James Hardie Industries plc (NYSE:JHX) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

James Hardie Industries plc (NYSE:JHX) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 7, 2022

Operator: Thank you for standing by, and welcome to the James Hardie Second Quarter Fiscal Year 2023 Results Briefing. I would now like to hand the conference over to Mr. James Brennan-Chong, Director of Investor Relations and Market Intelligence. Sir, please go ahead.

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James Brennan-Chong: Thank you, operator. Good morning to everyone in Sydney, and hello to others from around the world. I’m James Brennan-Chong, Director of Investor Relations and Market Intelligence at James Hardie. And I would like to welcome you all to our second quarter fiscal year 2023 results call. Turning to Page 2, you will see our standard cautionary note on forward-looking statements. Please note that this presentation does contain forward-looking statements and also the use of non-GAAP financial information. Let’s move to Page 3. Here, you will see our agenda and speakers for today. CEO, Aaron Erter; as well as our CFO, Jason Miele. Today, Aaron will begin the presentation with a brief update on our strategy as well as provide an operations update. Jason will then discuss the second quarter financial results, before Aaron returns to discuss guidance and close. After this, we will open it up to Q&A. I will now hand it over to our CEO, Aaron Erter.

Aaron Erter: Thank you, James. Good morning and good evening to everyone. Welcome to our second quarter earnings call. Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to thank each of our 5,000 employees from around the world for their efforts in delivering a highest quality products and services to our customer partners and what remains a challenging operating environment. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of the James Hardie team over my first 2 months here, and the collective commitment to executing our strategy, and delivering strong results, all while working safely is truly inspiring. I am confident and excited about the future and what we will accomplish together as a team. With that, let’s turn to Page 5. As I stated at our Investor Day in September, I believe that our strategy is solid, and will enable us to deliver sustained profitable growth.

Many of you on the call have seen the slide on the screen many times before. And rather than reiterate each component on this page, what I would like to do is focus on the insights I’ve gathered about our strategy and enhancements I see us making as we move forward. Please turn to Page 6, where I have briefly outlined those insights. Let’s start with our foundational strategic imperatives, which are at the bottom of the diagram in green. They are zero harm ESG, lean manufacturing, customer engagement, and supply chain integration. All of these are foundational strategic imperatives supporting our growth, and it is clear to me that they are understood within the business and are embedded within our team. These foundational initiatives will remain a core focus as they enable us to drive sustained profitable growth across the entire company.

As we move forward, have added our people and how we develop our organizational capability as critical to our future growth. Investing resources in our organizational capability will be a key focus, and our people will be foundational to our strategy. Next, let’s move to the top of the page and the blue section, which outlines the three key tenets to our strategic plan. They are market to homeowners to create demand, penetrate and drive profitable growth in existing and new segments and commercialize global innovations by expanding into new categories. First, let me start by discussing marketing. I’m really encouraged by the progress we have made in marketing to the homeowner. In Q2, we continue to see incremental reach with homeowners and strong lead growth.

We are still in our early stages, but I am pleased with the execution in North America and Australia. As we build our brand and continue our journey to be the brand of choice with homeowners. It’s important that we execute targeted demand creation with the entirety of our supply chain, our customers, contractors, and homeowners. Our marketing strategy is developing and becoming well rounded for our target audiences, product segments and regions we participate. You can see this philosophy articulated at the bottom of the page. We must be homeowner focused, customer and contractor driven. As I’ve spent time visiting all three regions, it is clear we provide superior value to our customers, contractors and homeowners. We do this not only with great products, but with value added services.

That service includes the education and inspiration we provide to homeowners through our Web site, the sales training we provide our customer partners, the install assistance for contractors, and the collaborative supply chain partnership we offer. As you hear me talk about strategy and our execution in the future, you will certainly hear me focus on the concept of delivering superior value to our customers, contractors and homeowners. Lastly, I wanted to touch on two areas which I described as long-term strategic enablers to our future success, capacity expansion and innovative products and services. They are both critical to the long-term success of our strategy. The execution of our capacity expansion program enables the continued growth of our high value products.

