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Edited Transcript of OEC earnings conference call or presentation 8-May-20 12:30pm GMT

Q1 2020 Orion Engineered Carbons SA Earnings Call

Luxembourg Jun 1, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Orion Engineered Carbons SA earnings conference call or presentation Friday, May 8, 2020 at 12:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Corning F. Painter

Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director

* Lorin James Crenshaw

Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO

* Wendy Wilson

Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - Head of IR & Corporate Communications

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Conference Call Participants

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* Christopher John Kapsch

Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD

* Jeffrey John Zekauskas

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Jonathan E. Tanwanteng

CJS Securities, Inc. - MD

* Joshua David Spector

UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Equity Research Associate - Chemicals

* Kevin William Hocevar

Northcoast Research Partners, LLC - VP & Equity Research Analyst

* Laurence Alexander

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - VP & Equity Research Analyst

* Michael James Leithead

Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Greetings. Welcome to Orion Engineered Carbons First Quarter 2020 Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) Please note, this conference is being recorded.

I will now turn the conference over to Wendy Wilson, Head of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. Thank you. You may begin.

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Wendy Wilson, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - Head of IR & Corporate Communications [2]

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Thank you, operator. Good morning, everyone. And welcome to Orion Engineered Carbons conference call to discuss our first quarter 2020 financial results. I'm Wendy Wilson, Head of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. With us today are Corning Painter, Chief Executive Officer; and Lorin Crenshaw, Chief Financial Officer. We issued our earnings press release after the market closed yesterday and have posted a slide presentation to the Investor Relations portion of our website. We will be referencing this presentation during the call.

Before we begin, I'd like to remind you that some of the comments made on today's call are forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to the risks and uncertainties as described in the company's filings with the SEC. Actual results may differ materially from those described during the call. In addition, all forward-looking statements are made as of today, May 8, and the company does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements based on new circumstances or revised expectations.

Also, non-GAAP financial measures discussed during this call are reconciled to the most directly comparable GAAP measures in the table attached to our press release.

I'll now turn the call over to Corning Painter.

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [3]

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Good morning, everyone. And thank you for joining us for our first quarter 2020 earnings conference call. Thank you, Wendy, and once again, welcome to Orion. Wendy brings a wealth of investor relations and communications experience from the vantage point of several different firms over the course of her 25-year career. We are excited to have her join the Orion team as a thought partner to Lorin and to me as we -- as well as a partner to each investor and analyst who is interested in understanding our fundamentals and the strategies to drive shareholder value.

First, a big thank you to our people for their commitment and discipline during these challenging times. With their leadership and dedication, we have been able to operate all of our plants through the quarter in excellent form, including those in China, Korea, Italy, America, everywhere. Our people know their work is important and that our customers and investors count on us to deliver every day. Not only have our people been reporting to work but they have been disciplined. Across the workforce of more than 1,400 people on 5 continents, we have had no employee-to-employee contagion. In our plants at times when production slowed, union and nonunion colleagues have worked in the spirit of teamwork, trust and with great flexibility in terms of job descriptions. Together, we are striving not just to get through this but to build a better Orion.

We had an excellent Q1 until the second half of March when the impact of COVID-19 hit our European and American customers. On today's call, Lorin and I will cover the Q1 results, as always, but also devote time to 3 additional topics: our operational response to COVID-19, how we expect our business to develop from here and our liquidity, which I believe you will agree is more than ample. As always, we'll be happy to take your questions at the conclusion of our comments.

As I said, the first quarter started off with a positive sequential tone that we expected. Q4 had been especially seasonally weak, including, we believe, a customer inventory drawdown in late December that was followed by an uptick in January. However, in mid-March, we saw a rush of order cancellations from tire manufacturers globally, particularly in North America and Europe, as our customers began shutting and slowing plants as the impact of COVID-19 grew.

As a result, our March results dipped sharply mid-month, and the sheer scope, scale and speed of the downturn caused by COVID-19 began to bite. Overall, we estimate the first quarter impact of COVID, combining the volume impacts and inventory revaluation impacts, to have been in the range of $7 million to $8 million, which gives you a sense of the way the quarter may have ended up, excluding the COVID-related impacts. Despite these headwinds, we delivered adjusted EBITDA of $63.8 million, of which Rubber Carbon Black contributed $35.8 million and Specialty Carbon Black contributed $28.1 million. Our liquidity position stands at $283 million, and Lorin will have a lot more to say about that.

With that said, I'd now like to shift gears and update you on the actions Orion has taken in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and what we are seeing operationally through April. When COVID-19 was still largely seen as a Chinese phenomenon, we swiftly activated our business continuity plan for pandemics, which was based partially on the World Health Organization's pandemic preparedness plan. The values we established last year were another bedrock for us as we took action. I'm going to explain our actions across the 6 core pillars detailed on Slide 4.

People. Our most important pillar is protecting our people, and our first actions were to secure their safety and health. In practical terms, we secured and distributed personal protective equipment, such as masks; segregated shifts in work team; implemented temperature checks; stepped up cleaning protocols; shifted canteen arrangements; secured expert consulting physicians, and a big thanks to them as well; shifted to remote working for office-based people; and massively stepped up employee communications with an emphasis on straight talk.

It is a testament to the discipline of our employees and the overall disaster readiness that, thus far, we currently are aware of only 2 employees out of a total of 1,400 who have tested positive for the virus, neither of whom have required hospitalization. Looking forward, we will follow governmental and WHO guidelines, as we slowly bring employees back into offices, establishing new protocols and maintaining physical distancing in order to continue to keep our employees safe.

