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Edited Transcript of ZEUS earnings conference call or presentation 15-Feb-19 3:00pm GMT

Q4 2018 Olympic Steel Inc Earnings Call

Bedford Heights Feb 24, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Olympic Steel Inc earnings conference call or presentation Friday, February 15, 2019 at 3:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* David A. Wolfort

Olympic Steel, Inc. - President & Director

* Richard A. Manson

Olympic Steel, Inc. - CFO

* Richard T. Marabito

Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Joichi Sakai

Singular Research, LLC - Equity Research Analyst

* Martin John Englert

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst

* Michael David Leshock

KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Associate

* Philip Ross Gibbs

KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Equity Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good morning, and welcome to the Olympic Steel 2018 Full Year and Fourth Quarter Financial Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) And as a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

Some statements made on today's call will be predictive and are intended to be made as forward looking, within the safe harbor protections of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and may not reflect actual results. The company does not undertake to update such statements, changes and assumptions or changes in other factors affecting such forward-looking statements. Important assumptions, risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are set forth in the company's reports on Forms 10-K and 10-Q, and press releases filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. During today's discussion, we'll reference adjusted net income per diluted share, which is a non-GAAP financial measure. A reconciliation of this non-GAAP measure to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure is provided in the press release that was issued this morning, which can be found on the website. Today's live broadcast will be archived and available for replay on Olympic Steel's website.

At this time, I'd like to introduce your host for today's call, Olympic Steel's Chief Executive Officer, Rick Marabito. Thank you, sir. Please go ahead.

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [2]

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Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us to discuss Olympic Steel's 2018 fourth quarter and Full year results. Joining me on the call this morning are Olympic Steel's President, Dave Wolfort; CFO, Rich Manson; Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Greiff; and the President of our Chicago Tube & Iron Business, Don McNeeley.

Before we begin, I want to take a moment to thank Michael Siegal for his tremendous leadership of the company as our CEO for the past 34 years. We are glad to have the opportunity to continue to work with him in his new role as our Executive Chair of the Board of Directors. We remain intensely focused on continuing the successful legacy of growth and diversification that we've established under Michael's tenure as CEO. In addition, this is Rich Manson's first earnings call as our CFO. Rich is a 23-year veteran of Olympic Steel, and you will hear from him later on the call this morning.

2018 was a landmark year for our company in many ways. In addition to the seamless executive management transition that took place at the end of the year, we delivered record revenue and strong profitability, making this the third consecutive year of improved financial results. Our market share in carbon pipe and tube, stainless steel sheet and coil and aluminum sheet and coil all increased year-over-year. The higher volume, combined with higher prices, pushed consolidated net sales to a record $1.7 billion in 2018.

For the year, sales increased significantly in all 3 of our product segments: carbon flat, specialty metals flat, and pipe and tube. In addition, both specialty metals and pipe and tube achieved record annual profitability. As a result, 2018 consolidated operating income more than doubled to $57 million. That's the third most profitable year in the company's 64-year history. We achieved these record results despite the market softening in the last quarter. For the fourth quarter of 2018, we reported a net loss of $0.11 per share, which included $3.7 million of LIFO expense. Excluding the LIFO expense, we earned adjusted net income of $0.14 per share during the fourth quarter of 2018, which compares favorably to the fourth quarter of 2017, and Rich will provide more detail later in the call. In 2018, we continued to invest in our strategy to grow our core business in areas with higher returns and less volatility as well as improve our operating efficiencies.

We reinvested across all 3 of our businesses with approximately $26 million of capital expenditures. In addition, we executed on our strategy of growing and diversifying our business through M&A activity, including the acquisitions of Berlin Metals in April of 2018 and most recently the McCullough Industries acquisition that closed in January 2019. McCullough Industries is a manufacturer of branded self-dumping hoppers used in a variety of industrial applications.

We are actively exploring acquisitions of other manufacturers of metal-intensive branded products. David will provide more detail about both our capital expenditures and acquisitions in his remarks.

Lastly, on February 8, the Board of Directors declared a regular cash dividend of $0.02 per share, which is payable on March 15, 2019, to holders of record on March 1. This marks our 55th consecutive quarter we paid a cash dividend.

I'll now turn the call over to David for his comments.

