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Edited Transcript of EAF earnings conference call or presentation 2-Nov-18 2:00pm GMT

Q3 2018 GrafTech International Ltd Earnings Call

PARMA Nov 8, 2018 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of GrafTech International Ltd earnings conference call or presentation Friday, November 2, 2018 at 2:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* David J. Rintoul

GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director

* Meredith H. Bandy

GrafTech International Ltd. - VP of IR and Corporate Communications

* Quinn J. Coburn

GrafTech International Ltd. - CFO, VP of Finance & Treasurer

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Conference Call Participants

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* Alexander Nicholas Hacking

Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Director

* Arun Shankar Viswanathan

RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst

* David Francis Gagliano

BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Co-Head of Metals and Mining Research and Metals and Mining Analyst

* Gordon Johnson

* Michael F. Gambardella

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD, Head of Global Metals and Mining Equity Research and Senior Analyst

* Sumangal Nevatia

Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good morning. My name is Julie, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the GrafTech Q3 earnings conference call. (Operator Instructions)

I would now like to turn the call over to Meredith Bandy. Meredith, you may begin.

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Meredith H. Bandy, GrafTech International Ltd. - VP of IR and Corporate Communications [2]

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All right. Thank you, Julie. Good morning, and welcome to GrafTech International's third quarter conference call. On the call with me today is GrafTech's Chief Executive Officer, David Rintoul; and Chief Financial Officer, Quinn Coburn.

Turning to our first slide. As a reminder, some of the matters discussed on this call may include forward-looking statements regarding among other things results, performance and strategy. These statements are based on current expectations and are subject to risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements are shown here. We also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, for which you will find reconciliations in these slides. These slides are posted on our website at www.graftech.com in the Investor Relations section. For your reference, a replay of the call will also be available on our website.

Add now I'm pleased to turn the call over to Dave.

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thank you, Meredith, and good morning, everyone. I'll start as we always do with safety, a core value at GrafTech. Without exception, a safe plant is an efficient plant. We are focused upon continuous improvement of our safety performance and recognize that our team must continue to drive towards our ultimate goal of 0 injuries. That means every worker goes home safe every day. We have undertaken several noteworthy safety initiatives, which will assist in that effort. For example, our company wide hands-off campaign uses what we call no-touch tools to avoid direct contact with product or suspended loads. I'm grateful for the hard work and enthusiasm of all our team members as we continue to improve our safety performance.

Turning to Slide 3. GrafTech delivered a strong third quarter both operationally and financially. GrafTech earned third quarter net income of $199 million or $0.67 a share, and adjusted EBITDA of $277 million, both above expectations. Quinn will share more details on our financial results in just a moment.

GrafTech continued to benefit from strong market dynamics for graphite electrodes. In October, the World Steel Association published its forecast for global steel demand growth ex-China of 2.1% in 2018, growing to 2.7% in 2019. Historically, electric arc furnace steel production growth has outpaced overall steel production growth due to the more environmentally friendly, flexible cost and cyclicality-resistant EAF steel production model. Recent trends point to a continuation of EAF growth, which presents opportunities for GrafTech. Demand for our electrodes remains good and pricing for high-quality ultrahigh-power electrodes, GrafTech's primary product, remains positive.

GrafTech's third quarter revenues are up more than 200% from the prior year period due to higher pricing and volumes. Structurally higher electrode prices are a result of higher EAF steel production and constrained graphite electrode capacity related to the tight supply of needle coke. Petroleum needle coke, the preferred raw material for graphite electrode manufacturing, is in high demand for both graphite electrode and electric vehicle battery production. As a result, the cost of third-party needle coke continues to increase in 2018.

GrafTech is vertically integrated into petroleum needle coke with our wholly owned Seadrift facility. This unique competitive position differentiates us from our competitors and gives us a secure, low-cost supply petroleum needle coke. Seadrift produces about 2/3 of our long-term needle coke needs. The cost of producing an electrode with Seadrift cost remains significantly below the market price of third-party needle coke. This vertical integration aligns with our commercial strategy to sell graphite electrodes on take-or-pay contracts. These contracts provide strong earnings visibility for our shareholders and reliable long-term supply for our customers. GrafTech has currently sold about 2/3 of our production through long-term, fixed-volume, fixed-price take-or-pay contracts. Our debottlenecking initiative is well underway and on track for completion later this year.

