Q1 2017 CEO Commentary*
CEO Joseph Morone said, "In Q1 2017, both businesses continued to perform well and in line with our short- and long-term expectations and objectives. MC once again generated strong income and strong new product performance, while AEC once again generated strong growth and executed well on each of its key programs, while continuing to position itself for improved profitability and new business.
"In MC, sales were essentially flat, both sequentially and in comparison to Q1 2016. There were no significant deviations from recent market trends during the quarter. Once again, a significant decline in publication grade sales was offset by incremental gains in the other grades, most notably during Q1 in tissue. By the end of Q1, the publication grades accounted for 23% of total sales, compared to 25% in Q1 2016, 27% in Q1 2015, and 30% in Q1 2014. Our new product performance continued to be strong across all product lines, especially in tissue. Competitive pricing pressure remained intense, particularly in Europe and Asia, although the topline impact was offset by volume growth in Asia.
"Profitability was once again strong in Q1 2017 due to incremental productivity gains and good plant utilization. Gross margin, segment net income and Adjusted EBITDA were in line with the excellent performance levels of Q1 2016.
"As for our outlook in MC, the market appears stable and we enter Q2 with a good order backlog. Although we have been anticipating and are seeing some inflationary pressures, MC remains on track toward its full-year objective of annual Adjusted EBITDA in the middle of that $180 million to $195 million range that we have discussed on numerous occasions. (See Table 15 for reconciliation to GAAP net income for this segment.)
"AEC continued on its path of accelerating growth. Q1 sales grew to $56 million, from $27 million in Q1 2016, the last quarter before we acquired SLC. Excluding SLC, sales grew by $9 million or 34%. The quarter began slowly for AEC, but revenue accelerated as the quarter progressed, and the business remains on track toward its full-year target of 25% to 35% revenue growth over 2016.
"The growth was led once again by LEAP. AEC continues to execute on the very aggressive LEAP ramp schedule, while the LEAP engine program continues to perform well in the marketplace. The order backlog for LEAP exceeded 12,000 engines at the end of Q1 with no signs of market softening, CFM delivered its 100th LEAP engine during the quarter, and the LEAP engines in service are performing well and meeting their performance targets.
"Q1 sales in SLC were flat compared to Q4, but as with the rest of AEC, we expect a sharp increase in SLC sales for the balance of 2017. It has been a full year since our acquisition of SLC, and our experience to date – particularly our experience with SLC's customers – validates our view of the growth potential that motivated the acquisition. In SLC's key growth and legacy programs, the near- and long-term demand outlook is strong and SLC is meeting customer expectations. Of particular note since our last earnings call are two recent developments in the CH-53K program. SLC was informed during Q1 that it was selected by Sikorsky as its supplier of the year for the CH-53K. And in early April, the CH-53K program was officially approved by the Department of Defense to enter into low-rate initial production. At full-rate production next decade and with no additional content, this program has the potential to generate as much as $150 million per year of revenue.
"While AEC segment net income declined compared to Q1 2016, due to increases in depreciation expense and restructuring, Adjusted EBITDA improved significantly, both in absolute terms and as a percent of sales. Profitability was held back by a still substantial effort to complete the integration of SLC into AEC. The AEC ERP system successfully went live in SLC in February, but the usual inefficiencies associated with learning a new system and modifying work processes will continue to be a drag on productivity well into the second half of the year. Shortly after the end of the quarter, SLC announced a significant restructuring, which coupled with continuous improvement in operations, should result in gradual improvements to profitability by the end of this year.
"Q1 was also marked by a significant increase in new business development activity in AEC. As previously mentioned, AEC is pursuing new business opportunities on three fronts: existing aerospace platforms, new aerospace platforms, and diversification outside of aerospace. While there were promising developments during Q1 on all three fronts, the most notable were on existing aerospace platforms. AEC received a significant number of formal requests-for-proposal as well as more preliminary expressions of interest from a broad cross-section of OEMs, largely prompted by AEC's execution and emphasis on lean manufacturing in its existing programs with those OEMs.
"As for our outlook for AEC, we continue to expect full-year revenue to be 25% to 35% higher than full-year 2016, and Adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of sales to slowly improve. For the longer term, the intensity of new business development activity in Q1 suggests that there is more upside than downside risk to our current estimate of $450 million to $500 million revenue potential by 2020, as well as potential for substantial growth beyond 2020.
"In sum, this was a good quarter for both businesses, as MC generated strong Adjusted EBITDA and AEC strong growth. Both businesses remain firmly on track toward their short- and long- term goals. For 2017, MC is on track toward full-year Adjusted EBITDA in the middle of our expected range, and AEC is on track for full-year revenue growth between 25% and 35% coupled with gradually improving Adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of sales."
* From the Albany International Q1 2017 earnings release issued May 4, 2017