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PotlatchDeltic Corporation (NASDAQ:PCH) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

PotlatchDeltic Corporation (NASDAQ:PCH) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript October 31, 2023

Operator: Good morning. My name is Sarah, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the PotlatchDeltic Third Quarter 2023 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Wayne Wasechek, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, for opening remarks. Sir, you may proceed.

Wayne Wasechek: Good morning, and welcome to PotlatchDeltic's Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. Joining me on the call is Eric Cremers. PotlatchDeltic's President and Chief Executive Officer. This call will contain forward-looking statements. Please review the warning statements in our press release on our presentation slides and in our filings with the SEC regarding the risks associated with these forward-looking statements. Also, please note that a reconciliation of non-GAAP measures can be found on our website at www.potlatchdeltic.com. I'll turn the call over to Eric for some comments, and then I will review our third quarter results and outlook.

Richest Countries in the World by Natural Resources
Richest Countries in the World by Natural Resources

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Eric Cremers: Thank you, Wayne. Looking at our third quarter results, we reported total adjusted EBITDDA of $56 million after the market closed yesterday. These solid results reflect improved financial performance across all of our business segments compared to the second quarter. Our Wood Products segment's adjusted EBITDDA was $15 million in the third quarter compared to $12 million in the second quarter. Slightly higher average lumber prices were the primary driver of the improved results. We have seen a steady decline in the composite lumber price since peaking in late July, driven by several ongoing headwinds, including higher interest rates, housing affordability challenges and declining consumer confidence. We believe lumber prices are starting to bottom out as the lumber composite price hovers in the upper $300 per 1,000 board foot range.

We continue to remain optimistic about long-term housing fundamentals that drive demand for our business, but overall macroeconomic concerns remain. For the third quarter, we shipped 276 million board feet of lumber which was slightly below the volume we shipped in Q2, but 11 million feet more than we shipped in Q3 of last year. We remain focused on executing our capital project plan, including our $131 million project to modernize and expand our Waldo, Arkansas sawmill. We continue to hit our major milestones on the Waldo project, which is on track to be completed by the end of 2024. The project will increase the mills annual capacity by 85 million board feet and significantly reduced the mill's cash costs. The existing mill will continue to operate during the project with approximately 3 weeks of downtime expected in 2024 to tie in the new equipment.

Our Timberlands segment generated adjusted EBITDDA of $42 million in the third quarter compared to $29 million in the second quarter. We harvested 2 million tons in the third quarter, achieving the high end of our Q3 forecast harvest range. Dryer logging conditions combined with good execution by our team, resulted in setting a record for quarterly volume in our Southern Timberlands business. Southern sawlog and pulpwood markets remained stable during the third quarter. Our real estate segment contributed $14 million in adjusted EBITDDA to our third quarter results. On the rural side of the business, we sold 3,300 acres at over $3,500 per acre. We continue to see strong demand for rural properties at significant premiums to core timberland values.

Additionally, our real estate team capitalized on our recent stratification of the CatchMark timberlands as nearly half of our rural business' quarterly performance was attributable to the acquired CatchMark portfolio. On the development side of our real estate business, we sold 32 residential lots in our Chenal Valley master plan community at an average price of $89,000 per lot and completed a commercial land sale for $1.4 million. We have had good absorption on our lot offerings for the majority of this year, but we are starting to see modest signs of slowing by regional builders in Chenal Valley on the take-up of our new lot offerings. Turning to natural climate solution opportunities. We continue to build momentum in this area. Our team is making good progress on our carbon credit project on approximately 50,000 acres of low-lying hardwood timberlands in the South.

We are currently working through the certification process with a very reputable firm to establish high-quality carbon credits. We anticipate completing the process around the end of the first quarter of next year, with submission to the market immediately following the certification and envision having the credit sold by midyear. We are also exploring other NCS opportunities to supply mill residuals and pulpwood develop manufacturers, bioenergy providers and biofuel producers. As for solar deals, we continue to see strong interest from solar farm developers in the South. We now have nearly $200 million on a net present value basis of solar land sale and lease options under contract. Representing less than 2% of our timberland acreage. In fact, since last quarter, we have executed 4 new solar option contracts with a net present value of $70 million in the aggregate.

