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SunCoke Energy Inc (NYSE:SXC)
Q1 2020 Earnings Call
May 8, 2020, 6:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Thank you for standing by, and welcome to the SunCoke Energy, Inc. Q1 2020 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions]

I'd now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, Shantanu Agrawal, Director of Investor Relations. Thank you. Please go ahead.

Shantanu Agrawal -- Director of Investor Relations

Thanks, Jesse. Good morning, and thank you for joining us to discuss SunCoke Energy's first quarter 2020 earnings. With me today are Mike Rippey, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Fay West, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Following management's prepared remarks, we'll open the call for Q&A. This conference call is being webcast live on the Investor Relations section of our website, and a replay will be available later today. If we don't get to your questions on the call today, please feel free to reach out to our Investor Relations team.

Before I turn things over to Mike, let me remind you that the various remarks we make on today's call regarding future expectations constitute forward-looking statements. The cautionary language regarding forward-looking statements in our SEC filings apply to the remarks we make today. These documents are available on our website, as are reconciliations non-GAAP financial measures discussed on today's call.

With that, I'll now turn things over to Mike.

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Shantanu. Good morning, and thanks to all of you for joining us on our call this morning. These are unprecedented times, as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our society. Today, I'd like to discuss our response to COVID-19, including the actions we have taken to protect the health and safety of our employees and contractors, to support our customers and steps we have taken to reduce costs and preserve cash. SunCoke has been designated as an essential business in every state where we operate, which allows us to continue operations at all of our facilities. We're in close contact with our critical suppliers and vendors to ensure that we will be provided the materials and services required to continue operating in an uninterrupted manner.

We at SunCoke have been keenly focused on taking proactive and effective steps to ensure the health and safety of our workforce. As the pandemic unfolded, our internal COVID-19 task force worked to follow the guidelines of the CDC, OSHA and local health and governmental authorities to implement policies and procedures to protect our workforce and contractors. As part of this effort, we have implemented screening processes for essential employees as they enter our sites, enhanced cleaning procedures, staggered shifts and required those who can work from home to do so. These are just a few of the actions we have taken to maintain a safe operating environment and to protect our employees.

I'm extremely proud of our employees as they work diligently to serve our customers with essential products and support our business. We are continually monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves and will continue to respond to issues that may arise. Turning to our performance for the quarter. The direct impact of the pandemic on our results has been limited. The operational performance of our Domestic Coke segment is in line with our expectations despite the challenging macro environment. Volumes were higher as compared to the prior year period, and we experienced continued strong operating performance from our facilities.

Looking at the Logistics segment. Foresight Energy filed for bankruptcy during the first quarter, and going forward, they will be shipping all of their coal through Javelin Global Commodities. We are shipping coal for Javelin this year at CMT under a one-year agreement and are in the process of negotiating a longer-term contract beyond 2020. While COVID-19 had limited impact on SunCoke in the first quarter, we recognize the challenging economic environment that exists today. In response to much lower demand across end-use markets, our customers have idled or banked a number of blast furnaces. The domestic steel utilization rate has dropped to levels only slightly above 50% and may go even lower in the short-term before rebounding.

The current situation is unprecedented, and as of today, we cannot accurately predict when demand will return to more normal levels. SunCoke's business model is built on long-term partnerships with our customers, and our ability to partner with our customers in these unprecedented times is critical to our long-term success. While the take-or-pay nature of our contracts protects SunCoke from an array of downside risks, it is important for us to maintain the strength of our customer relationships.

To that end, we are currently exploring contract restructuring alternatives with our customers to address these short-term market challenges. As the results of these conversations will most likely impact results this year, we find it necessary to withdraw our 2020 guidance. We will provide more details as we reach agreements with our customers. At this time, I can reiterate that our operations and business continuity remains strong and April results are in line with our expectations.

With that, I'll turn it over to Fay to review our first quarter earnings in detail. Fay?

