ABB orders decline in Q4 | Automation.com

ABB orders decline in Q4

February 21, 2010 - ABB reported earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of almost $800 million in the quarter, despite approximately $350 million in restructuring-related charges. Full-year profitability was well within the company’s EBIT margin target range of 11-16 percent on a combination of rapid cost take-out and solid operational execution.

Combined with record cash from operations and double-digit order growth from emerging markets, the results “show the resilience of ABB’s business portfolio and geographic scope, as well as our ability to execute in a tough market environment,” said Chief Executive Officer Joe Hogan.

Orders declined to $7.5 billion, equivalent to a local-currency reduction of 5 percent as lower demand mainly in mature markets outweighed continued growth in emerging markets in both power infrastructure and industrial equipment. Orders stabilized compared with third-quarter 2009 levels. Management discussion of orders and revenues focuses on local currency changes. U.S. dollar changes are reported in the results tables.

Revenues for the quarter were $8.8 billion, down 12 percent in local currency but the second-highest level of revenues in a quarter. Cost savings amounted to more than $500 million in the quarter.

Net income amounted to $540 million and cash flow from operations reached a record $1.8 billion, mainly the result of lower inventories and efforts to improve customer collections.

“By acting quickly and decisively, we delivered a 2009 result well within our profitability target, despite the worst recession in memory,” said CEO Hogan. “We are in a stronger position today than we were a year ago and have successfully positioned ourselves for growth as the economy recovers.

“We’re encouraged that the year-on-year rate of order decline slowed in the fourth quarter and that base orders were slightly higher than the third quarter of 2009,” Hogan said. “We’ll continue to aggressively pursue growth in emerging markets and opportunities globally to improve industrial productivity, lower energy consumption and tackle climate change. At the same time, cost will remain a key focus. We have therefore expanded our cost savings target to $3 billion to ensure we remain within our profitability target.”

Summary of Q4 2009 results

Orders received and revenues
Fourth-quarter orders decreased 5 percent compared to the same quarter in 2008 (increased 4% in US$ terms) as continued weak demand from most of ABB’s industrial markets outweighed customer investments in power transmission systems and equipment. Orders received were supported by a 61-percent increase in large orders (above $15 million) to $1.4 billion (up 79% in US$). Large orders accounted for 19 percent of total orders received, compared with 11 percent in the same period a year earlier. Base orders (below $15 million) declined by 13 percent in the quarter (down 5% in US$) following two consecutive quarters of more than 20-percent decreases. Base orders were 2 percent higher in local currencies (5 percent higher in US$) compared to the third quarter of 2009.

Regionally, orders in local currencies were higher versus the fourth quarter of 2008 in Asia and the Middle East and Africa as investments continued in power grid expansion in the emerging markets. Demand for industrial products also increased in both regions. In Europe and the Americas, continued weak demand in most of the company’s end markets resulted in lower orders in both the power and automation businesses. Orders from emerging markets accounted for 51 percent of total orders received and grew 15 percent in the fourth quarter compared with an order decrease in mature economies of almost 20 percent.

Revenues declined as weaker revenues in shorter-cycle businesses offset execution of the order backlog, reflecting the weaker business environment in recent quarters. Service revenues were 2 percent lower (up 7 percent in US$) compared with the fourth quarter of 2008.

The order backlog at the end of December 2009 amounted to $24.8 billion, a local-currency decrease of 1 percent compared with the end of 2008 (up 4 percent in US$) and down 5 percent in both local currencies and U.S. dollars compared to the end of the previous quarter.

Earnings before interest and taxes
EBIT and EBIT margin increased compared with the same quarter a year earlier. EBIT in the fourth quarter of 2009 included restructuring-related costs of approximately $350 million associated with the two-year, $2-billion cost take-out program announced a year ago (costs for the full year amounted to approximately $520 million). In addition, EBIT in the fourth quarter of 2008 included approximately $870 million in provisions related to compliance investigations, a value-added tax charge and restructuring-related charges.

Excluding the impact of restructuring-related costs and the mark-to-market valuation of hedging transactions, the EBIT margin in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 13.2 percent, a decline of 1.5 percentage points compared to the EBIT margin in the same quarter in 2008 after adjustment for restructuring-related charges, the mark-to-market valuation of hedging transactions and other previously-announced provision adjustments.

This decrease primarily reflects the impacts of price erosion and lower capacity utilization.

EBIT and EBIT margin were positively impacted by cost savings amounting to more than $500 million in the quarter. In the full year, the cost take-out program generated savings in excess of $1.5 billion.

