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Colfax Corp  (NYSE:CFX)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Feb. 13, 2019, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Colfax Fourth Quarter Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Following management's prepared remarks, we will have a question-and-answer session and instructions will be given at that time. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, today's conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

It is now my pleasure to turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Kevin Johnson, Vice President of Finance. Please proceed.

Kevin Johnson -- Vice President of Finance

Thank you, Haley. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. My name is Kevin Johnson, and I'm Vice President of Finance at Colfax. Joining me on the call today are Matt Trerotola, President and CEO; and Chris Hix, Senior Vice President and CFO.

Our earnings release was issued this morning and is available in the Investors section of our website, colfaxcorp.com. We will be using a slide presentation to walk you through today's call, which can also be found on our website. Both the audio and slide presentation of this call will be archived on the website later today and will be available until the next quarterly earnings call.

During this call, we'll be making some forward-looking statements about our beliefs and estimates regarding future events and results. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, including those set forth in our SEC filings. Actual results might differ materially from any forward-looking statements that we make today. The forward-looking statements speak only as of today, and we do not assume any obligation or intend to update them, except as required by law.

With respect to any non-GAAP financial measures made during the call today, the accompanying reconciliation information relating to those measures can be found in our earnings press release and today's slide presentation.

Now I'd like to turn it over to Matt, who will start on Slide 3.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Kevin, and good morning. 2018 has been a transformational year for Colfax, during which we reshaped our Company and established an even stronger foundation for our future. First, we finished the year with strong financial results, including earnings growth of 33%, placing us well ahead of the commitment we made in December of 2017.

ESAB achieved strong and accelerating sales growth across all regions, including strong contributions from new products and the team has done a great job of protecting margins in a year of notable cost escalation.

Our Howden business recovered from the market challenges of late 2017 and the team has gotten the business firmly back on a path to mid-teen segment margins. They've successfully grown sales in the faster growing industrial applications, which are now half of the business, and Howden exits 2018 with strong momentum on both order growth and margins and is well placed for a strong performance in 2019. We've successfully driven restructuring actions within both of our businesses and delivered $37 million of restructuring cost savings.

Our progress improving the vitality of both businesses shows the power of CBS and supports our margin and growth improvement. We completed the monetization of our Fluid Handling business at an attractive multiple of over 13 times EBITDA and completed four new bolt-on acquisitions that strengthen and diversify our ESAB and Howden businesses.

We also announced that Colfax has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire DJO, a leading global orthopedic solutions company. This acquisition is consistent with our strategy to create a higher margin, faster growing and less cyclical Company. To support our deleveraging plans and future growth investments, we're exploring strategic options for our Air and Gas Handling business, including a potential sale. We believe this will be a very attractive asset to potential acquirers, given all the progress made to strengthen and diversify the business.

Moving to Slide 4, you can see the highlights from our fourth quarter results. Our operating performance was in line with expectations and tax benefits contributed to outperformance. Fabrication technology achieved strong sales growth from continued healthy market demand, as well as new product launches and pricing actions completed throughout the year. Air and Gas Handling drove another quarter of double-digit order growth with industrial remaining very strong, aftermarket accelerating and most end use markets moving in a positive direction. We increased this business' margins through restructuring actions and a deeper application of our business system to improve operational execution.

This month, we successfully completed the DJO acquisition financing that started in the fourth quarter. DJO is a global leader in the attractive growing orthopedic solutions market and we're excited about the potential to apply our business system to further improve the business' growth and profitability.

On Slide 5, you can see ESAB continued growth and -- continued growth trajectory. This was the eighth quarter in a row of core growth at ESAB and we continue to show double-digit growth both overall and core. While healthy margins around the world have been a positive factor in our growth, we also launched 11 new products in 2018, increased our automation backlog and funnel, and added some great acquisitions, Sandvik and GCE that are performing well. I was in Europe recently with the GCE team for our standard 100-day review process. We already have a fast start there, thoughtfully integrating our businesses in the welding market and identifying some exciting gas control growth plans in med tech and life sciences.

During the quarter, we had some translational currency headwinds from the strengthening USD, predominantly in our Argentinian, Brazilian and Russian businesses.

On Slide 6, you can see ESAB's year-to-date and current quarter year-over-year adjusted operating profit performance. The performance was in line with what I communicated on our outlook call in December, margins of 11.6% excluding the October 2018 GCE acquisition, finished the year in line with 2017. Now, as I've talked about on several calls now, we had multiple sources of cost escalation during 2018. Year-to-date pricing actions have delivered nearly 5 points of price to offset material and other inflation pressures. And as these price actions are only covering inflation, the business' margin rates are being compressed by about 50 basis points, both year-to-date and in the fourth quarter. Absent this pressure, we would've had another year of solid margin expansion in this business.

