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Edited Transcript of NRE1V.HE earnings conference call or presentation 8-May-19 12:00pm GMT

Q1 2019 Nokian Tyres plc Earnings Call

NOKIA May 20, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Nokian Tyres plc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at 12:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Hille Korhonen

Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO

* Päivi Antola

Nokian Renkaat Oyj - SVP of IR & Corporate Communications

* Teemu Kangas-Kärki

Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO

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Conference Call Participants

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* Akshay Katkar

JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP

* Artem Beletski

SEB, Research Division - Analyst

* Henning Cosman

HSBC, Research Division - Analyst

* Kai Alexander Mueller

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate and Analyst

* Mattias Holmberg

DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst

* Panu Laitinmäki

Danske Bank Markets Equity Research - Senior Analyst

* Sascha Gommel

Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Thomas Besson

Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Nokian Q1 Interim Report 2019 (Operator Instructions) I'll now hand over to your speakers. Please begin your meeting.

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Päivi Antola, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - SVP of IR & Corporate Communications [2]

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Good afternoon from Helsinki and welcome to Nokian Tyres Q1 2019 Results Call. My name is Päivi Antola and I am the Head of Investor Relations in Nokian Tyres. And together with me on the call, I have Hille Korhonen, the President and CEO of the company; and Teemu Kangas-Kärki, the CFO. As usual, we will start the call with a brief presentation by Hille and Teemu and then continue with a Q&A. So Hille, go ahead

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [3]

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Thank you, Päivi. Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for joining us today. So we have had a diverse start of the year with good progress in Heavy Tyres and Vianor, but some softness in the Passenger Car Tyre market especially in Europe. I will go through the market details more in details during the call as well as the business areas.

Our focus is strongly on our long-term targets and on our strategic projects. We are moving in line with our plan, both in building the U.S. factory and testing center in Spain, which are supporting our future growth ambitions. So let's look at the start of the year.

As said, it looks quite diverse. Overall, the net sales growth for the whole company was 3.8% with comparable currencies. And as mentioned already, we had good progress in Heavy Tyres and Vianor. In Passenger Car Tyres, we had some volume growth, but somewhat weaker price/mix, and Passenger Car Tyres net sales grew only slightly because of that. In order to compensate the soft market conditions and lower sales in Central Europe, we started Russian winter tire deliveries earlier, which explains part of the Russian growth numbers. As you can see, there was good growth in Nordic countries, and it's mainly driven by the growth in forestry segment in Heavy Tyres. And sales increased in all Vianor sale, mainly relating to B2B sales.

Operating profit was down from previous year due to headwind in currencies and higher raw material costs as well as price/mix of the sales, meaning that, first of all, we had higher share of Russian sales with more B-segment tires according to current market demand. Secondly, we have been selling inventory or end of life cycle products in CE to give room for sales of our new products both in summer and winter tires. And third, also share of products in Finland, with higher cost base was higher compared to previous year.

And as we have earlier stated, in the coming quarters, we continue to balance the production between Finland and Russia according to demand.

Net profit for the quarter was increased by almost EUR 150 million, as we recorded tax returns due to closing of the tax disputes in Finland.

So when we look at the different markets we are operating in, the new car sales continues to be soft in all markets, which is also impacting the replacement tire market sentiment as expected. The only positive market has been Norway with improved availability of Tesla cars. We have lowered our estimate regarding new car sales in Russia for full year to be on the level of 5% to 7%. This is mainly resulting from weakening consumer purchasing power and as a counteract, the Russian government has continued to provide incentives for purchasing new cars to maintain the demand. And this incentive is mainly provided to the budget cars.

The replacement tire market has been declining during first quarter. We keep our estimates regarding European full year replacement tire market on the previous year level, although there is some growth in the SUV and small all-weather segments. Regarding prices, with the current competitive environment, prices are stable or decreasing, which is the case already with bigger sizes where the competition is tougher.

For the Russian replacement tire markets, we lower our previous estimates to growth between 3% to 5%, with declining summer tire sales due to high channel inventories of summer tires. So the summer tire season has already started in Russia and the season is expected to bring the high channel inventories down. Our sales volume of summer tires in the fourth quarter will depend on the success of summer season sell-out. So as said, the season has been started as normal, but it's yet too early to draw any conclusions from that.