Today we are excited to announce our plans to expand our ColorPlus finishing capacity by adding ColorPlus capability to our Prattville, Alabama facility. We expect this added ColorPlus capacity to be available at the end of calendar 2024. We continue to deliver strong ColorPlus growth 31% for the half year following 27% growth in fiscal 2022. In the quarter, we commissioned our Trim Finishing capability in Prattville, which provides us much needed trim capacity. When I speak about innovation, you will note I mentioned products and services. We are and will continue to be focused on both. We just launched a customer visualization tool that allows a homeowner or contractor to digitally visualize a before and after look at a hearty remodeling project.

This improves the design and purchase process and drives quicker conversion rates. As you have heard me say many times over the past 2 months, we have the right strategy. I am more confident than ever, our execution will enable us to continue to drive sustained profitable growth globally. We are homeowner focused, customer and contractor driven. Now let’s turn to Page 7. I introduced this slide at our Investor Day to highlight the fact that we are a growth company. Over the past 10 years we have delivered a net sales CAGR of 11%. We have tripled our annual operating cash flow in the past 10 years. Our 5-year average return on capital employed is 36%. And over the past 10 years, we have delivered an adjusted net income CAGR of 16%. These metrics highlight our ability to consistently generate attractive returns through execution of global strategy.

As I reviewed our past results, one metric which I do not think we highlight enough is our return on capital employed. Our 5-year average return on capital employed of 36% indicates our ability to invest in and execute on the right growth initiatives. Let’s turn to Page 8 to discuss ROCE further. The chart on the left summarizes our annual ROCE from fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2022. We delivered significant growth over the 5-year period with a 51% ROCE in fiscal year ’22, and an outstanding average ROCE of 36% across the 5-year period. These metrics demonstrate that we have consistently invested in organic growth in an efficient and effective manner. My focus is to ensure we continue to prioritize organic growth by investing in our key initiatives, capacity expansion, innovative products and services and targeted demand creation.

Our ability to invest in organic growth efficiently and effectively will enable James Hardie to drive sustainable, profitable global growth into the future. As we look to ensure investment and organic growth is prioritized, we are adjusting our capital allocation framework. Please turn to Page 9 for a summary of that adjusted framework. We believe this new capital allocation framework better matches who we are, a growth company. This framework lays out our priorities for remaining capital after funding operations, including our contribution to the AICF. Our number one and primary focus of our capital allocation is to invest in organic growth. Our 5-year ROCE of 36% is proof that investing in growth should be our first use of capital. Second, we want to ensure we maintain financial flexibility through market cycles, and thus we intend to keep our leverage below 2x throughout market cycles.

Third, after we have invested in our organic growth and ensure the right financial flexibility is in place, we will deploy excess capital to shareholders by a share buybacks. We believe returning excess capital to shareholders by a share buybacks rather than ordinary unfranked dividends, provides a growth company the optimal flexibility to ensure investment and organic growth is prioritized, while maintaining financial strength and flexibility through cycles. And if we shift to Page 10, today we are pleased to announce the replacement of our unfranked ordinary dividend with a share buyback program to acquire up to $200 million of issued capital between now and October 31, 2023. Now, let’s move to Page 11, for an operations update. First, I’m going to provide a brief update on the operational results of each region over the first half before moving on to discuss the shifting market decisions we are facing globally and in each region.

Let’s start in North America, where Sean Gadd and his team delivered excellent results in the first half and what remains a very challenging operating environment. Net sales grew 23% and EBIT saw growth of 15% at an EBIT margin of 27.1%. Price mix grew 14%, which included January and June price realization. Included in this result was continued ColorPlus growth of 31% for the first 6 months of our fiscal year. The team continues to deliver on our superior value proposition to the entirety of the supply chain, enabling these outstanding results. In addition, Sean and team continue to position our organization for long-term growth by continuing to partner with our customers. Over the first half of the year, we have been recognized organizationally by a number of our trade partners, from vendor of the year with the largest private lumber distributor to a series of national builder awards, which recognize our partnership cross functionally, with sales, manufacturing supply chain in their construction, purchasing and sales functions.

