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Brookfield Business Partners L.P. Limited Partnership Units (BBU) Q3 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

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BBU earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2018.

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Brookfield Business Partners L.P. Limited Partnership Units (BBU -3.62%)
Q3 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Nov. 2, 2018 11:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Welcome to the Brookfield Business Partners' third-quarter 2018 results conference call and webcast. [Operator instructions] And the conference is being recorded. [Operator instructions] Now I'd like to turn the conference over to Jaspreet Dehl, chief financial officer. Please go ahead, Ms. Dehl.

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to Brookfield Business Partners' 2018 third-quarter conference call. Before we begin, I'd like to remind you that in responding to questions and in talking about our growth initiatives and our financial and operating performance, we may make forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to known and unknown risks and future results may differ materially.

For further information on known risks, risk factors, I would encourage you to review our filings with the securities regulators in Canada and the U.S., which are available on our website. I'd like to now turn the call over to Cyrus.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jaspreet. In addition to Jaspreet, our chief financial officer, on the call with me today is Peter Gordon, our chief operating officer, as well as Craig Laurie, our managing partner of Capital Markets. And after my update on the business, Jaspreet will be discussing the highlights of our financial results for the quarter, and we'll turn the call back to the operator and be happy to take your question at the time. We had a very strong quarter financially and a very active quarter as well.

We've closed our acquisition of Westinghouse this quarter and immediately following the close, turned our attention to working with the management team to strengthen this company and enhance its profitability. If you were not at our Investor Day in September, I'd encourage you to listen to our webcast, where Denis Turcotte, one of our managing partners in our business operations group, gave a pretty detailed account of what we're doing at the company today. You'd find the webcast on our website under the Events & Presentations section. We have assembled the board of directors, who bring deep knowledge to this sector.

We've also spent a lot of time with the senior management team getting to know them, explaining our approach and our expectations, and we're focused on all aspects of the strategic plan to align the costs and drive further profitability. Second, we're working to enhance the global supply chain and looking closely at where we can optimize costs and delivery capabilities while maintaining the leading product quality that Westinghouse is known for. This is an in-depth process that will take time. It involves taking a close look at what products and services are valuable to customers, their relevant risks and returns for the business, which is similar to what we did at GrafTech.

We're also looking at new business development initiatives and evaluating bolt-on acquisition opportunities. Our view is that as a leaner and more focused organization, Westinghouse will be well-positioned to create value over the medium term, and we're targeting EBITDA growth of 25% relative to the $440 million generated in their last fiscal year. In August, we signed an agreement to sell Quadrant, our Australian oil and gas company, which we expect to close around year-end that is subject to regulatory approvals, which we have not yet received. Quadrant has been a really successful investment for us.

And given the company's great performance in recovering commodity price environment, we thought it's the right time to monetize this mature investment and free up capital to invest in the new opportunities. As a reminder, we acquired Quadrant in 2015. And at the time when we acquired it, the business entered into contracts to sell substantially all of its natural gas under long-term take-or-pay agreements. We worked with management to implement improvements in the business, particularly in the areas of corporate finance, technology and human resources.

The company embarked on a targeted exploration program, and during the third quarter announced a series of significant oil discoveries. Quadrant's generation of robust cash flows has enabled it to reduce debt and pay dividends to us. And we have recovered virtually all of our original capital, I think, around 95%, 96% through dividends. All in all, on closing this transaction, we will make three times our invested capital within three and a half years, and the agreement that we have with the purchaser maintains our future exposure to the upside in Quadrant's exploration interests.

Our investment team continues to source attractive, value-based opportunities across the globe, and we're beginning to focus on technology services. Knowing the value created in our own portfolio companies from greater automation, we're looking at investments in businesses that provide essential services or large productivity benefits, which have recurring, defensible cash flows, good organic growth prospects and high returns on invested capital. In October, we acquired a controlling interest in Imagine, which is a provider of high-speed fixed wireless broadband in Ireland. High-speed broadband is not widely available in the rural areas of Ireland.

And demand for this service is strong, as I'm sure any parent of a teenager can readily relate to. Imagine has an established presence and experience in the country and is poised to roll out its fixed wireless broadband service into rural Ireland, which we will help fund. This is a value investment where we believe we can earn an attractive return and provide us an opportunity to acquire knowledge and expertise in the technology services sector. Well, thank you.