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David A. Wolfort, Olympic Steel, Inc. - President & Director [3]

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Thank you, Rick. We accomplished a great deal in 2018, punctuated by the seamless transitions of Rick Marabito into his new role as CEO and Rich Manson into his new role as Chief Financial Officer. We have also had several other successful senior leadership changes, which further strengthens the team's ability to execute on our long-term vision. So before I get right into the business of fourth quarter and our accomplishments of last year, I, like Rick Marabito, want to acknowledge Mike Siegal's leadership over the past 35 years we've had the mutual pleasure of working together on a daily basis. Michael successfully engineered a generational buyout of the founding generation in 1984. And in 1994, Michael Siegal quarterbacked our public offering, now 25 years old. Michael Siegal has spent 45 years working at our enterprise, which by itself is a significant accomplishment. I, along with the entire company, offer my profound appreciation and admiration of his many years of dedicated service. Thank you, Michael.

Now let me get into 2018 and the fourth quarter, and as Rick noted, we invested $26 million during 2018 back into our business. Capital expenditures included expanding our Schaumburg, Illinois building by 42,000 square feet and adding a new Herr-Voss cut-to-length line to exclusively process white metals. This became operational in January 2019. Adding a new tube laser in Romeoville, Illinois to Chicago Tube & Iron's arsenal; and fiber-optic lasers in Chicago, Iowa and Cleveland. The new lasers increase our value-added margins and improve productivity. Adding a second slitter at Integrity Stainless, a Specialty Metals division in Streetsboro, Ohio, to support our growing stainless steel business and installing a new rotary shear to our temper mill in Iowa facility -- in our Iowa facility over the summer, which improves productivity and reduces cost.

In addition to the $26 million of capital expenditures, acquisitions were also a big part of our success during the year. The acquisition of Berlin Metals expanded our product line with prime tin mill offerings, accelerates the growth of our stainless steel business and further supports our growth strategy by adding new customers and markets with additional cross-selling opportunities.

The acquisition of McCullough Industries, which we announced on January 2, 2019, marks our entry into the metal-intensive branded product manufacturing business. This transaction allows us to take advantage of our expertise in purchasing, processing and logistics to enhance profitability and reduce volatility.

We see further opportunity for tuck-in acquisitions in metal-intensive branded product manufacturers, and our strong balance sheet and revolving credit facility provide us with ample resources to pursue such transactions.

I want to emphasize that this effort to diversify our business is complementary to continuing to invest smartly in growing our 3-core businesses as our new manufactured metals downstream strategy is fed by our synergistic core. It's all part of our overall growth strategy. And while 2018 had a number of notable accomplishments, it wasn't without challenges.

During the fourth quarter, we experienced an acceleration of negative pricing headwinds that began in late third quarter, as hot rolled CRU eroded by $100 a ton during the fourth quarter. The pricing headwinds impacted our gross margins in the fourth quarter and have continued into early first quarter 2019. We also faced challenges from trade disputes and counter-tariffs offered by the European Union, Canada and countries whose steel trade has been disrupted by the implementation of Section 232.

To counteract these headwinds, we are improving inventory turnover focusing on reducing operating expenses and planning for lower capital expenditures in 2019. In conclusion, I want to emphasize that we are well aware of the global challenges we face in 2019, and we are being proactive by continuing to focus on responsible and profitable growth through additional variable low-cost stocking locations that are close to our customers and provide advantaged local distribution. And we will continue to evaluate ways to diversify our product mix and reduce volatility in our business, such as our recent move into metal-intensive branded product manufacturing with the McCullough acquisition.

With that, I will turn the call over to Rich for the financial review.

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Richard A. Manson, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CFO [4]

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Thank you, David, and good morning to everyone. I'm excited to be stepping into my new role as a CFO, and I look forward to building on our strong foundation. Earlier, Rick began the call by noting we had achieved record sales and profitability during 2018. So allow me to expand upon those comments. We reported record revenue of $430 million during the fourth quarter of 2018. Our revenue was up $73 million or 20% from the fourth quarter of 2017. For the full year of 2018, we reported record revenue of $1.7 billion, which was up $231 million or 16% from 2017.

All 3 of our operating segments reported record revenue in 2018. And for the year, our sales mix was 63% carbon flat, 20% specialty metals and 17% pipe and tube. The sales mix reflects our strategy to diversify our product offerings to improve margins and reduce volatility in our results. And the record sales resulted in record annual earnings in our specialty metals and pipe and tube segments. The company, in total, and our carbon flat rolled segment reported their third-best profitability year.

