Airgas Reports Fiscal 2015 Fourth Quarter and Full Year Earnings
April 30, 2015 at 07:30 AM EDT
Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), one of the nation’s leading suppliers of industrial, medical, and specialty gases, and related products, today reported sales and earnings results for its fourth quarter and full year ended March 31, 2015. Results for the fourth quarter reflect challenges associated with the significant and rapid decline in oil prices, the impact of the strong dollar and poor weather conditions throughout much of the U.S.
“For the year, we delivered strong free cash flow* of $309 million on adjusted cash from operations* of $752 million while continuing to grow earnings in a challenging environment,” said Airgas President and Chief Executive Officer Michael L. Molinini.
Fourth Quarter Results
“During the quarter, we experienced greater than anticipated declines in year-over-year sales growth rates in our Energy & Chemicals and Manufacturing customer segments reflecting the impact of the significant and rapid decline in oil prices and the impact of the strong dollar on manufacturers that export, as well as challenging weather conditions throughout much of the country. As we announced on March 20, we expected these sales challenges to slow year-over-year organic growth for our fourth quarter to a range of 1% to 2% resulting in diluted EPS in a range of $1.13 to $1.16, and that is where we landed,” Molinini added. “We remain committed to delivering long-term growth and value through leveraging our industry leading platform as well as our broad product and service offering. In addition, we will continue to look hard at our operating costs and more tightly manage capital expenditures until sustained growth levels return.”
Fourth quarter earnings per diluted share were $1.15, down 2% compared to prior year earnings per diluted share of $1.17 and flat compared to prior year adjusted earnings per diluted share* of $1.15.
Fourth quarter sales were $1.3 billion, an increase of 3% over the prior year. Organic sales in the quarter were up 2% over the prior year, with gas and rent up 2% and hardgoods up 2%. Distribution segment organic sales in the quarter were up 1% compared to prior year, with gas and rent flat and hardgoods up 2%. Acquisitions contributed sales growth of 1% in the quarter on a consolidated basis and in the Distribution segment.
Selling, distribution, and administrative expenses increased 4% over the prior year with operating costs associated with acquired businesses representing approximately 1% of the increase. The balance of the increase reflects normal expense inflation, as well as expenses associated with the Company’s investments in long-term strategic growth initiatives, including its e-Business platform and continued expansion of its telesales business through Airgas Total Access.
Fourth quarter operating margin was 11.3%, down 50 basis points compared to prior year operating margin of 11.8%. Distribution segment operating margin was 11.8% for the quarter, down 70 basis points compared to prior year. The decline in operating margins reflects the impact of rising operating costs and the Company’s continued investments in strategic long-term growth initiatives in the current low organic sales growth environment.
Full Year Results
For the full year, earnings per diluted share were $4.85, an increase of 4% over prior year earnings per diluted share of $4.68 and an increase of 3% over prior year adjusted earnings per diluted share* of $4.72.
Full year sales were $5.3 billion, an increase of 5% over the prior year. Organic sales increased 3% over the prior year, with gas and rent up 3% and hardgoods up 4%, while acquisitions contributed sales growth of 2% for the year.
Full year free cash flow* was $309 million, compared to $441 million in the prior year, and adjusted cash from operations* was $752 million, compared to $776 million in the prior year. The decrease in free cash flow* in the current year was primarily driven by a year-over-year increase in capital expenditures, which reflected the Company’s investment in revenue-generating assets, including two air separation plants, an e-Business platform and a new hardgoods distribution center.
Return on capital* was 12.0% for the twelve months ended March 31, 2015, a decrease of 20 basis points from the prior year.
During fiscal year 2015, the Company acquired 14 businesses with aggregate annual sales of approximately $55 million.
