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James Hardie Industries plc (NYSE:JHX) Q3 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

James Hardie Industries plc (NYSE:JHX) Q3 2024 Earnings Call Transcript February 12, 2024

James Hardie Industries plc isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here).

Operator: Thank you for standing by. Welcome to the James Hardie Third Quarter Fiscal Year 2024 Results Briefing. Today's briefing is hosted by James Hardie CEO, Mr. Aaron Erter and CFO, Mrs. Rachel Wilson. After the briefing, we will open the lines to Q&A. [Operator Instructions] After the Q&A, I'll turn it back to Mr. Erter for closing remarks. I would now like to hand the conference over to James Hardie CEO, Mr. Aaron Erter. Please go ahead, sir.

Aaron Erter: Thank you, operator. Good morning and good evening to everyone and welcome to our third quarter fiscal year 2024 results briefing. Turning to Page 2, you will see our standard cautionary note on forward-looking statements. Please note that the presentation today does contain forward-looking statements and the use of non-GAAP financial information. Also, except where we explicitly state otherwise during our prepared remarks, all references to monetary amounts should be assumed to be in US dollars. Moving to Page 3, you will see our agenda for today. Joining me is our CFO, Rachel Wilson. For today's call, I will start by providing a strategy and operations update. Rachel will then discuss our financial results, and I will return to discuss our outlook, guidance, and provide a brief closing.

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We will then open it up for questions. Before I share an update on our strategy and operations, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our employees around the world who remain focused on safely delivering the highest quality products, solutions, and services to our customer partners. Our employees truly represent the very best in our industry and consistently enable our superior value proposition. Let's start on Page 5 with a brief business update. Our team's focus remains simple; working safely, partnering with our customers, investing in long-term growth, and driving profitable share gain. Our third quarter results continue to highlight how impactful that focus has been. For the third quarter, we achieved global net sales of $978.3 million, up 14% versus the prior corresponding period, with a record quarterly global adjusted net income of $179.9 million, up 39% versus the prior corresponding period.

Both our global net sales and adjusted net income results were again supported by volumes in North America that has outperformed the market. Our third quarter North American volume of $766.5 million standard feet exceeded the top end of our guidance range, and we delivered that with a record 32.7% EBIT margin. The adjusted net income result was also supported by strong year-over-year financial results in our Asia-Pacific region. In the EU, business performance improved year-over-year and we are seeing momentum in growing our high-value products. For the first nine months of the year, we generated record operating cash flow of $749.5 million, up 73% year-over-year. Similar to last quarter, we have continued to accelerate our investment in long-term growth, supporting our marketing tent-poles, driving awareness and conversion in targeted regions to aid in sustaining profitable share gain.

Rachel will share additional details in the financial section. While uncertainty continues to affect our end markets, our focus remains on partnering with our customers and controlling what we can control to outperform in the markets we participate. Now please turn to Page 6 in our global strategic framework. As I continue to emphasize, at the heart of our global strategy, we are homeowner-focused, customer and contractor-driven. With that in mind, all three regions remain focused on our three key strategic initiatives. Number one, profitably grow and take share where we have the right to win. Number two, bring our customers high-value differentiated solutions. And number three, connect and influence all the participants in the customer value chain.

I remain confident in our team and our strategy. Combined, they position us to execute at a high level and drive profitable share gains in all three regions. We accelerate our strategic initiatives by establishing competitive advantages through our strategic enablers without compromising on our foundational imperatives. Today, I will discuss two specific components of our value proposition, unrivaled support and localized manufacturing. Let's now turn to Slide 7 to discuss those components in greater detail. At James Hardie, we offer superior products and services to all participants in our value chain. Beyond the high performance of our product offerings, our unrivaled support and localized manufacturing are both key components of the superior value proposition that we offer our customers, builders and contractors.

Unrivaled support is about enhancing the experience for our value chain participants before and after the purchase of our products. Using our North America business, which is led by Sean Gadd, as an example, some of the ways we support value chain participants include; number one, our Customer Integration program. This program enables our customers, in this case, our distribution partners to assess demand, manage stock and inventory positions and ensure that they have the right products at the right place and at the right time. This program also helps our customers and our manufacturing teams plan more efficiently to ensure high levels of service, while optimizing the use of working capital. Number two, Dream Builder events. Some of you will remember this as brand days from our Investor Day in 2022.

