Kimberly-Clark de México, S. A. B. de C. V. (KCDMF) CEO Pablo González on Q1 2020 Results – Earnings Call Transcript

Kimberly-Clark de México, S. A. B. de C. V. (OTCPK:KCDMF) Q1 2020 Earnings Conference Call April 24, 2020 9:30 AM ET

Company Participants

Pablo González – Chief Executive Officer

Xavier Cortés – Chief Financial Officer

Conference Call Participants

Bob Ford – Bank of America

Mohammed Ahmad – FGP

Ben Theurer – Barclays

Luis Willard – GBM

Nicolas Larrain – JPMorgan

Operator

Excuse me, everyone. We now have all of our speakers in conference. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen-only mode. At the conclusion of today’s presentation, we will open up the floor for questions. At that time, instructions will be given as to the procedure to follow if you would like to ask a question.

I would now like to turn the conference over to our CEO, Pablo González. Please go ahead.

Pablo González

Good morning everyone. Thanks for your participation on the call and we hope you and your families are all safe and healthy.

Let me start by making a few brief comments about the quarter. Our results reflect strong growth and improved profitability both sequentially as well as year-on-year. Notwithstanding is difficult topline comparison given last year’s aggressive pricing by some market participant, our sales grew for the 22nd quarter in a row, mostly through volume, reflecting the strength of our brands.

The volume growth, together with an improved cost environment, and our increased productivity and cost savings initiatives allowed us to continue to deliver good bottom-line results, a positive quarter, but we face a very challenging rest of the year.

Xavier will provide additional details on the results before we discuss the current situation and possible implications for Kimberly-Clark de México.

Xavier Cortés

Hello, everyone. I also wish everyone is healthy and your families are doing well through this period. During the quarter, our sales were MXN11.7 billion, a new record and a 6% increase versus the first quarter of 2019. Volume grew while price and mix were slightly down versus last year. Consumer product sales were 6% higher also as a result of higher volumes.

Away from home products grew to 4% and the export sales grew 55%. We exported more converted products as well as more tissue rolls.

Cost of goods sold were down 1% against last year, variable recycled fiber and pulp prices convert positively as these are all derivatives, including super absorbing materials and resins.

Energy prices also convert positively. FX average 1% less during the quarter. Having said that let me remind you that by the end of the quarter, the peso had depreciated 22.6% versus the previous year, which will impact costs going forward.

The cost reduction program yielded close to MXN350 million of savings during the quarter. Gross profit increased 19% and margin was 39.6% for the quarter, 10 basis points better sequentially.

SG&A grew 6%, slightly below sales, as we maintain the lean operation, while efficiently investing in advertising and point-of-sales to strengthen our brand and support our recent innovations. Operating profit increased 31% and the margin was 23.1%, a 10 basis points sequential improvement.

During the quarter, we generated MXN3.2 billion of EBITDA, a 26% increase and EBITDA margin was 27.5%, a sequential improvement of 20 basis points. Cost of financing was MXN412 million in the first quarter compared to MXN368 million in the same period of last year.

Interest expense was higher as we recognized an increase in the value of the good authority in minority owners, in line with improved results of this business. The foreign exchange gain in the period was MXN42 million compared to MXN25 million in the previous year. As a consequence, net income for the quarter was MXN1.5 billion, a 32% increase. Finally, earnings per share were MXN0.50.

With that I will turn it back to Pablo.

Pablo González

It goes without saying that we’re experiencing a new operating environment, together with very high uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on several fronts, including the spread of the virus among the Mexican population, the health of the Mexican economy and private consumption, as well as the impact of the Mexican peso and the prices of certain raw materials.

The epidemic which has already shattered job markets around the world will no doubt have very negative effects on Mexico’s economy. At this point, the consensus is that the economy will shrink by at least 6%. And on top of this, the Mexican peso has lost one quarter of its value in recent weeks.

Of course, the greater the spread of the virus and the longer it takes to get the economy restarted, the more profound impact on job losses, business closures, consumer demand, and reduced output. We are at an earlier stage than other countries. And it’s simply impossible and quite frankly, futile at this point to try to determine the impact and what’s in store. We really don’t know nobody does either.