For the fourth quarter of 2018, we reported a net loss of $1.3 million or $0.11 per share. However, as we indicated in our earnings release earlier this morning, our fourth quarter results include a $3.7 million LIFO charge. Excluding that LIFO charge, we are in $0.14 per share on a FIFO or non-GAAP basis. During the fourth quarter of 2017, we reported a $4.2 million net income or $0.37 per share. However, those results included a onetime tax adjustment of $6.2 million of income related to the adoption of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

If we exclude that onetime adjustment as well as the LIFO and other items described in our earnings release, we lost $0.04 per share on a non-GAAP basis in the fourth quarter of 2017. So our fourth quarter 2018 results on a non-GAAP basis were $0.18 per share stronger year-over-year. And for the full year of 2018, we earned $3.51 per share on a non-GAAP basis or 3x our 2017 earnings. Please see the earnings reconciliation on Page 2 of the earnings release that was issued earlier this morning.

Our strong 2018 earnings further bolstered our already robust balance sheet. At December 31, 2018, we had total assets of $761 million or $157 million increase over December 31, 2017. The increase in assets was primarily attributable to higher working capital needs to fund our growth and the year-over-year higher prices for metal. We remained focused on efficiently converting our accounts receivable and inventory into cash. And for 2018, we reported DSOs of 41.2 days, and we turned our flat-rolled inventory 4.3x. Over the past few months, we made a few changes to our asset-based credit facility to allow us to take advantage of low-cost borrowings. This allows us to invest in both capital expenditures and strategic acquisitions. So in November, we increased the size of our revolving credit facility from $400 million to $475 million to fully take advantage of utilizing our working capital as lending assets.

We finished the year with $303 million of borrowings and $139 million of availability. The $139 million of availability is an all-time high for the company, and our availability currently sits at approximately $160 million after completing the McCullough acquisition.

Additionally, in January 2019, we took advantage of the current interest rate environment and entered into a 5-year interest rate swap of 2.57% on $75 million of our LIBOR borrowings. We are currently borrowing at LIBOR plus 1.25%, so the effective interest rate on that $75 million interest rate swap is 3.82%. We believe that this low interest rate borrowing provides us a strategic advantage in deploying our capital toward organic growth and acquisition activities. At year-end, our debt-to-equity ratio was 0.99:1, and our FIFO EBITDA rate -- debt-to-FIFO EBITDA rate was 3.6:1.

So looking forward to 2019, we expect to generate cash flow by reducing working capital, increasing inventory turnover and keeping our capital expenditures below our annual depreciation expense. The free cash flow will be used to pay down our revolving credit facility. And we expect our 2019 tax rate to approximate 26.5% to 27.5%.

Finally, we plan to file our Form 10-K later today, which will provide additional details on our operating results for 2018.

Now operator, with that, let's open the call 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 the line of Martin Englert with Jefferies.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [2]

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You had called out the gross margin pressure in 4Q and then also carrying over in 1Q. Are margins quarter-to-date in 1Q incrementally lower than what you were seeing in 4Q?

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [3]

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Martin, it's Rick. Obviously, through the fourth quarter as the prices dropped, we saw the margin pressure accelerate from October to November to December. I think, as we started January, we're pretty similar to where we had ended in December, and our expectation is that the margins are going to start turning and improving. So I'd say, if you kind of had a look at it graphically, the margins were continuing to drop through fourth quarter, kind of getting to the bottom of that here in early February, and then we'd expect them to start improving now.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [4]

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Okay. So you haven't seen a positive inflection yet, though, as of mid-month here yet?

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [5]

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No.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [6]

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Okay. And then with the McCullough acquisition, can you provide some more detail on that, regarding purchase price, sales for last year, EBITDA contribution 2018? And then how you are thinking about allocating that amongst the segments there?

