Avis Budget Group (CAR) Q4 2011 Earnings Call February 16, 2012 9:00 am ET Executives Neal Goldner - Ronald L. Nelson - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President, Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of Executive Committee David B. Wyshner - Global Chief Financial Officer and Senior Executive Vice President Analysts John M. Healy - Northcoast Research Afua Ahwoi - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division Michael Millman - Millman Research Associates Christopher Agnew - MKM Partners LLC, Research Division Brian Arthur Johnson - Barclays Capital, Research Division Yilma Abebe - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division Stephen O'Hara - Sidoti & Company, LLC Presentation Operator
Also, certain non-GAAP financial measures will be discussed in this call, and these measures are reconciled to the GAAP numbers in our press release.Now, I'd like to turn the call over to Avis Budget Group's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ron Nelson. Ronald L. Nelson Thanks, Neal, and good morning to all of you on the call. As we sit here today, not only is Avis did group a bigger company than it was a year ago, it's a stronger one. That position to compete in the global vehicle rental industry. We strengthened our company throughout 2011 by focusing our efforts to grow disproportionately in the most attractive segments of the market, while completing a transformational acquisition that's a global leader in the vehicle rental market. In our existing businesses, we implemented a multifaceted strategic plan last year, designed to profitably accelerate our growth, improve our customer experience and strengthen our brands and competitive position. I'm delighted to report that we achieved measurable success against everyone of those objectives. We saw top line revenue growth in all of our operating segments without the benefit of price and against the backdrop [indiscernible] and payment growth. We expanded our margins and delivered strong year-over-year increases in adjusted EBITDA, excluding certain items, which is our primary measurement of profitability. We enhanced the vehicle rental experience we offer to our customers in numerous ways, as evidenced by increased in ways that the customer scores and then win 8 world travel awards, including World's Best Business Car Hire. And we invested in our world-class brands with a national ad campaign for Avis and a highly successful direct response advertising campaign for Budget among other things. Looking beyond the walls of our preexisting businesses, we also had a productive year end 2011 with the acquisition of Avis Europe, which has long been a strategic objective for us. This transaction reunites our brands globally under the Avis Budget Group umbrella, better positioning us to compete in the global vehicle rental industry.
With virtually all of our investor feedback over the past quarter being laser-focused on Europe, let's begin there. The strategic rationale for the acquisition of Avis Europe is as we discussed: It allows us to achieve brand consistency for Avis and Budget around the globe, while effectively managing multinational accounts; it allows us to drive volume with our travel partners on a truly global scale; it unifies the incentives to drive very profitable cross-border traffic in all geographies; and it allows us to attain leading market positions across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, including 2 of the markets that will be growth engines for us over the long run: India and China.We also expect the acquisition to provide significant financial benefits as a result of both its pre-acquisition earnings power and integration-related synergies. In that regards, there are 3 headlines: Avis Europe grew at adjusted EBITDA by over 20% in 2011 on a pro-forma basis, excluding certain items; Avis China increased its footprint by nearly 40% year-over-year, while maintaining profitable operation; and based on the extensive integrations done since the acquisition, we are comfortable projecting that we will achieve run rate synergies of at least $35 million this year, up from our initial estimate of $30 million. Nonetheless, the macroeconomic climate in Europe is predominant in our investor dialogue, we were obviously paying very close attention to it, but here is just a few point to consider that should alleviate some of those concerns. First, amid the persistent concerns in daily news reports, our fourth quarter rental revenue in Europe declined 1% year-over-year, and in fact, increased 1% excluding insurance replacement. In other words, business travel remain relatively stable. Other travel companies have reported similar trends. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com