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Edited Transcript of LYTS earnings conference call or presentation 5-Feb-20 4:00pm GMT

Q2 2020 LSI Industries Inc Earnings Call

CINCINNATI Feb 11, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of LSI Industries Inc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 4:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* James A. Clark

LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director

* James E. Galeese

LSI Industries Inc. - CFO & Executive VP

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Conference Call Participants

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* Craig Edward Irwin

Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst

* Richard E. Fearon

Accretive Capital Partners, LLC - Founder and Managing Partner

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the LSI Industries Second Quarter 2020 Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions)

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. Jim Galeese. Thank you, and you may begin.

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James E. Galeese, LSI Industries Inc. - CFO & Executive VP [2]

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Good morning, everyone. We issued a press release before the market opened this morning, detailing our fiscal second quarter results. In conjunction with this release, we also posted a conference call presentation in the Investor Relations portion of our corporate website at www.lsi-industries.com.

Information contained in this presentation will be referenced throughout today's conference call. I would like to remind you that management's commentary and responses to questions on today's conference call may include forward-looking statements about our business outlook. Such statements involve risks and opportunities, and actual results could differ materially. I refer you to our safe harbor statement, which appears in this morning's press release as well as our most recent 10-K and 10-Q.

Today's call will begin with remarks summarizing our fiscal second quarter results. At the conclusion of these prepared remarks, we will open the line for questions.

With that, I'll turn the call over to LSI's CEO, Jim Clark.

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [3]

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Jim, thank you. Good morning, all. Let me start this morning with a few highlights of the last quarter. I'm encouraged by progress we've made in our second quarter. Although top line sales in Lighting lagged a bit behind last year, we had significant improvement in our margins, underlining our effort to move away from low value, highly commoditized business into higher-value differentiated opportunities. In our Lighting segment, we enjoyed a better than 4% gross margin improvement and better than an 8% OP income improvement when compared to last year's results.

We are committed to improving this even further. As part of our customer-first initiative, a majority of our executive management team spread out across the country in early January with the mission for each person to visit with 2 or 3 of our reps and agents. The goal was to create a personal contact with our partners in the field and get a firsthand view of the opportunities and challenges they experience daily. The meetings were generally scheduled for 1 to 2 hours, with the majority of them ended up going far beyond the scheduled time, with some lasting as long as 6 hours.

We came back from these meetings energized by the input of our partners and the development of a more personal connection. The mission now is to sort through the feedback received, look for the opportunities and assure our agents and reps that we are truly partners in their business as much as they are in ours.

On this trip, we visited with more than 20 reps. We still have a number of reps to go and this is something we will do again soon.

Expanding on the partner visits, we had approximately 24 of our top reps come in and visit with us in Blue Ash, the middle of last month. We committed the entire leadership team to the meeting, having everyone from manufacturing, engineering, quality, order entry, sales and finance participate. Much like the field visits, we were listening to our partners, looking for input, sharing feedback and planning for the future.

I could not have been happier with this visit and the commitment these folks have to our company. Most of them have been LSI partners for decades, and they truly exemplify the word partner. Luckily, January is the longest month of the year, and we took full advantage of it by holding our national sales meeting in Cincinnati last weekend.

We are able to get our entire sales team together, including Jeff Davis, our new commercial leader, for 3 days of intensive training, including new sales processes, product reviews, competitor updates and new product introductions. Along the lines of new products in the last quarter, I'm pleased to say we released 6 new products and over the next few quarters, we plan to release 2x that number.

On the graphics side of the business, I would like to note that the petroleum business has achieved 9 consecutive quarters of growth, and we have work to be engaged in a string of new projects. As we've discussed in prior calls, these new projects tend to be multiyear ventures, and we go through an efficiency and learning curve. That curve directly relates to our margin performance. The more experienced we become with the project, the more effective we become and margins improve. A good example of this margin improvement cycle is in our digital signage business.

Over the last 2 quarters, we've been able to improve customer satisfaction and differentiate ourselves from our competitors, all while improving margins by better than 5%. Simply put, we're providing better service than our competitors. The customers recognize it, and they're willing to pay for it.

Continuing on the Graphics topic, last week, LSI joined in on an inaugural celebration with Valero marking the opening of their first Mexico location. This was no small event. It included a 7-piece Mariachi band and a full extended celebration on-premise. This was a well-attended full-scale event.

Our logistics and implementation mechanisms allow us to provide the exact same high-quality brand image to our marketers in Mexico as in the United States. We like to say whether the project is in Kansas City or Mexico City, LSI is a sought after trusted partner in the petroleum branding, and our customers can be assured of a consistent high-quality experience. That's why so many of the world's largest petroleum companies are working with LSI.

In general, the Mexico projects are ramping back up. However, we have heard from a number of our partners that there have been some expanded regulatory requirements added to the process, which is adding time to approval and permitting. We do not anticipate or expect any loss of business, but project start dates have been extended to account for this longer approval processes.

