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Edited Transcript of LEG earnings conference call or presentation 29-Oct-19 12:30pm GMT

Q3 2019 Leggett & Platt Inc Earnings Call

CARTHAGE Oct 31, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Leggett & Platt Inc earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 12:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* J. Mitchell Dolloff

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP, COO and President of Specialized Products & Furniture Products

* Jeffrey L. Tate

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO

* Karl G. Glassman

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director

* Perry E. Davis

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products

* Susan R. McCoy

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Senior VP of IR

* Wendy M. Watson

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR

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Conference Call Participants

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* John Allen Baugh

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD

* Keith Brian Hughes

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD

* Robert Adam Friedner

Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Robert Kenneth Griffin

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Research Associate

* Stefanos Chambous Crist

CJS Securities, Inc. - Equity Research Associate

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Greetings, and welcome to the Leggett & Platt Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Ms. Wendy Watson, Director of Investor Relations. Thank you, Ms. Watson. You may begin.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [2]

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Good morning, and thank you for taking part in Leggett & Platt's third quarter conference call. I'm Wendy Watson, Director of Investor Relations.

With me today are Karl Glassman, President and CEO; Jeff Tate, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Mitch Dolloff, EVP, Chief Operating Officer and President of the Furniture Products and Specialized Products segment; Perry Davis, EVP and President of the Residential Products and Industrial Products segment; Susan McCoy, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations; and Cassie Branscum, Manager of IR.

The agenda for our call this morning is as follows: Karl will start with a summary of the main points we made in yesterday's press release; Jeff will discuss financial details and address our outlook for the remainder of 2019; and finally, the group will answer any questions that you have.

This conference call is being recorded for Leggett & Platt and is copyrighted material. This call may not be transcribed, recorded or broadcast without our expressed permission. A replay is available from the IR portion of Leggett's website.

We posted to the Investor Relation's portion of the website, yesterday's press release and a set of PowerPoint slides that contain summary financial information along with segment details.

Those documents supplement the information we discuss on this call, including non-GAAP reconciliations.

I need to remind you that remarks today concerning future expectations, events, objectives, strategies, trends or results constitute forward-looking statements. Actual results or events may differ materially due to a number of risks and uncertainties. And the company undertakes no obligation to update or revise these statements. For a summary of these risk factors and additional information, please refer to yesterday's press release and the section in our 10-K and 10-Qs entitled forward-looking statements and risk factors. I'll now turn the call over to Karl.

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [3]

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Good morning, and thank you for participating in our third quarter call.

First, I want to welcome Jeff Tate, our new CFO, to our team and to introduce him. As most of you are likely aware, Jeff joined Leggett & Platt in September from the Dow Chemical Company, where he most recently served as Vice President and business CFO for their largest operating segment, packaging and specialty plastics, with combined revenue of over $24 billion.

Jeff was a member of the portfolio executive team, where he drove financial discipline and provided financial counsel at the strategic and operational levels of the business.

His responsibilities included portfolio analysis, value-based strategy development, business risk analysis, short- and long-term financial planning, performance measurement and analysis and in ensuring proper internal controls.

In prior roles, Jeff led Dow's global internal audit activities and was Director of Investor Relations.

Jeff is a certified public accountant with a BS in accounting from the University of Alabama. He is a member of the Board of Directors of TCF Financial Corporation, where he serves as chair of the finance committee and as a member of the audit risk management and compensation and pension committees.

He also previously served on the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board's Standing Advisory Group. Jeff brings tremendous strategic and financial capabilities to Leggett. He is well aligned with our culture and is a strong addition to our senior management team.

Welcome, Jeff. We are excited you are here.

I also want to recognize Perry Davis. As I mentioned last quarter, Perry is retiring in early 2020 after nearly 40 years with Leggett & Platt. And this will be his last earnings call as a participant. We will miss you, Perry, and I suspect that you won't miss participating in these conference calls going forward.

We have several items to highlight in our third quarter results. Yesterday, we reported third quarter sales growth of 14%, third quarter EBIT growth of 16% and adjusted EBIT growth of 19%.

Third quarter earnings per share were $0.74 and adjusted EPS was $0.76, a 15% increase over third quarter 2018 adjusted EPS.

Operating cash flow in the quarter was a strong $213 million. Adjusted working capital as a percent of annualized sales for the quarter improved to 10.7%.

Our results show the focus our teams have on cash generation. Your efforts are much appreciated. Third quarter sales were $1.24 billion. Growth from ECS and other smaller acquisitions was 16% in the quarter. Organic sales were down 2%, 1% from volume and 1% from deflation and a negative currency impact.

