Rockwood Holdings' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Rockwood Holdings, Inc. (ROC)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 25, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Tim McKenna – Vice President, Investor Relations

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer

Robert J. Zatta – Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President

Analysts

Silke Keuck – JPMorgan

Mike Harrison – First Analysis

John McNulty – Credit Suisse Securities

James Finnerty – Citigroup Global Markets

Jeffrey Stafford – Morningstar Research

Robert A. Koort – Goldman Sachs & Co.

Meryl Witmer – Eagle Capital Partners

David Begleiter – Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the 2012 First Quarter Conference Call. At this time, all lines are in a listen-only mode. Later there will be an opportunity for your questions and instructions will be given at that time. (Operator Instructions) And as a reminder this conference is being recorded.

I’ll now turn the conference over to Tim McKenna, Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Tim McKenna

Cathy, good morning, welcome to Rockwood’s first quarter earnings conference call. Seifi Ghasemi, our Chairman and Chief Executive; and Bob Zatta, our Chief Financial Officer will give the formal presentation, after that we’ll have the Q&A session, and you can follow our slides on our website www.rocksp.com.

Before the call begins, I’ll read a short statement. The conference call may contain certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 concerning the business operations and financial conditions of Rockwood and its subsidiaries. Although Rockwood believes the expectations reflected in such statements are based upon reasonable assumption, there could be no assurance that its expectations will be realized. Forward-looking statements consist of all non-historical information, including statements referring to the prospects and future performance of Rockwood.

Actual results could differ materially from those projected in our forward-looking statements due to numerous unknown and known risks and uncertainties, including among other things the risk factors described in our Form 10-K on file with the SEC. We do not undertake any obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which any such statements made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. With that, Seifi?

Seifollah Ghasemi

Thank you, very much, Tim, and good morning to everyone. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to join our conference call. As Tim mentioned, during our conference call we will refer to the presentation material we have posted on our website.

I am very pleased to report that Rockwood had another excellent set of results for the first quarter of 2012. we reported an adjusted EBITDA of $234.9 million, our highest ever. We also had a record adjusted EBITDA to sales margin of 25.8%. Our adjusted earnings per share was $1.23, which is 40% higher than the same quarter last year.

These results continue to demonstrate the strength of our portfolio of unique and highly specialized businesses that benefit from having a strong technology and global market position. The efforts of our 10,000 dedicated and motivated employees is also a big factor in our success. Their efforts to improve productivity and enhance customer service allows us to constantly improve our operating margins.

Now, please refer to our presentation material. On page 6, 7, and 8 we have delineated the highlights of our results. But I want to comment in more detail on each business unit. So please turn to page 9. This is the first time we are reporting the results of our Lithium business. We have during the years developed this business to be the flagship of Rockwood with excellent market position and real technology leadership. We have and will continue to strengthen our research and development activities and are investing heavily to expand our operations to meet the increasing demands of our customers.

We have said during the past years that this business has the potential of double digit growth. Our management team has delivered that growth in the past ten years and we expect that growth rate to continue in the future. Therefore, it is important for me to explain the reported growth of only 3.5% in constant currency terms in this quarter.

As you know, a byproduct of our Lithium production is potash which is sold as a fertilizer. In the past, we used to sell our potash exclusively in semi-finished form to a Chilean company. In 2011 we made a strategic decision to build our own finishing facility so that we will be able to sell the finished potash product directly to the market. We expect that this will eventually result in higher profitability for us.

Therefore, as of January 1, 2012, we have canceled our contract with the Chilean company and are in the process of establishing the infrastructure to sell products directly to the market. Since all of the required infrastructure was not in place, our sales of potash in the first quarter of 2012 was about $7 million, less than the comparable quarter last year. We expect to sell the potash produced and stored in the first quarter in the coming months.

If we exclude this potash sales, the rest of our lithium business grew by double digits in the first quarter. One other important item to mention is the sale to the lithium iron battery market, which will be the main engine of growth in the future. Our battery grade lithium sales in the first quarter of 2012 grew more than 100% versus first quarter of 2011.

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