Turning to Slide 4 for more details on our operations. At Calais, the installation of furnaces and a multipurpose crane was completed during the third quarter. In Pamplona, the new forming press is expected to start up later this year. We will exit this year at our target annual production capacity of just over 200,000 metric tons. St. Marys is graphitizing and machining some finished electrodes sourced from Monterrey in order to leverage existing infrastructure. We also expect to produce approximately 110,000 tons of petroleum needle coke this year.

The previously announced planned maintenance outage at our Seadrift needle coke facility is on track for completion in a few days. This will impact fourth quarter needle coke production levels, however. We expect to increase needle coke production to approximately 125,000 metric tons in 2019, as we do not have a planned outage scheduled at Seadrift next year. This includes effects and efficiency improvement project, which we are executing, and it will increase our annual production by about 5,000 to 10,000 tons. The project capital cost is small and the project is expected to be online by the middle of next year.

I'll now turn the call over to Quinn, who will discuss our financial results starting on Slide 5.

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Quinn J. Coburn, GrafTech International Ltd. - CFO, VP of Finance & Treasurer [4]

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Thanks, Dave. As Dave mentioned, we are pleased to report another strong quarter of financial performance. Third quarter revenues of $455 million were more than triple the prior year quarter reflecting higher sales volumes along with higher pricing. GrafTech's third quarter average realized price was $9,744 per metric ton. As a reminder, the average realized price reflects a combination of long-term contract pricing, carryover of lower-priced short-term contracts from last year and minimal spot volumes. Due to the timing of our long-term contracts, there were fewer tons available to sell on the spot market in Q3. Approximately 79% of our third quarter net sales were to customers with long-term agreements. As previously disclosed, substantially all of our sales are contracted for the balance of 2018.

Turning to Slide 6. Higher revenues translated into solid earnings and cash flows in the quarter. Third quarter net income totaled $199 million or $0.67 per diluted share, up from a slight loss in the third quarter of 2017 and in line with the second quarter of 2018 results.

During the third quarter of 2018, free cash flow increased to $216 million, that's the second consecutive quarter with free cash flow in excess of $200 million. Year-to-date free cash flow totaled $565 million. Compared to the prior year, earnings, adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations and free cash flow benefited from higher sales volumes and pricing. This more than offsets higher raw materials cost, specifically related to third-party needle coke costs. As Dave mentioned, the cost of third-party needle coke continues to increase. Spot needle coke pricing is now as high as $4,500 per ton.

Now turning to Slide 7. I'll quickly walk you through the third quarter adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations reconciliation. We begin with $199 million net income, add back $16 million depreciation and amortization, add back $33 million net interest expense and $25 million of income taxes. Finally, add back other adjustments of $3 million that includes $1.4 million related to foreign currency remeasurement and just over $700,000 related to discontinued operations. For Q3 then 2018 -- for Q3 2018, adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations was $277 million.

Now turning to Slide 8 for a review of GrafTech's financial policy. GrafTech remains committed to responsible and shareholder-friendly financial policy. We ended Q3 with total liquidity of over $346 million, including cash and equivalents of $103 million. We continue to manage the business in a responsible manner with appropriate levels of capital investment focused on targeted, operational improvements. Primary use of cash remains capital returns to shareholders.

Our board has declared our regular quarterly dividend of $0.085 per share. We continue to evaluate other potential dividends and share repurchases, which, of course, remains subject to review and approval by the board. For example, in August, we repurchased and retired 11.7 million shares from our majority shareholder using available cash on hand. The repurchase was accretive to all shareholders, while helping to minimize potential equity overhang and maintain liquidity in the secondary market.

Current debt of $2.2 billion or 1.9x annualized adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations is comfortably below our maximum target leverage of 2x to 2.5x. Our long-term take-or-pay contracts gives us visibility and flexibility to manage our debt levels appropriately.