In light of this, let me focus on describing what we have defined us our priorities and operating guidelines to navigate through the current environment, and briefly describe the actions we’ve taken to provide the necessary care and support to all of our personnel and to aid health institutions, governments, and communities during these very difficult times.

First and foremost, we are protecting the health of our employees and their families, are implementing measures to positively impact them, and the communities where we operate.

Second, we’re taking several actions to make sure we continue operating and supplying our products without major disruptions. We manufacture and distribute essential healthcare and hygiene products; we need to make sure that our customers and all Mexican consumers have access to.

Third, we’re making sure that we become more efficient in every aspect of our operation to deliver the best results possible in this environment and we will focus on generating and protecting cash.

With regards to our personnel, when the first cases of COVID appeared in Mexico, we immediately implemented home office protocols for higher risk individuals. These protocols were gradually extended to most personnel in office and administrative judge.

Our production and distribution facilities were implemented very strict sanitation, quarantine, safety and distancing protocols much stricter than those suggested by health authorities.

Also very importantly, we decided to anticipate 50% of the profit sharing payment in April to provide our employees with cash and will disperse the other half during May, as we have always done in the past.

KCM profit sharing is one of the highest in the country. We’re very proud of distributing to our employees as is always been the case. I also want to emphasize that we have not only supported all of our employees, but have been hiring additional personnel.

Finally, we are providing all employees and their families with hygiene products to help them get through this contingent, toilet paper, cleaning wipes, material soap and hand gel and masks, among others. We have made coaching available to help them stay safe and healthy both physically and emotionally.

Protecting the health of our employees and their families is our most important objective and we will continue to implement the protocols and take any other actions that we deem necessary to keep our people and their families safe.

With regard to supporting health institutions, governments, and communities, we have taken the following initial steps; we have donated more than 1 million bars of soap, 14 tons of antibacterial liquid hand soap, and 12 pounds of antibacterial gel to the Red Cross and other public health institutions. And we’ll deliver close to 3 million masks.

During May, we will be supplying 10 public hospitals with all the required protection materials for doctors, nurses, and staff, partnering with the initiative of [Indiscernible] Mexico.

We have made donations of toilet paper, masks, and antibacterial soap to all municipalities where we operate and we will be supporting small businesses and suppliers in our communities.

KCM has always been committed to improving the lives of our consumers, personnel, communities where we operate, and the country as a whole, and we will be doubling our efforts to have an even greater impact in this very tough moments.

In relation to a second priority, we continue to operate efficiently to supply our products to the vast majority of the Mexican population. We are operating at very high rates and as always been the case, we’re very focused on operating better and at lower costs.

To this end, maintaining our supply chain up and running is a key factor. So far, we have not experienced any import disruption and that is something we’re closely monitoring and working towards.

Let me now make some comments with respect to our third priority, delivering the best results possible in this environment and prioritizing cash generation. We are carefully reviewing our portfolio to ensure we meet our consumers’ needs under the current market and economic environments.

Our categories are not only essential, but are also very defensive and KCM’s multi-brand, multi-tiered, multi-channel strategy and business model together with the strength of our brands at every tier will allow us to offer the best value to every consumer.

We will continue to push operating efficiencies and drive costs out. When it comes to raw materials, most will compare favorably versus last year, although, we’re seeing some slight sequential increase.

In addition, going forward, the global economic slowdown and the consequences of price reductions would mean lower raw material prices. One important exception are recycled fibers which have experienced important increases given that supply has been impacted, particularly in the U.S. We’re of course experiencing significant pressure from Mexican peso depreciation.

Accordingly, we’re reviewing and optimizing our open fiber strategy. We will double our efforts to reduce costs and expenses to offset this impact. We have already identified MXN1.2 billion for the year and maintained our MXN1.5 billion target. And even though we already have a lean operation, we will be analyzing every single expense line to make sure we cut or reduce all non-indispensable ones.

