Waste Connections' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Waste Connections (WCN)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 8:30 am ET

Executives

Ronald J. Mittelstaedt - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of Special Equity Award Committee and Chairman of Executive Committee

Worthing F. Jackman - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

Rodney C. Clayton - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

William H. Fisher - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Michael E. Hoffman - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Albert Leo Kaschalk - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Corey Greendale - First Analysis Securities Corporation, Research Division

Barbara Noverini - Morningstar Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Q1 2012 Waste Connections conference call. My name is Sonia, and I will be your operator for today. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this call is being recorded for replay purposes. I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Ron Mittelstaedt, Chairman and CEO. Please proceed.

Ronald J. Mittelstaedt

I'd like to welcome everyone to this conference call to discuss our first quarter 2012 results and provide a detailed outlook for the second quarter.

I'm joined this morning in The Woodlands, Texas by Steve Bouck, our President; Worthing Jackman, our CFO; and several other members of our senior management team.

We are extremely pleased to kick off our 50th anniversary with first quarter results that exceeded the upper end of our revenue and margin expectations.

Continuing pricing strength in increased special waste and construction-related disposal volumes offset the anticipated negative impact from lower recycled commodity values and higher fuel cost, as well as our decision to turn away lower-priced disposal volumes at our Chiquita Canyon landfill.

In the first quarter, adjusted net income increased. Free cash flow once again exceeded 20% of revenue and the Alaska Waste acquisition closed as scheduled on March 1. Put simply, we believe the year is playing out as expected from an operating perspective. The big unknown, given our recent equity offering, is how much capital gets deployed this year or next on acquisitions. As we often emphasize, we invest capital core returns, or we will return excess capital to shareholders.

But the timing and/or size of acquisitions or whether we resume our share repurchase program remains unclear at this point.

Before we get into much more detail, let me turn the call over to Worthing for our forward-looking disclaimer, as well as other housekeeping items.

Worthing F. Jackman

Thank you, Ron, and good morning. We must inform everyone listening that certain matters discussed in this conference call are forward-looking statements intended to qualify for the Safe Harbors from liability established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements related to expected volume and pricing trends, recycled commodity prices, potential acquisition activity, share repurchases and our second quarter outlook for financial results. Such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those currently anticipated. These risks and uncertainties are set forth in the company's periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Stockholders, potential investors and other participants are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating the forward-looking statements and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements made herein are made only as of the date of this conference call, and the company undertakes no obligation to publicly update such forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

On the call, we will discuss non-GAAP measures, such as adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization, adjusted earnings per share and free cash flow. Please refer to our earnings release for a reconciliation of such non-GAAP measures to the most comparable GAAP measure. Management uses certain non-GAAP measures to evaluate and monitor the ongoing financial performance of our operations. Other companies may calculate these non-GAAP measures differently. Now I'll turn the call back over to Ron.

Ronald J. Mittelstaedt

Okay. Thank you, Worthing. As noted earlier, we are extremely pleased with our performance in the first quarter. Revenue was $376.4 million, up 13.6% over the prior-year period. Internal growth in the quarter was 2.9%, broken down as follows: Positive 3.2% from core price; positive 0.4% from surcharges; flat volume and negative 0.7% from recycling, intermodal and other services; net pricing or core price plus surcharges was 3.6%, which met our expectations for the quarter. With 80% of our price increases in place as of March 31, we still expect net pricing to average about 3% for the full year as core price should be at least 3%, with surcharges about flat at current fuel prices.

As we periodically note, our differentiated market model provides strong visibility and predictability on pricing. We have less exposure to the more punitive price volume trade-off that our more urban, market-oriented peers.

The exclusive nature of almost half of our business and high market shares in many of our competitive markets provide a path for sustainable value creation.

Volume growth in Q1 was flat, which was better than our negative 0.5% to negative 1% outlook for the quarter, due primarily to better-than-expected special waste and construction-related C&D volumes. That does not change our outlook on volume for the full year, however.

Given the potential headwinds that we had incorporated into our original full year outlook from both the strength and special waste volumes last year and our decision to turn away lower-priced disposal volumes at our Chiquita Canyon landfill this year, we continue to believe volume growth in the first and fourth quarters will be comparably better than Q2 and Q3.

Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com

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