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GrafTech International Ltd (EAF) Q2 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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EAF earnings call for the period ending June 30, 2021.

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GrafTech International Ltd (EAF 4.39%)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Aug 6, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. And welcome to the GrafTech Second Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. [Operator Instructions] Please be advised that today's call is being recorded. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to hand the conference over to Wendy Watson, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

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Wendy M. Watson -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Good morning, and welcome to GrafTech International's second quarter 2021 conference call. On with me today is Dave Rintoul, GrafTech's Chief Executive Officer; Quinn Coburn, Chief Financial Officer; and Jeremy Halford, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development. Dave will begin with a review of our safety performance, current industry conditions, and our demand and production levels. Jeremy will discuss operational matters and give an update on our ESG initiatives. Quinn will cover financial details and Dave will close with final remarks and open the call to questions.

Turning to our first Slide. As a reminder, some of the matters discussed on this call may include forward-looking statements regarding, among other things, results, performance, trends and strategies. These statements are based on current expectations and are subject to risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements are shown here. We will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, and these slides include the relevant non-GAAP reconciliations. You can find these slides in the Investor Relations section of our website at www.graftech.com. A replay of the call will also be available on our website.

I will now turn the call over to Dave.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Wendy. Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining our second quarter earnings call. I hope you, your families, and your colleagues are all well. We begin, as we always do, with safety. Our year-to-date total recordable injury rate is 0.43 through the end of the second quarter, indicating our continued focus on the safety of each and every team member. Health and safety excellence is a core value of GrafTech. As you can see from this chart, we have made meaningful improvement over the last few years and our ultimate goal is zero injuries with every employee going home safely every day. Our team continues to be diligent and thorough in our COVID-19 controls and protocols. I am proud of the GrafTech team and thank each of you for your continued focus and vigilance.

Now turning to Slide 4. Industry conditions remain positive across key indicators. We continue to see improvement in both pricing and capacity utilization rates in the global steel markets during the second quarter. Steel industry pricing continues to increase with most types of steel at or near all-time highs. U.S. hot-rolled coil values are currently over $1,875 per ton, up $375 over an additional 25% percent since we reported first quarter 2021 earnings.

The global steel manufacturing utilization rate outside of China was 75% in the second quarter compared to 73% in the first quarter of this year and 56% in the second quarter of 2020. In the U.S., the steel industry utilization rate improved to 80% in the second quarter from 77% in the first quarter of this year and continues to move upward. Global steel production outside of China was approximately 221 million tons in the second quarter of 2021 compared to approximately 216 million tons in the first quarter according to the World Steel Association. The continued improvement in the global steel industry utilization rates along with the normalization of steel producer inventories of graphite electrodes is driving increased demand for graphite electrodes across geographies. As a result of the increased demand, we are seeing a steady improvement and graphite electrode pricing after bottoming in the first quarter of this year.

We are also seeing rising market prices for petroleum needle coke. The strong graphite electrode demand and rising prices continue to provide us with confidence in our outlook for higher realized non-LTA prices in the second half of 2021 and our expectation of continued improvement into 2022. As I mentioned, we are experiencing strong demand for our products and our commercial team remains focused on providing superior services and solutions to our valued customers in this improving environment. We have not changed our estimates for graphite electrodes sales and volumes under our LTAs.

Now turning to Slide 6. We are pleased with the sequential and year-over-year improvement we delivered in our second quarter production and sales volumes. In response to strong demand for our graphite electrodes, we produced 44,000 metric tons of electrodes in the second quarter, up 22% compared to the first quarter and 33% compared to the second quarter of 2020. Sales volumes of graphite electrodes rose 43 -- rose to 43,000 metric tons in the second quarter, up 16% compared to the first quarter and 39% compared to the second quarter of last year.

Our second quarter shipments were comprised of 27,000 metric tons of graphite electrodes under our LTAs at an average approximate price of $9,500 per ton. And 16,000 metric tons of non-LTA sales at an average approximate price of $4,100 per metric ton. As a reminder, the pricing we recognize in sales and income, lag negotiated prices, thus the second quarter $4,100 per ton average of non-LTA pricing represents price negotiations that actually took place in late 2020 and early 2021. Net sales in the second quarter increased 18% compared to the second quarter of 2020 to $331 million.

I'll now turn the call over to Jeremy to discuss operating items and our ESG progress over the past quarter. Jeremy?

