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Edited Transcript of SPB.TO earnings conference call or presentation 15-Feb-19 3:30pm GMT

Q4 2018 Superior Plus Corp Earnings Call

CALGARY Feb 19, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Superior Plus Corp earnings conference call or presentation Friday, February 15, 2019 at 3:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Beth Summers

Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO

* Luc Desjardins

Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director

* Rob Dorran

Superior Plus Corp. - VP of IR and Treasurer

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Conference Call Participants

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* David Francis Newman

Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst

* Jacob Jonathan Bout

CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - MD of Institutional Equity Research

* Nelson Ng

RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst

* Raveel Afzaal

Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst

* Robin Fiedler

BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Associate

* Steven P. Hansen

Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - SVP

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Superior Plus 2018 Fourth Quarter Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference call may be recorded. I would now like to introduce your host for today's conference, Mr. Rob Dorran, Vice President of Investor Relations and Treasurer. Sir, you may begin.

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Rob Dorran, Superior Plus Corp. - VP of IR and Treasurer [2]

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Thank you, Daniel. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Superior Plus' conference call and webcast to review our 2018 annual and fourth quarter results. I am Rob Dorran, VP IR and Treasurer. Joining me today is Luc Desjardins, President and CEO; Beth Summers, Executive VP and CFO; and Darren Hribar, Senior VP and Chief Legal Officer.

For this morning's call, Luc will start with some opening remarks on the fourth quarter and our 2018 accomplishments, and then Beth will provide a detailed review of our financial results for the fourth quarter and 2018 as well as an update on our 2019 guidance. Following their prepared remarks, we will open up the line for questions.

Before I turn the call to Luc, I'd like to remind you that some of the comments made today may be forward-looking in nature and are based on Superior's current expectations, estimates, judgments, projections and risks. Further, some of the information provided refers to non-GAAP measures. Please refer to the annual MD&A posted on SEDAR and on our website yesterday for further details on forward-looking information and non-GAAP measures. I would also encourage listeners to review the MD&A, which includes financial information for 2018 and the fourth quarter as we won't go over each financial metric on today's call. This will allow us to move more quickly into the question-and-answer period.

I'll now turn the call over to Luc.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Well, thank you, Rob. And good morning, everyone. Overall, I am very pleased with our record fourth quarter and full year 2018 performance. The fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA of $153 million was 40% higher than the fourth quarter 2017. And the 2018 adjusted EBITDA of $374.3 million was 26% higher than 2017. We finished at the higher end of our guidance range for AOCF per share and adjusted EBITDA, consistent with the announcement of our preliminary result expectation on January 22.

The Energy Distribution business achieved record EBITDA of $265 million in 2018, primarily due to the contribution from NGL Propane acquisition completed in July 2018. In 2018, we made great progress on the integration of Canwest Propane, and we are ahead of schedule on the run rate synergies. As a result of our progress and work so far, we increased the final target of $20 million in run rate synergy by $1.5 million. The NGL Propane integration is also going well. We realized $3.6 million in synergy in quarter 4 '18 result, and exit the 2018 with a run rate synergy for 2019 of $10 million. In addition to the transformational acquisition of NGL Propane, we also completed 6 tuck-in, in 2018, for a total consideration of $115 million. Four of the tuck-in acquisitions included retail propane distribution assets in their Eastern U.S. footprint, and are anticipated to generate operational synergy through implementation of our Superior operating platform. We also acquired a wholesale propane business in California, operating under the tradename United Pacific Energy, which provides us with opportunity of a large, attractive, good propane market in California.

We sold our wholesale refined fuel assets and business as well as certain retail heating oil assets in the northeast U.S.A. in the second quarter of this past year. We are focused on growing our propane distribution platform in the U.S., and the divestiture of these assets enabled us to redeploy the capital into higher-margin propane distribution assets, where we have a fantastic business model.

We also sold certain propane assets in Western Canada as required by the Competition Bureau related to our acquisition of Canwest. After the acquisition of NGL Propane and the 6 tuck-in complete in 2018, our Energy Distribution business is well diversified across North America geography and customer segments. We are the largest propane distributor in Canada, the fourth largest propane distributor in the U.S. based on sales volume. We also developed an industry-leading integrated digital platform, providing our customer with real-time data on their tanks level and delivery and providing us with the technology to improve customer service and be more efficient on the cost side.

