a testament to the teamwork and focused improvement efforts of employees across GBC. We appreciate their dedication to GBC in continuously strengthening and improving our company.

As we have said before, we're in an industry and in markets which require agility and relentless focus on reducing costs, improving productivity, optimizing inventory, pricing our products appropriately and creating unique value for our customers. Through our balanced book philosophy and asset management practices, our focus remains on generating sustainable, profitable growth rather than chasing volume to fill up production capacity. We will continue to pricing our products to enhance our long-term profitability, to achieve an appropriate return on our inventory and production assets and a justified business reinvestment to continue to provide excellent product quality and service to our valued customers.

Turning to Olin Brass. 2018 full year results included increases in both adjusted EBITDA and volumes. Volumes increased predominantly in munitions and coinage. Munitions' increase was a result of a more balanced inventory profile throughout the supply chain as compared to 2017. Olin Brass' adjusted EBITDA increased primarily due to the increased volumes and favorable scrap spreads, better metal margins and improved raw material sourcing. The Olin Brass team continues to focus on product profitability and its supply chain and manufacturing excellence initiatives, while providing their customers with best-in-class quality and service.

Regarding the A.J. Oster business. Adjusted EBITDA volumes and margins in the base business all increased as compared to the prior year. Base volumes were favorable in the automotive and electronics and electrical components markets. The growth in automotive is an encouraging sign, as it supports our belief that volumes will grow with the increased electrification of cars. Alumet volumes were lower than anticipated, but adjusted EBITDA exceeded expectations as the commercial team drove product profitability and the various commercial elements of the asset management philosophy to make sure we were making an appropriate return on our sales. The A.J. Oster base business adjusted EBITDA was favorably impacted by positive improvements in product mix, selling price and volumes. I'm pleased with the integration of Alumet, and we'd like to thank the A.J. Oster team for their teamwork and focused efforts toward integrating and improving this business.

Chase Brass had a challenging year. Volumes decreased in the building and housing market to a drop in the underlying demand, resulting from the slowing U.S. housing formation and increased competition from parts imported into the United States. This, coupled with operational difficulties largely caused by labor availability issues, negatively impacted EBITDA, which was partially offset by better metal margins and raw material sourcing. Throughout the year, the Chase team addressed the labor availability issues while continuing to deliver to their customers exceptional quality, short lead times and best-in-class, on-time delivery.

Overall in 2018, we continue to make meaningful progress on numerous areas of strategic focus, which will translate into profitable growth in the future. We remain committed to improving the strategic foundation of our business, generating significant cash flows, driving profitable organic growth and making smart, strategic acquisitions.

With that, I will turn the call over to Christopher for a more detailed view of our financials.

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Christopher J. Kodosky, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CFO [4]

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Thanks, John, and good morning, everyone. Unless otherwise noted, my comments and discussion will focus on our Q4 2018 and full year 2018 results as compared to Q4 and full year 2017.

I would like to highlight that the full year 2017 results include: A $7.4 million recovery of insurance proceeds from our 2016 production outage at Olin Brass; approximately $2.4 million more of expense for unusual costs associated with our HSA transition; increased cost of goods sold due to the inventory reductions at Olin Brass; and additional costs incurred related to the A.J. Oster ERP implementation; and the impact of U.S. tax reform as well as the tax benefit related to share award vestings and option exercises from our adoption of new accounting pronouncements on stock compensation. In addition, 2018 results include the full year results for Alumet, which we acquired in November 2017. All of these events make the financial comparisons to the prior year more challenging.

First, I'll comment on our fourth quarter. From a volume perspective, Q4 '18 volumes increased 3 million pounds, or 3%, as a result of 5 million pounds of incremental volume generated by Alumet. Excluding Alumet, volumes decreased 2%, or 2 million pounds, primarily due to softness in building and housing volumes.

