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Ashland reports financial results1 for first quarter fiscal 2024; issues outlook for second quarter and full-year fiscal 2024

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Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH) reported sales of $473 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, down 10 percent from the prior-year quarter. Net income was $26 million, with adjusted EBITDA of $70 million. The company's performance was impacted by lower production volumes and unfavorable absorption impact compared to the year-ago quarter. However, foreign currency favorably impacted sales by approximately one percent, and ongoing free cash flow totaled $66 million, reflecting the company’s focused reduction in inventory balances.
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The reported decline in sales by 10 percent to $473 million for Ashland Inc. is a significant indicator of the company's performance, particularly as it relates to the market-demand dynamics. A financial analyst would note that such a decrease could be indicative of competitive pressures or a contraction in market size. The reduction in net income from $40 million to $26 million and a decrease in adjusted EBITDA by 35 percent are critical metrics that suggest a substantial impact on profitability. It is essential to consider the company's share repurchase activities, with 1.2 million shares bought back and a remaining authorization of $900 million, which could signal a management belief in undervaluation or a strategic move to enhance earnings per share.

Furthermore, the improvement in cash flows from operating activities, which rose to $201 million from a negative cash flow in the prior-year quarter, is a positive sign of liquidity and operational efficiency. The ongoing free cash flow of $66 million, compared to negative $21 million previously, highlights a successful inventory management and cost control, which is crucial for maintaining financial stability. Investors should closely monitor these cash flow figures as they provide insight into the company's ability to generate cash and fund operations, dividends and debt repayments.

From a market research perspective, the stabilization of demand trends across most end markets is a noteworthy development. Despite the overall decline in sales, the report of favorable pricing within the Life Sciences and Personal Care segments suggests resilience in these areas. Analysts would pay close attention to the performance of these segments as they may serve as growth drivers for Ashland Inc. in a challenging economic environment. Additionally, the impact of foreign currency on sales, albeit modest, is a reminder of the importance of considering exchange rate fluctuations when evaluating multinational companies' financials.

Moreover, the company's strategic focus on high-quality, consumer-focused markets like pharmaceuticals, personal care and architectural coatings is pertinent. These sectors often have higher barriers to entry and can provide stable revenue streams. However, the reported lower production volumes and the associated unfavorable absorption impact raise concerns about operational efficiency and scalability, which are vital for sustaining long-term growth. It would be beneficial for stakeholders to assess how Ashland's strategic decisions align with market trends and consumer demands.

An economist would interpret the financial results within the broader context of economic conditions. The decline in sales and adjusted EBITDA could reflect broader economic trends, such as reduced industrial activity or consumer spending. The mention of previously communicated expectations and the actual performance aligning with those forecasts suggests that Ashland Inc. has visibility into its business cycle and is adjusting its operations accordingly. The company's ability to generate positive cash flow despite a challenging economic landscape is commendable and could indicate a robust business model that can withstand market volatility.

Additionally, the share repurchase program could be seen as a response to macroeconomic factors, such as low-interest rates, making debt-financed buybacks more attractive. However, an economist would caution that such financial engineering must be balanced with organic growth to ensure long-term shareholder value. The focus on reducing inventory balances and managing costs is a prudent approach in an uncertain economic climate, as it helps maintain operational flexibility and readiness for potential market recovery.

  • Sales of $473 million, down 10 percent from the prior-year quarter
  • Net income (including discontinued operations) of $26 million, or $0.51 per diluted share
  • Income from continuing operations of $28 million, or $0.54 per diluted share
  • Adjusted income from continuing operations excluding intangibles amortization expense of $23 million, or $0.45 per diluted share
  • Adjusted EBITDA of $70 million
  • Cash flows provided by operating activities of $201 million; ongoing free cash flow2 of $66 million

WILMINGTON, Del., Jan. 30, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH) today announced financial results1 for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, which ended December 31, 2023, and issued its outlook for second quarter and full-year fiscal 2024. The global additives and specialty ingredients company holds leadership positions in high-quality, consumer-focused markets including pharmaceuticals, personal care and architectural coatings.

