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WestRock (WRK) Tops Q2 Earnings, Sales in Line; View Intact

WestRock Company WRK reported second-quarter fiscal 2016 (ended Mar 31, 2016) adjusted earnings of 61 cents per share that beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 53 cents.

Including restructuring charges and merger and acquisition inventory step-up expense, earnings came in at 22 cents per share, a decline from 77 cents recorded in the year-ago quarter.

Operational Update

WestRock’s total revenue slipped 1.1% year over year to $3.7 billion, while coming in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. The year-over-year decline in sales was mainly due to unfavorable currency translations, lower sales at the Consumer Packaging segment owing to MeadWestvaco’s divestment of its European tobacco converting business prior to the merger, and lower Specialty Chemicals sales. Moreover, net sales of around $134 million related to the SP Fiber, Cenveo and Carolina brand acquisitions were offset by declines in volume, price and mix at the Corrugated and Consumer Packaging businesses.

Cost of sales increased 48.9% year over year to $2.98 billion in the quarter. Gross profit surged 57.7% to $720.8 million. Adjusted segment income was $290 million compared with $317.5 million in the prior-year quarter.

Segmental Performance

Corrugated Packaging: Sales at the segment improved 0.6% year over year to $1.93 billion in the quarter. Segment income decreased 7.9% year over year to $175 million.

Consumer Packaging: Sales at the segment declined 1.9% to $1.59 billion from $1.62 billion in the year-ago quarter. Segment income went up around 9.3% year over year to $101.5 million.

Specialty Chemicals: The segment reported sales of $203.9 million in the quarter, down 14.8% year over year. Segment income for the quarter was $26.7 million compared with $46.3 million in the prior-year period.

Land and Development: The segment’s sales improved significantly year over year to $18.7 million. The segment reported a loss of $4 million in the quarter compared to a loss of $4.7 million in the prior-year quarter.

Financial Position

WestRock had cash and cash equivalents of $367.6 million at the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2016 compared with $228 million as of Sep 30, 2015. The company generated cash flow from operations of $252 million in the reported quarter compared with $218 million in the prior-year quarter. The company’s long term debt increased to $5.9 billion as of Mar 31, 2016, from $5.6 billion as of Sep 30, 2015.

Outlook

WestRock affirmed its free cash flow guidance range of $950 million to $1 billion for fiscal 2016. The company delivered a strong financial performance and made progress with regard to the achievement of synergy and performance improvement goals by realizing $350 million in annual run-rate savings as of the end of the second quarter. It will benefit from the synergies from the merger, acquisitions and further share repurchases.

The Ingevity spin-off will better position the company to pursue its operating priorities and strategies. Moreover, WestRock’s investments in capacity, growth initiatives, the spin-off of the non-core Specialty business and a shareholder-friendly capital allocation strategy, will drive growth. However, unfavorable foreign currency translation remains a concern for the company.

Zacks Rank

WestRock currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the sector include Fibria Celulose S.A. FBR, PH Glatfelter Co. GLT and Orchids Paper Products Company TIS. While Fibria Celulose and PH Glatfelter sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Orchids Paper Products holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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