In North America, we continue to gradually expand our distribution with new customers and increase the number of outlets selling our tires. There has been some shift in sales between the fourth quarter and first quarter deliveries in terms of timing, but the overall performance of our North American team is according to plan.

And I will now hand over to Teemu, who will go through the numbers and business unit results. So please, Teemu.

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [4]

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Thank you, Hille. So let's start with the top line. This was on the level of EUR 344 million comparable currency growth of 3.8%, thanks to Heavy Tyre and Vianor good growth in the Nordics and then, the Russian growth in Passenger Car Tyres.

Operating profit decreased to the level of EUR 54 million, due to the softer result in the Passenger Car Tyres. Vianor and Heavy Tyres, they were able to improve their operating profit. If we look our earnings per share, the reported EPS was on the level of EUR 1.41, that was positively impacted the positive tax ruling and we booked this EUR 149 million to our results in this quarter. The cash flow impact was already visible last year, when we got the money from the tax authorities.

Then another change that is visible in the first quarter numbers is the IFRS 16 change that will be visible in our interest-bearing net debt. So the interest-bearing net debt change is mainly coming from that EUR 132 million is more on our balance sheet on both sides, on the assets and on the liabilities. And on the capital expenditure line, we can see the continued growth investments and majority of the growth is coming from our Dayton factory project.

Then moving to the Passenger Car Tyres. On a comparable basis, the growth was 0.7%, reaching EUR 256 million and the operating profit was down to the EUR 63 million level. The softness in the European market had impact to our operating profit as well as the ASP. The ASP with comparable currencies decreased slightly due to the country and product mix.

If we move then to the next slide, where you can see the bridge in net sales, and EBIT for the Passenger Car Tyres, you can see that breakdown between volume, price/mix and currency on top line. So in the first quarter, the volume growth was 1.5% and we got a headwind from the currencies minus 1.8%.

Moving to the EBIT bridge, where you can see still the significant currency negative headwind in the first quarter, coming both from Russian ruble and strengthening USD through the material costs. And if we take a look to the Russian ruble, it has been strengthening towards the year end last year, but still Q1 is weaker than the Q1 previous year.

The raw material impact, yes, you can see the increase of our material cost as well as the product mix effect (sic) [price/mix effect]. In product and other costs, you can see EUR 0.4 million negative impact. There we have the factory impact due to the fact that more was produced in Nokian factory than in the comparison period and that negative impact has been offset with the positive items and therefore, the net impact is smaller than the operational one.

Moving to the Heavy Tyres. There the good performance continued in the first quarter. Comparable growth on net sales was on the level of 12% reaching EUR 48 million and the operating profit reaching to EUR 9 million level. Forestry and agricultural tires increased the sales well, and operating profit improved due to the good growth and better availability in Heavy Tyres. And in the Heavy Tyres the capacity increase project is proceeding according to plan.

Moving to Vianor. There we were able to reach strong growth in the first quarter on a comparable basis. The growth was about 8%, especially in the B2B segment. And one other reason was that in some areas the season started few weeks earlier than in the comparison period. Operating loss was reduced and was minus EUR 12 million in the first quarter. Here we have been able to increase our efficiency and we have been focused on the sales, especially, in the past quarters.

And then moving back to you, Hille.

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [5]

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Thank you, Teemu. Then we take a look at the outlook and our guidance for 2019. As you can see, we keep our guidance for the full year unchanged. In 2019, net sales with comparable currencies are expected to grow and operating profit to be approximately on the level -- at the level of 2018. And as a reminder, it's good to note that we will carry significant additional operating costs in 2019 due to ramp-up of the new factory.

As a summary of the first quarter, I would like to make some -- several conclusions. So net sales growth during the first quarter was supported by over 2% volume growth in Passenger Car Tyres and growth in Heavy Tyres. Profitability improvement was positive in Heavy Tyres and Vianor, but we had negative impact from currencies and Passenger Car Tyres groups, both in sales mix and production mix.