Sales in the first quarter were $473 million, down 10 percent versus the prior-year quarter. Results during the quarter reflect market-demand dynamics and underlying business performance that were generally consistent with previously communicated expectations. Year-over-year volume declines during the quarter started to diminish as demand trends appear to have stabilized across most end markets. Pricing also remained favorable within the Life Sciences and Personal Care segments. Foreign currency favorably impacted sales by approximately one percent.

Net income was $26 million, down from $40 million in the prior-year quarter. Income from continuing operations was $28 million, down from $42 million in the prior-year quarter, or income of $0.54 per diluted share, down from $0.76. Adjusted income from continuing operations excluding intangibles amortization expense was $23 million, down from $54 million in the prior-year quarter, or $0.45 per diluted share, down from $0.97. Adjusted EBITDA was $70 million, down 35 percent from $108 million in the prior-year quarter, driven primarily by lower production volumes and the associated unfavorable absorption impact compared to the year-ago quarter when production exceeded customer demand.

Average diluted shares outstanding totaled 51 million in the first quarter, down from 55 million in the prior-year quarter, following the company’s share repurchase activities over the past 12 months. Ashland repurchased 1.2 million shares during the first quarter and now has $900 million remaining under the existing evergreen share repurchase authorization.

Cash flows provided by operating activities totaled $201 million, up from cash flows used by operating activities of $29 million in the prior-year quarter. The first quarter of fiscal year 2024 cash flows provided by operating activities includes the favorable impact of the new Foreign Accounts Receivable Sales Program. Ongoing free cash flow2, which is not impacted by the Foreign Accounts Receivable Sales Program, totaled $66 million compared to negative $21 million in the prior-year quarter, reflecting the company’s focused reduction in inventory balances as well as a reduced incentive compensation payout.

“Financial results in the December quarter yielded adjusted EBITDA above the outlook range we issued on November 8, 2023,” said Guillermo Novo, chair and chief executive officer, Ashland. “Customer demand was generally consistent with our expectations in the first quarter. While we are cautiously optimistic about the improving demand trends we experienced in January with follow-through order build into February, we continue to prudently manage inventory levels and drive cash generation. With generally reduced stress on supply chains, customer ordering lead time has normalized to pre-COVID levels. Ashland will remain disciplined in its production levels, targeting to produce to near-term demand.”    

“The Ashland team continues to focus on what we can control to build resilience and improve performance of our core businesses,” continued Novo. “Disciplined pricing coupled with moderately deflationary raw material costs and prudent operating expense management was overshadowed by the lower sales volume and production absorption impacts during the quarter. We also continue to progress our strategic priorities to execute, globalize, innovate, and acquire, which drive our actions, investments, and profitable growth expectations. Within our strategy to execute, portfolio optimization activities are underway which will improve our margin profile and reduce earnings volatility in the future, and we are advancing our globalize and innovate strategies to deliver long-term profitable growth.”

“Furthermore, as a part of our disciplined capital allocation approach and our commitment to return capital to shareholders, we continue to believe Ashland’s stock is an attractive use of capital, as demonstrated by our repurchase of an additional $100 million of Ashland shares during the quarter,” concluded Novo.

Reportable Segment Performance
To aid in the understanding of Ashland’s ongoing business performance, the results of Ashland’s reportable segments are described below on an adjusted basis. In addition, EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA are reconciled to operating income in Table 4. Free cash flow, ongoing free cash flow and adjusted operating income are reconciled in Table 6 and adjusted income from continuing operations, adjusted diluted earnings per share and adjusted diluted earnings per share excluding intangible amortization expense are reconciled in Table 7 of this news release. These adjusted results are considered non-GAAP financial measures.  For a full description of the non-GAAP financial measures used, see the “Use of Non-GAAP Measures” section that further describes these adjustments below.