And with that, I'll give the call -- hand the call back to Jaspreet to talk about our financial results.

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Cyrus. Brookfield Business Partners reported company FFO for the three months ended September 30, 2018, of $170 million. This compares to $46 million generated in the same period last year. Net income attributable to unitholders for the quarter was $93 million, compared to $9 million in 2017.

Starting with the industrials segment. We reported company FFO of $76 million for the third quarter, up from $22 million last year. GrafTech contributed significantly to our company FFO for the quarter. The company continues to benefit from the multiyear take-or-pay contracts put in place for much of its current production capacity.

In August, we realized $230 million of proceeds in a secondary offering and concurrent share buyback at the company, which brought our realized proceeds to date to $1.1 billion. This compares to our original investment of $295 million just over three years ago. BBU's ownership interest in GrafTech is now 27%, valued in the market at approximately $1.4 billion. This is also the first full quarter of contributions from Schoeller Allibert, our European returnable packaging operation.

We are making progress with the integration and operational planning and have appointed a new CEO to lead these efforts. We continue to work closely with the management team to develop its strategic plan, and we believe we have an opportunity to improve operational efficiency and to grow the business into new markets. As Cyrus discussed, on August 1st, we closed the acquisition of Westinghouse. We funded $405 million of the $920 million equity purchase price for a 44% interest in the business.

With the acquisition of Westinghouse, we created a new segment called infrastructure services to capture businesses that provide services to infrastructure assets, in the case of Westinghouse, to power plants. Our new infrastructure services segment contributed $49 million of company FFO in the quarter, which represents two months of contribution from Westinghouse. Since the closing, the company has performed well. Results in the quarter were positively impacted by one-time recovery on a project, partially offset by higher-than-normal costs associated with our acquisition.

We anticipate a further impact on costs next quarter as current high-cost inventory flows through production. Going forward, this business will have variability in its quarterly results due to seasonality and the timing of outage cycles and customer plants. Westinghouse generates most of its revenue during the fall and spring when the power plants go offline to perform maintenance and replenish its fuel. In addition, as maintenance and fuel replenishment at customer plants are carried out on an 18-month cycle, there may be years where more customers go offline, driving higher revenue for the business.

This quarter saw a higher-than-normal number of customers go offline, and it's considered a large season for the business. Moving on to our business services segment, we generated company FFO of $26 million in the quarter. This compares to $40 million in 2017. This is the first quarter where our business services segment now includes our construction services business.

We have presented 2017 on a consistent basis. Our previous-year results included our U.S. brokerage joint venture, which we sold in the second quarter this year. And our current-year results reflect a low contribution from our construction services business.

Our construction operations in Australia and U.K. are performing well and generated strong results in the quarter. But overall, construction services was negatively impacted by weak performance in our Middle East operations. We are working on completing projects in the Middle East and refocusing the region into a smaller operation.

Our road fuel distribution and marketing business reported softer results but continues to make improvements in key areas of the business. Margins were impacted by lower volumes in Brazil, lower diesel purchase margins in the U.K. and competitive pressures at our Canadian gas stations. Also, after quarter-end, we signed an agreement to acquire a portfolio of 22 Canadian gas stations with attached convenience stores.

We will continue to pursue opportunities to increase the operational scale and diversity of our offerings as we build out this platform. Our gaming operation, One Toronto, also recorded strong results in the quarter. We continue to make considerable progress on our plans to develop and expand our three sites. During the quarter, we successfully completed an interim expansion and launched table games at Woodbine, which is our largest site.

Moving on to our energy segments, our energy segment company FFO was $35 million in the quarter, compared to a loss of $5 million in the third quarter of 2017. Our results benefited from the incremental contribution of Teekay Offshore, our provider of marine energy services. In July, we exercised an option to take a controlling interest of 51% in Teekay Offshore's general partner and are now consolidating this business. Ember Resources, our Western Canadian natural gas operation, continues to operate in a very challenging environment with no improvement in near-term forward prices in the quarter.

Given the weak pricing environment, we recorded an impairment of property, plant, and equipment at Ember. This was recorded as an expense in net income. Quadrant, our Australian energy operation, contributed positively to our results, and BBU realized dividend proceeds of $9 million in the quarter. Given the announced sale of the business, we have reclassified our equity accounted investment in Quadrant as held for sale.

