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GrafTech International Ltd. (EAF) Q2 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribers – Aug 8, 2020 at 10:01AM

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EAF earnings call for the period ending June 30, 2020.

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GrafTech International Ltd. (EAF -0.92%)
Q2 2020 Earnings Call
Aug 7, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the GrafTech International's Second Quarter 2020 Earnings Results Conference Call and Webcast. Please note that all lines are in a listen-only mode. After the presentation, we will open up the call for questions. [Operator Instructions] Please note that this call is being recorded today Thursday, August 6th, 2020, at 4 'o' clock Eastern Daylight Time. I would now like to turn the meeting over to your host for today's call, GrafTech's International's Chief Executive Officer, Dave Rintoul. You may begin.

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Good afternoon and welcome to GrafTech International's second quarter 2020 conference call. On the call with me today is Quinn Coburn, Chief Financial Officer; and Wendy Watson, who is our new Vice President of Investor Relations. Wendy is a seasoned Investor Relations professional and we are excited to welcome her to the GrafTech team. I'll now hand the call over to Wendy.

Wendy Watson -- Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here and I am looking forward to working with GrafTech's investment community. Before we begin today's call, I want to remind you that some of the matters discussed on this call may include forward-looking statements regarding, among other things, results, performance and strategies. These statements are based on current expectations and are subject to risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements are shown here.

We will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, for which you will find reconciliations in these slides. These slides are posted on our website at in the Investors section. For your reference, a replay of the call will also be available on our website. Now I am pleased to turn the call over to Dave.

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Wendy and good afternoon everyone. And thank you for joining us today. I hope this call finds you, your families, and your colleagues healthy. We'll begin, as we always do, with safety, which has become even more important during the pandemic. Health and safety excellence is a core value of GrafTech. Our total recordable injury rate for the first half of 2020 improved significantly to 0.42, a 56% decrease from 2019. We are especially pleased with this as it was achieved in addition to the actions taken in response to COVID-19. This year, the team has been particularly focused on safety tasks involving actions such as the interface between people and mobile machines, pre-test planning, and hands-off practices, just to name a few.

We are extremely pleased with our safety results for the quarter and committed to a culture of continuous improvement. As part of this continuous improvement, we will expand our leading safety indicators to enhance safety awareness going forward. I want to take a moment to thank the team for their continued diligence and hard work in this area. However, the only correct number here is zero. Health and safety is fundamental to our belief that a safe plant provides the foundation to achieve success on the balance of the business metrics.

Turning to Slide 4. We are proactively managing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our executive led COVID-19 response team continues to meet 3 times per week to assess the situation at all of our locations. Travel by team members remains heavily restricted. We have temperature checks in place for personnel entering our facilities. Personal protective equipment is being utilized, including mandatory glove use for 100% of our workforce at operating facilities.

Okay, turning to Slide 5, the actions that we have taken around our COVID-19 protocols have enabled our plans to continue operating safely and effectively. Our organization has quickly adapted to the new normal working environment. Our European plants were the first to adapt and implement new practices as the pandemic hit Europe prior to North America. Our North American plants are currently dealing with the recent surge in COVID-19 infections in both the United States and Mexico.

I'm pleased to be able to say that 99% of our employees remain COVID-19 free to date. Our plants have remained operating through the COVID-19 pandemic and are running at levels to meet our customers' requirements. During these challenging times, we are increasing our efforts to provide the highest level of service to our customers and have achieved an on-time delivery rate of 98% in the second quarter. Our Seadrift facility recently completed its regularly scheduled maintenance outage. This planned bi-annual outage lasted five weeks. Our team safely completed the turnaround on time and on budget with the facility back in operations at the end of July.

Moving to Slide 6. It goes without saying that COVID-19 has significantly impacted the steel industry and steel demand. The World Steel Association recently reported that global steel production outside of China was down 25% in the second quarter from the same period in 2019. Utilization rates have also fallen. As an example in the United States, the utilization rate declined from approximately 80% in Q1 and currently stands at 59%. Steel prices have generally decreased and are more volatile since the pandemic began. Customer destocking efforts have been reduced as operating rates have impacted electro consumption. We continue to expect graphite electrode demand to remain soft for the remainder of 2020.

Turning to Slide 7. As we said on our last call, we are experiencing the impacts associated with challenges currently facing the steel industry. We have received approximately 35 force majeure claims. Some of our customers are struggling to take the volumes they've committed to under our LTAs. Additionally, we've had a few customers fail to perform on their contracts. We are working hard with our customers to develop mutually beneficial solutions.

While we expect to take appropriate measures to ensure the obligations under our contracts are fulfilled, we have been able to modify some of our contracts to provide relief in the near-term while securing additional volumes by extending the contract. We continue to anticipate that our 2020 LTA sales will be in the range of 100,000 metric tons to 115,000 metric tons. Now I'll turn it over to Quinn on Slide 8 for more detail on our second quarter financial results.