Life Sciences
Sales were $200 million, down three percent from the prior-year quarter. Sustained pricing was more than offset by normalized supply of Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) in the pharmaceutical market as demand declined compared to a strong prior-year period. Volumes to the nutrition end-market continued to be challenged due to lower demand. Sales of nutraceuticals products continue to demonstrate a strong recovery compared to a weak prior-year period. Foreign currency favorably impacted sales by $2 million, or one percent.

Adjusted operating income was $32 million compared to $35 million in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted EBITDA was $48 million compared to $52 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily reflecting the impact of favorable pricing and raw material dynamics, lower volumes and unfavorable product mix. Foreign currency favorably impacted Adjusted EBITDA by $2 million, or four percent.

Personal Care
Sales were $129 million, down seven percent from the prior-year quarter. Lower volumes in skin-care and oral-care, partially offset by higher volumes in hair-care, more than offset sustained pricing. Foreign currency favorably impacted sales by $2 million or one percent.

Adjusted operating income was $2 million compared to $11 million in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted EBITDA was $22 million compared to $32 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily reflecting the impact of lower sales, production volumes and a challenged Avoca business. Foreign currency had a negligible impact on Adjusted EBITDA when compared to the prior-year quarter.

Specialty Additives
Sales were $122 million, down 15 percent from the prior-year quarter, primarily reflecting the carryover impacts of lower volumes experienced during fiscal 2023 and lower pricing in architectural coatings. Foreign currency favorably impacted sales by two million or one percent.

Adjusted operating loss was $11 million, compared to income of $5 million in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted EBITDA was $6 million compared to $23 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily reflecting the impact of lower sales and production. Foreign currency negatively impacted Adjusted EBITDA by $1 million, or four percent.

Intermediates
Sales were $33 million down 39 percent from the prior-year quarter, driven by lower pricing and volumes for both merchant and captive sales. Captive internal butanediol (BDO) sales are recognized at market-based pricing which was down compared to the prior-year quarter.

Adjusted operating income was $7 million compared to $20 million in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted EBITDA was $10 million compared to $23 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily reflecting the impact of lower pricing. Foreign currency had a negligible impact on Adjusted EBITDA when compared to the prior-year quarter.

Unallocated & Other
Unallocated and other expense was $27 million compared to $29 million in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted unallocated and other expense EBITDA was $16 million compared to $22 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily reflecting lower variable compensation expenses.

Financial Outlook
There is growing evidence of a convergence between Ashland’s sales volume and customer end-market demand. While traditionally a seasonally slower period, demand in January demonstrated sequential improvement with similar trends into February order build. 

Current demand patterns suggest a potential recovery with continued momentum into the second half of the fiscal year. Demand evolution in the subsequent months will further narrow the range of recovery scenarios.

Ashland’s portfolio optimization actions continue to make progress and include the consolidation of Ashland’s carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) production capacity into Alizay, France resulting in a closure of CMC production capacity in Hopewell, Virginia during the fiscal second quarter of 2024. Other actions to improve Ashland’s industrial methylcellulose (MC) and hydroxyethycellulose (HEC) businesses continue to be assessed.

Ashland expects to realize a partial return to more typical margins during the second quarter, primarily a result of a forecasted increase in sales and production volumes, with continued improvement throughout the fiscal year. Overall, for the fiscal-second quarter the company expects sales in the range of $565 million to $585 million and adjusted EBITDA in the range of $115 million to $125 million. For the full fiscal year, Ashland expects sales in the range of $2.15 billion to $2.25 billion and adjusted EBITDA in the range of $460 million to $500 million.

“We are encouraged by the improvement in recent demand trends and will continue disciplined production and inventory levels as we closely monitor the coming months. The Ashland team is performing well and focused on implementing our strategic priorities to execute, globalize, innovate and acquire.  The actions underway will maximize near-term performance across multiple recovery scenarios and long-term profitable growth. I look forward to discussing our fiscal first quarter financial results and outlook as well as an update on our strategic priorities during our earnings call and webcast tomorrow morning,” said Guillermo Novo, chair and chief executive officer, Ashland.

