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Silgan Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:SLGN)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Jan 27, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Thank you for joining the Silgan Holdings Fourth Quarter and Full-Year 2020 Earnings Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions].

At this time, I'd like to to turn the call over to Kim Ulmer, Vice President, Finance and Treasurer. Please go ahead.

Kimberly I. Ulmer -- Vice President, Finance and Treasurer

Thank you. Joining me from the company today, I have Tony Allott, Chairman and CEO, Adam Greenlee, President and COO, and Bob Lewis, EVP and CFO.

Before we begin the call today, we would like to make it clear that certain statements made today on this conference call may be forward-looking statement. These forward-looking statements are made based upon management's expectations and beliefs concerning future events impacting the Company and therefore, involve a number of uncertainties and risks, including, but not limited to, those described in the Company's annual report on Form 10-K for 2019 and other filings with the SEC. Therefore, the actual results of operations or financial condition of the Company could differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements.

With that, I'll turn it over to Tony.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Kim. Welcome everyone to Silgan's 2020 year-end conference call. With 2020 in our rearview and with high hopes of putting challenges of 2020 behind us, I want to thank the entire Silgan team, point out a few of the 2020 highlights and provide a brief preview of our 2021 outlook. Bob will then review the financial performance for the full year and fourth quarter and provide more detail around the 2020 outlook. Afterwards, as usual, Bob, Adam, and I would be pleased to take any questions that you have.

Let me start by expressing our gratitude and deep respect for the entire Silgan team who rose to the challenges during these unprecedented times to meet the expanding needs of our customers supplying essential products to our vulnerable communities. Throughout this pandemic our employees have repeatedly demonstrated their strength, commitment and the power of our performance-based culture as they did everything possible to ensure we met these unprecedented demands. As a result, we were able to achieved several milestones in 2020 and are well positioned for further growth in 2021. As covered in our press release 2020 was an exceptional year for the company, some of the highlights included, we achieved record financial performance across the board, including revenue, which increased to $4.9 billion with strong volumes experienced throughout the year. Adjusted net income per diluted share of $3.06 was up 42% versus the prior year. Free cash flow of $383.5 million or $3.44 per diluted share were at record levels.

We attained our target leverage ratio just seven months post the recent acquisition, position the company to take advantage of future cash deployment opportunities and we increased our cash dividend for the 16th consecutive year. While achieving these performance metrics, we also invested in several important growth initiatives, including completing the acquisition and integration of the dispensing operations Albea Group. Initiating commercial supply for a major pet food customer expansion in Eastern Europe, managing several significant new business wins in the plastic container business, which are expected to generate further growth in 2021 and beyond. Initiating several capacity expansion projects for dispensing triggers and pumps to support significant customer growth anticipated in health and hygiene product offerings and meeting customers increased need for local production.

Simply put, our business franchises have never been stronger, our employees never more resolute and our confidence in the future never more resolved. Therefore, as Bob will discuss in more detail, we're providing full-year guidance for adjusted earnings per diluted share in the range of $3.30 to $3.45. The midpoint of this range represents a 10.3% increase over 2020. We also expect free cash flow to again be approximately $380 million.

With that, I'll turn it over to Bob.

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Tony. Good morning, everyone. As Tony highlighted, volumes remained strong throughout 2020 as we benefited from more at-home consumption, a trend of more stringent, personal hygiene habit and several strategic investments in new business. All are overcoming the challenges of keeping our workforce safe and integrating a newly acquired business. As a result in 2020, we delivered adjusted earnings per diluted share of $3.06 and we delivered free cash flow of $383.5 million, significantly better than the prior year of $271.7 million.

On a consolidated basis, net sales for the year were $4,920,000,000, an increase of $432 million or 9.6% over the prior year. This increase was the result of higher net sales across each of our businesses. We converted these sales to net income for the year of $308.7 million or $2.77 per diluted share as compared to 2019 net income of $193.8 million or $1.74 per diluted share. In 2020 adjusted earnings per diluted share included adjustments that increased earnings per diluted share by $0.29 for rationalization charges, costs attributable to announced acquisitions, the purchase accounting write-up of inventory and the loss on early extinguishment of debt.

In 2019, adjusted earnings per diluted share included adjustments that increased earnings per diluted share by $0.42 for restructuring charges, costs attributable to announced acquisitions and a loss on early extinguishment of debt. As a result adjusted net income per diluted share was $3.06 in 2020, up 42% versus $2.16 in the prior year. Interest expense before loss on early extinguishment of debt decreased $1.9 million to $103.8 million, primarily due to the lower weighted average interest rates, partially offset by higher average outstanding borrowings, primarily related to the recent acquisitions and additional revolving loans outstanding in the early part of 2020 as we held cash to guard against potential credit market disruptions in the early days of COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, we incurred a loss on early extinguishment of debt of $1.5 million and $1.7 million in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Our effective tax rate was 24.2% and 23.1% in 2020 and 2019, respectively. The effective rate for 2019 was favorably impacted by the resolution of a prior-year tax audit and the timing of certain tax deduction. Full-year capital expenditures totaled $224.2 million in 2020 versus $230.1 million in 2019. Additionally, we paid a quarterly dividend of $0.12 per share in December, the total cash cost of the dividend was $13.2 million. For the full year we returned $53.6 million to shareholders in the forms of dividend and in addition, during the year we repurchased stock in the amount of $35.9 million.

I'll now provide some specifics regarding the individual financial performance of each of our businesses. The metal container business recorded net sales of $2,560,000,000, up $84.8 million versus the prior year. The increase was primarily due to higher unit volumes of approximately 14% and favorable foreign currency translation of approximately $4 million, partially offset by the pass through of lower raw material costs, a continued shift toward smaller metal packages sold, and the impact from the renewal of certain significant customer contracts at the end of 2019.

The increase in unit volumes was was principally due to a higher demand in at-home consumption. Segment income in the metal container business was $246.6 million, an increase of $86.6 million versus the prior year. This increase was primarily attributable to higher unit volumes, $39.5 million of lower rationalization charges, strong operating performance and higher pension income. These increases were partially offset by the impact from the renewal of certain significant customer contracts at the end of 2019 and a shift toward smaller metal packages sold.

Rationalization charges totaled $9.9 million and $49.4 million in 2020 and 2019, respectively. The 2019 rationalization charges were largely a result of the shutdown of two manufacturing facilities and the withdrawal from the Central States Pension Plan.

Net sales in the closures business were $1,710,000,000 in 2020, an increase of $306.8 million versus the prior year. The increase was primarily the result of higher unit volumes of approximately 8%, and a more favorable mix of products sold, partially offset by the pass through of lower raw material costs and unfavorable foreign currency translation of approximately $4 million.

