The Dow Chemical's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

The Dow Chemical (DOW)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 9:00 am ET

Executives

Doug May - Vice President of Investor Relations

Andrew N. Liveris - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Member of Environment, Health, Safety & Technology Committee

William H. Weideman - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

P.J. Juvekar - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Andrew W. Cash - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

John P. McNulty - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Donald Carson - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Robert Koort - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Peter Butler

Vincent Andrews - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Kevin W. McCarthy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Frank J. Mitsch - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

David L. Begleiter - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good day, and welcome to The Dow Chemical Company's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Also today's call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to Doug May, Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Doug May

Thank you, Audrey, and good morning, everyone, and welcome. We are making this call available to investors and the media via webcast. This call is the property of The Dow Chemical Company. Any redistribution, retransmission or rebroadcast of this call in any form without Dow's expressed written consent is strictly prohibited. On the call with me today are Andrew Liveris, Dow's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Bill Weideman, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Dave Johnson, Director in Investor Relations. Around 7:00 a.m. this morning, April 26, our earnings release went out on Business Wire and was posted on the Internet on dow.com. We have prepared slides to supplement our comments in this conference call. These slides are posted on our website on the Presentations page of the Investor Relations section and through the link to our webcast.

Now some of our comments today include statements about our expectations for the future. Those expectations involve risks and uncertainties. We can't guarantee the accuracy of any forecasts or estimates, and we don't plan to update any forward-looking statements during the quarter.

If you'd like more information on the risks involved in forward-looking statements, please see our SEC filings. In addition, some of our comments reference non-GAAP financial measures. A reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures and other associated disclosures are contained in our earnings release and on our website. Unless otherwise specified, all comparisons presented today are on a year-over-year basis. Sales, volume and price comparisons exclude divestitures and EBITDA and EBITDA margins and earnings comparisons are adjusted to exclude certain items. Our earnings release as well as recent SEC filings are available on the Internet at dow.com. The agenda for today's call is on Slide 3. I'll now hand the call over to Andrew.

Andrew N. Liveris

Thank you, Doug, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us. Let's go to Slide 4. Dow have demonstrated strength and stability this quarter, executing swiftly and purposefully in the midst of uncertain macro conditions, and we exited the period with momentum. Recall that in our last earnings conference call we projected headwinds would linger into the first quarter of 2012 and that momentum would build as the quarter and the year progress. In fact, the quarter played out as we anticipated, with macroeconomic volatility impacting a number of our markets and businesses. But despite this, we continue to execute against our goals and deliver value for our shareholders.

Here are some highlights. Adjusted earnings per share of $0.61. Adjusted sales grew 4%, representing Dow's 10th consecutive quarter of year-over-year sales gains. While strong revenue growth in Agricultural Sciences was certainly a headline, equally compelling was a strong performance from Dow Water and Process Solutions, Dow Elastomers, Dow Functional Materials and Polyglycols and Surfactants, each of which achieved first quarter sales records. And our geographic diversity benefited us once again this quarter. Developed regions began showing signs of returning strength, particularly in the United States, which posted 5% sales growth. And our emerging regions achieved their 10th consecutive quarter of year-over-year volume growth.

As a result, we delivered $2.1 billion of adjusted EBITDA with records in a number of our businesses including Functional Materials, Dow Elastomers, Dow Automotive Systems and, of course, Dow Agricultural Sciences. Also this quarter, we took swift, targeted actions to drive further efficiencies in our operations and liberate resources that enable us to invest in attractive sectors and regions. And finally, we continued our sharp focus on capital management, reducing both debt and interest expense and remaining firmly on track to reach our net debt to capital by year end. This stability, this resolve to deliver is validation of the fact that Dow was and remains in execution mode and enable us to exit the quarter with momentum.

So on Slide 5 and on this point, I want to take a moment to dive deeper and further illuminate the momentum we saw build within the quarter. Recall that on our last teleconference, we discussed management interventions that fueled an inflection point in our operating rates. This improvement carried into the new year, both in terms of our operating rate, which improved 12 percentage points on a sequential basis as well as in our sales. We saw positive indicators in a number of the key sectors and regions we serve.

For example, our sales in the United States, Germany and China all grew double digits from February to March, excluding the seasonality of our ag business. Importantly, this momentum is ahead of what we saw last year. We also saw sales grow double digits month-over-month in all of our operating segments.

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