Aker Solutions ASA (AKRTF) CEO Kjetel Digre on Q2 2022 Results – Earnings Call Transcript

Aker Solutions ASA (OTC:AKRTF) Q2 2022 Earnings Conference Call July 14, 2022 3:00 PM ET

Company Participants

Marianne Hagen – Executive Vice President, Sustainability, HSSE and Communications

Kjetel Digre – Chief Executive Officer

Idar Eikrem – Chief Financial Officer

Conference Call Participants

Marianne Hagen

Hello, and a warm welcome to Aker Solutions and the Presentation of the Second Quarter Results for 2022. My name is my Marianne Hagen. I head of Sustainability, HSSE and Communications.

With me here today is our CEO, Kjetel Digre; and our CFO, Idar Eikrem. They will take you through the main developments of the quarter. Our presentation today is a live audiocast and you can download the slides from our webpage. The audiocast will later today be made available for replay. After the presentation, we do have time for some questions. Those of you who are following the audiocast can submit your questions on the online platform.

And with that, I leave the floor to you, Kjetel.

Kjetel Digre

Thank you, Marianne and welcome to everyone. Let me take you through the highlights of the quarter.

Firstly, the overall message is that we delivered increased top and bottom lines in the quarter, and that we are on track with our financial targets. Our second quarter revenue was NOK 10.6 billion and the EBITDA was NOK 691 million excluding special items, with a margin of 6.5%. This included periodic provision in a renewables project, which Idar will come back to later in the presentation.

We delivered NOK 13.6 billion of order intake or 1.3 times book-to-bill,l and we continue to experience high tender activity and expect several large projects to be sanctioned in the second half of this year. Our backlog ended at NOK 53 billion, providing a solid foundation for our growth targets moving forward.

Secondly, we are progressing well with our transition journey. We have an ongoing recruitment campaign, and I’m happy to see that we have welcomed more than 1,000 skilled new colleagues year-to-date across our organization globally. This means that we are on track with our target of hiring 2,000 new colleagues this year. During the quarter, we also acquired a Norwegian engineering company, Frontica Engineering. Frontica Engineering has around 50 highly skilled employees, bringing with them significant experience.

Thirdly, in terms of recent developments and outlook, we continue to see increased activity levels. As we look ahead to the rest of this year and into next year, the high oil and gas price backdrop is likely to continue, driven by demand, increased focus on energy security and several years of under investment. This is projected to lead to increased investment in high value, low carbon solutions, both in oil and gas and in renewables. And they’re already experiencing this. For instance, through increased demand for Subsea tiebacks, enabling maintained or increased production at existing fields.

On the macro level, we continue to see a dynamic environment where the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have amplified several trends including inflation. This means, we will continue to closely monitor the supply chain situation and be proactive together with our clients. Despite the macro challenges, we are optimistic about the outlook.

And now let’s have a look at some of our recent operational highlights. Overall, I’m pleased that our main ongoing projects are progressing well. During the quarter, first oil was produced at the Hod B unmanned platform, which we delivered to Aker BP in our alliance in record time. This was actually the first project sanctioned under the temporary NCS tax incentives in June 2020, with first deal being cut at our yard in Valhall only one day after the incentives came in place. The project has been carried out safely and efficiently even during the challenging constraints of the global pandemic. And I’m proud to say that only 14 months after we started, the platform was installed and the production had started successfully. This is a new record.

Another important project is the Jansz project for Chevron in Australia, which was our largest order intake last year. This subsea gas compression project is now one-year into execution and I’m pleased to share that the project is progressing well and according to plan. And the fabrication work has now started. Our leading subsea gas compression technology increases gas production more cost effectively and with a smaller environmental footprint than a conventional topside compressor solution.

At the offshore floating wind project, Hywind Tampen, all the 11 concrete floating foundations have been delivered from our yards. The wind turbines are currently being installed on these structures before being towed out to the field for installation in a partnership with DOF. First electricity is expected to be produced during the second half of this year and it will be the world’s largest floating wind farm. It will also be the first to supply electricity to oil and gas platforms, providing the Gullfaks and Snorre fields with renewable power. This project is a great example of how we are use — how we use our strong oil and gas competence, transferring this directly over to renewable solutions.

