Crown Holdings Inc (CCK) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

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Crown Holdings Inc (NYSE:CCK)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 10, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to the Crown Holdings Fourth Quarter 2020 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Thomas Kelly, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Sir, you may begin.

Thomas A. KellySenior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Kirby, and good morning. With me on today’s call is Tim Donahue, President and Chief Executive Officer. If you don’t already have the earnings release, it is available on our website at crowncourt.com. On this call, as in the earnings release, we will be making a number of forward-looking statements, actual results could vary materially from such statements. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to vary is contained in the press release and in our SEC filings, including in our Form 10-K for 2019 and subsequent filings.

Earnings for the quarter were $1.12 per share, compared to $0.64 in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted earnings per share increased to $1.50 in the quarter, compared to $1.04 in 2019. Net sales in the quarter were up 6% from the prior year, primarily due to increased beverage and food can volumes. Segment income improved to $397 million in the quarter, compared to $285 million in the prior year due to higher sales unit volumes.

As outlined in the release, we currently estimate first quarter 2021 adjusted earnings of between $1.35 and $1.40 per share and full-year adjusted earnings of between $6.60 and $6.80 per share. These estimates assume exchange rates remain at their current levels and a full year tax rate of between 24% and 25%. We currently estimate 2021 full-year adjusted free cash flow of approximately $500 million with approximately $850 million in capital spending. Dividends to non-controlling interests are expected to be approximately $100 million. We expect full-year 2021 adjusted EBITDA as defined in the release of approximately $2 billion, and year-end 2021 net leverage of approximately 3.5 times.

And with that, I’ll turn the call over to Tim.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Tom, and good morning to everyone. Our continued best wishes for the health and safety to all of you and your families. Before the reviewing the operating performance for the fourth quarter and the full year 2020, we want to again express our appreciation to our global associates for their continued efforts during the pandemic. Your efforts to meet the unprecedented demand from our customers in a safe and timely manner has been exceptional and we thank each of you. And we ask you to please remain vigilant in your adherence to recommended behaviors to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.

As described in last night’s earnings release, 2020 was an outstanding year for the company. Record performances and segment income, EBITDA, cash from operations, and earnings per share were achieved in 2020, and 2021 will be even better. At the same time, the company continues to invest for future growth with more than 15 billion units of annualized beverage can capacity. Having been commercialized, we’re announced for commercial start-up from 2020 through the end of 2022. The major projects are detailed in last night’s earnings release, so we won’t repeat them here.

In Americas Beverage, demand continues to outweigh supply and we have eight production lines, including three new plants currently in various stages of construction to bring more supply to these markets. In North America, unit volumes advanced 11% in the fourth quarter and 15% for the year, with our only limitation on further growth being available capacity. In Brazil, units were up 8% for the year with our fourth-quarter sales output being limited by capacity. For 2021, we expect the segment to post significant income gains against 2020.

Unit volumes in European Beverage advanced 10% in the fourth quarter, with strong volumes noted in Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, and the UK. Income was notably improved over the prior year fourth quarter on the back of the improved volumes, as well as continuing contributions from new facilities in Italy and Spain, as well as full production on the now converted aluminum lines in Seville, Spain. For 2021, we expect further growth in the segment’s income.

Sales unit volumes in European food increased 4% in the fourth quarter and 7% for the full year, as the business benefited from more normal harvest conditions in 2020 compared to weather-related weak harvests in 2019 and 2018. Additionally, production levels in the 2020 fourth quarter were more normal than in the prior year as the natural pull from the 2020 harvest reduced inventories accordingly. For the year, income in the segment advanced $23 million over 2019, despite the negative impact of the 2019 tinplate carryover into the first quarter.

