Umicore’s 1Q12 trading update surprised positively on the 1Q12 revenue but negatively on the FY12 guidance.
1Q12 revenue (excluding metal) increased by 11% vs. our +3.8% forecast with margins negatively impacted by higher depreciation charges and start up costs relating to growth investments as well as due to lower recycling margins for some metals. Divisional trends were the following:
Catalysis: 1Q12 revenues increased by 18% y/y, which was much better than our -1% forecast. Revenue increased on the back of a 5% increase in global automotive production, higher pass-through costs of raw materials and some market share gains (the latter was already the case in FY11). Car production was down 4% in Europe, up 16% in North America, lower in South America and up 9% in Asia (China down 4% but Japan up 48%).
Energy Materials: Revenues were up 12% which was slightly better than our 10% forecast. Growth was mainly recorded in Rechargeable Battery Materials (the group hinted at an almost doubling of revenue from Li-Ion cathode materials with volumes at comparable levels vs. 2H11 despite usual seasonally lower volumes). Also the increased penetration of tablet and smartphones drove demand for higher-end battery materials in the portable electronics market. Sales were up in Electro-Optic Materials (on increased demand for substrates and germanium tetrachloride), while being lower in Thin Film Products and flattish in Cobalt & Specialty Materials. Margins declined on higher qualification costs, lower premiums for certain products, higher depreciation charges and lower recycling margins
Performance Materials: Revenue increased by 4% vs. our -1% forecast. Revenues were in line for Building Products, and Electroplating, while being up for Technical Materials and Platinum Engineered Materials. Revenues were down for Zinc Chemicals on lower volumes.
Recycling: revenue (excluding metal) has increased by 8% in 1Q12 which was slightly below our +10% forecast. Supply conditions were said to have remained buoyant overall, with increased supplies of electronic scrap and lower arrivals of spent automotive and industrial catalysts. There was a negative impact on margins from lower prices for some specialty metals.
Guidance: Umicore issued fresh FY12 guidance calling for a recurring EBIT of € 370m to € 410m which compares to the 2011 level of € 416m and our and consensus forecasts of € 426m and € 420m, respectively. Recurring EBITDA was guided between € 520m and € 553m (KBCS € 575m, CSS € 563m).
Umicore posted better than expected 1Q12 revenue but the FY12 guidance is below our and consensus expectations, with recurring EBIT guided down and recurring EBITDA guided flat at best. Despite the great LT growth story Umicore still is, the short term margin challenges make it hard to find a short term trigger, and also valuation is not particularly cheap. We decided to downgrade our rating from Accumulate to Hold while lowering our target price from € 45 to € 43.