The Specialty Chemicals business achieved a record EBITDA of $137.6 million in 2018, primarily due to the improved chlor-alkali results, including caustic soda, hydrochloric acid. Caustic soda and hydrochloric acid pricing and sales volumes improved in 2018 compared to 2017, driven by stronger market fundamentals and increased demand in the oil and gas sectors, especially in the states. The improvement of the chlor-alkali more than offset the decrease in sodium chlorate gross profit due to lower contracted sales volume and higher average electricity mill rate.

Specialty Chemicals EBITDA from operation has already improved $28 million compared to 2016, which is at the high end of our Evolution 2020 target related to the recovery of chlor-alkali markets.

I will now pass the call over to Beth for a discussion of the fourth quarter financial results, and our 2019 adjusted EBITDA and leverage guidance.

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [4]

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Thank you, Luc, and good morning, everyone. To follow-up on Luc's comments, the fourth quarter and 2018 results were at the high end of our guidance and higher than prior year, driven primarily by the contribution from NGL Propane and colder weather. Fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA was $153 million, a $44 million increase compared to the prior year quarter. This was primarily due to the contribution from NGL Propane and a decrease in corporate costs, partially offset by a realized loss on foreign exchange compared to a gain in the prior year quarter. Fourth quarter consolidated adjusted operating cash flows per share before transaction and other costs was $0.76 per share, which was $0.07 higher than the prior year quarter. This was primarily due to the increase in adjusted EBITDA and the recovery on income tax, partially offset by an increase in interest costs and weighted average shares outstanding related to the financing of the NGL Propane acquisition.

Turning now to the individual business results. Energy Distribution EBITDA from operations for the fourth quarter was $129 million compared to $81.3 million in the prior year quarter, a $47.7 million increase, primarily due to higher gross profits, partially offset by higher operating expenses. Gross profits were higher than the prior year, primarily due to the incremental contribution from NGL, partially offset by weaker wholesale propane market fundamentals, and the impact of the divested wholesale distillate assets and business, certain retail heating oil assets, and propane distribution assets related to the Canwest acquisition.

Canadian propane distribution gross profit increased $1.9 million, primarily due to the contribution from the UPE acquisition, partially offset by weaker wholesale market fundamentals, lower oil field volumes and the impact from the sale of propane assets related to the Canwest acquisition.

Sales volumes increased 124 million litres, driven primarily by incremental volumes from UPE, partially offset by a decline in oilfield volumes related to reduced activity in Western Canada. Average margins were $0.153 per litre compared to $0.18 per litre in the prior year quarter. This is primarily due to the increased proportion of wholesale volumes and the impact of weaker wholesale propane market fundamentals. Retail propane margins, which includes all lines of business, except wholesale, were modestly higher than the prior year. U.S. propane distribution gross profit was $80.3 million higher than the prior year quarter due to incremental sales volumes from the NGL and tuck-in acquisitions, partially offset by the sale of the wholesale and retail refined fuel assets in the second quarter.

Sales volumes were 22 million litres higher, primarily due to the 193 million litre increase in residential volumes related to NGL and the tuck-in acquisitions, partially offset by the decrease in wholesale volumes related to the divestiture of the business. Average margins were $0.34 per litre, an increase of $0.198 compared to the prior year quarter, primarily due to the impact of the sale of the wholesale business in the second quarter and the contribution from NGL and the tuck-in acquisitions, which have higher-margin residential and commercial customers.

Other services gross profit increased $7 million compared to the prior year quarter. This was primarily due to the contributions from NGL. Operating expenses were $139.4 million in the fourth quarter, a $41.5 million increase compared to the prior year quarter, primarily due to incremental expenses from NGL and the tuck-in acquisitions, partially offset by the divestiture of the wholesale distillate business and realized synergies from the Canwest integration.

