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Atkore International Group Inc. (NYSE:ATKR)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Nov. 28, 2018 8:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Greetings and welcome to the Atkore International fourth-quarter fiscal 2018 earnings conference call. [Operator instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.I'd now like to turn the conference over to Keith Whisenand, vice president of investor relations. Please go ahead.

Keith Whisenand -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you, Rob, and good morning, everyone. With me today are Bill Waltz, president and CEO; David Johnson, chief financial officer; and Jim Mallak, chief accounting officer. I'd like to remind everyone that during this call, we may make projections or forward-looking statements regarding future events or future financial performance of the company. Such statements involve risks and uncertainties such that actual results may differ materially.

Please refer to our 10-K and today's press release, which identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in our projections or forward-looking statements.With that, I'll turn it over to Bill.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Keith, and good morning, everyone. Let me say by -- start by saying that we're proud to report strong financial performance for the year that delivered double-digit growth in net sales, adjusted EBITDA, and earnings per share.Starting on our full-year 2018 results on Slide 3, Atkore outperformed on our guidance and delivered net sales of $1.8 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $272 million and adjusted earnings per share of $2.78, up 22%, 19%, and 69% versus last year. These results were due to several key factors. First, our our Electrical Raceway segment delivered net sales of $1.4 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $255 million.

This equates to a 25% increase and a 35% increase year over year based in part on our increased average product market prices and the pass-through impact of higher freight cost to the market. Second, the Mechanical Products & Solutions segment delivered net sales of $470 million, up 14.5% increase year over year due in part to higher volume of products sold and higher average selling prices. However, segment-adjusted EBITDA declined 19% versus prior year due to an increase in average input costs, which exceeded the average price that we sold through partially offset through higher volume. Third, our portfolio changes over the last two years have provided accretive margins, added $24 million of additional EBITDA versus 2017, and continued to drive synergies across the organization.

Fourth, our pricing initiatives and active product mix management increased average selling prices $166 million, which more than offset commodity and freight inflation. Lastly, Atkore's overall strong financial performance also provides ability to repurchase and subsequently retire approximately 19 million shares. As a result, Atkore's ownership under Clayton, Dubilier & Rice has transformed to a fully independent company with a board of directors that now reflects its new stature. Taken together, Atkore delivered strong results for the year.

Net sales, adjusted EBITDA and EPS were all three up double-digit year over year and exceeded the midpoint of our full-year guidance. We also delivered strong operating cash flow, continued to integrate our acquisitions, and deployed capital to repurchase shares in efficient and accretive manner. We deployed additional capital shortly after 2018 closed to acquire Vergokan, a Belgium-based manufacturer of metal cable support, underfloor, and industrial trunking systems. Vergokan had approximately $48 million of net sales and $8 million of adjusted EBITDA before synergies.

The team, the culture, and the business system continue to provide a discipline to deliver on our commitments to our customers as well as our shareholders.With that, I'll turn the call over to David, who will walk us through our financials in more detail and provide additional insights into the quarter.

David Johnson -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Bill, and good morning to everyone. [Inaudible] to our consolidated fourth-quarter results on Slide 4, net sales were at $478 million, up 16% organically after normalizing for acquisitions and foreign exchange. In the quarter, this increase was driven by higher average selling prices as well as favorable mix. Net volume excluding acquisitions was flat, reflecting the continued strength in the industrial environment for the MP&S segment and fastening in our Electrical Raceway segment in the closing month of the year.

Volume for MP&S was up 8% in the quarter and 11% for the year. Electrical Raceway organic volume was off 3% in the quarter and was up 1% for the year. The softer Q4 appears to be timing a distributors stalking. To total Atkore, acquisitions added 6% to the top line in the quarter and 7% year to date.

During the quarter, we incurred input cost increases of $46 million year over year. Through pricing and mix initiatives, we successfully increased our average selling price to $63 million. We've broken up those items on the adjusted EBITDA bridge on Slide 5. As we've mentioned previously, when we pass these costs through to our customers in price, net sales and cost of goods sold increased in equal amounts, unfavorably impacting the resulting margin percentages.

