Newell Rubbermaid Earnings Call Nuggets: Outlook on Brazil and Pricing Details

Newell Rubbermaid Inc (NYSE:NWL) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Outlook on Brazil

John Faucher – JPMorgan: So in looking at Brazil, you’ve obviously got a pretty aggressive plan there, lots of new product launches, what have you. Most companies are talking about economic weakness there. So can you talk about sort of building the business, not exactly up from scratch, but given the smaller scale, is that what protects your growth plan there despite the fact that the economy is obviously softening there?

Michael B. Polk – President and CEO: Yes. If you follow the GDP growth, you would – across Latin America you probably would not expect to deliver the kind of growth rates we’ve delivered in the first half. Our core growth is up about 19%. It’s all about where we start from, and we’ve got a pretty focused portfolio in Brazil that can participate in what will be, over time, a significant investment in infrastructure build-out. So we’re playing a long game in Brazil. It’s not about this quarter or last quarter’s GDP growth. We’ve got to take that perspective. The businesses we’ll play into Brazil with are all on trend. Having come from the – from companies that have big emerging market footprints, you have to be prepared to accept the more – the increased volatility in the macros, if you’re committed to building your business and committed to participating in what is obviously a very strong long-term macro story. So you have to accept the short-term volatility for the long-term gain, and that’s what we’re doing. Again, our upside is clear. We have a line of sight to it and we don’t suffer the downturns that others do given the fact that our footprint is not yet as big as what others have.

John Faucher – JPMorgan: Then just sort of one quick follow-up on that. In terms of looking at the Industrial business band saw blades, what have you, what exactly is the change that’s driving some of the weakness in demand there? Is that again just sort of a global macro issue?

Michael B. Polk – President and CEO: Yes. Look, our business is North American and Asian based. So if we look at China’s PMIs, (47.7), 11-month low, those are the things – and look at the commentary around its (steel), shipbuilding, auto, these are industries that our business pivots on now. The thing to recognize is that our band saw business is less than 20% of our total Tools portfolio. So the Industrial portion of our portfolio is suffering with what is, a pretty sluggish macros on Industrial production across the world. But this, too, will pass and we have good innovation plans in that portion of our Tools business, and we have a very, very strong differentiated selling systems particularly in North America that we will continue to leverage.

Pricing Details

Lauren Lieberman – Barclays Capital: First, my question was on pricing. I was surprised to hear it called out as negative in the commentary. So, I thought last quarter your comments were that by the end of Q1 and into Q2, you kind of had the pricing you needed, so I would have thought it was – would have been positive this quarter. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Douglas L. Martin – CFO: Sure. In some of our businesses and we don’t talk about the underlying volume, underlying price growth by segment, and quite frankly we are not as crystal clear as some others are on that for the total company. But net pricing was a down a little bit in Q2, invoice pricing, so our list price were up, but customer programming was higher in a couple of specific categories, in our resin-based businesses and in our Tools business, quite frankly, as some of our competitors went more aggressive on pricing and merchandising than we are planning. We have to be principled on pricing, so we’ve taken invoice prices up on a number of categories in Q2, and we will do more invoice pricing so list price increases in Q3. But the principle that drives our pricing choices is relative competitiveness to our – in our markets, and we’re not going to compromise on price points – our strategic price points, if in fact our competition doesn’t follow. So, we’ve got to manage that. We’re optimistic in the back half of the year that we will see price realization. The question is can we count on this as much as we’d like? And, it’s something we’ll have to watch. We’ll let our pricing principles drive the choices. The variable that it reflects will be customer programming, not list price, and we’ll maintain competitiveness. We have enough flexibility in the way we can phase Project Renewal savings, and we have strengthening momentum and productivity as a result of the rollout of our global supply chain organization, such that we can now overcome any potential issues we might face there. But I want to be transparent with that because we had hoped we might be able to capture more price in Q2 than we were able to and it’s something we’ve got to be very attentive to going forward.

Lauren Lieberman – Barclays Capital: From what you can tell, I mean particularly in Tools, is it competitors being more aggressive in response to how different things are for Irwin and Lenox today than they were two, three years ago? They’re finally maybe catching on to some of the changes at Newell.

Michael B. Polk – President and CEO: Well, look, I mean, I think – I hesitate to comment on why some of our competitors are doing what they’re doing. I will say that we are going to try to drive our growth strategically through innovation, through brand investment and through the right level of customer programming to drive trial and repeat on our businesses. So we’ll have to watch that. In any given quarter though, we may have to flex in or out on pricing to maintain competitiveness and, of course, in key drive periods we’ll do that. We’ve seen very, very good growth on this business over the last four years. Last year – as Doug mentioned, double-digit core sales growth in the first half of this year. Some of our competitors haven’t performed as well, a number of them in the first quarter, quite frankly. So the fact that some of them in Q2 have gotten more aggressive doesn’t shock me, and the challenge to us is to make sure we build a funnel of great ideas that enable us to not have to play that game to drive our growth. I think we’ve got that funnel playing out in the marketplace, the innovation playing out in the marketplace in the second half of this year. So, I’m quite optimistic about our ability to deliver a strong growth profile in Tools in the second half of the year and solid full year growth as a result.

A Closer Look: Newell Rubbermaid Earnings Cheat Sheet>>