Jeremy S. Halford -- Senior Vice President, Operations and Development

Thanks, Dave. During 2021, we've been enhancing our capabilities across our manufacturing footprint. For example, we are investing in a pin production line at our St. Marys, Pennsylvania facility that will be online in the third quarter. This diversifies our pin capability and provides production flexibility. Also, with increased demand for our graphite electrodes, we continue to be very focused on further improving efficiencies in our manufacturing facilities and staffing appropriately to meet the demand.

Turning to Slide 7. We continue to make good progress with our ESG efforts along several pads. Notably, in the second quarter, we completed a full materiality assessment with the assistance of external experts to identify and prioritize the key ESG issues for our business and our stakeholders. The process allowed us to objectively determine the ESG topics that will drive our sustainability strategy, reporting and actions moving forward. The assessment included peer and industry benchmarking, a robust series of interviews with internal and external stakeholders, and a full validation of the assessment by our executive team.

Slide 7 shows, the current key material topics for GrafTech's business and stakeholders, including climate and energy, innovation, material sourcing, and product quality. From here we plan to set the goals that will drive our performance relative to each of the material topics. Also, we plan to publish our second annual sustainability report during the third quarter. We hope you will find it useful and informative and welcome your feedback as we continue on our ESG journey.

Now let me turn it over to Quinn to discuss our second quarter financial results on Slide 8.

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Okay. Thanks, Jeremy. We're very pleased with our second quarter financial performance. We earned net income of $28 million or $0.11 of GAAP earnings per share, which included the impact of a one-time pre-tax change in control charge of $88 million that was triggered when the ownership of our largest stockholder, Brookfield, fell below 30% of our total shares outstanding. This charge is comprised of a $15 million non-cash expense related to the acceleration of certain previously granted equity awards, and a $73 million cash charge triggered under our long-term incentive compensation plan. Of the $73 million cash charge, $61 million was paid in the second quarter. The remaining 12 million relates to employee and employer payroll taxes and will be paid in the third quarter.

Excluding these change in control items and other typical quarterly adjustments, our adjusted EPS was $0.43 and adjusted EBITDA was $160 million. Our cash flow also continued to be strong in the second quarter. We generated $86 million of operating cash flow and $74 million of free cash flow. These amounts included the $61 million cash payment triggered by the change in control. Excluding this payment, our adjusted free cash flow was $136 million. We continued to achieve strong free cash flow conversion with 85% of second quarter's adjusted EBITDA converted to adjusted free cash flow.

Now turning to Slide 9. We continued to strengthen our capital structure in the second quarter with a $50 million reduction in our term loan that matures in 2025. Through the end of the second quarter, our total year-to-date debt reduction is $200 million and our total debt to adjusted EBITDA improved to 1.9x. Notably, over the past two years, we have reduced our long-term debt of approximately $800 million from approximately $2 billion in the second quarter of 2019 to approximately $1.2 billion in the second quarter of 2021. At the end of the second quarter, our total liquidity was approximately $360 million, consisting of $114 million of cash and $246 million available under our revolving credit facility.

Now turning to Slide 10. We're very pleased with the strong earnings and cash flow we delivered in the first half of the year. We expect the significant cash flow generation to continue through the balance of 2021. As we have previously reported, we plan to use the majority of that cash flow to further reduce debt. Our continued focus on a strong capital structure provides us with significant financial, operational and strategic flexibility as we position the company to capitalize on improvements in the market. We are maintaining our full-year 2021 capital expenditure outlook of $55 million to $65 million. We will use these funds to support our high-quality, low-cost global operating assets and to target high return operational improvements.

Now, I'll hand it back to Dave on Slide 11.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks. Quinn. I will wrap up with some comments on our favorable positioning in the market. GrafTech is one of the largest producers of ultra-high power graphite electrodes in the world. Graphite electrodes are mission-critical component to the EAF steel industry and there is no substitute for our product. We have an enviable customer base comprised of the lowest cost producers of steel where some of the largest recyclers in the world producing steel with 75% less carbon emissions compared to traditional integrated steel producers. And the EAF steel industry is committed to taking their leadership in sustainable steel production even further innovating to accrue, increase efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reinforce material reuse and recycling.

As we look forward, we are committed to helping our industry to further advance these sustainability initiatives. From its leading position, we expect the EAF steel industry growth to continue to outpace global GDP over the long-term positioning our products for solid long-term growth. The recovery and strength of the steel industry is having a positive impact upon demand and pricing in our business, and we expect to increasingly benefit from these favorable trends in the second half of this year and into 2022. We have a sustainable and long-term competitive advantage from our low-cost structure and vertical integration into our key raw material petroleum needle coke.