Net sales for the quarter decreased 5% to $404 million, primarily as a result of a decrease in pass-through metal prices, partially offset by increased Alumet sales. We reduced net sales by the cost of metal within cost of goods sold to arrive at adjusted sales, a non-GAAP revenue measure. Metal costs reflect the costs of replacing metal sold to the customer, whereas adjusted sales is our internal measure of the value-added or conversion revenue generated from our operations. Fourth quarter adjusted sales increased by 7% to $147 million due to an incremental $9 million of adjusted sales generated by Alumet, along with improvement from our metal pricing, sourcing and blending initiatives.

Net income attributable to GBC for the quarter was $6.6 million or $0.29 per diluted share versus $5.6 million or $0.25 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2017. The increase is due to a decrease in tax expense as a result of tax reform enacted in December 2017, partially offset by a decreased gross profit.

Fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA, a non-GAAP financial measure, decreased by 14% to $25 million. The decrease was primarily due to unfavorable conversion costs and increased compensation costs, partially offset by increased volumes.

Now I will discuss performance in each of our 3 reportable segments for the fourth quarter. Olin Brass' volumes increased 3% to 60 million pounds due to increases in the munitions and automotive markets. Although volumes increased, adjusted EBITDA decreased 6% to $12 million due to changes in product mix. Also, negatively affecting adjusted EBITDA were slight increases in production costs due to decreased productivity, partially reflected by the benefit on the inventory builds in Q4 2017.

Chase Brass' volumes decreased 8% to 47 million pounds due to the softening in the building and housing volumes we saw in Q4 2018. Adjusted EBITDA decreased to $13 million, driven by the volume decrease and unfavorable production cost as a result of operational inefficiencies.

Turning to A.J. Oster. Alumet shipped an incremental 5.5 million pounds and generated an additional $600,000 of adjusted EBITDA in the fourth quarter. Base business volumes and adjusted EBITDA both increased by about 2% due to increases in the automotive demand and increased compensation and related expenses.

Okay. Let's turn the page in the fourth quarter, and I'll give a brief summary of the results for the full year 2018. Regarding the full year, volumes increased 57 million pounds, or 11%, 50 million pounds of which was generated by Alumet. Excluding Alumet, volumes increased 1%, or 7 million pounds, primarily due to increased munitions and automotive volumes. These volume increases were partially offset by a softness in the building and housing market.

Net sales increased by 12% to $1.8 billion. Excluding Alumet, net sales increased 4%, primarily due to an increase in pass-through metal prices and an increase in volumes. Adjusted sales increased by 15% to $617 million due to the $56 million of adjusted sales generated by Alumet, other organic volume increases and improvements from our metal pricing, sourcing and blending initiatives.

Net income attributable to GBC was $58.2 million or $2.61 per diluted share versus $51.1 million or $2.31 per diluted share in 2017. This increase can be attributed to the combination of the following: a decrease in tax expense of $16.6 million; $7.8 million improvement from our metal pricing, sourcing and blending initiatives, $2 million of which occurred within Olin Brass opportunistically and may not repeat in the future; the Alumet acquisition, $4.7 million; $2.4 million more dollars of expenses associated in the prior year for unusual costs of our HSA medical plan transition, increased costs of sales due to inventory reductions at Olin Brass and costs incurred at A.J. Oster related to its ERP implementation; decreased share-based compensation expenses of $1.5 million; decreased specialized legal and professional expenses of $900,000; a favorable change in our LIFO liquidation loss and gain of $900,000; the absence of a $7.4 million benefit recorded in the prior year related to the recovery of insurance proceeds associated with our 2016 production outage; an unfavorable change at our lower of cost or market adjustment to inventory of $6.5 million; increased employee and related expenses; increased depreciation expenses of approximately $2.6 million; an unfavorable change in unrealized gains and losses on derivative contracts of $2 million; increased conversion costs of $1.8 million stemming from operational inefficiencies; increased shrinkage costs as a result of higher metal prices; and costs incurred of $700,000 related to the environmental incident in our Olin Brass facility earlier in the year.