Unit volumes increased principally as a result of the inclusion of the two recent acquisitions and increased demand for consumer hygiene, health, personal care and food and beverage products. These volume gains were partially offset by weaker demand for certain beauty and fragrance products.

Segment income in the closures business for 2020 improved $50.9 million to $224.4 million, primarily due to higher unit volumes, including from acquisitions completed in 2020, a more favorable mix of products sold, strong operating performance and higher pension income, partially offset by the negative impact of a $3.5 million charge for the purchase accounting write-up of inventory as a result of the acquisitions completed during the year.

Net sales in the plastic container business increased $40.4 million to $655 million in 2020, principally due to higher volumes of approximately 11%, partially offset by the pass through of lower raw material costs, a less favorable mix of products sold and unfavorable foreign currency translation of approximately $1 million.

Segment income increased $38.9 million to $87.8 million for the year, largely attributable to higher volumes, strong operating performance, lower manufacturing cost and higher pension income, partially offset by the unfavorable impact of $3.2 million charge for a non-commercial legal dispute relating to prior periods and the unfavorable impact from the lagged pass through the customers of higher resin costs.

As we look at the fourth quarter, the fourth quarter reported earnings per diluted share of $0.54 as compared to $0.31 in the prior year. Earnings per diluted share was increased by $0.06 in 2020 and by $0.07 in 2019, resulting in adjusted earnings per diluted share of $0.60 in the fourth quarter of 2020 versus $0.38 in the same period a year ago.

Net sales for the quarter were $1,230,000,000, up $178.3 million versus the prior year, driven primarily by higher volumes in each of the businesses, a more favorable mix of products sold in closures and favorable foreign currency translation of approximately $10 million. These increases were partly offset by the pass through of lower raw material costs and a continued shift toward smaller metal packages sold in the metal containers business.

The increase in volumes were principally due to the inclusion of the acquired businesses and continued high demands for food, consumer health, hygiene and personal care products. Interest income -- interest before interest and income taxes for the fourth quarter of 2020 increased by $33.6 million to $105 million, primarily due to higher volumes and strong operating performance across all businesses.

Higher pension income, a more favorable mix of products sold in the closures of plastic businesses and higher costs in 2019 attributable to announced acquisitions. These gains were partially offset by a continued shift toward smaller metal packages sold in metal container business. The impact from the renewal of certain customer contracts at the end of 2019, the unfavorable impact from the lagged pass through to customers of higher resin costs in the plastic container and closure businesses, and higher rationalization charges in 2020.

Interest expense for the fourth quarter of 2020 increased $3.4 million to $26.8 million as a result of higher average outstanding borrowings, largely due to the acquisitions completed in June, partially offset by lower weighted average interest rates. Effective tax rate for the fourth quarter of 2020 was $23.2 million as compared to $27.5 million in 2019.

Turning now to our outlook for 2021, our estimate of adjusted earnings per diluted share for 2021 is a range of $3.30 to $3.45, the midpoint representing a 10.3% increase over record adjusted earnings per share of $3.06 for the full year of 2020.

Reflected in our estimate for 2021 are the following, segment income in the metal container business is forecasted to benefit from anticipated higher volumes, continued manufacturing improvements, and higher pension income. The closures business is expected to benefit from anticipated higher volumes including the full-year benefit from the acquisition, some back half recovery in the beauty and fragrance markets and new business gains as well as improved manufacturing efficiencies and higher pension income. We're expecting the plastic container business to benefit from anticipated volume gains, manufacturing efficiencies and higher pension income.

In addition, we expect interest expense to increase versus 2020, largely as a result of higher average outstanding borrowings, as a result of the June 2020 acquisition partially offset by lower average interest rates. We currently expect our tax rate to be approximately 25% as compared to the effective rate of 24.2% in 2020, this estimate does not contemplate the effect of any tax law changes that may arise during the year.

Also we expect capital expenditures in 2021 to be approximately $230 million, up slightly from 2020 as we have a full year of the dispensing business acquired from Albea and we fund certain customer growth projects. We're also providing a first quarter 2021 estimate of adjusted earnings in the range of $65 to $0.75 per diluted share. The midpoint of this range represents a 23% increase over $0.57, in the first quarter of 2020. These estimates exclude rationalization charges costs attributable to announced acquisitions and losses on early extinguishment of debt. Based on our current outlook for 2021, we expect free cash flow to be pretty stable and are providing an estimate of approximately $380 million as earnings growth is largely offset by slightly higher capex and less cash generated from working capital.

That concludes our prepared comments. Before I turn it over, I'd like to remind everyone to limit their time to one question and one follow as time permits, we'll take additional questions from the queue. With that, I'll now turn it over to Madison to provide directions for the Q&A session.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We can go ahead and take our first question from Adam Josephson with KeyBanc.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, everyone and congrats -- thanks. Good morning, everyone and congrats on another very good quarter.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thank Adam. Thanks.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Bob, may be sense to ask about pension for us, but if memory serves you were thinking that pension would be a $10 million to $15 million drag in '21 on your last call and now you're expecting higher pension income in '21. So can you just talk about how much of a swing in expectations you've had from the last call and what drove that.

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, well, it's all directly related to what happened in the equity markets, or in the markets broadly in the final throes of the year. So, at the time of our last call, obviously, the market was not performing very well and returns on the portfolio of pension assets were not that great. We've seen a really nice recovery, so that has really swung us including a degradation in the discount rate which quite frankly hurts us. The net of that is we saw it moved from what we expected to be a hub, a pension headwind of about $10 million or so to being a benefit in pension. about $10 million or so to being a benefit in pension to be in the neighborhood of $10 million.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. That helps. And then can you be any more specific about your volume expectations in '21, I believe you said you expect your food can volume to be up even on the exceptionally difficult comp, I know, you said, you expect plastics volumes to be up, closures, -- I didn't catch what your organic volume expectations were for closures for '21, so can you just provide as much detail as you can about what rate of volume growth organically you're expecting in '21 and why?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Sure. Hey Adam, it is Adam, and thanks for the comments and question. Maybe just starting with our metal food can business, to start with your '21, we talked a lot on the last call, just about the run rate of the business and the run rate of the volumes we were experiencing. So as we head into the year, we were essentially running at full capacity in Q2, Q3 and Q4. And the pandemic didn't really impact our metal food can business until very late in Q1 and certainly in Q2. So we talked about the shoulders of the year, that, that's where our capacity exists and that's absolutely the case as we look at '21. So the good news is we came out of the year with great momentum in Q4. It was our second highest unit volume quarter of the year and our orders are fully loaded for Q1. So we know, as we sit here today, that our Q1 volume is going to look a lot like our Q4 volume. Mix might shift a little bit, but the absolute volume is going to be up pretty significantly versus 2020 and then that will carry over the course of the year. I mean we've got a tough comp in Q2, so just as a reminder, as some of that pandemic buying did occur in early part of Q2, we were able to liquidate quite a bit of our inventory. So while we were running and selling whatever it was that we were actually manufacturing, we also sold out the inventory. So --- and then maybe move into Q3 and the metal can business -- we talked a lot about the packs. The pack was not really able to respond in a large way, our customers weren't able to respond in a large way to the increased demands of the pandemic. So while we don't have final numbers yet for pack volumes, we do know and we work with our customers very closely on this, we know that they're planning a sizable increase to their pack volumes in the U.S. We know they are going to contract additional acreage in the U.S. And they're expecting a really good pack for the year. So I think those items altogether, Adam, is what gives us a lot of confidence in our metal container business that will see continued strength over the course of the year.

