Service Corporation International ( SCI)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 27, 2011 10:00 AM ET

Executives

Debbie Young – Director, IR

Tom Ryan – President and CEO

Eric Tanzberger – SVP, CFO and Treasurer

Analysts

A. J. Rice – Susquehanna Financial Group

Clint Fendley – Davenport

Robert Willoughby – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Nicholas Jansen – Raymond James

Presentation

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Third Quarter 2011 Service Corporation International Earnings Conference Call. My name is Keith and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, on we will have a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder today’s conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

And I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, SCI Management. Please proceed.

Debbie Young

Hi good morning, this is Debbie Young, Director of Investor Relations, and as usual we’ll start with some prepared remarks and then we’ll take some questions. Let me go through the Safe Harbor language real quick. In our comments today, we’ll make statements that are not historical facts and are forward-looking. These are statements that are based on assumptions we believe are reasonable. However, there are many important factors that could cause our actual results in the future to differ materially from these forward-looking statements. For more information related to these statements and other risk factors, please review our filings with the SEC that are available on our website.

Also on the call today, we may use terms such as normalized EPS or normalized or adjusted operating cash flow. These are non-GAAP financial terms. Please see our press release and 8-K that were issued yesterday where we have provided a detailed reconciliation to the appropriate GAAP measures.

With that, we’ll get started with comments from Tom Ryan, our President and CEO.

Tom Ryan

Thank you, Debbie and thanks everybody for being on the call today. The topics that I am going to cover in my prepared comments are, to give an overview of key items in the quarter. Then we’re going to follow it up with more detailed review of the funeral and cemetery operations, each segment. And finally, I’m going to provide a little additional color on our 2012 outlook that we provided in the associated press release.

So to begin with, we’re very pleased with the results of third quarter, especially during this very pessimistic economic and consumer sentiment environment that we’re operating in. So pleased to be able to execute the way we did. If you look at free cash flow, it’s something that’s pretty exciting. We were able to increase that in the quarter by $35.7 million over the prior year and generated some approximately $160 million in free cash. Our normalized earnings per share were $0.14 versus $0.13 in the prior year quarter. If you think about it, funeral profits were essentially flat, that’s what we had communicating to you I believe on the last call that we would anticipate that to occur this quarter, but we really knocked it out of the park for cemetery segment performance.

And that was primarily driven with cemetery profits by an outstanding pre-need property production in quarter and again I am very pleased to be able to do that. Speaking of sales production, pre-need funeral production and pre-need cemetery production both grew at very respectable high single-digit and low double-digit rates on a comparable store basis, so again a great execution. And finally, we believe we’ll finish the year very strong. As we disclosed in our press release, we would increase our fiscal year 2011 earnings per share and operating cash flow guidance above the previous ranges and are projecting what we believe are very solid earnings per share and cash flow growth for 2012.

So now turning to funeral operations. Overall, the funeral segment performed as we anticipated during the third quarter. We saw a strong growth in comparable sales average as well as an increase in general agency revenue on increased pre-need productions – pre-need funeral production which together more than offset the decline in volumes we experienced. Comparable funeral revenues for the quarter grew 2.7% or roughly $9 million. Of the $9 million increase $2 million was attributable to the shrinking of the Canadian currency which gets offset as you know through translated expenses. So it really doesn’t generate any additional profit.

In addition to that, $3 million of the increase was general agency revenues. This again is essentially offset by associated selling costs to generate that general agency revenue. So the remaining $4 million of revenue was the increase you’d expect we dropped to the bottom line. And this was driven by impressive increases in our comparable sales average of 3.9% if you exclude the currency. So this is pretty high step and I believe again with the environment that we’re operating in, 2.9% of that increase is through walk-in increase and 1% was attributable to the fact that we had trust income.

So remember we did this with the cremation mix rate that changed by 270 basis points. So I would say that this exceeded our expectations and again allowed us to generate cash and profits. The increase in the sales average was offset by a 2.4% decline in same-store volume for the quarter which we believe is a reflection of the number of deaths that are occurring in our relevant markets. Year-to-date our same-store volumes are down about 1.3% which is right where we’ve been modeling the entire year, somewhere between 1% and 2%. And so about where we thought it would be.

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