When we exclude the GCE acquisition from Q4, underlying adjusted operating margins were 11.2%. This is a solid step forward from Q3 and our team continued to execute price and productivity actions in Q4 to enter 2019 firmly on the right side of the 2018 price-cost improvement curve.

ESAB's margins are expected to take a step forward in 2019 as additional price and productivity actions flow through and the business has a clear path back to greater than 12% operating margins in the first half of 2019. The healthy margin expansion in our 2019 guidance is consistent with the -- our path to mid-teens for this business.

Slide 7 shows our continued progress reshaping Air and Gas Handling business for less cyclical, more profitable growth. In the fourth quarter, the business had 13% core order growth, plus another couple of points from the recent ACI and ACH acquisitions.

We continue to achieve strong growth in our strategic industrial applications as core industrial orders grew 18% in the quarter. Oil and gas orders grew sequentially, and the profitability of new orders continues to improve. Mining orders grew organically 141% as we secured a large order in the quarter at good margin levels.

Finally, our power markets remained stable and orders, as expected, stepped up sequentially in the fourth quarter.

On Slide 8, the Air and Gas Handling segment core sales grew 11% in the quarter, supported by strong growth in industrial applications. And as expected, Howden performed strongly on margins in the fourth quarter, which improved 230 basis points sequentially and 440 basis points year-over-year to 12.1%. This improvement came from price, productivity, restructuring and strategic choices that we've made in oil and gas to focus on higher margin projects. Backlog ended the year a bit stronger than expected and both backlog size and margin levels support the guidance provided on our December outlook call.

On Slide 9, I want to share with you how the Colfax Business System helped us to drive margin improvement in Howden. Lead process improvement is often thought of as synonymous with manufacturing, but CBS is a holistic business system that helps us to continuously improve across all business activities.

Policy deployment is the core tool in the CBS tool kit and arguably our most powerful tool. Its purpose is to drive breakthrough change within our businesses to advance our strategies. A great example of the impact of policy deployment can be found in the improvement in Howden project management during 2018. In 2017, the Howden leadership team had identified the opportunity to drive improvements in project execution on large newbuild projects which involve complex engineering solutions and teams around the world.

Using policy deployment, the Howden team reengineered their end-to-end project management processes and built a stronger foundation for project execution. This resulted in 2018 improvements in milestone delivery, higher margins and better working capital. These changes are now sustained standard work in the business. This is a great example of how our teams use CBS to deliver improved service to customers and improve financial results.

On Slide 10, we provide an update on our strategic initiatives. The Company recently completed the financing to support the acquisition of DJO and refinance existing bank loans. Chris and his teams did a great job of getting this completed quickly and at attractive terms. The DJO acquisition is progressing as expected. We completed regulatory filings and continue to target a Q1 close. Our experienced integration team is fully engaged and we're all working closely with the DJO team to ensure a smooth transition. I was with the senior DJO team in Dallas recently for their initial CBS training and both sides are excited about the opportunities ahead. The review of our Air and Gas Handling strategic options is well under way, Goldman Sachs and Barclays are leading the efforts and we're moving with speed.

Before I hand over to Chris, I want to comment on our strategic progress. We've strengthened our ESAB and Howden businesses, getting them on to solid path to growth and mid-teens segment margins. The recent DJO new platform acquisition is entirely consistent with our strategic commitment to diversify and strengthen our portfolio. We also see exciting opportunities to further expand in med tech. In summary we made a lot of strategic and operational progress in 2018 and I expect a very successful year for Colfax in 2019.

Now I'd like to hand it over to Chris who will discuss the financial results.

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Matt. On slide 11, you can see Company sales grew 13% in the third quarter to $985 million, reflecting a 11% organic growth and 7% from acquisitions, mostly GCE, that was acquired in October of 2018, but also Sandvik that was acquired earlier in the year. We also faced a 5% currency translation headwind in the quarter from a stronger US dollar, mostly compared with the Argentine peso, Brazilian real and the Russian ruble.

We grew gross profit by $36 million in the quarter and gross margin by 20 basis points, due to continued growth at our FabTech business and very strong Air and Gas Handling operating performance. As Matt mentioned earlier, some of our margin progress has been obscured by the effect of using price to effectively offset inflation, which grossed up ESAB's revenue and cost of goods sold and compressed its reported operating margins by 50 basis points and 20 basis points for Colfax overall.