Adjusted EBITDA decreased 2% to $129 million, primarily due to the combination of the following: the absence of a $7.4 million of income related to insurance proceeds recorded in 2017 for the 2016 production outage; increased employee and employee-related costs; increased conversion costs of $1.8 million stemming from operational inefficiencies that negatively impacted yields and productivity; increased shrinkage costs as a result of higher metal prices; $700,000 associated with the environmental incident at the Olin Brass facility earlier in the year; $7.8 million improvement from our metal pricing, sourcing and blending initiatives, $2 million of which is associated in Olin Brass and may not repeat in the future; increased income from our Alumet acquisition of $5.9 million; and $2.4 million more of unusual costs in the prior year associated with HSA, inventory reductions and the ERP transition costs, as previously mentioned.

Next, for the fourth quarter and full year as compared to the prior year, adjusted diluted earnings per common share, a non-GAAP measure, increased 88% and 27% to $0.56 per share and $2.12 per share, respectively. Along with the factors affecting adjusted EBITDA and the related tax impact, favorable fluctuations in the provision for income taxes also affected the fluctuation in adjusted diluted earnings per share. An increase in the weighted-average shares outstanding negatively affected adjusted diluted EPS by $0.02 per share for the year.

We ended the year with $126 million of cash, $313 million outstanding under our term loan facility and $195 million of availability under our asset-based facility.

During 2018, we generated $122 million of cash from operating activities: $101 million from earnings, and $21 million of cash inflows from changes in working capital, which was impacted by the timing of toll sales. In the fourth quarter, we repurchased 400,000 shares of our common stock, and under the 2018 share repurchase program, we have a remaining authorization of $22.4 million.

Capital expenditures in 2018 were $26 million compared to $25 million in 2017. We expect capital expenditures in 2019 to be between $30 million and $35 million.

I'd like to go back to our Alumet acquisition briefly. Please recall that when we acquired Alumet about a year ago, we expected long-term volume and adjusted EBITDA run rates to approximately 55 million to 65 million pounds and $5 million to $7 million. The fact that, in 2018, Alumet generated $7 million of adjusted EBITDA and 58 million pounds demonstrates not only our commitment to growing profitably through acquisitions as well as organically, but also, our ability to integrate the acquisitions we make. And while we still have further synergies to gain, I commend our team on their execution of the Alumet integration plan and building value for our shareholders and customers.

Last, before I turn to our guidance for 2019, please be aware that beginning in 2019, we are no longer including stock compensation expense as an add-back to arrive at adjusted EBITDA and adjusted diluted earnings per share. I encourage you to review a presentation we have posted to our website that walks through the justification for this change and present the historical calculations of these metrics and the old and new basis of calculation. But in brief, we believe our results are more comparable to our peers by not adding back these expenses, and we will revise our 2018 and prior amounts to make them comparable to our 2019 presentation. The annual revisions of these amounts are included with the presentation deck that I mentioned we posted to our website.

Now turning to our outlook for 2019. I would like to first remind you that we focus on the long term, and our ability to provide guidance is constrained by our short lead times and the tendency of our shipment volumes to lag published market indicators. Having said that, based on a variety of factors, including our 2018 results, industry trends and our own insight, our 2019 guidance for volumes and adjusted EBITDA under the new calculation methodology of that metric is as follows: shipment volumes, within the range of 555 million to 595 million pounds and adjusted EBITDA within the range of $120 million to $130 million. Our adjusted EBITDA guidance of $120 million to $130 million is comparable to 2018's amount of $121.8 million, excluding the stock-topped add-back. If we still utilize our old methodology of calculating adjusted EBITDA, our guidance would have been $129 million to $139 million as compared to the $128.5 million we actually generated in 2018.

With that, I'll turn the call back over to John.

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [5]

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Thanks, Christopher. We continue to be pleased with our Alumet acquisition results and its integration into A.J. Oster. As you know, we have a strong capital structure and cash flows, and we're excited about the opportunities we have to improve our businesses and encouraged by the progress our employees had made in advancing improvements across the enterprise.

We remain focused on driving profitable growth, and we'll be disciplined on cost, productivity, margin management and working capital efficiency. Thank you to the employees of GBC for their teamwork and continued focus on improving our customer and creating unique value for our customers. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers and shareholders, and we thank you for your interest and continued support. Now we're ready to take your questions.