On a constant input cost basis, our adjusted EBITDA percent would have been up 150 basis points versus Q4 2017. Gross profit was $112 million for the fourth quarter, up 25% or $22 million, compared to the same period in 2017, driven primarily by price and mix versus cost. Adjusted EBITDA was $71 million, up $11 million or 19% versus last year. Our net M&A activity accounted for $5 million of the increase to adjusted EBITDA in the quarter.

These increases were partially offset by small decline in volume, growth investments we've made in the business, and variable compensation. Our net income on a GAAP basis was $33 million, up $12 million versus the fourth quarter of 2017. Adjusted EPS was $0.79, up 98% from the fourth quarter of 2017.Moving to our Electrical Raceway Segment on Slide 6, net sales increased by $62 million or 21% to $355 million. Our recent acquisitions, all of which are reported in Electrical Raceway, increased segment net sales in the quarter by $26 million or 9%.

Organic volumes were down approximately $10 million or 3% in the quarter. When combined with our strong first half, full-year volumes were up approximately 1%. The fourth quarter ended lighter due to what looks like inventory adjustments in the quarter -- or in the channel. Sorry.

Higher average selling prices and the mix of product had a favorable impact to revenue of about $47 million or 16%. Adjusted EBITDA was $68 million, up $17 million or 34% compared to last year. The acquisitions account for $6 million of the adjusted EBITDA increase. Adjusted EBITDA margin increased by 180 basis points with pricing execution, accretive acquisition margins, and favorable mix driving the improvement.Moving on to our Mechanical Products & Solutions Segment on Slide 7.

Net sales in the quarter were up $20 million or 20% to $123 million. Volumes increased by 8%. As industrial markets continued to show strength, price increases accelerated in the quarter and added almost 16% to revenue. And the divestiture of the flexible sprinkler business reduced net sales by 4%.

Adjusted EBITDA of $12 million decreased by $3 million compared to last year. The reduction was primarily due to the divestiture of the flexible sprinkler business cost headwinds versus our pricing traction, partially offset by stronger volume. Adjusted EBITDA margin is below the fourth-quarter 2017 by 500 basis points impacted by the price versus cost headwinds, which is in part due to timing of passing through the latest commodity increases to our OEM customers. However, we did see continued acceleration in our pricing traction in the quarter with more than 70% of our 2018 price increases being delivered in the fourth quarter.

We expect our pricing actions to catch up to the cost curve in early 2019.Turning to our balance sheet and cash flow on Slide 8. The balance of cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter was $127 million. Net cash flow from operating activities for the year was $146 million. Please keep in mind, our working capital increased by about $45 million, most of that driven by higher commodity costs.

The conversion will be higher when commodities flatten out or decline. Finally, our net debt of $778 million and leverage ratio, which we define as net debt to the trailing 12-month adjusted EBITDA, was 2.9 times. As we've communicated in the past, our long-term goal is to move this metric back to low 2 times range, and we are moving in that direction.Now I'll turn the call to Bill for our guidance update.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, David. Before I move to our future guidance, I want to recognize an important piece of our past. This is Jim Mallak's last earnings call with Atkore, and I want to properly thank Jim for being a strong advocate at Atkore for the past seven years. With this guidance, the company started its evolution as a leader in industry with strong fundamentals that will now enable our continued success.

The entire leadership team at Atkore wish him well on his retirement and a warmer climate and as he improves upon his golf game. Jim, thank you for everything.Moving on to market expectations for 2019 on Slide 9, my team and I spent a lot of time in the field with our customers and end users. The contractors and distributor partners are very positive about the project funnels and activity they see in the market. They do call out availability of labor as one headwind though.

With their input as well as the latest forecast from Dodge, an architectural building index, we expect the construction markets to be up 2% to 4% in 2019 and we expect volumes in our industrial end markets will be up 4% to 5%.Taking into consideration these factors, our 2019 guidance on Slide 10 is as follows: for the Electrical Raceway segment, we expect volume to be up 2% to 4% and adjusted EBITDA to be between $265 million and $285 million. For our MP&S segment, we expect volume to be up 4% to 5% and adjusted EBITDA to be between $55 million and $58 million. For total Atkore, we are expecting 2019 adjusted EBITDA to be between $285 million and $305 million. A simple bridge for the midpoint of that range with of our $272 million of adjusted EBITDA for 2018 as the jumping off point add $8 million for the acquisition of Vergokan, then add net productivity savings of $6 million $8 million -- $6 million to $10 million and adjusted EBITDA generated by volume add 20% to 25% contribution margin.