And then maybe now let's move to closures. The first thing about closures is obviously we have the acquisitions in 2020. We had seven months of those, we will have a full 12-months in 2021. When we talk about the fragrance business, specifically with Albea, we're expecting a recovery of something like half of the detriment that we experienced in 2020 and when you think about that, on our last call we said we were seeing some positive signs but didn't want to get too far in front of ourselves. We were down in the fragrance business, call it 30-ish percent in Q2 and Q3 and we did start to see improvement in Q4. So our orders are a little bit stronger in Q1 as well.

So we feel really good about the Albea business in the fit with Silgan and then maybe moving back a step to our legacy dispensing systems business. We saw another 15% growth in Q4 in the legacy business, excluding Albea. The business continues to perform at an exceptionally high level, that's been very consistent through the back half of 2020 and we're expecting that to be consistent through 2021 as well. One other item we didn't talk that much about in our closures business was our kind of hot-fill plastic closures for sports drinks and ready-to-drink teas. We did see nice growth in 2020. We were up high-single digits in that business again. And that's going to continue again next year, maybe not quite at the same rate but we're expecting, kind of, our traditional growth rate for our hot-fill plastics segment.

And then maybe moving to the plastics to finish off the conversation. We continue to execute and win in the markets that we're serving in our plastics business. Our performance has been exceptional. We're being rewarded with new business wins. Our team has done a great job of meeting those unique needs of our customers and I think when you just look at the annualization of the business wins that we commercialized in 2020, and the new business wins that we have coming on in 2021, with some additional growth in our core markets, we feel really good about our plastic business too. So very long answer, Adam, I apologize, but --

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

No. Thank you.

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

There's a lot more[Phonetic] to it and we feel really good about where we're going in '21 and beyond.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks a lot, Adam. I will get back in the queue.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We'll go ahead and take our next question from Mark Wilde with Bank of Montreal. Please go ahead.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning everyone. Tony, I had a portfolio question. You've made a number of moves particularly to expand closures and dispensers in recent years and this has shrunk the amount of your businesses in metal food cans, just help us understand how you would think about potentially toggling the portfolio back toward food cans over time.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Sure Mark. So first of all what you've said is true. We certainly have invested a lot in last couple of years in the dispensing systems side of our business, particularly in closures. In fact, if you look this year, the metric we watched the most is EBITDA of business. In fact, essentially the closure business was the same EBITDA as our can business this year and based on everything Adam just took you through, our expectation right now is that, that closures will be a bigger business than food cans to us next year. So I think that is a telling difference that might lead you to think that, that means that we're moving away from food cans in any way. That's not the case. What we've been doing for a long time is taking high cash generation and deploying it in areas where we think we can get really good high cash returns for our shareholders. That has happened to be more in the dispensing area and we're glad it has been, it's been great. But as we look at the portfolio, we -- as I said, we really never feel like we've been in the spot where all of our franchises are as strong as they are right now.

Plastics has done a wonderful job of showing themselves to the market in a trying time and they are being rewarded, as Adam just said, in contracts, etc. The dispensing systems business already was known to be a premier supplier of that market and they proved it again. And so they are being rewarded and we said in our press release, we are making investments there to expand capacity to meet this increased demand. So we see a lot of growth opportunities on both of those two sides, which again are the bigger part of what Silgan is today. But with that said -- we also have always like food cans. We know that the market, sort of, struggles with the organic growth of food can, we don't. And I'm taking away what's happened this last year. But to us it's been strong cash flow, good opportunity. Yes, given our share in the markets we are in, acquisition has been a little bit tougher to find, but it's been a great business for us in terms of generating cash and opportunities going forward and that's how we think about it as we go forward. So I think we would say any one of those areas, in rigid packaging, high cash return bit our portfolio thoughts going forward.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay. And if I could just, kind of, follow-on on the can business. Is it possible that for you to continue to grow revenues and earnings in food cans in spite of the shift toward smaller and lower price cans over time?

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Absolutely. In fact that's what we've been talking about for a couple of years, is that -- and it's a good question. What our feeling was all along that we are going to look at a growth curve for our can business, because the markets that we were in, in a substantial way, had been growing. So we'll take pet food or protein as examples. We've got meaningful share in those. They have become a much bigger part of our overall can portfolio and they've been growing steadily. So we never would've thought we are going to see a change in direction of growth, we just knew that the mix of our portfolio was getting more and more to growth can market. So we do view there has been growth opportunity in our can business, first off. Secondly, now we've got to kind of come back to COVID, so that's the historical answer. Now we've hit COVID and as Adam just went through, what has happened is -- not just about pantry stuffing, etc. of course that's there. And yes, that's going to set a tough comp for us in Q2. But what's happened since then is continued strong demand for cans. People are using cans right now that weren't using them before. They're being exposed to them. They're realizing that the food is good that it's -- many are saying, wow, this is more sustainable. We're helping and our customers are helping to send that message. So I think on top of what you just said about the mix of our portfolio, more to areas that have growth portfolio more two areas that have growth. You also have sort of a new dynamic of people rethinking their view of food can. And so all of that fits here and it's part of why we like -- mean we like the food cans as before and we like it a lot now.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough, I'll turn it over.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Mark.

Operator

Alright, we'll go ahead and take our next question from Gabe Hajde with Wells Fargo Securities. Please go ahead.

Gabe Hajde -- Fargo Securities Inc -- Analyst

Tony, Bob, and Adam good morning. Hope you and your families are well.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Hi Gabe, good morning.

Gabe Hajde -- Fargo Securities Inc -- Analyst

I had a question that was on the inflation side and then something that's probably a little bit more pronounced than it was the last time we spoke in October and I guess maybe if you can give us a look at it from two different angles, one is kind of on the raw material front, as you guys had called out it's been a Q1 headwind and I'm assuming that's mostly centered in the plastics business but just how the pass through mechanisms, if you can remind us, how those work and so what you're anticipating maybe for the full year in terms of overalls on the resin side and then even on a tinplate steel.