Further, in light of the current environment, we’re facing a special emphasis on generating and keeping cash. We’re not only looking at cost and expense reductions, but also closely reviewing every investment. In line with this objective, we’re very carefully revisiting our CapEx projects and we will be delaying or deferring a significant proportion. We’re also analyzing diverse actions to free-up more cash from working capital.

Our strong financial position and cash generation ensure that we can not only withstand what may be a very difficult economic scenario, but we will be able to emerge stronger from this environment.

We have a strong balance sheet and our net debt to equity ratio is 1.1 times. In terms of liquidity, as of March 31st, the company held MXN9.7 billion in cash and equivalents.

Also, as you know, we have two debt issuances coming due in the next 12 months, we have already identified different alternatives to refinance those, either partially or in full and are already working to make sure we can act whenever we consider it most appropriate.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that our Annual Shareholder Meeting in February approved a payment of MXN1.60 per share dividend. This amount represents a 3% increase versus last year and is in line with our commitment to distribute cash to our shareholders while maintaining a healthy capital structure. The Shareholders’ Meeting also approved a MXN200 million buyback program, which will be placed on hold at this moment.

In summary, we had a very good first quarter, but we’re taking the necessary steps to face the challenges over coming quarters.

With that, let me open it up for questions and thank you all again for participating on the call.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

At this time, we will open up the floor for questions. [Operator Instructions]

We’ll take our first caller. Please go ahead. Caller your line is live, please ask your question.

Bob Ford

Hey, good morning everybody. This is Bob Ford over at Bank of America. Thanks for taking my call. Pablo, I was very impressed with earnings [ph], working capital improvements, and debt reduction in the period.

[Technical Difficulty]

And I was hoping that you could talk a little bit about that now specifically and your expectations and the sustainability of that? And there also appears to be a derivative position on now given our reluctance to hedge in recent years, I was curious to what that was?

Pablo González

Okay, let me — hi Bob, how are you? Let me take the exports and then I’ll ask Xavier to get into the derivatives question. When it comes to exports, indeed, we had a very strong core and it’s because we’ve been really focusing on becoming a supplier to our partner — to Kimberly-Clark Corporation and a supplier not just rolls but a finished product.

And as they’ve been going through the restructuring, we’ve been able to find some opportunities and given our cost structure and our efficiencies, we’ve been able to provide them with good quality products at good costs. So, we’ve been able to increase our — or build our business of finished product with them. And we do expect that to continue here in the coming months and hopefully years.

Also, we’ve started to increase our exports — or unit flow and the school of business and those are going well. They represent a smaller part of our exports business, but we’re certainly building those up as we go along and we’re very satisfied with the way that’s going. So, overall, I think we can expect exports to continue on a strong run for the rest of the year and as I said, for the coming years.

Xavier Cortés

Hello, bob, this is Xavier. In terms of derivatives, we have not actually changed our hedging strategy. The hedging strategy remains –as you know, we tried to keep our balance sheet neutral in terms of FX exposure, but we basically do not hedge our costs going forward, neither through raw material prices nor through FX.

I imagined your question comes because of the effect that we recognized of a put, that’s more related to a put that the original owners of [Indiscernible]. If you recall, four owners of [Indiscernible] operated business with us on 22.5% of the company, they have a good option for those shares, which is contingent to certain conditions and limited to serve certain time windows.

We recognize the obligation as a liability that has been in our balance sheet since we acquired the business, but we increased the value of such liability because the business is performing very well. Their liability increased by MXN100 million from MXN260 million to MXN360 million.

Bob Ford

Perfectly understood. Thank you and congratulations on the take ups.

Pablo González

Thanks Bob.

Operator

We’ll take our next question, caller please go ahead.

Mohammed Ahmad

Hi guys, this is Mohammed from FGP. Thank you very much for taking my question and hope all of you are well. My question is simply, what was the consumer volume growth? If you could give us some color on that. And the second is if you could just refresh us on what is the cost — USD exposure at current levels? Thank you.

Pablo González

Hi Mohammed, how are you? As, we mentioned, our growth really came from volume during this quarter. Our price and mix was slightly lower versus last year. And I — sorry, I didn’t get the last part of your question. Can you repeat it?