Despite year-over-year FX translation pressure of nearly $5 million, operating profit increased $23 million or $27 million, excluding $4 million of one-time transaction costs and inventory step-up charges from the recent GCE acquisition. Adjusted margins increased 150 basis points to 9.4% or 180 basis points to 9.7% before one-time transaction costs and inventory step-up charges.

During the quarter, we sold an old ESAB facility as part of an ongoing Colfaxwide program that has included six facilities over the past four years for total cumulative proceeds of about $43 million. Applying CBS drives productivity improvements that frees up capacity and enables footprint rationalization and higher efficiencies. The net benefit of $11 million we recognized in the quarter from the facility sale was offset by non-routine charges, resulting from Argentina hyperinflation, receivable reserves for distributor and the impact of strengthening inventory, standard work, and processes.

Below the line, continued focus from our tax team contributed to this quarter's results as we drove the rate down to 17%. Overall, Q4 operating performance was in line with our expectations and a lower than projected tax rate contributed to the 53% increase in EPS in the quarter.

Slide 12 shows our progress on cash flow performance. Fourth quarter operating cash flow was $126 million versus $104 million last year, with the improvement coming mostly from higher profitability. This higher cash flow was delivered despite the significant growth at ESAB that required working capital investment. The $7 million year-over-year increase in full-year operating cash flow to $226 million does not tell the whole story. The prior year results included $69 million of cash flow generated in the fluid handling business that we divested in December 2017. So the real improvement was $76 million on a consistent basis and we expect to make another healthy step forward in 2019.

I'll finish my remarks on Slide 13 by reaffirming the outlook we provided in December. We started the new year with January results that were consistent with our expectations. For the full year, we continue to expect our Fabrication Technology business to grow high single digits, including a full-year contribution from the GCE business.

We are forecasting stable material costs and the price increases over the past several quarters are expected to lap. Core growth is forecasted to be mid-single digits, about half price and half volume, with operating margins exceeding 12% on the strength of restructuring and pricing actions, including the rollover benefit from initiatives completed in 2018 and further productivity savings.

Our Air and Gas Handling business is expected to grow orders this year mid- to high-single digits, led by continued growth in industrial applications and strengthening mining markets. We continue to expect core growth to be flat, plus or minus, with continued margin growth from restructuring, improved customer project execution and aftermarket initiatives.

After the DJO acquisition is completed, we will provide an update for our expectations for this year. We continue to expect a strong year of profit growth in our existing businesses with adjusted operating profit growth of 20% or more.

That concludes our prepared remarks. Please open up the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Mike Halloran of Baird. Your line is now open.

Mike Halloran -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

How are you doing (ph), Mike.

Mike Halloran -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Could you just talk a little bit about the underlying trends you're seeing on the Fab Tech side? It certainly sounds like some consistency still, despite all the headline noise globally, but maybe a few more thoughts on the trajectory through the quarter into the first quarter so far. Any regional variances, anything by product category that's interesting or showing particular strength or particular weakness as you look to the quarter.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, sure, Mike. So, obviously, the back half last year was good and strong, but that's kind of half and half growth between price and volume growth and some of the strongest parts down the stretch last year, where North America, as well as growth in automation in the business. As we roll over into this year, you can see in our guidance that we are still forecasting to have healthy growth in the business, but lower than that double-digit second half, more of a mid-single digits year, this year. And we're still seeing growth, broad-based growth, but we do see -- expect to see the North America growth come down a little from from that higher spot that it went to last year. And different places in the world, a little to and fro here in the different emerging markets in the world.

Mike Halloran -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Out of curiosity, are you seeing actual weakness on that growth, are you just more or less referring to normal sequential patterns from what we're seeing here cumulatively and comparisons getting a little harder driving the deceleration?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we're seeing -- we're seeing what we expect to see here in the fourth quarter in terms of some tougher comps and kind of a normal sequential patterns consistent with the guidance that we've given.

Mike Halloran -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Okay. Sounds good there. And then just a question on the price cost-side as you work through the year, FabTech same (ph). Maybe just talk about the price cost curve in the fourth quarter and how you expect the cadence through the year with the moving parts, with your pricing gains as well as the commodity swings we've seen.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, sure. Well, as I said in my remarks, we passed through almost $100 million of price last year, that 5%, a little over $100 million that 5% number and that was throughout the year. We cleared the air kind of on the right side of the equation there versus steel, but definitely down the stretch in the air (ph). There were broader set of inflationary pressures that had us having to continue to drive price there in the third quarter, and the fourth quarter even beyond just the steel impact. And so, as we roll over into the first half of this year, we expect to be able to see nice sequential margin improvement in the business as those price actions continue to flow through and the productivity actions continue to flows through. We see the steel environment has stabilized and so that provides an opportunity to limit the price actions to the other inflationary pressures in the business and to use some of the muscle that was created last year to get some net price in some of the key parts of the product line where there is a value-based opportunity to drive net price improvement in the business.