Regarding our strategic projects, the testing center construction works are proceeding according to financial targets and schedule, and it will be finished by end of 2020.

I'm extremely happy about how we have been proceeding with the Dayton factory project in U.S.A. It's proceeding according to financial targets and schedule. The first team has been recruited and they are currently being trained in Russia, and we are prepared to start ramping up the production process during the coming months. Thank you.

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Päivi Antola, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - SVP of IR & Corporate Communications [6]

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Good. Thank you, Hille. Thank you, Teemu. And now operator, we will be ready for questions from the audience, please.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) The first question is from Panu Laitinmäki from Danske Bank.

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Panu Laitinmäki, Danske Bank Markets Equity Research - Senior Analyst [2]

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I have just one question on the guidance. You keep the full year guidance for EBIT and sales unchanged, but then you're downgrading the market outlook for all of your markets and then Q1 was kind of below last year. So why are -- why do you think you will reach the same EBIT as before, when you are kind of downgrading the market outlook? That's my question.

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [3]

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So that's a good question. We actually have downgraded the Russian market outlook, the other markets we are kind of keeping on the previous estimated level. And if you look at the guidance, we are guiding to be approximately at the level of 2018, when it comes to operating profit. And in general, we see that reaching this full year target is a bit more demanding compared to the situation in February, due to the lower growth estimates in Russian market but, as said, we keep the guidance unchanged.

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Panu Laitinmäki, Danske Bank Markets Equity Research - Senior Analyst [4]

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Can I just have a quick follow-up related to that? You are basically expecting better development in the remaining quarters than in Q1. Can you kind of remind us what are the main drivers for the better development as Q1 was down and then full year around the same level in EBIT?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [5]

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So when we look at the markets during the first quarter, they have been down, and our estimate has been that, for example, European market would be on the same level compared to previous years. So there is some expectation for the positive signs towards the year-end. But, of course it's still quite early.

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Operator [6]

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Next question is from Henning Cosman from HSBC.

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Henning Cosman, HSBC, Research Division - Analyst [7]

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I have a few questions actually, but they're all relatively short. So first question is, if could you please clarify on the inventory level, especially in the Europe, when you say that's high, I understand Russia is probably more your own inventory, but could you also please comment or clarify, if you're talking more about industry energy levels or your own?

And then also, I think we've understood from Michelin's commentary that the European, especially the replacement, market was unexpectedly weak in a magnitude that's quite unusual. If you could please share your view as to why you think that's been the case?

I have a few question on the EBIT bridge as well. If you could first please comment on the drop-through of currency. I've never seen this to be above 100%. If you could please elaborate how that's possible?

And then on the production and fixed cost, I'm actually a bit surprised to see that this is not more negative, given the ramp-up of the U.S. us as well as the reallocation of volume to Russia. I think, Hille, in your closing remarks, you also said to remember that there's also going to be a significant additional operating costs, so I'm a little bit surprised to not see it there. And I'll get back into the line after that.

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [8]

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If I first start with the EBIT bridge. So in terms of the currency impact, there, you need to remember the impact from the raw materials and the USD. So, therefore, it's a bigger impact than on our net sales. And then, in terms of our product and other costs, there we don't have yet, the impact from Dayton ramp-up, but we have the impact of our factory mix change between Nokia and Vsevo. But as said earlier in my commentary, we had also other cost timing issues where -- why the negative impact is small.

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Henning Cosman, HSBC, Research Division - Analyst [9]

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So Teemu, just to clarify the material portion in the EBIT, that's exclusive of currency and the entire currency sits in the currency bucket, including the currency effect on material?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [10]

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Yes.

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [11]

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And if you could please, Henning, repeat your first question.

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Henning Cosman, HSBC, Research Division - Analyst [12]

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Just of the inventory level. If you could talk more about inventory level. If you were mainly talking about your own inventory level in Russia and in Europe or more about market inventory?