Now I'll turn it back to Dave.

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [5]

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Thank you, Quinn. In summary, GrafTech is a leading provider of highly engineered graphite electrodes services, solutions and products to the growing EAF steel market. We delivered another strong quarterly result, and we continue to execute our strategy to deliver long-term sustainable value for our shareholders. Ongoing operational improvements and vertical integration give GrafTech economies of scale and the competitive cost structure. This in turn enables us to offer secure, long-term contracts to our customers and strong earnings visibility for our shareholders.

That concludes our prepared remarks. We will now open the call up for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Arun Viswanathan from RBC Capital Markets.

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Arun Shankar Viswanathan, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [2]

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Couple of questions here. Good results. Good to see that. I guess, first off, I just wanted to understand your own needle coke supply-demand. I know that you're increasing it next year. And you have kind of plans to increase it by 5,000 to 10,000, up to the 125,000. Can you give us any update on your progress in securing the additional 30,000 tons to restart St. Marys?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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So let me -- that's really a 2-part question. I'll start with the raw material portion. We are continuing discussions with our needle coke suppliers to secure appropriate raw material supply to support our strategy. Those discussions are ongoing at this period in time and are not concluded, so that's really about as much as I can say about it. The St. Marys question, which is really part of your raw question. Look, the market -- our market that we participate in will inform us between the graphite electrode side and the needle coke side if and when it's appropriate restart St. Marys. That's really all I have to say about the St. Marys issue.

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Arun Shankar Viswanathan, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [4]

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Okay. And then -- so on that point of supply-demand for electrodes, it looks like between your debottlenecking, adding 30,000 tons or so or 28,000 and then the possibility of Showa Denko, Ridgeville starting up as well, you will have close to 10% extra supply of electrodes on the market. So -- I mean, is it -- maybe 8% or whatever. I mean, is it safe to assume that, I guess, your comments are also implying that you don't feel that restarting St. Marys is a 100% certainty? Just trying to interpret what you're saying from an electrodes supply-demand perspective.

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [5]

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So Arun, what I'm attempting to communicate is exactly what I said. We'll let the market tell us if and when it's appropriate to restart St. Marys, and that we're still gathering data, if you will, on both those subject matters. We're not prepared to say -- we can't say anything more than that.

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Arun Shankar Viswanathan, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [6]

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And then just lastly on the capital return side. You guys stated that, I guess, all-cash will be used for shareholder returns. I think you've discussed the possibility of a special dividend or buybacks in the past. I guess, maybe -- could you just comment on your preference for either of those on our numbers? Free cash flow, as you said, is well over $500 million year-to-date, approaching $700 million this year, maybe $1 billion next year. When should we expect to hear more on your plans for distributing some of that cash?

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Quinn J. Coburn, GrafTech International Ltd. - CFO, VP of Finance & Treasurer [7]

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Yes, Arun, it's Quinn. So as I mentioned in my comments, we review the capital structure and uses of the cash with the board on a regular basis, and we consider all options. And really that's -- the final decision there is up to the discretion of the board. And obviously, whenever a decision is made, we announce on a very timely basis. In terms of projecting any time frame, I really can't project any time frame for you, but, again, we review this with the board on a regular basis.

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Operator [8]

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Your next question comes from David Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets.

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David Francis Gagliano, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Co-Head of Metals and Mining Research and Metals and Mining Analyst [9]

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I had a few questions, but I might switch gears a little bit on this. First question, obligatory sort of question, where are spot graphite electrode, UHP graphite electrode prices at the moment?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [10]

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David, so I think what we would say to that question this morning is that if you look at our numbers in the third quarter, there wasn't that much spot volume in it. In fact, it was quite low. Most of our capacity being consumed by LTA business and other previous short-term contract-type commitments that were made in '17. And so candidly, I'm not sure we're in the best place to signal to the marketplace what the actual spot number is because our dataset is admittedly pretty limited. I think the -- what I might point you to is there have been some Q1 announcements by others in terms of what their pricing is for Q1 business into the marketplace in the $13,500 to $14,000 range. So we would use that as informative to say, well, spot business must be somewhat marginally better than that. But I need to stress that our dataset in the third quarter and going into the fourth quarter is limited. So we will be informed by some of these other announcements that you guys read about as well.

