Magna International Class A Earnings Call Insights: SG&A Sustainability, Honda Accord

Magna International Class A (NYSE:MGA) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

SG&A Sustainability

Chris Ceraso – Credit Suisse: So, just a few things to cover here, first you talked about the SG&A and the fact that it was down pretty nicely year-over-year, I’m not sure if I heard what you said, to expect there on a go forward basis, do you have any comment about the sustainability of SG&A at this level?

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Vincent J. Galifi – EVP and CFO: No, I actually didn’t specifically comment on SG&A. Our comment was on operating margin, which, taking into account SG&A as well as gross margins, what benefitted us, in this quarter on the SG&A line was a recovery on asset backed commercial paper. There was a legal settlement and we received about $10 million. So, that impacted SG&A in a positive way in the quarter. Offsetting that, there was a bunch of other items, but not necessarily in the SG&A line, and for example, we took up provision for some assets that we had on our balance sheet related to Fisker and most of the hit was on the equity line and we had some other items. So, all in all, from a P&L perspective the asset backed commercial paper win was offset, but particularly on the SG&A line, SG&A was lower because of the recovery on asset backed commercial paper.

Chris Ceraso – Credit Suisse: So, probably not sustainable quite so low as a percent of sales?

Donald J. Walker – CEO: Yes. Well it’s starting to be fairly low. I mean the first half of the year typically is of higher sales and your percentage of sales tends to be a little bit lower and it goes a little bit higher in the back half because of the seasonality, but focusing on things like the pretty low SG&A in total in terms of sales for the year.

Chris Ceraso – Credit Suisse: Then maybe a bigger picture question, there has obviously been a lot of discussion in the market about the yen and a lot of that has focused on the OEMs and pricing and so forth. But I think some of the more difficult questions to answer seem to be around the implication for suppliers given that you are so big and broad and have business with most if not all global OEMs. What are you seeing competitively against Japanese suppliers? Are they starting to use the currency to their advantage maybe being a little bit more competitive with customers? What’s your expectation about the competitiveness of your Japanese suppliers that you compete with?

Donald J. Walker – CEO: I haven’t seen anything yet, but I wouldn’t necessarily know the details, so nothing that I have been made aware of. For the most part, if we are competing it’s typically with the people who are in the same geographic regions than us, so I am sure there is some cases I guess where some of it would be produced in Japan where the currency would give them an advantage. But I can’t really think about at the top of my head. A lot of what we compete will be relatively local competitors.

Chris Ceraso – Credit Suisse: So you don’t typically run up against components that were sourced out of Japan into Europe or North America?

Donald J. Walker – CEO: I can’t think of a lot to tell you the truth. I mean I am sure there is some that I don’t really – I haven’t really heard much to tell you the truth.

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Honda Accord

John Murphy – Bank of America Merrill: Maybe we can ask the Japanese question from a different angle. I mean, the Honda Accord, certainly it was an important launch for you guys here in the first quarter in North America. I was just curious what content you have on that vehicle and if this is really kind of a pretty strong foothold that you’re developing with Honda that might expand over time?

Donald J. Walker – CEO: John, the Honda Accord is a program where we’re still going to have below average content, but the point is that whereas we still kind of have $100 or $75 on a lot of the Japanese vehicles. On the Accord, we’re getting close to $350 or $400. So, we have driver systems. So, camera systems we had the inside and outside mirror. We have some energy management systems and exteriors and interiors. We have some business on the staffing side, in particular, we have the pump content which is sort of incremental…

John Murphy – Bank of America Merrill: But it does signify a pretty significant step forward with Honda then, right?

Donald J. Walker – CEO: Definitely, certainly in percentage terms, its’ a nice movement. That’s why we’re calling those out whereas we used to be pretty small or we’re creeping up in terms of the amount of content on some of those vehicles.

John Murphy – Bank of America Merrill: Then a second question on Europe. And the margins are progressing reasonably nice at least in the first quarter of this year. Was there anything that was unique in this quarter or does north of 2% sound like a reasonable assumption or at 2% plus for the remainder of the year seems reasonable for Europe with potential upside now at yours?

Donald J. Walker – CEO: Well, I’m looking through kind of Europe if you’re looking at sort Q4 to Q4 John or Q1 to Q1 where you’re looking at?

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John Murphy – Bank of America Merrill: Year-over-year, there wasn’t that big an improvement. But in the second half obviously the margins were particularly weak and it seems like we’ve had a pretty good bounce back here. So, I’m just trying to understand what that implies for the remainder of the year?

Vincent J. Galifi – EVP and CFO: Yeah, I think just consistent with what we’ve been saying is, over the next kind of three to four years, we’re expecting steady progression in European margins. They should get to about half of where North American margins are. Quarter-to-quarters are a little bit more difficult to sort of talk about. Think about this seasonality of the business, if you come into the summer slowdown, you come into Christmas shutdown, there will be some impacts, but we’re pleased with what we see in Europe. Obviously we wanted to be faster, but we’ve got plans in place and the guys are meeting their targets. So we’re confident that over the next several years, we’ll continue to see improvement in European margins…

Donald J. Walker – CEO: And there was nothing really surprising up or down in the quarter when Vince says when you get to half the North America markets, we’re talking over our planning periods like 2015, ’16 time period. So, we’re still pretty well on track with what we’ve been talking about in the past.

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John Murphy – Bank of America Merrill: Then just lastly, on the BDW acquisition, the bulk of the – the customers there are obviously, the German manufacturers, but aluminum casting, it sounds like it’s something that’s taking hold or might be a hot topic with some of your other customers, is there the ability to repurpose the technology and the products that you’re doing over there in Europe for the Germans to here in North America, with some of the Detroit 3 or around the world with other automakers.

Donald J. Walker – CEO: Yeah, they have a number of customers; Land Rover is a big customer there. We’ve actually got some other product that goes into – we’re a Tier 2. So, some pretty good product there. So for sure, that product can be replicated, it’s high capital, like any, you would expect in casting, but then you’ve got to price for it obviously, but we’re seeing a lot of interest as you have more use of aluminum in vehicles and especially if it’s a casted part, not a stamped part. So yes, that’s for sure that’s one we usually buy and we will see some growth opportunities there.

A Closer Look: Magna International Earnings Cheat Sheet>>