W.R. Grace's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

W.R. Grace & Co. ( GRA)

Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call

February 1, 2012 11:00 ET

Executives

Mark Sutherland – Vice President, Investor Relations

Fred Festa – Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Hudson La Force – Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Mike Sison

Rob Walker

Jim Barrett

Patrick Duff

Dana Walker

Joe South

Presentation

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2011 W.R. Grace & Company Earnings Conference Call. My name is (Diana), and I will be the operator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, today's call is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Mr. Mark Sutherland, Vice President, Investor Relations. Please proceed.

Mark Sutherland – Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, Diana. Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us today, February 1, 2012 for a discussion of Grace's fourth quarter results released this morning. Joining me on today's call are Fred Festa, Grace's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Hudson La Force, our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Our earnings release and the corresponding presentation are available on our website. To download copies, go to grace.com and click on Investor Information. Links are available on the upper right corner of the page.

As you know, some of our comments today will be forward-looking and are made under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those projected or implied due to a variety of factors. Please see our recent SEC filings for more details on the risks that could impact Grace's future operating results and financial condition.

We will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, which are described in more detail in this morning's release and on our website. Reconciliations to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures and other associated disclosures are contained in our earnings release and on our website. Our comments on forward-looking statements and non-GAAP financial measures apply both to the prepared remarks and to the question and answer. We want to remind everyone that this webcast contains time-sensitive information that is accurate only as of today. Any redistribution, retransmission or reproduction of this call without Company consent is prohibited.

With that, I'll now turn the call over to Fred.

Fred Festa – Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Mark. Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us this morning. Before we discuss our results for the quarter and our outlook for 2012 and 2014, I'd like to bring you all up-to-date on our most recent developments pertaining to our Chapter 11 emergence. First, as announced Tuesday morning, the U.S. District Court denied all objections and confirmed Grace's plan of reorganization in its entirety. The Court's ruling is quite extensive, more than a 180 pages. The ruling appears quite robust, though our claim is still in the early stages of review.

We are gratified that two federal courts have now ruled that our joint plan is fair to all parties. Parties have 30 days in which to file appeals of yesterday's District Court ruling. Second, last night, we announced an agreement in principle with the claimants in Libby, Montana, and certain other parties to settle all Libby related objections to our plan of reorganization. We are excited about this agreement because it eliminates further appeals from these parties. This agreement in principle is subject to the execution of definitive agreements and approval of the bankruptcy court. The news of the past 24 hours represents a dramatic advance in our path to emergence.

Keep in mind that emergence depends on a number of factors, including whether there are any further appeals to the joint plan and whether Grace may emerge with those appeals outstanding. But it is due time to put the plan into effect so that money can begin to flow to claimants who have been waiting to be compensated, and we can move forward as well. There is not much more than we can say on these developments at this time. So, please understand if we are not able to completely address your questions. As material developments occur in this process, we will keep you informed and if necessary, schedule a teleconference to review this with you.

Now, let me turn to the business and discuss our 2011 performance. I am very pleased by our strong finish to the year with solid contributions from both business segments. For the full year, sales increased 20% to $3.21 billion. Adjusted EBIT increased 47% to $479 million, which was the top end of our outlook. Adjusted EBITDA increased 35% to $599 million and adjusted EBITDA margin improved 210 basis points to 18.6%.

For me, the superior financial results demonstrate our organization's agility and focus in addressing last year's challenges. Although we entered 2012 with a number of economic uncertainties, we are very well-positioned. In addition to our historical strengths, I would like to highlight three points. We have the right exposure to the emerging regions, which are expected to grow two times mature markets.

In 2011, these emerging regions represented 32% of our revenue. In the last 18 months, we have invested $140 million in plant capacity that provides us with either new products or productivity improvements necessary for market success. We are disciplined in our cash and working capital management, which provides us with the financial flexibility necessary to fund our growth plans.

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