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David Francis Gagliano, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Co-Head of Metals and Mining Research and Metals and Mining Analyst [11]

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Okay. I sense a bit of a shift in tone versus last quarter. So last quarter, you gave us a range, 15,000, 20,000 was the range that you gave. This time, you're not really giving a range. And I also sense with St. Marys restart last quarter, I'm pretty sure the commentary was around securing petroleum needle coke supplies to restart St. Marys. This time, market conditions will dictate timing. So obviously, those 2 together, one could read into that negatively. So my question is, why the shift in tone with regards to St. Marys, specifically, this quarter?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [12]

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So I don't think it's our -- certainly not our intention to signal negativity. I think it's our intention to signal that we will be -- because our dataset on the -- currently on the spot business is so limited, we don't want to be irresponsible and give you data based on a very small set of data that -- in this period of being fully transparent. So don't read negativity into that as much as perhaps conservatism and being sure that when we're answering the questions that we're being as transparent as we know how so that we don't do anything that would create the wrong impression. So we're not trying to send a negative signal. I would like to stress that. In terms of St. Marys, we did they say along that we had to have -- the conditions had to be right and because we're not finished on developing certainty on some of those conditions, we're just saying we don't know yet. Again, we're not intending to purposely transmit a negative impression. I understand how you might -- I understand your question and why you might otherwise, left on your own devices, get there. We just have haven't decided yet, and we want to be respectful of making sure that we do have the raw materials and second of all, that we can remain true to our strategy associated with longer-term type commercial arrangements.

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David Francis Gagliano, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Co-Head of Metals and Mining Research and Metals and Mining Analyst [13]

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Okay. That's helpful. One last question, near-term question. 4Q needle coke volume impact from the outage. And also what's a reasonable assumption for graphite electrode sales in the fourth quarter? And if possible, can you split that between purchased graphite electrodes and company-produced graphite electrodes for the fourth quarter?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [14]

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So you're bordering on asking me to give some forward-looking guidance when -- with those kind of numbers, which we, I think been pretty, again, transparent and clear from the point which we did go public that we would avoid providing forward-looking guidance. I will go so far to say that we don't -- certainly, there's nothing that we see in our fourth quarter performance that gives us a pause for cause, but I want to stay true to our direction around avoiding forward-looking guidance.

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Operator [15]

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Your next question comes from Michael Gambardella with JPMorgan.

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Michael F. Gambardella, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD, Head of Global Metals and Mining Equity Research and Senior Analyst [16]

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Just to further this issue because your stock's just gone down about 6% from where it was before the call started on this conversation. But I mean, aren't you basically saying that look, we can't restart St. Marys if we don't have the incremental needle coke, and we haven't signed the contract yet so we can't say we're going to start or not start definitively. And then if you take it further, if you can't get the incremental needle coke, doesn't that just imply that the market is going to be super tight and the pricing that gets repriced in the spot market when those annual contracts that you signed in the summer of '17 come off are going to be a lot higher pricing than you probably thought if you could get the needle coke for St. Marys? So it's kind of tails, you win; heads, the customer loses, in the sense that they pay higher pricing? I mean, this seems like a win-win situation for you either way.

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [17]

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Michael, I like the way you're thinking. And that is one -- that's certainly one potential extrapolation from the data as we have it now. And candidly, you're hitting on the kinds of things we're thinking about before we rush out and make a move. We're being quite deliberate and thoughtful about how we go about and if we go about making any moves at St. Marys. Because to your point, there is a tightness in the market, and I have not received any notes from a higher power that says that we have an obligation to resolve this tightness in the market. So I guess, it's the right thing to do for our shareholders when we do the analysis as we get more clarity on both graphite market and the needle coke market, then we will, of course, do what's in the best interest in our shareholders. And what we're trying to communicate today is not a negative position, but rather one that we're moving slow and steady and deliberate about making the right decision for our customers and our shareholders.

