Axalta Coating Systems Ltd. announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended Dec. 31, 2020. 


Fourth Quarter 2020 Consolidated Financial Results 

Fourth quarter net sales of $1,074.5 million decreased 2.2% year-over-year, including a 1.8% foreign currency benefit, driven by 3.8% lower volumes and 0.2% lower average price and product mix. 


Lower volumes were driven by ongoing COVID-19 related macroeconomic impacts primarily in the Refinish end-market, while volumes were higher year-over-year in both the Industrial and Light Vehicle end-markets. Performance Coatings recorded a 3.5% net sales decline, including an 8.6% growth in Industrial net sales offset by a 10.4% Refinish net sales decline. 


The Transportation Coatings segment reported a 0.5% net sales increase, benefiting from strong overall global Light Vehicle production, offset by 6.7% lower Commercial Vehicle net sales versus Q4 2019 despite strengthening global heavy-duty truck order rates in recent months. 


Product price and product mix represented a 0.2% headwind versus the prior year quarter, still impacted by a slightly negative product mix.

Despite lower net sales in the quarter, reported income from operations was a record level of $163.2 million in Q4 2020 compared very favorably to $108.7 million in Q4 2019, driven by substantial cost containment progress against steadily improving demand in most markets served. 


Net income to common shareholders was $69.7 million for the quarter compared with $41.7 million in Q4 2019, and diluted earnings per share were $0.30 compared with $0.18 in Q4 2019. The increases were primarily driven by lower operating expenses inclusive of structural and temporary cost actions, as well as favorable variable input costs, offset partly by lower consolidated net sales. 


Additionally, income from operations benefited from reduced operating charges as a result of abandonment charges in the prior year. Net income to common shareholders was also negatively impacted by $24.3 million of after-tax costs associated with the company’s November refinancing.


Adjusted EBIT of $205.4 million for the fourth quarter compared with $173.5 million in Q4 2019. Adjusted diluted EPS of $0.58 compared with $0.42 in Q4 2019. These results were driven by lower operating expenses inclusive of 2020 cost actions, and lower variable input costs, partly offset by lower global net sales.


“Despite persistent aspects of the coronavirus pandemic on-demand across certain components of our business, our fourth quarter results reflected the same impressive overall profit dynamics seen during the third quarter, resulting in operating profit and earnings in the period that is among the best we have had in any quarter,” said Robert W.Bryant, Axalta’s president and CEO. “These excellent results included tailwinds from rapidly improving demand across many industrial coatings segments, as well as benefits from the cost actions taken during 2020 to help offset pandemic volume impacts.


“During the fourth quarter, Axalta saw evidence of ongoing demand recovery across most businesses and regions, while ongoing benefits from cost actions ahead of earlier expectations helped to deliver strong results for the quarter. We delivered total cost savings of about $50 million in fourth quarter, including $25 million in temporary savings.”


Full Year Consolidated Financial Results

Net sales of $3,737.6 million for 2020 decreased 16.6%, including 0.8% negative foreign currency translation. Constant currency organic net sales decreased 15.2% in the period, driven by 15.1% lower volume resulting primarily from COVID-19 impacts and 0.1% lower average price and product mix, with contribution from both segments. 


Income from operations decreased 37.4% to $305.5 million for 2020 from $488.2 million in 2019, with the decrease resulting largely from second quarter 2020 operating results. 


Net income to common shareholders was $121.6 million for the year compared with $249 million in 2019, and diluted EPS was $0.52 compared with $1.06 in 2019. 


These results were driven principally by the lower volume and pandemic-related impacts in the second quarter. 


Also impacting the results were modest headwinds from price and product mix and foreign exchange translation impacts, and higher other operating expense related to termination charges associated with Axalta’s restructuring plan that the company previously announced in July as well as strategic review and related retention costs. 


