Polypore's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Polypore International, Inc. ( PPO)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 23, 2012 - 09:00 a.m. ET

Executives

Robert B. Toth – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Lynn Amos – Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary

Robert Whitsett – Vice President, Finance

Analysts

Michael Lew – Needham & Company, LLC

Brian Drab – William Blair & Company, LLC

Richard C. Eastman – Robert W. Baird & Company, Inc.

Kevin R. Maczka – BB&T Capital Markets

Carter W. Driscoll – Capstone Investments

Jinming Liu – Ardour Capital Investments, LLC

Avinash Kant – D.A. Davidson & Company, Inc.

Jeffrey J. Zekauskas – J.P. Morgan Securities, LLC

Craig E. Irwin – Wedbush Securities, Inc.

Sanjay Shrestha – Lazard Capital Markets, LLC

P resentation

Operator

Good day everyone, and welcome to the Polypore International, Inc. fourth quarter 2011 conference. As a reminder, today's call is being recorded. At this time I would like to turn the call over to [Ms. Kathy Brosco] [ph]. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Company Representative

Thank you and hello everyone and thank you for joining us today. And welcome to our conference call to discuss our fourth quarter and full year 2011 financial results. As always, the results we discuss today can be found in our earnings announcement that was released yesterday afternoon and furnished on Form 8-K with the SEC. And a copy of the release is also available on our website at polypore.net in the 'Investor Relations' section.

In conjunction with this release, we also issued supplemental financial information yesterday which we filed as an 8-K, and also posted on our investor relations website. Adjusted EBITDA, adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share are non-GAAP financial measures discussed in this call. I'll refer you to the reconciliation of these non-GAAP measures to the most recent, most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial measure included in the earnings release.

Before we begin our presentation today, I'd like to remind you of some important considerations. This conference call and webcast might contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities laws. We intend these forward-looking statements to be covered by the Safe Harbor provisions for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties, and assumptions made by management about Polypore and the industry and environment in which we operate.

These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and may differ materially from actual events or results because they involve estimates, assumptions, and uncertainties. You're cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements which speak only as of the date on which they are made which is Thursday, February 3, 2012. Polypore undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as the result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

You're also directed to consider the risks, uncertainties, and other factors discussed in documents filed by us with the SEC including those matters summarized under the captions, Item 1A. “Risk Factors”, in our most recent 10-K filing with the SEC and "Risk Factors" in Amendment No. 2 to the Form S-4 filed on May 13, 2011. Today, I'm joined by Bob Toth, President and Chief Executive Officer; Lynn Amos, Chief Financial Officer; and Rob Whitsett, Vice President of Finance. And at this point, I'll turn the call over to Bob for some opening remarks.

Robert B. Toth

Thank you, Kathy. Thanks everyone for joining us today. 2011 was another year of solid growth and a year of execution on our many investments and our growth strategies. We experienced some headwinds in the fourth quarter and we're currently being impacted by some near-term items and we'll address these in our time today. Having said that, while we always drive to optimize near-term performance, and while there may be variability based on near-term events, we're building this business for the long-term. Our goal is to provide you with as much transparency as possible associated with our growth especially around the EDV opportunity going forward. To be clear, when we reference Electric Drive Vehicles or EDVs, we're referencing the full range of electrification of vehicles, from hybrids which are internal combustion engines with batteries for supplemental power; to plug-ins, which are battery-driven vehicles yet have a backup combustion engine; the full battery electric vehicles which are obviously battery-driven and do not have an internal combustions engine. If you missed our informational call on February 3, I'd encourage you to go back and listen it or get the transcript. During that call, we discussed a lot of information about our lithium separator process technology, product technology, as well as our distinct competitive advantages. At this point, I'll turn it over to Lynn to cover the financials and then I'll come back with some closing comments.

Lynn Amos

Thanks Bob. As we reported yesterday, fourth quarter sales were $191 million, a 13% increase from the prior year period. For the year, sales were up 24% to $763.1 million. Adjusted EPS for the quarter was up 35% to $0.58 per diluted share and up 71% for the year to $2.34 per diluted share. Regarding other key financial measures, segment operating income was up 17% to $48.5 million for the quarter and for the year was up 46% to $199.4 million.

Adjusted EBITDA, which is a key financial measure in our credit agreement, was up 16% to $62.1 million for the quarter and up 36% to $250.8 million for the year. Interest expense was $2.8 million lower in the quarter than a year ago and $12.3 million less for the full year which reflects the refinancing and reduction of debt we achieved in the fourth quarter of 2010. CapEx was approximately $45 million in the quarter and $156 million for the full year.

All of our projects remain on schedule. As expected, with several capacity expansions underway, we experienced additional costs associated with these investments: mainly utilities, employee hiring and training, and qualifying new equipment. Since many of these costs are already imbedded in our financials, we'll begin to experience the benefit from these expansions and the substantial operating leverage associated with growing sales as capacity ramps up.

Now, moving on the segment results. As we have already informed you, with the significant growth in the lithium battery separators, our intention is to be more transparent about the progress and magnitude of this growth opportunity. As a result, we separated the Energy Storage business into two reporting segments, Transportation and Industrial, which of course is lead-acid battery separators and electronics and EDVs, which is the lithium battery separator business.

Beginning with the Transportation and Industrial segment, we called that during our 2010 year-end earnings call. We said that our fourth quarter results were indicative of full utilization and with that, the $90 million to $95 million quarterly revenue range we've experienced over the last several quarters is the maximum we could expect in any given quarter, until our new capacity investments in China and Thailand ramp up in 2012.

Obviously, our fourth quarter 2011 results were in that range, and were comparable to the prior year period and also to the third quarter 2011. Before moving on, I would note that the battery production disruption in China began to improve in the quarter, and we believe it will largely be behind us by the end of Q1. For the year, segment operating income was 26% of sales compared to 25% a year ago. This increase was driven by operating leverage from higher sales, which was offset somewhat by the cost associated with our capacity investments in Asia.

In the Electronics and EDVs segment, lithium separator sales in the quarter reflect strong demand in Electric Drive Vehicles, offset by some weakness in consumer electronics application. For the full year, segment operating income was 45% of sales compared to 39% in 2010. The substantial operating leverage in this business was somewhat offset by costs associated with our growth investment. Electric Drive Vehicles represented 40% of our sales in 2011.

In the fourth quarter, our EDV sales exceeded our consumer electronics sales for the first time in our history. This compares to virtually no EDV sales in 2009, and approximately 20% in 2010. Moving on now to the Separations Media segment. For the quarter, sales were up 7% in the healthcare business, with solid demand in hemodialysis and blood oxygenation applications. For the year, healthcare sales were up 12%, also driven by the same applications as well as the effect of foreign currency translation.

Fourth quarter sales of filtration and specialty products were up 3% compared to the prior year. For the year, sales were up 10% with growth across all key application areas and the effect of foreign currency translation. Segment operating income in the quarter was 28% of sales, slightly below the 30% level last year, due to the cost of added PUREMA hemodialysis membrane capacity in 2011, which will allow us to participate in the industry growth going forward.

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