Proof points to the value our customers place in our products, services and people and a testament to the great work of not only our sales team led by John Matson, but the work of our supply chain and manufacturing organizations who ensure our customers receive the products they want, when they need them, even under the most challenging of conditions. Also, during the first half, the North America team launched our partnership with Magnolia Home and Chip and Joanna Gaines. We see this partnership elevating our brand awareness with homeowners by assisting them in their remodeling journey with an inspired collection curated by Joanna Gaines herself. This collection will allow homeowners to truly transform the look of their homes. I want to thank the entire North American team for their continued operational excellence.

Moving to Asia Pacific, where John Arneil and the team delivered a solid outcome of 8% growth in net sales under continued inflation, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions in the first half of the year. As we have faced these headwinds, our EBIT margin has been under pressure. But we are partnering with our customers in executing price increases to ensure we are able to continue to provide the high-level of service they expect. With that said, we expect EBIT margin growth in the second half of the fiscal year with price realization and continued higher mix products. In September, I had the pleasure of spending time with several of our key customers in Australia. And it was clear to me how much they value our products and services. We will continue to partner with our customers, contractors and homeowners to drive growth above market in the APAC region.

In Europe, our business continues to face significant headwinds from inflationary pressures and a slowing market. However, the team has done a tremendous job of navigating the environment to deliver a hard fought 2% growth in net sales. The commercial and marketing teams have done an outstanding job in commercialization of our new product innovations we discussed at our Investor Day. These include VL Plank and Hardie Architectural Panels, which will help to drive our growth in fiber cement, and Therm 25, which is exciting solution for underfloor heating that is helping us drive fiber gypsum penetration. The early reads on these products are exceeding our expectations, and we’re seeing continued adoption from the trade. Last week, we were excited to announce the appointment of our new European leader, Christian Claus, who will join us at the start of January.

I believe Christian is a great fit to lead our European business, who will help us accelerate our penetration within that region. Christian has a stellar track record of leading high performing teams and we are excited to welcome him to James Hardie in January. Okay, let’s move on to discuss the outlook for the second half. Over the past 45 days, we’ve seen a significant change to the outlook of housing market activity for the second half of our fiscal year in most of the geographies where we participate. In North America, single-family new construction starts have slowed significantly and market expectations for the remainder of our fiscal year have declined sharply. The repair and remodel segment in North America is seeing moderation due to several factors including, but not limited to falling home prices and declining consumer confidence due to uncertain economic outlook.

During our last call in the middle of August, our expectation for the second half volume was for mid-single-digit growth, which we then reaffirm at our Investor Day in early September. However, based on the significant decline in the market expectations over the past 45 days, which we have reviewed with our customer partners, we now expect second half volume growth to be between negative 5% and negative 8% to the prior year, which is a significant reduction to our August September projections. We do expect regions with more exposure to repair and remodel to remain more buoyant than regions more exposed to new construction. And in our projections for the second half of the year, we see volume growth in our regions that are more R&R focused, but see significant volume decreases in those regions skewed toward new construction.

In And Australia, labor shortages and unfavorable weather conditions have constrained housing market activity despite strong contracted backlogs. In addition, we have had our customers ask to lower inventory levels as we enter this period of market uncertainty. These conditions result in our APAC volume declining by 4% in Q2. For the second half of our fiscal year, we expect volume growth will be in the range of minus 4% to flat versus the same period last year. In Europe, we expect the second half to be very similar to the first half as that region contends with a tense macro economic situation. We do believe we will continue to deliver relatively strong price mix growth, resulting in net sales in the second half to be slightly down versus the same period last year.

That is certainly a unique time, but housing markets changing quickly due to a variety of factors. That said, despite the reduction in our expectations for housing market activity, we are confident that we will continue to deliver growth above the market. Before I hand it over to Jason, I wanted to discuss further the change in our outlook for second half North American volumes. The primary reason for the reduction in our outlook for second half volumes is new construction. On September 20 and October 19, the census data was released for new construction for August and September activity. Few notable items in that data. First, single-family starts were down 17% versus the same 2-month period last year. Second, for the first time this year completions are now outpacing starts.

Over the 2-month period completions were 11% higher than starts, which reduces a new construction backlog. In addition to the census data, we learn through big builder quarterly announcements that their cancellation rates have increased substantially, which also reduces new construction backlogs. And lastly, over the past few weeks, as we dug into the backlog deeper, we discovered that builder practices had changed in some regions, whereby our product was being installed earlier in the process than it historically has been over the past 30 years. Specifically, in regions where roofing materials and windows were a constraint, our product was going up ahead of those items. And thus some of the outstanding completions in the industry already have our product installed, again, reducing our addressable backlog.