Then subtract $2 million for the loss of EBITDA from the sale of FlexHead and a net headwind from price versus cost of about $5 million to $10 million, which offset some of the tiny favorability that we saw on the back half of 2018. We estimate our adjusted EPS to be between $3 and $3.30. Interest expense will be approximately $50 million and our fully diluted share count will also be around 50 million shares. Our tax rate will be about 25% for the full year.

CAPEX is expected to be between $35 million and $40 million.Turning to the first quarter of 2019 adjusted EBITDA, our guidance range is between $67 million and $72 million. The year has started out strong for our markets and we expect that to continue as we go forward. To help ensure we deliver on our commitments, not only now but well into the future, our teams will continue to focus on three key themes: first, we will provide profitable growth organically through product, service, and a geographical expansion in addition to accretive and synergistic acquisitions; second, we will make it easier to do business with Atkore and drive improved customer experience so that we become the customers' first and only choice. This means we need to drive strong execution of the voice of customer to deliver meaningful solutions.

Third, we need to ensure we continue to recruit, develop, and retain the best talent in the industry. We are proud of the organization that we built here at Atkore and with engaged and a line of employees dedicated to make the business better every day for everyone.With that operator, please open up the line for questions. 

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] Our first question will be coming from the line of Andrew Kaplowitz with Citi. Please proceed with your questions.

Eitan Buchbinder -- Citi -- Analyst

Hi. This is Eitan Buchbinder on for Andy.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Eitan Buchbinder -- Citi -- Analyst

Good morning. Last quarter, Electrical Raceway volume was marginally down and now you have inventory destocking. It seems like there's some volume degradation and that volume has gotten a little choppy as the year went on? Can you talk about the volume decline in Electrical Raceway? And what is the risk that destocking continued longer than you think, given that interest rates are coming up and there is some uncertainty over the U.S. economic situation?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, great question. From what we see, we don't see in the market itself. In other words, back to interest rates and so forth as we give guidance into next year. What we do see is some slight decrease in commodity costs and therefore, if you just do a simple math on each -- and there isn't a lot of inventory out there just because of the size of some of our products.

But between distributors and contractors, if you just take one week of inventory out of a 13-week period, that's 7%. So it's a slight decrease as distributors and so forth worked down their inventory. And then the other thing that we have done really well and I want to emphasize, compliment to all of our leadership, is work our mix management. So we are talking about volume, but if you actually look at our pricing, our revenue, we've gone obviously up significantly in those areas.

And it's because instead of selling some of the basic commodity products that don't have quite the margin, there's a lot more focus on higher-margin products but when you measure in feet, which we do to give that indication, it works against us. So we're still very comfortable with our guidance as we talked to 2% to 4% Raceway growth going into 2019. And I think most other competitors would probably be talking the same type of ranges.

Eitan Buchbinder -- Citi -- Analyst

Thank you. And just as a follow-up, within industrial you're still predicting 4% to 5% market growth. The industrial market seems pretty strong and we know you're mostly U.S. based.

You have solid expectations for industrial in 2019, are all market growing in that range? Or are there any industrial market that concern you? Thank you.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We have a such wide diverse thing. The one great thing with our group where there's still lots of opportunities, if I would start listing everything from racking systems that you've put your Home Depot shopping cart in to roll cages, to green houses and just walk through that we have such a diverse set of segments that there's nothing where one segment concerns us and we are also optimistic about 2019.

Eitan Buchbinder -- Citi -- Analyst

Thank you.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Steven Winoker with UBS. Please proceed with your question.

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

Thanks and good morning, guys.

Jim Mallak -- Chief Accounting Officer

Good morning.