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [7]

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Yes. So we made a press release in early January, and obviously, absent from that press release were some of the numbers you're asking me about. What I can tell you is, it's a pretty small acquisition but we think a very impactful acquisition. As we described, they make self-dumping hoppers. We've got incredible synergies that we can bring to that type of a manufacturing process. I think we will have some disclosures, probably in our first quarter 10-Q, on the purchase price, but the purchase price was -- it was $11 million. So it wasn't -- you will see that in the first quarter. We talked a lot today on our call, and we included in our earnings release the concept of, as we invest in these types of acquisitions and/or future CapEx, that we're really driven by having much higher returns that some of the generic-base service center would bring, and certainly McCullough is a perfect example of that. And then on top of that when you add the synergies that we'll be able to bring through supply from our Cleveland warehouse in terms of purchasing and supply, logistical advantages, advantages in terms of being able to do first-stage processing for them out of the existing inventory we really already carry, we're pretty excited about it. And we also think that there is a lot of opportunity for us to continue down the path of making similar-type acquisitions of different businesses in the McCullough model. So that's what it's about. Obviously, given the size of it, we are not disclosing all the other financial parameters around it, but thanks for the question, Martin.

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Richard A. Manson, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CFO [8]

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I think the one thing to add, Rick, is that going forward, the McCullough results will roll up in the carbon flat, and I think that was the last part of the Martin's question.

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [9]

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Yes, yes, thank you, Rich. Yes, so it will roll up into the carbon flat segment.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [10]

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Got it. And then just circling back there, you touched on the liquidity there. You've done a number of things to change on the revolver there. And did I hear you call, you had $160 million of liquidity currently post the acquisition?

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Richard A. Manson, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CFO [11]

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Yes, Martin, it's Rich. Correct, we're about -- sitting about $160 million, $165 million currently.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [12]

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Okay. And then if I could, one other one there. What are you seeing with the demand environment right now so far, year-to-date, regarding volumes and purchasing activity from the various end-users? Maybe if you could give a little bit of color amongst your various end markets.

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [13]

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Sure, Martin. David, how about if you take that one for Martin?

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David A. Wolfort, Olympic Steel, Inc. - President & Director [14]

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Sure, Martin. Thank you very much for the question. Quite frankly, our large OEM customers are signaling high single-digit growth for 2019 to low-double digit growth. So continuation of 2018's growth compounded from late 2017 across the board. The only tweak to that is automotive, which is juggling production. We see that more in a neutral, neutral environment going into 2019. And spot business was sluggish at the tail end of Q4 and January, and it's beginning to raise its head with the CRU incline of this week. But in general, we are bullish in 2019. And our large OEM customers in construction, agriculture, industrial production are all signaling growth.

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Operator [15]

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Our next question is from the line of Phil Gibbs with KeyBanc.

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Philip Ross Gibbs, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Equity Research Analyst [16]

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Martin was very thorough. He took most of my questions, and here we are. But just elaborating a little bit more on the demand side of the equation. High level, it sounds like your year got off to a slow start with maybe some end-user destocking and some destocking efforts of your own. And that seems like it's somewhat transitory, if you've got the likes of Cat and Deere and others having decent outlook. So I'm hearing kind of a tale of 2 cities here from you all this morning. So I just wanted to see if we're reading that correctly.

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [17]

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Yes, so Phil, I think as David described, we're really optimistic about our OEM demand. I think the spot market has been soft as David elaborated on. I think spot market will pick up as we move through the normal cyclicality of a down market, and the spot buying normally tapers off when that happens. So we'd expect to start to see the spot business pick up here. And as we're looking at demand, and we're looking at what our customers are telling us, we're optimistic that we're going to see some good demand growth year-over-year as David described. So I think you alluded to kind of the tale of 2 cities. Obviously, as the prices were moving down in fourth quarter, combined with the normal cyclicality of end of year plus the start of a new year, I think that was pretty typical. And then you'll lay around the dropping price and maybe that got accentuated a little bit. But overall, the good news is, we're seeing good demand, our customers are optimistic, and we're planning for year-over-year growth.

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Operator [18]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question is from the line of Chris Sakai with Singular Research.

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Joichi Sakai, Singular Research, LLC - Equity Research Analyst [19]

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Most of my questions have been asked already, but going back to gross margin for the rest of 2019, where do you see it going from here? Do you have -- can you give us some sort of idea as far as where the -- how that will be this year?