These were partly offset by benefits from significantly reduced operating expenses as well as lower variable costs. Net income to common shareholders and diluted EPS were also negatively impacted by $24.3 million of after-tax costs associated with the company’s November refinancing.


Adjusted EBIT decreased 24% to $536.9 million for 2020 from $706 million in 2019. Adjusted diluted EPS of $1.33 compared with $1.80 in 2019. These results were driven principally by the impact of lower volumes and pandemic-related impacts in the second quarter. 


The volume rebound in the second half of the year combined with significant reductions in operating expenses and lower variable input costs significantly mitigated the operating performance in Q2 2020. Adjusted EBIT margin for the year decreased 140 basis points to 14.4%.


“Taken as a whole, 2020 was a year that posed staggering challenges, but we are very proud to have demonstrated the resilience of Axalta’s business model,” Bryant said. “We also showcased the hard work and coordinated action taken by our global team which performed exceptionally well through the entire year. We are proud to note that second-half results exceeded levels seen during 2019 in the midst of a period of uncertain recovery with net sales down less than 5% for the period.”


For the full year, Axalta delivered total cost savings of over $215 million, exceeding the company’s earlier target of $195 million. This included $150 million in temporary savings, as well as $55 million in Axalta Way savings and $13 million in savings associated with the company’s incremental restructuring actions announced in July. 


“Throughout the year, Axalta purposefully continued to invest in innovation and our R&D pipeline without interruption and we reaped the benefits of this investment in new product introductions as well as new business wins, which helped to offset pandemic demand impacts,” Bryant said. “For the year, we introduced over 50 new broad product innovations, hundreds of product customizations, and developed thousands of new color formulas. We saw above-market growth in a number of key end businesses, including coil coatings and energy solutions. I want to thank each member of our global team for the continued focus on customer satisfaction and the strong execution of our growth priorities that led to the results we report today.


“As we look forward, we continue to see lingering impacts in the first quarter from the pandemic given ongoing restrictions. That said, we anticipate a year of broadly improving demand, continued progress in our structural cost savings initiatives, and hence overall forward progress with a higher earnings result,” Bryant continued. “Our key financial objectives for 2021 include accelerated organic growth in each business as we get past pandemic demand impacts and a laser focus on execution to generate strong free cash flow and maximize return on capital across the enterprise. In the meantime, we also anticipate executing M&A transactions and allocating capital to share repurchases while remaining mindful of our goal to reduce net leverage to 2.5x over time.” 


Performance Coatings Fourth Quarter Results

Performance Coatings fourth quarter net sales were $703.9 million, a decrease of 3.5% year-over-year. 


Constant currency organic net sales decreased 6.1% in the period, driven by a 5.8% volume decline, including lower Refinish end-market volumes offset partially by higher Industrial volumes, as well as a 0.3% decrease in average price and product mix, including modest impacts from both end-markets. Foreign exchange translation was a 2.5% tailwind and M&A benefits were minor in the period.


Refinish net sales decreased 10.4% to $417.6 million in Q4 2020 with low double-digit volume decreases, including demand impact from ongoing reduced global vehicle traffic due to COVID-19, and nearly flat effect from average price and product mix. 


Overall Refinish demand was sequentially fairly stable from third to fourth quarter, including moderate improvement earlier in the fourth quarter offset by impacts from pandemic-related restrictions in key countries as the quarter progressed.


Industrial net sales increased 8.6% to $286.3 million, driven by mid-single-digit volume growth with contribution from all regions, coupled with slightly lower average price and product mix globally excluding Latin America. 


All Industrial sub-businesses and regions saw increased net sales for the fourth quarter, with notable strength in both energy solutions and industrial wood.


The Performance Coatings segment generated Adjusted EBIT of $129.5 million in the fourth quarter compared with $118 million in Q4 2019, with associated margins of 18.4% and 16.2%, respectively. 


The increase included benefits from solidly lower operating expenses and lower variable costs, offset in part by lower volume and slightly by lower price and product mix impacts. 


