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Neenah Paper Inc (NP) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

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NP earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2018.

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Neenah Paper Inc  (NP)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Feb. 12, 2019, 2:00 p.m. ET


Prepared Remarks:


Good day, and welcome to the Neenah Fourth Quarter and Full Year Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in listen-only mode.

(Operator Instructions) Please note today's event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Bill McCarthy, Vice President Investor Relations. Please go ahead sir.

Bill McCarthy -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you. On the call with me today are John O'Donnell Chief Executive Officer and Bonnie Lind Chief Financial Officer. As you may have noticed, we had to change the time of our earnings call this quarter, but we do expect to return to morning calls for the remainder of the year. As usual, after our prepared remarks covering financial results and progress against key initiatives, we'll open up the call for questions.

We released earnings this morning and reported quarterly revenues of $241 million, down 1% from the prior year and earnings per share of $0.76 which compared to $1.10 in the fourth quarter of 2017. A key event in the quarter was the sale of our non-strategic facility in Brattleboro, Vermont on December 31st. This plant was previously expected to be closed and earnings in the quarter were positively impacted by a reduction in the impairment loss for the facility based on terms of the sale.

Excluding this and other items in both years, adjusted fourth quarter earnings per share were $0.53 compared to $1.06 in the prior year. Further detail on adjusting items along with the reconciliation to comparable GAAP figures can be found in our press release.

Also note that our comments today will include forward-looking statements and that actual results could differ from these statements due to uncertainties and risks outlined in our website and in our SEC filings.

With that, I'd like to turn things over to John.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. Bonnie will cover the fourth quarter financials in detail but I'll just say that clearly it was a challenging one. In Q4, we felt much weaker demand driven by global economic uncertainties and our customers' desire to manage down their inventories. Even more significant was the unrelenting increase in input costs.

In fact, in the fourth quarter, pulp costs were up $11 million, an amount larger than the full year impact from higher costs in 12 of the past 14 years. Our teams continue to take actions to address this unprecedented rise in costs with significant price initiatives, including recent increases in all business units, and a heightened focus on cost control and asset efficiency.

Looking at the full year, we grew our top line 6% and topped $1 billion in sales for the first time. Growth was led by Technical Products, which was up 13%; Filtration revenue increased 6% supported by increased utilization of our investment in US capacity. Sales in the year from the Appleton facility were $15 million and on track to more than double as we progress through 2019, with most of this growth coming from grades already qualified by customers.

Though costs in 2018 were disappointing, magnified by lower yields on smaller runs, operational efficiencies have been improving as our volumes and run sizes increase. The Technical Products sales in 2018 were up almost 20%, largely driven by growth in digital transfer products with the Coldenhove acquisition.

Revenues and synergies from this acquisition were well ahead of original expectations and provide a solid platform for growth as we move forward. In addition, we grew in specialty categories such as a security, synthetic label and medical packaging which helped to offset a 1% decline in backings, our most economically sensitive category.

Turning to Fine Paper & Packaging; sales were down 2% for the year. Commercial print remained subject to secular pressures in the market. As you might expect, these pressures accelerate when peak pulp price and commensurate higher selling prices magnify downgrading to lower quality competitive offerings from integrating producers.

Our teams continue to reinforce the quality and differentiated nature of our high-end print brands with customers while also driving growth in targeted areas like premium packaging. When we spoke after Q3, we were well on our way to our seventh year of double-digit growth in premium packaging. While weak demand in the fourth quarter caused us to end the year shy of our target, we remain steadfast about the long-term growth potential of this market and we still expect to grow our annual sales more than 10% for the foreseeable future.

In 2018, bottom line performance was undoubtedly the largest challenge. The biggest hurdle was the unprecedented run-up of our pulp costs, which were more than $33 million in the year, about 10% more than we expected in our November call. Our team's implemented a number of pricing and other initiatives that success offset two-thirds of the increase, in line with what we foreshadowed on the last call, given the added increases in the fourth quarter. As previously communicated, cost increases are recovered more quickly in Fine Paper given the list price nature of their pricing structure. Technical Products' input recovery takes a little longer as they have a portion of products on adjustors with quarterly lags, and Filtration customers with annual contracts that are largely negotiated early in the year on a customer-by-customer basis.