Mohammed Ahmad

Sure. Sorry. Just to reiterate, my first question was specifically for your consumer segment. So, am I to understand that that’s also exactly in line with overall business with roughly 7% volume growth and 1% pricing?

Pablo González

Yes. The same applies for our consumer business, yes.

Mohammed Ahmad

Okay, that’s great. Thank you. Just — what’s the latest USD COGS exposure? — Sorry, cost of goods sold exposure to foreign currency basically as a percentage?

Pablo González

It’s close to 60%.

Mohammed Ahmad

Okay, great. Thank you very much, guys.

Pablo González

Thank you.

Operator

We’ll take our next question. Caller, please go ahead.

Ben Theurer

Hey, good morning. It’s Ben Theurer from Barclays. Pablo, Xavier, first of all, thanks for taking the opportunity and the call today. Two questions if I may. So, first, if we go back to 2008-2009, we’ve seen you guys performing extremely relatively well in a tough environment with sales growth that was fairly in the decent level of high single-digit in quarters actually in the low teens.

Can you remind us what drove back then the better sales? Was it the volume thing? Was it you being able to nonetheless price decently just considering the nature of the basic needs? And if we look at what the first quarter was basically all volume driven, what would you expect for second and third quarter in terms of a volume price mix? If you were to compare it to last year, where do you stand on pricing, and how would that translate into sales? That would be my first question.

Pablo González

Sure. Thanks for the questions. As we looked into 2008, 2009 with given the economic situation what happened is that there was a shift by consumers to mom and pop stores versus modern trade to lower packs counts and to lower disbursements. They would go on a more frequent basis to buy, but make lower disbursement purchases. That is usually the case when the economy contracts. And what we adjusted at that time, our portfolio remember, we’ve got the advantage that we’ve got this multi-tiered, multi-brand and multi-channel portfolio.

And since we operate in every Tier and in our most important businesses, as we lead in every Tier. We were able to adjust our portfolio to the needs — to the particular needs of the consumers at that time. And that’s exactly, what we’re focusing on right now. We’re looking at our portfolio and making sure that — given the current conditions, we’re offering consumers the best available product and pricing, or the best available value overall at every Tier and every channel. That has always served us well. And it’s a strategy that we will continue to push hard.

Now, when it comes to volume, price and mix going forward, it’s really hard to tell, because as I mentioned, we’re at an earlier stage in these pandemic in Mexico, authorities believe that the peak will come sometime the middle of May and right now we’re in the phase three or when this is more contagious.

So, we really need to give this a little bit more time and figure out how long it takes for us to get through it. What the impact then is on the Mexican economy as a whole, and particularly in the health of the consumer, and what that means then for consumption going forward.

So, I wish I could give you a little bit more guidance, but it’s really so uncertain at this time that it’s very difficult for us to provide you guidance regarding volume, price and mix going forward.

Ben Theurer

Okay. Totally understandable. And then my last question on within the cost of financing. So, you’ve mentioned that that revaluation of the put that kind of impact that on a year-over-year basis your cost of financing that was something that just occurred, because of the value and you have to revalue it now on a quarterly basis, was it just the one cue thing or is that something that could have an impact in coming quarters as well. Just to understand the structure of the put and how the revaluation is basically tested?

Xavier Cortés

Hi, Ben. This is Xavier. This is something we have to — to evaluate — to evaluate and value it actually on a — on a continuous basis. Of course, we couldn’t just adjust it for one quarter of good or bad result. We take a look at this — this is something that the exercise time is in the future.

So, we have time to go, look and see how the business is performing, and then bring it — bring that to a present value. And that’s how we adjust it. This is the first time we adjust it. If the business continues to perform a very well, at some time in the future, we would probably need to do this again.

Ben Theurer

Okay. Is there — is there dollar component within the U.S. dollar revenue or cost component within it that could impact the value of the put?

Xavier Cortés

No.

Ben Theurer

Okay, perfect. That’s all thank you very much, and congrats on the results.

Pablo González

Thank you, Ben.

Operator

We’ll take our next question. Caller, please go ahead.

