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Lamar Advertising Co (LAMR) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

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LAMR earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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Lamar Advertising Co (LAMR 1.97%)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 26, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Excuse me, everyone. We now have Sean Reilly and Jay Johnson in conference. [Operator Instructions] In the course of this discussion, Lamar may make forward-looking statements regarding the company, including statements about its future financial performance; strategic goals; plans and objectives, including with respect to the amount and timing of any distributions to stockholders and the impacts and effects of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 on the company's business, financial conditions and results of operations.

All forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond Lamar's control and which may cause actual results to differ materially from anticipated results. Lamar may -- Lamar has identified important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the call and the company's fourth quarter 2020 earnings release and its most recent annual report on Form 10-K as updated or supplemented by its quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K. Lamar refers you to those documents.

Lamar's fourth quarter 2020 earnings release, which contains information required by Regulation G regarding certain non-GAAP financial measures was furnished to the SEC on Form 8-K this morning and is available on the Investors section of Lamar's website at I would now like to turn the conference over to Sean Reilly.

Mr. Reilly, you may begin.

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thank you, Katie. Good morning, all, and welcome to Lamar's Q4 2020 Earnings Call. It's hard to look back on 2020 with anything, but relief that it is over; however, for Lamar there were some bright spots. The sales rebound that began in Q3 accelerated in Q4. In fact, our fourth quarter revenue came in better than we had anticipated with strength in particular from political, national and programmatic.

Meanwhile, our cost cutting initiatives continued to pay dividends. As a result, we easily exceeded the top end of the guidance range for AFFO per share that we provided in November. We knew when we reported in early November, that 2020 would be a record year for political, but thanks to the double runoff in Georgia, political proved even stronger in Q4 than we had expected. For the quarter political spending was $11 million and for the year, it was north of $19.5 million.

Compare that to full year 2018 of about $11 million and 2019 of approximately $5.3 million, so political came in exceedingly strong. Other categories of relative strength in Q4 were gaming, automotive; the automotive category was really nice to see, insurance and healthcare. Of course, we're not gathering yet, so amusement and entertainment remained relatively weak given that many venues are still closed, retail was also relatively soft in Q4. As I mentioned, national and programmatic which we track together were much improved and came in basically flat year-over-year. Our digital platform also bounced back impressively and in absolute dollars was up in Q4 versus Q4 of 2019 and essentially flat on a same store basis.

With that rebound in mind, we are pushing hard to deploying new digitals with a goal of adding 300 units in 2021. We began ramping our approval of new digital units in Q4 and I continued to feel good that we'll hit our goals in terms of digital deployment for 2021. Turning to 2021, the first quarter is proving to be a little choppy as the post holiday surge in coronavirus slowed advertiser commitments for the first part of Q1. As the vaccine rollout accelerates, we expect travel to pick up, entertainment venues to begin to reopen and life to begin to return to a more normal pattern. That pickup in overall activity should translate to our book of business, which we expect to build nicely through the year.

The cadence of the year will be unusual to say the least. Recall that we had a very strong start to 2020 which carried through March and as a result, first quarter comps are tough. And as I mentioned, the country is not fully recovered yet either from a health perspective or an economic perspective. So on a year-over-year basis, expect revenue to be down in Q1 2021, perhaps even a tad more than Q4 2020, but the Q2 and Q3 comps are of course very different, and our internal budget implies that by the end of 2021, revenues will be up a little north of 5%. Given where we finished 2020, that would bring us about halfway back to the 2019 revenue levels.

As we flagged in the fall, expense growth will be elevated relative to our normal 2% to 3% as savings we realized on revenue share agreements, commission payments, executive comp, cash comp, those things we're going to be returning. As we mentioned on our Q3 call, we cut, give or take $75 million out of the expense base from from 2019 and 2020 and we anticipate that about half of that in those categories, we will come back this year. You couple that with, again the normal 2% expense growth and expense growth for 2021 should be around 5%. Hopefully, we can do a little better than that. So you take those sales and expense expectations and then factor in a return to what I would call normalized levels of maintenance capex and we are forecasting AFFO per share to come in between $5.20 and $5.50. The midpoint of that range as I mentioned implies topline growth of approximately 5%, the top end, roughly 6% and the bottom end roughly 4%. Finally, you may have seen our release yesterday about our anticipated distribution of $3 per share for the full year 2021.