Moving to production. So first, you can't operate a plant without people. And we've worked hard to maintain safe plants, and I'm proud to say our people continue to get their job done. That is ultra important right now. Next, we have multiple reactors at all of our plants. And in the normal course of business, we modulate these up and down according to demand and maintenance needs, while at the same time, continuing shipping operations. As you can imagine, we've been doing a lot of modulating recently in response to customers.

I want to be clear, individual reactors have only been down in response to declines in demand. That is, we have not proactively shut down plants due to manpower. At several plants in the U.S., when production rates were low, we worked collaboratively with union leaders and workers to achieve great flexibility in terms of roles and responsibilities across the labor pool, allowing us to use this downtime to advance projects that focus on enhancing safety and reliability of our plants. Yes, this has meant higher cash consumption than laying people off. But as you will see, we have the financial flexibility to take this opportunity to build loyalty and to make plant improvements with a view towards emerging from this downturn even stronger.

Moving to customers. Many of our customers, particularly tire customers, idled their manufacturing facilities. In April, we estimate roughly 90% of North America's and 75% of Europe's tire factories were idled or severely curtailed, with plans to slowly begin production at reduced rate in May and June with auto OEM manufacturing plants on a similar schedule.

Against this backdrop, in April, Orion's plants operated in the mid-40s in the Americas and Europe and in the mid-50s in Asia. I will discuss the outlook for our business later. However, in April, we saw rubber volume demand down approximately 60% in the Americas and EMEA with Asia down approximately 34%. We have stayed in close communication with our customers to ensure good communication and coordinate transportation-specific issues as well as monitoring customer plant operating levels.

Financial. From a financial perspective, in late March, we enhanced our financial flexibility by suspending our dividend and bolstering our cash position by drawing on our revolver. In recent weeks, we tapped nearly the entire capacity under our uncommitted lines of credit, bolstering our cash position by approximately a further $40 million to eliminate any funding risk under these lines.

Over the past several weeks, we have evaluated our liquidity including financial covenants against a wide range of scenarios and stress tests. We've also taken cost actions that will increase our cash generation over the coming 12 months, including salary freezes, reduced discretionary spending across all businesses and functions, lower incentive compensation accruals, select headcount reductions and temporary layoffs. We estimate the annual impact of these actions to be in the range of $10 million to $15 million, excluding actions like temporary layoffs.

Aside from cost reductions, we've also deferred select capital expenditures and are lowering safety stock levels where appropriate and stepping up the monitoring of customers and suppliers to protect our balance sheet while holding the line on terms.

Supply chain. From a supply chain perspective, the key message is that we believe we have adequate access to raw material supplies at all our plants for the foreseeable future. We continue to track those markets very closely. Beyond that, we are tightly monitoring our other supply chains, particularly for consumables and international shipping availability. We've qualified alternative suppliers as needed. We will need to stay close to this, and more generally speaking, I believe international shipping will be a point of friction for the global economy in the coming months.

Communities and ESG. During this time, we have not forgotten what we could do to help our neighbors in the communities in which we operate. We have supported hospitals and other medical providers with masks and cleaning equipment at several sites where we operate.

And lastly, we have continued to focus on and keep momentum going in ESG. We recently received notice that our EcoVadis Score improved this last year by 10 points to a score of 62. While this continues to place us in the silver category, 45 to 64, the significant improvement last year is a sign that we are on the right track. This increase is a testament to the dedicated effort of our entire team and their focus on operating the company in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion. I'm very proud of the progress that has been made.

Moving to Slide 5. Now I would like to shed light on what we are seeing through April and looking further out which indicators we will be looking toward for signs regarding the likely pace and shape of a recovery. Slide 5 provides perspective on what we are seeing around the world and is not a pretty picture, with a large percentage of customer plants being idled, particularly in North America and Europe. Rubber volume demand declined between approximately 68% and 34%, and Specialty volume declined approximately 38% and 8% depending upon the geography. Under these conditions, we operate the reactors in campaign mode, running to build inventory and then idling the reactors while we continue to ship. We have had to lay off employees at one location so far.

As you can see, from a Rubber perspective, the trends in North America and EMEA resemble one another pretty closely, whereas declines in APAC were significant but more muted, reflecting that most of our exposure is in Korea, which has navigated the pandemic quite well. As a comparison, the single worst quarter Rubber experienced during the 2009 financial downturn from a volume perspective was 33%, evidencing that the results of 2009 may not prove a useful or accurate predictor of the current situation.

Also noteworthy on that slide is the relative strength of Specialty. Certainly, Specialty benefits from a greater market diversity than Rubber, and many of its markets are not quite as directly impacted by the physical distancing restrictions that cause miles-driven and light vehicle sales to come to a screeching halt. However, we believe Specialty volumes will get worse before they get better because of continuing softening in demand. To place the April trends in a bit of context, the single worst quarter Specialty experienced during the 2009 financial downturn from a volume perspective was 34%. I think we need to be prepared for it to be deeper this time.

Let me say again that the experience of our business during the 2009 period may not prove a useful or accurate predictor of the future or the magnitude of the impending 2020 decline, and they do not represent guidance in any way. We are sharing this data to provide perspective, as Orion was not public in 2009, so this information would not otherwise be available to investors.

Turning to Slide 6. We provide an overview of our 2 global business units by end market, our sense of the recoveries prospects for each and some signpost to watch along the way. Keep in mind, the business environment is very uncertain. That said, here is one way it could play out.

Starting with Rubber. As a reminder, approximately 90% of this market segment's volumes are driven by the automotive end market. Roughly 60% of Rubber Carbon Black goes into replacement tires, demand for which is linked to miles driven. The balance goes to the OEM end market as tires or MRG, demand for which you can largely trace to global truck and light vehicle sales.