And then some of your input costs, again, I know that in metal food, you have some pretty efficient pass through mechanisms for freight and coatings labor, etc. on it just, how are the price cost may shake out by segment?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Hey Gabe, it's Adam. You're right. Maybe I'll just end with your last comment. We do have very good pass through mechanisms for literally all of those inflationary items that you've talked about particularly in the food can business. So, maybe to start with steel for a moment, we are expecting kind of high-single digit to low-double digit increase in our steel costs for the year. Again, as a reminder, that's a direct pass through to our customers of that inflation. So that's an item for the food can but not so much for Silgan. You think about coating systems and freight and some of the other consumable items that we experience in our Steel business, again, I'd say for the most part, that inflation does get pass through to our customers and it depends upon the contract and the language of the specific contract, but for the most part those items get passed through. Switching back to our plastics business and our closures business, that are a little more resin based, we did call out that we had a slightly unfavorable resin impact in Q4 and it is expected to be an unfavorable impact in Q1 given the recent announcements of increases to our primary resin. So our pass through mechanisms for resin again, it varies a little bit by business, I think you can think of it broadly as they are index-based with either IHS or CDI and those are going to be on anywhere from a 30 to 45-day lag, maybe a 60-day lag depending upon the agreement.

So, but those costs are all pass through to the markets and the issue that we have in Q4 and Q1 is when you have a significant spike in resin costs, like we experienced in Q4 and then again here in Q1, it just takes time to get those cost pass through to the market.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, the only add I would make that is everything Adam said is spot on, he didn't mean it this way but let's just be clear that just because we can pass through our customers doesn't mean it's not a problem for our customers, so we fight tooth and nail to avoid this inflation, so what Adam's given you is kind of net answer of that, but I just want to make it clear that pass it through to the customers doesn't help our customers trying to keep this inflation down as much as we possibly can is what's important for our customers.

Gabe Hajde -- Fargo Securities Inc -- Analyst

Thank you, Tony and Adam. And then I guess the next question, you gave us a lot of detail, Adam, on the volume front, I'm just curious, specifically in metal food if you have any insight in terms of customer inventories. I mean I try to look at the balance sheet and it doesn't look like inventories are up that much, which would kind of coincide with what you said in terms of a lot of what you were making was getting sold through. And so maybe to the extent that production this year may in fact need to be full in quite kind of, full out just to maintain and then maybe replenish your inventories into customers, especially with the increased car planning's etc. So does that imply that volumes will be up in fact in metal food, is that what you're budgeting or how we think about it?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, it's a great question. So as we sit here today, we are seeing -- or expecting a slight increase in our volumes year-over-year in '21 and I think you're right, Gabe. We do not see a supply chain replenishment right now of inventory. What we do know is we've spent a lot of time with our customers trying to understand what's going on at the consumer level, they are spending a lot of time trying to understand what's going on at the consumer level. We have new consumers for food cans, as Tony just said. And what we've seen now, we're a year into a global pandemic, we don't believe and our customers don't believe that those cans are sitting in someone's pantry. So those new consumers are actually using food cans and we've seen an increase -- our customers specifically have seen an increase in the repurchase rate of those new consumers. So all of that is part of what gives us confidence for 2021 and then I think you hit the right point at the end of your question, Gabe. Another item that gives us confidence is that we're not planning for an inventory replenishment to really occur in 2021, but if it does, we're still going to have to make basically the same number of cans. So whether those cans gets sold through to a consumer or replenish inventory somewhere in the supply chain, that's got to happen at least in late '21 or beyond, because we think the consumer is using the can at a much higher frequency today than they were a year ago.

Gabe Hajde -- Fargo Securities Inc -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

All right. We can go ahead and take our next question from Salvator Tiano with Seaport Global. Please go ahead.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Yeah. Hi, Tony. Adam, Bob and congratulations on a great quarter.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

So firstly, I wanted to touch base again, it will be on the food can volumes and see what are your expectations after 2021, it seems you're saying it's not really restocking that you're seeing in Q4 or what you're expecting 2021. So is it safe to assume that as we look past that the year you will believe your volumes can remain flattish. And then we can return to kind of their regular level that you're presenting your slide with some growth in pet food, perhaps stability or some declines in other markets. Is that how we should think for 2022 and afterwards?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Sure. Again, it's a great question and I think I would say we're in early days of 2021. So it's a little odd for us to be talking about volumes out in '22. But I think you've got it right. We think that at some point the supply chain does have to be replenished with inventory and that's our inventory, our customers' inventory, retail inventory, distribution, warehouse, etc. So we're not expecting that to really happen in '21. So if there were a slight pullback from the consumer, and maybe we always say that the restaurant really is our biggest competition in food cans and if restaurant comps start going up and the consumer may be pulls back a bit from the can, there is a significant amount of inventory that still needs to be rebuilt here to replenish the system. And I would look at 2022 again it's early, we'll see what happens, but I would say that's probably the earliest if that would really happened with our outlook today.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Okay, perfect. And then a little bit on capital allocation. You did make it very clear, you're looking now at acquisitions. Firstly, I wanted to understand a little bit, what are your limitations with the leverage, what would be your kind of limit, if you're looking at any acquisitions. And obviously, if you think you can do something in the first half of 2021 given the seasonal working capital. And then if you can just talk a little bit about the pros and cons of M&A versus buybacks, especially with the free cash flow yield of the stock at around 9% -10%, right now.

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, good question, Sal. This is Bob. Look, there is really no change in strategy here. We have long been disciplined about thinking about our balance sheet in kind of a 2.5 to 3.5 time, year-end net debt to EBITDA leverage. We're kind of right at the top end of that as we exit the year, having having spent a lot of time and very efficiently integrated the acquisitions that we did in 2020. So feeling pretty good about the bandwidth of the broader organization to take on another opportunity. Look, I think we've never been shy about saying our M&A strategy is very disciplined. Returns matter, industrial logic matters, so it's all about finding opportunities that fit into rigid packaging for consumer goods that earn the right kind of returns. So if they present themselves, we'd be very happy to take advantage, if they don't then look we've got some room to be patient here and perhaps delever a bit. We have not typically done large share repurchases, unless we are at the lower end of that leverage. During periods where the market may get dislocated around the valuation. Would we take advantage of that? Sure. But I think our discipline and our patience here is how we've created a lot of value over time. And I don't think we're necessarily going to change that.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Great, thank you very much.

Operator

We'll take our next question from Anthony Pettinari with Citi. Please go ahead.

Anthony Pettinari -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Good morning.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Morning Anthony.