We believe all of these natural climate solutions opportunities will increase the demand for our Loutre Land and drive our timberland values higher. Shifting to housing. Demand for new single-family residential construction has remained resilient despite an elevated mortgage rate environment. With a historically low level of existing home inventory for sale in the U.S. prospective homebuyers are looking at purchasing a new home versus an existing home, though down from last year's $1.6 million unit run rate, housing starts have hovered around $1.4 million units this year. While new residential home demand has been relatively stable over the course of this year, persistently high mortgage rates are taking a toll on homebuilders confidence. After increasing for 7 months in a row, beginning in January of this year, homebuilder sentiment has reversed course and trended downward over the last couple of months.

current housing headwinds, including higher mortgage rates, which are approaching 8%, housing affordability and uncertainty on the overall direction of the U.S. economy are weighing on demand. But we continue to remain positive on longer-term housing fundamentals, which drive demand for our business. We believe an underlying shortage of housing stock, which some estimate to be between $2 million and $4 million units and favorable demographics will provide positive tailwinds to the housing market. Turning to the repair and remodel segment. Demand in this area has been strong, and we expect it to remain solid. We believe that in this higher interest rate environment, the repair and model market is being supported by homeowners that are staying in their existing homes and renovating versus moving into a new home and aging housing stock, remote work and high home equity levels also support the R&R market.

No doubt, high interest rates and following existing home sales will temper repair and remodel spending over the coming year, but we remain optimistic in this market segment. In fact, our home center takeaway continues to remain strong and is up 15% year-to-date over last year. Moving to capital allocation. We repurchased 283,000 shares for $13 million during the third quarter and repurchased an additional 264,000 shares for $12 million since the end of September. All of these shares were repurchased for an average of $45 per share under our 10b5-1 plan. We have an additional $125 million remaining on our existing repurchase authorization. We follow a disciplined capital allocation strategy, including when we issue shares to acquire strategic assets and when we repurchase shares.

For example, when we entered into the CatchMark merger in May of 2022, we utilized our shares valued at $56 per share to fund the acquisition. Since we announced the merger, we have repurchased 1.8 million shares for $80 million at an average price of $45 per share, which we believe is well below our estimated net asset value. We continually evaluate all of our capital allocation opportunities to grow shareholder value over time, and we will not act tastily towards any of our options and will continue to remain disciplined and opportunistic in our approach. Regarding environmental, social and governance reporting, in addition to the publication of our fourth annual ESG report in May, we issued our second annual carbon and climate report in early October.

Our carbon and climate report highlights, among other items, the potential impact of various climate change scenarios on our Southeast timberlands and our Lake state sourcing areas. PotlatchDeltic is committed to social and environmental responsibility and strong governance practices and we are proud of our progress and the initiatives we have underway in these areas. To wrap up my comments, PotlatchDeltic continues to be very well positioned with an investment-grade balance sheet and a portfolio of high-quality assets. We will continue to maintain a disciplined and opportunistic capital allocation strategy as we seek to maximize shareholder value over the long term. I will now turn it over to Wayne to discuss our third quarter results and our outlook.

Wayne Wasechek: Thank you, Eric. Starting with Page 4 of the slides. Adjusted EBITDDA was $56 million in the third quarter compared to $46 million in the second quarter. The quarter-over-quarter increase in EBITDDA was primarily driven by seasonally higher harvest volumes and improved index Idaho sawlog prices. I will now review each of our operating segments and provide more color on our third quarter results. Information for our Timberlands segment is displayed on Slides 5 through 7. The segment's adjusted EBITDDA increased from $29 million in the second quarter to $42 million in the third quarter. We harvested 377,000 tons of sawlogs in Idaho in the third quarter. This volume is seasonally higher than the 319,000 tons that we harvested in the second quarter.

Our Idaho sawlog prices increased 12% on a per ton basis in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. The increase in sawlog prices was the result of higher prices for index sawlogs. Our index prices reset on a 1-month lag, which means the third quarter index prices reflect slightly higher lumber prices, primarily in June and July. In the South, we harvested 1.6 million tons in the third quarter compared to 1.3 million tons in the second quarter. Our Southern sawlog prices in the third quarter were flat compared to the second quarter. Turning to Wood Products on Slides 8 and 9. Adjusted EBITDDA increased to $15 million in the third quarter from $12 million in the second quarter. Our average lumber price realizations increased 1% from 476 per 1,000 board feet in the second quarter to $481 per 1,000 board feet in the third quarter.

Our average lumber prices were consistent with the first 2 months of the third quarter before declining approximately 3% in September. Our average lumber price realizations per thousand board feet were 486 in July, 486 in August and 472 in September. Former shipments were 276 million board feet in the third quarter compared to 280 million board feet in the second quarter. Our shipments were slightly lower in the third quarter, primarily as a result of the timing of in-transit shipments versus the second quarter. Higher lumber realizations and lower log costs on a per unit basis drove improved margins. Shifting to real estate on Slides 10 and 11. The segment's adjusted EBITDDA was $14 million in the third quarter compared to $12 million in the second quarter.