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

I just wanted to maybe dig in a little bit to, first of all, what do you think goes on in terms of your ability to hold on to these price increases and the face of what looks like certainly October anyway deflationary commodity price environment, obviously, steel, etc. And also would there be any differential impact between Raceway and MP&S in terms of the answer to that?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I'll do them in reverse order. One of the things that we have that works for us really well with Raceway is it's literally everyday pricing -- I mean, every hour, quite frankly, that we do, given market situation. So commodity cost are a factor in there but just what supply, demand, or a competitor is doing that we can react very quickly to pricing. And that's why you've seen us execute, I think, so well in 2018 and continue to expect that to do well going into 2019.MP&S is similar but you have two challenges: one, there is 20% to 40% of the volume that's somehow tie to longer pricing either there's a contract term involved in it or you made bid a purchase order that's two or three months long that just creates a price lag.

And therefore, we haven't seen quite the pricing strength that we have in Raceway. Now that said, as we go forward, obviously we're going to continue to focus on what we do really well at Atkore with pricing discipline and I know our whole Mechanical Products & Solution on what best practice is, they can continue to learn and drive their own self-help as we go into 2019.

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

OK. So the deflationary side of that, given that what you're describing is a little bit of ability in MP&S but Raceway is going to pass that on the way down just as quickly is what I'm hearing?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I think. I mean, we gave our guidance here. There may be as we gave guidance I mentioned I think it was $5 million to $10 million year over year of -- because we did such a great job and we also called out at the end of Q1 of last year the hurricane in PVC products, where we had a bunch of bought resin and reacted quicker. So we're just trying to be very objective, conservative on our numbers.

But at the end of the day, we've shown in the past whether it's a deflationary period or inflationary that we're able to keep and hold and drive our margins. And if anything, there's a little bit during deflationary periods that we're able to hold on to our prices up to 90 days more on the way down, so it could actually work to our advantage slightly as pricing goes down.

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

OK. And another question in terms of capital allocation. Obviously, the market right now has been penalizing companies above a certain leverage level and we're sort of seeing that in several cases. You guys have been de-levering. We can see that, but you've certainly been allocating in a balanced way too.

How does -- how are you thinking about the pace of the de-leverage from here?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

David, do you want to?

David Johnson -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I'll take that. As we've -- Steven, as we've put in our presentation, in Q2 alone, we were at 3.4 and we worked our way down to 2.9. The 3.4 after the large buyback, I think we've continued to be balanced between two main priorities that being accretive acquisitions, where we feel we can add a ton or two of synergies.

I think if you look at the Vergokan acquisition, I think it very much fits right into that our disciplined approach, as to where our priorities are in acquisitions.And then second clearly is going to be reducing our leverage ratio. With our cash generation, we have the ability to move this number down quite quickly, so I would say that it's all going to depend on the appetite or the availability of different acquisitions, but we do intend to move this down into the long-term range into the lower 2s.

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

OK. Great. And if I could just sneak one last to end, on your seasonality that you've laid out, -- I guess, the EBITDA looks pretty similar. Are you stuck in normal seasonality for -- through the shape of the year?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, at this stage. We had -- the only thing I would call out at all is just as you get into the details, if anyone recalls Q1 of 2018 we had higher volume, distributors, who were buying up probably even more so that we did call out. So we had a good -- a tough comp on revenue and a little bit of profit in Q1. But no, we're expecting normal seasonality and overall EBITDA up 8% and you'll actually see probably even higher year over year for the first quarter.

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

Thank you. I'll pass it on. Thanks.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

David Johnson -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question is from the line of Deane Dray with RBC. Please proceed with your questions.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and I'll add our congrats to Jim and wish him all the best.

Jim Mallak -- Chief Accounting Officer

Yes, thanks. Appreciate it, Deane.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Absolutely. You earned it. Hey, maybe we can start with price cost on for 2019. You gave a helpful data point about the headwind but how does that play out -- at least what is baked in your assumptions on the quarterly progression for the year on price costs? That I know you need a crystal ball for that, but just what's your best estimate at this point?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Great question, Deane. It's probably spread out throughout the year. I mean, every quarter, last year was an amazing quarter or last year, excuse me, overall, again, where we were up 19%.

