The Urethane Blog

Urethane Highlights from Huntsman Analysts’ Call

Huntsman (HUN) Q4 2016 Results – Earnings Call Transcript

Peter R. Huntsman – Huntsman Corp.

Thank you, Kurt. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us. Let’s turn to slide number 3. Adjusted EBITDA for our Polyurethanes division in the fourth quarter was $131 million. MDI urethanes, which includes propylene oxide recorded earnings of $131 million during the quarter. MDI volume growth was 4% globally for the full year, continuing the trend of strong demand in mature economies of North America and Europe with weaker demand in emerging markets. Importantly, our differentiated MDI sales volumes grew 6% in 2016.

In North America, we saw impressive growth in commercial insulation and composite wood product sales, driven by improved end-market conditions and continued product substitution. Underlying growth continued to be strong, driven by demand in automotive and commercial construction.

In Asia, although volume growth remained relatively flat, we grew our differentiated sales by 7% during the quarter. Overall, Asian profitability increased markedly during the quarter, driven by sharply increasing component margins as a result of a competitor’s outage. We expect these margins to return to more normalized levels during the first quarter as production capacity re-enters the market.

We have planned maintenance at our MDI facility in Rotterdam in the first half of 2017. This occurs once every four years and is scheduled to begin mid-March and be completed towards the end of April. We estimate the EBITDA impact will be approximately $5 million to $10 million.

We continue to strategically position this business by aggressively driving for higher differentiated growth in downstream markets. Our differentiated sales comprise approximately 70% of our MDI revenues, but more importantly approximately 85% of our MDI EBITDA. We will continue to direct a large majority of our capital expenditures towards downstream growth, utilizing our global footprint to focus on collaboration with key customers to develop initiatives, innovative solutions that enhance product performance and business competitiveness.

Despite our planned maintenance activities and increase in raw materials, notably benzene, we expect our MDI urethane business and adjusted EBITDA to increase modestly in 2017. We also expect MTBE margins to improve slightly during 2017 compared to 2016. However, challenging market conditions, with low oil prices and a glut of refining products could temper any MTBE improvement. While our Polyurethanes division was relatively flat from 2015 to 2016, I think it should be noted that our MDI urethanes business improved year-over-year by nearly $40 million. This is the core of our Polyurethanes division, and ends the year poised for continued improvement in 2017.

Aleksey Yefremov – Nomura Securities International, Inc.

Good morning. Thank you. You mentioned in your slides that in the fourth quarter, Asian MDI Polyurethanes benefited from competitor outage. That outage has ended, and strength seems to have continued in the first quarter. So do you think that this continued strength is due to something more sustainable, such as underlying supply and demand, or is this due to maybe some planned maintenance and seasonality?

Peter R. Huntsman – Huntsman Corp.

I think it’s a little too early to say exactly what it is, but we are seeing decent demand continue in China. One of our largest competitors there has publicly announced that they’ve put off some maintenance and turnaround work in an attempt to build inventory, which would tell me that demand across the board is stronger than usual. We did see prices increase because of industry outages in China, specifically in the fourth quarter, and would have expected as this new capacity – or excuse me, the repaired capacity came back and margin for these margins to diminish. They’ve come up a little bit, but again, the markets feel pretty good and I hope that we can continue to take advantage of that.

David Wang – Morningstar, Inc. (Research)

I just wanted to follow up on Polyurethanes. So if we take out the MTBE impact on the adjusted EBITDA, how would the margins for the MDI side do, I guess, year-on-year and for full year?

Peter R. Huntsman – Huntsman Corp.

Margins on that business for the full year, taking out MTBE is right in the mid-teens and we – if you look at the last couple of years, that trend has continued to improve and increase as we move further downstream. Obviously our ultimate objective in that business is to take out volatility and to continue to see a strengthening in the margins in that business. And I think that that business is not peaking and I think that as we look at the overall strength of that MDI business, that’s going to continue to be a strong core of our business as we push towards the 20% sort of margin level in that business.

David Wang – Morningstar, Inc. (Research)

Great. And can you talk a little bit about the supply and demand dynamics for MDI going forward? What sort of projects you’re seeing coming online and how demand is trending?

Peter R. Huntsman – Huntsman Corp.

Well, I mean, demand continues to be strong. Surprisingly, as you look at where the real strength is coming globally, it’s coming from North America and from Europe, and as we continue to look at that, those are the large bases for us of our downstream plan, and of our largest facilities, our most competitive manufacturing sites and so forth.

The next major project to come on stream globally, I’m talking about a grassroots, standalone sort of a project is our project, that will be – well, let’s see, I guess it’d be the Sadara project, and Dow Chemical in the Middle East, exactly when that will be coming up, probably the latter part of the year. And then our project which will be coming up this next year, and so I think that as we look at that, it’s for the next couple of years not a lot of new capacity coming into the market. And the market I think continues to grow at solid single-digit sort of growth rates.