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Michael F. Gambardella, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD, Head of Global Metals and Mining Equity Research and Senior Analyst [18]

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Yes. And just -- you mentioned that you're seeing some spot needle coke going off at around $4,500 per ton. Was the contract pricing for 2018 in the marketplace somewhere around $3,000?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [19]

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Well, look, the needle coke market changed during the course of '18, where more of the arrangements were on annual volume and then pricing got renegotiated first half, second half. So that range that we gave quite some time ago, from $2,500 to $4,500 was, in fact, that accurate over the course of the entire year. But not to be confused or suggesting that, that reflects the second half number. Okay? So you're -- the numbers that you're quoting, I think, which came from our previous presentations and releases at $4,500 is in fact correct and very much so for the period in time in which we're currently operating. And we would -- we believe that the needle coke market will continue to evolve. Our crystal ball at this point in time is probably -- might be marginally better than yours, but we're not there yet because we haven't got our deals done. So that's probably about as much as we can say, that needle coke remains tight. If you think about some of the graphs that we provided in previous presentations and you look at the demand for needle coke over the next couple of years, it continues to increase. So I think, you have the -- it sounds to me like you have the right thought process when you're thinking about that subject matter.

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Michael F. Gambardella, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD, Head of Global Metals and Mining Equity Research and Senior Analyst [20]

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And then last question. How many tons do you have coming off of that -- those 1-year contracts that end with calendar '18 that you had signed in the summer '17 before pricing really skyrocketed?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [21]

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So -- because I wouldn't -- I'm going from memory, so I don't want to give an exact number. It's not huge in the overall scheme. But what -- I would guess the numbers I would point you to is, we did say in the past that we had about 2/3 of our capacity spoken for in long-term contracts, which would mean that 1/3 was a combination of spot and these other short-term or shorter-term arrangements. So that gives you a order of magnitude of those. And I did signal and said that we didn't have that much spot business in the third quarter. So I'll let you extrapolate a little bit from there. And also we mentioned -- we did show in one of our slides, and I would say that we're holding true to our strategy of evolving in the long-term contract arena and have discussions taking place to continue on with that strategy.

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Operator [22]

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Your next question comes from Alex Hacking with Citi.

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Alexander Nicholas Hacking, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Director [23]

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First, let me say that if you are showing supply-side discipline at St. Marys and not adding capacity that the market doesn't need, then I applaud you for that. So my first question is on 2019 pricing. I just want to clarify that you have about 100 -- round numbers, you have about 140,000 tons contracted at about $10,000 a ton and then you have about 60,000 tons that right now is not priced but it's going to be priced at spot next year. Is that correct?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [24]

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Alex, the 140,000 number, I think, is in the right genre. You clearly read the raw materials quite well. So I think, you're generally in the right vicinity, yes.

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Alexander Nicholas Hacking, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Director [25]

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And then for the 60,000 tons that as of November 2 is not priced and will be priced at spot -- 60,000 tons of capacity, I should say. Is that correct?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [26]

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Yes, I think, you're -- again, you're in the right ballpark and that's to my comment around our discussions of continuing to move our strategy on long-term arrangements in a forward direction.

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Alexander Nicholas Hacking, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Director [27]

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Okay. That's a bit cryptic, but okay. The -- and then, I guess, my second question I hear a lot of reports that China is exporting graphite electrodes, including to the U.S. and the quality of them is reasonable and comparable with foreign-produced graphite electrodes. Is -- do you think those reports are accurate? And does that -- how much does that concern you?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [28]