Turning now to Specialty Chemicals. EBITDA from operations for the fourth quarter was $33.3 million, a decrease of $2.2 million compared to the prior year quarter, driven primarily by lower sodium chlorate gross profit and higher distribution expenses, partially offset by higher chlor-alkali gross profit related to the positive North American chlor-alkali market fundamentals as compared to 2017. Gross profit was $2.8 million lower than the prior year quarter, primarily due to a decrease in sodium chlorate sales volumes and an increase in electricity mill rates, partially offset by an increase in chlor-alkali netbacks from those products. Caustic soda sales volumes and average netbacks improved 6% and 17%, respectively, over the prior year quarter due to the significant chlor-alkali market recovery that occurred throughout 2017 and continued into 2018. HCl sales volumes decreased modestly compared to the prior year quarter with a significant drop-off in oil and gas activity experienced in late Q4 2018. However, average HCl netbacks increased 30% reflecting the market recovery over the past 2 years.

Selling, distribution and administrative costs of $38.1 million in the fourth quarter were $1 million higher than the prior year due to higher distribution costs.

Lastly, the corporate results and the 2019 guidance. Corporate costs were $3.4 million lower than the prior year quarter, primarily due to a decrease in incentive plan costs related to the decline in the share price at the end of the quarter. Superior had a realized loss on foreign currency hedges of $4 million compared to a gain of $1 million in the prior year quarter due to the lower average effective hedge rate in 2018 and a weaker Canadian dollar compared to the prior year quarter.

Interest expense was $12.1 million higher than the prior year quarter, primarily due to increased debt level related to the financing for the NGL transaction and tuck-ins and a modest increase in effective interest rate. On Superior's debt and leverage, at December 31, 2018, the total debt to adjusted EBITDA leverage ratio was 4.1x, which was within the range of 3.8x to 4.2x guidance. Total debt to adjusted EBITDA increased from 3.7x at September 30, 2018, due to higher average debt levels, primarily due to the acquisitions of UPE and Musco, higher net working capital requirements and the impact of the weaker Canadian dollar on the translation of U.S. denominated debt. Working capital is at the highest levels during the fourth and first quarter due to the increase in accounts receivable inventory related to the winter heating demand.

We're focused on reducing our debt-to-EBITDA ratio, and we anticipate the leverage will be in the range of 3.6x to 4x at December 31, 2019. Leverage is anticipated to improve, primarily due to a reduction in debt as cash generated from operations is used to repay debt. We're confirming our 2019 adjusted EBITDA guidance range of $445 million to $495 million, which is a 26% increase compared to our 2018 adjusted EBITDA based on the midpoint. As previously communicated, we're no longer providing AOCF per share guidance, which is consistent with our peer public reporting issuers that provide guidance. We'll continue to provide AOCF and AOCF per share figures for comparative purposes, and management uses this metric to measure the business.

Energy Distribution EBITDA from operations for 2019 is anticipated to be higher than 2018 due to the impact from the full year results of the NGL, the expected synergies from NGL, anticipated incremental synergies from the Canwest integration and the full year results from the tuck-in acquisitions completed in 2018.

Specialty Chemicals EBITDA from operations for 2019 is anticipated to be consistent to modestly lower than 2018, as chlor-alkali gross profit is expected to be consistent to modestly lower and sodium chlorate gross profit is expected to be consistent.

As disclosed in our fourth quarter earnings release, we expect to update the adjusted EBITDA and leverage guidance after the first quarter incorporating the impact of IFRS 16. Based on the midpoint of 2019 adjusted EBITDA guidance, on a preliminary basis, IFRS 16 is expected to positively impact adjusted EBITDA by approximately 5% in 2019. IFRS is expected also to increase total debt by the end of 2019 by approximately $150 million, primarily due to the inclusion of railcar leases previously treated as operating leases and excluded from debt.

I'll now pass it over to Luc for some final words before we move to our Q&A.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [5]

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So I'd like to conclude on this point that by highlighting management capacity to execute on promised synergy as proven by the Canwest execution and now the NGL, which is marching on very well. So on that, I would just like to turn the call over to Q&A.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Jacob Bout with CIBC.

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Jacob Jonathan Bout, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - MD of Institutional Equity Research [2]

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I had a question about the sustainability of margins on the Energy Distribution side. Clearly, you've got a function of mix happening in the quarter, but that $0.34, I guess, per litre, how sustainable is that?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [3]

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Yes. From our perspective, and roughly that's USD 0.25 is a good identification of what you could expect going forward. So once you convert that to sort of Canadian currency, roughly that's CAD 0.34 to CAD 0.36.