We did have some onetime things in every quarter that you look and say, hey PVC we got extra spread in the first quarter as we called out in previous quarters because of the U.S. President's tweets we are able to get our steel price up even higher in costs in Q3 and Q4.So I think in -- conservatism, we just want to make sure that there could be that $5 million or plus as we give guidance and probably evenly spread across the quarters because of that Deane.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. And then on the adjustments to EBITDA this quarter, a little bit of noise there at least from versus what we were looking for. What were some of the larger items? Was there a nonrecurring legal matter and some transaction costs? Can you just give us some color there, please?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Give us just once sec there, Deane, on the specifics.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

And as you're looking, maybe David can give us some comments on tax came in lighter than what we were looking for. What were the dynamics there?

David Johnson -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. So we'll start with the tax first and basically, I just -- for the quarter, Deane we had a couple of things. One we had our stock comp, excess benefits was higher than we expected so that definitely reduced the rate. And then we did have a reserve tax provision indemnity that we reversed.

It goes back to the Tyco pre-spin, so it was a FIN 48 release for again the tax indemnity, so those are the couple of two one timers for the quarter

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And then also as Dave is looking, one of the biggest things for the onetime adjustments were we had -- I'll give general numbers here versus per size, but it was slightly over $7 million of the reversal of an anti-dumping duty with the government. And then we also released a reserve with, I won't call out the company but we had a legal reserve for $1.1 million, if I can release the company, I'd just -- so that -- they were the two big ones, Deane.

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Right. Got it. Thank you.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Rich Kwas with Wells Fargo. Please proceed with your questions.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Good morning. This is Deepa for Rich Kwas. How are you doing today?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Very well, Deepa. How about yourself?

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Pretty good. Thank you so much. I had a few questions. I'll start with the Electrical Raceway volume assumptions. Within your 2% to 4% volume assumption, which are some of the non-res verticals that you think will grow at the higher end or slightly above, and which probably will be more toward lower end? For example, institutional, do you have infrastructure in there, commercial in there? Any color there would be appreciated.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, the two -- obviously, I'm focused on the positive two that we think are growing the most and that really help us because what we call the density and that's where we sell more electrical products per square foot, are education and hotels. Both seem to be going up significantly. Some of the other ones that are just a little bit less are things -- I mean -- but they're so minor to us, are things like parking structures, public buildings seemed at least for 2019 be down. But education, hotels, and again if you think through that, and even manufacturing are lining up to be in a great position as we go into 2019, our fiscal year.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Got it. So any color on your free cash flow expectations for fiscal '19? I mean, I think last year we've got some guidance from Jim on that, just curious if you have any to provide us this year.

Jim Mallak -- Chief Accounting Officer

Yes, Deepa. This is Jim. I think on that one -- we've never really given guidance on cash flow per se. You see the tax rate and the CAPEX and the interest expense as expected, so we would leave that -- and everyone knows where we flow from EBITDA, so we're going to leave that out there with the main components known.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

OK. So -- but how do we think about, as you're working capital converts were better, I mean, should we expect conversion should be -- to be better than fiscal '18 at least?

Jim Mallak -- Chief Accounting Officer

Yes, I'm going to talk in days and I think that we're going to be probably flat, maybe a 2% or 3% improvement in days and lot is going to depend on what we're going to see on inflation because that's going to impact the dollars and not necessarily the days.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Got it. So now that you are below three on leverage. I know your target is to be below two or closer to two, so that sets you up well for better capital deployment prospects at least on the acquisition side and maybe some on share buybacks. It's not in your guidance.

Obviously we see your 50 million share count pretty -- probably just has some dilution factor in there, but how should we plan -- how should we model for a share buyback, if at all? Any color there. And if you can also help us think through what you -- what are you thinking in terms of capital allocation in terms of acquisition? How's your pipeline? I think last year you had a $150 million spend that you are targeting, stuff -- anything there would be appreciated. Thank you.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So, Deepa, I'll start here. David can add color. We've always stated, I'll just give slightly different numbers to look at $100 million to $150 million of acquisitions a year.

And I think that's still the targeted number. But I really want to emphasize for everybody, if it hits all the criteria of being accretive and synergistic, and part of our strategy in the management bandwidth and that responsibility you bring out. So some years, we'll do three or four. There may be a year -- we just closed Vergokan.