We also had other cost challenges magnified by lower volumes in the second half of the year. In addition to the previously mentioned US Filtration costs, freight rates were much higher in 2018 and our manufacturing performance was subpar. Operational inefficiencies were compounded by softening demand and incremental downtime taken in the third and fourth quarters to manage inventories.

While we can't control global economic conditions, we can carefully manage our costs and ensure our footprint is in sync with demand. One example is the divestiture of our Vermont facility which proved to be extremely beneficial not only for its employees, but by helping to balance our capacity and provide a more focused and profitable Fine Paper & Packaging asset base.

After announcing plans in October to close the facility, we were approached by a company on the West Coast that plans to use the mill's capability to satisfy the need of a non-competing commodity market. The sale, instead of a closure, was a very positive outcome for all parties, and I appreciate the efforts of the Neenah team, the workforce in Brattleboro, and the buyer to complete the transaction by our year-end deadline.

So to wrap up, while 2018 had its challenges and ended with some market uncertainty, there are number of activities we completed that will benefit us in the future. I'll talk more about our outlook later in the call, but will now turn things over to Bonnie to cover financial results for the fourth quarter in more detail.

Bonnie C. Lind -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thank you. Hello everyone. We noted at the start of the call that there were adjusting items in the quarter with the two largest being a reduction to the Brattleboro impairment loss and a favorable adjustment related to the Coldenhove acquisition. In total, a pre-tax net benefit of $4.1 million in 2018 was excluded from adjusted earnings, and this compared to added cost of $1 million in 2017 that were excluded.

Today, I'll focus just on adjusted results and start with Technical Products. Sales of $130 million were up 3% in the quarter. Results benefited from a higher value mix of products sold with growths in digital transfer, security and transportation filtration grades and from higher selling prices. Volume was flat overall as growth in transportation filtration and certain specialty grades offset lower sales in backings and other industrial products. Backings were challenged by slowing markets as well as integrated competitors during this period of extremely high pulp prices.

Sales of Technical Products were also $2 million lower due to a weaker euro, and on a constant currency basis, sales grew 4%. Technical Products' adjusted operating income of $6.1 million was down $5 million from a year ago. Pulp cost increases of $5 million were the highest of the year and results were also impacted by $3 million of higher manufacturing costs largely due to fixed cost under absorption.

As a reminder, we take our largest annual filtration maintenance down in October. This year the planned down was slightly longer to complete an environmental compliance project and we took added downtime to match year-end customer demand. These added costs were only partly offset by benefits in the quarter from higher selling prices and the more profitable mix.

Turning next to Fine Paper & Packaging, revenues of a $106 million were down 5%. This was primarily due to 4% lower volumes as growth in consumer sales was more than offset by decline in commercial print grades and weaker performance in packaging. As John noted, our highest value grades are pressured when pulp prices are high and lower-priced papers from integrated competitors become more attractive.

Revenues also reflected higher selling prices including a price increase implemented in the fourth quarter. So these higher prices were largely offset by a lower value mix in the quarter. Adjusted operating income of $11 million was down $3 million from $14 million last year. In addition to mix, income fell due to $6 million of higher input costs that were only partially offset by benefits from the higher selling prices and improved manufacturing efficiencies.

Before turning to corporate items, I'd like to review segment reporting following the Brattleboro mill sale. In 2018, sales from this facility were about $30 million. So in 2019, our consolidated revenues will be reduced by this amount. $24 million of a sales change will come out of Fine Paper & Packaging and the remaining $6 million out of other. As the other segment has now become immaterial, we will eliminate it and reclass $16 million of its remaining sales into Technical Products.