First of all, certain aspects of the economy held up better than others, such as home delivery. Truck tires have been fairly resilient, and we believe this will only strengthen. Secondly, passenger cars are not cruise ships. People are not afraid to get into their car. Driving by car, I believe, will be the preferred transportation mode, and tires will wear out and need to be replaced. To this end, in a recent Financial Times article, the first economic indicator to fully recover in China is traffic congestion.

Thirdly, household purchases of new cars will certainly be depressed in the likely event of a recession, but new car sales are unlikely to be as weak as they have been recently. Longer term, we don't believe the underlying growth in demand for Rubber Carbon Black has changed as a result of the current downturn, with motor vehicle production, miles driven and automobile servicing likely to continue, supporting growth and demand within the tire and nontire markets, in line with the 3% rate this business has reliably delivered, on average, over long periods of time once the current downturn has subsided.

Turning to Specialty. In the past, we have indicated that roughly 25% of this business is driven by global automobile OE production and new vehicle sales. However, upon refreshing our assessment of volume by end market at a more granular level, we now estimate this number to be in the order of 15%. The remaining 85% being driven by a diverse mix of end markets ranging from engineering plastics and pipe, to films, wire and cable, adhesives and synthetic fibers. Clearly, the automotive segment will see a sharp decline in the second quarter volumes and for the full year.

Also of note is that roughly 10% of Specialty volumes serve the pipe end-market, of which a substantial portion ultimately ends up in the oil and gas space. Given the severe strain that sector is under right now, a steep decline in oil and gas infrastructure spending is expected with a corresponding impact on this part of the business. As far as pockets of strength, I would point to certain film applications, such as food grade, that have held up relatively well.

Longer term, with the possible exception of pipe into the oil and gas space, we don't think the underlying growth in demand for Specialty Carbon Black will change as a result of the current downturn. We still expect consumer spending on durables and nondurables, construction activity, infrastructure investment and automotive builds should allow this business to continue growing in the 3% range, in line with its growth rate over the past decade once the current downturn has subsided.

Now turning to our first quarter results in greater detail. As you can see on Slide 7, adjusted EBITDA declined by $800,000 year-over-year. Price and mix were favorable for us, while volume was the primary offsetting factor. Within Specialty, the year-over-year decline volumetrically was driven primarily by our 2 largest sales regions: North America and Europe.

As far as underlying end markets, year-over-year weakness was broadly and evenly widespread across all end markets: coatings, polymers, printing.

Within Rubber, volumes were down year-over-year, but flat sequentially on both the MRG and the tire side of the business. The year-over-year decline reflected: one, lower volumes due to a deliberate commercial strategy as part of the 2019 contract negotiations to emphasize raising pricing closer to reinvestment levers over volume; two, weak automotive OE demand trends impacting MRG; and three, order cancellations from tire makers late in the quarter, reflecting a pullback in tire production in all geographies, as tire production facilities commenced shutdowns due to COVID-19.

With that, I'd like to turn the call over to Lorin.

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [4]

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Thank you very much, Corning. Now turning to Slide 8. Volumes were down by 10.5% year-over-year and slightly up sequentially, in line with the trends mentioned earlier, while adjusted EBITDA came in at $63.8 million, basic EPS at $0.30 and adjusted EPS at $0.44. Contribution margin per ton improved year-over-year due to positive customer mix and favorable feedstock cost development within Specialty and base price increases within Rubber.

Cash from operations was $4.9 million, with working capital up $38 million, mainly due to higher sales and therefore, accounts receivables, which is a good thing on an underlying basis, but will now reverse given the current economic conditions. For reference, during the fourth quarter, working capital was a benefit of $51 million, driven by lower accounts receivables given the seasonally weak sales levels we saw at that time. We expect working capital to result in a cash windfall of over $50 million during the current quarter due to lower (technical difficulty). Of course, the ultimate size of the working capital benefit will depend on volume and price developments through the balance of the quarter.

Slide 9 explains the drivers behind contribution margin, adjusted EBITDA and net income in detail. Starting at the upper left-hand side, contribution margin declined 3% year-over-year, as the favorable impact of base price improvement across both the Rubber and Specialty segments and favorable mix in Specialty was eroded by a combination of lower volumes and FX. From an adjusted EBITDA perspective, lower contribution margin and higher fixed costs were partially offset by the favorable impact of FX on fixed cost and lower S&A during the quarter, resulting in a decline of 1.1% to $63.8 million. The key driver of the decrease in S&A was lower compensation costs compared with the prior year's first quarter.

Notably, adjusted EBITDA includes an impact of roughly $3 million related to inventory impairments, resulting from the combination of the sharp decline in oil prices and an abrupt reduction in our customers' forecasted demand. As a result, our earnings were reduced to reflect the fact that sales of inventory purchased at higher prices will occur in future months at lower-than-expected prices. This dynamic will also impact the second quarter.

Finally, net income decreased $1 million to $18 million or 5.2% year-over-year due to lower adjusted EBITDA and higher financing costs, mainly related to an unfavorable FX impact, partially offset by lower taxes.

Now turning to Slide 10. You see the development of our cash flow during the first quarter. We generated $4.9 million in cash from operating activities, which again includes a net working capital headwind of $38 million. We spent approximately $50 million of CapEx in the quarter, a heavy amount reflecting the timing of payments related to executing projects underway. We expect the first quarter will be the highest CapEx spend all year. Finally, we borrowed $110 million during the quarter, of which roughly $45 million reflected the previously announced proactive step taken to bolster our cash position by drawing on our revolver.

Using Slide 11, I'm going to explain the mechanics of our credit agreement with emphasis on how our financial covenant works and the wide latitude it provides to manage through the current economic storm. We ended the first quarter with net leverage of around 2.5x. At that level, we are at the upper end of our steady-state targeted range of 2 to 2.5x. While that stated range remains relevant during normal economic times, during this pandemic, we are going to exceed it, starting with our second quarter reported results. In doing so, we will use the flexibility provided by our credit facility, not just to get through this period but to get through it in good shape.

