Albemarle's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Albemarle Corporation (ALB)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 19, 2012 08:00 am ET

Executives

Lorin Crenshaw - Director, IR and Communications

Luke Kissam - CEO

John Steitz - President & COO

Scott Tozier - CFO

Analysts

David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank

P J. Juvekar - Citi

Bob Koort - Goldman Sachs

Rob Walker - Jefferies

Jeff Zekauskas - JPMorgan

Kevin McCarthy - Bank of America

Mike Sison - KeyBanc

Dimitry Silversteyn - Longbow Research

Presentation

Operator

Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the first quarter 2012 Albemarle Corp earnings conference call. My name is Kim and I’ll be your coordinator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. We will conduct a question-and-answer session at the end of today's conference. (Operator Instructions).

As a reminder this call is being recorded. I will now turn the conference over to your host for today's call Mr. Lorin Crenshaw, Director, Investor Relations and Communications. Please proceed, sir.

Lorin Crenshaw

Thank you, Kim and welcome everyone to Albemarle’s first quarter 2012 earnings conference call. Our earnings were released after the close of market yesterday and you’ll find our press release, earnings presentation and non-GAAP reconciliations posted on our website under the Investor Section at albemarle.com.

Joining me on the call today are Luke Kissam, Chief Executive Officer; John Steitz, President and Chief Operating Officer; and Scott Tozier, Chief Financial Officer. Before we get started, I would like to ask everyone once again to please save the date for Albemarle’s 2012 Investor Day which will be held in New York City on Tuesday May 22nd. Registration and event details are available at our website under the Investor Section. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

As a reminder, some of the matters discussed during this conference call and webcast may include forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Please note the cautionary language about our forward-looking statements contained in our press release. That same language applies to this call. Also, to the extent that we discuss any non-GAAP financial measures, you’ll find reconciliations in our press release which is posted on our website at albemarle.com.

With that, I’ll turn the call over to Luke.

Luke Kissam

Thank you Lorin and good morning everyone. We appreciate the opportunity to share our first quarter financial results with you today. And I will begin by commenting on the company's quarterly results and sharing updates related to certain strategic initiatives we have commenced. John Steitz will then walk you through the business segment performance before Scott Tozier reviews today's financial highlights. As usual at the end of our prepared remarks, we will open it up for your questions. I'm pleased to report first quarter results that reflect an excellent start to 2012 across each of our segments. First-quarter net income of $108 million or $1.20 per share was up 4% year-over-year and net sales of $712 million was up 2% year over year.

This marks the 10 th consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth in our earnings. In addition, we continue to generate a healthy amount of cash with $124 million of cash generation for the first quarter, up 28% versus the prior-year period excluding the $50 million pension contribution we made in the first quarter of last year. Collectively our businesses generated $176 million in EBITDA and achieved segment margins of 24%.

Year-over-year earnings growth in Catalyst and Fine Chemistry reflected continued positive trends in those businesses while Polymer Solutions saw an increase in demand from the fourth quarter and a continuing strengthening of demand with each successive month in the quarter. Great results and a very good start to 2012.

The quarter also included two special items that I want to highlight. We had a gain of $8.1 million, $5.1 million after-tax or $0.06 per share from proceeds we received as a result of the settlement of the litigation matter net of related legal fees. We used these cash to make an $8 million charitable contribution to the Albermarle foundation to begin the process of creating an endowment for the foundation. That contribution was a $5.1 million after-tax or $0.06 per share expense which basically offset the special gain of the litigation settlement. The Albermarle foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to making a positive difference in the communities in which we operate and to the non-profit organizations in which our employees are involved.

Since the Albermarle foundation was established in 2007, its contributions to more than 100 partner agencies have steadily increased and I would expect that trend to continue. It's important that Albermarle does its part in trying to make our communities better places to live, work and raise a family and we are delighted to be able to start this endowment to ensure that the Albermarle foundation's impact can continue to grow in both the good and challenged economic times that the future will surely bring.

On the strategic front, we mentioned back in January that we've commenced a comprehensive portfolio review aimed at identifying opportunities to address underperforming assets. That process remains ongoing, but I would expect to be in a position to provide specific details in the second quarter. Our major capital projects are proceeding well.

I was recently in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and was able to see firsthand the progress being made on the construction of those two sites. It's always good to see concrete being poured, steel being erected and projects beginning to take shape. With regards to performance in Catalyst Solutions projects we expect mechanical completion by the end of 2012, for both the 6000 met/ton TEA plant that we are building in Saudi Arabia with our partner SABIC and for our wholly-owned Greenfield Polymer Catalyst Center in Yeosu City Korea. That would mean start-ups for both sites in late fourth quarter of this year or early first quarter of next year.

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