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Compass Minerals' CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Tornado related losses depressed our second half sold operating earnings by more than $16 million. Then late in the year, our primary North American sales region experienced the mildest fourth quarter weather in more than a decade further constraining fourth quarter salt earnings.

Even though it was a very unusual and difficult year, the salt segment still posted a 21% operating margin which is very similar to our pre-2009 operating margins. Excluding the impact of the tornado, the salt operating margin was about 23% for the year and 27% for the fourth quarter. Adding back the mild winter weather impact would make these attractive margins even higher.

While the effects of the tornado have certainly been expensive and challenging, I want to take a minute to recognize the creativity and dedication of employees throughout our organization who developed safe ways to overcome some pretty tough huddles.

Immediately following the tornado, our primary concerns were employee’s safety and customer service. I won’t spend much here to elaborate on the safety measures we took, but I do want to applaud our team’s focus on securing our work sites and addressing safety issues before any work resumed at either Goderich location.

On the customer service side, we immediately went to work, finding unconventional ways to provide products to our customers. The solutions included purchasing highway deicing salt from third parties and ramping up operations at our other salt manufacturing facilities to compensate for lost production at Goderich. Then, once our Goderich mine and evaporation plant could operate again, our employees found ways to produce products to our high quality standards even though we were missing some key equipment.

So while our reported costs have been higher than normal, we successfully met our external obligations, maintaining relationships with our customers while keeping our Goderich workforce safe and returning them quickly to work. Am very happy to say that we expect most of the damaged production assets to be repaired, replaced or worked around by the end of the second quarter. Our salt production capabilities and product costs should return to normal at that point.

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