Our one financial covenant is summarized in the appendix on Slide 20. That covenant is a net leverage test of 5.5x trailing 12 months EBITDA, but is only relevant if total debt drawn under our revolver exceeds 35% as defined in the credit agreement. Importantly, not all debt count towards that 35% trigger. Term debt, debt drawn under ancillary lines and under our uncommitted local lines are all excluded. Because the ancillary lines are bilateral in nature, that is, they've been established one-on-one with individual banks in the revolver bank group but are not classic pro rata borrowings across the bank group, borrowings under ancillary lines reduce availability under our revolver, but do not count towards the 35% trigger. This is a very attractive feature of our credit agreement and one that gives us comfort that we have flexibility to manage the current situation from a balance sheet perspective.

As a result of this feature, right now, we can borrow roughly 87% of our revolver capacity, split 35% as classic pro rata style borrowings and 52% under ancillary lines that we have established without violating the financial covenant. And this is true at any adjusted EBITDA level one imagines. Translating that 87% into numbers at first quarter exchange rates, our EUR 250 million revolver equaled approximately EUR 274 million of total capacity, of which 87% or EUR 238 million could be drawn without violating our financial covenant.

The chart in the lower right-hand quadrant of Slide 11 answers the question what financial firepower can Orion access without violating its covenant at any adjusted EBITDA level. The answer as of the end of the first quarter was $247 million, comprised of $107 million in cash and $140 million in incremental debt. Keep in mind that on top of that $247 million, with oil prices dramatically lower and the economy slower, we expect a meaningful working capital release in the second quarter.

The final point I want to make on this slide is that our debt maturity profile is such that we have no refinancing requirements over the next 3 years, which is a strong position to be in as we approach the coming downturn.

Slide 12 shows that $247 million of liquidity a slightly different way, detailing the mix of our current debt stack and what the entire liquidity stack would look like on a pro forma basis were we to access the full $247 million.

In closing out the topic of liquidity, let me simply say, that there are a wide range of opinions out there regarding how challenging things may get over the next several quarters. One group, Notch Consulting, recently published scenarios for the overall industry ranging from a worst-case 37% full year decline in global demand with a 60% peak decline in the second quarter to a best case 11% full year decline in global demand with a 35% peak decline in the second quarter. Our scenario planning across a wide range of downside cases indicates that the $247 million of liquidity that we can access without triggering any covenant will prove sufficient to cover our liquidity needs for quite some time. This flexibility combined with the absence of any significant debt maturities until 2024 allows us to be confident in our ability to weather this downturn.

Moving to Slide 13. Our quarterly Specialty volumes were down year-over-year for the reasons I discussed earlier. Geographically, North America, Europe and Asia ex China were the primary sources of weakness with each of our core end markets impacted, such as polymer, film, wire and cables and ink. From a profitability perspective, gross profit per ton rose 5.2%, reflecting a combination of favorable mix and price. The price element of the increase is notable and a good signal. However, given that grade mix, energy sales, FX and the timing of feedstock pass-throughs are so dynamic, the trailing 12-month trend is a better measure. On that basis, gross profit per ton is essentially flat sequentially.

The next slide breaks out the major year-over-year drivers of adjusted EBITDA with positive price and mix, primarily offset by volume.

Turning to Slide 15. Rubber volumes were down 11.1% year-over-year and flat sequentially, reflecting the factors mentioned earlier with a strong tone to the quarter being arrested in mid-March by COVID-19 related dynamics, causing order cancellations globally late in the quarter. Gross profit per metric ton was flat year-over-year as higher base prices were primarily offset by unfavorable FX and lower energy sales.

Slide 16 shows the development of adjusted EBITDA with a significant positive price, offset by lower sales volumes.

With that, I will turn the call back over to Corning.

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [5]

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Thanks, Lorin. Moving to Slide 17. As you know, in March, we withdrew our 2020 guidance in light of all the uncertainties caused by COVID-19. However, we want to provide some information that we believe will be helpful for investors in developing financial scenarios for the balance of the year. We're happy to answer any questions regarding any of the assumptions detailed on that slide. However, I'd like to use this time to discuss CapEx and the impact of oil on working capital and EBITDA. We have lowered our CapEx spending expectations from a range of $130 million to $150 million to $120 million to $130 million. This reduction reflects the reality that physical distancing mandates in connection with COVID-19 impact our ability to advance complex capital projects requiring heavy staffing, whether they be growth-orientated efforts, such as expanding capacity at Ravenna or sustainability enhancing efforts, such as the EPA-mandated work at Ivanhoe.

Regarding EPA-orientated work, we are committed to advancing these projects where possible, while continuing to adhere to the physical distancing and safe work requirements of each state. I'm thrilled to confirm that we remain on track to complete the work at our Orange site in May, advance of the June 30 deadline under the consent decree despite the challenges. I would like to congratulate the Orange project team, the plant team and our contractors for working cooperatively and overcoming many obstacles to get this -- to get us here. It helped that the Orange project was far enough along that we could finish the work without needing large numbers of contractors on site.

However, at Ivanhoe, we are in the construction phase, and safety and physical distancing challenges have been more impactful. Of course, if we can do more at Ivanhoe, we will. Upon receiving force majeure declarations from numerous suppliers in recent weeks, we officially declared force majeure to the EPA and are currently in discussions regarding a path forward in the face of the extraordinary challenges we currently must contend with. Overall, despite our efforts, we do not expect to spend as much EPA-related capital as previously anticipated in 2020 and this is one driver behind the $15 million reduction to our forecasted capital spend.