In addition, we have seen two additional Fed rate hikes on September 21 and November 2, which we believe will continue to drive starts downward and keep cancellations high. All in all, we are now expecting our addressable new construction activity to be down 30% plus in our second half, which is the primary basis for a reduced volume outlook. While we are significantly reducing our expectations for the second half volumes. To put that in for context, we still expect our second half of fiscal year ’23 to be one of the largest in the history of our company. And from a net sales dollar perspective, we expect it to be the second largest half year net sales in our history. Over the past few years, we have significantly step changed our top line results by driving volume growth and price mix growth, which puts us in a position to deliver, again, the second largest half year net sales dollar results in our history despite the market slowdown.

This adjusted outlook for the second half still puts us in a position to deliver EBIT growth year-over-year and an EBIT margin in the top end of our 25% to 30% range, while continuing to make the right investments in our long-term growth. We will continue to focus on what we can control and position ourselves appropriately for fiscal year 2024. With that said, I would like to hand it off to our CFO, Jason Miele, who will share details about our second quarter financial results.

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Jason Miele: Thank you, Aaron. Let’s now shift to Page 13 to discuss our fiscal year 2023 second quarter results. In challenging macro conditions, the global team has continued to deliver growth above market with strong returns. In the second quarter, group net sales increased 10% to just under $1 billion. Group net sales was highlighted by strong price mix growth in every region, with price mix growth of 14% in North America, 11% in Asia Pac and 12% in Europe. The unfavorable change in foreign exchange rates between the second quarter of FY ’23 and the second quarter of last year had an unfavorable impact on net sales in U.S dollars of $30.9 million. Global adjusted EBIT increased 6% to $218.5 million, driven by the global net sales growth of 10% partially offset by inflationary pressures in all regions.

The unfavorable change in foreign exchange rates between the second quarter of FY ’23 and the second quarter of last year had an unfavorable impact on adjusted EBIT in U.S dollars of $3.2 million. Global adjusted net income increased 13% to $175.8 million in the second quarter. We have seen substantial growth in adjusted net income over the past few years. From the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 through to this result, we have now seen our second quarter adjusted net income growth 22%, 29% and now 13% over the past 3 years. During the quarter, the European team sold surplus land from an old unused site as part of their work to find a suitable site for our future greenfield fiber cement plant. The sale of land generated gains net income net of tax of $8.9 million.

For the half year, net sales increased 14% to just under $2 billion, and adjusted net income increased 14% to $330.1 million. Operating cash flow for the first half of the year was lower year-over-year at $264.6 million. The lower operating cash flow was driven by an unfavorable change in working capital in the current year versus a favorable change in working capital in the prior year, primarily related to the timing of payments within accounts payable and prepays and also included an increase in inventory during the half year. Let’s move to Page 14 to discuss the North American results. In the second quarter, the North American team delivered robust net sales growth of 18% to $750.6 million, driven by volume growth of 4% and excellent price mix growth of 14%.

The strong price mix in the quarter was underpinned by ColorPlus volume growth of 31% in the second quarter. Volume growth of 4% was below our expectations of mid to high-single-digit growth in the quarter, due to our customers partnering with us to lower their inventory levels as well as the impact of hurricane Ian Florida, which required us to close two of our plants for multiple days at the end of the quarter. In the second quarter, the team delivered a strong bottom line outcome with EBIT increasing 17% to $212.8 million at an EBIT margin of 28.4%. As we foreshadowed in August, we are pleased to report a 250 basis point sequential increase in EBIT margin for the second quarter to 28.4% from 25.9% in our first quarter. As discussed in August, this improved EBIT margin was driven primarily by the execution of our June 2022 price increase, while we maintained SG&A spend relatively flat to Q1.

