Ecolab Earnings Call Nuggets: Nalco Energy Services and Top Line Outlook

Ecolab, Inc. (NYSE:ECL) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Nalco Energy Services

Michael Ritzenthaler – Piper Jaffray: On revenue synergies, I guess first on Nalco in how things are progressing versus the $75 million in growth synergies outlined and whether maybe you could add some context with some success stories or something that gives you the confidence that that target is achievable this year? I guess secondly on Champion, are we in place yet where you can say that growth synergies will be north of zero yet?

Douglas M. Baker, Jr. – Chairman, President and CEO: Well, I’ll start with the first question. So, we’re on target for the $75 million per year. We had roughly $20 million in Q2, so (indiscernible) on the $75 million for the year I thought we’d take the over, I think the teams are doing quite well. We talked about the last call that we’re seeing a number of the big enterprise wide deals probably earlier than we had anticipated, so that remains on track. Regarding the ambitious target we’ve laid out for growth synergies on the Champion deal at zero will hold that. So, I would say we’ve had this for a couple of months. It’s going to be very difficult to measure. Mostly what you are going to see is the ability to leverage Champion technology into historic Nalco Energy Services base and vice versa and that is already happening. So we will see that that would be revenue synergy. But at the end of the day I think the guidance we’ve given is expect double-digit growth from the combined enterprise on a pro forma basis. And within that number is the revenue synergies we expect we’re going to achieve.

Michael Ritzenthaler – Piper Jaffray: Just a brief follow-up, how much the moves impact your thoughts on raw materials Doug. Oil prices are up at certain intermediates and derivatives are modestly weaker does that change your previous to being roughly flat and how do those raws kind of influence Ecolab’s ability to capture price in this challenging environment?

Douglas M. Baker, Jr. – Chairman, President and CEO: Our view on raws – everything has changed within the basket, but in total it really didn’t change. So, we still see raws as really not much of a story for the year. Always modest negative first quarter, modest positive second quarter but I am talking very modest. For the year we anticipate it is going to be a very modest negative. So, raws are pretty benign, they are not moving much in total. Certainly, higher raw moves enable us to justify more price, particularly in certain market so it does have an impact on our ability to price some places. But in all instances we are out every year working to secure price, because raws are not only cost that is inflated, we have people cost which is by far our largest cost in the business given our investment in sales and service and people cost go up every year. So, we are out there working to secure pricing, year in, year out. We don’t sit back and just wait for large raw moves anymore which I say was more of the pattern in the early 2002s when you were in a very benign period for long period of time. So, we are out working to secure it. This year pricing is going to be below last year simply because you don’t have the tale of a large move but we still anticipate securing north of a point globally.

Top Line Outlook

David Begleiter – Deutsche Bank: Doug, just on institutional. Can you talk about your confidence in getting some acceleration in top line in the back half of the year?

Douglas M. Baker, Jr. – Chairman, President and CEO: I think institutional improved from first quarter to second quarter. If you peel it apart, I mean, clearly, the institutional business in Europe has been the most impacted, if you will, by the economy and it reduced its strength from quarter-to-quarter, and is anticipated to be flattish to modestly up in the second half. So, that alone because it’s not a small piece of that business, it’s going to impact the overall growth rate. But Institutional around the world has got significant opportunities. They are on it. We’ve got a great corporate account team, a very robust innovation pipeline to delivering against it. So, we expect Institutional to continue to improve throughout this year and likely going into next year.

David Begleiter – Deutsche Bank: So, just in the U.S. any change in the competitive intensity from the usual suspects?

Douglas M. Baker, Jr. – Chairman, President and CEO: Well, I would say, overall, no. I mean, certainly there have been shifts. So, some of our competitors have been severely impacted by events – many of them (they are not) doing and others are talking about aggressively rebuilding a program in the U.S. I would say on balance, I think, the competitive environment is much more similar versus dissimilar to what we’ve seen historically. The way people typically try to attack us, if they’re going to do it on a national basis is try to undercut us on price. That’s been true since I’ve been here and I’m about to enter my 25th year. So, I would expect that’s going to be the norm going forward. I think we manage against that challenge well and I would expect that we will do so going forward. So, we certainly haven’t seen any share erosion, if any, given the markets and the difficulty in food service, we’ve been gaining share not shrinking over the last few years and I would expect that to continue.

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