And then secondly, if you could please share your view as to why the European replacement tire market has been so weak. I think in some markets, for example, Germany, I understand it's been down 10% in the first quarter, which is very unusual. If you could, please, share your view as to why you think that has been the case?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [13]

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So we are more talking about the general inventory levels than inventory levels of our products in the channel. Of course, in Russia, we have better visibility to what is in the channel because our distribution is covering the whole country. And in general, we have seen that the summer tire inventories in all our customers' distribution channels are on a high-level compared to previous year and that's why, what is really needed is good summer season to clean the inventory issue and that will then give more space for the customers to be prepared for the next season and place orders.

Then what comes to European situation, we have also noted that there have been higher levels of summer tires in our customers' warehouses and we have noted that, it's probably driven by different factors, one being the OE market weaker and therefore, there has been good availability of tires to all the channels. And also the seasons have been varying in different parts of the -- of Europe. And what we saw was really a quite slow start of the year because customers had enough inventory at their warehouse.

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Henning Cosman, HSBC, Research Division - Analyst [14]

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Okay, great. And then finally, if I may, on Russia then, your introductory comments, I understand that how you sometimes talk about it, you reallocate capacity according to where you can sell it, right, and seeing that Europe was a bit tougher, you sold more in Russia. Do you see a risk that you sort of front-loaded the volume into -- maybe also into your own channels in Russia a little bit and therefore, it's going to be even tougher to sell more volume in Russia later in the year? Is there certain risk of that?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [15]

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Well, I said the summer tire sales is -- may be one of the things that we pay most attention to, because that will be then impacting the fourth quarter. And there is still room for sales of both A-segment and B-segment for winter.

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Operator [16]

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And next question is from Sascha Gommel of Crédit Suisse.

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Sascha Gommel, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [17]

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The first one would actually be, historically, you gave us a production number for your Passenger Car Tyres, would you mind sharing that number with us?

And then my second question would be on the cost headwind from the U.S. expansion, do you have a rough indication how much that will be in 2019?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [18]

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We'll start with the production costs, there we have now -- a new year has started, we have reviewed the level of disclosure and that is a figure what we are, unfortunately, no longer disclosing. And what comes to the cost levels...

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [19]

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I can comment that based on the materials that we disclosed in the Capital Markets Day, the impact to the Passenger Car Tyres profitability on an aggregate level containing not only the factory, but also increases like in R&D, so it is on a level of EUR 20 million give or take.

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Sascha Gommel, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [20]

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Okay. And I quickly follow-up, because we were discussing the guidance question a lot. I struggle a little bit to see where your improvement should come from over the year, because volumes will be tough because of inventories, price/mix is negative at the moment, and I don't know what you're expecting there. By then costs should actually be an incremental headwind, so I'm struggling a little bit to see how you can kind of improve your EBIT more -- to offset the decline in the first quarter, could you comment on that by any chance?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [21]

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In general, the improvement is based on the top line growth number.

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Sascha Gommel, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [22]

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So from volumes then?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [23]

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From volumes.

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [24]

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Yes.

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Operator [25]

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Next question is from Artem Beletski from SEB.

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Artem Beletski, SEB, Research Division - Analyst [26]

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A couple of questions from my side. So you covered inventory situation what comes to summer tires, but could you maybe comment what is the winter tire inventory in your key markets as the season is now over across the regions?

And then the second question is relating to share of Russian production which did really decline quite substantially in Q1. Should we see more, so let's say, a normal level or higher level of Russian production going forward or what we should assume on that front?

And then maybe the last, more detailed question relating to the U.S. service center numbers what you are providing in the report. I have noted that, that figure has declined quite substantially looking at Q1 compared to last year. What is a key driver behind it? Is it basically a strategy around the independent dealer distribution? How are you planning to grow your volumes in the U.S. or what is a key trend there?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [27]

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So, first of all, if I comment on the winter tire inventories, I would say they are, in general, in the normal range, a bit higher in the Europe, slightly higher in Russia, but nothing dramatic. In some parts of Canada, they are on a higher level because of weak winter. But in the other part, on the other hand, they are on a lower level. So there are quite big differences between the markets, but nothing extraordinary, I would say.

And then what comes to the U.S. distribution, we have some -- done some recategorization and we are proceeding with implementation of the Nokian-affiliated dealer network, and we are, at the same time, renewing the concept, so there is some, I would say, intentional slowdown of that rollout because we want to finalize the concept first.