Our Automotive, U.S. Spring and Work Furniture businesses had solid third quarter sales growth, offset by the planned exit of business in Fashion Bed and Home Furniture, which reduced sales 4%, and weak trade demand for steel rod and wire.

Absent declines from exited business, volume was up 3%. Our Bedding businesses continued to perform well, with U.S. Spring sales up 6% in the quarter. Finished mattress units were up 28% in the third quarter, including year-over-year growth at ECS.

Automotive sales were up 8% in the quarter and Work Furniture was up 6%. Third quarter 2019 earnings per share were $0.74. This included $4 million of restructuring-related charges that reduced earnings $0.02 per share.

Third quarter 2018 EPS of $0.67 included a $0.01 per share benefit due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Excluding these items, adjusted third quarter earnings of $0.76 were up $0.10 from adjusted 2018 third quarter earnings, reflecting higher EBIT and a lower effective tax rate, partially offset by higher interest expense.

EBIT benefited from the ECS acquisition, even after $12 million of amortization expense, lower raw material cost, including the LIFO benefit, and improved earnings performance in Furniture Products. Adjusted EBIT margin increased 50 basis points to 11.9% and adjusted EBITDA margin increased 130 basis points to 15.8%. The restructuring activities we initiated in the fourth quarter of 2018 in our Home Furniture and Fashion Bed businesses are substantially complete.

With the segments adjusted EBIT of $12 million and adjusted EBIT margin up a notable 470 basis points in the quarter, we are already seeing a positive impact from a lower fixed cost and improved pricing. We have further restructuring in the third quarter from the closure of a small machinery facility in our Residential Products segment and a wire drawing facility in our Industrial Products segment.

We now expect full year restructuring-related charges of $14 million, $7 million of which is noncash.

We also wanted to update you on the automotive market. Year-to-date, production in the global markets is down 6% and is expected to be down approximately 6% for the full year. Our Automotive business grew 8% versus third quarter 2018, exceeding global market growth by over 1,000 basis points. This year, we should exceed market growth by 600 to 700 basis points. We remain confident in our continued strong performance. Ongoing disruption of the global markets makes it difficult to predict our relative performance with precision. Accordingly, we are moving away from our specific goal of exceeding market growth by 1,000 basis points, although we still expect to significantly outperform the market over the long term.

In mid-October, we received more positive news from the United States mattress industry's antidumping petition on imported Chinese mattresses. The Department of Commerce made a final determination that Chinese mattresses are being sold at prices that violate the U.S. trade laws and imposed final antidumping duties that ranged from 57% to 1,732%.

Importantly, approximately 90% of Chinese mattresses are now subject to antidumping duties in excess of 160%. We expect the United States International Trade Commission to make a final determination in the antidumping matter no later than the 1st week of December. I'll now turn the call over to Jeff.

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Jeffrey L. Tate, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [4]

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Thank you, Karl, and good morning, everyone. As previously mentioned, operating cash flow was a strong $213 million in the third quarter, an increase of $86 million versus the same quarter last year. Another quarter of key focus on working capital levels was reflected by our quarter-end adjusted working capital as a percentage of sales at 10.7%, an improvement versus 12.4% in the second quarter and 12% in the third quarter of 2018.

We now expect our full year operating cash flow to exceed $550 million. Demonstrating our ongoing capital discipline, we are reducing our full year capital expenditure estimate from $180 million to $160 million, and dividends should require $205 million for the year.

Through the third quarter of 2019, we have returned over $180 million of offshore cash and expect to bring back an additional $50 million before year end. This significantly exceeds our original full year expectation to bring back $170 million of offshore cash.

We ended the quarter with debt at 3.15x our trailing 12-month pro forma adjusted EBITDA, an improvement over second quarter's 3.45x.

As we announced yesterday, we are raising our full year earnings per share guidance range for 2019 to $2.40 to $2.55 from a range of $2.30 to $2.50, including approximately $0.08 per share of restructuring related costs.

Accordingly, full year adjusted earnings per share is expected to be $2.48 to $2.63.

Based upon this guidance framework, our full year adjusted EBIT margin range should be 11% to 11.3%.

Earnings per share guidance assumes a full year effective tax rate of 22%, full year depreciation and amortization of $200 million, net interest expense of $85 million and fully diluted shares of 136 million.

