International Flavors & Fragrances Earnings Call Insights: Cash Uses and Base Business Strength

International Flavors & Fragrances (NYSE:IFF) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Cash Uses

Mark Astrachan – Stifel Nicolaus: Two quick questions. One on sales growth, just trying to get a sense of how to think about balance of year growth rate. So you’re done lapping some of the exits of businesses in the Flavors business. So as you look to the 4% to 6% long-term targets, I guess that’s a blend of like-for-like and local currency. So maybe help us a little bit with the progression as we don’t have to worry about the exiting of the business negatively impacting the top line over the balance of the year. And then second question is just on cash uses, so you increased the dividend by more than the 10% or 10% plus earnings target. Recently, you’ve committed now to buying back at least $50 million of stock for the year. Obviously, we can sort of read into it how we want. But sort of curious your thoughts on what you’re doing with the excess cash here, and what that potentially means as far as acquisition criteria or outlook and just sort of returning cash to shareholders on a longer-term basis.

Douglas D. Tough – Chairman and CEO: Mark, it’s Doug. I’ll talk to the second question first. And then I think we’re just going to need a little clarification perhaps on the growth question you asked. I mean, Kevin’s touched upon I think the disciplined approach that we’ve taken with the Board. And the business is sufficiently cash generative that the kinds of acquisition opportunities we would be contemplating, we were still going to be in a very positive position vis-a-vis cash if we need to do so. But in the context of both the discipline – the dividend and trying to stay within the payout ratios that we have, and that triggered the move to the recent significant increase. And I also think that the Company’s commitment to the program that we initiated a year ago on the share buyback, the Board supported the management recommendation to continue to participate in that program. So, in that, the Company’s cash position we are confident on almost all levers we need. Now, can you just embellish a little bit on your growth question, please?

Mark Astrachan – Stifel Nicolaus: Sure. So first half sales growth local currency is a couple points below the like-for-like number. So, as we are now lapping the exit of the low margin business, I’m trying to get a sense of whether we should expect an acceleration in what is now local currency growth, absent exiting that low-margin business, or just how to think about the sales growth progression through the year?

Kevin Berryman – EVP and CFO: Sure, Mark. This is Kevin. Let me make some preliminary comments and then I’ll look to Nicolas and Hernan if they want to add any additional commentary. There were two things I think that were pointed out by both of the BU presidents. One was that the expectations on the Fragrance side of the business for the balance of the year starts to be looking up at some pretty strong comparables, and we do expect that that will represent a higher level of challenge for the Fragrance businesses as we look to the balance of the year. I also think that on the Flavors side, we’ve been able and Hernan and his team have been able to put up pretty solid numbers on a like-for-like basis on an ongoing basis. And while that should, all else being equal, result in a slightly higher number for Flavors on a reported local currency sales basis, that momentum and overall needs to be done within the context of kind of how the environment is. So, probably a continued positive picture on Flavors and with some developing challenges with Fragrance just because of the comparables that we are going to be facing. Q3 was actually pretty strong in Fragrance, but Q4 was very strong as you might recall. So I would say continued good solid in Flavors and with some developing challenges relative to the comparables on Fragrance.

 

Base Business Strength

Lauren Lieberman – Barclays Capital: I wanted to know if you could comment – I have so many questions, but I guess I was most interested in the comments on the base business strength. New win momentum is something that has been building that you guys have been talking about, but I felt like the comments on base business strength was something maybe a little bit newer. So, I guess one, to what degree does that reflect kind of underlying market growth and stability and improvement, particularly I guess Latin America given some of the worries about slowdown there or also is it just sort of a greater longevity to some of your – the products that you are a part of in the market that they are just having a longer and better success rate beyond a kind of year one in the marketplace? And then, the implications that would have for win momentum going forward?

Hernan Vaisman – Group President, Flavors: Lauren, let me start with Flavors. Basically, we saw in this quarter some growth in the base business. But frankly, I mean, the big bulk of the growth was coming from the new wins. If I had to give you a kind of magnitude, I mean I would say, between 60% to 70% are coming from new wins. The rest was basically base business. In which areas we see growing base business? Again, in some way marginal for this quarter was basically in the emerging markets and in some markets in Europe. In the rest of the markets, I mean, basically, the big bulk of the growth came from new wins as we mentioned before…

Nicolas Mirzayantz – Group President, Fragrances: Lauren, it’s Nicolas. Just to provide some additional comment for Fragrances. What we saw in Q2 first was a very, very strong new win rate. So the majority of the growth is coming from new introduction into the market across all categories. What we saw, especially in Fine Fragrance, is the resilience of our existing portfolio. But more importantly, some of the very strong equity that were won last year continue to do well. So it’s not only the quantity of the win, but also the quality. So we saw some very continued strong performance of the introduction from 2012 into 2013.

Lauren Lieberman – Barclays Capital: And then if I could also ask about – for an update on the Evolva partnership, where things stand there?

Hernan Vaisman – Group President, Flavors: Hernan, Lauren. Again, I mean it’s difficult to mention. We are still in the process of scaling up as we mentioned in the last couple of calls. We believe that we will be finalizing this and scaling-up process in this quarter. So if everything goes successfully, this is something that we have to wait. Probably we will see start commercializing the new products early next year.