Fourth quarter earnings cap strong
WM positioned for continued success
HOUSTON – Throughout 2013, Waste Management focused on a number of strategic
priorities to grow the business, return value to employees and shareholders, and mitigate
the challenges facing the recycling industry. With solid earnings growth during the first
half of the year, the company continued that trend into the second half, seeing revenue
rise well above 2012 levels.
Perhaps most importantly, it put itself in a position to see an even better performance in
2014. Here are some of the Q4 and full-year highlights:
- Revenue rose $66 million in the fourth quarter and $334 million for the year
- Sales, general and administrative costs (SG&A) increased $20 million but improved
for the full-year by $4 million
- Operating costs increased $43 million for the quarter and $233 million for the year,
due largely to strategic acquisitions and labor expenses
- Free cash flow reached $175 million in Q4 and $1.32 billion in 2014 — a significant
improvement compared to 2012
- The company increased its quarterly dividend to shareholders
While the company did see solid revenue growth during the fourth quarter, it also saw a Q4 net
loss of $605 million. However, this was largely due to accruals, or estimates of future expenses.
Most of these accruals can be attributed to two things: employee compensation and incentive
pay, as well as unforeseen safety and risk management expenses. Without these accruals, the
company would have seen a net income of $263 million.
Despite the net loss in Q4, the company still met its financial targets for the full-year on growing
free cash flow, increasing yield, lowering SG&A costs and being more disciplined with capital
expenditures. With 2014 well underway, WM is anticipating another year of growth, with
preliminary results (January 2014) looking very promising.
The big turnaround story for 2013 was yield, which for the year rose to 2.4 percent in Q4 and 2.1
percent for the full-year. This is important, since internal revenue growth from yield — or the
percentage change of revenue related to pricing activities — is a crucial way for the company to
grow earnings and compensate for higher operating expenses and inflation. Last year, yield
dipped below one percent.
The other big turnaround for the year (compared to 2012) was free cash flow, which increased to
$1.32 billion in 2013. This is what allows the company to grow the business through acquisitions,
truck purchases, dividends and share repurchases. In 2012, free cash flow was $829 million,
signaling an improvement of nearly $500 million.
While the company continued to use its capital to grow, purchase equipment and invest in new and
emerging technologies, it did so more discriminately, lowering capital expenditures for the year by
approximately $240 million to $1.27 billion.
“We were happy with our performance this year on yield, cash flow and capital expenditures,” said Jim
Fish, chief financial officer for Waste Management. “This year, our expectations are to see more of
On the solid waste side of the business, the company performed very well in 2013, with strong margin
improvements for both collection and landfills. In addition, landfill volumes were positive for the year,
which is expected to continue into the future. For 2014, the company expects to grow earnings through
its traditional lines of business by maintaining a steady yield, controlling costs and continuing to deploy
its productivity initiatives, like Service Delivery Optimization.
Recycling continued to pose a challenge on financial results, negatively affecting earnings in the fourth
quarter by $0.04 per share. This year, WM is looking to improve its performance on recycling through
improved quality control measures and more stable commodity prices.
On the waste-to-energy side of the business, Waste Management basically stayed flat compared to 2012.
With natural gas and energy prices remaining low, the company is expecting a similar performance this year.
Last year was a good one for WM, and that’s expected to carry into 2014 with strong showings on yield, cost
controls, free cash flow and capital expenditures. According to Steiner, the company is already off to a good
start despite a severe winter affecting many operating areas.
“We expect 2014 to show solid earnings,” he said. “Last year — and in particular in the fourth quarter — we
were setting ourselves up for the year we’re about to have. I think we really have an opportunity to have a
breakthrough performance. Now we just need to focus on staying aligned and focusing on our goals.”
Speaking about the company’s 2013 performance on a conference call with investors, Fish had a message
for the WM workforce.
“I would be remised if I did not close by thanking all of our employees,” he said. “They made 2013 as
successful as it was and we appreciate their hard work.”