Mike Halloran -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Appreciate the color, Matt. Thanks.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Jeff Hammond of KeyBanc Capital Markets. Your line is now open.

Jeff Hammond -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, gentlemen.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Jeff.

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Jeff.

Jeff Hammond -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

So, just to follow on, on that. The price-cost, like the 50 basis point headwind, is that -- how do you see that kind of shaping up in 1Q, and kind of the cadence through the year? Just -- is all the GCE acquisition noise kind of behind you?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So the kind of mathematical price pressure of passing through price was -- kind of increased throughout last year, but was consistent through most of last year. And so, I think we'll start to lap that we'll have a little bit of it in the first quarter as we move through the price. Absent more steel, we will start to lap that mathematical impact of the price cost. I think in terms of the earnings impact of the price cost, we're entering Q1 on the right side of that and expect to not have a price cost earnings drag and as we move through the year to have a little bit of benefit there.

And then, GCE, certainly the biggest effect from the GCE acquisition was in the fourth quarter, based on when it came in and some of the early things that we do in acquisitions and we will have still a little bit of a drag from some of those early charges and things in the first and second quarter here, but it will be much smaller than the fourth quarter.

Jeff Hammond -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then, Matt, you said you're moving with speed in Air and Gas process. Can you just talk about interest levels at this point and what you think best guess on timing is?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we are really not going to comment on the specifics of the process. We've done all the right things to move into that process with speed and excellence and we've got the business on a good healthy improving path. And so we feel confident in our ability to drive to good outcome there, but we're going to share information at the point that we think is appropriate to share it.

Jeff Hammond -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. And then just one housekeeping. How should we think about tax rate for '19 with and without DJO?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

I'll speak to the tax rate without DJO, and then of course we will provide a bigger update once we've closed the DJO acquisition and we'll come back to the folks with a different sort of outlook. Without DJO, we're continuing to believe that the go-forward sustainable tax rate for 2019 will be in the low -- sort of low 20s. If you look back over time, you can see that we've driven the rate from that kind of low 30s, high 20s, down into the low 20s and we've also taken advantage of other initiatives to drive the rate tactically down below 20%. But on a sustainable basis, right now we believe low 20s is the way to think about it.

Jeff Hammond -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Perfect. Thanks, Chris.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Andy Kaplowitz of Citi. Your line is now open.

Brad -- Citi Research -- Analyst

Good morning, guys it's Brad speaking (ph) on for Andy.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, good morning.

Brad -- Citi Research -- Analyst

So in FabTech, you noted the new product has a contributed growth there and you've obviously been very focused on reinvigorating the product portfolio there over the past couple of years. Can you give us some color maybe on how much the new products contributed to growth in 2019 (ph) and how you're thinking about new products as a contributor to growth in '19 and beyond?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we definitely have made a lot of progress on that business on vitality, and the amount of revenue coming from new products and that's helping our growth, it's helping our brand, and it is -- at this point broad based across the portfolio. A few years back, it was more concentrated on our equipment product line and we've now got it more broad based across the portfolio. Our view is that the path to strong growth performance over time in that industry is that fresh products, new products, can get you a couple of points of growth that you wouldn't have, if you didn't have fresh and newer products. And so, that's kind of how we view the path to consistently drive an industry-plus growth is to have those good, fresh and new products. Obviously, the revenue contribution from them is larger than that, but in terms of how much it differentiates your growth in any given point in time, we think it's in that kind of a range.

Brad -- Citi Research -- Analyst

Okay. That's great. And then maybe just shifting to Air and Gas Handling, you had nice year-over-year growth in general industrial orders in the business, really every quarter this year and we know that's been a big focus area for you. Can you talk about your visibility to sustaining continued momentum in general industrial growth within Air and Gas Handling?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we have sustained the momentum there for quite some time now, and we still have healthy funnels and ongoing initiatives across a broad set of industrial segments. So we think the market environment supports ongoing industrial growth, we see the momentum of our initiatives supporting continued growth there. There's no question that like the rest of the business, there is parts of it that are more project-based. And in a given point in time, you might have a little more or a little less, based on kind of which projects are coming when, but between the broad based nature of the growth there and the external environment, as well as our initiative-based momentum, we see the potential to continue that industrial growth in the business.

