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I am joined on this morning’s call by Walt Turner, President and CEO of Koppers and Brian McCurrie, Vice President Global Carbon Materials & Chemicals and until replacement, he is named acting CFO.At this time, I’d like to turn the call over to Walt Turner. Walt? Walt Turner Thank you, Mike. Welcome, everyone to our 2010 first quarter conference call. I was pleased to see that our revenues for our global Carbon Materials and Chemicals business increased by 19% over the pervious quarter. Outside North America end markets for Carbon Materials and Chemicals and the Europe showed improved stability, and our Asian and Middle Eastern markets continued to show growth in our carbon pitch, carbon black feedstock and naphthalene products. Steel production increased about 30% globally and about 60% in the U.S. for the first quarter of 2010. That will provide relief on the raw material side. Tar supplies in the most areas around the world are currently in excess of demand. Related increases and electric arc steel production should also help our carbon pitch and petroleum pitch volumes as both products are used in the manufacturing of the electrodes, which are consumed in the electric arc furnaces. Our carbon pitch volumes were up 9% over the previous quarter despite a small decline in global aluminum production. We have gained market share in the pitch market as a result of our acquisition in the Europe and our new pitch volumes we are supplying in the Middle East. We continue to be encouraged with the recent economic news and are hopeful that this may ultimately lead to the restarting of some previously idled smelting capacity later this year. Recent projections continue to forecast average annual growth rates for global aluminum demand of around 10% and global aluminum production of 7% through 2013.
The projected increases in production through 2013 amount to about 10 million to 12 million tons, of which about 3 million tons is expected to be supplied by the smelters in the Middle East. Our expectation is that a substantial portion of this new production will come from restarting of idle capacity around the world.Phthalic anhydride business, which normally reacts in line with the U.S. economy, showed marked improvement of the previous quarter as signs of life in the U.S. housing and auto markets combined with higher market shares for Koppers resulted in higher volumes. Additionally, prices for orthoxylene have increased more than 10% year-to-date as a result of higher oil prices, pushing phthalic prices even higher. I was pleased that our new facility in The Netherlands we acquired on March 1st contributed nearly $5 million of revenues and was profitable for the month. We continue to focus on integrating this business into our European operations group and are looking forward to implementing our synergies that will be realized throughout the balance of the year. For our Railroad and Utility Products business, our initial expectation of a difficult first quarter compared to last year's first quarter was further impacted by unfavorable weather conditions. The good news is that the railroad traffic continues to improve and going forward, we believe that Class 1 railroads will be increasing their purchases when they try to catch up on some of the delays from the first and second quarters. While crosstie procurement of the industry is expected to be down about 20% from last year, we expect treating and insertions to be similar to that of 2009. According to an industry publication, rail traffic for the week of April 17th was a 16-month high with 18 out of 19 commodity groups showing increases from the same week in the prior year. We have stepped up our procurement efforts and weekly tie purchases in April were up about 25% from March with expectations that May purchases will be up further. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com