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Jacob Jonathan Bout, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - MD of Institutional Equity Research [4]

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Okay. And I had a question here on the Specialty Chemicals side, specifically on the chlorate. So I guess we heard from a competitor yesterday talking about one of their customers, Georgia-Pacific, shutting in. What type of impact on the industry are you seeing as a result of that? And how competitive is the chlorate pricing right now?

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [5]

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For 2019, the capacity from a customer that's been taken away, we don't know to what degree that amount will be produced by somebody else in America. Because now they're going to continue to make the finished product, so it's not the total volume going away, it's volume being shift from them producing it to have somebody else producing it for them. So we don't know who and how that's going to shift from the total. But we're in a good position. We see chlorate -- we have 16,000-tonne additional volume in 2019 compared to 2018 as a result of new customer gain. We have, as many of you know, over the history of ERCO Smarts, which is a service that helps customer to be a lot more efficient in how they mix their chemicals. This is a pattern and product that we offer. That service on customer, we always had, doesn't give them an incremental improvement. But as we find new customer in south of Europe or international market or -- and in this case, some in North America, they see that we can prove to them, we can make them more efficient in their mix of chemical. Also when you look at our business in our engineering group and ERCO group, a very, very strong core competence of looking at all our equipment and all our plant. We have a full-time many engineers that are very expert in rebuilding equipment. They've built plants around the world. I don't know how many of our competitors have that. I know, probably, none. And those people go around, every one of our plant every quarter, and make sure they fix all the production efficiency and they look ahead of time, by years ahead of time and make sure we're always covered to make sure there is less repair and we are very reliable. So we became a more and more focused, reliable supplier. And with this new volume in 2019, it would help us achieve efficiency in the 96-plus range of production of plant utilization. So a good machine, very well maintained, very railroaded, makes us solid, sustainable, a bit more volume in 2019, so it covers -- certainly, gives us a little bit of a lift on the profitability because of new volume.

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [6]

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Yes. And I think another fact that I'll just add to that is, when you think about the North American industry as a whole, it's been operating at roughly 95% of installed capacity since that closure of the Valleyfield, Québec plant. And if you think of the Port Hudson plant closure, that would likely reduce rates by still in that range of 1% to 2%, as we went forward just to give you a sense of the size of that closure on the overall market.

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Jacob Jonathan Bout, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - MD of Institutional Equity Research [7]

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So the guidance you gave on the chlorate side, is that flat margin or just flat overall gross profit?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [8]

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Fundamentally, from a chlorate perspective going forward, the best way to think about it is there's increased volume in chlorate as a result of the contract that Luc just talked about. And then the offset to that would be, there are increased prices, but there's also increased costs. So overall, from a margin perspective, think of that as being more consistent year-over-year.

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Jacob Jonathan Bout, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - MD of Institutional Equity Research [9]

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Okay. So Luc, so prices still haven't caught up with higher electricity prices in 2019?

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [10]

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That's right.

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Operator [11]

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And our next question comes from Steve Hansen with Raymond James.

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Steven P. Hansen, Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - SVP [12]

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Just 2 quick ones for me, if I may. This one is on the pace of tuck-ins for this year. I apologize if I missed it earlier, but I know you focused a little bit on your leverage -- deleveraging comments, just trying to get a square way, what kind of opportunities do you see on the tuck-in side this year, and what we should expect?

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [13]

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The pipeline is very good. I think we continue to see that there are 3 big players in the states, MLP-type are not acquiring, or not acquiring much, and haven't done much recently. So we do have a good pipeline in the East Coast, a couple in California. We think we'll do 6 to 8 in 2019, and very good business. And of course, when they're in the East Coast, there will be lots of synergies.

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [14]

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Yes. And the way to think about that, if we were to complete $70 million to $100 million of acquisitions and use that from the bank lines, finance it that way, we'd be towards the higher end of that leverage range; and then with no tuck-ins, think of it to be closer to the lower end of the range.

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Steven P. Hansen, Raymond James Ltd., Research Division - SVP [15]

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Okay. That's very helpful. And just maybe a follow-up question on the synergies. You've always been very successful on the Canwest side. I noticed that the number you've targeted for third quarter '19 actually looks even more significant than I would have thought. But I'm just trying to get sort of your read on how that translates now into NGL? Recognizing it's still earlier days, you still have this target in place for full year '19, but are you feeling better today about the synergy opportunity in NGL, now that you've had it under your belt for a while? Or can we think about possibility of upside there or is it still too early?