Within decommissioning, our work is also progressing well. During the quarter, we have received several large structures from the Gyda, Valhall and Hod fields at our storage yard, ready to be dismantled and recycled. In total, these weigh more than a massive 50,000 metric tons, and our target is to recycle 98% of the steel and materials supporting the circular economy. The steel from offshore structures is of the highest quality, and therefore, in high demand in the secondhand market. This illustrates our cradle-to-grave position in the energy space.

Let’s now have a look at our main orders during the quarter, where we won important contracts across our segments. In the EMM segment, we won a large three-year extension of our frame agreement with ConocoPhillips with incremental scope increase from the previous period. Securing capacity through these extensions, commitments demonstrates the value of long-term partnerships and the quality of our deliveries.

In our Subsea segment, we’ve also secured several important contracts in the quarter. We won the contract to deliver the subsea production system for the Halten East development by Equinor, which is a tieback projects on the Asgard field. This is primarily a gas field and includes the delivery of seven of our standardized vertical subsidiaries.

We also won a contract to deliver the Umbilicals for the Yellowtail project for ExxonMobil in Guyana. And it is very exciting to enter this market and be part of delivering to this prolific offshore basin.

We also secured a five-year strategic partnership agreement with Var Energi to deliver all subsea production systems for their operated fields on the NCS over the next five years. This builds on our successful track record of working in alliances, and the work we are doing within sustainability. We look forward to take this into the strategic partnership.

The Renewables and Field Development segment experienced growth across several existing contracts in the quarter. This included increase on our scope of the ongoing Johan Castberg project. And new orders also included the FEED to develop the groundbreaking Keadby 3 gas power station equipped with carbon capture technology for SSE Thermal and Equinor in the U.K. This contract was won in our consortium with Doosan Babcock and Siemens Energy, with Aker Carbon Capture as the subsupplier of the capture technology.

Now let’s have a look at our tender pipeline. The overall comment is that our tendering activity is record high with good balance across segments, and the outlook remains positive. I would also like to emphasize that even though this is a very high tender value, we are committed to remain selective in what projects we take on board, which I have also stressed in previous quarters, and especially within Renewables where the industry is still in early development.

We are focusing on projects with satisfactory terms and risk reward balance where we can deliver value both for our customers and our shareholders. Our strategy is to work in long-term partnership and alliances with key customers who see the value of working aligned and with incentive mechanisms in order to achieve the best outcomes for all parties.

The increased tender value is not only from new prospects, but also growth in scope on existing ones. This can be seen as a leading indicator for increased activity and that customers are increasing their investment levels. We believe this will lead to record high order intake this year. And as a reminder, we are already doing the FEED work for many of the projects in our tender pipeline. This in turn means that our secured order backlog for 2023 and onwards will increase significantly as soon as they are converted into full projects later this year. It also means that we can get an increased understanding of the risk and value drivers in the projects that we take on.

We have increased confidence in our view of robust multi-year market growth across areas where we are relevant. A substantial step-up in capital spending is projected in both oil and gas and renewables moving forward. And in particular, significant growth is expected on NCS related to the deadline of our customers to submit plans for field development at the end of this year.

I would like to provide some more insight into the timelines related to the activity increase on the NCS, where the most important takeaway is probably that the NCS incentives will provide a solid activity level for suppliers for several years, all the way into 2028. The temporary tax incentives or rather activity package, as we call it, it’s not about reducing the tax for the operators over time, but rather all about securing a healthy activity level in the industry and continuity in the supply chain, which is one of the largest employers in the private sector in Norway. And at the same time, it also includes clear expectations related to transforming the industry by accelerating the adoption of low carbon solutions during this timeframe.

So, what does the timeline look like? As you know, the activity package was first announced in June 2020 in the middle of the challenging global pandemic. From that time, we have already worked extensively to develop the concepts for upcoming field developments. We do this through early phase engineering studies and FEEDs. This is to architect the solutions and to prepare and mature these projects for sanctioning and execution. And at the same time, while working on these FEEDs, we get the best possible insight into the projects, including the risks and value drivers, adding significant value both to ourselves and to our customers.

The next deadline, as you probably know, is for the customers to submit their plans for development and operation, so called PDO, to the authorities by the end of this year. And from 2023 and onwards, the projects will be executed in our safe and predictable way over the next several years. So, together with our customers, we are therefore planning this work carefully by taking holistic portfolio approach where we discuss prioritization and spread out execution over time. This will reduce the risk of taking on too much work at the same time.

