ATLAS COPCO Interim report at March 31, 2002 (unaudited)

29 apr 2002

Weaker demand - in line with expectations

- Order volumes 7% below first quarter 2001.  - Profit after financial items was MSEK 912 (1,049).  - Operating margin at 10.0% (12.1).  - Earnings per share were SEK 2.80 (3.23).  - Strong operating cash flow continues at MSEK 1,523 (1,198). Near-term outlook  Overall, demand for our products and services is foreseen to stay at the present level in the near-term.  The demand for large investment-related equipment in North America is foreseen to remain weak, while the recent increases in consumption and industrial production in the U.S. should positively affect the demand for production-related equipment and tools. Demand for rental equipment is foreseen to show normal seasonal increases in the next two quarters.  In Europe, the business cycle is expected to lag behind North America and consequently, no improvement of demand is foreseen in the near-term.  Demand in Asia is expected to be good, supported by continued strong growth in China. Review of first-quarter business  Atlas Copco Group  Market development  With only a few exceptions, the demand in North America remained weak in the first quarter. Demand for rental equipment from the manufacturing industry and the important non-residential building sector remained well below the previous year's level. Demand for investment-related products to larger projects within the manufacturing and process industries was very low, while production-related equipment and tools noted stable or slightly improved demand, partly due to re-filling of stock levels in the distribution channels.  In the mining industry, demand for consumables and service compensated for the lack of big equipment orders.  Most of the markets in South America had a negative demand development in the quarter, partly due to the financial turmoil in Argentina.  In Europe, the negative demand trend from the end of 2001 continued. The only exception was the Nordic region, with some new infrastructure projects. Demand from the construction industry was weak in all other major markets in the region.  Low capacity utilization in most manufacturing and process industries affected demand negatively in the period, both for production and investment-related equipment and tools.  The number of projects for capacity extension as well as productivity enhancement within these customer segments declined compared to the same period last year.  The level of demand in Africa and the Middle East, primarily for construction-related applications, had good development in the quarter.  In Asia, the picture remains mixed. While some markets, including China, recorded strong growth in the period, demand in other important countries like Japan and India deteriorated. Orders and revenues  Orders received totaled MSEK 12,058 (12,488), down 3% from a strong first quarter of 2001. This corresponds to a 7% volume decrease after adjusting for a positive translation effect of 4 percentage points. The comparison is somewhat affected by a couple of working days less in the first quarter this year. The biggest volume drop continued to be in North and South America. Europe also lost volume compared to the previous year, while Asia was flat overall. Growth continued in Africa, the Middle East and Australia.  Revenues decreased 4%, to MSEK 11,635 (12,101), corresponding to an 8% volume drop for comparable units. Earnings and returns  Operating profit for the first quarter declined 20%, to MSEK 1,166 (1,463), corresponding to a margin of 10.0% (12.1). The margin drop was due to the negative effect of lower revenues, most pronounced in the Rental Service business area. New accounting standards regarding capitalization of development costs and an adjustment of rental fleet useful life estimates added MSEK 54 and MSEK 45, respectively, to the profit compared to the same period last year.  Net financial items amounted to MSEK -254 (-414), of which net interest items accounted for MSEK -235 (-423) and foreign exchange differences for MSEK -19 (+9). The interest cost continued to decrease in the quarter due to strong cash flow and lower effective interest rates.  Profit after financial items decreased 13%, to MSEK 912 (1,049), corresponding to a margin of 7.8% (8.7). Foreign exchange effects were about 50 MSEK positive compared to the first quarter 2001 but had only a small effect on the profit margin.  Net profit for the quarter totaled MSEK 587 (676), or SEK 2.80 per share (3.23).  The return on capital employed was 12% (14), and the return on shareholders' equity totaled 11% (13) during the past 12 months. The Group's weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is approximately 8.5% (7.5), corresponding to a pretax cost of capital of approximately 13%. The increase is primarily an effect of a higher share of equity capital compared to the preceding period. Cash flow and net indebtedness  The operating cash surplus after tax for the first quarter reached MSEK 1,553 (1,692).  Working capital decreased MSEK 668 (increased 135) in the quarter.  Total cash flow from operations reached MSEK 2,221 (1,557), corresponding to 19% (13) of Group revenues.  Net investments in tangible fixed assets were MSEK 672 (307).  Operating cash flow before acquisitions and dividends equaled MSEK 1,523 (1,198).  The Group's net indebtedness (defined as the difference between interest-bearing liabilities and liquid assets) amounted to MSEK 18,196 (22,402), of which MSEK 1,720 (1,624) was attributable to pension provisions. The debt/equity ratio (defined as net indebtedness divided by shareholders' equity) was 65% (85).  Investments, depreciation and amortization  Gross investments in property and machinery totaled MSEK 284 (208). Gross investments in rental equipment amounted to MSEK 890 (559). Depreciation on these two asset groups equaled MSEK 237 (231) and MSEK 634 (655), respectively, while amortization of intangible assets was MSEK 186 (173). People  At March 31, 2002, the number of employees totaled 25,543 (26,442). For comparable units, the number of employees decreased by 1,025 from March 2001. Share capital  Share capital totaled MSEK 1,048 (1,048) at the end of the period, distributed as follows. Previous statement on demand outlook  (Published Feb 14, 2002)  The current overall decline in demand is foreseen to continue in the near-term. As a consequence, lower volumes and profitability are anticipated in the first quarter, primarily in the equipment rental business.  