Rockwood Holdings Earnings Call Nuggets: Cash Options and Sequential Pricing

Rockwood Holdings Inc (NYSE:ROC) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Cash Options

David Begleiter – Duetsche Bank: Seifi, is there any update on the remaining businesses within Performance Additives and TiO2? Are you’re looking potentially more at a spin than sale of these remaining businesses?

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO: David, as I said, we’re looking at all of our options. Quite honestly, I don’t want to make any more comments because we’re looking at many, many options. When we have something to say, we’ll announce.

David Begleiter – Duetsche Bank: Just secondly on the $2.4 billion of cash, what’s your expectation of the deployment of that cash to share buybacks and other activities?

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO: Well on that front, I appear a little bit uncomfortable talking about what we’re going to do with the cash because it is not in the bank. It’s a little bit like counting your chickens before they are hatched. But you know what the options are. The options are obviously, we have to take a look at our credit agreements. The bank agreement says that if we sell more than $2 billion of assets we need to pay down the bank debt, so I assume that would be the first thing we will do, that’s about $910 million. Then after that, we have to go to our bondholders, and we are selling some assets, we’ll be supporting the bond. So we have to tell them what we want to do and see what they want to do. Depending on what they want to do, that determines how much cash we have left. So, I think it’s a little bit premature to kind of go through all of that details between pay down debt, acquisitions, share buyback, and all of that, but hopefully everything will be done by October, and then on our third quarter conference call, we’ll be able to give you a detailed accounting of what we plan to do.

Sequential Pricing

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs: A couple of quick questions. One, you gave us the year-on-year pricing in TiO2, Seifi. Can you give us a sense of sequentially in the quarter and maybe where prices are today relative to the average you had in the second quarter?

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO: Sequentially, they are flat. I mean, you are talking about second quarter versus first quarter?

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs: That’s right.

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO: Yeah. No, it’s flat; hasn’t changed.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs: Are there efforts in the marketplace now for price hikes?

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO: Well, we usually don’t comment on prices, but several of the other companies have put on price increase announcements, but I don’t want to comment on that. And as you know, we are not a major player in setting prices, anyway, Bob.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs: Could you talk on the Lithium side? You mentioned, I think, just lower volume, but maybe price on battery products. I know my kids are doing their best to keep that business growing, so why didn’t we continue to see growth there?

Seifi Ghasemi – Chairman and CEO: We are continuing to see growth in our Lithium business that growth is coming from both our upstream and downstream operations, and on the upstream side a lot of the growth is related to sale of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide and that is mainly driven by batteries for laptops, cellphones and all of that, but in addition to that we are beginning to see some effect from demand for electric cars. We have always said that, that demand will be meaningful in 2015/2016, and that’s still the case. But we are seeing some of that effect.

Robert Koort – Goldman Sachs: May be my last one for Bob Zatta, if I could. There was a $5 million write-down in the quarter. Could you tell us what that was about?

Robert J. Zatta – SVP and CFO: Yeah, I think it was $4.6 million. It was the geothermal facility that they were constructing out in Silver Peak. The engineers had expected to find significantly higher temperatures, down below the ground, then what in fact turned out. So they wound up not wanting to pursue that project. So that was the equipment associated with it.