Armstrong World Industries Earnings Call Insights: Wood Flooring Demand and Potential Acquisitions

Armstrong World Industries (NYSE:AWI) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Wood Flooring Demand

Stephen Kim – Barclays: I guess a lot of questions I could ask, but let me ask you about the Wood Flooring. You made a couple of statements, I just wanted to follow-up a little bit, one you mentioned that engineered was, you were not seeing as much of a bottlenecking there in your solid. I was a little surprised – I was just trying to understand what that tells us about the underlying demand, most of the new build that I go into, actually I see a lot of engineered, so I just wanted to – maybe you could provide a little bit of color around that, and why you’re on the Wood if you could give us an understanding of when you’re talking about this lagging effect of you price versus your cost, it sounds like you are looking for an inflection at the end of the year, maybe third quarter or fourth quarter it sounds like? Can you give us a sense for where you see margins likely to sort of settle out after you reach this inflection in the lag effect of price versus cost?

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Matthew J. Espe – CEO: Steve, this is Matt. Thanks for the question. Let me give you some context and then we’ll hand it over to Frank for additional comments. The drivers for the wood demand are residential, which is largely new residential and that would be, that drives a mix somewhat down a little bit, its builder base or builder grade hardwood flooring. Engineering demand at this point while robust is more than served by our existing – by existing footprint. So, I wouldn’t say that engineering wood demand isn’t relatively strong, but I think we have the manufacturing capacity to serve that demand. With respect to the cross-over in inflation and productivity, we expect that by the end of the second half, we will be sort of on the other side of that hump, if you will, where our pricing actions will be in excess of the material we’re experiencing – by the material inflation we’re experiencing in the second half. We will not be ahead of the game for the pricing pressure that we’ve experienced early in this cycle, and then manufacturing productivity in the wood plants becomes positive at the end of the second half as well as these 400 new employees become productive, we’re kind of move through the training phase there in place and yielding the results. So, I don’t know, Frank, if there is anything…?

Frank J. Ready – EVP and CEO, Armstrong Floor Products Worldwide: No, I think it’s well said on the engineered demand, as Matt said, is robust. We had flex capacity both in China and Somerset that we could bring on very, very quickly. The other differences in solid; you have the lag time to get the green lumber where you don’t have that same effect in engineered. So you can respond more quickly to upticks in demand.


Potential Acquisitions

Jason Marcus – JPMorgan: This is actually Jason Marcus in for Mike. So, I think in the past you’ve mentioned that regarding potential M&A opportunities you might consider an acquisition in architectural specialties. So just I guess on the acquisition front, I was wondering what you’re seeing and if you’ve been examining any different opportunities and how you’re thinking about that now.

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Matthew J. Espe – CEO: Well, I mean we’re always looking and evaluating potential acquisitions, Jason. And what we’ve said in the past is an opportunity we think that exists is smaller, what we refer to as tuck-in acquisitions in architectural specialties business. So, Vic and the team are continuing to review and monitor those. Obviously, nothing to announce today, but I think we have the balance sheet strength to continue to evaluate good deals, and if one exists, take advantage of it. So, we don’t see that changing; that part of our story changing at all, based on anything we’re experiencing either internally with the wood challenges or externally in the greater market.

A Closer Look: Armstrong World Industries Earnings Cheat Sheet>>