Hubbell Incorporated (NYSE:HUBB) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

Hubbell Incorporated (NYSE:HUBB) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript January 31, 2023

Operator: Good day. And thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2022 Hubbell Incorporated Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speakers’ presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. Please be advised that today’s conference call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to your speaker today, Dan Innamorato, Vice President, Investor Relations.

Dan Innamorato: Thanks operator. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Earlier this morning, we issued a press release announcing our results for the fourth quarter and full year 2022. The press release and slides are posted to the Investors section of our website at I’m joined today by our Chairman, President and CEO, Gerben Bakker; and our Executive Vice President and CFO, Bill Sperry. Please note our comments this morning may include statements related to the expected future results of our company and are forward-looking statements as defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Therefore, please note the discussion of forward-looking statements in our press release and considered incorporated by reference on this call.

Additionally, comments may also include non-GAAP financial measures. Those measures are reconciled to the comparable GAAP measures and are included in the press release and slides. Now let me turn the call over to Gerben.

Gerben Bakker: Great, good morning, everyone. And thank you for joining us to discuss Hubble’s fourth quarter and full year 2022 results. 2022 was a strong year for Hubble, we effectively served our customers through a challenging operating environment, consistently delivering high quality, critical infrastructure solutions, which enable grid modernization and electrification in front of and behind the meter. We also delivered strong results for our shareholders with full year organic growth of 18%, adjusted operating profit growth of 29% and adjusted earnings per share growth of 32%. We began 2022 by completing the divestiture of our C&I Lighting, successfully positioning the Hubble portfolio for structurally higher long-term growth and margins.

We also stepped up our investment levels to bolster our positions in key strategic growth verticals, through acquisitions and organic innovation, expanded our capacity in areas of visible long-term growth, and to improve our manufacturing and distribution footprint for future productivity. Importantly, we’ve been able to fund these investments while still expanding operating margins, driven by strong execution on price cost in the face of significant inflationary and supply chain pressures. Our employees have worked hard through a challenging environment to sustain a culture of excellence, delivering industry leading service levels for our utility and electrical customers, along with differentiated financial operating performance. The critical contributions of our employees and partners are what led to it highly successful 2022 for all of our key stakeholders.

Looking ahead, we believe that Hubble’s unique leading position in attractive markets will enable us to continue delivering on each of these fronts in 2023 and beyond. We will talk more in depth on our near-term outlook later in this presentation. But we anticipate continued market growth and strong execution, driving positive price cost productivity to fund investments back into our business, which will generate long term value for our customers, while delivering attractive returns to our shareholders. Turning to page 4, our fourth quarter results were generally consistent with year-to-date trends. Utility customers continue to invest in upgrading, hardening and modernizing aging grid infrastructure. Orders continued to outpace shipments, and we exited €˜22 with record backlog levels, which gives us good visibility to continued growth in 2023 though continued investment is required to address areas of capacity constrained.

In Electrical Solutions, orders and volumes softened in the fourth quarter, as customers actively managed inventories and cash flow into yearend. These dynamics were anticipated and contemplated in the outlook we provided last October. Operationally, we expanded operating margins by over 200 basis points in the quarter. While the overall environment remains inflationary, using raw material inflation and continued traction on price drove a net price cost productivity benefit. Finally, we continue to accelerate our investment levels. Most notably, we invested over $60 million in capital expenditures in the fourth quarter as we’re able to execute several large capacity and productivity projects. For the full year, we invested just under $130 million in capital expenditures, up $40 million from €˜21 levels.

And we expect another year of elevated CapEx in €˜23 as we believe that these high return investments are the best current use of our shareholders capital. So overall, the fourth quarter was a strong finish to a strong year for Hubbell. Let me now turn it over to Bill to provide you some more details on our performance.