Before leaving the topic of capital spending, I also want to refresh our current estimate of the impact of the overall EPA spend. We have certain technology choices to make with regard to the remaining 2 plants and are currently awaiting a Stage 2 front-end loading quality design estimate that should be completed during the robust estimate we have had to date of the overall cost of the EPA spending. We will update investors again at our second quarter earnings call in August. However, we know enough to say now that the range for this estimate is likely to be in the neighborhood of $230 million to $270 million with the midpoint being approximately $250 million, which is up substantially compared to our last estimate of $190 million.

This is due, amongst other things, to additional abatement equipment being required at one of the remaining sites and higher costs surrounding the implementation of equipment at Ivanhoe. Of that $250 million midpoint, we expect that around $115 million or 45% will have been spent between 2018 and 2020 year-end with the remaining $135 million balance expected to spread between '21 and 2023 or early even 2024. Once again, the numbers are not yet at Stage 2 front-end loading precision. However, we have more confidence in this estimate going forward. And again, we'll update investors with a range during our second quarter earnings call in August.

Turning to oil prices. Given the extreme volatility we have seen year-to-date, I would like to provide more detail and clarity on the impact of changes in oil prices on our business from both a working capital and EBITDA perspective. As we have said in the past, we estimate the impact on working capital of a $10 change in the feedstock to be in the order of $27 million to $30 million over a 3- or 4-month period during the normal business conditions. This estimate will vary at different points of the economic cycle. When accounts receivable and inventories are lower, the impact on working capital of oil prices will be somewhat lower and vice versa. However, this estimate is directionally accurate and a reasonable proxy.

Regarding the impact on EBITDA, when oil prices fall, our EBITDA falls and vice versa. There are several factors in play that drive this dynamic. First is the way the terms of our supply and sales contracts interact for contracted volumes, which tends to benefit us when prices rise and vice versa when they fall. This impact persists notionally until the next contract period when there is an opportunity to reset overall profitability. The second factor, particularly during periods of extreme price volatility, is inventory revaluations, which are unfavorable when prices fall and favorable when they rise. Such exceptional gains and losses are not included in this rubric.

A third factor in play is that a meaningful portion of our volumes are not under contract and do not require us to pass along our feedstock cost at all. As a result, when prices decline, we enjoy the benefit for a period of time and vice versa when prices rise.

With these complexities in mind, we have refined our estimate -- estimated impact of a given change in oil prices on EBITDA. Previously, we based this on a percentage change in our feedstocks. We have shifted this rubric away from percentages because 1% of $100 is very different from 1% of $50, for example. Instead, we are now stating the impact in terms of a dollar change in the 12-month average feedstock cost.

On that basis, we expect every $1 change in the 12-month average feedstock cost to impact adjusted EBITDA by $700,000 to $1 million. This revised approach suggests a less severe impact from oil than our previous version. For instance, a change in our 12-month average feedstock cost from $65 to $35 would amount to an estimated EBITDA impact between $25 million and $35 million under the new approach versus $54 million under the prior approach. Keep in mind, as a caveat, that this estimate will vary at different points in the business cycle with a larger impact when volumes are higher. It also does not consider extraordinary impacts, such as impairments, such as we have experienced in the first quarter and will again in the second quarter. So overall, this proxy is a useful tool to understand the impact of oil on our business over time and under normal business conditions.

Before closing, I'd like to invite investors and analysts to review our inaugural proxy, which we filed last week. It's an important milestone in our evolution from a foreign domestic filing company to a domestic filing company providing a level of disclosure and transparency that aligns us with the universe of comparable U.S. companies against which we compete for investors' support and capital.

We're thrilled to provide a step change increase in perspective to our stakeholders in terms of our overall governance. Upon reviewing the proxy, you will notice that at our Annual General Meeting, we are proposing a slate of Board members that includes 3 new independent members, Ms. Mary Lindsey, Dr. Yi Hyon Paik, and Mr. Michel Wurth, while 2 existing board members, Mr. Jack Clem and Mr. Marc Jean Pierre Faber, will not stand for reelection. The experience, skills and backgrounds of each nominee are detailed in the proxy, so I would invite you to review the proxy rather than try to quickly summarize their backgrounds at this time.

However, I would like to thank Jack for his vision, leadership and at a personal level, for his ongoing support to me. I would also like to thank Marc for his support to the company, both as a Board member and by acting as our Class B daily manager. Going forward, the collective skills, experiences and independence of our Board will be as strong as they have ever been since going public. No stones should be left unturned as we strive to soldier through this downturn and emerge stronger on the other side. Publishing our inaugural proxy and refreshing our Board are 2 important steps on that journey.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with 4 thoughts. First, our key markets are going to emerge from this stronger. Sure, people may delay buying cars in a recession, but cars, where you can drive your family safely from point to point, are not going out of style. Second, the majority of our rubber carbon black goes to replacement tires, not new cars. Third, we have the liquidity we need to get through this in good form. And fourth, our people are committed. They've proven this, and with commitment, great things are possible.

Finally, I'd like to thank Diana Downey for her roughly 8 years of service to Orion in various financial roles and most recently as VP of Investor Relations and Insurance. Diana, you've been a vital link between Orion and our investors. You saw us through the IPO, financial reporting and leadership changes. Thank you for everything. We wish you the very best.

Operator, please open up the line for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question is from Josh Spector with UBS.

