Donaldson Company Earnings Call Nuggets: Sales Outlook, Gas Turbine & Mining

Donaldson Company, Inc. (NYSE:DCI) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Sales Outlook

Hamzah Mazari – Credit Suisse: The first question Bill is just on, if you could maybe give some more color on the delta between the low end and the high end of guidance specifically how much of the high end versus low end is dependent on a recovery in the sort of second half calendar year ’13 in most of your end-markets. And how much visibility do you have in talking to your OEM customers as to how this production ramp-up materializes in the back half as well as maybe you want to touch on, how some of these expenses flow through for the balance of the year around some of the growth initiatives?

William M. Cook – Chairman, President and CEO: I’ll start with the sales outlook and then I think Jim will comment on the how the expenses are calendarized during the year. So, on the sales outlook and starting with visibility, we don’t have, as you know, a tremendous amount of visibility in most of our business with the exception of Gas Turbine. And so we have that for Gas Turbine and we have a pretty good handle on the second half of the year and that’s baked into our guidance. With the rest of our businesses there is a normal seasonal strength in the second half so there is typically always some seasonal uptick in the second half just the way many of our end markets operate with replacement cycles, for filters, for ag equipment or construction equipment et cetera. For OEM businesses we don’t have that visibility into the second half of the year, but we are basing this on comments from customers in terms of what they see with – in some cases the regulations or the replacement cycle of our equipment currently in the field and also that the anticipation that, in some segments where there’s still equipment inventories that are being worked down, that’ll be done in the first half of our fiscal year, essentially by the end of the calendar year. So, for example Caterpillar’s talked about that they continue to see a work down of their finished equipment inventory happening through the end of this calendar year and that they anticipate in calendar year ’14 that their production of new equipment will better match the end user demand, because it won’t have that inventory draw down. So, those are the factors that we’ve baked into the second half forecast.

James F. Shaw – VP and CFO: Hamzah, it’s Jim. I’ll comment a little bit in terms of the operating expenses. You saw in the press release, we talked about a $30 million delta year-over-year related to two things. One is, this year, with the way our bonuses are supposed to work, we didn’t hit our targets that we set out at the start of the year, so, our incentive compensation as at the low end of historical averages. So, as we go towards next year, we see about a $20 million impact for the full year of putting that incentive compensation back to normal levels. That should be fairly ratable throughout the year, really no spike from quarter-to-quarter. That’s a little over $20 million. The other piece is our strategic business system project that we’ve been working on’ a project to standardize our systems around the world. We’ve been working on that all of this past year, but now as we head into fiscal ’14, we’ll begin to implement at certain locations and we see about a $7 million increase year-over-year in terms of our expense related to that project. So, that will be generally ratable, but probably a little less first quarter than the rest of the year. So, a little light on the first quarter and then a little heavier as we get into second quarter would be how that will play out…

Hamzah Mazari – Credit Suisse: Just a follow-up, Bill, you mentioned diversification, and historically, a lot of your businesses used to operate on different cycles and they provided that diversification relative to what we’ve seen more recently. Maybe if you could talk about your ability to diversify organically versus acquisitively and then how investors should think about that?

William M. Cook – Chairman, President and CEO: A good question, Hamzah. Overall, we are still primarily an organic growth story as we have been over the past two decades. We think that we certainly see the opportunities to grow and diversify organically and we also believe that that’s probably a safer model in terms of our financial and operating performance, not that that we’re aversive to acquisitions, but they are the smaller part of our growth model. So, we would project into the future maybe about 2% of our annual revenue growth should come from acquisitions, and so roughly 7% organically, which is close to what – the organic is close to what we’ve done over the past two decades. I think the – from an organic diversification, we have some businesses that we are really trying to build out. I mentioned the integrated printing solutions, which is sort of taking our disk drive technologies into new markets and markets that move differently than other – many of the other markets that we are in, that’s what our business performed better or had such strong year-over-year comps, still small, but it’s growing very quickly. So, that would be an example. Regionally, we see where our shares are lower that we see significant opportunities to get into some of the emerging economies that we think over time that will run on different cycles. And then the third way of doing it organically is to build up a bigger aftermarket presence. That’s typically more stable and tends to cycle, as we’re seeing now, differently than the OEM business. We would use acquisitions typically for bolt-ons into either markets that we’re in or that are closely adjacent. But that doesn’t preclude that we saw a new filtration platform that would help us growth and diversify we would add it, but that’s – that hasn’t been typically our model, but we would consider doing that and certainly, we have the balance sheet that would afford us the opportunity to do that. We’ve talked about in our strategic plan with discussions with people like you Hamzah about trying to build out our liquid filtration, especially fuel filtration but also maybe some other processed liquids as well. So, those would be opportunities for further diversification as well.