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [16]

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No, it's not too early because we're in the weeds, and we -- one thing that you could take for granted in this corporation and my career is, we execute extremely well. We do have a business model that's more efficient than everybody we looked at in the propane industry. And that business model makes us more efficient on the internal growth, makes us more targeted by segment to offer different offers and different segments because they don't need all the same way to be serviced and information. And then when you look at operational costs, when you become more efficient, then we have a machine that's really, really efficient. So when you look at that and you apply it to due diligence of NGL, you say "Wow, all right, we can see $20 million quite solid here, so we don't make promise we don't execute on. So let's go out and do that." Then you get into the operation, and a lot of communication, visit and a big project of integration that's best of class, how we do that, and we have the model to do that. Now -- and we've had full -- half-a-day review this week before board to really confirm one more time $10 million is already running for 2019 out of $20 million. When we look at the other $20 million, we could give you by branch of 150 branch by region exactly, who, where, how. We're going to bring the efficiency up and the fill rate up. And what does that mean -- and the $10 million is solid, solid. If you say, you think, Luc, it's $10 million plus, I would say yes.

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Operator [17]

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And our next question comes from David Newman with Desjardins.

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David Francis Newman, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [18]

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In supply management, you guys have mentioned a slide to the weak market fundamentals, maybe a bit more color. And what I'm thinking is that, I'm looking at the differentials between Edmonton and Sarnia, and Edmonton and Conway, they seem to have widened. So maybe just some flavor on what's going on in the weak market fundamentals? And can you monetize the differentials in those markets?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [19]

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Yes. From a widening differentials, yes. That would result in increased EBITDA numbers. The challenging market fundamentals that we would have seen in Q4 is actually the decline in the propane pricing. So when you see the decline in the propane pricing, it has an impact on our inventories as they get revalued. In addition to that, the impact on in-transit inventory on the propane side. And then there is sometimes some impact with respect to some financial swaps, et cetera. But it's that declining propane price that had the largest impact in Q4.

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David Francis Newman, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [20]

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That makes sense.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [21]

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And what's really -- when you think of it with such a difficulty to have a better margin on the supply side on propane and our result, you have to say, "Wow, what a solid sustainable business that is," because probably -- since I have been here at the lowest of the last 7, 8 years that I -- since I've been here, and look -- and the results are good, so.

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David Francis Newman, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [22]

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Yes, I know for sure. And did you realize any arb on those markets in 4Q, or is it more of a 1Q commentary? And now that you have UPE in the mix, does that also allow you to effectively arb because you have another market that you can -- or how does that work?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [23]

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The biggest benefit from UPE is around synergies and where UPE -- where they were previously sourcing propane from Canada, now we can supply it through our SGL business, so that drives synergies in owning UPE. I mean, there are other arbs in place, which, through time, we will benefit from. But I think from our perspective looking forward to next year, we'd anticipate from a differential perspective similar levels to what we saw in 2018.

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David Francis Newman, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [24]

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Okay. And the CAD 0.15-and-change, that's also -- I know Jacob mentioned about the U.S., but the CAD 0.15-or-so that's also a sustainable number?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [25]

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Yes, that $0.15, if you look at it based on Q4, I mean, the primary driver there is the incremental wholesale coming out of the UPE acquisition. So if you look at it going forward, I think, a good range now is that $0.14 to $0.17 going forward.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [26]

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And I'd like to repeat that point that from our commercial, everything we distribute to every segment of the market, margins are sustainable solid. So the mix, it's 500 million litre of the U.S. UPE. So when you take that and you add it to our Canadian business, then you have a lower margin there, but there's no erosion of our business margin, to be clear.

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David Francis Newman, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [27]

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Right. And then last one from me guys is, I notice in the -- sequentially that your cash tax forecast actually came down about $10 million, so now you're sort of projecting $5 million to $10 million versus $15 million to $20 million. So what's the dynamic going on there?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [28]

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Yes. And that's primarily driven by the regulations and how once they've been clarified, how they're applying the BEAT tax, that's that base erosion tax from U.S. So as we look now to next year, we're forecasting less BEAT tax, that's the primary contributor to the difference.