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Mike, and good morning, everyone. Turning to slide four. Our first quarter net income attributable to SXC was $0.06 per share. EPS was down $0.09 versus the prior year period, mainly driven by the performance of the Logistics segment. From an adjusted EBITDA perspective, we finished the first quarter at $62.1 million, down $5.2 million versus the first quarter of 2019. The decrease was primarily due to lower throughput volumes and lower fees per ton at CMT, partially offset by higher sales volumes at Domestic Coke.

Moving to the detailed adjusted EBITDA bridge on slide five. As you can see, consolidated adjusted EBITDA was down approximately $5.2 million versus the prior year period. Our coke segment performed well this quarter. These results reflect a $6.3 million adjusted EBITDA improvement due to increased volumes. This increase was partially offset by lower coal-to-coke yield gains due to lower coal prices.

As a reminder, while we do pass through the cost of coal to our customers, we generate incremental adjusted EBITDA from higher coal prices due to improved yield gain calculations. We continue to see sustained operating performance from the rebuilt ovens at Indiana Harbor, which is the primary driver of the increase in production this quarter. In terms of our Logistics segment, we saw lower throughput volumes at both CMT and KRT. In addition to the lower volumes, revised pricing also impacted profitability when compared to the prior year period. Quarter-over-quarter, the Logistics segment was down $9.4 million. When adding in slightly unfavorable results at Corporate and Other, we ended at $62.1 million of adjusted EBITDA in Q1.

Turning to slide six to discuss our Domestic Coke business performance in detail. First quarter adjusted EBITDA per ton was $60 on 1,069,000 tons of production. These results reflect an increase of approximately 63,000 tons of coke production across the fleet. The biggest single increase in production versus the prior year period comes from Indiana Harbor, as strong operating performance drove a 30,000 ton increase in production. Lower coal-to-coke yield gains due to lower coal price adversely impacted results but were mostly offset by lower operating costs.

Flipping to slide seven. Our Logistics business generated $3.3 million of adjusted EBITDA during the first quarter as compared to $12.7 million in the prior year period. The decrease in EBITDA is primarily due to lower throughput volumes and the new agreement with Javelin Global Commodities Ltd that Mike mentioned previously. Our domestic terminals were impacted by softer demand due to COVID-19, handling approximately three million tons during the quarter versus 3.6 million tons in the prior year period. CMT contributed $1.3 million of adjusted EBITDA and 1.25 million tons in the quarter.

Of the 1.25 million tons handled during the quarter, 900,000 were for coal and 325,000 were for other products such as pet coke and aggregates. We expect the pandemic to have an impact on demand at our logistics facilities, but we have taken measures to reduce costs, including rightsizing our team to meet current demand and restricting discretionary spending, among other initiatives.

Turning to slide eight and our liquidity position in Q1. As you can see in the chart, our consolidated cash balance was $235.8 million at the end of the quarter. We spent approximately $23 million on ongoing maintenance capex. During the quarter, the company increased its borrowings under its revolving credit facility by approximately $157 million in order to enhance its cash position and preserve financial flexibility. We feel confident that we are in a strong operational position today and that these actions safeguard our business and ensure that the company will maintain the cash and balance sheet strength required to navigate the current market conditions. The proceeds from the revolving facility are being held as cash on the company's balance sheet and may be used for working capital or other corporate purposes.

During the quarter, we repurchased $12 million face value SXCP senior notes at a discount. We also repurchased approximately 1.6 million shares for $7 million and paid a dividend worth $5 million at the rate of $0.06 per share. In light of the current economic environment and the resulting deterioration in the steel and coal markets, we remain committed to allocating capital responsibly and have paused share repurchase activities. As the market stabilizes and things return to normal, we intend to resume executing on our long-term capital allocation priorities with the primary focus on reducing leverage to 3 times or lower.

I would like to note that our gross leverage at quarter end is inflated due to the additional revolver borrowings, which I mentioned, that are being held as cash on the balance sheet. Excluding the additional revolver borrowings, our gross leverage would have been 3.25 times. In total, we ended the quarter with strong liquidity position of approximately $324 million.

