Clearwater reports strong growth in sales in the first quarter of 2014 and positive outlook for the year

/Not for distribution to United States or for dissemination in the United States/

HALIFAX, May 2, 2014 /CNW/ - (TSX: CLR):

  • Sales grew by 13.9% in the first quarter of 2014 driven by strong demand  and higher exchange rates

  • Adjusted EBITDA was stable as compared to first quarter 2013 as seasonally higher costs and foreign exchange hedging contracts offset the positive impact of higher sales during the quarter

  • Free cash flow grew by $13.5 million in the quarter due to a positive contribution from working capital offset partially by higher net capital investments

  • The twelve month rolling adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow for the first quarter of 2014 increased $6.4 million to $78.5 million and from $30.5 million to $40.0 million, respectively.

  • Management maintains a strong positive outlook for the remainder of 2014  and sees a more favorable overall economic environment for Canadian seafood exporters

  • Targets for 2014 include sales growth of 5% or greater; growth in free cash flows of 5% or greater; and return on assets of 12% or greater

  • Declares quarterly dividend of $0.025 per share payable on May 28, 2014 to shareholders of record as of May 14, 2014.

First quarter results

Clearwater reported sales of $77.8 million and adjusted EBITDA1 of $10.2 million for the first quarter of 2014 versus 2013 comparative figures of $68.3 million and $10.8 million, reflecting growth of 13.9% in sales and stable EBITDA levels.  Free cash flows1 were ($0.9) million versus ($14.3) million in the first quarter of 2013, an increase of $13.5 million.

The 13.9% growth in sales was driven by strong market demand and pricing as well as a $5.9 million positive impact due to a foreign exchange rate environment that had average spots rates for major currencies such as the US dollar, Euro and Yen at higher levels in 2014 than the first quarter of 2013.  This was partially offset by lower sales volumes, due primarily to the timing of shipments.

Adjusted EBITDA was stable as the positive impact of higher sales was offset by higher fuel costs per pound and seasonally higher harvest and procurement costs as well as payments made on foreign exchange hedging contracts.

Net earnings for the quarter decreased by $10.4 million.  The primary reason for this difference was unrealized foreign exchange of $13.3 million.  This non-cash adjustment relates to the fact that we are required to adjust our US dollar denominated long term debt and US dollar, Euro and Yen foreign exchange hedging contracts using higher period end exchange rates on these currencies.

Hedging contract payments relate to foreign exchange contracts that matured during the first quarter of 2014.  Clearwater's foreign exchange hedging program is designed to enable Clearwater to complete its annual planning cycle and remove uncertainty regarding exchange rates by locking in up to 75% of annual net foreign exchange exposure.

Should the current environment of a stronger US dollar, Euro and Yen versus the Canadian dollar persist it will have a net positive impact on 2014 sales but the hedging program would offset a portion of these gains. The net impact on Adjusted EBITDA would remain positive. Looking forward to 2015, Clearwater will realize a greater benefit of such higher rates as any future hedging contracts it enters into would be at rates closer to current spot rates.

Free cash flows for the first quarter of 2014 grew by $13.5 million over the same period in 2013 primarily due to a $13.7 million improvement in working capital, higher operating cash flows before working capital and higher dividends received. This was partially offset by a $4.1 million increase in planned capital expenditures.

Rolling twelve month results

Adjusted EBITDA for the twelve month period to the first quarter of 2014 increased by $6.4 million, or 8.9%, to $78.5 million from $72.1 million for the same period in 2013.

Rolling twelve month free cash flow for the first quarter of 2014 increased $30.5 million to $40.0 million from $9.1 million in the same period in 2013.

Growth in adjusted EBITDA and free cash flows were due to a strong and growing market demand that improved sales prices for the majority of species and yielded strong sales volumes for scallops, both of which increased margins.  Improvements in free cash flows were partially offset by higher capital expenditures including scheduled refits and higher payments to minority interest partners.

Seasonality

Clearwater's business experiences a seasonal pattern in which sales, margins and adjusted EBITDA are lower in the first half of the year while investments in capital expenditures and working capital are higher resulting in lower free cash flows in the first half of the year and higher free cash flows in the second half of the year.