As I mentioned previously, we've invested in an expansion and efficiency improvement plan in our Houston facility, which is the primary manufacturing location for our petroleum-related Graphics projects.

Last summer, we added approximately 40,000 square feet, and we've made considerable workflow improvements, all of which is being done under heavy workload and without impacting production or customer satisfaction.

I was down in Houston a few weeks ago with Jim Galeese, and we're pleased with the progress these folks have made in the continuing operations in front of us. I expect that it will take us another quarter or 2 before we realize the full impact of these changes, but it's very exciting to see the improvements. As many of you may have noted, we entered into a definitive agreement last month to sell our 210,000 square foot Graphics facility in North Canton and move into a smaller facility right down the road from our current location.

With changes in print technology and improved workflow design, we simply did not need the space we were in and the burden and cost of carrying that excess space just didn't make sense.

This move will allow us to retain a highly skilled and valuable workforce in Canton, while introducing a number of efficiencies in the layout and production flow of our North Canton operations.

We'll be going through a build-out and moving the building over the next few months, but we anticipate a close on the sale of this building towards the end of this quarter, Q3.

On a completely different note, I wanted to talk about events in China for a minute. As you know, we are principally an American-made and manufactured product. With that said, we do source some measure of components from the Far East. Each year, we have plans in place to account for known disruptions like the Chinese New Year, and contingency plans to account for things like shipping strikes, tariffs, et cetera. I can't say that we had the coronavirus specifically in mind, but we do have plans in place to address issues just like this, which could cause possible supply chain disruptions.

At this point, we've analyzed our exposure to critical parts distribution and disruption from China, and we feel comfortable that we should be able to weather any disruption for some time. Obviously, it's hard to predict what the long-term impact could look like, but being an American-made product, we should prove to be another benefit to our partners and customers, and we hope that our ability to provide products to our customers will be minimally disrupted, if at all. Regardless, we all hope for a speedy resolve to this issue.

In closing, I want to reflect back over the last year. The company has gone through a lot of positive changes. We put a lot of time into our operations and sales plans to be ready for the second half and for the future. Margins continue to improve, operating income is up and debt, which was over $50 million this time last year, is down below $10 million today. Although we still have a ways to go, I know that we have plenty of opportunities remaining in front of us, both operationally and commercially, and I'm looking forward to a strong second half.

With that, I'll turn it back over to Jim Galeese for a closer look at our financials.

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James E. Galeese, LSI Industries Inc. - CFO & Executive VP [4]

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Thank you, Jim, and good morning, everyone. Summarizing key fiscal second quarter financial statistics, net income was $1.7 million compared to a net loss of $15.8 million last year. Earnings per diluted share were $0.07 versus a loss of $0.61 in the fiscal second quarter of 2019. Sales for the second quarter were $82.4 million versus prior year of $89.5 million, reflecting our demand-shaping initiatives.

On a non-GAAP basis, adjusted net income was $1.6 million compared to $900,000 in the same period prior year. Non-GAAP earnings per diluted share were $0.06, double the $0.03 a share last year. A complete reconciliation of second quarter GAAP and non-GAAP results is contained in our press release and 10-Q. The company generated $13.8 million of free cash flow in Q2, reducing net debt to $9.2 million. Net debt has been reduced approximately $30 million in the last 12 months. The company's net debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio is now 0.7x. Working capital decreased $23 million or 31% versus prior year reflecting continued improvements in both dollars and days of working capital.

In January, we announced a definitive agreement to sell the Graphics manufacturing facility in North Canton, Ohio. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will receive approximately $8 million in gross cash proceeds. The net proceeds will be used to further reduce debt, fund innovation as well as other business investments. A regular cash dividend of $0.05 per share was declared payable February 26 for shareholders of record on February 18.

Next, I'll briefly comment on the performance of our 2 reportable segments. Starting with Lighting. Sales were $53 million versus $64 million last year. The gross margin rate improved 420 basis points to 29%. And adjusted operating income improved 8% to $3.2 million. Lighting adjusted EBITDA was $4.8 million or 9% of sales.

The 420 basis point gross margin rate improvement includes the positive change in sales mix, driven by our demand-shaping actions, moving away from commodity, low-margin products as well as the cost savings realized from the New Windsor plant closure. Exiting Q2, we are on track to achieve annualized New Windsor savings target of $4 million. Lastly, recent project order activity has been positive, high single digits above last year.

Shifting to the Graphics segment. Graphics generated sales growth of 12% for the quarter representing the ninth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth. Growth was driven by multiple verticals, including petroleum and quick-serve restaurants.

The outlook for the next several quarters in the program-driven petroleum vertical is strong, a combination of an increasing backlog, growth in the program activity with new customers, and the announced 4-year extension with Chevron Texaco.