I will let Jay walk you through more details on Q4 and our expectations for 2021. Jay.

Jay Lecoryelle Johnson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Thanks, Sean. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for taking the time to join us. As you may recall, in August we reinstated guidance and further revised estimates upward on our third quarter earnings call with operations exceeding our internal expectations in Q3. That momentum continued into the fourth quarter resulting in Q4 and the full year ahead of our revised expectations across revenue, EBITDA and AFFO. We saw a return to AFFO growth in the quarter improving 4.3% to $1.71 per share on a fully diluted basis versus Q4 2019.

In the fourth quarter, acquisition adjusted revenue declined 6.8% from the same period last year as our business continued to improve from its trough in the second quarter. Our cost reduction initiatives once again proved effective with consolidated operating expenses declining 10.6% in Q4. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $207.9 million compared to $215.6 million in 2019, which is a decrease of 3.6%. On an acquisition-adjusted basis, the decline was 80 basis points lower contracting only 2.8%.

For the full-year, acquisition adjusted revenue declined 10.9% to $1.57 billion compared to $1.76 billion in 2019. Adjusted EBITDA was $671.5 million, which represented a decrease of 14.4%. The company ended the year above the high end of revised AFFO guidance with full year AFFO of $5.10 per share. Lamar's business has performed throughout various market cycles generating consistent cash flow, and this was evident in our results during the second half of the year.

In Q3, adjusted EBITDA margin was strong at 44.2% and we saw that improved by over 400 basis points in the fourth quarter with adjusted EBITDA margin of 48.5%. In addition, free cash flow in the quarter increased 18.3% over last year. Strong cash flow and industry leading EBITDA margin reflect our operating model focused on local markets with a portfolio dominated by our billboard division. Our national business including programmatic rebounding significantly in the quarter and was essentially flat to Q4 of last year.

As a result, national increase from 20% of our billboard revenue in Q3 to 25% in the fourth quarter. Demonstrating our disciplined approach to capex and operational flexibility, we reduced capex by over 50% to $62 million in 2020. However, we did move forward with some digital convergence in Q4 that were put on hold in April. Maintenance capex for the full year was $24 million with growth CapEx totaling $38 million. As we return to a more regular year for Lamar on a number of fronts, we anticipate total capex for 2021 of approximately $150 million including $55 billion of maintenance capex.

Late in Q1 of 2020, we curtailed acquisitions and limited activity through the balance of the year. However, given our strong financial position, we increased our appetite for acquisitions beginning in the fourth quarter. Acquisitions in the quarter totaled $16.8 million, the highest level of any quarter last year. Total acquisitions for the full year 2020 were $45.6 million. Looking at 2021, we are planning for an uptick in acquisition activity, but as discussed on last quarter's call, we believe there remains a valuation gap between buyers and sellers though our increased activity in Q4 is promising.

Turning to our balance sheet, which has been a critical focus over the last 12 months for the company, we continued to benefit from the steps taken to transform our balance sheet in 2020 and fortified the company's capital structure for the next several years. Lamar enjoys excellent access to the capital markets as evidenced by our ability to access the bond market throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, we issued $550 million of 3.625 10-year senior notes due 2031.