Conference Call Webcast
The company’s live webcast with securities analysts will include an executive summary and detailed remarks. The live webcast will take place at 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. Simultaneously, the company will post a slide presentation in the Investor Relations section of its website at http://investor.ashland.com.

To access the call by phone, please go to this registration link and you will be provided with dial in details. To avoid delays, we encourage participants to dial into the conference call fifteen minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.

Following the live event, an archived version of the webcast and supporting materials will be available for 12 months on http://investor.ashland.com.

Use of Non-GAAP Measures
Ashland believes that by removing the impact of depreciation and amortization and excluding certain non-cash charges, amounts spent on interest and taxes and certain other charges that are highly variable from year to year, EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA, EBITDA margin and adjusted EBITDA margin provide Ashland’s investors with performance measures that reflect the impact to operations from trends in changes in sales, margin and operating expenses, providing a perspective not immediately apparent from net income, operating income, net income margin and operating income margin. The adjustments Ashland makes to derive the non-GAAP measures of EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA, EBITDA margin and adjusted EBITDA margin exclude items which may cause short-term fluctuations in net income and operating income and which Ashland does not consider to be the fundamental attributes or primary drivers of its business. EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA, EBITDA margin and adjusted EBITDA margin provide disclosure on the same basis as that used by Ashland’s management to evaluate financial performance on a consolidated and reportable segment basis and provide consistency in our financial reporting, facilitate internal and external comparisons of Ashland’s historical operating performance and its business units, and provide continuity to investors for comparability purposes. EBITDA margin and adjusted EBITDA margin are defined as EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA divided by sales for the corresponding period.

Key items, which are set forth on Table 7 of this release, are defined as financial effects from significant transactions that, either by their nature or amount, have caused short-term fluctuations in net income and/or operating income which Ashland does not consider to reflect Ashland’s underlying business performance and trends most accurately. Further, Ashland believes that providing supplemental information that excludes the financial effects of these items in the financial results will enhance the investor’s ability to compare financial performance between reporting periods.

Tax-specific key items, which are set forth on Table 7 of this release, are defined as financial transactions, tax law changes or other matters that fall within the definition of key items as described above. These items relate solely to tax matters and would only be recorded within the income tax caption of the Statement of Consolidated Income. As with all key items, due to their nature, Ashland does not consider the financial effects of these tax-specific key items on net income to be the most accurate reflection of Ashland’s underlying business performance and trends.

The free cash flow metrics enable Ashland to provide a better indication of the ongoing cash being generated that is ultimately available for both debt and equity holders as well as other investment opportunities. Unlike cash flow provided by operating activities, free cash flow and ongoing free cash flow include the impact of capital expenditures from continuing operations and other significant items impacting free cash flow, providing a more complete picture of current and future cash generation. Free cash flow, ongoing free cash flow, and free cash flow conversion are non-GAAP liquidity measures that Ashland believes provide useful information to management and investors about Ashland’s ability to convert Adjusted EBITDA to ongoing free cash flow. These liquidity measures are used regularly by Ashland’s stakeholders and industry peers to measure the efficiency at providing cash from regular business activity. Free cash flow, ongoing free cash flow, and free cash flow conversion have certain limitations, including that they do not reflect adjustments for certain non-discretionary cash flows such as mandatory debt repayments. The amount of mandatory versus discretionary expenditures can vary significantly between periods.

Adjusted diluted earnings per share is a performance measure used by Ashland and is defined by Ashland as earnings (loss) from continuing operations, adjusted for identified key items and divided by the number of outstanding diluted shares of common stock. Ashland believes this measure provides investors additional insights into operational performance by providing earnings and diluted earnings per share metrics that exclude the effect of the identified key items and tax specific key items.

The adjusted diluted earnings per share, excluding intangibles amortization expense metric enables Ashland to demonstrate the impact of non-cash intangibles amortization expense on earnings per share, in addition to key items previously mentioned. Ashland’s management believes this presentation is helpful to illustrate how previous acquisitions impact applicable period results.