Fiscal 2016 Guidance
“Like many others, we had expected the U.S. industrial economy to be much stronger by now. We are seeing an economy that is clearly weaker than it was in the December quarter, and the level of uncertainty in the marketplace makes it difficult for us to predict our near-term sales outlook. While we are encouraged by some bright spots, such as the increased activity of many of our construction customers, the overall sluggishness in the industrial economy tempers our near-term optimism,” said Airgas Executive Chairman Peter McCausland. “The low end of our fiscal 2016 guidance assumes a very modest uptick in growth rates as the year progresses, with average organic sales growth in the low single digits for the full year. The high end assumes a healthier acceleration in growth rates over the course of the year, with average organic sales growth in the mid single digits for the full year.” McCausland added, “We continue to believe the long-term growth prospects for the U.S. economy are strong and, with the recent investments we’ve made to improve our platform, systems and product and service offering, we have positioned Airgas for growth when the economy improves. Consistent with our demonstrated track record, we remain committed to delivering sustainable long-term value to our customers and shareholders.”
For the first quarter of fiscal year 2016, the Company expects earnings per diluted share in the range of $1.14 to $1.18, compared to prior year earnings per diluted share of $1.18. First quarter guidance includes a $0.03 per diluted share negative year-over-year impact from near term net cost pressure related to helium supply extension and diversification initiatives. The flat to slightly declining earnings per diluted share range also reflects the near term challenging sales environment and assumes a year-over-year organic sales growth rate in the low single digits.
For the full fiscal year 2016, the Company expects earnings per diluted share in the range of $4.85 to $5.15, reflecting a flat to 6% increase over prior year earnings per diluted share. Full year guidance includes a $0.00 to $0.14 per diluted share negative year-over-year impact from variable compensation reset following a below-budget year as well as a $0.06 to $0.09 per diluted share negative year-over-year impact from near term net cost pressure related to helium supply extension and diversification initiatives. Full year guidance assumes a year-over-year organic sales growth rate in the low to mid single digits.
The Company will conduct an earnings teleconference at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, April 30. The teleconference will be available by calling 888-318-7470 (U.S./Canada) or 719-457-2702 (International). The presentation materials (this press release, slides to be presented during the Company’s teleconference and information about how to access a live and on demand webcast of the teleconference) are available in the “Investor Relations” section of the Company’s website at www.airgas.com. A webcast of the teleconference will be available live and on demand through May 28 at http://investor.shareholder.com/arg/events.cfm. A replay of the teleconference will be available through May 7. To listen, call 888-203-1112 (U.S./Canada) or 719-457-0820 (International) and enter passcode 7770262.
* See attached reconciliations and computations of non-GAAP adjusted earnings per diluted share, adjusted cash from operations, free cash flow, and return on capital financial measures.
About Airgas, Inc.
Airgas, Inc. (NYSE: ARG), through its subsidiaries, is one of the nation's leading suppliers of industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hardgoods, such as welding equipment and related products. Airgas is a leading U.S. producer of atmospheric gases with 16 air separation plants, a leading producer of carbon dioxide, dry ice, and nitrous oxide, one of the largest U.S. suppliers of safety products, and a leading U.S. supplier of refrigerants, ammonia products, and process chemicals. Approximately 17,000 associates work in more than 1,100 locations, including branches, retail stores, gas fill plants, specialty gas labs, production facilities and distribution centers. Airgas also markets its products and services through e-Business, catalog and telesales channels. Its national scale and strong local presence offer a competitive edge to its diversified customer base. For more information, please visit www.airgas.com.