Anthony Pettinari -- Citigroup -- Analyst

With -- Hey, with the expectation to grow volumes over a very strong 2020 can you talk a little bit about your footprint in metal containers. Are you basically running full out or do you need to debottleneck or maybe add capacity in any categories given the mix shift you just talked about. And then just -- on that expectation for volume growth in food cans -- you've talked about the change in consumer behavior. Is it fair to say you're seeing, sort of, investments made by large customers that are reflecting that either in the filling lines or new brands or other investments. I'm just wondering if you can give any color there if you can.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Maybe I'll start with the second one first. So our customers have really been focused on getting full utilization out of the assets that they have, to meet the unique needs of the consumers and cans goods at this point. So I think we're starting to have some of those conversations. But really, right now, it's been more focused on utilizing the capacity that is available in the market as it sits today. So -- and then I think when you come back to our footprint at Silgan, obviously we had announced our footprint optimization program in 2019. And we've obviously put that on a pause now. I think that as we sit here today, our capacity is pretty well in line with our customers' filling capacity, so we are experiencing some out of orbit freight and those kinds of things and a little bit of upset to our manufacturing system, but we've done a great job of getting cans where they need to be for our customers to fill and get to the market. So I don't think there is anything that we would change per se in the short-term about our our footprints or want to add capacity at this point, but we're working very closely with our customers, understanding what their forward looks are as well as I think about their products.

Anthony Pettinari -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Okay, that's very helpful. And then just switching gears, Adam, can you talk a little bit about the pathway to recovery for beauty in 2021 just in terms of when that business first got hit, the percentage, may be that you're selling to North America versus Europe versus Asia, are you seeing any signs of improvement in any region. Just a sort of a visibility that you have into demand in that market.

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Sure, good question. So maybe let's just focus on fragrance specifically and say with travel restrictions that were put in place relatively early in the year of 2020 that did have a significant impact on our fragrance business. Again at the time most of our customers had products going through retail outlets and a good portion of that was in travel retail, others were in shopping malls, etc., so with the lockdowns that we've experienced around the world, it's had -- that's really been the driving force in the weakness of our fragrance products. As we look around the world, the markets that had got impacted most severely, I think I'd start in Europe first followed by North America. What gives us a positive view on this is what happened in South America, particularly in Brazil, the largest market in South America. We saw a very rapid recovery in our fragrance market in Brazil as they reopen their economy, as travel started to occur again. So we feel like we've seen progress in South America, we've seen progress in Asia, and then again, as I said, so much of our fragrance products, a year ago went through some sort of on-premise retail channel. We spent a lot of time with our customers in fragrance talking about ways to reach their consumers and moving to more of an e-commerce platform, new ideas with sampler, they go direct-to-consumers. So we've seen a nice uptick in the e-commerce channel for fragrance as well. And then finally, what I would tell you again, I said it a few minutes ago that we at the height of the pandemic, our fragrance volumes were down something in the 30% range and in Q3, we saw a little bit of improvement to that. We saw improvements to that again in Q4 and we feel pretty good that there is going to be a recovery in 2021. We're pushing that toward the back half of the year and as we said earlier, we're expecting roughly half of, kind of, a detriment we experienced in 2020 to recover for '21.

Anthony Pettinari -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Okay, that's very helpful. I'll turn it over.

Operator

All right. We can take our next question from George Staphos with Bank of America. Please go ahead.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thanks. Hi, everyone, good morning.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Hey George.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Congratulations on the year, everybody. I guess my first question, I want to come back to metal food and I realize we've already covered this ground a little bit, but from our trade research, I mean what we're hearing is customers are really trying to refill the pipeline, perhaps they can't because there isn't an unavailability of capacity, but we are hearing that they are trying to refill. Is there a way that you could somehow index what your shipments might look like this year, relative to consumption. I know it's a hard question, I just wanted to get some qualitative on that and to what degree your customers are planning on increasing plantings, maybe as another proxy for pipeline refill relative consumption? And then I had a nitty-gritty question on earnings. Thanks guys.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

George. So first of all, you're right that it's impossible really to answer that question. But we can give you sort of the qualitative on it. I think our customers are hoping to rebuild because they have been running absolutely bare shelved and inefficiently, and so I think without doubt they would like to refill. We are not assuming they're going to be able to do that. We are assuming that the market -- the pull from the market will be strong enough that they will -- that there won't be significant rail in 2021. That's our -- that's how we've built the thing. So we'll see. What Adam had said is that for sure, we are hearing that the plantings, the contracts for land, etc., are up. So when you talk of fruit and vegetable market, for example, the sense is that they -- there is a desire to pack more, whether that is to restock or to sell it is probably yet to be determined. They'll probably thinking it's restock. I think what we know is that there just wasn't enough product last year. There would have been greater sales for our customers had there been more products. So it's almost impossible to answer what will the market take when you have more out there. So again, our assumptions that will get consumed that we'll go into 2022 with -- it's still a need to rebuild. I think the point Adam made, which I think is a really important one is the reason we're as optimistic as we are about 2021 is, even if that's wrong and the markets aren't quite as robust as ever, then you'll get that rebuild. That's sort of our view is that there is sort of two ways to get there this year. And as the year develops, we'll know more about what we're thinking for 2022.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay. And Tony, if I could ask a follow-on to that and then my second question, just could you quantify what the effect of the new volume in Europe? I think you said. Eastern Europe is in terms of your overall volume outlook for metal food for '21. And then my other question just in terms of the earnings outlook for this year. I appreciate that you talked about the benefit you'll get from pension, I noticed that inventory was flat 4Q versus 3Q. Not always, but typically, it is down. Is there any strategic purchasing there that might give you some inventory gains that we should just have in the back of our mind for modeling purposes, for 2021 and then also if you could help us just what's the outlook on depreciation for '21, recognizing there are a lot of things that go into it FX etc. Again, so that we can bridge from free cash flow to earnings. Thanks guys and good luck in the quarter.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks. So on the, I think on the Europe is, what we want to do is convey to you that that we are seeing global customer expansion and taking advantage that with our European business. I don't think traditionally we have given the kind of level of detail of a particular customers gains on that. So I think we'll stay away from that, it's important enough that it's a whole new production sail worth mentioning.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Fair enough.

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. George on the inventory line. I think what may be skewing you're, what you're seeing is you got to remember that you've got incremental inventory from the Albea business in this fourth quarter, that you didn't have in the prior year. So you're getting a

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

No no but sequentially, Bob, usually inventories declined. So that's why comparing 4Q versus 3Q.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Actually, I don't. I think that was true last year because we did some inventory reduction Q4 would normally not be, it's actually is not a very predictable year in that regard -- sorry predictable quarter. It kind of depends what we're getting ready for the year before that. So if there was ever a volatile quarter on inventory movement, it'd be Q4.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay. But it sounds like there's not much in the way of inventory gains for next year. So there's nothing we should really worry about?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

That -- that's --

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, that's right.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. That's correct.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay guys, thanks. I'll turn it over.

