Q4 2011 Earnings Call
January 26, 2012 8:30 am ET
Albert P. L. Stroucken - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Member of Risk Oversight Committee
Edward C. White - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Senior Vice President
Jason Bissell -
George L. Staphos - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division
Alex Ovshey - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division
Alton K. Stump - Longbow Research LLC
Christopher D. Manuel - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division
Philip Ng - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division
Albert T. Kabili - Macquarie Research
Mark Wilde - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division
Phil M. Gresh - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division
Previous Statements by OI
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Good morning. My name is Angela, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the O-I Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2011 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Jason Bissell, Director of Investor Relations. You may begin your conference.
I am joined today by Al Stroucken, our Chairman and CEO; Ed White, our Chief Financial Officer; and several other members of our senior management team. Today, we will discuss key business developments, review our financial results for the fourth quarter, the full year 2011 and discuss future trends affecting our business in 2012. Following our prepared remarks, we will host a question-and-answer period. The presentation materials for this earnings call are also being simulcast from the company's website at o-i.com. Please review the Safe Harbor comments and disclosure of our use of non-GAAP financial measures included in those materials. Unless otherwise noted, the financial results we are presenting today relate to adjusted net earnings, which exclude certain items that management considers not representative of ongoing operations. A reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP earnings can be found in our earnings press release and in the appendix to this presentation. I'll now turn the call over to Al, who will start on Chart 2.
Albert P. L. Stroucken
Thank you, Jason, and good morning. Our fourth quarter adjusted earnings were $0.48 per share in line with our expectations. Shipments in the quarter were up more than 4% compared to the same period of last year. And importantly, free cash flow was strong in the fourth quarter.
For full year 2011, adjusted earnings per share were $2.37, down from $2.60 in 2010. We were disappointed by the performance of our Asia Pacific and North American regions especially in the second quarter. On the other hand, our largest region, Europe, largely offset the impact of accelerating cost inflation through higher shipments and good operating performance. And South America had another strong year driven by organic growth and new business stemming from our 2010 acquisitions.
Global volumes improved by more than 5% in 2011. Prior year acquisitions provided approximately 4 percentage points of this change, while organic growth provided more than 1 percentage point. Shipments increased across all key end-use categories, including beer, wine, spirits and fruit. As a result of low-cost inflation in 2010, our selling prices increased only slightly going into 2011. However, cost inflation increased significantly throughout the year and exceeded price recovery by approximately $150 million.
This impacted our margins, of course, and we have been aggressively addressing this issue in recent months, and I will comment later on our progress. Despite high cost inflation and the performance issues we discussed earlier in the year, we generated $220 million of free cash flow in 2011. We used the cash to lower our net debt in the second half of the year.
Looking to 2012, we expect improved operating results across the board. Higher pricing should offset the impact of prior year unrecovered cost inflation as well as some of the inflation anticipated in 2012. We assume global shipment levels will be flat year-over-year in 2012, which allows for an impact to volumes in Europe as a result of our pricing strategy.
Macroeconomic developments in Europe may also impact volumes which create, of course, some uncertainty in our forward-looking assumptions. We plan to complete most of our remaining price negotiations with European customers in February, and this will allow us then to have a better understanding of our volumes and any potential additional restructuring required in this region.
Based on our present assumptions, we expect underlying free cash flow in 2012 to approximate $250 million. Underlying free cash flow is an expanded metric that we're introducing this year to segregate capital spending for replacement capacity in China that is being supported by the proceeds from our land sales in that country. And Ed will discuss this further in a few minutes.
Now let's review the operating performance of our regional businesses starting with Europe on Chart 3. Europe generated operating profit of $41 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $50 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. Shipments were solid this quarter, up more than 5% with good performance in the beer and spirit end-use segments. We believe the small portion of this volume strength was likely related to customer purchases in advance of price increases and in France, ahead of tax increases scheduled to go into effect in 2012.
Despite positive volume trends, we reduced our production levels in the fourth quarter to manage our inventories heading into 2012. As a result, the benefits of higher shipments and prices were offset by lower production levels, continued high cost inflation and unfavorable currency translation.