At our Dream Builder events, we bring together key customers and contractors with our sales teams to learn more about how to market and sell James Hardie products. These interactive in-person events cover everything from initial home design decisions to the installation of James Hardie products, providing insights and engagement from the beginning to the end of the process. In effect, we are driving the number of contractors pitching James Hardie products in the home. We have doubled the amount of such events held in FY 2024 versus FY 2023. Number three, our Contractor Alliance Program, or CAP, for short, is a membership program for our R&R contractors. The program offers tiered and tailored support and services to meet the varied needs of our contractors regardless of size.

Support includes the sharing of leads or referrals generated through the James Hardie website portal. Supplying our customers with high-quality leads is a key differentiator for James Hardie, high-quality leads benefit both new contractors, just starting out with James Hardie and long-term contractors alike. Contractors value these leads as they are real currency for the success of their businesses. Program members also have access to local sales support, technical training on using our products, and installation support. All of these help our contractors improve the quality and efficiency of installing our products and ultimately assist in lowering the on-the-wall costs for their customers, increasing the overall value they provide homeowners.

And finally, program members have access to co-branded marketing materials like jobs type marketing kits and curated social media packages, which ensure our collective messaging is aligned and impactful. These materials boost the contractor's local presence in the community with the intention of increasing awareness for the contractor, as well as driving James Hardie's presence in their neighborhood. As an example, for every contractor's completed home that utilizes this localized marketing, they can expect to generate on average an incremental 12 leads and an additional two more jobs sold. Our unrivaled support is part of our homeowner-focused, customer and contractor-driven mindset. We are investing in our customers and contractors to help grow their businesses, which will help drive ongoing material conversion towards James Hardie fiber cement.

Localized manufacturing is another part of our superior value proposition for customers, builders, and contractors. We are physically close to our customers. We operate 10 manufacturing sites across the US, enabling a local presence to support our customers' changing needs and differentiating us from our competition. In FY 2023, approximately 70% of our products were delivered within 500 miles of one of our plants. This enables us to provide our customers and partners with reliable and responsive customer support services, limiting exposure to the risk inherent in extended supply chains. Our plants are conveniently located near key sources of raw materials. In FY 2023, approximately 80% of our raw materials were sourced within 150 miles of our plants.

This close proximity provides our plants with efficient sourcing, which helps to minimize freight costs and the carbon footprint of our supply chains. Finally, we invest in and support the communities within which we operate. In FY 2023, we contributed $1.85 billion in incremental growth and economic activity through capital expenditure at our plants, investing in our employees and local ecosystems and across our supplier base. The benefits of our localized manufacturing are long lasting and through our capital allocation framework, we remain focused on investing and enhancing our localized offering. In short, our unrivaled support and localized manufacturing benefit all of our value chain participants, our customers, our builders, and our contractors.

These benefits are part of the superior value proposition that differentiates James Hardie over other building materials providers and supports our growth aspirations by providing our partners with benefits that extend beyond the product. Now, I would like to hand it over to Rachel to share more details about our third quarter results. Rachel?

Rachel Wilson: Thank you, Aaron. Let's start on page 9 to discuss our global results for the third quarter. Our team has delivered a strong set of results in the third quarter compared to last year, with consistent and focused execution through the first nine months of our fiscal year. For the quarter, group net sales were up 14% year-over-year to $978.3 million. Adjusted net income increased 39% to $179.9 million. The global adjusted EBITDA margin was 28.7%, up 440 basis points and operating cash flow for the nine months was a record $749.5 million, up 73% year-over-year. Our team is focused on executing on our strategy, and these consistent results demonstrate the value of focused execution. Now, turning to slide 10. I'll detail our adjusted net income waterfall for the third quarter.

As mentioned, adjusted net income increased 39% or $50.7 million year-over-year to $179.9 million and was in line with guidance provided in November. The year-over-year increase was primarily driven by strong EBIT growth in North America, which contributed $52.4 million to the increase in adjusted net income. The year-over-year increase was also supported by growth in APAC and EU, combined each regions contributed $12 million to the increase in adjusted net income. During the quarter and as part of our ongoing marketing investments to drive long-term growth, global SG&A investment, which includes corporate, increased 36% year-over-year to $156.3 million. This equates to 16% of revenue, up from 13.4% last year. Sequentially, global SG&A was up 2% compared to the second quarter of fiscal year 2024.