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Okay. Thanks, Dave. During the quarter, we produced 33,000 metric tons of graphite electrodes, which is in line with the last quarter. Our capacity utilization was 65%. We shipped 31,000 metric tons as electrode demand was impacted by lower steel operating rates and the impact of COVID-19. Our LTAs accounted for 26,000 metric tons of these deliveries and brings our year-to-date LTA deliveries to 55,000 metric tons.

We sold 5,000 metric tons of electrodes in the spot market in Q2. As we expected, spot prices declined in the second quarter. Our average realized price for non LTA sales was $5,500 per metric ton. Given the current market environment, we expect that spot prices will likely continue to decline in the third quarter.

Now turning to Slide 9. Net income was $93 million, generating $0.35 of earnings per share. Adjusted EBITDA was $151 million. Free cash flow totaled $138 million in the second quarter as we continued to generate strong cash flow. Turning to Slide 10. During the second quarter, we successfully executed on our financial commitments to address the COVID-19 pandemic. We eliminated discretionary spending and reduced our capital expenditures forecast for the year by roughly 50% while continuing to execute on our key strategic initiatives. We right-sized our workforce at our electrode plants to match our current production levels and achieved our target of reducing fixed costs at our electrode plants by 15%.

Turning to Slide 11, we again ended the quarter with a strong liquidity position. Our total liquidity was approximately $435 million, consisting of $188 million of cash and $247 million on our revolving credit facility. We achieved this liquidity while reducing our debt levels by $103 million in the quarter. This provides us with significant financial flexibility as our term loan is not due until 2025 and our next amortization payment is not due until mid-2022. We will continue to use the majority of our free cash flow in 2020 to reduce our debt and maintain balance sheet liquidity. Now I'll hand it back to Dave on Slide 12.

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Quinn. While the global economy, including the steel industry is facing significant challenges in the wake of the current pandemic, we remain confident about the long-term strengths of the electric arc furnace and graphite electrode industries. The EAF industry has several advantages over traditional steelmaking. For example, EAF facilities are more flexible to operate and during this recent downturn, we're able to be idled and restarted quickly and cost effectively. Additionally, environmental considerations will continue to become an increasingly critical issue facing industrial companies and the EAF production yields 75% less carbon emissions than traditional blast furnace type operations. These economic, operational, and environmental advantages put the EAF industry in a strong position to weather this downturn in the short run and to achieve continued solid growth over the long-term.

Turning to Slide 13. As the EAF industry continues to grow, the use of graphite electrodes will continue to grow as well. Graphite electrodes are a mission-critical component to the EAF industry. The electrodes that we manufacture are highly engineered and require extensive process knowledge to produce. The services and solutions that GrafTech provides will help both position our customers and us for a better future. Moving ahead to Slide 14. GrafTech is one of the largest electrode manufacturers in the world. We have taken decisive actions to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our global footprint provides us flexibility should any operating environments become challenged due to further outbreaks.

We have a strong balance sheet and a proven track record of cash flow generation and managing through industry cycles. While we cannot be certain when current difficult macroeconomic conditions will return to normal, we believe GrafTech is very well positioned to weather the challenges of the current environment. That concludes our prepared remarks, and we'll now open the call up for questions.

Questions and Answers:


Thank you, sir. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from David Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets. Your line is open.

David Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, thank you for taking my questions. I'll try and just keep it to one question and then I want to try and turn it into a two-part question, if possible. In terms of the near-term, I'm wondering, spot rates are falling, and there were obviously spot sales in the second quarter. So my first question is -- first part of my question is what spot price would you no longer sell into the spot market? And are you continuing to sell into the spot market in the third quarter?

And then I also have a longer-term -- second part of my question. As of fourth quarter results, the numbers for long-term contracts for '21 and 2022 were 125,000, 117,000 tons sold forward. Average price was $9,700 a metric ton. What are those figures as of now? That's my question. Thank you.

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, so in terms of your question on spot, there's no question that we will be selling spot business in the third quarter, absolutely. We intend to maintain our presence in the marketplace as appropriate. We have many good customers that we intend to maintain that relationship with. And we'll be competitive as a means by which to ensure that our relationship remains both solid and positive as we move into the future.

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Dave. And on the second question, those are the contracted numbers that you referenced for 2021 and 2022. We haven't actually given any guidance beyond those contracted numbers. We haven't tried to assess at this point the number of tons that we will actually realize in 2021 and 2022. Of course, we're doing that internally. We just have -- we're not prepared at this point to have a good estimate to give publicly. As we've talked before, some of the tons that we did not realized this year should come back in future years, and some of the tons in future years will potentially be pushed out.

So we're monitoring that, working that. As we indicated in our release here, we continue to work with customers in a proactive and mutually beneficial way to ensure these volumes are full filled on the contracts, but exactly how that will roll out over the next couple of years, we haven't publicly given any information on that yet.

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think the last part of that answer is the most important part. We're working very hard with a number of our LTA customers that have experienced difficulty as a result of this pandemic. And as any good business partner, we're trying to find ways in which both parties can find an acceptable path into the future, assisting our partner, while at the same time, ensuring that we're being good stewards of our shareholders well-being.

David Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful, thank you. And then just the last one of those questions that I asked, is there a level -- I'm sure is there a level where spot price is just too low to sell and to maintain the relationships? And if so, what is that level?

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, look, at this point, in the evolution of the spot market, our focus is on servicing the customers that we are a good partnership with and in business -- has been in business with for many years because we've been around for a long time and we expect to continue to do that. So I don't think it's prudent for me on this call to put out such a value. So I'll leave that to go with that.


Our next question is from Arun Viswanathan with RBC. Please ask your question. Your line is open.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Sorry about that. I was having trouble with my mute line. Thanks for all the details. I guess, first question, when we're starting to think about this industry, you've referenced a lot of difficulties with your customers are going through some financial difficulties. I guess, maybe you can just discuss the contracting environment there. It looks like you are potentially renegotiating some contracts and securing more volumes for out years. How are those discussions going? I guess, are you able to kind of give us any kind of thoughts on where those contracts are kind of ending up? Are they materially lower than your prior contracts? Are they closer to spot? Yeah, how do we think about the future here?

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So I think the important thing to remember is that there's no one size fits all solution. Every one of the customers that has come to us has their own unique set of circumstances that is driving the components that are important to them. So the complication, but we're working through it, this is not a cookie-cutter exercise. Every one of them is unique and I think that speaks to our efforts and being a good partner that we, in fact, are receptive to ensuring that solutions that we come up with work for both parties and like I said, it's not just cookie cutter.

In terms of -- so therefore, there's no specific that I'm able to give you because each one of them is a bit different, but I did say something in answering a previous question that I think is important, as we strive to solve and work through issues in the near-term for our customers, we also take very seriously our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders. So we try to work hard to come up with win-win solutions where the responsibility to the shareholders are not forgotten while we're trying to navigate near-term solutions for our customers.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay and then maybe two areas more. So first, on the cost side, presumably, you've seen some relief in certain raw materials. So maybe you can just discuss that. And again, are there other cost actions that you're taking, both temporarily and structurally? And if you could speak to those? How should we think about the costs that you guys are taking out that are structural, would those be a benefit to earnings in '21?

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure, Arun. So as we noted in our comments, we were able to reduce our fixed manufacturing costs for our electrodes by 15%, which we were very pleased with and those are production costs in the quarter. And so the benefit of those reduced costs would go to inventory in the current quarter and would roll through the P&L in future quarters. So that will accrue. And then you're right, on the raw materials side, third-party needle coke has softened over time. And with the lower volumes, we've used less third-party needle coke and so we've had a bit of a benefit there in terms of the average cost of coke in our electrodes, and that should also continue to improve somewhat over time. So we've got those two factors working in our favor going forward.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

And then just lastly, on I guess how you're thinking about the capital structure? You did have an event in the quarter. So maybe you can just discuss that sale down by your majority shareholder to the owners of that consortium? And then also maybe what does that imply I guess going forward from a capital return standpoint and/or your preference for deleveraging? How are you thinking about using free cash flow?

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So first, on the distribution from Brookfield, obviously, that doesn't impact us directly, except that it does increase the public flow, which we think is a long-term positive increase in enhancing the liquidity in our stock. It did result in the public float increasing from approximately 25% to 35% and conversely, Brookfield's consortium control position reduced from 75% to 65%. So in general, the increase in liquidity, we think, is a positive for our shareholders over the long-term, but other than that, we really are not directly involved in those decisions and other than that impact not directly impacted by that.

To your second question on the overall capital structure, as we've talked to previously, the way we think about our overall capital structure and our debt levels is that we want to manage our overall debt level in line with the visibility that we have to our cash flows and specifically to the long-term agreements that we have. We have set a leverage ratio target that would be something not to exceed 2 times to 2.5 times. At the end of the quarter here, our net leverage ratio was 1.9 times. So we're slightly below that range, and we're comfortable being below that range. We would [Phonetic] want to exceed that range. And as was indicated before, we plan to be prudent in our balance sheet management. We plan to ensure financial strength and flexibility. I think that's even more important during this uncertain period of time with the pandemic and the uncertainty around the length of it and the overall impact on the economy and the steel industry.

So we absolutely plan to prioritize balance sheet flexibility and ensure financial strength, and therefore, we'll continue to use the majority of our cash flow to pay down debt over the rest of the year. As we note in our press release, we do on an ongoing basis discuss capital structure with our Board of Directors and we will continue to examine opportunities to repurchase stock but as we've indicated, the priority will be balance sheet strength.


That is all the time we have for questions today. I will turn it back to the speakers for concluding remarks.

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thank you, operator. In conclusion, GrafTech is well positioned to be resilient through these current macroeconomic conditions. And we are committed to providing our customers with reliable service through any challenges that lay ahead. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone on this call continued health and safety in the coming months. Again, thank you for your interest in GrafTech and we look forward to speaking with you next quarter. Thank you.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 27 minutes

Call participants:

David J. Rintoul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Wendy Watson -- Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

David Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

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