The coupon was the lowest in the history of the company and one of the lowest in the high-yield market, a testament to our business and demonstrating the fate of the capital markets in Lamar. Proceeds from the offering along with cash on hand and draws under our AR securitization and revolver were used to redeem all $650 million of our 5.75% senior notes due 2006. Over the course of the past year, we have raised $3.45 billion of debt, primarily refinancings were the following key objectives. Lowering our overall cost of debt including amortization and interest, extending our maturity profile, enhancing liquidity, reducing exposure to floating interest rates, and gaining flexibility under our covenant structure commensurate with the public company of our credit quality. These efforts will result in over $25 million of lower interest this year versus 2020, and when compared to 2019, the company will save over $70 million of interest and amortization in 2021. And as a reminder, we will no longer -- we no longer have debt with scheduled amortization as a part of our capital structure.

At the end of the quarter, we had approximately $910 million of liquidity, comprised of $121.6 million of cash on hand, $52.5 million available on the AR securitization and $736 million of availability under our revolving credit facility. Subsequent to quarter end, we drew $25 million on the revolver, and $22.5 million on the securitization line for redemption of our 5.75 senior notes and currently have $711 million available on the revolver. We have two significant financial covenants, a 4.5 times secured debt maintenance test and a 7 times total debt incurrence tests. We remained comfortably in compliance with both financial covenants. The company ended the quarter with total leverage of 3.96 times net debt to EBITDA as defined under our credit facility, and within our target range of 3.5 to 4 times. Our secured debt ratio declined to 0.7 times versus 0.9 times at the end of Q3. We expect leverage to increase modestly at the end of Q1 with a full year of post-COVID results included in our LTM EBITDA. However, leverage should remain comfortably below 4.5 times and trend downward for the balance of the year. Based on the current debt outstanding, our weighted average interest rate is 3.3% with a weighted average maturity of 7.5 years. Our debt maturity schedule is well laddered and positioned to withstand the current economic environment.

We intend to extend the AR securitization which matures in December later this year. After the AR securitization, our near-term maturity is the revolving credit facility in February of 2025. And finally, our dividend policy, in the fourth quarter, we paid a cash dividend of $0.50 per share resulting in a full year 2020 dividend of $2.50 per share. Yesterday, and as disclosed in this morning's release, the Board approved a dividend of $0.75 per share for the first quarter. All dividends are approved and declared by the company's Board of Directors on a quarterly basis. And as Sean mentioned subject to Board approval, we expect our 2021 distribution to shareholders to total $3 per share, which represents a 20% increase over the Company's distribution in 2020.

Our balance sheet remains strong and we maintained excellent access to both the debt and equity capital markets. A strong balance sheet is core to our operating strategy and serves as a significant competitive advantage. With our intense focus on the company's capital structure and resulting balance sheet with increased flexibility despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Lamar is well positioned to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

I'll now turn the call back over to Sean.

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thanks, Jay. A couple of familiar metrics; number one, our digital count, we ended the year with 3,650 digital units in the air, that represented an increase of 24 units in Q4. Again, our goal for 2021 is something north of 100 units, and we feel that there is not only sufficient demand out there for that kind of extra capacity, but we feel like we can hit that goal and get that number in the air.

A little more color on the rebound of national through the course of 2020, we recall that in Q2 of 2020, local and regional were 81% of our book, national and programmatic were 19%, and in that same quarter, local was down 18%, national was down almost 34%. Fast forward to Q4 and national rebounded such that national and programmatic were about 25% of our book, local was about 75% of our book. And if you look at it, billboard space only in terms of absolute down local and regional were down 5.4% in Q4 2020 and national and programmatic were down 0.2% or essentially flat as we mentioned. If you exclude programmatic, national was down 4.8% in Q4. It was very gratifying to see what was good normalization in our local, national mix and the recovery in national.

I mentioned the categories that we're strong, I want to highlight to, automotive was positive for the quarter, up almost 3%. Again very gratifying to see gaming bounced back in Q4 was 4.5% of our book of business and up almost 1%. Again it's just nice to see categories rebounding and in positive territory.

With that Katie, I will open it up for questions.

Questions and Answers:


Thank you, sir. [Operator Instructions]

Our first question will come from Alexia Quadrani with JPMorgan.

