Ball (BLL)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call

July 29, 2010 11:00 am ET

Executives

Scott Morrison - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

R. Hoover - Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

John Hayes - President, Chief Operating Officer and Director

Analysts

Peter Ruschmeier - Barclays Capital

Claudia Hueston - JP Morgan Chase & Co

Ghansham Panjabi - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated

Albert Kabili - Macquarie Research

Alton Stump - Longbow Research LLC

Mark Wilde - Deutsche Bank AG

Richard Skidmore - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

George Staphos

Christopher Manuel - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc.

Chip Dillon - Crédit Suisse AG

Timothy Thein - Citigroup Inc

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Ball Corporation Second Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] It is now my pleasure to introduce Dave Hoover, Chief Executive Officer. You may go ahead, sir.

R. Hoover

Thank you, Franz, and good morning, everyone. This is Ball Corporation's conference call regarding the company's second quarter 2010 results. The information provided during this call will contain forward-looking statements. Actual results or outcomes may differ materially from those that may be expressed or implied. Some factors that could cause the results or outcomes to differ in the company's latest 10-Q and in other company SEC filings, as well as company news releases. And if you don't have our earnings release, it's available on our website, which is at ball.com. Information regarding the use of non-GAAP financial measures may also be found on our website.

Joining me on the call today is John Hayes, Ball's President, Chief Operating Officer; and Scott Morrison, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer. In a moment, Scott's going to comment on our financial performance for the quarter and for 2010, and then John will follow details about our operating performance.

Ball reported strong second quarter results. Increasing volumes across our Packaging businesses, strong operating performance and positive contributions from the strategic actions we've been taking during the last couple of years led to our improved results. During the quarter we closed our acquisition of the JFP joint venture plan in China, and we announced our agreement to sell our Plastics business to Amcor for $280 million in cash. We also increased our authorization to repurchase up to 12 million shares.

Also in the quarter, Ball published its second corporate sustainability report, highlighting progress on our goals in five key areas of focus which are: Packaging, energy, water and waste, safety and talent management. You can read the report and expanded details on ball.com.

Earlier this week, we announced the acquisition of Neuman Aluminum, the largest North American manufacturer of metal discs that are made into extruded aluminum bottles and containers used for personal care and beverage products. Well, we're very pleased with our strengthening performance this year. And with that, I'll turn it over to Scott.

Scott Morrison

Thanks, Dave. Ball's comparable diluted earnings per share from continuing operations were $1.38, well ahead of last year's $1.14, a more than 20% improvement. Volume improvements in our Global Metal Packaging businesses, efficient plant operating performance and disciplined cost controls contributed to the improved results. These positive factors were offset somewhat by a higher interest cost, a higher effective tax rate. A weaker euro negatively impacted diluted earnings per share by $0.02 in the quarter and $0.06 year-to-date. At present rate, the FX headwinds are expected to increase in the second half of the year.

The Plastics business is now reflected under discontinued operations at our financial statements. The sale resulted in a charge of approximately $76 million in the second quarter. The bulk of this charge is related to goodwill impairment. For a complete summary of second quarter results on a GAAP and non-GAAP basis, please refer to the notes section of today's earnings release.

Turning to some key financial metrics. Interest expense in the quarter was up as expected due to the acquisition financing from last year's purchase of the four metal beverage plants. And an extra month of interest expense from carrying both the new bond issued in March and the 2012 notes we redeemed into April. We still anticipate full year interest expense to be approximately $140 million.

Given the improvement seen to date in our North American packaging operations, we expect the full year tax rate to be around 33%. At current exchange rates, year end net debt is expected to be approximately $2.4 billion, essentially where we ended 2009, or on a comparable basis, we're down over $200 million due to the AR securitization being reflected on the balance sheet. Even without the cash flow, we would have historically generated in the second half of the year from our Plastics business, we expect free cash flow to be approximately $0.5 billion in 2010, excluding the impact of the AR securitization coming out of the balance sheet.

As stated in this morning's press release, and as a result of our strong free cash flow, we expect to repurchase an excess of $400 million of our stock during 2010. As of today's conference call, we have acquired $250 million of stock this year. Our balance sheet, liquidity and capital structure are where we want to be, so expect us to return a majority of our free cash flow through share repurchases absent other significant strategic opportunities.

With that, I'll turn it over to John to talk more about the operations.

John Hayes

Thanks, Scott. The optimism we felt heading into the busy summer season has materialized in the strong second quarter results. In our Metal Beverage Packaging Americas and Asia segment, profitability for the quarter exceeded our expectations with EBITDA of $114.5 million versus $74.8 million in the second quarter last year. This was driven largely by the impact of the acquired plants, excellent plant performance and strong volume trend in CSD [carbonated soft drink], certain specialty sizes and the emerging Craft Beer category.

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