We also have a strong focus on providing our standardized equipment and solutions across these projects. Each project typically takes about two and a half to three and a half years on average from award to delivery, depending on the size and complexity of each project. And the sanctioning activity has already started.

I’ve already mentioned Aker BP’s Hod B project, where we won the contract to build a platform two years ago and it has already started producing hydrocarbons. Other projects which have been sanctioned already include Eldfisk North and Halten East by ConocoPhillips and Equinor, respectively. And we expect many more to be sanctioned during the second half of this year.

So, in summary, this will provide a solid activity level and longer term predictability for Aker Solutions and the greater supplier industry for several years moving forward.

Now to sum up. Again, I’m pleased that we delivered another quarter with increased top and bottom lines and that we remain on track with our financial targets. Looking ahead, Aker Solutions is well-positioned and the outlook is positive. We see signs of multiple years of spending growth from our customers across areas where we can contribute with our solutions and expertise. We will also continue to monitor the supply chain situation proactively as we move forward and we will be selective in our tendering.

Overall, Aker Solutions will play an important part in both the ongoing near-term recovery and for the longer term structural changes in the energy markets. The energy transition is a massive undertaking. It will require new ways of working with authorities across industries and in partnerships to succeed.

And in closing, I would like to add some more comments about the renewables industry. As you know, this is still a young industry with certain first of client projects. And we experienced that the current framework the industry operates under are not sustainable for the longer term. We see a clear need for change.

Authorities have a key role to play in order to develop a framework that increases predictability and secures a sustainable future for the industry. This includes the way authorities, operators and suppliers work together related to risk reward balance as well as terms and conditions. And there’s also a clear need for more long-term thinking to enable industrialization of the renewables industry, with a strong focus on standardization and digitalization.

In sum, this means we are refocusing our strategy within renewables. It means that going forward we will focus on customers who see the value of working in long-term partnerships with aligned incentives and sustainable risk reward balance in order to achieve the best outcomes for all parties.

And with that, I will hand it over to Idar, who will take you through the numbers in more detail. Thank you.

Idar Eikrem

Thank you, Kjetel. I will now take you through the key financial highlights of the second quarter, our segment performance and run through our financial guidance. As always, all numbers mentioned are in Norwegian kroner.

So, let me start with the income statement. The second quarter revenue was NOK 10.6 billion, up from NOK 7 billion a year ago. This was driven by both the Subsea segment and the Renewables and Field Development segment, as we continue to progress on our project portfolio.

The underlying EBITDA was NOK 691 million, up from NOK 392 million a year ago, and the margin increased to 6.5%. This was supported by a continued good performance in Subsea and EMM. The Renewable and Field Development segment included a loss provision on our renewable project in the period, which I will come back to shortly. This was partly offset by solid performance in field development projects.

The underlying EBIT was NOK 418 million, up from NOK 126 million a year ago. And the net income, excluding special items, increased to NOK 231 million from NOK 66 million a year ago, and earnings per share increased to NOK 0.46.

Now moving to balance sheet and cash flow. We ended the quarter with a working capital of minus NOK 2.3 billion. Cash flow from operating activities was minus NOK 28 million in the quarter and the cash flow from EBITDA in the period was offset by working capital movements of approximately NOK 500 million.

Our cash flow from investing activity was minus NOK 44 million in the quarter. The net cash position remains strong at NOK 3.1 billion, with a leverage ratio of minus 1.8 times. Our total liquidity buffer was NOK 10 billion where NOK 5 billion was cash.

Now over to the segments. For Renewables and Field Development, the second quarter revenue increased to NOK 4 billion, up from NOK 2.7 billion last year. The underlying EBITDA was NOK 76 million with a margin of 1.9%. The weaker margin in the quarter mainly reflects a loss provision on a renewable project. This was related to design developments, increasing the overall weight and impacting costs negatively.

In addition, since we were selected for this project last year, the price of raw materials, in particular, steel has seen an unprecedented increase impacted by the war in Ukraine. It has, unfortunately, so far, not been possible to get compensated from the customer for this cost inflation. The periodic effect from this project was, however, partly offset by solid performance for the field development projects in the period.

The order intake was NOK 6 billion or 1.5 times book-to-bill. This was mainly driven by significant growth across existing contracts. This included the Johan Castberg project as well as an undisclosed contract.

The tendering activity is high, and we continue to expect several large projects to be sanctioned in the second half of this year. The revenue in this segment is expected to increase by around 30% in 2022 as we continue to increase progress on our projects.