If there's not one that fits that, we will wait patiently and we have such great use of our capital and continue to pay down. I think you mentioned getting below two. I would say our objective is to get to a low 2s on debt to EBITDA ratio. And then from the stock buyback, the only thing I would say is, these are general numbers but the board had authorized $75 million.

We have used today approximately $50 million and we have approximately $25 million left and we'll -- obviously to consider what's best we've received for our shareholders on what is the exact use of that capital between, continue to drive synergistic acquisitions, continue to pay down our debt, and then obviously stock buyback.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

OK. So are you like not thinking in terms of -- as percentage of free cash flow, how you want to deploy capital, I mean, anything? I mean, now that your leverage ratio is well within favorable range. I mean, I would have thought you probably have some targets that you want to provide us with.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, at least nothing -- not externally, Deepa.

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Got it. That's all I had. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

OK. Yes, thank you for the questions.

Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] The next question comes from the line of Taylor Finch with Century Management. Please proceed with your question.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Good morning.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

Hey, Jim, congrats on the retirement and heading out on a high note, I wish you all the best.

Jim Mallak -- Chief Accounting Officer

OK. Thank you very much.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

Great. So I wanted to ask about your guidance and the 50 million shares. We're ending the quarter with a weighted average of 48 million. I know that there was maybe a half million repurchase in the quarter.

So I guess what's the disconnect there?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Basically, the only thing that we've really guided so far, we haven't guided any stock buybacks or what have you. We did say we have some capacity up to $25 million. It's essentially our stock compensation dilution that we basically see every year.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

OK. That would be 2 million shares or...

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Roughly.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

OK. OK. Then I wanted to revisit the capital allocation priorities. You mentioned a certain amount of cash remaining on the repurchase authorization but, I guess, given that your share price is at [Inaudible] levels and next year should be a strong year of free cash flow, I guess, how do you weigh your appetite for share repurchases, I guess, given the market conditions right now?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Obviously, we feel our stock is undervalued and we do think that we should be trading much higher than we are. I think right now, we're looking at our opportunities around acquisitions like we've mentioned, reduction of our debt, and then we do still have capacity on our buybacks. And I think we'll look at those in a similar manner is the best way to deploy that capital giving our opportunities with acquisitions at this point in time.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

Gotcha. Gotcha. OK. So then I wanted to ask about MP&S. So in terms of price cost catching up, it looks like your guidance might imply maybe 11.5% margin at the midpoint on that segment.

I guess, as price cost catches up, can that margin do better than that in time? I think there's some prior comps that were a bit higher than that or has that sort of maybe the launching up point from there?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So the answer is, can it be higher? Absolutely. It can be higher. I mean, we gave guidance that we feel is the best, most accurate information to give to you, to shareholders, and analysts out there.

But obviously over time, we aspire to continue to drive that adjusted EBITDA up higher.And as we go out through the year and into future years, we aspire to get it back to the 13%, 15%. But -- so we gave our guidance that we just provided is the most accurate information for 2019.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

Great. Yes. So, I guess, just to rephrase it, for 2019, just on a price cost basis, that will be fully caught up by year end in terms of price cost basis?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. It's accurate. Yes.

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

Gotcha. That's it for me. Thanks, guys.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thank you.

David Johnson -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Taylor.

Operator

Thank you. The next question is from the line of DeForest Hinman with Walthausen. Please proceed with your question.

DeForest Hinman -- Walthausen & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. I wanted to just get a better understanding of the volume performance and you've talked your -- a metric like revenue per foot in the past and -- not in this call, but I think at some other calls, thinking about you know where's the most profitability on some business and if there's even instances where there are some products that don't make sense to sell where we step away from those, where -- maybe it's not even bad to lose some volume. So at a high level, can you help us understand whether or not you think you're losing market? And if you are losing share on a volume basis, can you just give us a little bit more color on either revenue per foot, revenue per pound, and how has that been trending?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, great question. I'll try to provide as much as I can with -- we do feel we're either holding to losing possibly in the last quarter 50 to 100 basis points a share. So, again, the markets are up in the low single digits. We were up in 2018 around 1%.