Luis Willard

Hi, good morning. This is Luis Willard from GBM. Hi, Pablo and team. I hope everything’s going well. First of all, congrats on the results and especially and the initiatives you’ve put in place to treat this crisis. That’s always outstanding you guys out.

And I just have one question. Can you tell a little bit more how the relationships in the negotiations with retailers portrayed so far, especially after the spike in March? I believe they must be getting tougher in terms of commercial conditions. So, this is the case how the — this more aggressive negotiation with retailers fits in your strategy to improve working capital and project profitability that you mentioned earlier. Thank you.

Pablo González

Hi, Luis, hope everything’s going well. Thanks for the question. Look, we really have been focusing our work with retailers so making sure we’ve got our products at the shelf. It’s been — it’s been very fluid. And they’ve been helping us. And we’ve been helping them to make sure the whole supply chain works well. And we can have again enough product for all Mexican consumers of the shelves.

We saw a very important peak back in the middle of March in terms of sales, different rooms, what — at least we understand has happened in other countries, where there were several peaks as the faces of the pandemic were announced. In Mexico, we really saw the peak right at the middle of March, when it was a — the 15th of March or so.

And then, the volume stayed not a big level, but on a sustained high-level for the rest of March and early into April. So, as that happened, some of the stores and some of the shelves did not have enough products, so really, our work again has been just focused on making sure we get enough products to the shelves and that has been our priority with our clients. And that has been our client’s priority.

Other than that, as you know, some of our clients has mentioned that they will put some products in a basic basket to make them a little bit more affordable and easier to get for consumers. And we are part of that in — and some of the products are not part of that basket.

And we’ve worked with our clients through that. But I wouldn’t say that, the negotiations have gotten any tougher or any more difficult for us at this time. We’re really all working together to make sure that consumer has enough product at this time at the shelf.

Luis Willard

Okay. That’s, that’s great, Pablo. Thank you.

Pablo González

You’re welcome, Luis.

Operator

We’ll take our next question. Caller, please go ahead.

Unidentified Analyst

Hey. Hi, good morning Pablo, Xavier. Thanks for taking my question. Just a follow-up on the competitive landscape. So, not — not ask for guidance, but ask for what you’re looking at right now, if you can comment on — on the reaction you have seen from competitors in terms of pricing, promotions especially at these difficult conditions, both in terms of demand and currency?

And my second question would be a quick one. So, when you comment on this that you are analyzing the, the pulp and paper cost, another cost would this simply a shift or a major shift in the composition of pulp and recycled paper, if I’m not mistaken, around 6% of recycled paper is around 60% of your pulp and paper requirements is recycled paper? Would this change in the near-term or not really? That would be my questions. Thank you.

Pablo González

Thanks. Thanks for the questions. Look, we’ve seen so far no changes when it comes to the competitive landscape with respect to pricing or promotion. I think we are all this time just trying to make sure we can supply the market with the product it needs. That has been the focus of every producer and we again have seen no important changes at this time, when it comes to pricing or promotional activity.

In terms of the composition of pulp and recycled paper. Sure, what we’ve seen again is a surge in the pricing of recycled, recycled paper, particularly in the U.S. given the impact that the supply has suffered and that — what we’ve done we saw the — that surges were really taking a look at our — the composition of, of all of our products and what we use in terms of virgin fiber, recycled and some other materials.

And we will, we’re putting our strategy together to figure out what makes more sense to make sure we continue to provide consumers with the best quality products. But hopefully be able to lower costs as we mix as we shift the mix between pulp, recycle and the other components to make it more efficient.

Unidentified Analyst

That was very clear. Thank you.

Pablo González

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We’ll take our next question. Caller, please go ahead.

Unidentified Analyst

Hello. Thank you for taking my question. This is [indiscernible] with Santander. Thank you, Pablo and Xavier hope you and your family are very well. I have a follow-up to the previous question regarding the competitive environment that has to do with private label.

So, I think that what’s different with this crisis that we’re facing in private-label is of the higher percentage of sale that in previous cases, how does the situation with private-label should evolve in light of this crisis? That would be my first question.