Anna Lizzul -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Hi, this is Anna on for Alexia. Thank you so much for the question. I was wondering if you can provide us with some more color regarding the pace of recovery, and what has the gap to come back to normal? I know you mentioned great momentum you were seeing in Q4 and national and also just any more color you can provide on the geographic rebound?

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thanks Anna. I'll hit the geography first and I'll throw some some Q4 and 2020 numbers at you. So the strongest region in Q4 is what we call our Atlantic region down 0.9% in Q4 and EBITDA up 4% that was followed by our central region, which is aptly described as the middle part of the country and down 2.3% in revenue and essentially flat on EBITDA. We have some geography that is still struggling and for us to really hit our stride in the back half of the year, it would be nice to see a little more relative strength and recovery from COVID in places like Southern California, Las Vegas and New York. In fact, our our Western region, which includes that Southern California markets like LA and San Diego and Riverside San Bernardino and Las Vegas was the toughest place in Lamar land, it was down 9.4% in Q4, and EBITDA was down 12.6. So as we look at the cadence and pace of recovery, we need that geography to heal up and then we also need a return to gathering. We need amusement, entertainment and sports and all of the activity that surrounds venues like sporting venues and concerts and like conventions. As that returns, I think you'll see a complete recovery for Lamar.

Anna Lizzul -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Great, thanks so much.


Thank you. Our next question comes from Ben Swinburne with Morgan Stanley.

Ben Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hey, good morning guys.

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Hey Ben. Good morning.

Ben Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Good morning. Sean, Just a couple of questions, first on the revenue outlook. I'm sure or you may or may not have heard from Outfront and Clear Channel, yesterday your visibility sounds like it's not where it used to be pre-COVID, which is not a surprise. I'm just wondering from where you sit in your markets, when you look at your full year revenue expectation, you know what's your degree of visibility or confidence in that relative to the pre-COVID days and just try to give us a sense for what the kind of risk profiles of that acceleration in the quarters after Q1, it's maybe I'll start that and then I'll ask my follow-up.

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. The the risk profile to our visibility is as you would expect, how strong is the recovery. Are we going to be gathering in a more normalized way as the summer moves into the fall? Are we going to have full football stadiums in college town? I would say that's the risk to the visibility, our comps are so easy when you get to Q2 and Q3. I feel really good about our ability to accelerate, if nothing else just because the comps are so easy. It was kind of implied in the answer to the previous question about the risk to the recovery of certain geographies in the country. Las Vegas is an important place for us. The good news is gaming was actually up in Q4. So even though venues are only partially opening across the country, regional gaming and indeed in Vegas, the casino operators are advertising with us, they're using us -- they're using us in anticipation of the full opening. So, that feels good. National, we're getting good vibes on the national front. Their budget -- our national groups' budget for the year is up -- is to be up double digit. So assuming -- again assuming that the opening goes as advertised. We feel like we can hit the number in front of us. It's axiomatic that the harder you fall, actually the more you have recovery room, right? And so in those places like the Atlantic region and the Central region, they really didn't -- they didn't really fall off that hard, and so there recovery is not projected to be as astronomical as some other places. And then you have some of our divisions, which look a little more like -- airport and transit look a little more challenged as the recovery takes hold. Fortunately, they're small parts of what we do, but our airport division which in normalized times do a little north of $40 million on the top. It's going to struggle throughout the year until travel returns, that could be a that could be a 2 or 3 year odyssey in terms of recovery there.

Our transit division looks it's middle market. So it's going to do pretty well in terms of recovery, but not as well as the billboard division and we are going to struggle in Vancouver. Vancouver is a big city transit operation that we run and the indications there that's going to take a while as well. Again, fortunately, that's not a whole lot of what we do.

Ben Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Yes. Maybe just a followup, when you look at Q1, Q2, are people booking later? In other words, do you have less of the next couple of months sold than you normally do.

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

So you know with the the little spike -- the post holiday spike in the first part of the quarter, we definitely saw some hesitancy and January and February have been a little bit difficult for us. We feel like the gun goes off in March. What we're hearing in terms of chatter is advertisers who were kind of feeling their way through January and February are beginning to commit for March and beyond. So in my view, like I said, the gun goes off Monday, March 1.