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Joshua David Spector, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Equity Research Associate - Chemicals [2]

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I'm glad to hear that everyone sounds well. So just to go into the oil sensitivity first. I appreciate the updated disclosure and kind of reframing how you give that, that's helpful. In your example, where you talk about a $30 decline in feedstocks, $25 million to $35 million decline in EBITDA, can you just talk about in a generic scenario kind of how that impacts the different segments differently?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [3]

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Okay. So first, let me just say that I misspoke there, for a $30 drop in it at x0.7, you'd actually get to $21 million or $21 million to $30 million for the actual impact on that. So that's going to be an impact though that's going to hit us basically volumetrically as we use oil. And notionally speaking, that's going to then be just spread out evenly across the segments.

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Joshua David Spector, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Equity Research Associate - Chemicals [4]

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Then you wouldn't expect a larger impact in the Rubber segment versus Specialty? Or you'd expect it to be more even?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [5]

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Yes. That number is a net of the favorable effects on Specialty, offset by the negative effects on Rubber. And so on balance, it's $20 million to $30 million. But because the Specialty business is less contracted, it would benefit from lower prices for a period of time. And so that is a net effect. And so the Specialty impact would be on balance favorable, offset by the Rubber. And so that's the split.

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Joshua David Spector, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Equity Research Associate - Chemicals [6]

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Okay. And just in terms of the April numbers that you provided. Within Specialty, I mean North America was showing down a lot more than Europe. Can you just comment on why that large difference? If there's anything we should think about behind that?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [7]

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Well, I think part of what's been an element of Specialty in North America has been oil patch activity, much more so than Europe. So that would be an example of where things are different from the U.S. and from Europe. I'd also say that there's a number of different economies in Europe, and I don't think all of them have been impacted to the same extent the U.S. is at this point.

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Operator [8]

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Our next question is from Mike Leithead with Barclays.

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Michael James Leithead, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [9]

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Wendy, welcome to the team. I guess, first, I wanted to start with the EPA CapEx change. 3 things on that. One, how does that change your 2021 expected spend for the project? Two, between this and the pandemic, how has that changed your conversations with the EPA? And three, does this change at all your calculus in your ongoing discussions with Evonik?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [10]

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Okay. So let me take those not necessarily directly in order. So we aren't, at this point, giving out guidance for next year and what we're going to do on capital. But obviously, with a higher expenditure, it's more of a burden into next year. And to the extent that we end up shifting capital from this year, let's say, with Ivanhoe going slower into next year, those are impacts for -- that roll over into '21 at the same time. In terms of Evonik, it's really no change whatsoever. So we all are clear on. There is ultimately a cap in the agreement that we have with them. We have never disclosed what that is. So we just continue business as is.

In terms of the EPA, we have ongoing discussions with them around what the conditions are at both this site and at Orange as well. And I think that the situation with COVID-19 is so dynamic that I don't expect to get to like a definitive sort of revised time table or something like that with the EPA right now. I'd say it's more a matter of keeping them informed with what we're doing and what we see on the ground.

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Michael James Leithead, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Research Analyst [11]

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Okay. And then I just wanted to take -- we appreciate the granularity you gave us on the April demand data. On the inventory impairment, can you just help us with what you expect the impact to be in 2Q? And is there expected to be any drag beyond the second quarter from that?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [12]

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The impact in 2Q could be on the order of -- it could be in the high -- it could be in the $5 million to $10 million range, probably more like $10 million or so. And could it last beyond that? Really depends on our inventory turns. When you buy raw materials from a -- based on a customer's order, you assume a certain inventory turn. Our customers, in many instances, have abruptly reduced their orders. And therefore, we'll be sitting with that inventory for a little while longer than we anticipated. Could it last beyond the second quarter? It's possible, but you could see an effect in the second quarter in the $10 million range.

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Operator [13]

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Our next question is from Kevin Hocevar with Northcoast Research.

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Kevin William Hocevar, Northcoast Research Partners, LLC - VP & Equity Research Analyst [14]

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I am wondering if you could comment on how should we think of decremental margins here in the second quarter? Because obviously, it seems like volumes are going to be down something fairly sharp. And it seems like Specialty will probably get some price -- near-term price cost benefits. There's this inventory impairment to think about. Curious, there's so many moving pieces. I mean how should we think of the decremental margins here in the near term with all those pieces?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [15]

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Kevin, at a total company level, I think you would start in the high 30s for contribution margin, and that considers Rubber being in the low to mid-30s and Specialty in the mid-40s plus. I would not attempt to then inject extraordinary items into that. So I would start with that as a baseline and then layer on the $10 million impact from impairments. And I think that will be a reasonable approach to take versus changing the classic contribution margin to anticipate extraordinary effects.

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Kevin William Hocevar, Northcoast Research Partners, LLC - VP & Equity Research Analyst [16]

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Okay. That's really helpful. And then in terms of the volumes, if I kind of weight by geography, the volumes you outlined in your slides for Rubber and Specialty, it seems like April was maybe down in the magnitude of 60% for Rubber, 25% for Specialty. And could you give some color on what the order books look like? What you expect as tire manufacturers start bringing capacity online? When the capacity comes back, will it be -- do you expect a sharper improvement in terms of, I guess, less year-over-year declines, but still meaningful? Or is it going to be a very slow ramp? And on the Specialty side, it sounded like you expect things to get worse before they get better. So curious if you could elaborate on why you expect that to be the case on Specialty?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [17]

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Okay. So first, let me say on Rubber, it's a very dynamic situation, and it is extraordinarily difficult to get a lot of visibility from our customers. So I think we just have to -- we have to go into any questions that we're taking around on that score. Personally, I believe that their restarts will be slow and gradual, starting with probably more activity on truck tires, that kind of things, slowly building into consumer tires. I think it's going to take some time to get their supply chains moving as well. But that's my personal view on it. Based on our discussions, I would say customers are really not able to give a lot of visibility to it.