Transportation Coatings Fourth Quarter Results 

Transportation Coatings net sales were $370.6 million in Q4 2020, an increase of 0.5% year-over-year, including a 0.1% currency translation benefit. Constant currency net sales increased 0.4% in the period, driven by a 0.3% increase in volume and nearly neutral average price and product mix effects. 


Light Vehicle net sales increased 2.4% to $297.8 million year-over-year (increased 2.1% excluding foreign currency tailwinds), driven by broadly improved global automotive production coupled with modest foreign exchange tailwinds. All regions, except for Latin America, saw year over year growth with production recovery strongest in Europe followed by North America, then China.


Commercial Vehicle net sales decreased 6.7% to $72.8 million from Q4 2019 (decreased 6% excluding foreign currency), driven primarily by global heavy truck customer production rate declines. 


The average price and product mix was also a modest headwind in the period. While Commercial Vehicle net sales remain pressured globally, recent new truck orders have strengthened considerably, resulting in multiple increases in the global truck production forecast since July.


The Transportation Coatings segment generated Adjusted EBIT of $47.9 million in Q4 2020 compared with $25.6 million in Q4 2019, with associated margins of 12.9% and 6.9%, respectively. This result was driven principally by lower operating costs and reduced variable costs.


Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Highlights

Axalta ended the year with cash and cash equivalents of $1,360.9 million. 


Axalta’s debt, net of cash, was $2.5 billion as of Dec. 31, 2020, compared with $2.8 billion as of Dec. 31, 2019. 


Axalta repaid ~$200 million of debt in November as part of its refinancing, which also reduced the company’s annual interest expense by $22.4 million. 


Axalta’s net debt to Adjusted EBITDA ratio was 3.3x at year end versus 3x as of Dec. 31, 2019, including the dramatic pandemic impact on operating profit in the second quarter of 2020. 


Axalta ended the year with over $1.7 billion in total available liquidity (including $366 million of available capacity under the company’s undrawn revolver), and Axalta ended 2020 with an Adjusted EBITDA to interest expense coverage ratio of 5.1x.


Fourth quarter total operating cash flow was $278.4 million versus $283.3 million in Q4 2019, reflecting stronger operating income in the period which was more than offset by slightly weaker working capital contributions. 


Free cash flow totaled a quarterly record of $256 million compared with $248.4 million in Q4 2019, including lower capital expenditures in the period totaling $25.9 million versus $38.6 million in the prior year quarter. 


Fourth quarter cash flow also included an unplanned $11.5 million interest payment related to Axalta’s November refinancing in addition to the $11.9 million interest impact from the $500 million June Note issuance. The company repurchased 0.9 million shares of its common stock in the fourth quarter for total consideration of $25 million and an average price of $28.69 per share.


“The fourth quarter demonstrated strong operating execution and excellent global coordination on cost actions to deliver results that exceeded our expectations broadly and included a cash flow outcome that was outstanding relative to our full year operating results. Fourth quarter and full year cash flow both demonstrate the ability of Axalta to modulate the business to meet demand, and we are proud to have done this throughout 2020,” CFO Sean Lannon said. “Additionally, strong operating results were coupled with proactive capital structure management as we completed two substantive debt transactions in June and November which reduced our average cost of debt while extending maturities.


“In 2021, we plan to maintain our focus on cash flow, and expect to prioritize investments in high return capital allocation options including both M&A and share repurchases, while still finishing the year with lower net leverage.”


Q1 2021 Guidance 

  • Net Sales: Increase of ~3-5% YOY including favorable impacts of currency; 
  • Adjusted EBIT: $155-165 million; 
  • D&A: ~$76 million, inclusive of ~$26 million of step-up D&A; 
  • Adjusted Diluted EPS: $0.40-0.45; 
  • Interest Expense: ~$35 million;
  • Diluted Shares: ~236 million; 
  • Tax Rate: ~21-22%


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