Our graphite electrodes are highly engineered and require extensive process knowledge to manufacture. The services and solutions that GrafTech provides help position both our customers and our company for a better future. Our commitment to balance sheet strength and our proven track record of high quality earnings and significant cash flow generation gives us flexibility to successfully manage through industry cycles. With the commitment of our people and our significant competitive advantages, we continue to strongly believe GrafTech is well-positioned to deliver results today and over the long term.

This concludes our prepared remarks and we'll now open up the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Arun Viswanathan with RBC Capital Markets.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great, thanks for taking my question. Hope you guys are well. So I guess, first off, just wanted to ask about pricing here. You noted, obviously very robust hot-rolled prices, well over $1,800. We're reading that you'll possibly could even get to $2,000 next month. But if you look at the production and sales volumes for GrafTech, volume was up 39% in the last year and net sales were up 18%. So that would imply that pricing is negative. I guess, what's it going to take for graphite electrode pricing here to start to turn around? I know that there is typically a lag from the steel markets, but it seems like conditions are pretty tight. You've mentioned very strong demand. What is the outlook for pricing? And when pricing does start to turn positive, do you expect an environment where we could potentially test the highs that we saw in 2017-2018 or is it going to be more measured? Thanks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Arun, thanks for your question. I think the best way to think about this is to remember in setting the base here that as we progressed into the first quarter of this year, we at that time, I think share with everybody that there was inventory on the ground and there was a bit of an inventory hangover that had to be worked through, which, by the end of the first quarter, we had done that, stated that, and shared with people that we felt that the pricing mechanisms in the industry had bottomed out early in that quarter. Our experience has been exactly that.

We absolutely expect the third and four quarter pricing to be higher than what we experienced in the first or second quarter. The only reason you see that small decline, is that some of the products that were delivered in the second quarter were negotiated in January when we were at the bottom. So they influenced that average weighted price and please also recognize that the mixture between LTAs, we sold more non-LTA business in the second quarter. So that has an impact of lowering the average weighted price because of the impact of the mix between the number of tons of the LTA and then the increased number of tons of spot. And that's all good, it's referencing the fact that the market has been improving.

So please be rest assured that the comments we made earlier will come to fruition in the second half of the year. Our reported pricing and realized pricing of non-LTA pricing will absolutely be higher in the second half of the year and we think that the supply and demand relationships that are evolving this year will lead to continued improvement as we move into 2022. I actually can't be more positive about that, without -- we're not -- as always, we don't provide guidance. So I can't go there, but we are quite happy about the way the market is unfolding.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

And just to, thanks for that, I guess just a follow-on here. so looks like you're spot prices are kind of in that, as you noted, $4100 range, but that was based-off of earlier discussions. So have you seen momentum on the spot side? Have you seen willingness among customers to potentially move into the long-term area or willingness to pay a little bit more for spot business? And just, again, just to clarify, so it looks like your LTAs are in the $10,000 per ton range. Would you consider -- what's the strategy here? Are you more interested in getting more of your customers on to some of those LTA volumes? Or are you interested in broadening out the spot book, given what you just said as far as that you're very optimistic on upward momentum in pricing? Thanks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

So just to reiterate the LTA numbers that we're reporting are more like in the $9,500 range, just to set that table. But to answer your question directly on where we're heading, recognizing most of the LTAs that we're talking about today don't mature until the end of next year. So our perspective that it's a bit premature to begin discussions about something that won't come to fruition until the end of 2022. It would be more natural for us and our expectation is that as we get into late August-September next year, so 12 months from now, 13 months from now, there'll be more discussions about the portfolio of products that we can bring to our customers, of which one of those products is absolutely LTAs and our expectation and belief is that there'll be some customers that will want to do that and we'll do the same thing as we did in '17 in all to be 3 and 4 and 5-year arrangements and we'll see how the market goes in.