Operator

Okay. We'll take our next question from Arun Viswanathan with RBC. Please go ahead.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great, thanks. Good morning. Congratulations on the great performance. I guess, first off, I want to ask about the margin performance, nice drop-down of the sales gain into the incremental margin side. Obviously, that's going to be affected by the pass through of raw materials in '21, and so percent margins will likely come down.

But could you just, maybe just give us an outlook on maybe the temp cost that you gained in '20 and how much of that is maybe coming back in '21 and then maybe also freight, if those would impact your incremental margins? Thanks.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Well, there's a lot to that question. So, I mean, if you look at 2020 margins were really good for a couple of reasons where you had a heavy increase in volume and a system that really couldn't be expanded cost wise for that. So you'd actually scale that up. You also, as Adam said, when you guys -- when you're looking at Q2, I want to warn you again, particularly for our can business, it's a tough comp in Q2, right, because Q2 was, if there was a pantry stuff in my language, that happened in mostly in Q2.

The rest of it is more change of behavior. So we're going to cycle that on the can business side. But also as we said in that quarter, we basically -- demand was so high across the board. And we had inventory in that quarter. So we kind of, we got the benefit of running all out and liquidating inventory. And so, that sort of a unique thing that happened in 2020 that we can't replicate in 2021.

So I think what we're here saying to you is we see really good growth opportunities in our business, kind of, across the board. We've invested in those growth opportunities, at returns that we think are really good. We're not necessarily saying that the absolute margin rate is going to be recurring into next year. You're going to get some growth, in some cases, that rate may come down, some because of the reasons I just said. But in any case, we see it has been very good return on the capital being spend.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, thanks. And then, maybe if you could just address the freight and the temp costs. And then, my other question was have you seen -- I know that M&A isn't necessarily a focus right now and maybe deleveraging is more important. But have you seen a rise in valuations for certain businesses and is there any situation where you'd consider getting larger in metal container, obviously in North America it maybe difficult. But is there any situation where you'd consider getting larger metal container elsewhere in the world?

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

So Arun, maybe just to quickly hit the first part of the question back to freight cost and other temporary cost in 2020. I think we talked a little bit about freight cost on our last call that freight availability was a little bit of a challenge, particularly around the holidays and Q4 and 2020. That really has persisted into the first part of the year. So, freight costs are up. Again, as Tony said, we fight little crazy to make sure we get the lowest absolute cost in our freight, because it does get pass through to our customers for the most part.

Temporary cost, I'm am going to say COVID-related costs. I mean, we did have COVID-related expenses in 2020. We've essentially assumed the same level of COVID-related expenses in '21, so it will be flat year-over-year and really just not much to think about in my opinion from that perspective.

And on the cash, one so I think there is sort of two things you asked there. First of all, to be clear, our priority has always been acquisition first. We think that that's where we can create the most value.

The -- if we look back on kind of value created and including even this year, even though Albea is under-performing, we still feel really good about shareholder value created through acquisition. So that -- I think you kind of compare that to debt reduction. I think we still put the priority to acquisition. That debt reduction can be sort of a temporary place where you'd put it, it's more if you do return to shareholder, that's a little bit more permanent decision, but by the way, you'll notice in the fourth quarter, we did buyback shares. So we also do view that as -- we've always viewed this sort of a balance and multiple strings we've pulled to create value for shareholders. So -- but to your main point, we still see acquisitions really interesting. We see values, as Bob said, the opportunities are out there and so we continue to look and think about that. You're asking specifically about food cans and would we be doing in food cans. We would never first of all talk about any specific opportunities, etc. What I would say in our food cans, we kind of said before, which is, we like the food can business. We think it's got great free cash flow characteristics. They're steady market. It has a wonderful above that sustainable argument out there. If you got product that is packed at peak of freshness, never needs anymore energy after it packed to protect it for years of time. It is the most recycle package in the world. So it's got a great argument against today's concern for the environment. So we think it's a really good product.

Now, we understand quite clearly, you guys have made it really clear. Equity market struggles a little bit with growth characteristics of business, so we understand that and that's certainly something that we pay attention to as well. To us, free cash flow, which we then deploy to get growth for the business in the future is to us actually the better answer. I might pause here and say that we have had a 10.6% compounded increase in our EPS over the last decade, even though we're slow, boring, steady can business. But in any case, we do understand that that organic growth matters and so we think about that as well. And with all that, we would say that any one of our businesses meets the criteria right now of being an interesting franchise to build upon. I wouldn't exclude any of them and with always with us. Price is going to matter and the free cash flow we can get from them is going to matter.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great. Thanks a lot.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Arun.

Operator

We'll take our next question from Ghansham Panjabi with Baird. Please go ahead.

Ghansham Panjabi -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Hey guys, good morning. I guess, going back to the cost side and just given the inflation in raw material cost across the board, how should we think about that impact on working capital? I mean, clearly you sold out of inventory last year and costs are rising, etc. Is that going to be a negative drop, as it relates to working capital. And then, related to that, for some of the larger contracts within metal food, do you have to cycle through any sort of CPI Index from last year that may be deflationary relative to inflation this year?

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So Ghansham, I'll take the working capital one here. Yeah. So, no question. We benefited from some liquidation of working capital in 2020, obviously that won't recur, right? So you're not going to get that same benefit going into next year, which is a large part why I were sort of pointing to a very stable or similar free cash flow on a year-over-year basis. I would expect that there is probably a little pressure from inflation to -- on working capital, but all of that is in the context of being built into the forecast that we've got out there.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

And then, Ghansham, on your question for kind of Indexed pass-through for labor and maybe other items, those are all embedded in our numbers. So if there is a disconnect between what's actually happening in the market with inflation, with a deflationary pass -through, that's all embedded in our outlook going forward.

Ghansham Panjabi -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Got it. And then, if I could on the food service side of your metal food can exposure just talk, take us through the -- sort of, the trend line for volumes. I assume that just given the restruction associated with COVID, there were some initial destocking, etc, where we on inventories in that channel, have you started to see any sort of improvement as we cycle into 2021? And just remind us how big food service specifically is for metal food? Thanks.

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Good question. So when you think about our food service business and now we've got about our big number 10 cans primarily for the tomatoes market, we saw a significant slowdown and really starting in Q2, and certainly in Q3 for that product. We're not expecting any significant recovery of volumes until we get to the pack season, really probably in Q3 of this year. So the cadence, you won't hear much of our conversation around number 10 cans, really until we get to the pack volumes later in the year.

And then, as a percent of the total, I'm just trying to do the math, it's a very small percent of the total but they're very valuable cans. So from a mix standpoint, it does have a mix impact when you're talking about the revenue line for the overall business.