We are narrowing our full year sales guidance expectations to $4.7 billion to $4.8 billion, or up 10% to 12% over last year. Acquisitions should add 15% year-over-year growth. We expect our organic sales to be down 3% to 5%, including a 3% reduction from planned exited business in Fashion Bed and Home Furniture.

We also expect full year sales growth in U.S. Spring, Automotive, Work Furniture, Adjustable Bed and Aerospace.

And finally, as I close, we invite you to our Investor Day on Monday, November 18 in New York City. We will webcast the event, which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. The webcast and slides will be available on the Investor Relations section of our website. Please contact Investor Relations for more information and to sign up. With those comments, I'll turn the call back over to Wendy.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [5]

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That concludes our prepared remarks. We thank you for your attention, and we will be glad to answer your questions. In order to allow everyone an opportunity to participate, we request that you ask only one question and then yield to the next participant. If you have additional questions, you are welcome to reenter the queue and we will answer those questions as well. Jessie, we're ready to begin the Q&A session.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Bobby Griffin with Raymond James.

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Robert Kenneth Griffin, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Research Associate [2]

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Congrats on the quarter. I guess, first, Perry, congrats on the retirement and an impressive career. I've really enjoyed working with you over the years, so I wish you nothing but the best going forward.

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [3]

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Thanks, Bobby. I appreciate that.

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Robert Kenneth Griffin, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Research Associate [4]

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And, Jeff, welcome to the company. I look forward to meeting you at the Investor Day and getting to work with you as well as we move forward.

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Jeffrey L. Tate, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [5]

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Thank you, Bobby. Looking forward to it.

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Robert Kenneth Griffin, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Research Associate [6]

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So my first question is really just kind of more of a high-level question on Bedding and the shift that's going on from open innersprings into the Comfort Core pocketed units. Can you maybe update us on where you see the runway of that going in the U.S.? Is there still room for further penetration? And what's the penetration today versus the penetration of pocketed coil in Europe, for instance?

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [7]

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Bobby, it's -- I'd probably be a poor one to ask. It's exceeded my expectations for sure over the last few years. In the third quarter for Leggett, our growth in Comfort Core was up 20 -- a little over 22% year-on-year. So now as a percentage of total innersprings in our business, if you look at Comfort Core, it's about 60% run rate in the third quarter. And of that Comfort Core, our Quantum Edge products are those products that have basically replaced foam with springs. As a percent of Comfort Core, Quantum Edge and edge-enhanced products are about 48% of the total Comfort Core. So it's almost half at this point, well beyond what I thought. I thought at one point, we might top out at about 40%. That's not the case, and more and more customers are seeing the value, both in their manufacturing efficiencies and in the true benefits that can be demonstrated to the consumer in those spring-enhanced products. By the way, that's -- it's not inconsequential also that we're seeing more and more of that product in compressed rolled mattresses as a built-in edge support. It really does provide a benefit that the customer can readily see.

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Robert Kenneth Griffin, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Research Associate [8]

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Okay. Is there still a few large customers that haven't adopted all the way to Quantum Edge yet?

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [9]

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There are. We'll see more introductions as we go forward into January at the Vegas market, and we expect that to further grow. It just makes too much sense from a manufacturing standpoint, from a compression and packaging standpoint and from the consumer benefit.

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Robert Kenneth Griffin, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Research Associate [10]

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Okay. And then lastly for me, I was hoping maybe just to get a little more detail around the moving parts with updated full year guidance. We saw sales tick down slightly at the midpoint but EPS come up -- actually come up versus prior expectations. Can you maybe unpack a little bit of what's first driving the sales reduction at the midpoint? Is it further incremental deflation, uncertainty around auto or uncertainty around the external sales for wire? And then maybe connect that on what's driving the EPS a little bit higher as well?

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [11]

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Bobby, it's Karl. Really the changes, since we last issued guidance, which as you know, was the end of July, sales midpoint, that slight reduction uncertainty is really the key word.

Deflation has become more apparent, scrap has traded off more aggressively since we issued last guidance than we expected. So we're starting to see some reduced selling prices first in the industrial segment that will ultimately move to residential. That's actually good for margins because of the delayed lag. So it's kind of a negative positive, if that makes any sense. And as we continue on, you hit it. The IHS data on automotive continues to reduce at a kind of an accelerated rate. We think the majority of that was the -- was caused by the GM strike. So from our data point, we would have had the impact of the strike for just a couple of weeks in the third quarter, certainly all of October in the fourth quarter. And even though the autoworkers have ratified the election, that we don't know to what degree that the supply chain will ramp up. So there is some uncertainty and with that slight downshift, we've allowed ourselves a little bit of cushion for that uncertainty.