With that, I will turn it back to Mike.

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Fay. Wrapping up on slide nine. As we operate in these unprecedented times, our first priority remains the safety and well-being of our employees and contractors. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure they are all well protected and able to do their essential jobs with confidence. At this time, we have not lost sight of our core business, and we'll focus on successfully executing against our operating plan in 2020. We will continue to pursue opportunities to optimize our asset base, specifically as it relates to the Convent Marine Terminal. We have significant coke contracts expiring at the end of 2020. Successfully navigating through these renewals is a key initiative for our organization and for the long-term success of SunCoke Energy.

Additionally, we continue to explore opportunities in the foundry coke market, as mentioned in our previous earnings call. As we have discussed, the steel industry and our customers have been adversely impacted by this pandemic, and we are committed to partnering with them through these challenging times to ensure we address our customers' needs in the short term while also providing long-term stability of supply. As we have progress to report, I look forward to keeping our investors and stakeholders informed throughout the year.

And finally, we will keep a vigilant eye on our asset base to make sure it is properly maintained and able to operate efficiently even as operating levels may fluctuate in the near term. We are proud of the investments we have made, creating the highest quality assets in the industry, which we are committed to maintaining, so that we do not skip a beat as markets begin to improve.

Before we end our prepared remarks, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our employees, contractors and suppliers who are working very hard during these difficult times to keep our business operating safely.

With that, we can open the call for Q&A.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from Matthew Fields with Bank of America. Your line is open.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Hey, everyone. Just a couple of nitpicky ones first. When in the quarter did you buy back the bonds?

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

It was about March, I think. March time frame.

Shantanu Agrawal -- Director of Investor Relations

Early March was time frame, yes.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Early March, before kind of everything went into lockdown?

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

That's right.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

And I assume the stock repurchases were also kind of before the lockdown started in the country.

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

We already had one more.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. Has there been any more bond repurchases in the second quarter yet?

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

No.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. And then I appreciate drawing a revolver to keep cash on the balance sheet. A lot of your peers are doing the same. When you get, I guess, more line of sight on what 2020 is going to look like, can you think about allocating some of that cash to buy back more bonds at a discount? You have a pretty significant arbitrage between the low-cost revolver and your bonds that are trading at a pretty steep discount.

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Right. We're monitoring where our bonds are. As you know, we drew down on the revolver just to solidify our position here at quarter end, and we'll monitor what our revolving borrowings will be as we navigate through this situation.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay, great. In terms of the contract restructuring that you just you started to mention, obviously, I know there's probably nothing that you can share in too concrete detail. But what's on the table with these restructuring? Is it pricing? Is it volume? Is it maturity? Is it the very take-or-pay nature of the contracts? Like what's the form of the conversations being had?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

You're right, Matthew. There's very little we can say at this point in time, but it's fair to conclude that there's a menu of options that we're exploring with our customers that might include some of the items you've discussed and others as well, but we can't speculate or discuss these ongoing negotiations.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. And then just to review your existing contracts, the force majeure or material adverse I don't have kind of pandemic or business downturn language, it's more like explosion and specific kind of incidents like that to declare force majeure on your contracts, right?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We feel strongly about the force majeure protections that are provided in our contracts. And should we need to, we would enforce vigorously.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. And then appreciate trying to sort of keep liquidity and get leverage down. Are there any assets that you can monetize? Anything you can do to boost cash? Maybe I know Convent Marine Terminal was a big asset you bought for $400 million plus a number of years ago. Is that something that you'd be willing to sell? Obviously that price is probably a little lower today, but anything that you can do to kind of boost liquidity and preserve cash and take the leverage down?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Our liquidity position is quite strong right now. And as we've stated, our goal is to get to 3 times or less, and we believe that over time, our operations will allow us to accomplish that. We are looking at repositioning CMT, given the loss of volumes, particularly as it relates to Murray, and we'll continue to do so to and I think you answered your own question with regard to sale. I think this is a particularly inopportune time for a company with good liquidity to be looking to sell assets.