For the EMM segment, the second quarter revenue was NOK 3.2 billion. This was up from NOK 2.4 billion a year ago, driven by continued good progress on ongoing work. The underlying EBITDA was NOK 189 million with a margin of 6%, up from 5.3% a year earlier. The order intake was solid at NOK 3.9 billion or 1.2 times book-to-bill. This was mainly driven by a multi-year extension of our long-term frame agreement with ConocoPhillips.

The backlog remained strong at NOK 20.6 billion, which is about two times the annual revenue we delivered in this segment last year. The revenue in EMM is expected to increase about 17% in 2022, in line with current activity levels.

In the Subsea segment, the second quarter revenue was NOK 3.4 billion. This was up from NOK 2 billion a year ago, driven by increased activity level. The underlying EBITDA was strong at NOK 525 million, with a margin of 15.5%. This was driven by continued solid performance on ongoing projects and also supported by positive effect from our portfolio approach and strong focus on standardization. We now expect margins around 15% in Subsea for 2022.

The order intake was NOK 3.7 billion or 1.1 times book-to-bill. The tendering activity remains high, and we continue to expect several large projects to be sanctioned during the second half of this year, in particular on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. And our backlog remains strong at NOK 16.7 billion. The revenue in Subsea is expected to increase by around 35% in 2022, as we continue to progress on recently awarded work.

Now over to order intake and backlog. In the second quarter, we delivered an order intake of NOK 13.6 billion or 1.3 times book-to-bill. Our backlog is currently NOK 53 billion and provides a solid foundation moving forward.

As Kjetel mentioned, when it comes to our secured backlog, we are already doing FEED work for several projects that are expected to be sanctioned later this year. These are today only reflected as smaller FEED projects in our secured backlog. But it is important to remember that these projects are expected to become multibillion Norwegian kroner project when they are sanctioned. This means that we expect our secured backlog for 2023 and onwards to be significantly increased later this year when these FEEDs are converted to full projects.

Now to sum up. The second quarter results demonstrate that we continue on track with our targets for revenue growth and cash generation and we have a strong financial position. Based on our ongoing project and secured backlog, we now expect to see full year revenue up by around 30% in 2022. And we continue to expect our EBITDA margin to be up in 2022. The outlook for project sanction is very positive, and Aker Solutions is in a good position to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

Thank you for listening. We will now open up for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

A – Marianne Hagen

Thank you, Idar. Thank you, Kjetel. We have a question from Jorgen Lande, Danske Bank. He says good morning. On the loss provisions related to the renewables project, can you provide some more details related to the loss provisions? And was this project completed in the quarter? Thank you.

Idar Eikrem

Yeah. Thank you for the question. This I would describe as a special case. It’s related to a project where we were selected last year, and project was called off by end of the second quarter this year. So, it’s a special case.

And we have had, as I mentioned in the presentation, some design developments that have created rate increases, et cetera. But we are also hit by the Ukraine war and the cost inflation that comes as a result of that. We cannot sort of go out with exact details on this at this time, but we will continue our commercial dialogue with the client in order to get compensated for the cost increase. Just like to add that this is a special case, meaning also that we don’t have any similar project in our portfolio with that type of effect.

Marianne Hagen

And with that last reply, you almost answered the next question, which is from Haakon Amundsen. He says good morning. Are there other projects in your backlog with similar terms and conditions as the one you have taken a loss provision on in second quarter?

Idar Eikrem

Second repeat, this is a special case. And in our portfolio, there are no similar type of project with similar effects.

Marianne Hagen

He has two more questions, and he asks can you disclose the total value of this project? And can you describe the impact on your earnings and competitiveness from the FX movements?

Idar Eikrem

As I mentioned, we are in a commercial dialogue on the project. So, we would not like to disclose at this point in time at least the size of the loss, but we will come back to that at a later point in time.

Marianne Hagen

Next question is from James Thompson. He asks your comments on the need for change in the renewables industry. What has happened in the second quarter that prompted this statement? Is this Norway specific, or do you see more of a global need for change? Does this need for change impact on your ambitions to grow renewables as a percentage of your order book revenue?

Kjetel Digre

Yeah. Thank you for that question. It’s a large question. In my mind it’s not related to Q2 and what Idar described as one special case in one special project. This is us really being a key part of the energy transition that is both exciting, but it’s also a massive undertaking. And as we’ve described too, we are already a key part in many of the projects, which this will be part of.

