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

Whirlpool (WHR)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 10:00 am ET


Joseph Lovechio - Senior Director of Investor Relations

Jeff M. Fettig - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Marc Bitzer - President of Whirlpool - North America

Michael A. Todman - Director and President of Whirlpool International

Larry M. Venturelli - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President, Corporate Controller and Chief Financial Officer of Whirlpool International


Eric Bosshard - Cleveland Research Company

David S. MacGregor - Longbow Research LLC

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Kenneth R. Zener - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Sam Darkatsh - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Joshua Pollard - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division



Good morning, and welcome to Whirlpool Corporation's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Release Call. Today's call is being recorded. For opening remarks and introductions, I'd like to turn the call over to Senior Director of Investor Relations, Joe Lovechio.

Joseph Lovechio

Thank you, and good morning. Welcome to the Whirlpool Corporation First Quarter 2012 Conference Call. Joining me today are Jeff Fettig, our Chairman and CEO; Mike Todman, President of Whirlpool International; Marc Bitzer, President of Whirlpool North America; and Larry Venturelli, our Chief Financial Officer.

Our remarks today track with the presentation available on the Investors section of our website at whirlpoolcorp.com.

Before you begin, let me remind you that as we conduct this call we will be making forward-looking statements to assist you in understanding Whirlpool Corporation's future expectations. Our actual results could differ materially from these statements due to many factors discussed in our latest 10-K and 10-Q as well as in the Appendix of this presentation.

Turning to Slide 3. We want to remind you that today's presentation includes non-GAAP measures. We believe that these measures are important indicators of our operations as they exclude items that may not be indicative of, or are unrelated to, results from our ongoing business operations. We also think that the adjusted measures will provide you with a better baseline for analyzing trends in our ongoing business operation.

Listeners are directed to the Appendix section of our presentation beginning on Slide 36 for the reconciliation of non-GAAP items to the most directly comparable GAAP measures.

With that, let me turn the call over to Jeff.

Jeff M. Fettig

Well, good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us on the call today. At you saw earlier this morning, we released our first quarter financial results. Overall, we had a very strong start to the year as we benefited from our margin expansion efforts and our continued innovation investment. Our previously announced and implemented cost-based price actions, along with our cost-reduction initiatives, have put us on track to deliver our full year 2012 guidance. We have particularly strong operating performance in our North America and Latin America regions. In fact, in North America, ongoing operating business profits tripled year-over-year despite a 10% industry unit decline in demand.

I think the strength of our global brand portfolio is evident as we continue to see strong consumer preference for our innovative new product launches, which, overall, is driving very positive mix in many of our key markets. And despite the weaker-than-expected demand, our working capital in the first quarter is at a record low, driven largely by lower inventory levels.

As a reminder, during our last call, we clearly defined what we call our ongoing business operational performance, which excludes unusual items, restructuring expense and tax credits. You can see our results for the quarter on Slide 6.

Sales were relatively flat despite weaker appliance demand, unfavorable currency and the effects of a lower BPX monetization. Our diluted earnings per share from ongoing business operations improved to $1.41 a share compared to $0.64 a year ago with our operating earnings more than double. And we saw year-over-year improvements in our free cash flow from business operations, which we'll discuss in detail later.

Turning to Slide 7. You'll see a summary of our current demand outlook for the year. Overall, our outlook remains unchanged as we continue to expect flat to slightly positive demand growth around the world for the year. However, in different parts of the world, we've seen a slower start to the year, but overall, globally, we see the same demand levels as we originally forecasted.

In North America, we're currently seeing demand trending towards the lower end of our previous flat to plus 3% range. In Latin America, in part due to a continuous -- continuation of the Brazilian tax holiday program, combined with strong underlying economic fundamentals both in Brazil and other Latin American countries, after a very good first quarter, we see demand at the high end of our plus 2% to plus 5% range for the region for the year.

In Europe, we continue to forecast an industry decline ranging from minus 2% to minus 5% for the full year as consumer confidence in the Eurozone remains weak.

And finally, in Asia, we expect our full year demand in Asia to be at the lower end of our previously stated plus 2% to plus 4% after a relatively weak demand level in Q1.

I'll now turn to Slide 8, which shows our key business drivers for the year and how they are tracking versus our previous guidance. As I mentioned, overall, we continue to benefit from an already announced global cost base price increases. As we progress through the year, we will comp against the 2011 global price increases, so we do expect price/mix to continue to be a positive driver of margin expansion throughout the year, but at a lesser rate than we saw in the first quarter. Our restructuring costs and capacity initiatives are on track and these benefits will ramp up and accelerate throughout the year in 2012. In addition, we will continue to bring the cadence of strong innovation which will contribute to the overall improvement in our revenue growth, our mix and overall operating profit.

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