Brad -- Citi Research -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks, guys. I will get back in queue.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Joe Giordano of Cowen. Your line is now open.

Joseph Giordano -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Hi, guys, good morning.

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Joe.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Joseph Giordano -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

So, on your oil and gas orders, I know the last couple of quarters, Matt, you mentioned that there's been a lot of business out there, and you've kind of made a conscious decision to not pursue it because of the margins inherent there. So you're seeing a little bit of sequential expansion in the order book there. Has the market strengthened there, has there been any change or is it kind of an opportunistic project win, how would you categorize that kind of progress?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We see the oil and gas market has been gradually moving in a positive direction overall. But if I start from our aftermarket presence in that market, which is more with refineries than anything else that's been on a good improving path there and both the ongoing aftermarket and even some of the retrofit kind of projects there have been coming through. And then second, the part that we're strategically focused on now and going forward in terms of some of the kind of small to medium sized project based -- new project based opportunity there -- there are healthy funnels, there's been some decent project flow, it's still -- as it's been in the past few years, it still continues to be real kind of start-stop versus kind of a strong increasing trend. But it's moving in the right direction and the funnels continue to build there in that business.

Joseph Giordano -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Okay. And then maybe last for me. I feel like there's a lot of investor talk about DJO and just familiarity with you guys in that type of business. Can you maybe discuss at a high level -- I know you're not going into detail yet, but how does that business -- like what's the management structure, how does that roll up to you, can you talk about your -- how your past experiences with similar businesses give you comfort that -- in how you guys can run that business effectively?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, sure. I would say strategically, we see that as a great add to our Company that really moves us forward in a terrific way and that we'll be able to apply our compounding strategy into. As it comes in, Brady Shirley will lead the business, he's got over 20 years in that orthopedic solutions industry, he has been in the business for about four years, led the implant business for a few years and did a great job getting that on a strong growth path and then he has led the overall business. And he'll come in, and the team will come in, it will be a separate platform reporting into me and having the appropriate connections to our different functional pieces and being supported as they bring CBS into the business. We've already done -- as I said in my comments, we've already done the first round of CBS training with the leadership team and with some of the key folks in the operational team there. And so, we feel very good about that. We get a ton of experience with that team, which is very, very important, but we've also got a fair amount of med tech experience in my leadership team and in our boardroom that helps us to have a perspective to bring to the table there as well.

Joseph Giordano -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Thanks, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Nathan Jones of Stifel. Your line is now open.

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Good morning, everyone.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Nathan.

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Nathan.

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Just back to the Air & Gas orders for a minute, looks like you had a really good quarter in the mining business there. Can you talk about the sustainability of those kind of orders where there's some large project orders in that segment during the fourth quarter that maybe won't repeat?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, first of all, the broad view of mining is quite positive. The -- all indications are that the industry is headed into a good, healthy, multi-year period of investment that has started and is very much expected to continue and all the external indicators suggest that, as well as our customer funnels and our customer dialog. There's no question that, that business, as it's a smaller part of our overall revenue and that the projects can come in lumps, it is a business that quarter-to-quarter can have a degree of lumpiness to it and that enormous growth rate in the fourth quarter is due to a larger project that came in. Now that large project to the mining business was a significant outlier. At the Howden level, it's not -- maybe half of the growth that we had or something like that. So even without that large project, we were in a pretty healthy growth range there in Howden.

And the last thing I should say about mining is that the large project in mining tend to be direct with the mine or if they are through other parties, there is a very strong direct link with the mine. And based on that, we've been able to -- on the recent project, as well as others over time, been able to value sell and get margins for those large projects to make them attractive recently and on a go-forward basis.

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Okay. So it sounds like there was some large project in there, but the anticipation is that there may be more coming in the future, and we also locked them from a margin perspective?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, that's correct. We expect multiple years of growth, in any given quarter or year, there could be some one-off impacts.

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough. On FabTech, you guys have had this mid-teens margin target out there, I think 12 months ago, it was three to four years and we're 12 months further along now. So we have had some fairly significant changes, 50 basis points of margin drag from price cost with the big steel inflation. Is that target still in that timeframe, two to three years from now, you should be at that 15% target? Are there things that have happened that changed the outlook on that business, at least from a timing perspective, or any color you can give us on when you would anticipate being able to get to that mid-teens target now?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, sure. So, we still remain very committed to that target and don't see it as some theoretical future target versus one that we'll be closing in on here in the next couple of years. If you look at our last handful of years, we've shown 50 plus basis points of improvement a year, and last year the underlying improvement was there, it just got consumed by this pass-through. If you look at our guidance, we've guided to more than 50 basis points of improvement for 2019, which would get us well into the 12s. And so, whether the path from '19 forward is -- a couple of years to get to 2015 (ph) or something slightly different than that. I think that's something we'll continue to communicate very transparently, especially as we get into our Investor Day later this year. But we see good opportunity to keep expanding margins there between some net price, continue to drive productivity, some ongoing strategic structural moves in the supply chain in the business. The positive impact of the innovation that we've done in the business there. And then getting some leverage from growth as we get and stay in more of a volume growth environment here for a bit, getting some leverage out of that growth. We still see a clear path to that 15% operating margins.