Operator, please explain the question-and-answer procedures.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Daniel Moore from CJS Securities.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [2]

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Let me start with housing and building. How much of the softness that you saw in Q4 would you attribute to just end markets being a little bit softer? How much is it a little bit more of imports from -- competition from low-cost imports for finished goods? And any update on the kind of trade front there?

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [3]

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I'll start with your last. Update on trade front is in the -- the $200 billion tranche of tariffs that were enacted, I think, several months ago at 10%, that were planning to go to 25% on March 1, that has subsequently been delayed. There were several handfuls of brass parts that were considered in that, and those brass parts basically competed with Chase Brass customers who consume brass rod. So we're watchful to see how well that plays out here over the coming months. So that's the story from a tariff standpoint. I think -- as we think about the second half of 2018 and even the first quarter of 2019, Dan, I think 2 things have happened. One is, you've had the worm turn a bit mid-last year as far as housing formation is concerned. And as that occurred, I think the customers and the retail and the wholesale looked at their inventory levels based upon lower sales, and they started backing up their purchasing a bit. And then the second thing you had is, as a result of the threat -- and we don't have any data right now to support this, but we've had a lot of chatter with our customers, as a result of the threat of the tariffs going from 10% to 25%, it's our belief that within the channel, certain wholesalers, retailers or whatever prepurchased. So you had an influx of inventory that was submitted into the channel as well. So you really had 2 things happening in the second half of the year. I think we hit the low points in the fourth quarter. My guess is -- or our expectation is building and housing is going to continue to be soft through the first quarter and then start coming back up. And quite frankly, as we look at our '19 building and housing as compared to '18, we're expecting it to be more.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [4]

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Perfect. Great color, I appreciate it. In terms of auto and electrical, it's been a driver for you, obviously. You didn't touch on it specifically in terms of newer term trends, Q4 going into early 2019. What do you see in there?

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [5]

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We continue to be positive. And hats off to the teams at A.J. Oster and Olin Brass on the work they've done over the last several years in repositioning our high-performance alloy portfolio, not only from a production cost perspective but also from a value perspective, getting what is rightfully ours from a customer standpoint. We're well positioned. We've got strong customer participants. And we're excited about what's happening with the electrification of autos, and inevitably, autonomous driving will add even more. So we're feeling positive about the amount of our product going into cars, not only in the luxury levels, but now even in the mid-range and lower-range cars.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [6]

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Perfect. And last, and then I'll jump back in queue, but you called out, John, some unfavorable conversion costs impacting in Q4 at the margin. Talk about those and to what extent those are remedied or kind of the outlook there.

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [7]

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Yes. We had some specific issues at Olin Brass that have been remedied. And then 2018 was a challenging year for Chase from an operational perspective, with some first part of the year issues relative to labor -- relative to labor access and a variety of things, which they have worked very hard on remediating. And in addition to that, they had some equipment issues that had to be addressed in the Christmas outage, and that resulted in additional fourth quarter expense. But pleased to report that they've remedied those issues.

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Christopher J. Kodosky, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CFO [8]

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Yes, and just to build onto that. The team did a really good job in managing that. If you look at Chase, specifically like John was talking about, their volumes in the first half of the year and the second half of the year we're about 3 million pounds less than the prior year each versus the second half. But the cost basis was significantly different. They've got north of $2 million increased costs in the first half of the year associated with these labor issues and managing those, and that really cleared itself through the second half of the year.

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Operator [9]

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(Operator Instructions) I'm showing no further question at this time. I would like to turn the conference back to Anne-Marie D'Angelo.

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Anne-Marie W. D'Angelo, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - General Counsel & Corporate Secretary [10]

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Thank you, everyone for…

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [11]

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Go ahead. Go ahead, Albert.

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Operator [12]

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We have a follow-up question, comes from the line of Daniel Moore.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [13]

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I'll keep going, I appreciate it. And sorry for the delay. Coinage, John, obviously, it's always been lumpy quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year. But how should we think about it? If you look back over maybe a 5-year period with the CAGR, its trajectory, is it up a little, down a little? And anything you're seeing in terms of changes in that trend?