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Artem Beletski, SEB, Research Division - Analyst [28]

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And maybe the last one was relating to Russian share of production, which was down quite substantially in Q1?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [29]

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As I commented, we are balancing the production between Finland and Russia based on the demand over the coming months. So I have difficulties to make any numbers for you at this point of time, but it will be based on the demand.

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Operator [30]

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Next question is from Thomas Besson from Kepler Cheuvreux.

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Thomas Besson, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector [31]

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I'll try 2 questions as well please. First on the currency, which I think, surprised few of us over the last couple of quarters. If you look at current spot rates, should we assume that currency is, again, going to be a headwind for your Passenger Car Tyres within Q2 or at the opposite? Because we have seen the ruble, actually kind of stabilize if not strengthen relatively, currency could actually be a small tailwind in Q2? That's the first question.

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [32]

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So with regards to the ruble, if the ruble remains on this level, we shouldn't get any headwind and it might turn to the tailwinds.

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Thomas Besson, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector [33]

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Sorry, can you repeat?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [34]

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So, the current level of Russian ruble is now stronger than in the balance of the year, last year up to Q1. If I recall right.

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Thomas Besson, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector [35]

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Yes, absolutely, so what does it mean, should we expect a tailwind or just no headwind?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [36]

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You should expect a small tailwind.

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Thomas Besson, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector [37]

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Okay, great. My other question is on, what you call the pricing environment. So can you be more specific about where you see negative price actions from competition. Are you just referring to Germany and Western Europe, or are you referring to all your key markets?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [38]

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I would say that it, of course, varies by market. But in Russia there has been competitors who have been taking down prices and there are competitors who have been increasing the prices. In Central Europe, it has been difficult to see any price increases and mainly the price decreases have been focusing on the bigger sizes. So in general, the price increases are rare.

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Thomas Besson, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector [39]

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Okay. So is that a fair comment to say that, as in, all the time you have some price actions from different players with unity, so that in Western Europe currently the pricing situation is a little more exacerbated? Is that a fair comment?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [40]

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Yes. Yes, definitely so.

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Thomas Besson, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Head of Automobile Sector [41]

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Okay. But it's more centered on what we call Western Europe and what you call Central Europe, right?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [42]

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Yes.

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Operator [43]

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Next question is from Akshay Katkar from JP Morgan.

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Akshay Katkar, JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP [44]

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If I may, I'll take the question one by one. The first question is confirming your 2019 operating profit guidance? Is it flat in absolute terms, that is EUR 372 million or is it flat excluding currency, which means the number could be lower, including currency?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [45]

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So our EBIT guidance includes the currency impact.

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Akshay Katkar, JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP [46]

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And you're expecting it to be flat at around EUR 370 million?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [47]

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We have said that approximately at the level.

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Akshay Katkar, JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP [48]

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Okay. Second question is, what is your raw material headwind guidance for the full year, underlying without FX?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [49]

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We have been giving in our material -- the material unit forecast, including the currency and there we are expecting that to be on a full year level somewhere around 3% to 4% increase with the headwind from USD. And my earlier comment to that -- to the currency question was that, we might have a slight positive tailwind from the Russian ruble, but then, we will have a negative headwind from the USD.

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Akshay Katkar, JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP [50]

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Sure. So that means the underlying core raw material, you're not expecting any headwind in 2019?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [51]

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From the material cost, we are getting headwinds around 3% to 4%, including the currency.

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Akshay Katkar, JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP [52]

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Okay. And if I may, in the first quarter 2018, you said that 55% of Russian production was exported. Is it possible to share the number for 1Q, 2019?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [53]

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So this is the approach that we have now taking that we don't share that information anymore.

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Akshay Katkar, JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Associate VP [54]

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Okay. And Maybe the last one on your Central European markets. What are the key markets that you saw the decline in other than Germany?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [55]

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Well, Germany is definitely the biggest market, having biggest impact on the sales. And the competitive situation is tight all over Europe. So I would say that it's really determined by Germany.

