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Mead Johnson Nutrition Company (MJN)
Q4 2010 Earnings Conference Call
January 27, 2011 9:30 AM ET
Kathryn Chieger – VP, IR
Kathy McDonald – VP, IR
Steve Golsby – CEO
Pete Leemputte – CFO
Ed Aaron – RBC Capital Markets
Terry Bivens – JP Morgan
Eric Katzman – Deutsche Bank
David Driscoll – Citi
Tim Raimey – D.A. Davidson
Vincent Andrews – Morgan Stanley
Andrew Sawyer – Goldman Sachs
Diane Geissler – CLSA
Robert Moscow – Credit Suisse
Bryan Spillane – Bank of America
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Thank you and good morning. Welcome to Mead Johnson’s Q4 conference call, which happens to be my 125th and last quarterly earnings announcement. As many of you know I will be retiring next week and I want to say how much I’ve enjoyed sharing the Mead Johnson story with all of you these past two years. Let me know turn the call over to my friend, colleague, and successor Kathy McDonald, who will have the pleasure of hosting her first earnings call. Kathy?
Thank you, Kathryn. One of my early learnings is to be respectful of investors’ time so I’ll turn to the business at hand. With me today are Steve Golsby, our CEO, and Pete Leemputte, our CFO.
Before we get started let me remind everyone that our comments will include forward-looking statements about our future results including statements about our financial prospects and projections, new product launches and market conditions that constitute forward-looking statements for the purposes of the Safe Harbor Provision under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Keep in mind that our actual results may differ materially from expectations as of today due to various factors including those listed in our annual reports on Form 10K for 2009, quarterly reports Form 10Q, current reports on Form 8K, and registration statements – in each case as filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission – and our earnings release issued this morning, all of which are available upon request or on our website at MeadJohnson.com. In addition, any forward-looking statements represent our estimates only as of today and should not be relied on as representing our estimates as of any subsequent date. While we may elect to update forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we specifically disclaim any obligation to do so even if our estimates change.
Given that we are in the midst of the earnings reporting season we will keep our call to 45 minutes. That said I will turn the call over to Steve.
Thank you, Kathy, and good morning, everyone. As you read in our press release we concluded 2010 on a very strong note and delivered another year of record sales and earnings. Non-GAAP earnings of $0.57 per share in the Q4 were up 19% from 2009 brining our full year EPS to $2.42 per share, up 9% from the prior year. We accomplished many important goals in 2010, the most notable of which include over 9% constant dollar sales growth, the highest level seen in the last five years. Most encouragingly, it was 5% volume growth that drove the global sales increase. The increase was led by our Asia/Latin America segment, which posted 16% growth excluding foreign exchange.
We invested heavily behind advertising and promotion and in sales force expansion in key growth markets, which led to solid market share gains across the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America. Our US business grew despite continued declines in both births and formula consumption fueled by successful new product launches including our patented dual prebiotics, unique packaging system, and a newborn product formulated for the first three months of life.
In June we launched our first joint venture as a public company with Almarai, the leading regional food and dairy producer serving markets in the Middle East. Sales into the markets started in the Q4. Although we are still in an investment mode with this JV, this demonstrates our commitment to fueling long-term growth and to expanding Mead Johnson’s global presence. Sales outside the US came to represent 68% of the company’s total, up from 65% in 2009 and 62% in 2008.
We opened a new pediatric nutrition institute, or PNI, in Evansville, Indiana, that gives us the capability of scaling up new manufacturing processes without disrupting our operating plans. We also broke ground on a new PNI in Guangzhou, China, which is set to open late this year and serve as a base for product development in this critical market. We set new productivity records that helped to mitigate the impact of higher dairy and commodity costs on our gross margins. We set our earnings record while absorbing a $24 million hit from the January, 2010, devaluation of the Venezuelan Bolivar along with $11 million in incremental, non-cash pension expense and $18 million in shared service costs overlap. And, as a result of our November, 2009, debt refinancing, interest expense was nearly cut in half and we drove further reductions in our effective tax rate from 30% in 2009 to under 29% in 2010, both contributing strongly to our earnings improvement.