Bill Sperry: Thanks very much, Gerben. And thank you all, for joining us this morning, looking forward to talking about fourth quarter full year, and in particular, our outlook for 2023. I’m going to start my comments on page 5 of the materials that Dan referenced. And we’ll start with the fourth quarter results for the Hubble Enterprise. You see sales growth of 11%, up over $1.2 billion, that 11% is comprised of high single digits of price, low single digits of volume. And one point from acquisition. We look at our sales performance through a few different lenses here. The first is against prior year. There’s double digit growth against double digit growth and last year’s fourth quarter shows good compounding, and good robust levels of demand.

We also look at it through the lens of comparing it to the third quarter. We’re down sequentially, about 7% roughly in line with fewer days and the per day shipment level reasonably flat to the third quarter sequentially. And we also believe that there was some, the channel was managing their inventory levels and we’ll talk more about that in a couple of pages when we get to the electrical segment. The operating profit on the upper right of the page very impressive growth of 27% very healthy margin expansion of two points to 16%. And when we look at the incremental drop through on the growth, you see about mid-30s dropped through which we think is quite good. Price is really a very important part of the success of this financial performance.

The price is sticking, Gerben made reference to the critical products in our customers, adding to their structural solutions and having this sticking price is really helping us as inflation is continuing to affect us in the non-material and value added places. And when we talked about next year, we’ll give you a little bit more breakdown about how we’re anticipating price costs. On the lower left, you see earnings per share growing at 26% in line with the profit growth. On the non ops side, we had some headwinds from taxes as well as from pension. But Gerben had referenced that we started last year with the disposal of the C&I Lighting business and we use some of the proceeds of that sale to buy back shares, which partially offset these non op headwinds.

The free cash flow, you see is down 9% That’s — that more than explains the CapEx increase that Gerben described. So the OCF side here is quite healthy, and we’re being quite intentional. I’m making these investments in order to position Hubble for the future to be successful. Page 6, we’ll switch to breaking the fourth quarter down between our two segments. And page 6 starts with the utility segment. And you see a really strong finish to an outstanding year by our utility franchise set up for success for 2023. You see total sales growth here of 17% to about $716 million of sales, that 17% of sales is comprised of a low double digit increase in price and a mid-single digit increase in volumes. Demand continues to be very robust despite high double-digit shipments here, we continue to add to the backlog in the fourth quarter.

You’ll see that the T&D Components, the historical Hubble power systems infrastructure business, showing the most growth at 27%. The trends continue to be driven by the need for grid hardening and for renewables, and continues to reinforce the shift that we’ve seen from mere kind of GDP type replacement levels of spending to the need for our customers to really upgrade the grid. And I think you’ll see the evidence of our strong positioning, as utilities continue to turn to us with these critical needs. That’s really helping inform and drive some of our CapEx decisions that Gerben had mentioned, to continue to support our customers here. On the Communications and Control side, you’ll see a decrease of 10% in sales while demand was still strong.

Relay, Electronic, Industry

Photo by Angeles Pérez on Unsplash

There are two drivers to that contraction. Number one is the persistent shortage of chips from the supply chain that’s really preventing us from growing and that’s been a persistent problem for the last few quarters and has kept our communications and controls business relatively flat. In addition, we had a onetime event in the fourth quarter where we recognize the commercial resolution. This was stemming from a legacy dispute that preceded Hubble’s acquisition. And it became obvious it was time to resolve that so that we could move forward with a constructive relationship with a big customer and to our mutual benefit we believe, but that had the impact of driving down sales in the quarter for the communications and control segment. We expect this chip situation to improve during 2023.

So while the quarter was down, we have expectations of the comms business growing, that it may still be a little choppy in Q1. But we’re anticipating getting this chip supply situation to improve during the course of the year. And we’re looking forward to returning that business to growth. You can see on the right side of the page, very impressive operating profit growth of 42%, adding three points to operating profit margin, up over 17% in the fourth quarter by the utility team. That performance being driven by price, which we’ve really needed to overcome inflation, as well as inefficiencies in our plans that coming from some of the disruptions from the supply chain, the mid-single digit volume growth is also dropping through at attractive levels.