Graphics segment adjusted operating income for the quarter was $1.7 million versus $900,000 in the prior year. Operations productivity, volume leverage and overall expense management was responsible for the increase. Graphics adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $2 million or 7% of sales compared to $1.3 million or 5% in the prior quarter.

Let me finish with a couple of additional comments on the North Canton facility project. In addition to the $8 million cash proceeds, the sale and relocation to a smaller lease site in the North Canton area will generate a small annual net cost savings with lower facility fixed cost, offset by the new lease.

We also retain our experienced, skilled workforce, ensuring we maintain our customer service capabilities during this transition.

I'll now return the call back to the moderator.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Craig Irwin with Roth Capital.

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Craig Edward Irwin, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [2]

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Congratulations on the progress with your balance sheet. The first question I wanted to ask, $9.2 million, down from $38 million and a change a year ago. This obviously does not include the $8 million in cash or net cash from your facility sale, right? That's not in the remaining $9.2 million?

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [3]

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That's correct.

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Craig Edward Irwin, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [4]

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Excellent. Excellent. So then as we look at the fiscal third quarter, your March quarter, this has traditionally been your lowest seasonal quarter just due to the overall seasonality in the Lighting business and the way things progress. How much of an opportunity really is there to squeeze the balance sheet a little bit more? I mean, you guys have leaned out your working capital so aggressively over the last couple of years. Do you see much of an opportunity to continue to sort of drip some cash out of your existing assets?

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [5]

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Yes. Craig, this is Jim Clark. Thanks for being on the call. And thanks for the question. You're right. I mean, going from $38 million, down $9 million, and we're -- we'll continue to move on that even through this quarter. That -- I just want to be clear, that does not include the $8 million. I know I answered that question kind of quick. It does not include the $8 million from North Canton. I do believe we have some additional levers to pull. We've got -- and as I mentioned in my comments a few minutes ago, we've still got a list of things that we can work on. And I believe there's some additional efficiencies we can get and we have things we can continue to go after. So...

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Craig Edward Irwin, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [6]

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So then the -- so I was -- maybe just a tad high in the quarter. I completely understand the softness in the Lighting market. I think you guys are outperforming versus some of the behemoths out there, right? But as we look at the third quarter, I'm kind of scratching my head and asking if we are likely to stay profitable? Do you feel that there are any significant levers that can allow you to outperform the market on revenue maybe in the third quarter? Or the North Canton facility sale will have a modest impact on the net profitability, but do our SG&A go down? How should we be looking at potential profitability and the puts and takes in the third fiscal quarter?

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [7]

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Craig, I've always said we needed to build a better business before we could build a bigger business, and we needed to keep that in mind. In Q2, as we moved away from that highly commoditized business, we knew we were going to put pressure on our top line, but as you can see through the financials, we certainly carry it through in margin and the bottom line.

There is, clearly, from some of the bigger guys, there is pressure in the Lighting market in general. But as I've said a number of times, also, it's a $15 billion opportunity annually. And I think that for a company like LSI, it's about share more than it is about market direction, and we've got a lot of room in front of us. In Q3, which is traditionally our weaker quarter, and it's highlighted by the fact that we put a lot of time into our outdoor projects, Q3 would certainly expose a little bit of weakness relative to indoor. We have some plans that I think, and we have some things that are coming in that are going to make Q3 better than we did last year. No question about it. Now our challenge is, can we do it and mitigate the losses that we experienced last year? The answer is yes, we will be a stair-step improvement. But our goal right now is to maximize that in terms of the improvement and minimize the impact. But I do think that Q3 remains a quarter of challenge for us.

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Craig Edward Irwin, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [8]

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Great. And then one of the things we're starting to see in the Lighting industry is that some of the very, very large customers are coming back and taking a look at some of the smaller, more nimble suppliers. We've run across one customer in particular that looks like they're close to changing to a similarly sized company that I don't think you really compete with directly.

Are you seeing the level of engagement with the top 50 customers in the market maybe shift a little bit? Are you finding more doors that are opening because of your well-run domestic manufacturing and your history of on-time improvements -- on-time delivery, continuous improvement? And how is this potentially working for you in this current environment, given people see lower risk in doing business with domestic manufacturers?

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [9]

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Well, I will tell you that -- I want to hit that in a couple of points. In my comments a few minutes ago, we took the first 2 weeks of June -- I mean, of January and went out and visited our agents. I mean, we sat across the table from them and visited with them. And I think that differentiates us an awful lot in the industry, and it's a very positive response. The folks see what we're doing. They hear the messages, and this is through our agents and our end users. They hear the message, they see the progress. And to your point, they look and say, these guys are credible. They appreciate the underlining of the American-made built here, U.S. manufactured and the people that are making our products are the people that are using them also.