About Ashland 
Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH) is a global additives and specialty ingredients company with a conscious and proactive mindset for environment, social and governance (ESG). The company serves customers in a wide range of consumer and industrial markets, including architectural coatings, construction, energy, food and beverage, nutraceuticals, personal care and pharmaceutical. Approximately 3,800 passionate, tenacious solvers – from renowned scientists and research chemists to talented engineers and plant operators – thrive on developing practical, innovative and elegant solutions to complex problems for customers in more than 100 countries. Visit ashland.com and ashland.com/ESG to learn more. 

Forward-Looking Statements
This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Ashland has identified some of these forward-looking statements with words such as “anticipates,” “believes,” “expects,” “estimates,” “is likely,” “predicts,” “projects,” “forecasts,” “objectives,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “plans” and “intends” and the negative of these words or other comparable terminology. Ashland may from time to time make forward-looking statements in its annual reports, quarterly reports and other filings with the SEC, news releases and other written and oral communications. These forward-looking statements are based on Ashland’s expectations and assumptions, as of the date such statements are made, regarding Ashland’s future operating performance, financial, operating cash flow and liquidity, as well as the economy and other future events or circumstances. These statements include but may not be limited to Ashland’s expectations regarding its ability to drive sales and earnings growth and manage costs.

Ashland’s expectations and assumptions include, without limitation, internal forecasts and analyses of current and future market conditions and trends, management plans and strategies, operating efficiencies and economic conditions (such as prices, supply and demand, cost of raw materials, and the ability to recover raw-material cost increases through price increases), and risks and uncertainties associated with the following: the impact of acquisitions and/or divestitures Ashland has made or may make (including the possibility that Ashland may not realize the anticipated benefits from such transactions); Ashland’s substantial indebtedness (including the possibility that such indebtedness and related restrictive covenants may adversely affect Ashland’s future cash flows, results of operations, financial condition and its ability to repay debt); severe weather, natural disasters, public health crises, cyber events and legal proceedings and claims (including product recalls, environmental and asbestos matters); the effects of the ongoing Ukraine/Russia and Israel/Hamas conflicts on the geographies in which we operate, the end markets we serve and on our supply chain and customers, and without limitation, risks and uncertainties affecting Ashland that are described in Ashland’s most recent Form 10-K (including Item 1A Risk Factors) filed with the SEC, which is available on Ashland’s website at http://investor.ashland.com or on the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov. Various risks and uncertainties may cause actual results to differ materially from those stated, projected or implied by any forward-looking statements. Ashland believes its expectations and assumptions are reasonable, but there can be no assurance that the expectations reflected herein will be achieved. Unless legally required, Ashland undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements made in this news release whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

1Financial results are preliminary until Ashland’s Form 10-Q is filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

2The ongoing free cash flow metric excludes the impact of inflows and outflows from U.S. and Foreign Accounts Receivable Sales Program and payments related to restructuring and environmental and litigation-related matters in both the current-year and prior-year periods.

™ Trademark, Ashland or its subsidiaries, registered in various countries.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

Investor Relations:Media Relations:
William C. Whitaker Carolmarie C. Brown
+1 (614) 790-2095+1 (302) 995-3158
wcwhitaker@ashland.comccbrown@ashland.com

Attachment


Ashland Inc. reported sales of $473 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, down 10 percent from the prior-year quarter.

The net income for Ashland Inc. in the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 was $26 million.

The adjusted EBITDA for Ashland Inc. in the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 was $70 million.

Foreign currency favorably impacted Ashland Inc.'s sales by approximately one percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2024.

The ongoing free cash flow for Ashland Inc. in the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 totaled $66 million.
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About ASH

ashland global holdings inc. (nyse: ash) is a premier global specialty chemicals company serving customers in a wide range of consumer and industrial markets, including adhesives, architectural coatings, automotive, construction, energy, food and beverage, personal care and pharmaceutical. at ashland, we are nearly 7,000 passionate, tenacious solvers - from renowned scientists and research chemists to talented engineers and plant operators - who thrive on developing practical, innovative and elegant solutions to complex problems for customers in more than 100 countries. visit www.ashland.com to learn more.