The increase in investment primarily in our marketing 10-fold, reflects our continued focus on growing brand awareness and driving profitable share gains. In the last quarter, we've seen our James Hardie aided brand awareness inside an increase by 7%. Some of our key initiatives include increased marketing through advertising, sponsorships and trade marketing to drive consideration and conversion across the value chain. General corporate SG&A expenses increased primarily due to higher stock compensation expense, mainly a higher share price, as well as higher employee costs was partially offset by lower New Zealand weather tightness success. Our FY 2024 full year estimated adjusted tax rate is now updated to 22.8%. This compares to the FY 2023 full year tax rate of 20.1% and is higher in FY 2024, reflecting our geographic mix.

We are proud of our global teams for the way they've executed in a challenging market, we remain focused on consistent execution to similarly deliver in the fourth quarter. Let's now move to page 11 to discuss the North American results. Beginning with the top line results, North America net sales with $727 million was up 13% versus the prior corresponding period, and our average net sales price was up 3%. Volume of $766.5 million standard feet exceeded the top end of our guidance range. During the quarter, overall housing end markets improved as mortgage rates ease. However, major projects R&R remained down high single digits, while single-family new construction was up 7% in the September quarter. As a reminder, we use a one-quarter lag methodology as applied to single-family new construction macro data to better align the data to the timing of our reported sales.

A close-up of a house with its exterior siding made from the company's fiber cement building materials.
A close-up of a house with its exterior siding made from the company's fiber cement building materials.

Our quarterly volume increased of 9% year-over-year is against a mixed end market. Q3 volumes exceeded guidance and historical trends, in part due to customers fully buying the amount permissible prior to the January 1st price increase. When thinking about seasonality, it's noteworthy, but in October 2020, we moved our annual price increase to calendar year-end versus our fiscal year-end based on customer feedback to better align this to their fiscal year-end. Given this movement, and disregarding 2021 to 2022 due to supply allocations, we now expect a more easing North American volume distribution between Q3 and Q4. The 9% Q3 volume increased an expected 9% Q4 volume increase at the guidance midpoint, pilot success we are having. We are converting share against other competitive materials.

This reflects James Hardie's superior value proposition as outlined by Aaron in his opening remarks and our material conversion advantage in building products. Similar to the second quarter, our strategic initiative to partner with big builders helped drive continued volume growth in the South Central region, which is new construction dominant. This region outperformed our total North American volumes. In addition, our volumes in the Northwest have continued to remain strong as our execution focus has enabled us to take share. We are committed to serving both the new construction and R&R segments and continue to invest in the larger R&R market. Now, turning to margins. The North America EBIT margin improved by 570 basis points versus the prior corresponding period to a record 32.7% and similar to volumes were shipped above the top end of our guidance range.

EBIT dollars in the third quarter were up 37% to a record $237.8 million versus the prior corresponding period. EBIT benefited from a higher average net sales price as well as lower input costs, specifically pulp and freight. Looking to Q4 and as noted last quarter, we expect cement to remain a key headwind for our North American margins, given timing of our supply contracts and strong demand for cement globally. We additionally anticipate higher coal prices as well as an increase in our start-up ramp-up cost for Prattville 3. For the full year calendar 2024, some of our key input costs, as just mentioned, cement and pulp, are expected to markedly increase. During the quarter, SG&A investment increased 40% year-over-year, off of a low base in the prior year.

This investment is focused on our marketing tent-poles to drive long-term demand creation. As a percentage of sales, SG&A investment increased 2 percentage points. Despite housing market volatility, we are encouraged by our relative share performance. By partnering with our customers, the North America team delivered a strong third quarter results with record EBIT and EBIT margin. Let's now turn to Page 12 to discuss the Asia-Pacific results. Similar to North America, it was a strong third quarter for our Asia-Pacific segment. Net sales improved 21% versus the prior corresponding period to AUD206.3 million, The net sales improvement was driven by a 14% increase in our average net sales price and supported by a 6% increase in volumes. Volume growth was driven by recovery in New Zealand as well as APAC-focused strategies that have resulted in new customer acquisitions and successful co-creation with builders.