So, if you just assume 2% we were up 1%. We probably have lost a little bit. But I will tell you most of it's been very conscious where we have done things to go we're going to push pricing up, hold pricing. Can you always have a competitor willing to lock pricing for a month, but we're making very conscious decisions to drive our earnings, our EBITDA higher and also focus, as you just mentioned and we mentioned in our prepared comment, about the mix of products.

I think in that area, I'll give you examples of things where we're selling more specified products, larger diameter of products that have a higher revenue and a higher gross margin. But I don't want to call out specific products down to saying here's the one that we're consciously moving away from the customer. But I think it is that active management that really our employees have done so well that, quite frankly delivers, 19% increase in EBITDA in 2018 and it provides us the capability to give an 8% increase in EBITDA for 2019.

DeForest Hinman -- Walthausen & Co. LLC -- Analyst

That's helpful. But I was thinking as a shareholder thinking out loud a little bit and I'm just thinking out loud but I don't know very many industrial companies that maybe nearly year over year doubled their earnings. And I will give it to you that your leverage ratio increased but your stock is down and you doubled earnings. Is there maybe more thought needed in terms of how we're explaining our business? And I'm saying this there's some metal processing businesses and I'm not saying your metal processing business, but is there any way that you could help shareholders with that understanding either revenue per pound or -- and I know some of the products are plastics, some of made of metal.

But it seems like the execution has been very, very good and the story is just not being understood. Do we need to disclose that metric or is it something for competitive reasons it doesn't make sense to talk about?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I think a couple of thoughts. One, it probably does not make sense because again you -- and your thoughts are good. Realized that, as you even mentioned steel, we're selling copper products, PVC-based products and then there's products beyond just those. So there's not a metric here.

Some of it gets just the sophistication specificity of different products.I do agree with you that one of the things that David and I, and Keith and Investor Relations need to do is to get out and continue to tell the story better just because, as you mentioned some of the numbers, we've had a great year and we look forward to communicating why we think it's an attractive company for people [Inaudible] own.

DeForest Hinman -- Walthausen & Co. LLC -- Analyst

OK. And then maybe beating a dead horse a little bit but on the capital allocation with the stock repurchases, if you're looking at whatever metric you're using for -- looking at acquisitions and I think in many cases using EBITDA and then maybe some post-synergy EBITDA metrics, if you have your stock down here maybe at sub-seven EBITDA. I don't know what adjustments you're using. How do we balance buying our own stock the easiest acquisition to integrate because there's no integration versus potentially paying more for deals and subjecting ourselves to integration risk?

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Great. We are philosophically overall aligned and one of the things that we talk about is this. There is no integration cost.

And if there was confidence in the management team and our future, as you look at something, yes, we would consider buying ourselves, i.e., stock buyback. On the same hand, by each deal, we have to look case by case. It depends on the synergies. What does it bring to their profiles, specifiable products, our future strategy.

Over time, I personally believe the stock price will take care of itself as we continue to perform and communicate. So that is one of our levers there. So with that, I was going to say just to wrap-up, I was going to -- operator, is there any other questions? If not, I was going to look to close the call.

Operator

There are no additional questions at this time.

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

OK. So, if I can wrap up then, obviously, a great year in my mind. I'm proud of what we've achieved. We walked through some of the numbers but it's a great year. As we look forward to fiscal 2019, I think we're also excited on what we see out in the markets and our ability to prioritize and drive our success.

The key thing to make that happen for us is our employees. So for them, I want to thank them for their hard work this year and everything I know they will continue to do and deliver to truly make us the customer's first choice. I want to thank our shareholders for their interest in Atkore. And with that, everybody, I hope you have happy holidays.

Thank you, everyone. Operator, you can finish the call.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 46 minutes

Call Participants:

Keith Whisenand -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Bill Waltz -- President and Chief Executive Officer

David Johnson -- Chief Financial Officer

Eitan Buchbinder -- Citi -- Analyst

Steven Winoker -- UBS -- Analyst

Jim Mallak -- Chief Accounting Officer

Deane Dray -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Deepa Raghavan -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Taylor Finch -- Century Management -- Analyst

DeForest Hinman -- Walthausen & Co. LLC -- Analyst

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