Ben Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Okay. And then just lastly on the revenue outlook, what's baked into that kind of 4% to 6% in terms of acquisitions. Jay mentioned you guys have bought some stuff in the fourth quarter. I think you'll benefit through the year. Are there additional acquisitions you haven't announced or closed that are in that guide or would that the additional revenue and AFFO you can get more done?

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Yes. So that guide is pro forma. So there is no acquisitions baked into it. If we are able to have a good year on the acquisition front, that's landing out.

Ben Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you.


Thank you. [Operator Instructions]

Our next question comes from Stephan Bisson with Wolfe Research.

Stephan Edward Bisson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Just as a follow on to Ben's last question, on the M&A market. How much are you anticipating doing? We've heard that the markets are pretty locked up, both in terms of multiples willing to pay the multiple and what base your user EBITDA. Any comments on what you're seeing in the marketplace right now?

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

For those of you who aren't cage in land and need something extra, so it really depends on the asset, Stephan. In middle market billboard assets, as you have seen in our results, the falloff from 2019 to 2020 was not that great. So there's not a lot of pulling and tugging around which year you use as the normalized year, off of which to base your valuation work. So that's a good thing for us. To the extent that's the type of asset we're buying, there probably won't be as big a bid ask spread between buyers and sellers. Now that changes as you move to the coast and you get into bigger markets. As mentioned, the fall off was greater in markets that are top 20 DMAs and places where COVID was a little more of a dramatic impact on local economies. So I would anticipate that the bid ask spread will be a little more dramatic when you're talking about inventory in places like Southern California, Seattle, New York, etc.

Stephan Edward Bisson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

So should we be looking at a more typical year that you guys saw in terms of acquisition activity prior to COVID because you were a great serial acquirer, a couple of hundred million dollars a year. Is that kind of the ballpark we should be thinking about?

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

That's our expectation and our goal, we're looking for a more normalized year. And if you run the free cash flow through all of the demands on the company's capital that Jay laid out and circle around our EBITDA expectations, you'll see that we have about $140 million to $150 million left over in 2021 after all the demand from the company's capital. It's that $140 million to $150 million that we hope to use to do those accretive tuck in acquisitions that we normally do in a normalized year.

Stephan Edward Bisson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

And then just one on programmatic. Early on, you guys were dipping your toe and being very defensive over the assets. How has the strategy changed? Because it seems to become a much bigger part of the business and any learnings you've had there?

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Great question, so four or five years ago when we were dabbling in programmatic, I had two business rules that needed the team to follow because we did not want to repeat what happened to digital publishers when they lost control of their CPMs and found themselves in an auction setting. So the business rule number one, do not find yourself in an auction where you don't control the CPMs that we're loading into the algorithm. And business rule number two was make sure that it's net new business, not just recycling folks that would otherwise be buying from us. And as we were feeling through those two business rules, we wanted to be careful. We had to set up guardrails around our customer base that wanted a programmatic tool but it would not be net new business. And then we also had to set up guardrails to protect our CPMs. We have successfully done that. And now we are opening up our platform to a wide array of digital buyers, SSPs and then DSPs. And it's going to pay off this year. We're anticipating doing something in the neighborhood of 65%-ish more in programmatic in 2021 than we did in 2020.

Stephan Edward Bisson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Great, and one bookkeeping question. Same board digital for the quarter?

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Same board digital with essentially flat.

Stephan Edward Bisson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Thank you so much, guys.


Thank you. I'm showing no further questions. I would now like to turn the call back over to Sean Reilly for closing remarks.

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Well, again, thanks, everybody, for listening and being a part of the call. Everybody, please be safe, and we'll talk to you again next quarter.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 33 minutes

Call participants:

Sean E. Reilly -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Jay Lecoryelle Johnson -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Anna Lizzul -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Ben Swinburne -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Stephan Edward Bisson -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

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