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Thanks. One -- just one quick one for Chris on the cash flow. You talked about $69 million from Fluid Handling last year that wasn't in the cash flow numbers this year. Do you have a number handy on what the acquisitions that you've made this year contributed to that cash flow?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Nathan, I don't have those numbers at hand. You can see that the acquisitions weren't significant in the overall scheme of Colfax. But each of those should have brought contributing cash flow to the Company. But I don't have that number at hand.

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Okay. Fair enough. I'll pass it on. Thanks very much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Julian Mitchell of Barclays. Your line is now open.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. Maybe just another question on the free cash flow. Conversion to adjusted net income was, I think, in the 50s percentage-wise in 2018. So very low level. You talked on the last call about maybe some restructuring charges falling in '19 that helps the conversion step up. Now that the full 2018 numbers are out there, maybe help us a little bit more with the bridge on how the free cash flow steps up and what kind of conversion rate we should expect this year. And also then when you are thinking about pro forma Colfax, ex Air and Gas, including DJO, what level of free cash conversion should investors expect at that point?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

So let me give you a couple of points of reference there, and then, again, I think what I'll suggest is that we'll come back to you after we close the DJO acquisition and we'll talk more about that particular business and any expectations it has on our 2019 performance, which should be very additive from a cash flow perspective. What we've commented on is going from 2018 to 2019, we do expect to have significantly lower restructuring spending. So year-over-year that's a $20 million to $30 million benefit. And then we've also talked about lower pension funding as well by $20 million to $30 million. So those are two pieces in and of themselves that should be additive to free cash flows as you pivot it from 2018 to 2019.

Although I'm not prepared to go into detail on the DJO until we actually close in on the business and therefore can speak to the timing -- specific timing within the year of its contributions, it does have a very attractive free cash flow generation and it comes with the NOLs that -- we should not really be a US taxpayer in 2019 and for several years beyond. So those are a couple of pieces there that should help us to continue to drive free cash flow conversion higher and get us to significant growth in operating cash flows.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Got it. So the free cash flow this year, in '19, ex-DJO, we should expect that to be closer to what -- 80% plus, is that a right sort of level?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think that for us it's probably healthy to think about that number, and -- as before DJO and all the financing impacts and everything, on a legacy basis, I think we're just over $150 million and our expectation is we can take that up closer to $200 million, plus or minus.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Thank you very much. And then my follow-up. Second question would really be around -- you've mentioned productivity as a profit driver several times in both businesses. Maybe just help us understand what was the total productivity savings tailwind to your EBIT in 2018? And what do you think that will be in 2019? And any color on the FabTech, specifically in that regard?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Okay. So productivity for us is a combination of the ongoing day to day actions that we drive with continuous improvement in CBS. And then I would contrast that with restructuring actions that we've taken, which are more episodic and more structural in nature. We've identified for next year is, 2019, -- I should say this year, is the $20 million of benefits from restructuring in the Fabrication Technology business and $25 million in the Air and Gas Handling business. So we do have the structural improvements that will continue into 2019 for these businesses. But then in all of our businesses, we drive the day to day productivity with an objective that we at least cover inflation or drive beyond inflation and that comes from just hundreds or thousands of actions going on across the business and as we continuously improve the operations.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Thanks. And what was the realized restructuring benefit in 2018?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

About 40 -- $37 million, I think.

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Walter Liptak of Seaport Global. Your line is now open.

Walter Liptak -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Hi, thanks, good morning.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Walt, good morning.

Walter Liptak -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Just wanted to ask you a couple of follow-ons on the FabTech business and just to clarifying things. The restructuring benefits, are those done in 2019, or is that what I heard you say or is there some more restructuring benefits that come through in 2020 that help you get to that 15% margin goal?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Beyond 2019, yes. So we shared that 2019. I think there is a little bit of ongoing restructuring opportunity in that business. Part of it is just the legacy supply chain that we've got and the opportunity to keep making that more strategic. But also as we bring in new acquisitions as we have, sometimes those bring some new opportunities and we drive the synergy opportunities there. And so our view is that that business -- likely we will have -- continue to have a little bit of ongoing restructuring on into '20 and even '21, that is just smaller, but just the appropriate ongoing strategic step to be doing in that business.