And, here, you're absolutely right, you caught on something. We wouldn't normally go there until that time next year, but we're in a rising market right now and I think both us, and our customers, will want to see well where does life take us over the next 12 months and what makes sense, and we've got hundreds of customers. So what make -- they will all have their own view on what best fits their future. So I expect that we'll have, as we've had in the past, a mixture of both LTA and non-LTA business.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

And sorry, one last one if I may, just wanted to get your thoughts on needle coke. There's obviously been strong demand on the EV battery side as well. So do you think the needle coke market is tightening up as well? And do you see that as likely inflation coming in that market as well? And is there any opportunity for GrafTech to participate in businesses that are outside of electrode manufacturing? Is that something that is an opportunity for you at all or you'd contemplate even? Thanks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Arun, you hit the nail right on the head there. There is -- our belief would be, yes, the growing improvement in the graphite electrode market as well as the movement toward EV and you saw the announcement here in the United States that the President has signed an order, a policy that by 2030 half the vehicles sold by the automotive industry need to be non-carbon emitting, which implies EV. So those pressures are all good from our perspective, because it will and should have the affect of putting some pressure on the needle coke market and I'll remind you that we're 2/3 independent on needle coke. This is an absolutely positive development for GrafTech.

Increasing prices on needle coke, we are quite fine with, largely because as you would know, it translates into pressure for our competitors to increase graphite electrode prices, which we're quite fine with and then it increases our margins across, particularly across, the 2/3 that were self-sufficient on. To that end, in terms of branching out into other needle coke applications, our experience has been is that we like our space and the margins we make on our needle coke, in our core product, and believe that that's the optimal place for us to provide the best returns to our shareholders.

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great, thanks.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of David Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. Thank you for taking my questions. So I wanted to drill down a little bit and just trying to get little more detail if possible, please. First of all, third quarter, you've talked quite a bit about improving pricing. You've talked about how contracts or prices were negotiated back in late 2020 or early 2021 for the second quarter, so obviously you know the price of the third quarter. Can you just tell us what the price is going to be for the spot volumes that are committed for the third quarter? That's my first question.

And then the second question, which is related, if you could talk about volumes themselves and how we should expect those volumes compared to the second quarter? And as we move into the four quarter as well, so if you could talk about the volume expectations? That's my first set of questions. Thanks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Dave. You're absolutely right. Given that the dynamics of that, you're spot on. We know today what our third quarter numbers are going to be and, a reasonable portion, even of the fourth quarter and we've always tried to be on this call in our interface with all of you, transparent, but very clear in terms of guidance, etc., that we're not going to provide it, but that's one of the reasons why when you hear me say, we are very clear and happy about where we think the second half will be in terms of pricing, it's not because we're estimating it, we know that.

And because of that confidence and the knowledge of it, we can say quite confidently that we are pleased with where the second half of the year is going to be with pricing as well as the developments we start to see for the New Year and not just in terms of what we've done, but the improved behavior of some of our competitors in that respect.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Well, I appreciate, first of all, if you could just also give me a sense on the volumes, but just to come back on the pricing commentary, again, I appreciate the fact that your confidence, and I'm not trying to confident -- I'm not trying to question the confidence. I'm just really trying to help investors get a sense to order of magnitude of improvement in pricing, which is very important to frame valuation and share price. So from a visibility perspective, it's important I think to at least give a sense as to where you think prices are going in terms of order of magnitude. For example, $4100 a ton, should we assume over $5000 a ton for the second half of this year, for the third quarter, and into the fourth quarter? Is that a reasonable assumption? Or at least help give us a framework in order of magnitude? Would be very helpful. And then if you could also, again, comment on volume expectations on an outright basis or relative to the second quarter? Thanks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Well, let me give you the last one first. On the volume side, we had a pretty sizable increase in our volume in the second quarter and running at a pretty high utilization rate. And so as we move into the second half of the year, I should point out, and we normally do this every year in the third quarter, we have a short repair schedule every year in the third quarter, repair outage in our European facility, so that's no secret. And then fully -- that's only 10 days or so long, 10-12 days long, 10 in one plant 12 in another. And then we go back into the fourth quarter. So I think you'll see this fit these higher volumes for the balance of the year and that good utilization rates in our facility. I would point out that we are seeing increased demand for larger-size electrodes, to take a little bit more processing time and I think that's -- as the world is evolving to more, I'll call a green EAF, that's probably not a surprise because these furnaces tend to be the larger furnaces. You think through the new furnaces that are coming online in the United States, all of them have larger furnaces with larger graphite electrode sizes. So it's not a surprise as the world is improving and demand is improving and there is more EAF going toward flat roll applications that require larger furnaces that have -- and the larger furnaces by default have larger electrodes. So I think all of this is good, part of the -- as you think about it, post-COVID, and expected development as we move up through the next 12 months or so.