So really good year by our utility franchise, and you can see a good quarter setting us up for a good year next year. On page 7, we’ve got the electrical solutions results, and you’ll see 3% sales growth more modest than on the utility side, but a good 60 basis points margin expansion, 8% op growth to a 14.3% margin. That 3% is comprised of mid-single digits price, and volume compared unfavorably to last year. We think that the fourth quarter results significantly impacted by some of our mix. So you see residential sales down significantly. So strong double-digit decline for resi as consumers continue to struggle with high interest rates. And we saw some growth in some of the verticals we’ve been investing in, namely datacenters, renewables and telecom and the balance being more exposed to the non res cycle.

And so, we also thought that we were able to perceive some destocking activity in the quarter. We’ve mentioned this before with you all. Some of that observation is based on anecdotes and discussions with our customers. And other places, we have hard data where we can analyze point of sale and point of purchase data and see that our replenishment orders given to us or below what’s going out the door. We believe that the way the channels incentives or structure, whether on the volume side those incentives may have maxed out, or on the cashflow side, where obviously managing inventories in December becomes very important to our customers. So I think there’s a little bit of distortion in the fourth quarter. As we’ve seen the first several weeks of January, we’ve seen a nice rebound in orders.

And so we’ll continue to watch that quite carefully obviously. On the operating profit side, you see the nice margin expansion and again, price and material tailwinds enough to overcome the impact of lower volumes and enable us to operate very well through the operating disruptions, but also overcoming some of the drag coming from the resi lighting business. We thought to be constructive on page 8, to step back and discuss the full year’s performance and really illustrates some of the trends that Gerben highlighted in his opening remarks. Sales of 18% very strong growth, mid-single digit volume and double-digit price, very robust demand environment for us. You see the 140 basis points of margin expansion to just under 16% on the OP side 29%, growth in OP, diluted earnings per share growing a little bit better than in line with that operating profit and the cash flow being up 20% year-over-year, being held back a little bit with the heavy investment in CapEx that we had mentioned, as well as significant investment in inventory, as we continue to try to support our customer service, but you really see the trends for the whole year that have persisted strong demand number one.

Number two, a tough operating environment where the availability of our people, materials and transportation has been inconsistent throughout the year and leads to operating inefficiencies. Three is the execution on price, which was excellent job by the Hubble team really required to counter inflation, as well as those inefficiencies. And the fourth trend was investment, acquisitions, CapEx and inventory all sources of investment. On the acquisition side, we closed on three deals in the year, we invested about $180 million to do so. We were quite intentional about adding exposure to desirable verticals that are exhibiting higher growth and higher margin potential than our average. So we added to our utility tool business, we added datacenter exposure, and we added a nice bolt-on to our grounding, business and connect her business that, again, is supporting high growth high margin there.

So we’ll switch now from 2022, wrap a bow on that and start to look forward to ’23 in our outlook, we were proposing to go through this a little bit differently than we have in the past, we’ve got a little more granularity in our discussion of the different pieces and parts. So that we can help provide a little more context to why we’re guiding the way we see it. So on page 10, we’re starting with our markets outlook. And you’ll see on the yellow call out box at the bottom of the page, a mid-single digit expectation of organic growth. And you’ll see from that’s driven, really by the strength of the utility business on the left of the page, those growth drivers remain intact. We see our customers continuing to need material, continuing to install it at a high rate in response to the need to modernize their grid and respond to renewable needs.

We starting the year with a highly visible backlog. And in addition, we’ve got some support for funding from the policy side here and without line away where we believe that the IIGA probably gives us a lift of a point or two above what otherwise the markets who would give us. So we’re anticipating the utility markets giving us mid-single digit plus. More modest on the electrical side. And we’ve decomposed our exposure in this pie graph here to try to give you a sense of residential, really, we think is the starting point of the cycle they’re in a point of contraction right now, will continue to be in ’23 we believe. Consumers dealing with high mortgage rate high interest rates affecting demand there, usually non res follows the resi cycle, and then into industrial.