Results for the first quarter of 2014 are consistent with Management's expectations for the quarter and in-line with its expectations for fiscal 2014.

Outlook

Global demand for seafood is outpacing supply, creating favorable market dynamics for vertically integrated producers such as Clearwater which have strong resource access.

Demand has been driven by growing worldwide population, shifting consumer tastes towards healthier diets, and rising purchasing power of middle class consumers in emerging economies.

The supply of wild seafood is limited and is expected to continue to lag behind the growing global demand.  This supply-demand imbalance has created a market place in which purchasers of seafood are increasingly willing to pay a premium to suppliers that can provide consistent quality and food safety, wide diversity and reliable delivery of premium, wild, sustainably harvested seafood.

Clearwater, like other vertically integrated seafood companies, is well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity because of its licenses, premium product quality, diversity of species, global sales footprint, and year-round harvest and delivery capability.

Ian Smith, Chief Executive Officer, commented, "With the exception of the last six months, all of our growth and increased profitability over the last 4 years has occurred during a period of: 

  • Significantly unfavorable FX relative to most of the major currencies we sell in;

  • Weak economic conditions in many/most of our major markets including EuropeUSA and Japan; and

  • An overall weak environment for global trade.

To this point our largest tailwind has been global demand and increasing per capita consumption in the face of limited supply (the scarcity factor).   We are now operating in a much more favorable economic environment for Canadian exporters, providing further tailwinds."

Mr. Smith continued "We posted strong sales results across our portfolio of sustainably harvested, wild caught seafood during the first quarter of 2014 and are maintaining our annual financial targets.  Also, during the quarter we continued to invest and advance several major capital projects that are key to sustaining our long term growth, profitability and competitive advantage."

For 2014 Clearwater has the following annual targets:

  • sales growth - 5% or greater,
  • adjusted EBITDA margins - 18% or greater,
  • Free cash flow growth - 5% or greater
  • Leverage - 3x or lower
  • return on assets - 12% or higher

Dividends

The Board of Directors approved a quarterly dividend of CAD$0.025 per share payable on May 28, 2014 to shareholders of record on May 14, 2014.

In making the determination of dividend levels Clearwater's Board gives consideration to a number of key principles including:

  • the expected future earnings;

  • the amount of free cash flows that should be retained to reinvest in the business;

  • the assurance that all obligations can be met with respect to existing loan agreements; and

  • the desire to provide room for the dividend to increase in the future as the business continues to grow and expand.

The Board is satisfied with current dividend levels.

These dividends are eligible dividends as defined for the purposes of the Income Tax Act (Canada) and applicable provincial legislation and, therefore, qualify for the favorable tax treatment applicable to such dividends.

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators
In 000's of Canadian dollars
(unless otherwise indicated)
Rolling twelve months ended
 
March 29
2014
 
March 30
2013
 
 
Target
Profitability          
Adjusted EBITDA $ 78,515 $ 72,109  
           
Adjusted EBITDA
(as a % of sales)
  19.7%   20.7% 18.0%
or greater
           
Sales   398,132   347,721  
Sales growth   14.5%   4.0% 5%
or greater
           
Financial Performance          
Free cash flows   39,588   9,079  
           
Leverage (adjusted EBITDA multiple)   2.8   3.2 3.0
or lower
           
Returns          
Return on assets   12.4%   12.9% 12%
or greater

Note: Refer to definitions within the Management Discussion and Analysis 

Management believes that it has the correct strategies and focus to provide sustainable competitive advantage and long-term growth.  These strategies include:

  1. Expanding access to supply;

  2. Targeting profitable and growing markets, channels and customers;

  3. Innovating and positioning our products to deliver superior customer satisfaction and value;

  4. Increasing margins by improving price realization and cost management;

  5. Preserving the long-term sustainability of our resources; and

  6. Improving our organizational capability and capacity, talent, diversity and engagement

Management also believes that it has the people, processes and financial resources to execute these strategies and create value for its shareholders. This includes the capacity to execute Clearwater's five year strategic plan. This plan, developed and initiated in 2012, is entitled 5-1-5 and includes goals to achieve $500 million in sales and $100 million in adjusted EBITDA by the end of 2016 (i.e. in 5 years) or earlier.