Net income
Fourth-quarter net income amounted to $540 million. The tax rate for the full year was 24 percent, mainly the result of the favorable tax impact from the adjustment of provisions in the third quarter of 2009.

Balance sheet and cash flow
Net cash at the end of the fourth quarter was $7.2 billion compared with $5.8 billion at the end of the previous quarter. Cash flow from operations amounted to a record $1.8 billion, an increase of approximately $400 million compared with the same quarter in 2008, mainly the result of improved working capital management, especially improved cash collection and lower inventories.

Increased dividend
ABB’s Board of Directors proposes a dividend for 2009 of 0.51 Swiss francs per share, an increase of 0.03 Swiss francs per share, or 6 percent, compared to the prior year. The Board also proposes that the dividend takes the form of a reduction in the nominal (par) value of the shares from 1.54 Swiss francs to 1.03 Swiss francs. The proposal is subject to approval by shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on April 26, 2010. If approved, the ex-dividend and payout date in Switzerland is expected in July 2010.

ABB is not actively pursuing purchases under the 2.2-billion Swiss-franc share buyback program announced in 2008. The company has so far spent approximately 650 million Swiss francs on the program, which has not been active since September 2008. At the 2010 annual general meeting, the company intends to propose the cancellation of the shares repurchased under the program.

Cost reductions
ABB continued to execute its cost take-out program during the fourth quarter. The company has also decided to increase the savings target to ensure it can maintain its EBIT margin within its target range of 11-16 percent. The program now aims to sustainably reduce ABB’s costs – comprising both cost of sales as well as general and administrative expenses – from 2008 levels by a total of $3 billion by the end of 2010, compared with the previously announced level of $2 billion. The savings are focused on low-cost sourcing, reduced general and administrative expenses, internal process improvements and adjustments to ABB’s global manufacturing and engineering footprint.

Cost reductions for the full year 2009 were significantly ahead of plan and exceeded $1.5 billion. Approximately 50 percent of these savings were achieved by optimizing global sourcing (excluding changes in commodity prices). The remainder was achieved through reductions to general and administrative expenses, as well as global footprint and operational excellence measures.

Compliance
As previously announced, ABB has disclosed to the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission various suspect payments.

Also as previously announced, ABB has been cooperating with various antitrust authorities, including the European Commission, regarding their investigations into certain alleged anti-competitive practices in the power transformer business, the cables business and the flexible alternating current transmission systems (FACTS) business. In October 2009, the European Commission announced its decision regarding anti-competitive practices in the power transformer business and imposed a fine of approximately €34 million on ABB.

With respect to these matters, there could be adverse outcomes beyond our provisions.

Management appointments and organizational changes
In the fourth quarter ABB announced a reorganization of its automation divisions to align them more closely with customers. Under the announced changes, effective Jan. 1, 2010, the business units in the Automation Products and Robotics divisions have been regrouped into two new divisions – Discrete Automation and Motion, and Low Voltage Products. The Process Automation division remains unchanged except for the addition of the instrumentation business from the Automation Products division (preliminary orders, revenues and EBIT for the new automation divisions for the full years 2007, 2008 and 2009 are available in Appendix I to this press release).

As part of the reorganization, Tom Sjökvist, previously responsible for Automation Products, now heads the new Low Voltage Products division. Ulrich Spiesshofer, previously responsible for Corporate Development on the Executive Committee, takes over the Discrete Automation and Motion division. Anders Jonsson, previously responsible for the Robotics division, remains on the Executive Committee with responsibility for continuing the implementation of ABB’s current cost take-out program as well as the company’s Global Footprint program. Veli-Matti Reinikkala remains head of the Process Automation division.

Outlook
ABB’s fourth-quarter orders stabilized versus the third quarter of 2009. ABB has seen what it believes is a bottoming of its short cycle businesses. However, given the longer-term nature of the ABB portfolio, management’s outlook for the company’s businesses for 2010 and the overall economy remains uncertain.

The drivers of ABB’s businesses, fueled mainly by the need to build and upgrade energy infrastructure, address climate change and the increasing importance of emerging markets in the global economy, continue to offer attractive growth opportunities.

The need for more efficient and reliable power transmission and distribution and the integration of renewable energies into existing power grids remains in all regions. As energy and commodity prices increase, and as globalization promotes more competition, industrial customers in all parts of the world require automation solutions for new capacity and to lower costs, improve quality and increase the productivity of their existing assets.