As it relates to EPS, we're dealing with a lower-than-expected tax rate. You'll notice that our third quarter tax rate came in very favorably to forecast. I really need to call out our people. They did a wonderful job of bringing back this offshore cash at a lower rate than we originally expected. So that drove lower tax rate, lower interest expense, our people have done a great job of cash generation. So we have more cash, lower interest rates from a macro perspective. So that's driving part of it. We're also seeing improved margins, again, from the deflation and from the terrific job that our people have done on the restructuring of the Furniture Products segment. So roll that all together, slight downdraft on top line. Again, it's just a testament to macro uncertainty and a pickup in EPS for all the reasons I listed.

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Operator [12]

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Our next question is from John Baugh with Stifel.

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John Allen Baugh, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [13]

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Perry, best wishes on retirement.

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [14]

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Thank you, John.

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John Allen Baugh, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [15]

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Let's see. So could we maybe start, either Perry or Karl, with where you see assets tracking on an ECS-to-ECS, year-over-year performance? And maybe since you've acquired the year-to-date and then comment on if pricing deflation has influenced that revenue figure at all. How's it tracking relative to expectations?

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [16]

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Well, John, yes. In answer to your question, has deflation -- it definitely has impacted topline there significantly. We kind of knew at the time of the acquisition and the months leading it up that we were looking at some pretty historically high chemical input costs, and that those were likely to fall over time.

But more importantly, we wanted to look at what ECS could generate in terms of margins through that downturn. And as that began to turn around, and we became comfortable with our ability to recoup those costs, when -- and assuredly, they will go up at some point over time; it's a commodity. But we became really comfortable with the pricing power in the marketplace, with the uniqueness of the product offerings that they had and the position they had in the value chain. So there's a comment in our release with regards to a 28% increase in their finished mattress products year-on-year. That's a total of -- if you took the historical 2018 ECS and the Leggett pieces that were produced in terms of finished mattresses and then you just look at this year, the total amount is up 28%. So that certainly met our expectations in terms of double-digit growth. It's just kind of hidden a little bit because of the massive deflation impacts that we've seen.

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [17]

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And I would only add the things that has most surprised us about ECS is certainly the rapid deflation that Perry made reference to. The other thing is -- really kind of goes back to Bobby's question, and the incredible rate of adoption of hybrid compressed mattresses in every channel of distribution in this country has been really remarkable, so that element of ECS has exceeded expectations. We are really, really pleased with the way ECS is tracking.

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John Allen Baugh, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [18]

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So I don't know the Leggett finished mattresses pieces from a year ago. But the bottom line is ECS standalone is still tracking at a double-digit kind of finished mattress figure year-over-year, if I understood that correctly?

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [19]

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That's correct. The Leggett finished mattresses of a year ago, while important to us, were relatively insignificant to the total ECS number.

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John Allen Baugh, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [20]

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Okay. Rod and wire was down, I think, 12% in demand. And I was wondering if you could tell us what areas or customers are weak there? And what the prospects are there kind of near-term?

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [21]

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John, it's just trade. It's macro uncertainty in the United States. It's kind of all markets. You remember that about 30%, Perry -- now it even might be a small number than that of our total production gets sold into the open market, and it's just general softness in all of those industrial markets.

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John Allen Baugh, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [22]

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Okay. And I -- so I saw that hydraulic sales were down 12%, but it looked like pricing was up. Is there anything going on with that business, or it simply was newly acquired?

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [23]

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John, Perry and I are looking forward to Mitch talking.

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J. Mitchell Dolloff, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP, COO and President of Specialized Products & Furniture Products [24]

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They are bringing me into it, John. Yes, it's really more of an industry phenomenon there. We saw the global industrial truck unit volume, which includes material handling equipment, which is the core market for PHC, were down, oh, 5.4% year-over-year Q3 and down almost 8% in the second quarter. And our customers there, which are generally the leading forklift producers, are seeing demand drop 10% to 15% in North America and 15% to 20% in Europe. So we're seeing those declines in our business early as the supply chain catches up to the long lead times that we had in 2017 and 2018, when volumes were up over 15%. We're going from an environment where we couldn't keep up to now one where we see pretty significant declines in demand. So that's really the phenomenon there.

Interestingly, our earnings were roughly flat because last year, we were struggling to pass through raw material cost inflation. So that's what relates to your pricing comments. Basically, we just caught up our pricing to the material cost, which sort of offset the volume declines that we had this year. So we're taking action to reduce headcounts and take other costs out in response to the volume declines that we see coming.

