ATLAS COPCO Interim report on the nine months ended September 30, 1999 (unaudited)

26 okt 1999

Improvement continues in the third quarter

October 26, 1999 The Atlas Copco Group's revenues for the first nine months of 1999 increased 3 percent, to SEK 25,727 m. (24,895), corresponding to a volume decrease of 4 percent for comparable units. The net effect from acquisitions and divestments was an increase of approximately 5 percent. Foreign exchange fluctuations had a positive translation effect of 2 percentage points. Orders received increased 6 percent, to SEK 26,324 m. (24,917), corresponding to a volume decrease of 1 percent for comparable units.  Profit after financial items decreased, to SEK 2,390 m. (2,691). The profit margin was 9.3 percent (10.8). The profit includes net nonrecurring items of SEK 83 m. related to the capital gain on the sale of Atlas Copco Controls and to restructuring provisions by the Industrial Technique business area. Excluding the nonrecurring items, the profit margin was 9.0 percent. Near-term outlook  In North America, the positive trend is expected to continue. The rental service business is foreseen to keep growing at a faster rate than the economy as a whole because of the outsourcing trend for equipment. Expectations for somewhat better growth in Europe remain. Due to the present low capacity utilization in the manufacturing industry, any increase in demand for capital goods would initially be marginal. Products related to industrial production levels are expected to experience relatively stronger demand. The recovery, from a low level, previously seen in some countries in the Asian region is expected to continue and now also includes India and Japan.  Overall customer demand is expected to improve somewhat in the near term. Market development  Demand in the United States was particularly strong in the construction and motor-vehicle industries. The demand for investment goods by other manufacturing and process industries in the same market improved somewhat but is still lower than in the previous year.  Demand in Europe was mixed during the nine-month period. France and Spain delivered solid growth throughout the period, while demand in Germany and Italy was less consistent and suffered a slower third quarter. In Great Britain, the manufacturing industry showed no clear signs of a higher level of activity, and demand remained sluggish throughout the period. The Nordic countries showed a slight improvement in the third quarter compared to previous quarters.  In Asia, the demand situation improved. Encouraging signs were seen in Japan and India during the third quarter as the negative trend evident in the first part of the year turned around. The strong recovery in South Korea continued throughout the period, while demand in China stayed relatively weak.  Demand was very weak in Latin America during the first nine months of 1999, particularly in the beginning of the year. In the third quarter, mining countries experienced some increased activity, while Brazil, the biggest market in the region, remained at a low level, with demand substantially below the previous year's.  For the full nine-month period, demand in Africa and the Middle East was low compared to the same period last year, although some countries such as South Africa showed stronger development in the third quarter. Sales development  Orders received were up 6 percent in the nine-month period, at SEK 26,324 m. (24,917). Excluding a positive currency effect of 2 percentage points, orders received were 1 percent lower for comparable units than in the preceding year. Sales volumes gradually improved during the nine months, finally posting a 2-percentage-point gain in the third quarter over the same period in 1999.  Revenues increased 3 percent, to SEK 25,727 m. (24,895), corresponding to a volume drop of 4 percent. Earnings  Operating profit decreased SEK 151 m., to SEK 3,070 m. (3,221), or 5 percent compared to the same period the preceding year. The profit includes nonrecurring items of SEK 83 m. in the Industrial Technique business area, the net effect of capital gains from the sale of Atlas Copco Controls and a restructuring provision to further consolidate the production structure of the Alliance Tools division. Operating profit excluding those items declined mainly owing to the volume decrease and an unfavorable change in the composition of sales. Changes in exchange rates had a positive effect of about SEK 50 m. The adjustments in the workforce and the overall cost structure that were initiated at the end of 1998 continued throughout the period but at a decreasing rate. These adjustments helped offset part of the negative effects of lower volumes.  Operating margins dropped, to 11.9 percent (12.9). Excluding nonrecurring items and the effect of the Rental Service Corporation acquisition, the margin was about 11.4 percent.  