Waste Management, Inc. (WM)

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Waste Management (WM)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 16, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

Ed Egl -

David P. Steiner - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Steven Preston - Principal Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Finance, Recycling & Energy Services

Analysts

Scott J. Levine - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

William H. Fisher - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Michael E. Hoffman - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Vance Edelson - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

David Warner - First Analysis Corporation

Stewart Scharf - S&P Equity Research

Presentation

Operator

Good morning. My name is Regina, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the fourth quarter and year-end 2011 earnings release conference call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Ed Egl, Director, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Ed Egl

Thank you, Regina. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us for our fourth quarter 2011 earnings conference call. With me this morning are David Steiner, Chief Executive Officer; and Steve Preston, Executive Vice President of Finance, Recycling and Energy Services. David will start things off with a summary of the financial results for the quarter and an overview of our plans for 2012. Dave will cover our revenue growth, including price and volume trends, operating costs and the financial statements. We will conclude with questions and answers. During their statements, any comparisons made by David and Steve, unless otherwise stated, will be with the fourth quarter of 2010.

Before we get started, let me remind you that in addition to our earnings press release that was issued this morning, we have filed a Form 8-K that includes the earnings press release as Exhibit 99.1 and is available on our website at www.wm.com. The Form 8-K, the press release and the schedule for the release include important information that you should refer to.

During the call, you will hear certain forward-looking statements based on current expectations, projections, estimates, opinions or beliefs about future periods. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. Some of those risks and uncertainties are detailed in our earnings press release this morning and in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our most recent Form 10-K.

Additionally during the call, David and Steve will discuss our results on an as-adjusted basis including revenue; net income; earnings per fully diluted share, which they may refer to as EPS; operating expenses; SG&A expenses; expenses as a percent of revenue and free cash flow. These measures of financial results have been adjusted to exclude the Oakleaf operations acquired during 2011 and items management believes do not reflect our fundamental business performance or are not indicative of our results of operations. All of these measures are non-GAAP measures. The company's projected 2012 earnings per diluted share are also anticipated to be adjusted for items that are not currently determinable. Please refer to the Form 8-K and the earnings press release footnote and schedule attached thereto which can be found on the company's website at www.wm.com for reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP measures and additional information about our use of non-GAAP measures.

This call is being recorded and will be available 24 hours a day beginning approximately 1 p.m. Eastern Time today until 5 p.m. Eastern Time on March 1. To hear a replay of the call over the Internet, access the Waste Management website at www.wm.com. To hear a telephonic replay of the call, dial (855) 859-2056 and enter reservation code 38143289.

Time-sensitive information provided during today's call, which is occurring on February 16, 2012, may no longer be accurate at the time of a replay. Any redistribution, retransmission or rebroadcast of this call in any form without the expressed written consent of Waste Management is prohibited.

Now I'll turn the call over to Waste Management CEO, David Steiner.

David P. Steiner

Thanks, Ed. Good morning from Houston. Looking back at the full year, 2011 was a year of continued investment in our future and a growing conviction that we're on the right track in transforming our company for continued leadership in an evolving industry. We produced strong free cash flow in 2011 despite volumes being below our original expectations, which enabled us to invest in our future and position the company to accelerate our earnings as volumes improve. 2011 had a number of other positives. We invested in programs to drive costs out of our system. Those programs took hold throughout 2011 and we'll supplement them with new programs in 2012. We saw volumes improve throughout the year, and we expect to see continued improvement in 2012. Recycling prices were strong through the first 3 quarters of 2011. We added a number of recycling assets during the year and expect to add more in 2012, which will contribute to our continued growth in this strategic area. And finally, we supplemented our national accounts approach through our strategic acquisition of Oakleaf. That will provide us a new platform to service national accounts while strengthening the Oakleaf vendor network.

Now turning to the recent quarter, we had a very solid fourth quarter. We earned $0.63 per share, an increase of 5% compared to the $0.60 we earned in the prior year quarter. Our collection, landfill and transfer station businesses performed well during the quarter and had their best income from operations margin since 2006. In the fourth quarter, our total revenue growth from yield for our commercial and industrial lines of business recovered to the highs that we experienced in the first quarter of 2011. And our commercial new business pricing was at the highest level since 2010. Despite a very competitive market, our fourth quarter results reflect our continued commitment to yield management.

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