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John Allen Baugh, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [25]

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Good. So my last question is on, when will we anniversary the drag from existing the Fashion Bed and parts of Home Furniture? And the EBIT increase that was called out on furniture was just quite good. I know it's said pricing and costs were down, but is this merely a function of exiting these businesses? Or the remaining legacy business is stronger in addition to that?

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J. Mitchell Dolloff, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP, COO and President of Specialized Products & Furniture Products [26]

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I think it's both, John. I think that we're benefiting from exiting what was a low-margin business but also benefiting from making, sort of, structural improvements in that business. So we have better pricing discipline. We are taking excess capacity off-line. And we're taking the significant cost out from a -- both from a manufacturing standpoint but also from a pure overhead standpoint. So we think that restructuring has had its intended effect but also put us in a position to be more stable and more profitable going forward.

To your anniversary, I think our Home Furniture will probably see that we're -- don't have full year this year of some of the business that we exited, so we'll see a little bit of impact from a sales standpoint next year, but I think we'll see continued margin improvement.

And then from a Fashion Bed standpoint, we're pretty well ramped down by the end of the third quarter from a sales standpoint. So I'm trying to -- let me remember here, so we basically have no sales repeating next year. We have a small hospitality business that we're looking to exit but that's about $15 million. So I think our 2019 sales there will be $65 million to $70 million, and so those won't repeat next year.

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [27]

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John, this is Perry. There is one additional point. You had asked as part of your original question, and I just want to make sure that we answer it, with regard to Europe and Comfort Core. So as I said, Comfort Core in the U.S. for Leggett is approaching 60%. Bear in mind, in the U.S., we play in all the different areas of the value chain pretty strongly, whether it's promotional to premium. In Europe, not so much the case. We tend to trend more towards the upper end or the mid-upper end part of the markets where Comfort Core as a percentage of a total innersprings in Europe represents a higher percentage of our sales. There are a lot of low-cost Bonnell and Open Coil innersprings in that market that are imported, and we don't tend to play so much in that market and historically have not. So Comfort Core would represent an even higher percentage of our sales in Europe.

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Operator [28]

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Our next question is from Daniel Moore with CJS Securities.

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Stefanos Chambous Crist, CJS Securities, Inc. - Equity Research Associate [29]

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This is Stefanos Crist calling in for Dan. In residential, poor weather has impacted a lot of companies in Q2, particularly in housing, and many of them have seen a comeback. Do you think your customers experienced the shift in demand from Q2 to Q3, and what are you seeing so far in Q4?

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [30]

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Yes. I think in certain businesses, Crist, it has had an impact. We've seen a little bit of challenge in terms of -- for instance, in our flooring products group with volumes. But that's a factor, a lot of that product gets sold into multifamily housing also. But amongst our major customer groups, we have seen a bit of a negative impact on volumes. Some of that which you'd likely to lay on to the weather, although we normally don't like to do that. But yes, definitely, in a few of those businesses, we would see that.

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [31]

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And there probably was some impact in our Geo Components business, but again, to Perry's point, Crist, we generally don't talk much about weather. In the sum total of things, it's not significant.

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Stefanos Chambous Crist, CJS Securities, Inc. - Equity Research Associate [32]

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Got it. And then how much of a remaining volume headwind do you expect from divested businesses in Q4?

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Susan R. McCoy, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Senior VP of IR [33]

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It's another 4% down in volume from the exited businesses in Q4. Basically, the same as Q3.

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Operator [34]

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Our next question is from Keith Hughes with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

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Keith Brian Hughes, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD [35]

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A couple of questions on Slide 14. Your assumptions for the year, specifically in Residential Products, you talk about flat organic sales, which would mean, presuming it's a rough math, kind of another negative organic number in the fourth quarter after a pretty solid number in the third. Can you talk about what's driving that down? Sounds like ECS may be part of it but just kind of the nuts and bolts would be great.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [36]

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Keith, it's Wendy. We expect to continue to see nice growth in U.S. Spring in residential in the fourth quarter, but we've seen softness in a lot of our other businesses. Flooring has been down this year, and we expect to see that continue. They've got some deflation in those numbers too. So that's the primary driver of flat organic sales in the fourth quarter in resi.

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Susan R. McCoy, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Senior VP of IR [37]

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And deflation is a bigger issue in the fourth quarter too as that continues to roll through.