Turning to the balance sheet, we continue to be focused on maintaining ample liquidity at BBU. If you think about our business since spinoff, we started with about $250 million of cash and $575 million of lines. Over the last two years, we've generated over $1.6 billion of liquidity through monetization and distributions from our portfolio companies. We've invested about $1.7 billion in new businesses, so our monetization essentially funded our acquisitions.

We were able to build our business without drawing on our credit facility. We did complete an equity -- we did complete equity offerings, which increased our overall liquidity. Today, we have about $2 billion in liquidity, which we believe is sufficient for us to transact at the scale we want to, while maintaining a level of liquidity that will allow us to be nimble to take advantage of market opportunities. Like the last two years, there are always one or two mature businesses that we are selling or considering selling.

We expect to close the sale of Quadrant, hopefully, by the end of the year, early next year, which will provide us with an additional $125 million of capital. And we will likely sell other businesses assuming we can get a great price. In addition, we also may get opportunities to further monetize public securities. All in all, we're very confident that we have a high level of liquidity that will allow us to be nimble to take advantage of even large-scale opportunities and grow our business.

That concludes my remarks, and I'll turn the call back to the operator for questions.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator instructions] And your first question comes from Alan Fleming of Citi. Alan, your line is open.

Alan Fleming -- Citi -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, team.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Alan.

Alan Fleming -- Citi -- Analyst

Cyrus, maybe you can talk a little more about the deal pipeline. I mean, multiples have obviously come down here in the public market over the last several weeks. How are you positioning yourself to maybe take advantage of the dislocation in asset prices? And maybe you could tell your comments around Imagine -- the Imagine Communications deal because that does seem like an interesting kind of foothold for you guys as I'm sure you know high-speed fiber is a fairly fragmented market. So do you see opportunities to maybe roll up some of those markets and achieve more scale? And could that include opportunities in the U.S.?

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So why don't I just start generally? We're doing what we've always done, and we're seeing more and more opportunities. And the reason is our investment team has grown. We've got 100 investment professionals now.

We're over 100 now. We're in more regions than we've ever been. And then I'd say we're just seeing more opportunity because we're more active, the scale of our business has grown and that's all good for more activity. Yes.

Markets have been choppy the last month, and we'll see if that causes any opportunities to shake out. It might. There are certain sectors that are perceived to be more vulnerable today that may not be so vulnerable in our view, and we'll see if we're able to find something out of that. I think you should assume that we're constantly looking at things.

And what you don't see is our -- what you don't see are the opportunities where we spent time on and we didn't get there ultimately for various reasons, but often, because we just couldn't conclude that we're buying something on a value basis. Now our pipeline is as active as ever. We are seeing some larger-scale things, some smaller-scale things. Looking back to Imagine, we think it's a great business.

It's a new sector for us. We found a low-risk way to make a small investment here, and we think the returns could be exceptional. And for sure, as we get comfortable with this business and sector, we'll look for similar opportunities around the world. And I think because we are global, we do have an immense advantage of being able to deploy that technology around the world.

Alan Fleming -- Citi -- Analyst

I appreciate that, Cyrus. And as a follow-up, maybe you can talk a little bit about Westinghouse. I know it was only a partial quarter of results, but the margin looked good, I think close to 20%. And I know there was some -- maybe a one-time recovery now on a project, offset by some of the purchase accounting.

You talked about some of that purchase accounting flowing through 4Q. But is kind of a mid-teens margin level the right way to think about that business going forward? And then before layering in synergies -- and synergies would come in on top of that. And as you've gotten in the business over the last two months, three months, you put out that $135 million synergy target at your Analyst Day. Any more kind of confidence in achieving that and the timing around it?

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So look, you did -- you do have the opportunity here. Denis, one of the partners, gave the detail around our plan. But I'd say, what's happening right now, a lot of it is accounting related.

And as for the future, I don't think we can say anything more than we've already said. We gave you an indication of where historical EBITDA has been, where we see the opportunity for improvement. I can't say that the vast majority of improvement, in our mind, is going to come from efficiencies and cost reduction, some revenue growth but not necessarily from revenue growth. So that's why we have some confidence in our ability to get there.

As for what's happening specifically in the quarter, I'll turn it over to Jaspreet.

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Maybe what I'd just add to Cyrus' comment is that there is seasonality in the business, and we do expect some variation quarter over quarter. This is really driven by the outage season at our customer. And typically, spring and fall is kind of when the outage season is, and that's when you see the higher revenues, kind of, Q2, Q3.