Net financial items amounted to SEK -680 m. (-530), of which net interest items accounted for  SEK -671 m. (-513). Interest expense increased as a consequence of the Rental Service acquisition.  Profit after financial items decreased 11 percent, to SEK 2,390 m. (2,691). The profit margin was 9.3 percent (10.8).  Net profit for the period totaled SEK 1,570 m. (1,699), or SEK 8.56 per share (9.26).  The return on capital employed during the 12 months to September 30, 1999, was 15 percent (18), and the return on shareholders' equity 14 percent (17). Third quarter  Orders received amounted to SEK 9,424 m. (8,004), corresponding to a 2-percentage point gain in volumes for comparable units.  The Atlas Copco Group's revenues for the third quarter of 1999 increased 15 percent, to SEK 9,357m. from SEK 8,111 m. in 1998. Acquisitions and divestments added 14 percentage points net. Changes in exchange rates produced an increase of 1 percentage point, while comparable volumes were unchanged from the same quarter in 1998.  Operating profit increased 20 percent, to SEK 1,283 m. (1,066), because of the effect of nonrecurring items and the RSC acquisition. The operating margin increased, to 13.7 percent (13.1). Excluding nonrecurring items and the effect of acquisitions, the margin was only slightly lower than last year. Profit after financial items increased 11 percent, to SEK 965 m. (867), and net profit for the third quarter totaled SEK 635 m. (535), corresponding to SEK 3.47 per share (2.92). Changes in exchange rates had a positive effect of about SEK 30 m. Cash flow and net indebtedness  The operating cash surplus after tax for the first nine months of 1999 reached SEK 2,932 m. (2,886), equal to 11 percent (12) of Group revenues.  Working capital increased SEK 9 m. (258) during the period. Investment in tangible fixed assets was SEK 2,262 m. (1,683). The major part of the increase is related to investments in Rental Service Corporation after the acquisition. The acquisition of RSC itself amounted to approximately SEK 14,000 m. Net cash flow equaled SEK 13,311 m. (-43).  The Group's net indebtedness (defined as the difference between interest-bearing liabilities and liquid assets) amounted to SEK 23,429 m. (10,301). The acquisition of RSC of approximately SEK 14,000 m. explained the higher net indebtedness. The debt/equity ratio (defined as net indebtedness divided by shareholders' equity) was 147 percent (71).  Liquid assets at the end of the period totaled SEK 1,117 m. (1,653).  Including minority interests, the Atlas Copco Group's shareholders' equity totaled SEK 15,955 m. (14,586), or SEK 87 per share (79). The equity/assets ratio was 31 percent (40). Investments  Investments in property and machinery totaled SEK 696 m. (529). Investments in rental equipment reached SEK 1,566 m. (1,154). During the period, total depreciation on these two asset groups was SEK 1,370 m. (1,054). Distribution of shares  Share capital amounted to SEK 918 m. at the end of the period, distributed as follows.  After the end of the period, Atlas Copco AB completed an equity rights issue (1:7) resulting in 17,401,426 new A shares and 8,684,838 new B shares. Net proceeds were approximately SEK 4.1 billion. Personnel  At September 30, 1999, the number of employees was 25,926 (23,709). For comparable units, the number of employees decreased by 1,100 in the nine-month period. Year 2000 readiness  In March 1996, Atlas Copco initiated a Group-wide survey of computer systems in use. Every site reported on the present status of its systems and its action plans to handle the year-2000 issue for those systems that were not judged year-2000 compliant. Year-2000 follow-up is on the agenda of the Business Board at each division and site, and status reports are mandatory items at Board Meetings. All costs for modifications to comply with the year 2000 have been charged as operational costs.  Management believes that remaining modifications are very limited and not critical to operations. However, the operations of Atlas Copco's computer systems are vulnerable to third parties', principally suppliers', possible failure to remedy their own year-2000 issues. To the extent that systems by third parties on which Atlas Copco's systems rely are not converted in time, there can be no assurance that such third parties' non-compliance would not have a material effect upon the Group's systems. Structural changes affecting the reporting period  Effective July 29, Atlas Copco acquired Rental Service Corporation, a company publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Rental Service Corporation had revenues in the last reported 12-month period of approximately SEK 5,520 m. and an operating margin of 17 percent.  