Saputo Earnings Call Nuggets: Segment Reporting and U.S. Performance Metrics

Saputo (OTC:SAPIF) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Segment Reporting

Irene Nattel – RBC Capital Markets: First question I have is around the announcement you’re going to change the segment reporting, and wondering why at this point you decided to break out the Dairy Ingredients in a separate division?

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Louis-Philippe Carriere – EVP, Finance and Administration: Essentially, that’s part of our outlook, and the fact that we’re going to segregate or re-segment the way that we are presenting our financial information. Essentially two or three sector, the Canadian sector on which we’re going to include Dairy division in Canada as well as the Bakery; the U.S. sector on which we’re going to combine the Cheese division as well as the Dairy Foods division; and finally, the International sector on which we’re going to combine our operation in Argentina as well as the sales of dairy ingredients as well as export cheese from North America. Essentially, we’re going in that direction because that’s the way that we’re looking as of now to our business. That’s the way we’re now structured keeping in mind that part of our group, Kai Bockmann joined us last year in January 2012 as the one leading the International division. So essentially the way that we are set up and the way that we are to our business now is essentially the right move in terms of the way that we’re going to present the financial information.

Irene Nattel – RBC Capital Markets: And on the whole international, is it fair to think that possibly as you – I guess, in the past whenever we’ve all thought about international acquisitions, we’ve always focused on cheese. But dose Morningstar open up a whole bunch of possibilities for you?

Lino A. Saputo, Jr. – CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board: I think as we look at our strategies for international businesses, Irene, we’re looking at really Dairy Products and the entire world of Dairy Products, whether that would be in a liquid form or solid form or powdered form. That was true even before the Morningstar acquisition. In fact, if we look at our product portfolio that we are currently selling into the international markets, they do include powdered products and cheeses, and perhaps someday there might be (variants) possible. Some other dairy ingredients are blends for ice cream and perhaps even maybe coffee mixes. So again, we’re looking at the whole dairy world in terms of our platform for growth…

Irene Nattel – RBC Capital Markets: That’s great. And one final question, if I may. It’s now been a full quarter since you got Morningstar. Could you give us any insight into what your initial thoughts are around what you’ve acquired and how it might be integrated on a go-forward basis?

Lino A. Saputo, Jr. – CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board: Well, we’re still extremely excited about the Morningstar acquisition which we’ve now renamed Dairy Foods U.S.A. Again, I’m thoroughly impressed with the management team, impressed with the facilities. Of course, there’s certain things that we are learning from the folks out at the Dairy Foods and Dairy Foods is learning from Saputo’s management style and management approach. I think there’s a lot of compatibility there. I think there’s quite a bit of opportunity for us to further develop that platform. So, again, we’re extremely excited about having those assets under our responsibility and part of our large family and large team, and again I said this in the last quarter, if there are other potential acquisitions within that space, we’re motivated to continue growing that platform.

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David Hartley – Credit Suisse: And the most recent acquisition, does that help in any which way, because you’ve mentioned as a complementary business, but does it help you competitively in any way?

Lino A. Saputo, Jr. – CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board: The only way that it would help us is if we’re going currently to one customer with cheese, that is also producing other dairy liquids like the creamers and/or the ice cream mixes and coffee blends, then perhaps the fact that we are an incumbent or that we are a good provider, that provides us credibility to try to expand our presence in another categories of product. That being said, there are no real synergies between the Dairy Foods division and the Cheese division. And I think I was quite clear when we made the acquisition that we would not see any major improvement to the EBITDA generation within the first couple of years until such time that we would make other acquisitions that would perhaps allow us to make some efficiency initiatives or rationalization changes.

David Hartley – Credit Suisse: Just final question and just on acquisitions. Given Morningstar for years I guess that division was looking to be combined with something else under different ownership. I mean, how confident are you today that you can find assets businesses that would be synergistic with the Morningstar going forward. From a U.S. perspective or as you know I like to ask this type of questions about international trade packs. I mean, this is more set up for something like that should one day changes in regulations around the world affect your business?

Lino A. Saputo, Jr. – CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board: I think both that would be the case, and probably the most immediate would be acquisitions within the U.S. That would either complement or enhance what the Dairy Foods Division is doing. You’re asking, how likely is it? I think it’s very likely. In that space and in the categories of product that dairy foods processes themselves, you’ve got quite a few national competitors as well as some and perhaps even more regional players that could really fit our platform and be a real nice tuck-in business for us. I think there are multiple targets out there. It’s a question of finding the right one, finding one that has a desire to sell as much as we have a desire to buy them.

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U.S. Performance Metrics

Vishal Shreedhar – National Bank Financial: Lino, given the most recent acquisition in the U.S. I was hoping you could update us on the key U.S. performance metrics that your team follows to monitor ongoing performance? In particular I was hoping you could comment on the validity of the milk cheese spread and how much your team monitors that to gauge performance?

Lino A. Saputo, Jr. – CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board: Well, let me answer the second question first. The milk cheese spread is still a variable that we look at; however, less important to us today than it was prior to say 2006 when we made the Land O’Lakes and Alto acquisitions, and started adding some whey drying capability to our platform. Milk cheese spread still, yes, you know we track what’s going on in USDA, we track what’s going on in California, but we don’t live and die by the cheese spread anymore. There are other variables that we look at and there are a number of different things. Block price is important for us, where the block price sits beyond the cheese spread. Whey pricing is important for us. We look at other ingredient cost, non-fat dry milk and others that are important variables for us as well as you look at the international markets for other ingredients, those are all important variables for us. So, as important as milk cheese spread used to be prior to 2006, today it’s one variable amongst many variables that we look at. In terms of matrixes, we’re a very simple company. We don’t look at – we’re not analysts and we don’t look at formulas to dictate or determine where our profitability should be. We take a very fundamental approach of customer-by-customer, product-by-product and line out exactly where we think we need to be in terms of EBITDA generation on per pound or per kilo basis and that’s as simple as we can look at it. And then at the end of the day we roll-up the numbers and we come up with an EBITDA generation for the enterprise and we’ll determine whether we are satisfied or not satisfied based on what we believe we can attain or achieve on an efficiency perspective on selling perspective and fundamentally a EBITDA generation dollar perspective.