Ghansham Panjabi -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Thanks so much Adam.

Operator

All right. We will take our next question from Kyle White with Deutsche Bank. Please go ahead.

Kyle White -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. Hope everyone is doing well. I wanted to go back to Albea, regards to beauty and fragrance and you touched on this a little bit. But I'm curious, do you need to see a recovery here and duty-free retails to really drive meaningful improvement in the volume or can you get a recovery from other retail channels like digital, what you talked about a little bit and curious as well, what are the implications, does higher e-commerce have for you, in any kind of mix impact or margin impact of that retail channel shifts?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Sure. Good question. As we think about it. No, we don't need retail recovery to achieve what we are planning for 2021 with our expectation for the fragrance market. So I think what's really interesting is that, that would likely be upside, two, as we talk about digital efforts in e-commerce, that actually might be a benefit to Silgan and I think one great example for you would be, the sampler packages that our customers are now sending out into there -- to the market, to their consumers, that have four or five small samples of different fragrances that you purchase and then you pick which one you like, you send it back in and they send you a full bottle. So actually, there is some chance that e-commerce platform may increase our overall volume in the fragrance business. We are -- again very early days to that, we're seeing some traction and some benefit, but if you think about those small samplers, that is a smaller dispensing system or a fragrance sprayer than what's on the full bottle, but we're going to sell multiples of those versus the one item for a full bottle of fragrance. So, early days, we'll see what happens, but we don't need a full travel or retail recovery to achieve what we've put forward in our fragrance market as we sit here.

Kyle White -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Got it. And then a question on the guidance, you expanded the typical EPS range by about $0.05, I assume it's due to all that uncertainty around the pandemic here, but I wanted to ask and see if there's anything particular driving that decision, just curious as closures and plastic containers becomes a larger portion of the business, does that mean you have kind of less predictability, relative to what the food can provides in terms of certainties for earnings going forward.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think it's just what you said, it's really there's just so many moving parts. We're coming off, of a pandemic at some point you guess when we're, there's just a, there's a lot of unknown here. And so a little bit wider guidance make sense to us.

Kyle White -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

I figure that much. Alright, well, good luck in the year.

Anthony Pettinari -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Thank you. Scott.

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Scott.

Operator

All right. We'll take our next question from Jeff Zekauskas with JPMorgan. Please Go ahead.

Jeffrey Zekauskas -- JPMorgan Chase -- Analyst

Thanks very much. Are the terms of trade with your food can customers improving given the increasing tightness in the market and the strength of your volumes?

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah so, just as a reminder, the bulk of our food can business under long-term contract, kind of the historical story of Silgan, the deal with our customers etc., is consistency, predictability, etc., so that our customers get that and we get the benefit of that. So the answer is no and I would not necessarily expect that bit, if a new piece of business came up, perhaps that would be, obviously you'd have to say, I don't have the capacity, I need to do something, but short of that, I wouldn't expect any kind of wholesale change. We are under contract and we honor our contracts.

Jeffrey Zekauskas -- JPMorgan Chase -- Analyst

And in the third and fourth quarter of 2021, can you grow your can volumes given that you operated full-out in the third and fourth quarter of 2020?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

So I think, Jeff, as you look at Q3, that was pretty well fully utilized and that's our largest quarter from a volume standpoint because of pack-related items.

Jeffrey Zekauskas -- JPMorgan Chase -- Analyst

Yeah.

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

So there is some chance, as we've talked, that in Q1 and Q4, that's where our existing capacity -- or where available capacity actually exists. So there is not much but if it's going to happen, it's going to be Q1 and Q4.

Jeffrey Zekauskas -- JPMorgan Chase -- Analyst

Okay, great, thank you so much.

Operator

Okay. We'll take our next question from Daniel Rizzo with Jefferies. Please go ahead.

Daniel Rizzo -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you for taking my call. How should we think about the rationalization costs as well as working capital in 2021 as compared to 2020?

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure, I'll take the working capital one. So, we benefited, obviously you saw a nice improvement in the free cash flow versus what we were originally guiding to, that was largely because of the liquidation of working capital, it was a big slug at that and particularly as cash receipts kind of, came in very quickly in the back half of the year. So that clearly won't repeat or we're not expecting it to repeat right now. So that's just on the surface, year-over-year, that's a little bit of a headwind and then given some of the inflation that we talked about in raws we could see a little bit of a detriment there, but overall, very comfortable with where the working capital is likely to be, relative to our, $380 million guide for free cash flow next year.

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

And then over to rationalization cost, as we sit here today again we've got a relentless focus on getting cost out of our manufacturing system. But I would just tell you, given all the conversation today and our plans for 2021, we don't have any rationalization projects that we are looking to implement right now in 2021. We put a pause on the footprint optimization in the metal container business, back that we announced in 2019, but again, that is still on pause and we are continuing to evaluate the needs of the capacity versus our customer requirements.

Daniel Rizzo -- Jefferies -- Analyst

All right, thank you. I appreciate the color. And then just one other question then, you mentioned M&A and how it looks, so I was just wondering is there an upper limit on debt level, when you're looking at potential acquisitions, I mean for the company, given your free cash flow generation, I would think it would be relatively high.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, look, we've long been disciplined around that 2.5 to 3.5 times range. We've ventured outside of it on a couple of occasions, more recently in '17 and again in '21 when we did the two dispensing acquisitions. I'll remind you, they were relatively large acquisitions at $900 million, right, so that gives you some order of magnitude and each of those took us into the low-to-mid 4s, at the point of acquisition with the pathway getting back into that corridor range pretty quickly and in this case where they are inside of seven months. So you know look, I don't know that we have a lot of appetite to go significantly beyond that, but obviously depending upon the opportunity that exists, we would have to consider it if the returns we're there.

Daniel Rizzo -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Operator

We'll take our next question again from Adam Josephson with KeyBanc. Please go ahead.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks everyone for taking my follow ups. Tony or Adam, can you just talk about the differences as you see them between the U.S. and European food can markets in terms of growth and return profiles, given that you're in both markets, albeit, much smaller in Europe than in the States?