EBIT improved 34% to AUD56.7 million. The result was driven by a higher average net sales price, which more than offset an increase in cost of goods sold per unit. Despite both pulp and freight costs being lower in the quarter versus last year, caused increased modestly due to a higher price/mix of sales. SG&A investment increased 22% year-over-year as we continue to invest in long-term demand creation. As a percentage of sales, SG&A investments was largely unchanged year-over-year. The APAC EBIT margin improved by 280 basis points versus the prior corresponding period to 27.5%. Given our Q3 is seasonally weaker, this was a strong margin outcome relative to prior Q3 performances. Our Asia Pacific team has continued to partner with our customers to deliver a strong third quarter.

The Australian housing market remains challenged as the industry digests housing market affordability issues and a double-digit decline in building approval. Despite this backdrop, our teams are focused on driving profitable share gains. We will now turn to Page 13 to discuss the European results. Our European team had a solid third quarter as the team continues to execute well in a challenging market environment. The European market has declined double digits. As an example, drilling building permits were down 15% year-over-year in the three months to November. European net sales increased 8% to €109.3 million. The increase was primarily related to an 18% increase in ASP as well as the €4.2 million favorable true-up related to customer rebate estimates.

The growth in ASP was due to our strategic price increases and growth in high-value products. We continue to see our product mix shift towards our higher-value fiber cement offerings. We are working closely with our customers to provide products that are near with multi-family and single-family homes. During the quarter, our Fiber Gypsum volumes were down low double digits, whereas we experienced double-digit growth in our high-value products. We see strong opportunities ahead for our high-value products and recently were recognized by the German Design Council with an award in the category Of Excellent Product Design, Building and Elements. This recognized our latest innovation, the Hardie Architectural Panel Collection. The architectural panel collection has been developed in conjunction with European architects to specifically meet the design preferences of our European customers.

While our high-value products are growing off of a small base, they're becoming a larger part of the overall mix, namely with panel opportunities. On a combined basis, overall volumes declined 10%, which while significant represents a lower decline than the overall European market. EBIT improved year-over-year to €7.1 million, driven by a higher average net sales price, which more than offset higher cost of goods sold due to lower volumes and increased costs of gypsum and energy. Similar to other geographies, SG&A investments increased 30% year-over-year. As a percentage of sales, SG&A investment increased 3.5 percentage points. In the EU, these investments included creating dedicated sales teams to commercialize our panel’s portfolio across Europe and driving market initiatives, such as a series of events for architects in major European cities like Paris and London, as well as further advertising activities on major social media platforms to generate more leads.

EBIT margin improved by 500 basis points versus the prior corresponding period to 6.5%. We remain confident in delivering mid to high single-digit EBIT margins near term and the focus for the EU team is execution on growing high-value products. This strategic emphasis will support the longer-term margin expansion opportunity. Turning now to Page 14 to discuss cash flow, liquidity, capital allocation and capital expenditures. Our robust operating cash flows reflect our strong margins, which stem from the superior value proposition that we offer our customers, builders and contractors. In the nine months of FY 2024, our operating cash flow was $749.5 million. This record cash flow result was driven by strong financial results in all three regions and a working capital improvement of $121 million.

We continue to maintain a strong liquidity position with a Q3 net leverage ratio of 0.65x and liquidity of over $1 billion. We are stewards of investor capital. Our capital allocation framework is the first and foremost to invest in organic growth. We do this while maintaining a flexible balance sheet and deploying excess capital to our shareholders. During Q3, we repurchased 2.4 million shares for $75 million at an average per share price of US$32.11. For the nine months period, we repurchased 6.7 million shares for $196.3 million at an average price of $29.14. As we look to Q4, we plan to continue to repurchase shares under our US$250 million buyback program. Regarding capital expenditures. For the first nine months, capital expenditures totaled $328.2 million, we expect to spend approximately $550 million on capital expenditures in FY 2024, and we remain committed to keeping capacity ahead of the cost.

In Q4, we expect to complete Prattville sheet machine number three in over a 12-month period, we expect to incur start-up ramp-up costs of approximately $10 million. Looking into calendar year 2024, we are continuing to invest to prepare for future demand, and we are expecting CapEx to increase year-over-year. Key investments include early works for brown and greenfield capacity additions in North America and proven initiatives globally to unlock existing capacity, as well as investments in the Hardie operating system conditions. We have robust operating cash flows, substantial liquidity and a flexible balance sheet, which enables us to invest in profitable growth. I'll now turn it back over to Aaron.