There are some indications of an improved business environment in North America, which could positively affect demand in the latter part of the year. Accounting principles  The interim report has been prepared using the same accounting principles as disclosed in the Annual Report 2001 with the exception of new standards effective January 1, 2002, issued by the Swedish Accounting Standards Council.  The application of the standard RR 15 dealing with Intangible Assets increased the pre-tax profit by MSEK 54 for the first quarter 2002 since certain development costs were recognized as assets instead of being expensed. These intangible assets will be amortized over their estimated useful lives. The implementation of the other new standards did not have a material effect on the Group's financial position.  As stated in the Annual Report 2001, the Group has continued to account for goodwill arising on certain strategic acquisitions over a period of 40 years. This is due to the expected changes (IAS), as well as already effective changes (US GAAP) in international standards in the accounting for goodwill. Compressor Technique Business Area  The Compressor Technique business area consists of five divisions in the following product areas: industrial compressors, portable compressors, generators, and gas and process compressors.  · Demand weakened for investment-related equipment.  · Strong growth in China continued.  · Margin affected by lower invoicing level and sales mix.  Orders received during the first quarter were up 1%, to MSEK 4,242 (4,216), corresponding to a drop in volume of 5%. The positive translation effect into SEK was approximately 3 percentage points while structural changes and average price changes added 1 percentage point each.  Sales of industrial compressors, primarily larger investment-related machines, suffered from declining investments for capacity extension and productivity enhancements at several customer groups. This was noticeable both in the United States and, with few exceptions, in Europe. Asia, and China in particular, achieved further growth for the same type of product range. Compressors with energy-saving Variable Speed Drive (VSD) technology continued to post increased sales in the first quarter as did compressors for certain special applications, such as PET bottle blowing.  Portable compressors, primarily serving construction-related customers through rental companies and distributors, had mixed development in the period. Sales increased in Asia and the Middle East but were relatively weak in most parts of Europe. In the U.S. demand improved gradually during the quarter. Sales of generators increased from a low level last year in most markets.  The after-market business grew in value and considerably as a share of total revenues in the quarter.  Revenues decreased 4%, to MSEK 3,785 (3,928), corresponding to a volume drop of 9% compared to the same quarter the preceding year.  Operating profit fell 11%, to MSEK 657 (738), corresponding to an operating margin of 17.4% (18.8). The lower invoicing level was the main explanation to the drop in the operating margin. Exchange rate changes since the first quarter 2001 had a small positive effect on the margin. Return on capital employed (past 12 months) was 67% (65). Rental Service Business Area  The Rental Service business area consists of one division in the equipment rental industry in North America, providing services to construction and industrial markets.  · Demand remained well below the previous year.  · Competition for orders affected rental rates.  · Very strong cash flow generation continued.  Total revenues for the first quarter decreased 7%, to MSEK 3,397 (3,659). This includes a 6% positive translation effect into SEK. Volume for comparable units accounted for a drop of 10%.  Rental revenues, which accounted for 70% of total revenues, dropped some 13% in volume in the quarter and average rental rates fell 4-5% compared to the preceding year as competition intensified. The rental revenues continued to be negatively affected by declining activity in the important non-residential building and industrial segments. Rental fleet utilization was low in the beginning of the first quarter but improved gradually during the period and ended the quarter somewhat higher than in the preceding year. The fleet size was about 5% smaller than in the corresponding period last year as only replacement investments and no growth investments were made in the quarter. The total number of rental locations also remained stable in the quarter at 530, compared to 562 a year ago.  Sales of equipment, parts, and merchandise, representing 18% of revenues, and sales of used equipment, representing 12% of revenues, were almost unchanged compared to the first quarter last year.  Cash flow remained strong in the quarter.  Operating profit, including goodwill amortization, was MSEK 121 (328), corresponding to a margin of 3.6% (9.0). The drop in rental volume combined with lower rental rates had a sharply negative effect on the profit, which was only partly offset by lower depreciation costs and lower operating expenses. A revision of useful life estimates on certain fleet categories to industry standards led, on average, to a slightly extended economic life. Consequently, this reduced depreciation expenses by MSEK 45, compared to the previous year. Return on capital employed (past 12 months) was 3% (5).  On February 1 2002, Freek Nijdam took over as the new Business Area Executive from Tom Bennett, who retired. As from March, Nijdam is also the Chief Operating Officer in the company. Industrial Technique Business Area  The Industrial Technique business area consists of four divisions in the following product areas: industrial power tools, professional electric tools, and assembly systems.  · Lower level of orders from the motor vehicle industry.  · Demand for professional electric tools good in the U.S., but weak in Europe.  · Milwaukee branded electric tools launched in Europe.  Order intake decreased 3% overall compared with the first quarter of 2001, to MSEK 2,867 (2,969), corresponding to an 8% drop in volume. The positive translation effect was 4% and prices were on average unchanged.  For the first time in a long time, order intake from the motor vehicle industry for assembly tools and systems dropped compared to the same period a year earlier. Many planned projects in the United States and in Europe did not materialize in the quarter. Orders for other industrial tools also suffered from low demand, particularly tools to the automotive aftermarket in the U.S.  Orders for professional electrical tools for construction and installation work in North America increased slightly in the quarter, partly due to re-stocking activities within distribution channels. Sales to home-centers increased compared to previous year, while sales to industrial/construction distributors and hardware stores were basically flat.  The order volume for the same products in Europe continued to be below the same period previous year.  At the International Hardware Show in Cologne, Germany, in March, a premium line of Milwaukee branded professional electric tools was shown and received a lot of attention. This line will be launched country by country in Europe this year.  Revenues were MSEK 2,823 (2,838), down 1% from the first quarter 2001. This corresponded to a 5% negative volume development.  Operating profit was MSEK 248 (277), corresponding to an operating profit margin of 8.8% (9.8). The lower operating margin reflects the drop in revenues and the negative mix effect from lower industrial tools sales compared to professional electric tools. Return on capital employed (past 12 months) was 12% (15). Construction and Mining Technique Business Area  The Construction and Mining Technique business area consists of five divisions in the following product areas: drilling rigs, rock drilling tools, exploration equipment, construction tools, and loading equipment.  · Stable order level in spite of weaker market situation.  · First computer-controlled surface drill rig launched.  · Stable margins in spite of lower revenue volume.  Orders received were virtually unchanged at MSEK 1,793 (1,794), corresponding to a decrease in volume of 2%. There was a positive translation effect of 1%, while acquisitions and price changes had a net effect of +1%.  Demand for large equipment from the mining industry stayed relatively low in the quarter and exploration drilling equipment continued to be the most affected area. On the other hand, sales of consumables, service, and spare parts remained at a good level in most markets. Good growth in overall orders was recorded in Canada, Australia and Chile, while other important mining countries showed flat or negative development.  There was positive development in orders for crawler rigs for surface applications, like building-stone production in quarries and rock excavation for road and railroad projects. Activity in tunneling projects was, however, slow in the quarter, negatively affecting sales of large underground drill rigs. Orders for construction tools, hydraulic and pneumatic breakers as well as consumables recorded good growth in the quarter, with North America showing a positive development after last year's weakness.  At the Con Agg Expo in Las Vegas in March, Atlas Copco launched the world's first surface drill rig equipped with a computerized rig control system. The highly advanced system automatically adjusts impact power and feed based on the rock's characteristics, resulting in improved productivity and efficiency.  Revenues were MSEK 1,784 (1,828), down 2% overall, corresponding to a volume decrease of 4%.  Operating profit for the quarter rose 1%, to MSEK 186 (185), corresponding to a margin of 10.4% (10.1). Efficiency improvements and a small positive currency effect offset the impact of lower invoicing volume. Return on capital employed (past 12 months) was 22% (22).  In March, Björn Rosengren was appointed the new Business Area Executive, succeeding Freek Nijdam who became Business Area Executive for Rental Service.  Stockholm, April 29, 2002  Giulio Mazzalupi  President and Chief Executive Officer Financial targets The overall objective for the Atlas Copco Group is to achieve a return on capital employed that will always exceed the Group's total cost of capital. The targets for the next business cycle are:  · to have an average annual revenue growth of 8%,  · to have an average operating margin of 15%, and  · to continuously challenge the efficiency of operating capital in terms of stock, receivables, and rental fleet utilization.  Overall, achievement of these targets will ensure that shareholder value is created and continuously increased. The strategy for reaching these objectives will adhere to the Group's proven development process for all operational units, focusing on stability first, then profitability, and finally growth. Forward-looking statements  Some statements in this report are forward-looking, and the actual outcomes could be materially different. In addition to the factors explicitly discussed, other factors could have a material effect on the actual outcomes. Such factors include but are not limited to general business conditions, fluctuations in exchange rates and interest rates, political developments, the impact of competing products and their pricing, product development, commercialization and technological difficulties, interruptions in supply, and major customer credit losses. For further information:  Media  Annika Berglund, Senior Vice President Group Communications  Phone: +46 8 743 8070, Mobile: +46 70 322 8070, [email protected]  Analysts  Mattias Olsson, Investor Relations Manager  Phone: +46 8 743 8291, Mobile: +46 70 518 8291, [email protected]  Presentations from Atlas Copco  For your convenience, a PowerPoint presentation of Atlas Copco's first-quarter results will be published on Atlas Copco's Internet site.  Please go to > Investor Relations > Presentations  Internet site for the Atlas Copco Group  More information is available at  Interim report at June 30, 2002  The second quarter report will be published on July 18, 2002.