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So I think, I've made this statement elsewhere before. When you talk about that subject matter, there's 2 things that you have to -- or at least 2 things that you have to bear in mind. One is that not all electrodes are created equal and have the same service duty. Smaller-diameter electrodes that are used in LMF furnaces have -- are smaller in size, and have a much less severe service duty. And candidly, the Chinese have been in that market for some period of time. That's not new news. I think they are maybe in a greater presence, but there -- that's not a secret. That's not anything that changes the current dynamics. And I think they will continue to be there. The larger-size electrodes that they've not traditionally been, they're moving into that market domestically because they have to. There was a mammoth growth of electric arc furnace capacity, steelmaking production in China, and they're attempting to service their domestic market. And simultaneous to that, yes, we know that they are dabbling ex-China. Our belief is that they will have quite a challenge on their hands servicing their own domestic market with a ramp-up of electric steelmaking capacity in China. So we still believe that they are not equivalent to -- in the UHP side to the balance of the ex-China producers, but we're also not suggesting that that's a permanent situation. I think the near term, over the next period of time and it's difficult to know that is, but as long as the Chinese keep building electric arc furnaces at the rate they are, then we believe the Chinese graphite electrode capacity will be entertained servicing their domestic market. I hope that answers your question.

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Alexander Nicholas Hacking, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Director [29]

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Yes. Very helpful. Just one more very quick one, if I may, I apologize. What's your understanding of how much additional needle coke capacity Phillips 66 is going to be bringing to the market over the next year or so?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [30]

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Look, we need to be respectful of P66. We're not running their business. We can only extrapolate as we have in the past and suggest that -- I think, as I recall, their earnings call was several days ago, and as I understand the comment -- the statement they made is that I'm -- forgive me, I'm again going for memory, so I'm trying to be respectful of what they said. It was something along the lines of, they weren't putting major -- there was no evidence in their release about major CapEx to expand their capability. So you can -- I can only glean the same thing you can from that comment. And really, I would refer you to their earnings release and call material because that's all we have either. So it's not like we have a great deal of inside information, and we need to be respectful of their company and not be speaking for them.

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Operator [31]

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(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from Sumangal Nevatia with Macquarie.

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Sumangal Nevatia, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [32]

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First question is more on the fundamental side. Now we have the needle coke production technology, and of course, to add new volumes, we need purchase of needle coke from outside. So I mean, in the decision of building captively versus buying, I mean, what are the constraints? Is it a feedstock constrain to build new capacity of needle coke? Or is it more of capital constrain or an environment constrain?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [33]

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Well, as we've -- I think we've spoken and had some comments about this in the past and then our view on that hasn't changed is that needle coke plants are capital-intensive, would require large amounts of CapEx, would require pretty significant permitting process because you can think of it in terms of a small refinery. So it takes a good period of time to work any kind of project like that through the regulatory and environmental-permitting process. And then thirdly, net of the current producers, there's not a great deal of operating and technical resources across the world knowing how to operate these kind of plants. So that may be a lesser of the 3 challenges, but nevertheless, it's there. So for all of those reasons, I think, that's why you're seeing nobody yet, net of the Chinese, running out talking about building petroleum needle coke facilities. And we're not suggesting that it wouldn't happen. We don't believe it's going -- certainly don't have any intention at this point in time that it will be us. But your guess is probably as good as mine. If there's others out there, entrepreneurs, whatever the case may be that might put their line in the water and give it a go. But it's certainly a capital-intensive and exhausting process. So I think that's why you haven't seen any big announcements here for...

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Sumangal Nevatia, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [34]

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Okay. So is there also a feedstock constrain there as well, in your opinion?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [35]

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Not certain that there would be. There is adequate feedstock for what's operating now and because there aren't a lot of -- there hasn't been a lot of news or discussions about anybody trying to build a needle coke plant. I don't know that, that particular issue was well tested. But it's certainly in our current environment something that we certainly keep an eye on relative to our own supplies, but don't have a sense of future difficulties. But I mean, getting only to 4 of us ex-China operating in the world at the moment, and P66 sources all of their feedstock internally.

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Sumangal Nevatia, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [36]

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Yes. I understand. Okay. Second question is with respect, again, to needle coke. I mean, we read that P66 has debottlenecked by 50,000, 60,000 tons. So not asking about your plans, but since you are in the market chasing it, is there -- I mean, have you already witnessed any incremental supply in the market from the debottleneck capacity or there's still some time away?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [37]

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So again, the only comment I can really make about that is that we are in the process of working on procuring the appropriate needle coke supply that we would need to support our long-term strategy. And optimistic that we will bring that to fruition. But like all deals, it's not done till it's done, right? So it would be wrong for me to declare it as having been accomplished other than to say that we're proceeding, and at a rate that I think is satisfactory to all the parties involved.