Total consideration included approximately SEK 5,990 m. cash paid for all shares in the company and SEK 7,790 m. of assumed debt. The acquisition is expected to have a positive impact on earnings for the first full year. Synergies are expected to yield approximately SEK 160 m. in the first full calendar year, increasing as the business grows.  At the acquisition date, Rental Service Corporation had 3,600 employees, operated more than 270 equipment rental locations in 29 states, and served a base of more than 50,000 customers.  Rental Service Corporation and Prime Service Inc. are now the two divisions constituting the Rental Service business area, which was created on January 1, 1999. Prime Service constituted a separate division in the Compressor Technique business area throughout 1998.  Effective August 31, 1999, Atlas Copco divested its motion control business, Atlas Copco Controls, which was part of the Industrial Tools and Equipment division. Atlas Copco Controls had 235 employees and revenues of approximately SEK 470 m. in 1998.  Effective July 1, 1999, ABIRD Holding BV, the Netherlands, was acquired by Atlas Copco. ABIRD is a specialty rental company. The company has 25 employees and had annual sales of about SEK 40 m. in 1998. ABIRD is part of the Atlas Copco Portable Air division.  Effective January 1, 1999, Rand-Air Ltd., South Africa, was acquired by Atlas Copco. Rand-Air is a compressor rental company. The company has about 200 employees and annual sales of roughly SEK 90 m. and is part of the Portable Air division.  Effective November 1998, Atlas Copco acquired JKS Boyles, a Canadian manufacturer of exploration drilling rigs. The company has 79 employees and annual sales of about SEK 115 m. JKS Boyles is part of the Atlas Copco Craelius division.  Effective October 1, 1998, Atlas Copco combined the operations of its U.S. subsidiaries Atlas Copco Rental, Inc., and Prime Service, Inc., to better meet the needs of industrial companies for rental equipment.  During 1998, the Prime Service division acquired three equipment rental companies in the U.S. and Mexico, with aggregate annual revenues of roughly SEK 340 m. Equity rights issue  To strengthen the Group's capital base and enhance financial flexibility following the acquisition of Rental Service Corporation, the Extraordinary General Meeting held on September 6, 1999, approved the issue of new shares with preferential rights to existing shareholders.  The new shares were issued at a subscription price of SEK 160 per share at a ratio of 1:7. In October 1999, the issue provided the company with net proceeds around SEK 4.1 billion. Business areas  Starting in 1999, orders and revenues reported by business area also include intercompany sales to other business areas. Figures for 1998 have been adjusted accordingly. Compressor Technique  The Compressor Technique business area consists of five divisions in the following product areas: Industrial compressors, Portable compressors, and Gas and process compressors.  Orders received during the period declined 3 percent, to SEK 9,758 m. (10,087), down 4 percent by volume. However, volumes in the third and second quarters were almost level with those of the same quarters in 1998. Sales in Europe were mixed during the nine-month period. Robust growth in some markets, Spain in particular, was offset by negative development in northern and eastern Europe. Big markets like Germany, France, and Italy recorded sales that were largely in line with last year's. Orders in North America were lower than in 1998, despite increased sales to the equipment rental industry. The lower level was primarily owing to continued weak demand for large compressors and expanders for applications in the chemical and petrochemical industries and for air separation. In Brazil and most other Latin American markets, demand throughout the period remained well below the levels of previous years. The market situation in Asia improved during the period. Apart from the sales increase in South Korea already mentioned, China and Japan recorded stronger sales in the third quarter.  Sales of small and medium-sized industrial compressors showed good development. Also, oil-free compressors improved somewhat after 1999's slow start, but sales remained below the level of 1998. Portable compressors and heavy-duty generators continued to enjoy healthy demand.  Revenues decreased 4 percent, to SEK 9,681 m. (10,074). However, in the third quarter revenues were 2 percentage points above the corresponding quarter last year.  Operating profit fell 12 percent, to SEK 1,541 m. (1,750), resulting in an operating margin of 15.9 percent (17.4). The low volumes and unfavorable product and market mix in the first quarter were the main reasons for the drop in profit. The third quarter recorded 6 percent higher operating profit and an improved margin, to 17.6 percent (17.0), as consolidation projects and the better sales volume had a positive effect.  