Walter Liptak -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Okay. And then just sticking with FabTech. The EU exposure for you guys -- considering auto in industrial, I wonder if you can talk about maybe a mid-single-digit growth number and first half growth assumptions versus second half or should we just think about mid-single digits for the full year?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, to your question about Europe, I mean, there's no question. The last few years Europe has hung around, been a little in the positive from a volume standpoint, higher on a revenue standpoint at times, but it's not been -- it's been different countries and different quarters and depending on what's going on in the different industries over there and other things. And we expect Europe to stay in that range of being a little bit in the positive from a volume standpoint, a little higher than that from a revenue standpoint, given some of the price. And certainly some markets like auto in Germany feeling a little bit of pressure, but some markets, like some of the oil and gas stuff starting to wake up a little bit more and so there is an offsetting effect there.

As far as the growth through the year, we definitely -- as we said, the second half of last year was quite strong there and part of that was a very strong price impact on top of the volume and there was some real strength in our automation business there down the stretch of last year in terms of specific projects flowing through. And so, as we roll over into '18 that mid-single digits is a good indicator from a core growth standpoint as to how we expect to grow the business. And certainly, the extra growth from automation and some of the price impacts will subside a little bit as we move into the first and second quarter, but we still should be solidly in that mid-single digit range.

Walter Liptak -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And then, just a last one. On corporate expense, without DJO, what are you thinking about for that and should we expect extra expenses related to transactions et cetera?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

So we would expect corporate expenses to be roughly in line with 2018 levels as you go into 2019. There'll be some puts and takes, as you suggest, as we're integrating DJO and some of the cost related to the potential divestiture of the Howden business and so forth. But largely, I'd say, largely in line.

Walter Liptak -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Seth Weber of RBC Capital Markets. Your line is now open.

Seth Weber -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, guys. I actually wanted to also ask about the -- I wanted to ask about the automation business specifically. You kind of just touched on it, but as it sounds like you may be decelerating here, or the comps are maybe just getting harder. I mean, can you just comment -- is that -- do you feel like customers are more reluctant to do bigger ticket projects as this or make bigger ticket investments at this point? Or is it just you feel like you saw some big growth there and comps are just more difficult, and that's why you don't think automation momentum will continue next year? Thanks.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I want to be clear. We still see healthy growth in automation, based on the drive to productivity, the need for productivity solutions in the industry. And we see a healthy funnel there and a healthy backlog, it's really more that -- it is -- there is a little more project-based nature to that business and so in some quarters it's a bigger contributor than others and down the stretch last year, we got some extra boost there and we expect it to continue to -- to contribute to growth nicely here in 2019, as well. We're just don't necessarily seeing that extra boost as we enter the year.

Seth Weber -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. So you don't feel like customer tone toward bigger ticket CapEx has changed, is what I'm trying to figure out?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No. We have not seen any meaningful change in customer tone to bigger ticket CapEx at this point.

Seth Weber -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks. And then I just wanted to clarify the puts and takes around this facility sale. I think you said $11 million benefit, and was that essentially fully offset by these non-routine items? And can you just give us some granularity on what -- I think, there were three buckets there. Can you give us any numbers around those three buckets?

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Yes, the $11 million net benefit that we referred to was completely offset by the items that we mentioned, the largest of which was a bit over a half came from the -- some of the work that we've done on inventory. As you can see, we've been continuing to drive working capital turns up and installing CBS at greater levels throughout the organization. And as you dig deeper and deeper, you find things that you want to make hard decisions on and reduce Muda (ph) and drive efficiency. And that certainly drove us to make some decisions in the quarter and move on and clean up some things from a process perspective. I'd say the other pieces are roughly half and half between a distributor, large distributor that we had in emerging market region that we felt it was prudent to take a reserve against some of the receivables as we work through financial issues with that distributor and continue to keep the momentum that we have in the marketplace there. And then lastly, the hyperinflation that we've had with Argentina, that has largely wrapped up now and behind us. So those are the principal pieces.

Seth Weber -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Very helpful. Thank you very much guys.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Andrew Obin of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Your line is now open.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, guys.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Andrew.

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Andrew.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Just a question on pricing for FabTech. How should we think about it for '19? Would you have to give any of it back with commodity prices heading down?