While the sales reduced revenues, profit will increase as we eliminated its losses and reduced excess Fine Paper capacity. This profit improvement is estimated at $5 million annually. However, in 2019, the year-on-year impact will be less since we were able to recognize over $1 million of benefits in the second half of 2018 from lower depreciation expense.

Moving on to consolidated results, SG&A expense was $20.3 million, down from $24.9 million in 2017. The decrease was largely due to a reduction in incentive accruals as well as lower overall spending. Adjusted unallocated corporate SG&A of $3.1 million was down from $4.5 million in the prior year for similar reason.

Both SG&A and unallocated costs were well below our respective quarterly spending guidance of $26 million for SG&A and $5 million for unallocated corporate costs. We do expect to be back in line with these levels in 2019.

Quarterly interest expense was $3.2 million in both periods. Lower debt levels in 2018 were offset by slightly higher borrowing rates as rates tailed off at the end of 2017 and had been rising in the second half of 2018. We continue to expect our consolidated tax rate to be approximately 22%.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, the rate was 12% and benefited from a change in Dutch tax laws that will reduce rates from 25% to 20.5% by 2022. This change required us to remeasure deferred tax liabilities at Neenah Coldenhove and resulted in nearly $700,000 of lower tax expense, an amount excluded from adjusted earnings.

In 2017, our large negative tax rate resulted from actions taken to accelerate deductions and remeasure US deferred liabilities following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Our cash tax rate is expected to be in mid-teens for the next few years as we consume prior period R&D credits. This rate is higher than previous guidance as our projected pre-tax income and mix between jurisdictions shifted with the sale of Brattleboro and other factors.

However, while the rate is higher, the amount of R&D credits didn't change, so it will just last a little bit longer. After these credits are fully consumed, our cash tax rate will start to converge with our booked tax rate. As mentioned on our last call, we accelerated about $6 million of planned 2019 pension contributions into the third quarter to generate incremental tax savings and made no contributions in the fourth quarter. Consequently, cash spending in the fourth quarter was about $7 million lower (ph) to prior year.

For the full year, total post-employment benefit plan outlays were $23 million. In 2019, cash payments will drop down to around $16 million and our pension expense will increase by $2 million. Cash payments in 2019 are expected to exceed expense by $3 million.

Total cash generated from operations in the quarter was a really strong $29 million, over $10 million more than prior year. A reduced investment in working capital as we managed our inventories, as well as the change in timing of pension contributions, more than offset lower operating earnings.

Capital spending of $10 million was down from $15 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 and full year spending of $38 million also declined $5 million. Spending in both years was right around the middle of our targeted spending range of 3% to 5% of net sales. In 2019, we expect to remain in this range with total spending below $40 million of which sustaining capital is only $15 million. The remaining 60% of this spending is targeted for projects that will deliver attractive financial returns.

Now moving on to our balance sheet, debt declined more than $10 million in the quarter and cash increased by almost $2 million. With year-end debt of $239 million, down from $255 million at the start the year, our balance sheet is strong and our debt-to-EBITDA ratio remains under 2 times. That is comprised of a $175 million of US bonds due in 2021 and the remainder in short-term borrowings primarily against our revolving credit facility. I'm pleased to note that during the fourth quarter, we renegotiated this global revolving credit facility.

The total aggregate commitment was increased from $200 million to $225 million and the term was extended through 2023. In addition, we reduced the interest rate spread on borrowings by 25 basis points and amended terms to provide more flexibility. As of year-end, we had just under $58 million drawn against this facility at an average interest rate for the quarter of 3% and had over a $150 million of additional capacity readily available.

While faced with some large headwinds in 2018, we remain financially strong with a conservative balance sheet and businesses that continue to generate substantial cash flows. I believe the recent favorable changes we were able to make to our revolver reflect the credit market's confidence in the future of Neenah.

