Call start: 10:00 Call End: 10:52 Celanese Corp. (CE) 1Q 2012 Earnings Call April 24, 2012 10:00 a.m. ET Executives Jon Puckett - Vice President, Investor Relations Mark Rohr – Chairman, Chief Executive Officer Steven M. Sterin – Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Doug Madden – Chief Operating Officer Mark Oberle - Senior Vice President Corporate Affairs Analysts David Begleiter - Deutsche Bank Edlain Rodriguez - Lazard Capital Markets Mills Lawling – CLSA Bob Koort – Goldman Sachs Frank Mitsch – Wells Fargo Securities Kevin McCarthy – Bank of America Merrill Lynch Hassan Ahmed – Alembic Global P.J. Juvekar – Citi Mike Ritzenthaler – Piper Jaffray Rob Walker - Jefferies Presentation Operator
During this call, management may make forward-looking statements concerning, for example, Celanese Corporation's future objectives and results, which will be made under the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The limitations inherent in such forward-looking statements are detailed in the earnings release referenced during this call.Celanese Corporation's First Quarter 2012 earnings release references the performance measures, operating EBITDA, business operating EBITDA, affiliate EBITDA and proportional affiliate EBITDA, adjusted earnings per share and net debt as non-U.S. GAAP measures. For the most directly comparable financial measures presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP and our financial statements and for a reconciliation of our non-U.S. GAAP measures to US GAAP figures, please see the accompanying schedules to first quarter earnings release posted on our website, celanese.com. This morning Mark Rohr will briefly review the performance of the company and Steven Sterin will provide an overview of the business results for each segment and the financials. We'll have a question-and-answer period following with Mark, Steven, and Doug following the prepared remarks. I'd now like to turn the call over to Mark Rohr. Mark. Mark Rohr Thanks, Jon, and welcome everyone to today's call. It's a pleasure to be here and I'm honored to be joining as CEO of Celanese and we all look forward to your questions after our remarks. Before I get into a few details on this quarter, I'd like to highlight some recent accomplishments that we are particularly excited about. In March, we received key government approvals to produce ethanol for industrial use at our Nanjing facility. This is a significant milestone as we move the coal-based ethanol opportunity closer to reality. Additionally, continued advancements in TCX catalyst technology, have allowed us to expand the capacity of this plant by 30% to 40% without capital addition, getting us to about 275,000 tons. We have begun construction and anticipate this unit will be operational in the middle of 2013.
I also want to mention the completion of the acquisition of several product lines from Ashlands for our emulsions business. I'm very impressed with the new product improvements we've made in this segment and this acquisition helps us continue to advance the value of the business.As we end the quarter, Moody's Investor Services and Standard and Poor’s rating services, both raised our outlook to positive. Balancing growth objectives with debt reduction and cash distribution in a way that move us to investment grade is important to me and to the Celanese leadership team. For the quarter, I'm pleased to report net sales $1.63 billion, an increase of 3% over the prior year period and 1% over the fourth quarter. Diluted EPS from continuing operations came in at $1.15 per share, that an increase of $0.28 per share, approximately 32% over 2011 and it's an increase of $0.54 per share and approximately 89% over the fourth quarter. Adjusted earnings per share, which excludes these tax credits and other charges and adjustments, were $0.72 per share. These earnings are down $0.24 per share from the first quarter of 2011 and up $0.14 per share or $0.24 sequentially. Our year-over-year earnings were impacted by weakness in the acetyl chain that is a reflection of soft demand in China and Europe, which ultimately led to over supply in Asia outside of China. Demand prices and margin were all impacted as a result. We saw similar softness in some advanced interim market segments driven by weak automobile builds in Europe, which is classically a very strong segment for Celanese. Weakness in the industrial electronics sectors also were beyond our expectations. In addition to these economic impacts that I mentioned, we continue to see strong raw material inflation trends. They keep pushing the need to drop pricing. In 2011, we saw raw material cost increase $280 million year-over-year and we expect raw materials to rise another $100 million to $110 million this year. Some of this inflation pinched our margins this quarter and while I believe we are taking steps to overcome these costs, it nonetheless represents a challenge for us. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com