The increase was due to the sale of more rural acres compared to the prior quarter. Our real estate team did a good job of bringing CatchMark properties to market following the recent completion of a stratification of the portfolio. The sale of CatchMark Parcels contributed to nearly half our Rural business' performance this quarter. EBITDDA generated by our real estate development business was lower in the third quarter compared to the second quarter due to a decrease in residential lot sales and fewer commercial acres sold at our Chenal Valley master plan community. During the third quarter, we closed on the sale of 32 residential lots at a lower average price than in the second quarter due to a different mix of lot price points. Also, we recorded over $1 million in commercial revenue in the third quarter compared to almost $5 million in the second quarter.

Turning to capital structure, which is summarized on Slide 12. Our total liquidity at the end of September was $602 million. This amount includes $303 million of cash on our balance sheet, as well as availability on our undrawn revolver. We plan to refinance the $40 million of debt that is scheduled to mature in December of this year. We have effectively locked in the refinance rate at approximately 2.5% after patronage credits from lenders and using a portion of our existing forward starting interest rate swaps. Utilization of our forward starting interest rate swaps allows us to refinance this debt at well below current market rates and lower our annual cash interest by approximately $500,000 beginning in December. After this refinancing, we will still have $200 million notional afford swaps to deploy to keep our future borrowing costs low.

We repurchased 283,000 shares at $45 per share for a total of $13 million in the third quarter. Additionally, we continue to repurchase shares under our 10b5-1 share repurchase plan after the quarter ended. So far in the fourth quarter, we have repurchased 264,000 shares at $45 per share for a total of $12 million. Therefore, year-to-date, we have repurchased 556,000 shares for a total of $25 million, which leaves us with $125 million remaining on our $200 million repurchase authorization. Capital expenditures were $27 million in the third quarter. That amount includes real estate development expenditures, which are included in cash from operations in our cash flow statement and excludes timberland acquisitions. For the full year, we are planning to spend $135 million to $140 million, excluding any potential acquisitions.

Our CapEx estimate includes approximately $74 million for the Waldo, Arkansas sawmill modernization expansion project. During the third quarter, we finalized our Ola sawmill fire insurance claim with our insurance carriers for a total of $89 million, net of a $2 million deductible. Our insurance claim covered both property replacement and business interruption at the sawmill. Finalization of the claim resulted in the recognition of the remaining $16 million of insurance recoveries during the third quarter. As a reminder, we recognized $50 million of the settlement prior to 2023 with the remaining $39 million recorded this year. We'll now provide some high-level outlook comments. The details are presented on Slide 13. We expect to harvest 1.8 million to 1.9 million tons in our Timberland segment in the fourth quarter.

Harvest volumes in the North are planned to be lower in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, as our team was able to pull forward a portion of our planned annual harvest volumes to earlier in the year. We expect Northern sawlog prices to decline about 10% to 15% in the fourth quarter, reflecting lower index sawlog prices and seasonally heavier logs. In the South, we plan to harvest approximately 1.5 million tons in the fourth quarter. We expect our Southern sawlog prices in the fourth quarter to be flat to the third quarter. In our Wood Products segment, we plan to ship 270 million to 280 million board feet of lumber in the fourth quarter. Benchmark prices for lumber have continued to trend downwards since the end of the third quarter.

Our average lumber price thus far in the fourth quarter is approximately 12% lower than our third quarter average lumber price. This is based on shipments of approximately 105 million board feet of lumber. Moving to real estate. We expect to sell approximately 6,800 acres of rural land in the fourth quarter. As for residential lot sales, we are seeing indications of softening in the new residential construction market in Chenal Valley. We are reducing our anticipated number of lots approximately 37% in the fourth quarter and approximately 135 for the full year of 2023. Additional real estate details are provided on the slide. Overall, we anticipate our total adjusted EBITDDA to be lower in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter. This is based on the expectations of lower lumber and index Idaho sawlog prices.

Looking forward, high mortgage rates and macroeconomic uncertainty will continue to challenge the housing market in the near term. However, we remain bullish on longer-term housing fundamentals and believe we are well positioned to continue growing shareholder value over the long term. That concludes our prepared remarks. Sarah, I would now like to open the call to Q&A.

Operator: [Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Anthony Pettinari with Citi Research.

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