On Specialty, my view that it's going to get worse before it's going to get better. It's just that I think we have to be realistic at times like this and not living on hope and taking the actions appropriate for the real situation on the ground. I think we're going to declare ourselves after the next quarter to be in a technical recession. I think we're going to see the impact of the unemployment rises that we've had, and I think that's going to have to have a further impact on the broader economy. That's again a subjective opinion.

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Operator [18]

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Our next question is from Jeff Zekauskas with JPMorgan.

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Jeffrey John Zekauskas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst [19]

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In the course of the June quarter, given the order decrements or the volume decrements that you're experiencing, are you going to have to think about closing various plants that may have financial effects on you? Or can you continue to operate as you've been operating with this on-off structure?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [20]

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Well, so in the on-off structure, we do have the ability to shut down reactors while continuing to ship. And this is a product that customers tend to qualify certain grades, certain materials from certain plants. So to support our customers, we really need to be able to continue to ship from all of our various sites. So I don't see the likelihood of a full stop. South Africa is sort of a different situation because the government has taken a very hard policy towards just sort of shutting everything down. But beyond like a specific situation like that, I think we're likely to need to be able to continue to shift to support our customers. And that's not a huge number of people. So I mean that's a cost-effective thing to do.

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Jeffrey John Zekauskas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst [21]

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Okay. Given the magnitude of the volume decreases, do you expect to report positive EBIT in the June quarter?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [22]

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We're just not going for any guidance at this point looking forward.

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Jeffrey John Zekauskas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst [23]

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Okay. And then lastly, with the inventory write-downs. In the end, are those cash effects because you're selling product where you built the inventory at a particular raw material price, then the raw material price fell and then you have to sell it. So it eventually translates into a cash negativity. Is that correct? Or a negative margin on the thing you're selling?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [24]

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Yes. That calculation is based off of the new anticipation of lower gross profit on that inventory. And so in as much as we will have lower gross profit on the inventory, in effect, it's a profitability effect. Yes.

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [25]

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That said, though, let me say that the spirit of our contracts is that we pass-through oil costs. And yes, when demand goes down, at the same time, there's such a big shift in oil prices that stresses the mechanisms that we have. But we continue to work with our customers on a mechanism to achieve what the intent is behind these agreements, and that's a very important priority to us.

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Operator [26]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question is from Laurence Alexander with Jefferies.

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Laurence Alexander, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - VP & Equity Research Analyst [27]

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Two questions. One, can you elaborate on the logistics friction that you alluded to in the beginning? And secondly, on the oil sensitivities, how should we think about the path for fixing that? Is that -- is it going to be something that is addressed in the next upcoming contract negotiations? Or is it going to be sort of a [motion year effect?]

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [28]

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Okay. Let me start with the logistics. Today, there are quite a number of blank shipping. In other words, the ship in the end doesn't sail. They didn't have enough loading, they didn't put it on the water. There's also the challenges of ships -- ports not really functioning in certain parts of the world, India in particular right now, and containers building up at certain locations, not getting clean, not getting set up for returns. So all this just creates friction and difficulty in terms of restarting the economy -- and that's what I mean. I think -- and that goes into my comment earlier that I think in terms of the broader economy restarting, there's going to be these things that have to be worked out before we get to the efficiency, and, let's say, the fully lubricated global economy that we had before this whole thing started. And that's a broad comment. I think as Orion, we can manage that, but just a little color to international logistics at this point.

In terms of the contracts, we always look for improvements in our contracts. We made a good move this last year on differentials, and we'd look to and working with our customers an approach that is a fair and equitable way to handle oil.

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Operator [29]

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Our next question is from Jon Tanwanteng with CJS Securities.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [30]

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I was wondering if you'd be able to disclose the average price you paid for oil per barrel in Q1? And what's that kind of trended to in April so far, if you have any color there?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [31]

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Yes. We can't share the average price that we paid in Q1 on oil. But clearly, over the past several weeks, it's continued to decline. More recently, it's bounced back. But no, we can't share that precisely. No.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [32]

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Okay. Fair. Is it fair to say that the differentials you've been experiencing have been meaningfully decreased from last year since you've improved the contract terms?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [33]

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Our differential pass-throughs are working, and they have diminished year-over-year as anticipated. That's right.

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [34]

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Well, that's to say the differentials that show up in our P&L. Now different markets, different places, the actual differential in the marketplace is a different story necessarily, but we've been able to pass that through.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [35]

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Okay. Got it. And just from the cost reduction standpoint, I think you mentioned $10 million to $15 million in your press release and prepared remarks. Is that just over the 3 remaining quarters? Or is that an annualized number for the year? And kind of what's the split between COGS and SG&A?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [36]

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That's an annualized number, split about 70% compensation oriented and 30% discretionary. I would say 90% of it is S&A and only 10% cost of goods sold. By and large, because we're running in this agile mode in terms of our plants, we are -- and the visibility from our customers is not very great, we are not including in that $10 million to $15 million substantial fixed cost reduction. We're managing it month-to-month, week-to-week in the agile mode that Corning indicated, but it's going to largely be in S&A where you see that benefit over 12 months.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [37]

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Got it. Okay. And could you share what that kind of month-to-month expense your saving is on the outside of that $10 million to $15 million?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [38]

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Well see, that really depends upon what the loading is on various plants and what the approach we take on that plant is. And I like to leave that flexible, so that when we go and we meet with a plant team, a union or works council, we can be in genuine discussions with them and haven't really sort of promised our way into a corner that there's a certain outcome we need to achieve in that. But clearly, as I already said, I mean we've had places where we've impacted people and taken costs down as a part of that.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [39]

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Got it. Okay. The increased CapEx cost you're talking about for the EPA upgrades, is that going to be spread out evenly over that time frame? Kind of help us with the phasing of that and just...