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Operator [56]

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And the next question is from Kai Mueller from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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Kai Alexander Mueller, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate and Analyst [57]

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The first one is, again, sorry to come back on your guidance on EBIT. You obviously are saying flat including FX, now the run rate in Q1 we're looking at is down 12% at the moment. When you think about the 12% you do need a big pickup in the second half. Is that -- what gives you confidence on that recovery given the headwinds? I think, Sasha sort of outlined them earlier. Given your volumes right now are also not really running -- picking up as much.

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [58]

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Well, as said, it's still too early to draw conclusions after the first quarter. And there is underlying demand anyway in the different markets and positive growth in the Russian market as well as in North America. So as the European market looks challenging at the moment, of course, there is expectation for the market to stabilize during the year.

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Kai Alexander Mueller, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate and Analyst [59]

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Okay. And then just to -- also to clarify, when you say around flat year-on-year, what sort of range would that be, plus or minus 5% or plus or minus 10%?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [60]

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We are talking about plus or minus couple of percentages.

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Kai Alexander Mueller, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate and Analyst [61]

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A couple of percentages. Okay. Very helpful. And then a last one, on competition. Obviously the question came up quite often that, that's been intensifying in Central Europe. Is that still the case that you see OE tires also entering the replacement market and being quite heavily discounted versus your space? Or is it really the underlying on the pricing side? Or what do you really see as the underlying driver that demand is suddenly so much weaker because the replacement markets tend to be much more resilient than the OE?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [62]

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Well, as we see it, the OE market disturbances have a big impact on European market as well as when we were last year talking about the situation in Turkey. Of course, the volumes that were supposed to be sold there, they continue to be pushed to the European market. So there are several factors behind, and of course, it could be very helpful for the OE market to pick up.

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Kai Alexander Mueller, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate and Analyst [63]

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And just to follow, is that on the pricing side, OE tires entering the replacement market and what is also the driver that the replacement market in itself has been sluggish?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [64]

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Yes, it's the total volumes that there is more volume available for the replacement market at this point of time. And of course, then that is impacting the pricing.

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Operator [65]

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Next question is from Mattias Holmberg from DNB Markets.

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Mattias Holmberg, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [66]

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I'm not sure that I understood this correctly, but it sounded like you said you have been selling inventory of products that were at the end of the life cycle in Central Europe and if this actually is the case, makes me a bit worried because I recall your predecessor Ari used to say that Central Europe more or less had been used as a dumping ground, may be its too strong of a wording, but a market used to get rid of excess volumes and this obviously wasn't good for the price level for your products in that region and it doesn't really seem to be going hand-in-hand with your current strategy. I know he worked forward to take a clear step away from this, so could you please shed some light on how you're thinking and your strategy in relation to this, please?

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [67]

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Yes, I'm fully aware of our practices at some point of time when Central Europe was not one of our core markets. Of course, then we were able to sell some bigger quantities at some point of time through wholesalers. And this is not the case at this moment because we want to grow the market and we want to be in close collaborations with our customers and not dumping the products there. So this is not what we are doing. But as we have products available and designed for the Central European market, and then we get the new product, of course, we are selling out the old products from our inventories to then give more space to the new products. So I would not call that dumping, but of course, it's good to understand that this is only selling out the old products that we have.

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Mattias Holmberg, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [68]

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Great. And the second question from me is, I think, it sounded like you talked about the EBIT bridge and that you yet did not see or have any costs associated to U.S. plant ramp up visible in that bridge. So could you please help us a bit on the phasing of how this 100 to 200 basis points headwind that you guided for on the margin will impact throughout the year?

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Teemu Kangas-Kärki, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - CFO [69]

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It will gradually increase as Hille pointed out. Now we have recruited the first people, they are in Russia at the moment in training and the cost base will increase towards the year-end.

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Operator [70]

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And there are currently no further questions registered. So I will hand the call back to the speakers. Please go ahead.

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Hille Korhonen, Nokian Renkaat Oyj - President & CEO [71]

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Thank you. If there are no additional questions then we would like to thank you all for participating. And I wish you all a good day. Thank you.

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Operator [72]

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This now concludes the conference call. Thank you all for attending. You may now disconnect your lines.