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Operator [29]

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And our next question comes from Nelson Ng with RBC Capital Markets.

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Nelson Ng, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [30]

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So the weather was, obviously, helpful in Q4. Can you talk about how the weather has been in Q1? And I presume, it's been quite favorable to date.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [31]

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It depends. So in Q4 -- and it's a good question because half of our gain is not weather-related, it's synergy and business improvement and margin improvement. So -- and the half is weather-related, and I'm talking about U.S. So in Canada, quarter 4, if you take today, we're half Western Canada and half Eastern, and the West was extremely warm and then the East was cold. So the mix of the 2 is about -- it's equal. There's no real gain in weather in Canada in quarter 4. This particular quarter, we're just starting, so Canada looks good, I think from a weather, and we're in February, so we don't have much in the full quarter. And it started a bit warmer in the Northeast for the U.S., but then February, as of a week ago, just took off a bit. So I would probably venture to say, we can predict weather, I can. But so far if you say, quarter 1, how does it look? We will probably recapture in February what the lower -- warm weather was in the Northeast U.S.A. So I would say we'll probably be on average in quarter 1. And take into consideration that the effect of the weather in Canada of being East and West, it becomes -- there will be less variance, I think, overall in Canada and we have different segments of business. So it's kind of becoming more average and closer -- and less variance. While as in the States, what we acquired with great margin and great growth opportunity for us is more residential business. So the north -- the U.S. business will be more affected by weather.

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Nelson Ng, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [32]

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Okay, got it. And then my next question is, in terms of the guidance for $120 million to $140 million of -- for maintenance growth, CapEx and operating leases, Beth, can you provide a bit of breakdown in terms of the 3 items?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [33]

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Yes. So to break it down and I think -- so from a maintenance capital perspective, think of pure maintenance CapEx from roughly $55 million to $60 million. But I think it's also good to think about the leases also within that number. And the leases, we're forecasting to be roughly $20 million to $25 million, and they're primarily fleet, so they really are somewhat maintenance in nature to the propane distribution business. So that would be the large maintenance piece. And then the gross CapEx, that's $45 million to $55 million, which is the growth in nonrecurring CapEx, so it's system spend, et cetera, that builds to your $120 million to $140 million.

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Nelson Ng, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [34]

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Okay. Got it. So you're saying that some of the lease costs are included in maintenance CapEx?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [35]

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Yes.

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Nelson Ng, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [36]

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Got it. Okay. I guess my last question relates to just California. Luc, you mentioned that you're looking at a few opportunities in California. Could you just talk about some of the dynamics in terms of like being a wholesaler in California versus kind of looking at opportunities? And I guess whether your customers mind that you might potentially be competing with them? Like how does that dynamic work?

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [37]

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No. If you -- I was saying to the board this week, if you go back 10 years ago, people were more concerned about the supply and are you a competitor in the end market. The market in most industry has moved to -- we don't compete on the supply side, we compete in the marketplace. So -- and very good, solid business. We're very, very pleased with the acquisition. We went to the California market. We just had a study, a couple of studies. And one that came in recently to confirm how solid the market is. And there is like 300-or-so independent distributors in California. Our wholesale business, which is located south, middle, north of California, it's really -- it's the best supplier of that California market. So you're not playing with -- you're not trading business, you have storage. And those different distributors, 115 of them, they come to our location, which are closer to their end market and where they are to get the propane. We have a long history of that. So when you think of those 115, let's say, they get 80% of their supply from us, and the top 5 one are pretty much that. If we have 115 distributors that we can acquire that will not go sell anywhere else, actually they buy 80% from us, that they will go buy 100%. So we have 1/3 of the market that there is actually zero conflict. And then, the other 200, I would say, and I'll touch that and it's really not for them a big issue. We have a -- we know that they will not be -- and we've talked to many of them. And we know they won't be an issue to get supply because for them it's, "I don't want to drive a 100-mile to get my supplies, and you have a big storage like 20 miles away or 10 miles away, and I want to go there, and I don't care if you also distribute to other regions in California. In the end market, this is better for me, I'm good with it."

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Operator [38]

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And our next question comes from Raveel Afzaal with Canaccord.