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [14]

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It's bottomed down in 2014. It's been jumping up and then jumping back down. But I think the way you need to think about is that it's a GDP-plus business. We're anticipating coinage volumes next year to be very slightly above what we experienced in 2018, and that's the way we're looking at it going forward.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [15]

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Got it. And then maybe for Christopher, cash generation is obviously through the roof this year. Just -- I think you mentioned a number for a receivable, how much of that impacted? And any detail or color in terms of how much of that was lower metal prices? Or is this timing of working capital, et cetera?

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Christopher J. Kodosky, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CFO [16]

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Sure. I wouldn't say a significant piece is due to changing metal prices. The majority of the fluctuations year-over-year have been due to specific customer relationship activity and kind of almost second half of December -- even second half of December activity. So while we generated significant amount of cash this year, I would expect some of those anomalies to go away. And with a CapEx of $30 million, $35 million in '19, I'd expect our free cash flow in '19 to probably be somewhere in the $60 million to $70 million range. Now that's assuming that we also get back to a 26% effective tax rate. This year, we are closer to 23%. We had some benefits of changes in accounting that we had to get approved with the IRS and did that and enjoyed that benefit this year. So we guided to 25% to 27% at the beginning of the year, and without those election changes, we would have been straight at that 26% mark, which is probably what I'm expecting for 2019.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [17]

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Perfect. That knocks off another question -- 2 birds. But in terms of CapEx ticking up a little bit higher, specific projects or is it just a little bit of the delayed or deferred maintenance? What's the modest build there?

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Christopher J. Kodosky, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CFO [18]

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I wouldn't say deferred maintenance. Obviously, given the scope and complexity of our plant, there's maintenance that we do every year. But we've also done a good job over the last several years of putting in costlier but smaller projects around getting production efficiencies and increasing our yield, such things as scanning and surface condition recognition. We've actually done a really good job in those. It's helped us to reduce our breakevens, which is another information that you have available to you. But we've reduced our breakeven amount significantly, and I commend the team on that. So I think the increase -- for this year, we had thought it would be more in the $30 million, $35 million range, we took a better viewpoint towards managing that more strategically. But I would expect next year would probably be about $30 million to $35 million as well.

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Daniel Joseph Moore, CJS Securities, Inc. - Director of Research [19]

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Got it. And then lastly, in terms of capital allocation, obviously, more aggressive in Q4 on the buyback front. But still, leverage continues to tick lower. Do you expect to remain active in terms of share repurchase absent M&A opportunities?

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Christopher J. Kodosky, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CFO [20]

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Yes. I think when we put that program in, we said we'd buy back stocks for 2 reasons: one to combat dilution; and two, to be opportunistic and invest in our own stock. From the standpoint of the 400,000 shares we bought back, it didn't combat dilution for the whole year. And that's largely due to just the timing of when we could buy them as well as we didn't implement the program until sort of mid-part of the year. But I would continue to execute on those buybacks to -- for those same reasons: opportunistically and as well as to combat dilution.

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John J. Wasz, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - CEO, President, COO & Director [21]

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Dan, this is John. Just one thing that I would add on the capital component is, as we think about the next several years, our efforts to profitably grow are not just with our existing business, but also with organic growth, and then obviously through smart acquisitions. As we think about organic growth, we are making investments in the future regarding capital and people in order to further enhance our opportunities for organic growth, whether that be at A.J. Oster, whether that be at Chase Brass or Olin Brass. So that's also a component of the capital increase.

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Operator [22]

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I'm showing no further question at this time. I would like to turn the conference back to Anne-Marie for closing remarks.

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Anne-Marie W. D'Angelo, Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. - General Counsel & Corporate Secretary [23]

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Thank you, everyone, for joining us today and for your continued interest in and support of Global Brass and Copper Holdings. We look forward to speaking with you again during our first quarter conference call. Thanks again, and have a good day.

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Operator [24]

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Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. Thank you for your participation, and have a wonderful day. You may all disconnect.