The other thing to highlight is that there is some cyclicality in the business, seasonality year over year, because again, it's based on the outage cycle at the customers' plants and -- which goes on an 18-month cycle. So this quarter was a really strong quarter for the business. It's what's considered kind of a large season with a number of customers going offline. And as you know that, Alan, there's also a pickup from one-time kind of a project settlement and some additional costs related to our purchase price accounting that flowed through.

Alan Fleming -- Citi -- Analyst

Thank you. I'll leave it there and turn it over, but good luck, guys.

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.


Your next question comes from Geoff Kwan from RBC Capital Markets. Geoff, your line is open.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. First question was on Multiplex. You previously had talked about as we entered now into the second half of 2018, we'd start to see the results kind of get back to historical. I know you guys have talked about the issues in the Middle East and then the teams, so I guess have weighed on the Q3 results.

Just wanted to get a sense on if there's any sort of update in terms of did half of getting back to historical results on the Multiplex side?

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Geoff. I'll give you a little bit of commentary. First, I'll say we are disappointed in the results. We had hoped that they would be better, but they are most definitely getting better, and I'll give you a little color around that.

We are pretty well, I would now say, fully recovered from our issues that we had in the past in the U.K., in Australia, wherever they were. We're largely on track there. There are still risks, but we're on track there. But we do have risks continuing in the Middle East.

A couple of projects there are taking longer than we had anticipated. They are more challenged than we originally thought. We're working through them. Mainly, it impacts the balances this year and next year.

But as we get closer to completion on the projects, they get de-risked because the potential scale of going over budget reduces as the project gets completed. I will say, just to give you a little bit of comfort on our U.K. and Australia operations, we did book losses in the Middle East this quarter, so that is masking the strong results we had now. So we are refocusing in the Middle East business, as we've mentioned before.

The business is shrinking. We will have a smaller operation to move forward with, and this problem project should be largely completed sometime in 2019.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Is that maybe more of a -- from the way you're talking about it, is that maybe like a mid to second half of 2019 when we kind of see these issues disappear and the strength in Australia and the U.K.?

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. That's right. I think that's probably right. I wouldn't want to say specifically because the exact completion timing is a little bit uncertain, but I think that's probably right.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

OK, OK. And then on Greenergy. You guys had flagged last quarter the issues that were temporarily reducing the profitability there. With what you saw in the Q3 results and even incrementally for Q4, do you still -- are comfortable with your view that we should start to see these improvements into beginning of 2019 kind of getting back to that historical or the expectation you have for that business?

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. That's right. We still have some uncertainty in what's happening in the business, particularly in Brazil. We did mention in the last quarter that there was a scheme put in place by the former government now.

It's in place until the end of this year. And we're hoping there'll be a change in the regulation that will cause a return to more market-based pricing. That's our hope.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

OK. Yes. And you kind of touched on another question I had with respect to Brazil election. The result, I think, was generally expected.

But do you have any thoughts and insights on what that means for -- like you've also got the OV leasing business. And also, from the BRK standpoint, when you might hopefully get to see some more traction and get stronger revenue growth out of there.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

So let me -- I'm going to leave the BRK question for Peter, who's very, very close to that business. I do want to comment on OV, Geoff. We continue to have this business under contracts. What has happened is that the founder has been charged with some form of proceedings -- under some form of police proceedings.

We don't know the details. We're not aware of any related issues at the company or with the company's management. We're still very keen on the industry. We're very keen on the business.

We are working through some structures in light of what's happened to the founder. If we can't ultimately get comfortable, we'll walk away from this transaction. But we're hoping we can find a way to make it work. So that's a comment on OV, and I'll turn it over to Peter to talk about BRK.

Peter Gordon -- Chief Operating Officer

Peter Gordon here. With respect to the election, I would say at this time we're optimistic. The president-elect has made some positive comments with respect to privatizations and the importance of a strong sanitation policy for the country, but it's probably too early to say more. We've been in Brazil a long time, and we remain positive on the long-term prospects with BRK.

And in respect to the company situation, our operational plan remains on track. And since closing the transaction in 2017, we've been focused on the senior management team, which is now largely complete, and we are advancing a broad capital investment plan across the 22 municipal concessions that we own. And I think you will note that we did acquire a small concession this quarter, which is a good event to see despite some of the political uncertainty that had been in the country up till the election.


