Snap-on Earnings Call Insights: Military Orders and Effects of Hurricane Sandy

Snap-on (NYSE:SNA) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Military Orders

David MacGregor – Longbow Research: How much forward visibility do you have on this military order book and you’d indicated it was down double-digits. So I’m just wondering, if that’s kind of the pace that’s expected over the balance of the year?

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Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Yes. But what happens is, is that the base shrinks. I think I said in the fourth quarter, we don’t have the greatest visibility. We know that the military isn’t the most robust of businesses, whether we have visibility or not, it’s kind of – you read any paper or anything like that, you see both sequestration causing uncertainty around the Department of Defense and you see the fact that troops are coming home. The difference there, David, is that – and I think I did say this in the last conference call, the fourth quarter is our biggest quarter, the first quarter is our next highest and then it reduces as we go to the second and third quarter. Then the second and third quarter last year as the world progressed we’re already seeing some sort of contraction. So, contractions are liable to be big, in fact they were a little bit bigger in the first quarter than it was on a percentage basis in the fourth quarter, but the base is smaller. So we would expect the impact to somewhat reduce, attenuate I would say.

David MacGregor – Longbow Research: So you’re still expecting to be down, maybe double-digits, but it becomes a less consequential part of the business, is what you are saying?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Correct. I have sized this for people. People have asked how big it is, and well we don’t give guidance by segment or what we’ve said is that, it’s part of the industrial business, the critical industries, which is roughly, give or take $400 million, a little bit over $400 million business and we’ve identified by five, six segments in that business, the critical segments in that business and this is one of the bigger ones. So, you can kind of chop them up into five or six pieces and say okay, this is one of the bigger ones and calendarize it like I said, fourth biggest, first, next biggest and then second and third, it kind of gives you some directional guidance and that’s what I see coming on. We don’t have the greatest visibility in any – much of our business is in terms of backlog.

David MacGregor – Longbow Research: On the RS&I business, I guess it sounds like the facilitation business has come back a little bit and that was the source of the pressure on the gross margin in that segment? Is the facilitation business back in somewhat of a permanent way now or how should we think about the mixed dynamics in that segment going forward?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Let me give you a couple of thoughts. One is, strictly – you have it right – but strictly speaking, the facilitation business in that business is sort of like a distribution business. That’s where we offer distribution services for OEM dealerships, you’re appointed by Toyota or somebody else to kind of be their go to supplier for a wide variety of products or the dealerships for their dealership network. That’s not what we’re referring to here. We’re referring to the other side of that, what we call EQS business, which is essential diagnostics, where an OEM manufacturer says, I’d like to rollout either a hard tool – I said diagnostics, any essential tool, either a hard tool or a diagnostics, a laptop for a specific make of car and says, Snap-on, I’d like to help us develop it and roll it out to our distribution – well help roll it out to our dealerships. What happened here is we got a couple of those products – we got a couple of those programs in place now that are rolling and that nurtures this business. It does tend to be lumpy. So you can – you get an award, it says some manufacturer, Rolls-Royce says I’d like to rollout, now Rolls-Royce doesn’t have many dealerships, but let’s say Toyota or somebody, says I’d like you to roll out to my dealerships and you do it and it takes you five quarters. Then there is no program there and so you have to replace it with another program. So it can be lumpy. Overlaid on top of that though David is, whether the OEMs themselves are feeling robust or more favorable and actually I think the 2013 forecast in the North America for what must be a 5% increase in the auto industry so 15.1% to 15.7% or something like that. So I mean it’s a small increase. So, I think they are a little bit more positive here. So we are seeing little positive news there plus on top – overlaid on top of this lumpy business…

David MacGregor – Longbow Research: Last question I guess just pertains to possible acquisitions and I guess the question is…

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: What acquisitions? Say that again please.

David MacGregor – Longbow Research: Yes. The last question just has to do with acquisitions and I guess the question is just how much leverage would you be willing to undertake in support of an acquisition?

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Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to necessarily speak about that on a call or in this kind of situation. I will just offer that, if you look at our…

David MacGregor – Longbow Research: Just wondering if there was any softening?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: If you look at our operating business we had quite a bit of powder available. So I think that’s sufficient to say that. I think those questions, David, will always depend on the particular opportunity that’s there. It’s kind of a happenstance. One of the things, we have capability in-house that knows how to acquire, because we have people who have experience in this. I know we have a great integration team available. We are reviewing an ongoing list of possibilities and we know we have ammo. So I think we would adjust any kind of situations. So I wouldn’t want to pen myself in that regard.


