Overview of Results
Adjusted EBITDA decreased compared to very strong third quarter 2014 results due primarily to lower North American sales of on-farm and commercial grain handling equipment. In the United States, the USDA corn production forecast of 13.6 billion bushels represents a relatively large crop but a decrease of 5% compared to 2014. AGI's decrease in on-farm handling equipment sales is partly attributable to this lower crop production but was also impacted by crop variability, farmer and dealer sentiment and by generally dry conditions late in the season that allowed the crop to mature quickly. The expectation of an early and dry harvest lowered in-season orders as it became less likely that a late crop or wet conditions would result in a difficult harvest or a need for farmers to dry their grain prior to storage. Commercial business in the U.S. continued at a reasonable pace however remained below the very strong demand experienced in 2014.
In Canada, crop production generally exceeded expectations however sales were well below the record levels achieved in 2014. Sales decreased significantly at newly acquired Westeel from $49.9 million in the third quarter of 2014 to $29.8 million in the current year. Prior to its May 20, 2015 acquisition by AGI, Westeel aggressively shipped product to its dealers in Q4 2014 and Q1 2015 and as a result high levels of inventory existed at the dealer level when dry conditions led to reduced demand early in the 2015 growing season. A fast and efficient harvest in Canada reduced in-season demand for portable grain handling and aeration products and sales in these lines were also well below the records achieved in 2014, however the decrease was not as significant as the decline experienced in the storage business.
AGI's international business continues to grow and offshore sales in the three and nine month periods ended September 30, 2015, excluding Westeel, increased 9% and 34%, respectively. Sales growth resulted from continued momentum in Latin America and projects with multinational grain handlers in Ukraine. Quoting activity remains robust and management anticipates additional growth offshore in the near-term.
"It has been a rough start at Westeel," said Gary Anderson, CEO of AGI. "But we are taking our lumps up front and as a result expect a better 2016. The challenges were based on an extremely aggressive approach to preseason sales in Q4/2014 and into Q1/2015, as well as drought conditions in much of Alberta and Saskatchewan from early spring to mid-summer. We remain confident in the long term value of these assets and welcome the opportunity for greater participation in our home market in western Canada. In the short while we have worked with the Westeel distribution channels, it is abundantly clear that this brand takes our game to a new level in western Canada. Having achieved our $5 million short-term synergy target, we are now working hard behind the scenes to create the opportunities necessary to develop anticipated market synergies. Meanwhile, AGI's International business continues to gain traction, with sales in the first 9 months up 34% year over year. We anticipate a strong close to 2015 in our offshore markets and early indications for 2016 suggest another year of growth and geographic diversification. We look forward to the upcoming year with excitement in both domestic and offshore markets as we leverage our leading brands in North America and offshore and continue to pursue our development into Brazil."
Diluted profit (per share) and Diluted adjusted profit (per share)
Diluted loss per share for the quarter ended September 30, 2015 was $0.60 (2014 - profit of $0.65) and for the nine months then ended diluted loss per share was $0.28 (2014 - profit of $1.76). The decrease was primarily the result of lower EBITDA, transaction costs related to the acquisition of Westeel and losses on foreign exchange. A reconciliation to diluted adjusted profit per share follows:
Management expects fourth quarter sales of on-farm portable equipment to fall below 2014 levels as a quick and efficient harvest in both Canada and the United States has contributed to slightly elevated dealer inventories. In addition, negative farmer sentiment and dealer cash flow considerations continue to impact dealer purchases. As a result, we anticipate dealer participation in preseason programs will be lower than the prior year but we expect it will be roughly in line with longer term averages. AGI's commercial business, both domestically and overseas, is expected to perform well in the fourth quarter and sales are anticipated to exceed 2014 levels. Consistent with prior periods, realized sales are subject to the timing of customer commitment and delivery considerations. Excluding Westeel, management expects adjusted EBITDA in the fourth quarter of 2015 to decrease compared to 2014 as strength in North American and international commercial business is more than offset by lower sales of portable grain handling equipment.
As noted earlier, Westeel inventory at the dealer level is higher than typical due to the rapid pace of shipping in Q4 2014 and Q1 2015, prior to AGI's acquisition of Westeel, and the subsequent weather related decline in demand in western Canada. As a result, dealer participation in preseason storage programs has decreased compared to the record set in 2014. Accordingly, management anticipates sales in Q4 2015 to be significantly below the prior year with a focus on level-loading production in order to optimize longer term margins and stabilize operations. Westeel, including its Italian PTM subsidiary, reported adjusted EBITDA of over $6 million in the fourth quarter of 2014. However, largely for the reasons noted above, management expects adjusted EBITDA at Westeel to be less than $2 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Management remains positively biased with respect to fiscal 2016. Although sales and adjusted EBITDA in Q1 2016 are likely to fall below 2015 levels, the result of lower participation in on-farm preseason programs, results for the balance of the year are expected to reflect a return to more typical farmer buying patterns for on-farm equipment, steady demand for domestic commercial products and continued growth in offshore markets. Management anticipates sales of portable handling equipment will reflect the traditional demand drivers of crop production volume and harvest conditions as farmers upgrade or replace augers that are nearing the end of their useful lives. Sales of Westeel storage products are expected to reflect typical buying behavior as AGI manages dealer intake in Q4 2015 so as not to artificially increase dealer inventory levels in advance of the growing season. In 2016, demand for commercial equipment is expected to meet or exceed 2015 levels as management anticipates another year of growth in offshore markets. AGI has a geographically diverse and high quality quote log that includes projects in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Latin America.
AGI's financial results are impacted by the rate of exchange between the Canadian and U.S. dollars and a weaker Canadian dollar relative to its U.S. counterpart positively impacts profit and adjusted EBITDA. However, a portion of the Company's foreign exchange exposure has been hedged through forward foreign exchange contracts and based on current rates of exchange the Company expects to recognize a significant loss on these contracts in the fourth quarter of 2015 and to a lesser extent in fiscal 2016.
Demand in 2016 will be influenced by, among other factors, weather patterns, crop conditions and the timing of harvest and conditions during harvest. Changes in global macroeconomic factors as well as sociopolitical factors in certain local or regional markets, including the ongoing uncertainty and volatility in Ukraine, and the availability of credit and export credit agency support in offshore markets, also may influence sales, primarily of commercial grain handling and storage products. Results may also be impacted by changes in steel prices and other material input costs and the rate of exchange between the Canadian and U.S. dollars.
AGI today announced the declaration of cash dividends of $0.20 per common share for the months of December 2015 and January and February 2016. The dividends are eligible dividends for Canadian income tax purposes. AGI's current annualized cash dividend rate is $2.40 per share.
The table below sets forth the scheduled payable and record dates:
MD&A and Financial Statements
AGI's financial statements and MD&A for the three and nine month periods ended September 30, 2015 can be obtained at http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/AFN1113Q38.pdf and will also be available electronically on SEDAR (www.sedar.com) and on AGI's website (www.aggrowth.com).