And your next question comes from Andrew Kuske of Crédit Suisse. Andrew, your line is open.

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning. I guess the first question is for Jaspreet, and it's just -- could you provide any granularity by geography on the backlog of the construction business? The $8 billion is their geographic breakdown of that?

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So the backlog is primarily in our Australia and U.K. business. I think Cyrus had mentioned in his letter that over 85% of the backlog is in those two geographies.

The Middle East is fairly small, and then there is a small portion in India and Canada as well.

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

OK. That's helpful. And then just on GrafTech, and I'm aware they obviously reported this morning and the call was earlier today. But what kind of commentary can you give us about just expected pricing or actual contracts that have been locked into by GrafTech on graphite electrodes?

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Andrew, I think it's best that we don't comment on that, and I'd encourage you to listen to their earnings call and their -- and review their public materials.

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

OK. Fair enough. And maybe just shifting gears back to Westinghouse. If we could just maybe dive in a little bit more the seasonality comments that you both made and Jaspreet went into a bit more detail.

So if I just look at the quarter, obviously, it's a partial quarter. You said it was very active. There's a bit of accounting noise in there. If we exit the accounting noise, let's call it a $60 million-ish quarter on EBITDA, what is the real seasonal impact? Like what would be -- how many reactors were down in the quarter versus a less active quarter, if you want to put it that way?

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

So Andrew, just in terms of the seasonality, I don't have the exact number as to number of reactors. But there is -- they run on an 18-month outage cycle. And this quarter was -- we did see a lot more reactors go offline. And that's fairly typical, I think, for the business where Q2 and Q3 did see higher revenues just because of the number of outages.

But this quarter was kind of a strong growth quarter just in the seasonality as well, and then we don't really kind of provide guidance on a quarterly basis in terms of expectation on EBITDA. But the business is performing well, and we're -- Denis and his team are in there working with the management team on doing operational improvement opportunities.

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

And then maybe just on the operational improvement opportunities and synergies. Should we expect those more back half of '18 -- or sorry, back half of '19, rather?

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. So I'd say, Denis went into quite a bit of detail in terms of what our plans are and what our medium and long-term kind of view is on potential EBITDA that we can achieve in the business. The company was -- had identified a number of cost saving opportunities, and they had implemented some of them at our acquisition, and we're in the process of implementing others. There's also kind of other cost improvement opportunities that we identified when we did our due diligence and review of the business around manufacturing efficiencies, procurement.

And those will be implemented and -- so through results over time.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

But it's going to take a little time, Andrew. So be patient.

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

OK, I am.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

We're confident we'll get there. It's going to take a little time.

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.


And your next question comes from the line of Geoff Kwan from RBC Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks. I had a question on the loan to Cardone. Is it something where you're just getting a really good rate? Or is it maybe kind of a potential distressed situation? Just wanted to get some color on that as to how you're looking to generate a good return off of that capital deployed.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Andrew -- sorry, Geoff. As you know, from time to time, we make loans. It's something we have done for many, many years and we're in a great position. We have a bunch of excess liquidity sitting in the company.

So we decided to make a couple of loans to Indian department -- Indian apartment developers. Some time ago, we decided to make this loan to Cardone Industries, simply to earn a great deal for, I'd say, short and medium period of time. These are long-term loans. Generally, we should earn an exceptional risk-adjusted return and -- so definitely not a distressed situation.

We're just going to be able to return -- earn a return in sort of our targeted range. That's all it is.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

OK. And then just the one last question I had was you merged the construction services with business services. I'm wondering, with the segmentation you gave on kind of the income statement, some of the cash-out, are you able to give what the Q3 ending cash and debt was on the construction side?

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Geoffrey -- Geoff. So it was -- the cash -- net cash balance was about $230 million, and we don't have much -- or any long-term debt in this business. If you kind of – shorter-term payable or something, but it was net about $230 million. And we'll include that in the MD&A, so you'll see it there.

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

OK. Perfect. Thank you.


And there are no further questions at this time. I will turn the call back over to Cyrus Madon for some closing remarks.

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks everyone for joining us and we look forward to speaking to you next quarter. Thank you.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 35 minutes

Call Participants:

Jaspreet Dehl -- Chief Financial Officer

Cyrus Madon -- Chief Executive Officer

Alan Fleming -- Citi -- Analyst

Geoff Kwan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Peter Gordon -- Chief Operating Officer

Andrew Kuske -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

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