Gas Turbine & Mining

Eli Lustgarten – Longbow Research: Can we talk a little bit about mix? In 2014 you’ve got a benefit of 60 basis points mix and it looks like that should continue into 2014. And as a part of it, can you give us some idea of how the downturn in Gas Turbine will play out in 2014, how big is mining and how much is that going to hurt you? And can you talk a little bit about Japan (which never comes up) seems to be (indiscernible) that used to be an important part of the Company a few years ago?

William M. Cook – Chairman, President and CEO: Eli, Bill here. I’ll start and talk a little bit about the Gas Turbine and Mining. Gas turbine, we’re looking at a pretty good year, should be one of our – probably our top years in history with Gas Turbine but down from last year, and again, it’s not really due to a downturn in the market, it’s due to the absence of the large projects, the unusual large projects that we shipped this year. So we’re looking at $180 million and some odd million dollar year for gas turbine, and we’re very bullish long-term in terms of the gas turbine, because we continue to believe that with the increase in the supply due to fracing in the North America and the lower prices in the cleaner – the fact that it’s a cleaner fuel that it’s going to continue to take share, especially in North America and possibly in other regions over time and more gas turbines are going to be built. That’s going to be dependent primarily on sort of an ongoing industrial or general economic recovery which creates a need for more electricity. So it’s a function of increasing electricity demand that will drive the gas turbines over time, and again, I think gas turbines will take a larger share because of the factors I just mentioned.

Eli Lustgarten – Longbow Research: Is the 20% decline that you forecasted in gas turbines be evenly spread or is it mostly second and third quarter or how is it?

William M. Cook – Chairman, President and CEO: The first quarter, we’re forecasting at about $40 million. The first two quarters are about that and then in the second half this gets back to the question I was answering for Hamzah, the second half for Gas Turbine will be lower. So we’re forecasting quarters one and two of about $40 million each. On the mining, we look to key global customers like Caterpillar for guidance. I think they are not planning any pickup in new mining equipment production anytime soon. They are – they talk about the reduction in this inventory of new equipment drawdown coming to a close over the coming months. So, that actually will actually help their production we hope in the second half of our fiscal ’14 because we won’t have that headwind with their equipment inventory reduction efforts that then – even if the money market doesn’t recover, that the – their production will more closely equal to peaks hold by their dealers…

Richard Sheffer – IR: Yes, Caterpillar was between 8% and 9% of our sales of (CREY) and your mining. Mining is a percentage of our Off-Road business is 20% to 25% of our Off-Road probably closer to 20% this year.

James F. Shaw – VP and CFO: This is Jim maybe just following up on the first part of your question in terms of mix. It really year-over-year that 60 basis point number I mentioned is actually a mirror of last year where we went the other way in the fourth quarter, because this year we are at 53% replacement filter sales fourth quarter where last year we were about 47% and we commented about a decrease in margin due to that. So, that 60 basis point is really just a reflection of that replacement filter sales going higher than 50%. And looking forward to ’14, the way we have built our plan we did sort of assume that that will continue because we do have maybe more optimism that the after-markets are going to remain strong and not a significant pick up as Bill mentioned in some of our OEM customers at least here in the short-term.

Eli Lustgarten – Longbow Research: What was after-market as a percent of total sales for the year in ’13?

James F. Shaw – VP and CFO: As a percentage of total sales, it was 51%, Eli.

Eli Lustgarten – Longbow Research: Can you talk just a little – final part on Japan, which used to be – we used to talk a lot more about years ago and now we don’t talk much and what’s happening there as far as particularly aftermarket businesses?

William M. Cook – Chairman, President and CEO: Eli, Bill here. So, Japan is still an important part of the Company. Just – the economy there has been maybe up until recently sort of in a funk for a long period of time. Our sales in Japan in the fourth quarter were actually, in local currency, were actually down only 1%. So, it’s still operating well. A lot of what we see happening in Japan actually is the migration by many of our OEMs of their production from Japan to other parts of Asia to Thailand or Indonesia. So, we’re going to pick that business up in other regions, but Japan is still critical for us in terms of having that presence there to work with our customers’ design and engineering people.

A Closer Look: Donaldson Company Earnings Cheat Sheet>>