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [38]

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Keith, kind of think, to Susan's point, think of deflation in 3Q having a greater impact in the industrial, and in 4Q starting to have an impact in residential.

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Keith Brian Hughes, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD [39]

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Okay. And specific to ECS, you talked about it a bit earlier, if you look at your projections for '19, would the EBIT dollars at ECS, how would they compare to the EBIT dollars in '18? I'm talking about margins, which is dollars.

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Karl G. Glassman, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - CEO, President & Director [40]

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EBIT dollars would be up compared to the original projection, I think. But Wendy is going to test me on -- check me on and probably test me.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [41]

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Yes, pretty close. I mean there...

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Keith Brian Hughes, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD [42]

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Not projections but '18, how's it doing work? And what I'm trying to get to, is as you've seen deflation in the business but of course their inputs have gone down as well and just trying to capture how the spread on this works.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [43]

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It's going to be flat to -- yes, it's going to be flattish with the part that will be down, you could attribute absolutely to deflation.

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Keith Brian Hughes, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD [44]

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Okay. So when ECS sees deflation in their -- in the end user markets, so am I not seeing deflation in the inputs coming in as well?

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [45]

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Yes. In the chemicals?

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Keith Brian Hughes, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD [46]

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In the chemicals, yes.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [47]

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Yes.

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Keith Brian Hughes, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD [48]

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Okay. So I mean there's a lot of growth in their businesses, sounds like, in terms of unit. So have their just dollars not gone up that notably in 2019 versus '18?

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [49]

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In the...

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Perry E. Davis, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Executive VP and President of Residential Products & Industrial Products [50]

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I think, Keith, that's generally true. The number of pieces in the demand environment we have seen in terms of just sheer numbers, not only looking at mattresses, but in some of the other important parts of their business in finished foam products, generally toppers, pillows, those types of things. Yes, we have seen tremendous demand growth there. We have actually -- and had certain points over the last quarter where we have throttled back some of our order acceptance because we just simply had some capacity concerns, which we are addressing as we speak. We've added lines for additional mattress production. We changed some flow layouts and things in order to get better efficiencies within our manufacturing operations. But again, that handicapped when you look at it in terms of dollars by the, overall, pretty severe deflationary environment. Again, a little under half, at last count, of our mattress volume in that space was under contract. So we see, much as we do in our steel-related businesses, we see a kind of a delayed deflation picture as we take those decreases down. And they don't all happen at once, they happen over time because we saw an incremental step down in our raw material inputs.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [51]

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And just, Keith, we saw another quarter, while sales dollars were up, that was even after a roughly 11% drag from deflation.

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Operator [52]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Peter Keith with Piper Jaffray.

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Robert Adam Friedner, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Research Analyst [53]

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It's actually Bobby Friedner on for Peter. Nice results. So I wanted to discuss gross margins. So now I've seen 2 quarters with nice year-over-year improvement. I was hoping if you could discuss in a little more detail the different buckets that are contributing to the improvement. And knowing as we look to Q4 and early 2020, how do you think about the sustainability of gross margin expansion?

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [54]

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Bobby, this is Wendy. It's really the drivers between -- behind our gross margin improvement have to do with volume growth in our more profitable businesses, the puts and takes we talked about from exiting the low-margin business and then the reverse lag in LIFO benefit we are seeing from deflation.

And then relative to 2020, we certainly won't guide for 2020 until we get to February and we announce a full year earnings. But we're -- as Mitch discussed, we will continue to see some of the benefit in our Home Furniture business from the improvements we're seeing. We expect to see those improvements ongoing and as we see our more profitable businesses doing well, we would be pleased with that performance.

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Robert Adam Friedner, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Research Analyst [55]

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Okay, and I guess just as a follow up, steel prices still seem to be running down significantly year-over-year. Should we expect continued LIFO benefit in Q4?

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [56]

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Yes, our full year estimate is $24 million, so we would expect a roughly $6 million LIFO benefit in the fourth quarter. As you know in the fourth quarter, we true it up to actual. So that $6 million is an estimate. It will be wrong but it will -- to let you know what the actual is when we report for the full year.

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Operator [57]

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It appears we have no additional questions at this time. So I'd like to pass the floor back over to Ms. Watson for any additional concluding comments.

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Wendy M. Watson, Leggett & Platt, Incorporated - Director of IR [58]

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Thank you, everybody, and we will talk to you next quarter.

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Operator [59]

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Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude today's teleconference. We thank you for your participation, and you may disconnect your lines at this time.