My second question very directly regarding, you can expand a little bit more in terms of the types of product that you’re increasing exports into the United States? Thank you.

Pablo González

Sure. Thanks. Thanks for the questions. Well, first on private-label. Usually, when we have a tough economy conditions, private-label is the surface somewhat, and certainly retailers for a while now have been saying that private-label will be a focus of them.

Having said that, as you know for the most part it represents lower percentages that than it does in other parts of the world. I think that has to do particularly with the fact that many producers have products — economy products that compete with private-label and are very good quality products.

In our case, particularly again, we’ve got our multi-tier strategy, so we participate from the economy segment all the way to the premium and super premium segment, and try to offer the consumer the best product at every tier, including the common tier.

So as in, as it’s always been the case and we’ll continue to do this going forward, we will — we will focus to make sure that we have a very, very good product in the tiers for private-label participates, and hopefully, consumer will prefer our brands and will be able to continue to grow nicely

When it comes to the export side, we’ve been — it’s really a mix of products that we’ve been supplying to our partner particularly, it has to do with we were supplying some child care products. Right now, we’re supplying some bathroom tissue products and even some parent roles. And we were talking to them to analyze additional opportunities in the professional business and others.

So what has happened again is that, we’ve been able to increase our share of finished product sales on the export side to our partner and that has helped us and again, we continue to analyze different opportunities and a very, very positive that we’ll be able to capture some of that volume going forward.

And when it comes to our other businesses, we are trying to expand the reach of the Escudo soap — and even full bottles through Central America and South America. And we’re certainly making progress of that, not as quickly as we would like. The progress has been pretty good and we’re very excited with the opportunities we see going forward.

Unidentified Analyst

That’s very clear. And I guess with the depreciation of the peso, the opportunities for your exports to continue really care in the United States is pretty high. So, congratulations on the — on the result and the outlook. Thank you so much, and stay safe.

Pablo González

Thank you very much appreciated.

Operator

We’ll take our next question. Caller, please go ahead.

Nicolas Larrain

Hey, guys. Thank you for taking my question. This is Nicolas Larrain from JPMorgan. I wanted to double click a bit on the strength, but more on the oil derivate side. How should we be looking at this? And I just wanted to make sure that you see the same trends that we normally see on the oil price, especially what you normally see also on the old derivatives? And also if you could remind us quickly on how — what maturities you need to pay, this year and also early year? Thank you

Pablo González

What when it comes to oil and oil derivatives, which I understand is your first question and if not, please let us know, because it’s your questions did not come through very clear, but I think the first one has to do with oil the derivatives and really what we’re seeing there is we are starting to see the impact on the oil prices coming down on raw materials of oil derivatives also come down, but at a much lower scale at this point.

There’s always a lag between oil coming down and the oil derivatives, really reflecting those reductions going forward. So we will certainly be seeing and we expect to be seeing oil derivatives come down further in the next quarter or so given what has happened to oil price. And can you repeat the second part of your question? Because again, it didn’t come out very clear.

Nicolas Larrain

Perfect. Thanks Pablo. That was exactly my first question. On the second one was mostly on the on maturities how — I mean, what’s the amount your — you need to pay during this year and also early 2020-2021? Thank you.

Xavier Cortés

It’s a — it’s around MXN 6 billion for the two years. This year is 2.5; starting next year it’s around 3.5. It’s actually $200 million for the sketch. And the peso amount gets to around the 3.5 that I mentioned.

Nicolas Larrain

Perfect. Thank you very much for the —

Xavier Cortés

In both cases, if I may add, as we mentioned at the start of the call, we have already identified opportunities to refinance those, and we will be ready to act upon them when we feel the time is needed. So, with the — we’re ready to move forward.

Nicolas Larrain

Perfect. Thank you very much, and apologies for the connection.

Xavier Cortés

No, no problem. Thank you so much.

Pablo González

Thank you.

Operator

And we have no more questions in the queue at this time.

Pablo González

Well, thanks again, everyone, for participating in the call and we hope you and your families stay safe and healthy. And look forward to talking to you in July. Thanks so much.

Operator

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today’s teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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