This press release contains statements that are forward looking, as that term is defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 or by the SEC in its rules, regulations and releases. These statements include, but are not limited to: our expectations regarding our fiscal 2016 first quarter and full fiscal year 2016 organic sales growth and earnings per diluted share; our management of capital expenditures; our expectation that lower energy costs will be beneficial to us over time; and our intent to continue to invest in its strategic initiatives to promote long-term growth. Forward-looking statements also include any statement that is not based on historical fact, including statements containing the words "believes," "may," "plans," "will," "could," "should," "estimates," "continues," "anticipates," "intends," "expects," and similar expressions. We intend that such forward-looking statements be subject to the safe harbors created thereby. All forward-looking statements are based on current expectations regarding important risk factors and should not be regarded as a representation by us or any other person that the results expressed therein will be achieved. Airgas assumes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason, except as required by law. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement include: the impact from the decline in oil prices on our customers; adverse changes in customer buying patterns or weakening in the operating and financial performance of our customers, any of which could negatively impact our sales and our ability to collect our accounts receivable; postponement of projects due to economic conditions and uncertainty in the energy sector; the impact of the strong dollar on our manufacturer customers that export; customer acceptance of price increases; increases in energy costs and other operating expenses at a faster rate than our ability to increase prices; changes in customer demand resulting in our inability to meet minimum product purchase requirements under long-term supply agreements and the inability to negotiate alternative supply arrangements; supply cost pressures; shortages and/or disruptions in the supply chain of certain gases; EPA rulings and the impact in the marketplace of U.S. compliance with the Montreal Protocol as related to the production and import of Refrigerant-22 (also known as HCFC-22 or R-22); our ability to successfully build, complete in a timely manner and operate our new facilities; higher than expected expenses associated with the expansion of our telesales business, e-Business platform, the adjustment of our regional management structures, our strategic pricing initiatives and other strategic growth initiatives; increased industry competition; our ability to successfully identify, consummate, and integrate acquisitions; our ability to achieve anticipated acquisition synergies; operating costs associated with acquired businesses; our continued ability to access credit markets on satisfactory terms; significant fluctuations in interest rates; the impact of changes in credit market conditions on our customers; our ability to effectively leverage our new SAP system to improve the operating and financial performance of our business; changes in tax and fiscal policies and laws; increased expenditures relating to compliance with environmental and other regulatory initiatives; the impact of new environmental, healthcare, tax, accounting, and other regulations; the overall U.S. industrial economy; catastrophic events and/or severe weather conditions; political and economic uncertainties associated with current world events; and other factors described in the Company's reports, including its March 31, 2014 Form 10-K, subsequent Forms 10-Q, and other forms filed by the Company with the SEC.
Consolidated statements of earnings, condensed consolidated balance sheets, consolidated statements of cash flows, and reconciliations and computations of non-GAAP financial measures follow below.
Reconciliations of Non-GAAP Financial Measures (Unaudited)
Adjusted Earnings per Diluted Share
The Company believes its adjusted earnings per diluted share financial measure provides investors meaningful insight into its earnings performance without the impact of benefits from the changes in state income tax rates and law, and the loss on the extinguishment of debt. Non-GAAP financial measures should be read in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, as non-GAAP financial measures are merely a supplement to, and not a replacement for, GAAP financial measures. It should also be noted that the Company’s adjusted earnings per diluted share financial measure may be different from the adjusted earnings per diluted share financial measures provided by other companies.
Return on Capital
The Company believes its return on capital financial measure helps investors assess how effectively it uses the capital invested in its operations. Non-GAAP financial measures should be read in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, as non-GAAP financial measures are merely a supplement to, and not a replacement for, GAAP financial measures. It should be noted as well that the Company’s return on capital financial measure may be different from the return on capital financial measures provided by other companies.
Adjusted Cash from Operations, Adjusted Capital Expenditures, and Free Cash Flow
The Company believes its adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow financial measures provide investors meaningful insight into its ability to generate cash from operations, which is available for servicing debt obligations and for the execution of its business strategies, including acquisitions, the prepayment of debt, the payment of dividends, or to support other investing and financing activities. The Company’s free cash flow financial measure has limitations and does not represent the residual cash flow available for discretionary expenditures. Certain non-discretionary expenditures such as payments on maturing debt obligations are excluded from the Company’s computation of its free cash flow financial measure. Non-GAAP financial measures should be read in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, as non-GAAP financial measures are merely a supplement to, and not a replacement for, GAAP financial measures. It should also be noted that the Company’s adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow financial measures may be different from the adjusted cash from operations, adjusted capital expenditures, and free cash flow financial measures provided by other companies.