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [20]

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Sure. So I think we talked a little bit about the margins in the first quarter. We saw the margins really hit their low point into the fourth quarter and to start the first quarter. I think we're optimistic that we will see margins come off the lows of fourth quarter and start the first quarter in the back half of the first quarter. And then we'd expect ourselves to get back into a more normalized margin environment. And for us, I think, looking at the $180 to $200 a ton gross margins is what we would anticipate seeing as we move into the back half of the first quarter and into the rest of the year. We think that will have a more stable pricing environment. Obviously, we've come off from the highs of some of the 232-driven price spikes that we saw last year. And we are settling in now at a pricing environment that will be a little more consistent and normalized. And I think our margins will be more consistent and normalized as we move forward. So I think the synopsis would be a slower start on margins in the beginning of the first quarter, pretty similar to fourth quarter, and then we'll see them rising to the more normalized levels I told you about.

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Operator [21]

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Our next question is from the line of Martin Englert with Jefferies.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [22]

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On the LIFO, that was a notable accounting headwind for this quarter. Any guidance you can provide on what you're kind of expecting in 1Q here?

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Richard A. Manson, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CFO [23]

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Yes, Martin. It's Rich. I think that we're hoping that, as the market changes here, we would expect to probably see a little bit of LIFO income in the quarters ahead. One thing to note is that, when we do our LIFO, we kind of estimate it for the full year. So as we look at not just the first quarter effect, we're kind of forecasting as to what December 31, '19, is going to look like. But I wouldn't anticipate a $3.7 million LIFO charge in the first quarter. I'm always a little more benign.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [24]

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Okay. And then really quickly there, inventory plans. It looked like dollar value of inventory, I think, stepped up Q-on-Q. What are you thinking with volumes? Are you going to be destocking here and you noted some working capital targeting improvements there?

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [25]

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Yes, we've got some target improvements on inventory. So Rich talked about our inventory turnover for '18, which I believe was 4.3x. We will target, and I feel pretty comfortable we will turn our inventory faster. In 2019, I think we have the opportunity to pick up about a half a turn on inventory. Of note, Martin, we actually did take our inventory volume down in the fourth quarter. The pricing impact, much like you saw on the pipe and tube with the LIFO impact, the pricing impact on the inventory actually caused the inventory to tick up slightly in terms of dollars. But the volumes actually decreased in fourth quarter. And my expectation is, as we move through the first half of the year, we'll continue to see some reductions in volume and see our inventory turn pick up about a half a turn.

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Martin John Englert, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [26]

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Okay. And then quickly just touching on the budgeted CapEx, you kind of noted around -- did you say below D&A or around D&A for the year?

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Richard A. Manson, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CFO [27]

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Yes, Martin, we're forecasting somewhere between probably 70% to 80% of depreciation for the year, which I think is going to be somewhere in the $16 million to $17 million range of depreciation. So we would expect the CapEx to be less than that.

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [28]

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Probably $15 million is a good round number to think about.

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Operator [29]

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And our next question comes from the line of Michael Leshock with KeyBanc.

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Michael David Leshock, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Associate [30]

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Just wondering about operating expense reductions. How should we be thinking about that? And where are the buckets in terms of savings, if you could break that out? And then kind of in the same vein, are you seeing the freight pressures subside in this quarter?

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [31]

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So freight, we really saw the impact of the inflation hit in the middle part of last year. We've seen it relatively stable starting in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter and planning a relatively stable distribution market for -- and freight market for 2019. So what I tell you is, probably pretty similar in terms of freight rates, back half of the year going into '19. Much the same, we saw some inflationary pressures on labor. So going into the middle part of the year, in the summer, that too peaked. I think that also has sort of settled in. So I think, going forward, our labor rates will be pretty consistent to what you have seen more recent run rates in the third and fourth quarter are. In terms of other operating expenses, we've got some opportunities that we're working on where I believe will start to yield some operating savings in admin and warehouse as we move through 2019. And I also think we're at the spot where I think we can gain some efficiencies as we continue to grow our top line and grow the business. I think we're at a point of equilibrium here, unlike in 2018, where we saw some surges in volume, and we had to meet those surges during the high point of trying to access labor. I think that labor smoothing into this year will allow us as we grow to really leverage some of the operating expenses.

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Operator [32]

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Thank you. We have no further questions at this time. I'd like to turn the floor back over to management for any closing comments.

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Richard T. Marabito, Olympic Steel, Inc. - CEO & Director [33]

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Well, thank you, everyone. Thank you, operator. Once again, we appreciate you joining us on our call this morning and for your interest in Olympic Steel. And we look forward to sharing our first quarter results with you this spring. Have a great day. Thank you.

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Operator [34]

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This concludes today's teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time, and thank you for your participation.