Aaron Erter: Thank you, Rachel. We have delivered a strong first nine months and another record quarterly result for adjusted net income. In addition, we have outperformed our end markets and volatile conditions. These results are proof points that we are accelerating through this cycle and taking share, all while we have increased our investment and long-term demand creation. Let's now move to page 16 to discuss our market outlook and guidance. For our largest market, North America, we are providing the calendar year 2024 market outlook data from several external data providers. The average estimate for single-family new construction is for growth of 5%. Multifamily new construction is forecasted to contract 21% and repair and remodel our largest end market is estimated to decline 2%.

Using these external ranges along with our assumed market segment exposures, the implied range for a blended addressable market is down 4% to up 6% with an average of flat. It will come as a surprise to you to see these third-party forecasts for our end market have improved over the last quarter and is supported by declining interest rate expectations. Over the last 18 months, I have seen us execute on our strategy and increase our investment in long-term demand creation. Our business and team are now in a stronger position to capitalize on the expected return to growth in our end markets over the years ahead. We remain laser-focused on driving profitable share gain and are demonstrating this with our market outperformance. If you turn to page 17, we have again provided the volume sensitivity analysis for FY 2024.

This sensitivity analysis was prepared in the same manner as last quarter, which assumes our current range of expectations for raw material costs and freight rates, while continuing to invest in growth as currently planned. These volumes are simply to provide context to our EBIT margin sensitivity in North America and should not be construed as volume guidance beyond fiscal year 2024. Regardless of how markets fluctuate, we remain focused on outperforming our end markets. Now please turn to page 18. Today, we are providing three points of guidance for our fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024. First, we expect North America volumes to be in the range of 750 million and 780 million standard feet. Second, we expect North America EBIT margins to be in the range of 30% to 32%.

And lastly, we expect global adjusted net income to be in the range of $165 million to $185 million. As I mentioned earlier, our team is energized and focused on driving profitable share gains, and we are positioned to deliver another strong financial result in our fourth quarter. Finally, please move to page 19. We at James Hardie, are a global growth company. Over the past several quarters, I have spoken to a few of these defining attributes. Last quarter, I spoke to the Hardie operating system and Zero Harm. In the first quarter, I highlighted James Hardie as the brand of choice, noting our premium products and our multi-segment focus. Today, I spoke about our premium service, which includes unrivaled support as well as localized supply chains.

You have also heard Rachel talk about our strong financial position, underpinned by our disciplined execution translating into sustained margin performance and superior cash generation. We remain focused on consistently delivering while continuing to invest in growth. This is evidenced by our investments in SG&A and CapEx as we remain focused on profitable share gain in our material conversion opportunity. And enhancing our growth efforts, I would be remiss to not mention a few of our foundational supports. Our experienced management team over the last 18 months or so you have seen our executive leadership team expand with key areas elevated and new talent and skills at it. Combined, this provides James Hardie with the stewardship that allows for focus and simultaneous execution across multiple key areas.

This includes establishing the Hardie operating system targets, our continued investment in our people, ESG disclosure and commitments centralized procurement and R&D focus as well as targeted investment and demand creation. All of these efforts combined to drive our ongoing material conversion and profitable share gain. Attractive returns, over the last nine months, our focus on forecast accuracy and consistent execution has enabled our business to deliver on our commitments. While there are many financial return metrics I can point to, the North American EBIT growth over the last nine months of 19% year-over-year and what has been challenging conditions with an EBIT margin of 31.9% provides one such data point. I am proud of our team's ongoing ability to navigate market conditions and execute consistently, delivering a strong third quarter result and demonstrating operational momentum as we head into the fourth quarter.

We are homeowner focused customer and contractor driven. Before I open it up to Q&A, I would like to highlight our upcoming 2024 Investor Day in late June. We are hosting a two-day event in North America, showcasing our value proposition in the field with some of our customers and partners. We look forward to showing you firsthand our value proposition and how we are driving profitable share gain. If you haven't already, please use this link to register your interest. The save the date registry will close at the end of February. With that, I would like the operator to open the line up for questions.

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