Rockwell Automation, Inc. (ROK)

ROK 
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Rockwell Automation (ROK)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

January 25, 2012 8:30 am ET

Executives

Keith D. Nosbusch - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President

Rondi Rohr-Dralle - Vice President of Investor Relations & Corporate Development

Theodore D. Crandall - Chief Financial officer and Senior Vice President

Analysts

Nigel Coe - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Winifred Clark - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Julian Mitchell - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

John G. Inch - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Shannon O'Callaghan - Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division

Richard M. Kwas - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Richard C. Eastman - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Terry Darling - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Thank you for holding, and welcome to Rockwell Automation's quarterly conference call. I need to remind everyone that today's conference call is being recorded. [Operator Instructions] At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Rondi Rohr-Dralle, Vice President of Investor Relations. Ms. Rohr-Dralle, please go ahead.

Rondi Rohr-Dralle

Thank you, Quanda. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us for Rockwell Automation's First Quarter Fiscal 2012 Earnings Release Conference Call. Our results were released this morning, and the press release and charts have been posted to our website at www.rockwellautomation.com. Please note that both the press release and charts include reconciliations to non-GAAP measures. Additionally, a webcast of this call is accessible now at that website and will be available for replay for the next 30 days.

With me today are Keith Nosbusch, our Chairman and CEO; and Ted Crandall, our Chief Financial Officer. Our agenda includes opening remarks by Keith that will include highlights on the company's performance in the first quarter and some full year outlook commentary. Then Ted will provide more details around the first quarter and our guidance for fiscal 2012. We'll take questions at the end of Ted's remarks.

We know this will be a busy earnings day for all of you. I'm sure it's been a busy couple of weeks already. So we'll try and get through the call in less than an hour today. As is always the case on these calls, I need to remind you that our comments will include statements related to the expected future results of our company and are therefore forward-looking statements as defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Our actual results may differ materially from our forecasted projections due to a wide range of risks and uncertainties that are described in our earnings release and detailed in all of our SEC filings.

So with that, I'll hand the call over to Keith.

Keith D. Nosbusch

Thanks, Rondi. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us on the call today. I appreciate your time and interest in Rockwell Automation. The first portion of my remarks will cover the highlights for the quarter, so please turn to page 4 in the slide deck.

Quarter 1 was a story of great earnings growth on good but uneven sales results. On the sales front, in a continued uncertain global environment, we were pleased with 8% year-over-year organic growth. But there were mixed results by region. Europe, the region you might expect to be the weakest, was strong. And Asia, the region you would expect to be strong, was the weakest. I believe that during this period of moderating sales growth rates, we will continue to see mixed growth rates by region, as uncertain economic conditions, solutions, lumpiness and prior year comparisons have a greater impact on growth rates.

Earnings per share in the quarter increased 22% compared to Q1 last year, which is pretty remarkable given sales growth of 8%. Don't expect earnings conversion that strong every quarter, but we'll take credit for it this time. And return on invested capital, on an after-tax basis, continues to be very strong at 31.5%. On balance, I call it a very good start to the fiscal year. That was a quick summary.

So let me share some highlights of the quarter, a few other highlights of the quarter. It was another great quarter in Latin America. The team there continues to successfully execute our growth and performance strategy, mining and oil and gas opportunities remain strong, and we are on track to start up production at our new facility in Brazil in the fourth quarter. In spite of deteriorating economic conditions, we had 13% sales growth in EMEA in quarter 1. About 4 points of this growth is from our recent acquisitions, which are performing well. We continue to see a divergence in the economic climate between Northern and Southern Europe, but we are well positioned throughout the region to outperform the underlying markets.

On the other side of the coin, Asia sales were flat in the quarter. Some of that was due to tough comps from quarter 1 last year and some from the hole that we dug in our solutions business with the great fourth quarter that we put on the board.

In emerging Asia, in quarter 1, inflation concerns and liquidity issues dampened investment. However, quarter growth in the quarter outpaced sales growth, and we did build backlog in our solutions businesses. We are optimistic that China and India will take action to stimulate growth in the remainder of the year. So even though underlying growth rates have slowed, we remain confident that over the long term, emerging Asia will be the highest growth automation market, and we will continue to invest there.

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