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Well I can try a little on that. I think our businesses are quite different. Our European business is an Eastern-focused entrepreneurial small plant and our North American business is of course with the leading customers, highly efficient system,etc., so they are different. We certainly have higher margins, etc., in our U.S. business as a result of that, and that's true from the day we owned Europe. I think growth is -- so food cans, have a higher penetration rate in Europe than they do in the U.S. It's a more used package in Europe and so it's therefore been a little more stable. The American consumer, over the last couple of decades, has been more and more eating in restaurants as a percentage and so there were other competing factors that happen more in the U.S., the change, and for that very reason the U.S. had a much bigger change when COVID came along, because they were all these other alternatives and some of those evaporated. So I think you've seen more growth around COVID in the North American market than in Europe. I think you generally have seen a somewhat steadier, or if you talk -- what used to be sort of core of cans and so vegetable for an example, a little steadier throughout Europe in that side. I think the U.S. has a couple of growth areas that have been really impactful like pet food, as an example, protein that have been a little stronger in the U.S. So you got to -- it's different markets, etc., but they're not wildly different results that come from that. If you had a similar kind of business in Europe to our type of business in North America.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Perfect. I appreciate that Tony. On ESG, you mentioned that the favorable recyclability profile of the steel food can, which is obvious, but when I talk to investors about Silgan and the topic of the ESG, it's often, you don't disclose and update on your website, and you don't have sustainability report and you perhaps don't market yourselves as ESG friendly to nearly at the same degree as do some of your competitors, I'm being wondering how you think about that issue. How you think it's affecting your valuation and your perception among investors.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Great question, I think I agree with what you've said. I think we thought truth would win and actually being a better solution was what mattered. I think slowly we're learning that those that tell the better story have won in this game thus far. So we absolutely believe our answer is as good or better than anybody out there and I think we have been too quiet about that. So we will do a sustain -- ESG report, sustainability report specifically on that, and so we like everyone, we will get in that game. I just think what's not like everyone is we have a much better and stronger message once we do get in that game.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

I appreciate that. And Adam, just one last one on resin, can you talk about what your annual resin buy is and how much of that is polypropylene versus polyethylene versus PET and precisely what earnings drag you're expecting in 1Q as a result of what we've seen in polypropylene and polyethylene and PET for that matter?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Sure. Adam, I'm not going to give you specific numbers, but I would say our single largest resin type we buy is polyethylene and then we've got polypropylene second and PET third for our business and we've got a variety of other resins and niche resins that we purchase for the business. So I think as we then forward into our guidance for Q1, the resin that's seen the most volatility is polypropylene followed by polyethylene. So it's just -- we use polypropylene in all three of our kind of resin-based businesses and polyethylene is also used in all three of our resin-based businesses. So I don't know what more I can provide beyond that. It's just -- we'll deal with the inflation as it comes in. We've got mechanism to negotiate that and work that through with our customers and in timely fashion and unfortunately in Q1, it's a negative for the lag effect for our business.

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Sure. Thanks so much and best of luck in the quarter.

Operator

We'll take our next question from Salvatore Tiano. Please go ahead.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Yes, hi. Two quick follow-ups. Firstly, last quarter you were talking about the decline in Albea biz, meaning that probably you would see zero EPS accretion this year? Just wanted to confirm if they added or actually subtracted there any earnings per share in 2020?

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Yes. As we've said on the last trial, we were not expecting much. So one of the pleasant upside to our guidance was the $0.02 of accretion that we got with the Albea business in Q4. So it was $0.02 accretive in the quarter.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Okay, perfect. And the second, excuse me. And the other one is, I guess, a yes or no. Would you consider issuing stock actually for an acquisition that would be a little larger than usual?

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. look I -- we've talked about this on other calls as well. We -- It's obviously our most expensive cost of capital. So we kind of covered that. We've never done an acquisition where we've included equity. To be fair, we've contemplated one back in 2011, I guess it was. So look, I guess, I would say we would never straight up say no, but it would have to be pretty compelling and viewed as valuable in the transaction otherwise why particularly given where debt capacity and interest rates are today. Why we would give away that expensive cost of capital.

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Perfect, thank you very much.

Operator

We'll take our next question from George Staphos. Please go ahead.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hi guys, thanks for taking the follow-on late. Sorry for a rolled piece type of question.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Can't wait.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

No. It's really more of a complement. I mean, again plastics has done a phenomenal job over the last whatever number of years of getting the margins back to levels that we typically would have associated with specialty packaging margins. So, kudos to you and your entire team and we know that the company has worked on realigning capacity adding new investments. Perhaps most importantly, the service model, which has gained you new customers. We go back, whatever it is, 15 years ago, the business had changed radically. Silgan was a really good high performing, to use a different term, plastic packaging company. New entrants and so on change the business model, such you had to do all of that, what gives you the most confidence that the new plastics were Silgan, that's my phrasing that yours is more -- has a bigger moat around that business and the long-term profit performance and trajectory. Thanks guys. And now, I mean it good luck in the quarter. See you later.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thanks, George and thank you for the compliment. You're right that the plastics team has done a phenomenal job for the business and it truly is more than what you see, and this goes to answer your question, and I appreciate that you caught it exactly which is the service model, to use your word, but really the focus on customers and needs of customers and just a relentless pursuit to take care of what the customer absolutely have to have. Is really a hallmark now of that business. We think it's a hallmark of Silgan, but I would have to honestly say right now that team probably is engendered as much as probably any of our teams and so that is the moat. We don't particularly have unique technology. We don't particularly have unique assets running our products. What we have is a really good capability to meet the needs of our customers who are launching, lots of products and they need it to be right and on time, and I've been as tough as anybody in those 5 years you're referring to of saying we weren't there before that we worked a franchise business. And so I think it's in coming, I mean now to say I absolutely think we are a franchise business. I think we are excelling above everyone else in that, and that's the moat. Now, your question is slightly broader than that. If you ever in a leader of anything sit back in your laurels and think now you've got a moat and you're good, you're going to get beat. So we got to keep working. We got to keep swimming and finding ways and new things and new markets and new capabilities and new ways to impress our customers over and over again, and that's the message to all of our teams is that's what it takes. So yes, we're not here to tell you, we've got it now and it's done and it's locked down, but we are here to say that we think the moat is around service and capability to customers. It's not easy to create build. And so we, right now that customer contracts are coming in, volumes coming in, all the evidence as something has changed.

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you very much, Tony.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, George.

Operator

All right. It appears there are no further questions, I'd like to turn the conference back to Tony Allott for any additional or closing remarks.

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you and thank you all for your time today and we look forward to talking about our first quarter of 2021 late in April. Thank you. [Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 75 minutes

Call participants:

Kimberly I. Ulmer -- Vice President, Finance and Treasurer

Anthony J. Allott -- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Robert B. Lewis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Adam J. Greenlee -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Adam Josephson -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Gabe Hajde -- Fargo Securities Inc -- Analyst

Salvator Tiano -- eaport Global Holdings -- Analyst

Anthony Pettinari -- Citigroup -- Analyst

George L. Staphos -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Ghansham Panjabi -- Robert W. Baird & Co -- Analyst

Kyle White -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Jeffrey Zekauskas -- JPMorgan Chase -- Analyst

Daniel Rizzo -- Jefferies -- Analyst

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