1 - Refer to definitions within the Management discussion and Analysis
2 - Clearwater's business experiences a predictable seasonal pattern in which sales, margins and adjusted EBITDA are lower in the first half of the year while investments in capital expenditures and working capital are higher. This normally results in negative cash flows in the first half of the year.  We refer to the negative cash flows as "a net use of cash" in this document.

Financial Statements and Management's Discussion and Analysis Documents

For a detailed analysis of Clearwater's 2014 first quarter results please see Clearwater's First Quarter Report for 2014, which includes Management's Discussion and Analysis and the related financial statements.  These documents can be found in the disclosure documents filed by the Corporation with the securities regulatory authorities available at www.sedar.com or on Clearwater's website at www.clearwater.ca.

Key Financial Figures (In 000 of Canadian dollars except share amounts)              
                       
  13 weeks ended   Rolling 12 months ended
  March 29, 2014   March 30, 2013   March 29, 2014   March 30, 2013
                       
Sales $ 77,771   $ 68,297   $ 398,132   $ 347,721
(Loss) Earnings   (12,144)     (1,762)     4,916     23,869
Basic Loss per share   (0.27)     (0.06)     N/A     N/A
Diluted Loss per share1   (0.27)     (0.06)     N/A     N/A
                       
Adjusted EBITDA 2 $ 10,224   $ 10,812   $ 78,515   $ 72,109
                       
Shares outstanding, at period-end3   54,978,098     50,948,698     N/A     N/A
Weighted average shares on a fully diluted basis   54,183,443     50,948,698     N/A     N/A
  1. Diluted loss per share for the 13 weeks March 30, 2013 was anti-dilutive.
  2. Please see the Management's Discussion and Analysis for a reconciliation of adjusted EBITDA to the financial statements.
  3. On February 4, 2014, Clearwater completed the issuance to the public, on a bought deal basis, of 4,029,400 common shares from the treasury of the Company. The shares were offered at a price of $8.50 per Share, for gross proceeds to Clearwater of approximately $34 million.

 

COMMENTARY REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This news release may contain "forward-looking information" as defined in applicable Canadian securities legislation. All statements other than statements of historical fact, included in this release, including, without limitation, statements regarding future plans and objectives of Clearwater, constitute forward-looking information that involve various known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors outside management's control.  Forward-looking information is based on a number of factors and assumptions which have been used to develop such information but which may prove to be incorrect including, but not limited to, total allowable catch levels, selling prices, weather, exchange rates, fuel and other input costs.  There can be no assurance that such information will prove to be accurate and actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such forward-looking information.

For additional information with respect to risk factors applicable to Clearwater, reference should be made to Clearwater's continuous disclosure materials filed from time to time with securities regulators, including, but not limited to, Clearwater's Annual Information Form. The forward-looking information contained in this release is made as of the date of this release and Clearwater does not undertake to update publicly or revise the forward-looking information contained in this release, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable securities laws.

No regulatory authority has approved or disapproved the adequacy or accuracy of this news release.

About Clearwater

Clearwater is one of North America's largest vertically integrated seafood companies and the largest holder of shellfish licenses and quotas in Canada. It is recognized globally for its superior quality, food safety, diversity of species and reliable worldwide delivery of premium wild, eco-certified seafood, including scallops, lobster, clams, coldwater shrimp, crab and groundfish.

Since its founding in 1976, Clearwater has invested in science, people and technological innovation as well as resource ownership and management to sustain and grow its seafood resource. This commitment has allowed it to remain a leader in the global seafood market and in sustainable seafood excellence.

 

SOURCE Clearwater Seafoods Incorporated

For further information:

Robert Wight, Chief Financial Officer, Clearwater, (902) 457-2369; Tyrone Cotie, Treasurer, Clearwater, (902) 457-8181