With that I'll turn it back to you John to discuss our 2019 outlook.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Bonnie. I'd like to start with a couple of big pictures comments if I could. First, due to announced pricing activities, moderating input costs and our significant cost reduction focus, I certainly expect profits to increase meaningfully from where we ended the second half of 2018. What will be different in 2019 however is that the year-on-year comparison and distribution of profits will vary from what's been typical for us.

Normally we'd expect the majority of profits to occur in the first half of the year and in 2018, this represented two-thirds of the total year. In 2019, this is likely to be more balanced for reasons I'll talk about next. Consequently, year-on-year comparisons will undoubtedly be more challenging early in the year and look much better in the second half.

Next, I'll cover the expected impacts from key external factors and then wrap up with actions and initiatives under way. I mentioned in early November that we were starting to sense more uncertainty in global demand. This ultimately contributed to lower shipments and inventory destocking by customers in the fourth quarter. Economies in Western Europe and Asia have slowed and while most of our Fine Paper business is in North America, approximately 60% of Technical Products and 20% of packaging sales are overseas.

So as we enter 2019, volumes across our businesses are likely to be light early in the year, especially compared to a very strong first quarter in 2018. We expect our top line to grow for the full year in 2019 as increases in our businesses more than offset a 3% decline from the divestiture of Brattleboro.

Our largest currency exposure is the euro. Forecasts reflect a weaker euro in 2019 and down significantly in the first half. A weaker euro is unfavorable for us and currently the currency is $1.13 compared with $1.23 in the first quarter of last year.

We've sized sensitivities in our press release. And this $0.10 differential would reduce quarterly sales by around $5 million and EBIT by $1 million or $0.05 a share. The biggest issue for most companies in our industry has been the steep and prolonged rise in pulp and input costs. For us, this represented a $33 million hurricane-force headwind in 2018, the largest in our history.

While I'm not in the business of forecasting pulp prices, after 11 consecutive months of increases, it does appear prices have peaked and we're finally seeing them start to decline. Since about half of our pulp contracts have pricing on a quarterly lag, we'll begin to see the benefit of these lower prices starting in the second quarter. While pulp costs are declining, they're still projected to be higher in the full year 2019 than they were in 2018 and we're currently estimating $10 million to $15 million of higher costs with most of the negative impact occurring in the first half of the year.

Our teams have responded to these record costs with significant pricing activities, as I mentioned earlier. We successfully overcame two-thirds of higher input cost in 2018, and with these past actions and recent announcement, we expect to offset incremental costs in 2019 as well as recover what we didn't overcome last year and so help contribute to improve margins, especially in the back half of the year.

We're continuing to focus on growing in targeted categories like Filtration and Premium Packaging and digital transfer as we work to increase the overall organic growth rate of Neenah. And we'll look to complement those efforts with value adding M&A.

Along with these top line activities, we remain extremely focused on cost and asset optimization across all businesses and in all areas of spending. I talked earlier about a clear example in the recent sale of our Vermont facility. We also continue managing costs and capacity with demand variability and have numerous cost savings projects that we execute each year. We're prioritizing those efforts that generate the greatest cost savings both capital and non-capital. And as Bonnie mentioned, about 60% of our capital in 2019 is directed to projects that will generate attractive financial savings.

In closing, while 2018 ended on a difficult note, our business strategies and capital deployment priorities remain sound and focused on Neenah's long-term success. Our financial strength supports ongoing investment in our businesses as we work with customers to meet their revolving needs and allows us to provide meaningful direct cash returns to shareholders.

Most importantly, I feel confident that we've got the people and the capabilities in place to execute these strategies and drive value that our shareholders expect. I look forward to sharing our progress with you in the coming years and thank you for your time today.

I'll now open the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:


Thank you. We will now being the question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) Today's first question comes from Jon Tanwanteng of CJS securities. Please go ahead.

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Good afternoon guys. Thank you for taking my questions.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey Jon.

Bonnie C. Lind -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Hi Jon.