And then secondly, we know that several of our customers see the value of our experience from oil and gas, and then through selective tendering, we want to be part in projects with customers that see this, and we are able to handle this according to our strategy.

And that again means that we will look for sound margins. We will work integrated in partnership and alliances where the understanding around risk and rewards are shared and balanced. And we also need continuity and a clear line of sight so that we can develop this industry together and mature it as an ecosystem.

On that, we both need to secure the healthy margins as a starting point, but then also ensure that the industry have capacity to invest in people, invest in competence, technology development and our assets.

Marianne Hagen

Next question is from Martin Karlsen. He says, in light of the change in strategy within renewables, could you elaborate on the contract structure for your HVDC projects with respect to inflation protection and efforts you take to mitigate risk under the EPCI contract format. Also, how large share of your expected procurement on these HVDC projects is already secured?

Idar Eikrem

Yeah. As again, the project that we talked about is a special case. And as Kjetel mentioned we would like to sort of make sure that we, going forward, team up with the customers that has the right sort of attitude when it comes to risk rewards. And we see that in other project in our portfolio, we are working together with customers that have that attitude and also that, that is reflected in the ongoing discussion with potential contracts that we are going to enter into the future.

Kjetel Digre

There we — on all projects, we work proactively in the supply chain, understanding both what the project and the task is all about and then turn around. And through long-term agreements and partners in the supply chain by locking in with the agreements at point of sanctioning and also then to agree on the right kind of escalation mechanisms with the clients.

Idar Eikrem

Yeah. And I can just add to that one. Of course, after the Ukraine war and the cost inflation, there is sort of less visibility and our suppliers are not able to sort of provide, let’s say, locked-in prices for a long period of time and that’s why we are in dialogue with our customers and make sure that we update the prices before we commit to the full scope. And that is the way we do it. And in other discussions, of course, is to push the sort of risk on those type of element over to the end customer, and we are doing both of that.

Marianne Hagen

Next question from James Winchester. What was the reason you could increase your EBITDA margin guidance for Subsea?

Idar Eikrem

Subsea, as we have stated for a few quarters now, we are very pleased with the performance in Subsea. And I think the result that you see in Subsea, where we previously guided from a margin of 12% to 15%, and we delivered 15.5% in the quarter. And we are confident that we will be around 15% for the full year now. So, we have increased our guidance for the year. And this is a result of solid performance in all of our ongoing projects. But it’s also, I think, a result of many years of work together with the customers in order to develop standardized solutions and bundling of project to be able to deliver those to the client. And it’s a win/win situation for both ourselves through increased margin and to the client for standardization and solution faster to first oil.

Marianne Hagen

Thank you. Next question is from Nikhil Gupta, and he says, a tendering pipeline increased by more than 20% in second quarter. Can we please break down the increase in terms of inflation, new awards and activity increase in prior projects in pipeline?

Idar Eikrem

Yeah. It’s a combination of all of that, but we also see, as Kjetel mentioned, a lot is also due to increased scope and scope allocated to us in the current tendering portfolio. And, of course, it’s also cost inflation. And that’s why I said in many of these projects, we are in our FEED phase and when the FEED is completed, we will update the cost forecast for the EPC phase before we sign into any contract on the EPC phase.

Marianne Hagen

Last question is from Lukas Daul. Can you talk about your pricing strategy given the current supply chain issues? And how do you think your approach towards renewables will be received by your client? What is the feedback so far?

Idar Eikrem

Yeah. When it comes to the sort of pricing strategy, as I mentioned, these days, it’s more difficult to get sort of committed prices from our suppliers and the customers that we are in dialogue understand the situation and we are working together on this in order to safeguard those projects that we are in dialogue with. And that means that we are in some cases pushing the entire risk back to the end customer. In some other cases, we agreed to update the prices after the FEED is completed.

Marianne Hagen

Thank you. And this concludes our second quarter presentation.

Kjetel Digre

Perhaps I can just round this off. And just to repeat myself, I’m really pleased with our results in the quarter, the first half of 2022. And we are really entering an extremely exciting second half. And I’m confident that we will have all the right people on Board and will be successful in our selected opportunities and deliver both on our strategy, growth ambitions and our financial targets. So, have a nice summer, and thank you all.

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