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Raveel Afzaal, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [39]

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I wanted to talk about the 2019 EBITDA guidance range. Is it possible for you guys to give us some more breakdown of that? I mean, how much EBITDA volatility could come from factors, such as weather, changes in chlor-alkali cycle, any of the key factors that you could mention?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [40]

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I mean, I think, Raveel, from our perspective, when we -- as you'd be aware, we forecast based on weather normal. So from a weather perspective, I think where we usually look at it the weather differential, warm to cold, is roughly $10 million to $20 million would be reasonable range thinking about the geographic diversity that we have within our business now. And then from the chlor-alkali perspective and, again, this gets back to some of the primary pressures on chlor-alkali are really linked to, from an oil and gas perspective, on fracking, which we really, if look at our chlor-alkali business, we only have roughly 10% exposure to the Canadian oil and gas on the fracking side, which is the primary volatility. So when we're looking at some of the potential increases on our chlor-alkali side, it's basically contracted volume, which we're comfortable with. So from our perspective on the chlor-alkali side, in a worst-case side, you're looking at negative $10 million-type range.

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Raveel Afzaal, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [41]

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Anything -- any range differences caused by, I guess, tuck-in acquisitions?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [42]

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Sorry. Can you just repeat that, Raveel?

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Raveel Afzaal, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [43]

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Yes. So with respect to that EBITDA range that you provided, is there some volatility from the low end to the high end, also based on the number of tuck-in acquisitions, I guess, that you complete?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [44]

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Yes, I think from a tuck-in acquisition, I wouldn't think that there would be much of a change to the range. Typically, what you'll see for the smaller acquisitions is some incremental costs associated with doing the work to bring the acquisitions in, which somewhat offsets the potential EBITDA for the remainder of the year when an acquisition is finally completed. And in addition to that, just as a highlight, when you're looking at the base, we don't build in anything other than those transactions that are closed. So anything is incremental on both sides. So the range itself right now wouldn't factor anything in for acquisitions.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [45]

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Well, most of the add-on acquisitions you do in the summer. People in the winter don't want to talk about acquisitions. And we don't want to talk about it either, we're busy, we're just about servicing customers. So the deals get made from May to September. By the time you finish a deal, there's only a quarter-or-so left.

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Raveel Afzaal, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [46]

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And just finally on this, with respect to the wholesale environment, what type of a range are you expecting or forecasting within that EBITDA range?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [47]

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Yes. Consist -- we're basically looking at results consistent with what we saw in 2018 -- in 2019.

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Raveel Afzaal, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [48]

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Yes. I meant in terms of the volatility that you could see resulting from changes in the wholesale environment?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [49]

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Yes. I think if you want to think about that, think of it in the range of $5 million then.

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Operator [50]

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And our next question comes from Joel Jackson with BMO Capital Markets.

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Robin Fiedler, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Associate [51]

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This is Robin, on for Joel. Can you comment on the underlying factors driving the forecast for reduced caustic soda exports this year? Is this mostly from the lower operating rates at the major Brazilian alumina refinery, or is there some more general demand weakness going on?

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [52]

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Yes. I mean, the primary driver there, you're right, would be that Alunorte plant. And the assumption is that it will come back online sort of in that second half. So we forecasted volume pressure for the first half of the year and then assume some recovery moving into the back half of the year. But that is the primary driver on volume, you're correct.

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Robin Fiedler, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Associate [53]

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And you mentioned that the IFRS accounting impact will likely increase EBITDA by about 5%. Do you have a sense of the expected split between how it will shake out between the 2 segments? Or is it fairly proportionally consistent?

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [54]

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It would be more skewed in ERCO because of the railcars.

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [55]

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Railcars. So it would primary be chemicals.

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Operator [56]

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Thank you. And I am not showing any further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the call back over to Rob Dorran for any further remarks.

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Rob Dorran, Superior Plus Corp. - VP of IR and Treasurer [57]

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If there are no further questions, I would like to thank you for your participation in Superior's 2018 Annual and Fourth Quarter Results Call.

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Beth Summers, Superior Plus Corp. - Executive VP & CFO [58]

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Thank you. Bye.

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Luc Desjardins, Superior Plus Corp. - President, CEO & Director [59]

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Take care, thanks.

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Operator [60]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for participating in today's conference. This does conclude today's program, and you may all disconnect. Everyone, have a wonderful day.