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

What are your customers saying to you in Q1? Are their inventories still high? Are they still seeing any pull through of their product?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. As I've tried to foreshadow on the call there, I would say that Q4 which is a normal end of the year, inventory reductions was probably magnified because of the end of the year. But I would also say there is still a lot of caution that remains especially in our markets overseas. I talked about our Backings category on the call being down 1% this year, and there is a category that's grown average price 7%, two years prior and it's more of a GDP type of a category. So when they're feeling really good about the business, our saturated Backings business does fairly well. When they're more cautious, we really see it in that category first.

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Thank you. That's helpful. And then John I think you mentioned you could recover input pricing given the forecast for the rest of the year. Can you also recover headwinds from currency? Is that in the plan or is that a little bit harder to do?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well you know -- how much can I stack on the shoulders here. $45 million to $50 million of input costs over two years for this team is pretty impressive recovery from a selling price. And then, Jon, as you can appreciate, we're trying to balance the pressures that put us on very top end brands if you will. As a reminder, we play in that high-end niche, and by playing in that high-end niche, when our costs go up to their highest levels as they are now and we're competing with commodity players that are one-third the costs, it really puts a lot of pressure on volume. That's what we're feeling.

So, our intention is to -- I mean, we've had some tailwinds from currency in the past and we've got some headwinds now. And I don't think we've been disadvantaged one way or the other in that sense. I think I'm going to be reporting those to you, doing everything we can through cost reduction efforts. But at the same time, that's really something I think is not in the control of the organization and probably second to recovery in those prices. There is no larger impact to our margin restoration than capturing the prices that we've announced out there.

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Okay, got it. And then finally Bonnie you mentioned you increased your revolver limit recently. Do you anticipate using that additional firepower soon and what would your priorities be if you were to use it?

Bonnie C. Lind -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Our priorities are always the same, right? Organic capital spending is our highest priority, then acquisitions, returning cash to our shareholders, de-levering if our debt levels are high. So what we really like to have is a lot of dry powder so that if opportunities present themselves, we can finance them with our lowest cost of available capital.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And we would love for you to recognize the fact that if in fact we are having more challenging economic times we're in a great position with our balance sheet to continue to execute our strategies regardless of the capital allocation.

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Got it. And maybe just a follow-up to that, are you seeing more opportunities if everyone in your peer group is facing the same pressures?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I believe you're talking about M&A and I would tell you that I think there's a lot of money out there and I would love to believe that the multiples are coming down, but I'm seeing little evidence of that. There's a lot of activity, we're still actively participating. If I had a little button that I wear that friends don't let friends overpay for companies. And so we're very diligent on that as we look at different companies. But I haven't seen a meaningfully -- meaningful change that would suggest that we have more opportunity than we've had in the past.

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you very much.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Jon.


And our next question today comes from Steve Chercover of Davidson. Please go ahead.

Steven Chercover -- D.A. Davidson & Co. -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning or afternoon depending on your time zone. So I guess kind of a follow on to that first question. I was hoping you could help us kind of benchmark how much cost is yet to be recovered. For instance, I doubt you really had a chance of get any of the $11 million in pulp inflation that you saw in Q4. But that plus what was hanging on from the earlier quarters, is it $15 million or $20 million of recovery?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, I said two-thirds of the $33 million. So really about $21 million we have been able to capture. So you're right, short hand if you take the $21 million plus the $11 million in the quarter that's pretty close to what the full year impact was. And our -- the $10 million to $15 million that I said for 2019 it's a forecast and you'll be the first one to make fun of me for my forecasting skills.

So we definitely enjoy -- we definitely have $11 million that we have -- we've experience that we need to pick up. We expect $10 million to $15 million especially early in the year and we've got a lot of the pricing already announced.

So filtration pricing is under way. It's, as we said, taking place at the beginning of the year more annual contract. In Fine Paper, announced an -- three increases which I'm heard of last year; two of those three will definitely roll into this year. One of them was fairly early in the year and almost experienced a full year of increase. So our prospective is we have probably the most of the pricing already announced that's moving into this year for the fiber that we anticipate.