And you see, we’ve added this blue segment where we think our electrical business is exposed in a much less cyclical, much more resilient set of end markets, namely the datacenters, renewables and telecom as well as some of the enclosures we sell as connectors to the to the utility businesses there. So if we continue to believe resi will contract that gives us a low single digit outlook for the electrical segment. Our visibility, frankly is better to the first half than it is the second half. And we may even argue that the first quarter better visibility than the first half. So we’ve got a little bit of caution built in there for what’ll happen second half in the non res markets. We also on page 11 wanted to peel back our view of price cost productivity.

And at the bottom, you’ll see we’re anticipating about $50 million of tailwind coming out of our price cost productivity management scheme here, we’ll start on the edges where it’s a little bit more straightforward on price. We believe we’ve got about two points wrapping around from our actions we’ve taken in €˜22. And we continue to hear feedback from our customers that despite on time service being below where we typically are that we’re still leading in those service levels. And so we anticipate that price sticking on the productivity side, we’re anticipating in the ballpark of about a point of contribution from productivity. And this cost pie, you’ll see we’ve disaggregated into two halves, the material and the non-material half. On the right, in the blue section, the non-material, mostly labor, and manufacturing costs, we’re anticipating mid-single digit inflation there.

Likewise, on the material side, you’ll see that the raw materials were anticipating there to be benefits and tailwinds as there’s deflation in the raws. But our component pie where there’s value add is larger than that. And we’re anticipating the same mid-single digit inflation rate there. So the netting of all that gets us to about $50 million. And on page 12, you’ll see we’re anticipating investing about half of that benefit in the future success. And so page 12 shows our investments, starting with footprint and successful multiyear restructuring program that Hubble has implemented, where we spent about $17 million in 2022, which was an increase from $10 million in €˜21. So our margin performance absorbed, extra expense in €˜22, we’re anticipating to keep that flat in €˜23.

So nothing incremental, as far as the income statement is concerned. But still good activities with good projects that typically give us we find in that three-year average payback range. As for capacity, we continue to find in the utility side and parts of electrical that we need to invest in our capacity. So we’ve got our CapEx has moved impressively from $90 million in €˜21, to about $130 million in ’22. And we’re anticipating this year up to about $150 million. And that ultimately results in about $15 million incremental operating expense, that we would add another $10 million or so of innovation expense. And those of you who joined us for Investor Day, saw some of those innovation ideas. And we continue to be encouraged by early results.

But for us to get impact, it’s still going to take us some time. But we’ve got a good business case of getting about 0.5 point of growth above our markets from those activities. So those pieces we thought we’d give you the puts and takes. And let Gerben on our last page kind of sum it out and netted out in our typical waterfall format that you’re used to see.

Gerben Bakker: Right. Thanks, Bill. And as you said, let me summarize it here on page 13, Hubble is initiating our 2023 outlook, with an adjusted earnings per share range of $11 to $11.50. We believe this represents strong fundamental operating performance for our shareholders, and we are well positioned to deliver on this outlook in a range of macroeconomic scenarios. From a sales standpoint, we expect solid mid-single digit growth organically driven by 2% to 4% of volume growth and approximately two points of price realization. We believe this is a balanced view with good visibility into utility demand and less certainty in electrical markets at this stage. We expect the +2022 acquisitions of PCX Ripley Tools and REF to add an additional 1% to €˜23 revenues.

Operationally, we expect that continued execution on price cost productivity will fund attractive high return investments back into our business. Our outlook range embeds solid margin expansion with high single digit to low double digit adjusted operating profit growth. This operational growth rate is consistent with the long-term targets we provided our at our Investor Day last June, despite the current macroeconomic uncertainty and a higher 2022 base following significant outperformance last year, and it puts us well on the path to achieve our 2025 targets. We expect the strong operating performance to enable us to absorb below the line headwinds from pension expense. And the previously communicated non repeat other income from the C&I Lighting divestiture.

Overall, our 2023 outlook represents a continuation of the strong fundamental performance that Hubble demonstrated in 2022. With leading positions in attractive markets underpinned by grid modernization, and electrification mega trends, as well as a growing track record of consistent operational execution, I am confident that Hubble is well positioned to continue in delivering differentiated results for shareholders over the near and long term. With that, let me turn it over to Q&A.

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