What: After reporting volume and pricing led to operational revenue and earnings growth last year, shares in Axalta Coatings Systems Ltd. (NYSE:AXTA) jumped by 10% earlier today before finishing the session up 8.4%.
So what: On Wednesday, the coatings company reported that ex-currency sales in the fourth quarter grew 4.5%, to $1 billion versus a year ago. Axalta Coatings also reported that basic net income per share was $0.16 in Q4, up from a loss of $0.01 a year ago. Full-year ex-currency sales grew 5.3%, to $4.1 billion, and basic net income per share totaled $0.40 compared to $0.12 in 2014.
Fourth-quarter results were driven by volume and average selling price growth of 3.6% and 1.2%, respectively, in the company's performance coatings segment, and by a combined 4.2% volume and price tailwind in its transportation coatings business.
Currency exchange, however, was a major drag on results, more than offsetting the positive impact of rising volume and prices. After adjusting for currency headwinds, fourth-quarter sales decreased 7%, and full year sales fell 6.3%.
Now what: The global company is navigating economic headwinds that are slowing demand for its liquid and powder coatings, which are used in light and commercial vehicle production and industrial applications.
Despite a shaky European economy and decelerating growth in Asia, the company delivered solid operational growth, and thanks to its cost restructuring, Axalta Coatings was able to boost adjusted EBITDA margin to 21.2% from 19.3% in 2014. Improving financial flexibility tied to cost cuts helped the company pay off $100 million in debt last quarter, reducing its total debt to $3 billion.
Additionally, Axalta Coatings forecast that ex-currency sales growth will be between 4% and 6% this year (flat to slightly down including currency exchange) and that's better than some may have been anticipating given the economic worries and the currency drag.
Investors will, however, want to keep an eye on auto and truck sales this year to make sure that trends continue to support the company's operation growth. According to Ward's Automotive, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of U.S. light vehicle sales was 17.46 million in January, up from 16.63 million last year. That was the best January reading since 2006. Additionally, EU passenger car registrations were up 9.3% in 2015 and 16.6% year over year in December. As long as those trends continue, underlying demand and pricing should continue to support Axalta Coatings top and bottom lines.