United Rentals (URI)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 19, 2011 11:00 am ET

Executives

William B. Plummer - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Irene Moshouris - Senior Vice President and Treasurer

Unknown Executive -

Michael J. Kneeland - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Member of Strategy Committee

Analysts

Henry Kirn - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Scott A. Schneeberger - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Seth Weber - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Manish Somaiya - Citi

David C. Wells - Thompson Research Group, LLC.

Ted Grace - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Peter Chang - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Emily Shanks - Lehman Brothers

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to United Rentals' Third Quarter Investor Conference Call. Please be advised that this call is being recorded.

Before we begin, note that the company's press release, comments by presenters and responses to your questions contain forward-looking statements. The company's business and operations are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond its control, and consequently, actual results may differ materially from those projected.

A summary of those uncertainties is indicated in the Safe Harbor statement contained in the release. For a more complete description of these and other possible risks, please refer to the company's annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010, as well as the subsequent filings with the SEC. You can access these filings on the company's website at www.ur.com.

Please note that United Rentals has no obligation and makes no commitment to update or publicly release any revisions to forward-looking statements in order to reflect new information or subsequent events, circumstances or changes in expectations. You should also note that today's call will be include references to free cash flow, adjusted EPS, EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA, each of which is a non-GAAP term.

Speaking today for United Rentals is Michael Kneeland, Chief Executive Officer; and William Plummer, Chief Financial Officer. I will now turn the call over to Mr. Kneeland. Mr. Kneeland, you may now begin.

Michael J. Kneeland

Thanks, operator. And good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's call. With me today as the operator mentioned is our CFO, Bill Plummer, and other members of our senior management team. Last night, as you know, we reported a very strong quarter. It started at the top with a rental revenue increase of more than 19% and ended with an EPS of $0.91 per diluted share. Now behind those numbers was a solid 7.5% increase in rental rates and some exciting milestones for United Rentals. We reported time utilization of 73.5% on a larger fleet, and that's a record for us. And our adjusted EBITDA margin was 39.6%, the highest margin we've ever achieved and almost 4 points better than last year. Now all of that credit goes to our employees. They've been really putting backs into driving our performance. They believe as we do that customers will see us as the best choice for equipment rental at any level of demand.

Now I want to spend the next few minutes on demand and then I'll talk about our operating environment. As you saw last night, we've updated our full year outlook for rates to an increase of about 6%. And we think that time utilization will run about 3 percentage points higher than last year, so as demand for our equipment in the marketplace. And more than you may expect, given the fact that construction as a whole is still weak, now here's what we're seeing and how we're responding.

We attribute the increase to our business to a mix of factors. First, we believe that we're taking share from smaller rental outfits that make up the bulk of the industry, the recession left many of these companies starved for capital, with downsized fleets and fewer service capabilities, and we compete very effectively against that. Then there's the secular penetration, meaning companies of all sizes are opting to rent more the equipment they need from rather than buy it. And third, our push for customer service leadership continues to gain traction where it matters most with our Key Accounts.

In the third quarter, Key Accounts were 53% of rental revenue, that was up 23% year-over-year on a dollar basis. And National Accounts, which is a subset of Key Accounts, also grew 23%. National Accounts were 34.4% of rental revenue in the quarter. Now you compare that to 4 years ago when rental revenue from National Accounts was just 19.6% for the same period.

Now in addition, our customers themselves are optimistic about where things are going in the coming months. Experience has shown us that feedback from the field can be an excellent yardstick. So when our customers have an opinion about future activity, we consider that very carefully, along with leading indicators like the Architectural Billing Index. Now although the ABI Index declined overall in September to 46.9, our sectors, commercial and industrial increased to 52.4. Now this supports our belief that the worst is behind us.

And Global Insight, the research firm that tracks our industry, expects rental revenues to grow by 5% next year. Now I'll talk more about 2012 in a minute.

It's still a bumpy recovery for construction, but as you saw last night, our company is outperforming the environment. All of our regions had positive year-over-year growth in the quarter and 88% of states we serve had an increase in rental revenues. And Canada remains particularly strong, as do the East and Gulf regions. Our Midwest and Southeast regions still face the most challenging conditions, but both regions showed stellar improvement in the third quarter.

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