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [40]

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Some of that -- yes, sorry. Some of that, let's think about maybe 1/3 of that is going to be in the cost to do the Ivanhoe project. And so that one is cost that we'll see this year, some of that coming into next year at this point. The other one where we had most of the income was actually our last project. So it will be in the latter part of the overall time frame.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [41]

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Okay. Got it. And then in your discussions with the EPA right now, I mean, what are these things that are being discussed? Is it merely just passing on information? Is it 2-way street and the technology is an issue? Just kind of give us a flavor as to how they're responding to the situation?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [42]

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Well, because it's a bilateral discussion, I'd like to not go into great detail, but EPA put out a general letter, which is public, in which they basically said to everyone who had filed for force majeure or some sort of relief that basically they were instructing you to carry on as is for right now. And I think that's a way to understand maybe the generic EPA approach. It's our job to get as much of this done as quickly as we can. It's their job to ensure that. And yet there's just certain facts on the ground about the challenge of putting a large number of people in a relatively small space to try to do a lot of construction work. And I'd like to just leave it there, and I don't want to prejudice this one way or the other. We work that. And you can imagine, if I'm in their shoes, I'm going to want to understand that you're continuing to do your best on it, while at the same time, understanding the situation on the ground.

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [43]

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And let me just add from a modeling perspective, if you take the midpoint, $250 million, by the end of 2020, we expect to have spent roughly half of the total $250 million. So then you've got $125 million to $130 million to spread over 3 years.

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Jonathan E. Tanwanteng, CJS Securities, Inc. - MD [44]

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Got it. Okay. And then finally, just one for -- regarding China. I know last quarter, you disclosed that you had a new customer that was kind of really pulling up your gross margins there and maybe the volumes a little bit. I'm wondering if the relative strength there that you saw in the volumes was due to that 1 big contract or was it more of a general, I guess, improvement coming out of their lockdown after February that drove the volumes that you saw?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [45]

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Yes. I'd say in general, it's a broader story in China right now.

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Operator [46]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question is from Chris Kapsch with Loop Capital Markets.

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Christopher John Kapsch, Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD [47]

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So thank you for the new sensitivities, and I'm focused on the one on oil. I get that guesstimation over a 12-month period. But if you look at, obviously, this unprecedented scenario we're all seeing right now, you -- the -- there is an abrupt nature in the price adjustment for oil from, call it, $60 to $24 or whatever in the first quarter alone. But during the first quarter, if I understood you correctly, your gross profits were actually flattish or maybe even up sequentially. So just so I understand that, is that just a FIFO sort of accounting benefit there? And then I guess, would you feel the brunt of that full year sensitivity in the second quarter given how just abrupt the change in the feedstock costs were? If you can provide any color on that.

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [48]

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Yes. So we buy on a rolling average basis. And so of course, we're all watching oil prices. And we've done analysis that suggests that Brent, by the way, is the better one to look at, probably a 90% correlation with what we actually buy. But because we're buying on an average monthly basis looking backwards, there tends to be a bit of a lag effect, and we don't have the volatility that you would expect just looking at a screen at the day-to-day prices. No. When you think about that rubric, it is calculated based off of volumes over a 12-month period of time. So if you then want to look at a particular quarter, you would look at it on a pro rata basis, okay? But no, you wouldn't accelerate it because of recent activity because the rubric is based off of volumes over 12 months. And so that's the best way I can explain it.

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Christopher John Kapsch, Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD [49]

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Okay. But -- so in the first quarter though, there was -- despite the sharply lower oil prices, you didn't see any degradation in gross profit really. So is that just a near-term cost accounting dynamic?

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Lorin James Crenshaw, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CFO [50]

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Yes. So in the first quarter, if we just look back to what we budgeted, again, there's a lag effect. In January, February, based off of the feedstock that we buy, it was actually flattish if you look at January, February, and it was March where you saw a larger decline. So the first quarter did not see a dramatic reduction when you look at the weighted average cost of what we actually buy, it was more muted until later in the quarter. So I think you'll see more of that in the second quarter.

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Christopher John Kapsch, Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD [51]

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Right. Okay. And then on the higher EPA CapEx spending, can you just -- if you have intelligence on this, is your sense that the entire industry is incurring the sort of -- I don't really want to characterize them as cost overruns, but higher-than-expected capital expenditures on these projects? And the reason I'm asking because, clearly, part of the commercial conversation you've had with your customers was in terms of the industry and needing -- deserving an adequate return on these necessary capital expenditures. So just wondering if it's -- if you have a sense for it? Is it something unique about your facilities that -- where you're incurring these higher expenditures? Or is it just more a nature of the remediation efforts in a general sense?

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [52]

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Thank you, Chris. Maybe the easiest and most objective way to answer that is we have one other public competitor U.S. company, who's in this same situation that we are. And from their filings that we've been able to see, we've seen that their costs have gone up considerably from where they originally estimated them as well, trying to get a return on a larger number at this point. That said, we all make our own pricing decisions, and there's no discussions around that.

Do we have any further questions?

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Christopher John Kapsch, Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD [53]

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No, catch up with you guys later.

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [54]

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Okay. Thanks a lot, Chris.

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Operator [55]

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We have reached the end of our question-and-answer session. I would now like to turn the call back over to Corning for closing remarks.

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Corning F. Painter, Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. - CEO & Director [56]

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Well, thank you all for making your time to be with us today. We appreciate it, and we appreciate your interest and support for Orion in these very challenging times. I wish you all to remain keeping physically distant and keeping yourself safe, and we look forward to following up with you. Thank you very much.

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Operator [57]

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Thank you. This does conclude today's conference. You may disconnect your lines at this time, and have a wonderful day.