So all of that is working very well for us. I do believe, to your comment, that there is a shift where people are looking and saying, listen, I don't want -- okay, I don't want a broad portfolio that's okay. I'd rather pick the best-in-class that serves particular or specific markets well and that's really resonated with our customers and our customers are saying that back to us. And I do believe that's key to our improvement. And it's all underpinned by what we're doing. We're doing what we said we were going to do, and I think folks appreciate that.

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Craig Edward Irwin, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [10]

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Great. And then if we could just lastly touch on Petroleum. So this has been a long-term source of strength for LSI. You announced in the release that you picked up another important customer there. Can you maybe scope out for us how many of your -- how many large programs you're executing on for petroleum at the moment? And what portion of the revenue in -- of the company, is actually coming from petroleum these days? And how is this maybe evolving?

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [11]

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Well, Craig, we are engaged in 5 large projects right now. And these projects tend to be multiyear projects. We don't typically break up the Graphics piece of petroleum, what we do for branding and stuff like that. But those 5 projects represent about 30% of what we're doing, Lighting and Graphics combined.

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Craig Edward Irwin, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [12]

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Understood. Great. Well, congratulations on the progress with the balance sheet, fingers crossed. Maybe we can get to net debt of 0 in the next couple of months. So really looking forward to that.

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [13]

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Well, thank you, Craig. And I do -- we're on the same page. I do think we can get to 0, but I also want to comment that it wasn't a race to 0 as much as it's a race to having that dry powder and being able to look at opportunities that may come in front of us or opportunities that we're developing. So I'm not -- I mentioned this before, I'm very much willing to use debt to help fuel our company and help build it. But as I mentioned a few minutes ago, I always felt and management team felt too, we needed to have a good, solid foundation to work from, a better business before we became a bigger business.

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Operator [14]

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Our next question comes from the line of Rich Fearon with Accretive Capital Partners.

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Richard E. Fearon, Accretive Capital Partners, LLC - Founder and Managing Partner [15]

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Congrats on a really nice quarter. Yes, the margin improvement is very impressive as is the $40 million year-over-year debt reduction, and it just speaks to really smart decisions that you're making in reallocating the assets towards higher margin and growth opportunities that both internally, organically as well as hopefully, there's some things you need to scout out there in what remains kind of still a fragmented industry and perhaps offer some acquisition opportunities.

So I guess just my one quick question relates to that. This unlevered balance sheet is a phenomenal tool to have. It's nice in a somewhat cyclical industry, not to be run with a lot of leverage. But if there are some opportunities out there that are cash flowing and maybe help counter some cyclicality or just provide long-term growth that can be bought at a good price, do you have anything in the near-term or medium-term sort of in mind or any direction that you'd like to take the company with respect to deploying some of the strong balance sheet towards acquisitions?

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [16]

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Well, let me add -- this is Jim Clark, again. Let me answer that in a couple of ways. First, the simplest answer is yes. We are out there. We are looking for opportunities and whether those are -- they could range from partnerships to acquisitions, to tech in a number of different areas we're looking at. I don't want to really comment specifically on who or what we're looking at, just for general business sake, but we have been actively out there looking. We have had conversations with a few people that have advanced to the point where we're trying to figure out how they would best fit in.

We will continue to do that. And probably the only thing that was holding us back was making sure that we were organizationally ready, and we had the organizational maturity to bring on a partner, to bring on an acquisition, to expand our product offering or whatever it was.

So much in the acquisition world, so much of the value is destroyed by poor integration, and knowing that we were ready, we had good solid foundation we're standing on was necessary before we could go and credibly say, we can do an acquisition, and we can integrate it in a way that's meaningful to our business.

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Richard E. Fearon, Accretive Capital Partners, LLC - Founder and Managing Partner [17]

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You've built a really strong team, Jim, and it's impressive. And it sounds like a smart way of going about it. And I think if there's anything that any of your shareholders or others can do to help with respect to context and whatnot, please don't hesitate to reach out. I would love to see really leverage what you have built now. And by that, I don't mean with debt, but seeing how you can grow the business and do that in a really smart way, the way you have already in terms of improving margins and finding good value-added businesses that have long-term sustainability.

So congrats on the nice work, and thanks for all the hard work.

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [18]

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Well, thank you. Thank you for those comments.

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Operator [19]

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Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, I'd like to turn it back to Jim Clark for closing comments.

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James A. Clark, LSI Industries Inc. - CEO, President & Director [20]

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I just want to say thank you, everybody, for participating and joining in. I hope that you find these calls informative. As we've mentioned before, we're always available, myself and Jim Galeese, if anybody wants a follow-up comment or a conversation on specifics. As Rick brought up, certainly, we are continuing to look for opportunities. And hopefully, on the next call, we'll have even more to talk about.

Thank you, and good afternoon.

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Operator [21]

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Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.