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Andrew. Certainly what has happened in this market in the past is that when commodity prices go down, some of that is passed through automatically contractually, and the rest tends to pass through over a little bit of time and historically the producers have been able to hold on a little bit of that, just like on the way up, you have to play a little catch-up, on the way down, maybe you get a little bit of the benefit. But it doesn't sustain. And so, we're not planning on any significant margin contribution from steel dropping. We are counting on some net price, just from using that muscle that we've got to continue to drive thoughtful value-based price improvements in the business.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

And just a follow-up question. You guys have unique insights into emerging markets, just because you have more exposure than others. Could you give us some more detailed view on sort of China, Russia, Brazil, would greatly be appreciated? Thank you.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, sure. So let me start with China, which is -- we certainly have seen the -- some of the industrial slowing that's been talked about quite a bit. But both of our businesses actually are kind of balanced across stuff that is kind of pure industrial and things that are little more infrastructure related and whether it's direct infrastructure like investments in rail or tunnel by the government or kind of indirect infrastructure spending where the government is driving environmental programs that then require companies to invest. And so what we're seeing is a little bit of a shift to infrastructure as a driver, more than just industrial growth as a driver, but still the growth holding up OK in China. And even industrial growth is going to be at a lower level over there, but all indications are that there will still be a pretty decent amount of industrial growth.

If we move to Russia, that's an area where we've had a lot of success over time. In our businesses, we've got very strong positions, there is no question that, that's a country that last year things got challenging with the sanctions environment over there and that affected the Russian market and continues to have an impact on the Russian market. I think we felt a lot of that last year and so that's going to continue this year and we think at some point turn in the right direction, but that's a market that we see kind of going sideways at this point in time.

And then Brazil, we're feeling quite good about it. We think the election over there and some of the trends that the local belief is that as we work through 2019 here that Brazil is going to move in a good, healthy, positive direction, and we'll see what the timing of that is and we're doing some good proactive things in the country to make sure that we're set up to take advantage of that.

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thanks so much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Matt Trusz of G.research. Your line is now open.

Matt Trusz -- G.research -- Analyst

Good morning. Thank you for taking my question.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Matt.

Matt Trusz -- G.research -- Analyst

So follow-up question on FabTech. When we think about the equipment versus consumables mix, which has continued to grind higher for about two years now, I'm wondering how do you interpret this, is it reflecting, you think, increased equipment market share, the benefit of accelerated depreciation and changing customer behavior? Or is there something else going on, or just natural mix of (ph) demand? Thanks.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

For us -- if I just think about the equipment versus consumables growth rates, I would say the consumer growth rates have tended to be a little higher, based on the price that's being passed through. The volume growth in consumables is probably the same or lower than the equipment, but the price impact is the most there.

On the equipment side, the automation growth comes on that side and certainly is pulling the growth up there and leading to more growth and more of a piece on equipment. And then certainly some of the acquisitions that we've done -- we've acquired more business on the equipment front than we have on the consumables front and so that's had an impact on our business as well.

Matt Trusz -- G.research -- Analyst

Thank you. And then just on Air & Gas, did the structural changes you're making as you pivot to general industrial open up any path to maybe exceeding mid-high-teens EBIT, or I guess mid-teens EBIT, especially given what's some peers achieve or do you view that more as the tools to achieve that initial mid-teens target? Thank you.

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, surely. Clearly, with both of our businesses, our view has been for a number of years that we have a strategic goal of getting to that mid-teens target, and we've got execution plans for how to get there and we're executing them. And I think that's the case in both businesses that we've got credible execution plans to how to get the rest of the way from where we are now to mid-teens. We have also in both businesses been strategically thinking about and working on, OK, once you get there, how do you go forward? And certainly the structural improvements to the Air and Gas Handling business with the industrial acquisition adds we brought there and as well as some of the stuff we've done organically, create a more credible path to get not only to that 15%, but to be thinking about how to get beyond that, but we're going to focus on getting there first and meanwhile we'll work on the plans for how we get further.

Operator

Thank you. And at this time there are no further questions, I would like to hand the call back over to Kevin Johnson for any closing remarks.

Kevin Johnson -- Vice President of Finance

Thanks. Haley. Thanks everyone for joining us today. Look forward to speaking to you on the next call.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude today's conference. You may now disconnect and have a great day.

Duration: 57 minutes

Call participants:

Kevin Johnson -- Vice President of Finance

Matthew L. Trerotola -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Christopher Hix -- Senior Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer

Mike Halloran -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Jeff Hammond -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Brad -- Citi Research -- Analyst

Joseph Giordano -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Nathan Jones -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Julian Mitchell -- Barclays -- Analyst

Walter Liptak -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Seth Weber -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Andrew Obin -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Matt Trusz -- G.research -- Analyst

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