Persistent inflation kept cost of goods sold per unit relatively flat to Q1 and comparing Q2 versus Q1, while we saw freight improve, pulp natural gas and other input costs increased into Q2 almost entirely offsetting the favorable change in freight. Over the past 3 years, we’ve seen substantial growth in North American net sales and EBIT from the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 through to this results, we have seen our second quarter North America net sales grow 12%, 23% and now 18% over the past 3 years, and have seen our EBIT grow 19%, 23% and now 17%. We continue to drive growth on top of growth in our North American segment. Let’s now move to Page 15 to discuss the Asia Pacific results. The Asia Pacific team delivered second quarter net sales growth of 7% to AUD$211.1 million.

Importantly, the APAC business continue to drive high value product penetration with price mix growth of 11% in the quarter. The 4% decline in volumes was primarily driven by the constrained housing market in Australia as well as customers in Australia, New Zealand adjusting inventory levels lower. Despite strong contracted backlogs, unfavorable weather conditions and labor shortages are slowing market growth in Australia. Second quarter EBIT declined 7% to AUD$56.1 million with a margin of 26.6%. EBIT margins were adversely impacted by lower volumes as well as higher freight and pulp costs, which more than offset continued execution of lean manufacturing and growth in high value innovations. Similar to our discussion of our North American business last quarter, in our Asia Pac business and Q2 continued inflationary pressures have constrained margins.

And as we execute price increases in all three countries in September and October, we expect margin accretion in the back half of the year. Over the past 3 years, we have seen substantial top line growth in Australian dollars. From the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 through to this result, we have seen our second quarter Asia Pacific net sales grow 4%, 15% and now 7% over the past 3 years. Turning now to Page 16, let’s discuss the European results. During the second quarter, net sales decreased 2% to €102 million, driven by a 14% decline in volumes, which was a result of the slowdown in the European housing market. However, the team’s continued execution of a high value product penetration strategy resulted in strong price mix growth of 12%.

Second quarter EBIT declined to €4.4 million at an EBIT margin of 4.3%. Margins were adversely impacted by higher prices for natural gas, freight, gypsum and paper compared to the prior corresponding period. In addition, SG&A investment increased 10% primarily in marketing and talent capability. For the half year, Europe net sales increased 2% To €212.8 million. As stated at the Investor Day, our European team remains focused on ensuring effective execution of our long-term strategy to become a €1 billion net sales business with 20% plus EBIT margins. We remain confident in the strategy and the European business. I will now hand it back over to Aaron.

Aaron Erter: Thank you, Jason. Let’s turn to Page 18 for an update on guidance. As I discussed earlier in the operational update, over the past 45 days, we have seen a significant change to the outlook of housing market activity in the second half of our fiscal year. This has been a consistent sentiment across most industry participants. I discussed earlier our expectations for volume in each of our regions for the second half of our fiscal year. These expectations have reduced significantly in the past 45 days, and are the basis for the change in our guidance range. We are navigating this market uncertainty with the focus on controlling what we can control. This includes costs, price realization, HMOS productivity initiatives in outperforming our competitors and the underlying markets we participate in with our outstanding value proposition.

Due to the decline in volume expectations, we are adjusting our full year fiscal year 2023 adjusted net income to between $650 million and $710 million, which represents a 10% increase at the midpoint relative to fiscal year 2022. More specifically for North America, our largest region, we expect fiscal year 2023 net sales growth of 13% versus fiscal year 2022 at an EBIT margin between 28% and 30%. As I mentioned earlier, while we have reduced our expectations for the second half in North America due to the changing market conditions, we still expect to deliver the second largest half year in net sales in James Hardie’s history. As we look to the back half of the year, we expect to continue to face challenges. But we are confident in our ability to outperform our competitors in the markets we participate.

You could turn to Page 19. Before we open for Q&A, I’d like to take this opportunity to state how proud I’m to be a part of the James Hardie team. This Group has managed through COVID, global supply chain disruptions, rapid inflation and an extended period with the leadership backing. Through all that, this team has delivered strong results. I’m invigorated by the can do attitude that exists here. People are at the heart of what we do. And over the past several weeks, I’ve witnessed firsthand how strong, capable and dedicated the James Hardie employees are. The future is bright for James Hardie. When I reflect on why James Hardie for investors, I go back to what I shared with you all at our Investor Day, and who we are, a global growth company.

As we look to the future, I’m confident we are well-positioned to successfully navigate any market uncertainty and emerge out of any such period stronger than when we entered it. With that, I would like the operator to open the line-up for questions.

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