Sappi Limited Management Discusses Q3 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Sappi Limited (SPP)

Q3 2012 Earnings Call

August 03, 2012 9:00 am ET


Roeloff Jacobus Boëttgerr - Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director and Member of Group Executive Committee

Mark Richard Thompson - Chief Financial Officer, Executive Director and Member of Group Executive Committee


Caroline Learmonth - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Campbell Parry - Investec Securities Ltd., Research Division

Lars F. Kjellberg - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Nishal Ramloutan - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division



Good day, and welcome to the Sappi Third Quarter 2012 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Please also note that this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Roeloff Boettgerr. Please go ahead, sir.

Roeloff Jacobus Boëttgerr

Thank you very much. Very good morning, good afternoon to you ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us for our quarter 3 results presentation. I'd like to draw your attention to Slide #2, the forward-looking statements and Regulation G requirements.

Moving then on to the summary of the results, operating profit excluding special items at $60 million, which is in line with the guidance we've given and also exactly the same as the operating profit for the corresponding quarter a year ago. Market conditions deteriorated during the quarter particularly in the European area. Importantly, we've extended the maturities and lowered our finance cost from the refinancing of the 2014 bonds. That came with the once-off charge of $89 million, the main reason for the negative EPS during the quarter. We did have the impact of the planned annual maintenance shuts at our major paper mills, which is a seasonal factor as communicated to you prior to the quarter. Both our chemical cellulose expansions remain on track in terms of both budget and timing.

Moving on to Slide #5, the financial summary. I think what's important to our light year [ph] is the fact that volumes were down slightly on a year-to-year basis but not quarter-on-quarter. In Europe, fiber [ph] volumes were down year-on-year about 7%, volumes for our pulp businesses were very good, particularly for Saiccor. But on the sales line, you see quite a significant drop quarter on quarter, as well as year-on-year, that was mainly driven by the exchange rate effect converting euro and rand sales into dollars. But those also affected by lower pulp prices and also paper prices for certain grades of paper in addition to the volume, I think.

EBITDA down also quarter-on-quarter, mainly as a result of the special market conditions and with also the effect of the flat [indiscernible] negatively impacting the EBITDA. I did discuss the earnings per share, $0.20 mainly affected by the once-off finance costing, that $0.20 you see there although ratios following the same things as well are meant to be.

Moving on to Slide #6, operating profit excluding special items, the paint [ph] in line with the previous year of actually $60 million and moving on to the EBITDA rate, slightly lower than the previous year mainly as a result of these better market conditions and the effect of the flood at Cloquet.

Looking at earnings, Slide 8. As I mentioned before, the $0.20 loss largely as a result of the $0.17 related to refinancing, but then also the price fair value adjustment of our operations [ph] amounting at $0.03, bringing it back to a $0.01 positive if you exclude those one-off charges.

Looking at our divisional overviews, I think the divisional margins, all of them coming down as expected, the result mainly of shuts but also being a weaker quarter. All our businesses we expect those margins to move back to more tentative [ph] levels are even in the quarter to come.

Quick overview of our European business on Slide 11. Our volumes were down sequentially due to seasonal factors and the planned maintenance shuts and our sales volumes down 7% year-on-year but all our profitability matrices has improved during the quarter. Average sales prices were higher than the last quarter. It was helped by the weaker exchange rate in terms of our export sales and that also relieves a little bit of pressure in the domestic European markets. Variable and fixed cost reductions achieved in the last year is critical in us achieving the results we did and we're on track to deliver on that $100 million saving year-on-year in our European business.

Moving on to the North American business, Slide 12. Industry conditions certainly were tougher but our coated paper sales held up very nicely in that market despite the fierce competition. The total markets unfortunately quite weak mainly in terms of pricing, which did affect our North American business and the Specialty business also experiencing quite tough trading conditions, particularly at China with the mod [ph] not having been that we were used to over the last year or so.

We had a severe flood at the Cloquet mill which took the mill out 7 days. Some of you visited that mill in fact 10 days before that flood occurred. I'm happy to report that the mill is back at full operation with no serious damage to the mill whatsoever.

On the South African side, again 2 stories: Excellent chemical cellulose production at our site global. The average NBSK prices were slightly higher than the previous quarter, but most definitely quite a lot lower than the previous year. That was accounted to a large extent by the weaker rand in the last quarter. So we made an excellent EBITDA margin of 30% translating into nearly ZAR 500 million of EBITDA during the quarter. As a result of pulp prices edging downwards at the very good operating rates, we did postpone the shut of the one line at sizable to the quarter, in which we are now. That shut is done very well and we end up [indiscernible] a bit off that line, at Saiccor.

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