Effects of Hurricane Sandy

David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: Couple of things, let’s start with the Tool business and Nick and Aldo you had talked about carryover impact from Sandy and payroll tax increase having an impact. Can you characterize on an exit rate what type of growth you might have been seeing? I don’t want to get brought down in monthly numbers at all, but were you zero to three to six or is there some characterization there…

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: I don’t want to speak like that, but I would – it’s hard for me to characterize, but let me try it this way. You and I have talked, spoken many times about this and I think I have said on every conference call that we have had over the last – I don’t know more than two years. When the Tools Group is rolling double-digits, I have cautioned everyone that I don’t think that continues. I think we hold to our 4% to 6%, but then there’s the question of how fast is the deceleration. I think everybody recognized that it probably can’t grow a double-digits forever and so how does that transition occur and that was a $64,000 question and I think given –and this is speculation and so on, but I would say if we didn’t see the lingering effects of Sandy, which we know is a factor, because we know Middle Atlantic was down and there were other places in the regions that were down, but if we didn’t see that and if we didn’t see what I would consider, I can’t document this, but what seems to be a pause associated with – it might have been the payroll tax, it might have been other things around – it was kind of like a boundary layer, when we went over ’12 to ’13. I think, we would’ve seen a more cushioned deceleration, let’s say. If that helps…

David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: So, do you think…?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Even more expectable, would’ve been more expectable. I think people had certain expectations around those things and I think this would have been a decelerated quarter but it would have been more push-ins, less involved.

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David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: What kind of numbers did you see in the U.S. versus the international markets for the business?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: U.S. – international was above the U.S., because the U.S. is where we saw the impact of Sandy, but the international business was also decelerated somewhat as well but generally the U.S. was down more than – was decelerated faster than international.

David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: So, from your perspective it sounds like we’ve more quickly, then expected guidance to sport a 5% or 4% to 6% kind of range going forward?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Well, I don’t want to say that I expected that. I never knew how we would go into that. I’d simply say that I think we have an event, we have some boundary layer conditions at the end of last year and certainly the beginning – mostly the beginning of this year that that tended to, what I want to say steepen or heighten the deceleration and I still think you know 3.7% ain’t chop liver, I would offer. So we are not – if I look at the 4% to 6% myself, I would say look, we always said we had go to 4% to 6% over time. We said treatment 3.7% is reasonably inside the standard deviation of that, so it’s the kind of variation you had seen, around those numbers. So I am not so surprised about 3.7%. I am (particularly) offering that in this particular period, if we didn’t have the boundary layer we probably would’ve seen somewhat softened – a softer change.

David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: Then on the RS&I side, when you look at the minority interest there at Mitchell 1, I am suspecting that Mitchell 1 was a very strong performer there for you?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Yes. It was. They performed, yes.

David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: Is that something that’s tied to these roll out on the essential diagnostics or is that something more structural that can grow faster?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: No. Mitchell 1 – let me just parse between these two things, I mean make my comment about Mitchell 1. Mitchell 1 has been actually part of our – been a good success story for some time and it expanded that success in the first quarter and that is not related to the essential diagnostics. Essential diagnostics is with OEM dealerships. This is fundamentally with independent dealerships and they just seem to be growing their position with independent dealerships. They are getting better at what they do and the dealerships are recognizing it and they are embracing it more. Now, when you talk about, the minority interest as a special wrinkle that, I might want Aldo to comment.

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Aldo J. Pagliari – SVP, Finance and CFO: Yes. David this is Aldo. You are correct that Mitchell 1 was a larger contributor and 15% of Mitchell 1 is owned by outside parties. So there is a little bit more of an elimination in equity earnings for that. You will also recall that in Q4 Snap-on divested a non-strategic entity. It was a legacy investment that was part of the ProQuest acquisition. So the earnings from that are no longer in equity earnings. So that also accounts for that lower amount that you see.

David Leiker – Robert W. Baird: Then on Mitchell 1 just one more item there. Has this been driven by a change in the product, upgrading in the product offering or more effective marketing or just normal market recognition over time?

Nicholas T. Pinchuk – Chairman and CEO: Actually I’d say both. I think we did change the product. I want to say six, seven months ago, we changed the Pro demand which was an upgrade, kind of a new model, if you will, repair information, a lot better navigation, same great database that’s wider than anybody else and terrific, but also better navigation. People really have appreciated that. So that’s one. Two, is our marketing has been better, we’ve driven customer connection into Mitchell 1, pretty effectively. So they’re out constantly. They’ve got a pretty robust process, looking at the field and getting feedback saying, how can we improve. So they’ve kind of got this ongoing improvement activity that’s actually I think pretty good for a software business that’s overlaying on top of the sort of upgrades and the software, they’re actually improving it based on what the customers are telling and we never had that before, so we’re doing it better than that. Then thirdly, we’re expanding a little bit our reach into heavy duty and other places. So, we’ve got a couple of other non-automotive segments in there. So all three of those things are in a cocktail and it’s been doing pretty well and when it came together this quarter with the sort of diagnostic information product, the repair shop owners and managers that went up and we paired it with a pretty robust quarter for – we’ve been kind of carrying the OEM dealerships for several quarters. You might remember, last year’s numbers were like 0.5, 2.9, 2.7 in RS&I. Now, we’re up pretty well. We’re hitting on more like all cylinders. We’re still carrying 25% of European business with that business, and one of the things that happened was that SBS, the parts catalog business got out from under the consolidation of the dealerships. That was an ongoing tail. We were even receiving some of the impact last year. That stopped now. So, that’s back to some upward movement.

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