On the pricing side, just a bit of a gut check here. If, using your numbers would constitute a 20% increase in price in one quarter, that's a pretty big, that's a pretty big jump. So there is, I recognize the steel guys have moved heaven and earth and they have picked some successful on price increases that none of us ever imagined, OK? I'm not, well I'm quite optimistic about where our performance on pricing is going, I think 20% percent jumps a quarter are a little bit asking a little bit much. So I think we're going to do darn good but I'm trying to help calibrate just somehow without getting too far over my skis, hopefully that's helpful.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah, even that is helpful. Thank you very much for that calibration. And then just last question from me, you mentioned obviously higher on needle coke prices. Maybe, perhaps you can talk about order of magnitude on cost increases for the non self-sourced petroleum needle coke as we move through the second half of the year as well?

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Sure, Dave, this is Quinn. Yeah, we have talked about the needle coke prices, we expect them to increase over time. They have increased over time. The last numbers we gave were in a range of $1300 to $1800 and we were at the higher end of that range. We continue to see pressure on those prices and continue to see an upward trajectory. And we expect to continue to see that into the first quarter, first half of next year. So, absolutely, we are seeing upward pressure on those needle coke prices and we'll know more when the contract -- when the period contract for the first half of next year comes around.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. That's it from me, thanks.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Curt Woodworth with Credit Suisse.

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning, Dave and Quinn.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Hey Curt.

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

In the past, you have referenced some data points with respect to needle coke pricing, I think maybe it's been import data. Is there any color you can provide on where you see needle coke today for our models?

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

So you know it's, it's interesting, we were having discussions about -- beginning to have discussions about next year, but nothing is completely firmed up yet. I think on the last call, Quinn, correct me if I'm wrong, we talked about $1500-ish.

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Yes, we talked about the high end of the range, of our range, which is $1,300 to $1,800 and we were in the high end of that range.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. And that was on the last call. We made a few purchases earlier this year. Jeremy, you might want to talk about that a little bit?

Jeremy S. Halford -- Senior Vice President, Operations and Development

Yes, thanks, Dave. All of our commitments for this year have already been sourced and so pricing on those were set a while ago so we don't have direct feedback in terms of pricing that we're seeing in the market. We will say that we are seeing tightness. We know of the winter storm that affected us earlier in the year and we think that that may have had some impact on the industry in total, but all of this is really pointing us in the direction of tightening supply. And so as we look to the future, as Quinn said, being at the high end of the range, last time, we made some purchases. I don't see anything that's driving -- that would drive that down.

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Okay. And then back to the pricing discussion. I appreciate you don't give guidance, but when you published the 10-K, you did provide guidance. So I think $4,100 for the first half of this year back in February. So there is some precedent on giving guidance to the Street. And I think people really struggle with the opaqueness and transparency in this market. So I think it would be helpful to think about giving more specific guidance as it pertains to non-LTA in the third quarter but except it is what it is at this point. One of the questions I have is clearly pricing is going up for needle coke and electrodes. And so to some degree, what matters is the spread between the two. Theoretically, the coke could be going up fast than the electrode which hypothetically is negative. So I'm just curious, can you kind of talk to, how do you see relative scarcity value between electrode versus coke? Would you expect your spread to widen into the back half of this year to your non-LTA?

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

So look, let me try again on the pricing, to give everyone as much as we can without crossing over this guidance line. I said to Dave earlier that 20% increase in a quarter, pretty awesome number that any industry would probably get and more than -- not likely that we are in that genre, but I will tell you, I can go so far as to tell you we've crossed over the double-digit area. So that should narrow it for you a little bit and I'm sorry, that's, it was as far as I think we can go without getting too far over our skis on pricing for the second half.

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

That's helpful.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

In terms of that spread, again, we are in a bit of a unique position, because we have so much of our own needle coke that we're in no danger of net-net of having our spread jeopardized by needle coke this year. And as Jeremy referenced earlier, we're just not far enough along in the 2022, either graphite electrode negotiations or needle coke, I don't expect that to be problematic candidly.