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Sumangal Nevatia, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [38]

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Okay. Okay, one just last question, again, on St. Marys. It's extremely confusing. I mean, given the change in statement, can we assume that from what we were last quarter we moved one step backwards? I mean, at least thought till now was needle coke visibility, but now you've added another element of market dynamics in the decision making or maybe needle coke visibility is just not -- I mean, it just doesn't exist. Would you like to comment anything more on this?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [39]

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Well, I detailed my comments earlier on this, around Q&A. It's not our intention to be making a negative signal. We're just stating what I would expect -- that our shareholders would have expected, I know they would expect from us, is that we look at all aspects of both the raw material feedstock required as long -- as well as the market we're going to sell into, and have those aligned in a favorable manner before we would make a decision to restart St. Marys. So that's what we are -- that's what we're about doing right now.

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Operator [40]

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Your next question comes from Gordon Johnson with Vertical Group.

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Gordon Johnson, [41]

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So I guess, there's been a lot of questions around St. Marys. And I guess, if it's value accretive to ramp and others are ramping, I guess, the question we have is why aren't you guys ramping that facility right now?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [42]

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Well, you're absolutely right that we do the same calculations as you would expect us to do and look at, in the event that we did that, what would be our input cost be, what would the market outcome of that be and does the NPV over some period of time exceed the cost to get it going, which are not that great, and then make the appropriate decision. And again, I want to stress that our comment today is that we're still doing the due diligence that we think is appropriate to make that decision, and we're just not complete with that yet for a variety of reasons.

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Gordon Johnson, [43]

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Okay. That's helpful. And then with respect to your debottlenecking that you're doing. It seems like that's going to free up some capacity. Have you guys signed long-term agreements to account for the debottlenecking for 2021 to 2025?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [44]

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So remember that we signed our current LTA agreements late '17 that reflected our capacity and situation at that point in time. And I think to one of the earlier questions, that capacity, I said, I confirmed that 140-ish type number. So now as we debottleneck, and we are just over 200,000 tons, it allows us to begin and do some of the discussions that I referenced earlier around in propagating our strategy of long-term thought processes. So it's -- this is the point in time where we'll be thinking about and working through those opportunities with our customer base, and we'll have more to talk about that once we get into the next quarter's call.

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Gordon Johnson, [45]

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Okay. That's helpful. And then just one last one from me. Just going back to St. Marys, with respect to, I guess, availability and the potential ramp, is it that, I guess, the needle coke isn't available to ramp St. Marys or would it be that maybe the costs are a bit higher than expected?

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [46]

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So in the spirit of being complementary, you get full marks for being very thorough in your questioning. So the answer to your question is that if I went down that road and answered that the way you would like me to, I would be giving you forward-looking information of what we're doing. And respectfully, I'm not in a position, or we said all along we won't do that. So we're continuing to look at both the supply side of the raw materials needed, how we would run St. Marys, how the market would receive that, and as we have all of that data because some of that we relied upon others outside the company to inform us about that in our discussions, we will arrive at a decision about what to do at St. Marys. I want to reiterate that we're not trying to signal negative or positive, we're just telling you where we are at transparently in our thought process.

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Operator [47]

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We have reached the end of our question-and-answer session. I will now turn the call back over to Mr. Rintoul for closing remarks.

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David J. Rintoul, GrafTech International Ltd. - President, CEO & Director [48]

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Thank you, Julie. In conclusion, GrafTech is well positioned to leverage our unique competitive position and execute our strategy in a structurally improved industry. We will continue to maximize the value of our vertical integration and low-cost production base to provide industry-leading services, solutions and products to our customers and higher returns to our shareholders. Again, thank you for your interest in GrafTech, and we look forward to speaking with you next quarter.

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Operator [49]

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This concludes today's conference call. Thank you for your participation, and you may now disconnect.