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough. Thanks very much guys.

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from Matt Vittorioso with Jefferies. Your line is open.

Matt Vittorioso -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Yeah, good morning guys.

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Matt.

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Matt Vittorioso -- Jefferies -- Analyst

On the business side, however those negotiations with customers go, it seems plausible that you will defer some volumes. I'm just trying to think through how that looks for you specifically. Do you continue to produce at your current rates and just stockpile coke and defer those volumes? Or do you slow production? And if you slow production, does that impact the EBITDA per ton or the profitability of your operations?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

As we indicated to Matthew, Matt, we're not going to discuss those ongoing negotiations. It's not appropriate right now. There are, of course, ways that we could reduce production for a period of time. Done it before, and we could do it again.

Matt Vittorioso -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Right. I know you guys have done it before, and I'm just trying to ascertain if that were the path, do you get how does that impact your profitability? Do you actually slow production or you just hold on to it? I'm not asking you specifically on any customer negotiation. I'm just saying, for SunCoke, if you were to slow down deliveries, do you slow production? And what does that do to profitability?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We're not able to discuss these actions we may or may not take as a result of these discussions today.

Matt Vittorioso -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you, sir.

Operator

Your next question comes from Lucas Pipes of B. Riley FBR. Your line is open.

Lucas Pipes -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Hey, good morning everyone. Hope you're all doing. I was doing well. I wanted to ask, what are current utilization rates at your coke facilities?

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

They're above I mean, at the end of the quarter, they were at 100%. [Indecipherable] it's slightly above. Yes.

Lucas Pipes -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

And today?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We indicated that our April results were in line with our expectations.

Lucas Pipes -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

So as of right now, you're still producing near kind of full capacity?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

That's correct.

Lucas Pipes -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

That's helpful. And then I appreciate that you pulled guidance for the year. But I wondered if you could kind of maybe just comment on your free cash flow outlook, for lack of a better word, but would you expect to be free cash flow positive even with some of these contract renegotiations?

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So Lucas, we did pull all of our guidance, inclusive of EBITDA and capex and free cash flow guidance. But we could scenario played a number of different events. But in all of those, we are free cash flow positive.

Lucas Pipes -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

That's helpful. That's all I had for now. I appreciate the color and best of luck. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from Nick Jarmoszuk with Stifel. Your line is open.

Nick Jarmoszuk -- Stifel -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. I got on the call late. I apologize if this has been addressed. It sounds like it hasn't, but to the extent that you need to idle any facilities, can you talk about whether you do hot idle, cold idle? And what sort of risks there are to the underlying furnaces in terms of metalworking, keeping the seals on the doors, etc.?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Nick, I think it's extremely unlikely that we would be hot idling any of our facilities as a result of the discussions that are taking place today with our customers. If that were and again, I can't stress enough, that's extremely unlikely, we would be in a hot idle condition. We would either continue to keep the ovens warm by keeping coal in the ovens in a heated state, obviously, or we would keep the ovens hot with natural gas being injected.

Nick Jarmoszuk -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay. And then given the volumes of blast bars that have been idled and not getting into the discussions you're having with the customers, can you talk about what sort of merchant opportunities there are for the coke that may be sitting in excess in North America, whether it can be exported out and what sort of market opportunity there is there?

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

There'd be a very limited opportunity right now. This pandemic that we're experiencing is a global pandemic, and the U.S. fall off in demand is not dissimilar to what's happened throughout the world.

Nick Jarmoszuk -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay. So that's all I had. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] And there are no further questions at this time.

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Good. Thank you all again for joining us in our call this morning and, as always, your continued interest in SunCoke. And we look forward to discussing our company as we continue to evolve and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you again.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 24 minutes

Call participants:

Shantanu Agrawal -- Director of Investor Relations

Michael "Mike" G. Rippey -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Fay West -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Matthew Fields -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Matt Vittorioso -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Lucas Pipes -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Nick Jarmoszuk -- Stifel -- Analyst

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