Valmont Industries, Inc (VMI)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call Transcript

October 14, 2011, 9:00 am ET


Jeff Laudin - Manager, IR

Terry McClain - SVP, CFO

Mark Jaksich - VP, Corporate Controller


[Aaron Reed] - BB&T Capital

Brian Drab - William Blair

Brent Thielman - DA Davidson

Carter Shoop - Keybanc

Julian Mitchell - Credit Suisse

Jeff Beach - Stifel Nicolaus

Arnie Ursaner - CJS Securities



Good morning. My name is [Steve] and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Valmont Industries third quarter earnings conference call.

All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions). Jeff Laudin, Manager of Investor Relations, you may begin your conference.

Jeff Laudin

Thank you, [Steve], and welcome to the Valmont Industries third quarter 2011 earnings conference call. With me today are Mogens Bay, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Terry McClain, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Mark Jaksich, Vice President and Corporate Controller.

Before we begin, please note, this discussion is subject to our disclosure on forward-looking statements, which applies to today's talk and will be read in full at the end of the call. The instructions for accessing a replay of the call can be found in our press release. Today, I'm going to turn the floor over to Terry McClain Chief Financial Officer. Mogens is will us but is suffering with a very severe cold.


Terry McClain

Thanks, Jeff. Good morning and thank you for joining us. I assume you've all read the press release, so I will focus on some of the highlights for the quarter. The main drivers of the third quarter operating performance were significant sales increases in both the irrigation and utilities support structure segments.

Revenue gains in our other category further contributed to operating performance. Our biggest challenge during the quarter was in our engineered infrastructure products segment.

Constraints on government spending in most regions led to the weak market conditions and a difficult pricing environment.

The irrigation segment had a great quarter. A robust farm economy is a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish global economic landscape. Record farm incomes are expected in 2011 which is supporting increased investment in mechanized irrigation equipment in all major markets. The higher sales volumes translated into good factory and SG&A leverage.

One question we often heard this summer was has the agricultural cycle peaked? This is a fair question yet it minimizes the crucial driver of our business. We believe the long-term demand for feed grains has been altered significantly by the rise in middle class in countries such as India and China as increased proportion of meats in the diets results in the higher demand for feed grain.

This demand will tax the production capacity of farmers. We believe this is a powerful driver but it does not eliminate short-term cycles.

Recent forecasts suggests China will be forced to become a net importer rather than exporter of corn in order to support its growing livestock population. Irrigation business will be subject to ups and downs but we have certainly not yet reached a peak.

Each time since 1952 when we have recovered from a short-term decline, demand has risen to even greater levels. The need to double food production while using less water in order to feed a growing world population supports a bullish outlook from [econized] irrigation equipment for many decades to come.

Moving to the utilities sport structure segment, when we talked with you last, we said we had expected operating income percent to improve in the second half of this year and to reach mid-teens in 2012.

While we did not achieve operating leverage -- while we did achieve operating leverage, we did not obtain the operating income percentage we had anticipated this quarter. Shipments out of backlog during the third quarter continued to reflect low margin orders and the weak pricing environment from late last year and earlier this year.

However, order intake and bid activity continued to increase meaningfully during the third quarter. We believe the quality of utility earnings will improve in the fourth quarter. In July, we told you we expected to be in the mid-teens operating income margins. In 2012, we continue to expect that volume increases will lead to the operating leverage and combine with a better pricing environment of growth and operating income percent in 2012.

The size of the utility opportunity in North America over the next few years reinforces a positive outlook on this business, the consequence of the economic recession and limited access to capital in 2009 with utilities scaling back their project activity in 2010.

This trend reversed in 2011. Utilities are now accelerating work on large projects and our recent order intake and bid enquiries point to significant growth and demand. To support this increasing demand, we plan to utilize our global large pole plant capacity to the fullest extent to meet the rising requirements of our customers.

In the engineered infrastructure product segment, those businesses with exposure to government funding continue to struggle. In North America, the lack of a multiyear highway bill, budgetary pressures and weak construction markets weighed on sales.

In Europe, while sales grew modestly, the competitive pricing environment remains under pressure. We do not expect these conditions to change in the short term.

Our North American coatings business benefited from improved internal demand from Valmont's irrigation and utility businesses. International coatings revenues and earnings were higher, led by improved activity levels in Southeast Asia.

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