The recent global economic downturn, however, has resulted in overcapacity in some customer sectors and has reduced the amount of capital available for investment in others. It remains unclear at this time when and how quickly customer investments in these sectors will recover.

As a result of these factors, management will maintain a cautious outlook for 2010 until there is a clearer view of the overall direction of the global economy.

Therefore, in 2010 management will focus both on adjusting costs and taking advantage of its global footprint, strong balance sheet and leading technologies to tap further opportunities for profitable growth.

Update on 2007-11 targets
ABB remains confident that it can continue to achieve a Group full-year EBIT margin within its target corridor of 11-16 percent of revenues. The company also reiterates its commitment to the divisional EBIT margin targets (following the realignment of the automation divisions announced in November 2009, the respective original divisional targets have been recalculated and are presented in Appendix I to this press release).

ABB also confirms its target for free cash flow as a percentage of net income at an average 100 percent over the period 2007-11.

The ability of the company to achieve the remaining targets – revenue and earnings per share growth and return on capital employed – is contingent on the pace of economic recovery in 2010 and 2011.

Orders received decreased in the fourth quarter (up 2 percent in US$) as lower demand in mature economies offset higher power infrastructure investments in emerging markets. Orders increased 3 percent in Asia (9 percent in US$) and were 24 percent higher in the Middle East and Africa (up 37 percent in US$). In Europe, orders were stable compared with the same quarter in 2008 (up 8 percent in US$) as a strong increase in eastern Europe compensated a decline in western Europe. Weakened demand from both the utility and industrial sectors in the U.S. resulted in an order decline of 25 percent for the Americas (21% in US$). The decrease in orders also reflects lower prices from weaker market conditions and pass-through of reduced commodity costs.

The division reported the second-highest level of revenues ever in the quarter, down from the record achieved in the fourth quarter a year earlier. Lower revenues from shorter-cycle businesses related to the industrial and construction sectors, such as medium-voltage equipment and distribution transformers, were partly offset by higher revenues from longer-cycle businesses, such as large power transformers.

EBIT in the quarter included restructuring-related costs of $39 million. The EBIT margin in the quarter was positively impacted by a favorable product revenue mix.

Fourth-quarter orders grew strongly and contributed to a record annual order intake for the division. The growth was largely driven by continued emerging market investment in power generation and transmission capacity as well as related grid enhancements. Large orders for substations and rail-related power infrastructure in India and the power infrastructure build-up in the Middle East accounted for a significant share of the growth. This more than offset the lower quarterly order intake in Europe and the Americas, mainly resulting from reduced investments in the industrial and power distribution sectors.

Revenues were driven mainly by the order backlog execution schedule and decreased during the quarter in local currencies. The revenue development also reflected the lower level of base orders during the year. EBIT and EBIT margin were negatively impacted by $76 million in restructuring-related charges aimed primarily at adjusting capacity in specific geographic markets.

Order growth across most businesses in China, India, the Middle East and other emerging markets, driven by increasing industrial production in those areas, was offset by lower orders in Europe and the Americas, reflecting the more uncertain economic environment in the mature economies. Base orders declined by 6 percent in local currencies but orders for low-voltage standard products grew. Orders were negatively impacted by lower prices resulting from a decrease in material costs as well as reduced demand.

Revenues declined in the quarter as execution of the order backlog in businesses such as power electronics only partly compensated lower revenues in motors, drives and low-voltage systems.

EBIT declined on lower revenues and restructuring-related costs of $66 million to adjust production capacity and optimize the manufacturing footprint in response to the changing demand environment.

Orders decreased in the quarter as project delays in the marine and minerals sectors offset continued growth in oil and gas and an improvement in metals. After-sales service orders in the marine and minerals industries also grew in the quarter. Total orders were down in all regions in local currencies.

Revenues were lower than the record fourth quarter a year ago as the decrease in orders that began in late 2008 – especially in pulp and paper, metals, minerals and marine – flowed through to revenues. Service revenues, which typically account for about a third of total revenues, were unchanged in local currencies.

EBIT reflects lower revenues and includes restructuring-related charges of $50 million. Excluding these factors, the EBIT margin was above the level in the same quarter a year earlier due to improved project execution, the increasing benefit from cost reduction efforts and stable service revenues.

Robotics orders declined as the steep drop in demand from the global discrete manufacturing sector continued in the fourth quarter. Revenues decreased on a lower opening order backlog and reduced service business.

The division reported an EBIT loss mainly related to changes in its operational footprint and further capacity adjustments in mature markets. Restructuring-related costs in the quarter amounted to $109 million.

ABB is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 117,000 people.

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