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Okay. And then just one last one, obviously your utilization rates have gone up a lot. The steel industry has, I assume a lot of your electrode peers have as well. Do you have a sense for where the global utilization rate is today in the electrode market? And are you seeing any change in kind of competitive behavior from China? Thank you.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I think that everybody is running pretty hard. I can share with you, but I won't say who it is, but just this morning I had my weekly session with the commercial team and we've got a couple of requests, one from a pretty substantial customer, that is asking for some help, because one of our competitors is having a tough time staying with them, and we already supply them so we're going to -- we are going to move heaven and earth to give them a hand here. So to me that's good news. Not that I wish bad on any of our competitors, just tells me that everybody is running pretty hard and that there is not a lot of room for any issues or difficulties. In terms of the Chinese, I think we see the Chinese domestic market moving forward. So I would expect -- they are always slow to react to these kinds of things, but I think we will see that, we see it in their home market and we certainly see our broader competitors, their behavior changing in the marketplace. There is no question on our mind about that.

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Great, thanks very much. Best of luck.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Okay.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your next question comes from the line of Alex Hacking with Citi.

Alexander Hacking -- Citi Investment Research -- Analyst

Hi, morning, Quinn and Dave. Not to beat a dead horse on the pricing, but, have prices been effectively going up steadily since January? We're in August now. Has it sort of been a steady increase going up every week, every month? And any sign of that upward pricing momentum stalling out yet? Thanks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think it's fair to say that. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's been perfectly linear. I would suggest that of late it's probably at a higher rate of change than it was back in March and April. But yes, I think as soon as we got that inventory number in-line at the end of the first quarter, we saw pretty much an ongoing improvement and it's picking up, bit of ahead of steam.

Alexander Hacking -- Citi Investment Research -- Analyst

Okay, thanks. I was going to ask about the inventory, so your view of the inventory today is fully normalized?

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I think it was pretty much fully normalized at the end of the first quarter.

Alexander Hacking -- Citi Investment Research -- Analyst

Okay, thanks, and then just one final one, an accounting question. Maybe I'm being dumb here, but the $88 million of change of control costs. How much of that was in COGS and how much was in SG&A. If I look at SG&A at $76 million, it seems like $55 million would be in SG&A and the rest in COGS, but if you could specify, that will be helpful for our model.

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Yeah, sure, Alex, you're right on. It is $55.5 in SG&A and $32.5 in COGS.

Alexander Hacking -- Citi Investment Research -- Analyst

Perfect, thank you so much.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of David Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking my follow-up. I just want to ask about other cost pressures aside from needle coke. Can you just comment on, again, some sort of framework around other input cost pressures if there are any in just order of magnitude, what you're seeing there?

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Yeah, sure, Dave, it is Quinn. So we talked a little bit about this last quarter, one of the things I mentioned was we were seeing increases in freight. That's no surprise. Freight costs have increased I think globally for everyone shipping anything. So we did see headwinds with regards to freight costs in the quarter. That was probably the biggest single headwind with regards to cost. To a lesser extent some headwind on other raw materials and then of course, with the higher volume we are using more third-party needle coke. So those were all cost headwinds.

On the other hand, we were able to benefit from the higher volume in that we had a lower fixed cost per metric ton which spread our fixed costs out over more volume and that helped offset some of the headwinds that I just mentioned. So all in all, our cash cost for the quarter were about 1.5% higher than Q1. We felt good about our ability to maintain those and we will continue to see headwinds going forward, certainly with freight, that tends to be a bit of a wildcard, certainly with higher usage of third-party needle coke. We'll do our best to continue to offset those higher cost and those headwinds in the coming quarters.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, that's helpful. Thank you. So order of magnitude in terms of reasonable assumption moving forward outside of the total needle coke line is sort of a 1% to 2% cost quarter over quarter cost increase on a per unit basis, a reasonable expectation for each of the next few quarters or is it going to stabilize in your view?

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Yes, like I said, freight is a bit of a wildcard but based on what we know it's not, probably not an unreasonable assumption, with the caveat that freight really is a wildcard. We are seeing some unusual increases there but again, we're working very hard to manage those.

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, great, thanks very much.

Operator

Thank you. I would now like to turn the call back over to Mr. David Rintoul for closing remarks.

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Hilary. And thanks to all that participated for your questions and interest. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone on the call, health and safety in the coming months. We thank you for your interest in GrafTech International and we look forward to speaking with you in the next quarter. Thank you very much and have a nice day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 46 minutes

Call participants:

Wendy M. Watson -- Vice President, Investor Relations

David J. Rintoul -- President & Chief Executive Officer

Jeremy S. Halford -- Senior Vice President, Operations and Development

Quinn J. Coburn -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Arun Viswanathan -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

David Francis Gagliano -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Curtis Rogers Woodworth -- Credit Suisse AG -- Analyst

Alexander Hacking -- Citi Investment Research -- Analyst

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