Steven Chercover -- D.A. Davidson & Co. -- Analyst

And with respect to Fine Paper, the announcements on commodity free sheet that have just rolled through after pretty substantial closure. Does that impact you at all or should we think that you're basically in a different club than the commodity guys?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes I don't -- I always love to be in a special club. But what I will tell you of where it's going to be more challenging is the most of the announcements on commodities were on their copy sheets and a lot of the more real commodity products. What touches us is opaque, and opaques, they're very, very high end which many of the players took advantage of the time where we're in the highest cost period and didn't announce increases in opaque.

And that causes -- we've always seen trading down as print technologies get better to that end, and when the price disparity is so large. And right now it's -- between our sheets, we're almost 3 times higher than some opaque sheets which might be good enough for that level of a pricing differential. So I think that puts a little extra pressure on us during those time periods. Again, they didn't go up products that likely would be traded with ours.

Steven Chercover -- D.A. Davidson & Co. -- Analyst

Okay. And switching gears to Filtration. If I'm not mistaken, the Appleton machine has been running now for two full years. So is that accurate and how is that going versus the plan?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Well, you're right. It has been two years. Watching the kids grow up, time flies. When we said -- the last year we said $15 million to $20 million in top line and we did achieve that $15 million, $20 million. And I think I was fairly overt in my disappointment in some of the costs, whether it's been in the run size and the yields and as we've staffed up, and candidly and I know I've mentioned this in the past, a little slower qualification than I'd like as we're moving through. And we've got a lot of reason for optimism and we anticipate that the revenue is going to actually double in this next year. At least double from that piece of it and we'll see a corresponding improvement in our results as we're moving forward. So I think that's pretty good summary.

Steven Chercover -- D.A. Davidson & Co. -- Analyst

Sure. And so there's still qualification yet to be received?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So, when we look at next year, we're going to move from $15 million to basically $30 million in next year and our expectations are we'll -- we still have a lot of growth for a couple of years, three years after that if you will. As we move into next year, if you said right now, any point in time, I've got the majority probably three quarters of next year's volume already qualified, OK?

And that's the best I've looked rolling into the beginning of the year and of course everything in the first quarter is pretty much qualified to that end. So now what we're going to see is not the product qualification but the ramp up in the size of the orders and -- so it's more of a size than it is from the newness, and that's where we expect to gain our efficiencies and improve our overall returns. There are still qualifications going whether it's for new projects and that's true for either of our Filtration facilities.

Steven Chercover -- D.A. Davidson & Co. -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Steve.


And our next question comes from Dan Jacome of Sidoti & Company. Please go ahead.

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Hi good afternoon. Just wanted to stay on the topic of Appleton here for the moment, I think on the last call you provided an interesting metric about how or what percent of total volume the Appleton was representing. But then there was an outsized contribution to your cost, do you have that handy by any chance? What percent of volume versus what percent of your of cost? I just want to understand what sort of progress you're making on the underlying margin structure of this new capacity?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes Dan, I don't have that handy. In fact it's not coming to memory. That has more to do with my age than it does do with the fact. Good news, I know there's a transcript out there that you can reference that.

Bonnie C. Lind -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

I think it was the one where what percent of your costs were representative of the revenue versus the trial -- so the trial costs and it was...

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Yes it was on the 3Q call.

Bonnie C. Lind -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Dan, do you remember what our number was?

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Yes, 3Q you said 5% of volume but 30% of your costs. So I was just trying to understand what happened in the fourth quarter relative to that metric?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, that's -- I should have looked back on my notes. I was -- and I'm trying to look at that, that implementation and try to give it as much color as I can. That's not something we normally track. I would suppose that it was very similar. You know as we rolled into the fourth quarter, fourth quarter wasn't an enabling quarter, just by the diminished volumes that we would normally see in a fourth quarter even though we have another quarter of experience. And now you've heighted that metric. It's going to improve all throughout of 2019, maybe that's something that if it's -- if it seems more relevant I'll put it forward. I apologize; I don't have it off the top of my head.