Construction and Mining Technique  The Construction and Mining Technique business area consists of five divisions in the following product areas: Drilling rigs, Rock drilling tools, Construction tools, and Loading equipment.  Orders received during the period were SEK 4,404 m. (4,751), down 7 percent overall and 8 percent in volume. Activity in the mining industry stayed low, primarily affecting sales of underground drilling rigs and loaders. The recent increase in the price of gold and, to a limited extent, base metals such as copper and zinc did not influence the level of investment in the mining industry. Sales of consumables, the rock drilling tools, remained healthy despite market conditions. In Asia, orders for construction projects in Japan improved noticeably at the end of the period, while China remained rather weak. South Korea continued to recover strongly from a low level.  Revenues ended at SEK 4,153 m. (4,787), down 13 percent in total and in volume.  Operating profit decreased SEK 96 m., to SEK 276 m., corresponding to a margin of 6.6 percent (7.8). The large negative effect of substantially lower volumes was partly offset by efficiency gains and positive currency effects. Industrial Technique  The Industrial Technique business area consists of four divisions in the following product areas: Electric and pneumatic power tools and Assembly systems.  Orders received during the period increased 6 percent, to SEK 7,927 m. (7,451), including a positive currency effect of 3 percent. Healthy volume growth for professional electric tools in North America continued throughout the period. In Germany, the same type of products showed a gradual improvement after a long period of weakness. Orders from the motor-vehicle industry in Western Europe and North America continued at a high, stable level, while in other regions demand was weak. Sales of innovative industrial tools to the general industry continued to increase while traditional industrial tools suffered from low overall demand. With few exceptions, notably Japan, Asian markets remained weak.  Revenues increased 3 percent, to SEK 7,615 m. (7,380), from the preceding year. That represented a volume gain of 1 percent.  Operating profit was basically unchanged, at SEK 761 m. (765), in spite of a contribution of SEK 83 m. from nonrecurring items, the capital gain from the sale of Atlas Copco Controls and a restructuring provision for consolidation of the production structure in the Alliance Tools division. The operating profit in the electric tool divisions did not keep pace with the increased sales volumes. The profit margin was 10.0 percent (10.4). Excluding the nonrecurring items, the margin was 8.9 percent. Rental Service  The Rental Service business area consists of two divisions in the equipment rental industry in the United States, providing services to construction and industrial markets.  Revenues during the period rose 62 percent, to SEK 4,619 m. (2,859), including about two months of revenues from the recently acquired Rental Service Corporation (RSC). In the third quarter, the weighted average growth of the two divisions was about 10 percent for comparable units. RSC delivered internal growth of about 15 percent, while Prime grew somewhat slower than the market. Demand was still strong from the construction sector, and some good orders in the quarter were related to increased maintenance activity in the petrochemical industry.  Operating profit, which includes all related goodwill amortization, was SEK 588 m. (391), corresponding to an operating margin of 12.7 percent (13.7). The lower margin primarily reflected a lower fleet utilization rate in Prime and some pressure on rental rates. The latter is noticeable for longer rental contracts and is most apparent in the south. The margin of 15.4 percent in the third quarter was somewhat lower than in the same period the preceding year but clearly higher than in the first half of 1999. RSC had an operating margin in line with the same period in 1998.  Stockholm, October 26, 1999  Giulio Mazzalupi  President and Chief Executive Officer  The preliminary report on the Atlas Copco Group's operations for 1999 will be published on February 14, 2000. For further information, please contact  Annika Berglund, Vice President, Corporate Communications (media),  phone +46 8 743 8070, mobile +46 70 322 8070, [email protected]  Hans Ola Meyer, Senior Vice President, Group Treasurer (analysts),  phone +46 8 743 8292, mobile +46 70 588 8292,[email protected]  Overhead presentations from Atlas Copco  For your convenience, an overhead presentation of Atlas Copco's half-year 1999 results will be published on Atlas Copco's Internet site. Please go to > Investor Relations > Presentations > Investor Presentations.  More information is available at