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Right. No, I totally understand. So the ramp up is the next critical phase in this capacity lifecycle. Just trying to -- I guess are you guys still confident that the incremental revenue once the machines are fully integrated and you've attained attractive size orders that your incremental revenue can be $80 million, because I think you said you did $15 million this year. So if you just annualize that, that's well below $80 million. I'm just trying to understand that.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes I think -- I think we're in that $70 million to $80 million range from that piece of it. So yes, again, the bigger challenge is, early on you're qualifying more low-end value grades that are easier to produce and then -- and as we moved up the continuum the higher value grades then move in. Our expectation is that the margins for the businesses -- for the products that we sell out of Appleton will be like the margins that we sell out of Weidach or from our global businesses for like grades.

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Okay, that's helpful. Wanted to turn the call or questions over now to the Vermont, you're nicely rationalizing manufacturing capacity. I was wondering in your footprint, is there any other potential low hanging fruit, other capacity or regions that you, in the Fine Paper segment, that you might be looking at a little bit more closely, because it sounds like the shuttering of this capacity will provide a very nice earnings tailwind in the coming year?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. And just to highlight, we're very pleased we didn't have to shutter it. We're happy that the employees there still, we're able to retain it. We repurposed it through another owner which I think was a good outcome for all of us. You're right, our first focus is really on keeping the assets running full. Those are timings as we go through the year-end seasonality. When we look across our Fine Paper business, we have up to this big spread from input costs have done a pretty good job of offsetting the secular decline with the growing packaging category.

I think it was really pressured more this year. Even with the decline that we experienced in the quarter and 2% for the full year that worn (ph) and load an asset and it's complete -- it will create a little bit more complexity for us and that we'll have to be creative in how we manage capacity at the lowest possible cost. But there's no outstanding or eminent facility closure or machine that can be removed today, which is good. That means, I've got enough volume to keep them all running.

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Got you. Sorry again for my poor choice of words earlier, but that brings to my last question just on premium packaging. Can you just refresh our memory again on what you're targeting the organic growth rate of that business line?

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So packaging -- premium packaging, we really view the growth rate of it to be in the low single-digits. We've demonstrated for six years prior that -- a double-digit growth rate and we were on that track through third quarter and ended up in the high single-digits for premium packaging. Our expectation is that we have a double-digit growth rate on an annual basis. It's more lumpy in its ordering pattern. So you lose a big piece of business or gain a big piece of business, it can have you spiked. That's still our current expectation for premium packaging. Our belief is that -- we'll continue to focus on the markets in the Fine Paper business post recovery of the input cost and not have to put so much pressure on just that premium packaging category to recover all the volume.

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

Okay, thank you again, for everything.

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you Dan.


And ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the question-and-answer session. I'd like to turn the conference back to Mr. McCarthy for any final remarks.

Bill McCarthy -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Okay. I'd like to thank everyone for your interest today. And as always, please feel free to reach out to me if you have any further questions. Thank you.


And, thank you sir. Today's conference has now concluded and we thank you all for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.

Duration: 38 minutes

Call participants:

Bill McCarthy -- Vice President, Investor Relations

John P. O'Donnell -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Bonnie C. Lind -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Jonathan Tanwanteng -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Steven Chercover -- D.A. Davidson & Co. -- Analyst

Daniel Jacome -- Sidoti & Company -- Analyst

More NP analysis

Transcript powered by AlphaStreet

This article is a transcript of this conference call produced for The Motley Fool. While we strive for our Foolish Best, there may be errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this transcript. As with all our articles, The Motley Fool does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the company's SEC filings. Please see our Terms and Conditions for additional details, including our Obligatory Capitalized Disclaimers of Liability.

Motley Fool Transcribers has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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