For 2021, we expect our European Food business to improve segment income by $50 million over 2020, with roughly half of that improvement being realized in the first quarter. Sales unit volumes in Asia Pacific declined by 1% in the fourth quarter and 4% for the year. While demand trajectory is improving, the region is still feeling the impact of virus-related shutdowns and movement control orders across most countries. We expect our Asia Pacific segment to achieve modest income improvement in 2021. And we, like many of you are monitoring the situation in Myanmar, which appears to have worsened over the last several days. The company has a 70% ownership in a joint venture, which operates a one-line beverage can plant in Myanmar with annual revenues approximating $35 million.

Results in Transit Packaging improved as better mix and continuing cost efforts offset weaker industrial demand in the fourth quarter. Despite the impact of the pandemic, the business again generated an outsized portion to the company’s overall free cash flow. With general industrial conditions improving, demand for Transit products and services is currently strong. First-quarter income performance in the segment may lag the prior year, but for the full year, we expect income to improve by approximately $50 million over 2020 with a big chunk of that improvement being realized against an easy comp in the second quarter with further gains in the back half of the year. Fourth-quarter income in the non-reportables businesses benefited from strong North American food volumes and a strong performance in our beverage can equipment-making business.

The Board-led portfolio review is ongoing. With regard to the portfolio review, we are currently marketing our European tinplate businesses, that is food cans, food closures, aerosol cans, and promotional containers for sale. We are in the second phase, if you will, where buyers have already received detailed management presentations and are performing their due diligence on the businesses.

Unfortunately, there has been much misinformation in the market concerning the business, including an article in the Spanish press, so replete with inaccuracies, it does not warrant comment. To clarify any misunderstanding of the business that you may have, we disclose the following. The business for sale had stand-alone 2020 EBITDA of $250 million with 2021 projected stand-alone EBITDA of approximately $300 million. As noted earlier, roughly half of that $50 million income growth will be realized by the end of the first quarter. The business performed well in 2020 and the acceleration and performance will continue into 2021. While food cans comprised 85% plus of the business for sale, it shares common coil cutting, coding and printing activities with the other products.

The food harvest in 2018 and 2019 were lower than prior years, owing to very hot and dry weather across the European continent. 2020 not only saw a return to more normal harvest conditions, but also a clear consumer shift toward rigid metal packaging for food products. While some of this was due to the various lockdowns across Europe related to the pandemic, we and our customers share a common optimism in maintaining this consumer level in the future. Consumers have discovered once again the economic and nutritional benefits of canned food as well as now having a greater appreciation for the food cans’ unmatched sustainability and recyclability features. Our food division is the clear leader in the market and sets the standard for excellence in quality, service and innovation and I believe our food management team is the best in their industry.

In recent years we have invested for capacity expansion, innovation, cost reduction and upgrades to property, plant and equipment, including but not limited to new production lines, additional can and print capacity, auto packaging and light weighting, just to name a few. Cost reduction so focused on projects designed to take out overhead and fixed costs. Our European Food business enjoys a diverse business mix service — servicing various food in geographic markets and we possess an unrivaled customer portfolio with both large international companies and very strong regional leaders, having a good mix of long-term and short-term agreements. These partnerships allow us to develop strategic growth initiatives and achieve common objectives with our customers. As previously discussed, the business is currently being marketed for sale, although we caution there can be no assurance as to the timing, price realized or certainty of such a sale.

So in summary, a very busy and productive 2020. Numerous projects were completed and several others started to expand global beverage can capacity. Importantly, we continue to convert our growth into expanded earnings and cash flow. The company had its best year ever in 2020 and we expect 2021 will be significantly better than that. With leverage expected to be at or below 3.5 times by the end of 2021, we expect to begin returning significant cash to shareholders this year. The company has never been stronger and our outlook never more positive, truly a very exciting time to be at Crown. And just before we open the call to questions, we ask that you limit yourselves to two questions initially so that everyone will have a chance to ask their question. You’re always free to jump back into the queue.

And with that, Kirby, we are now ready to take questions. Thank you.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you, sir. [Operator Instructions] Our first question would come from the line of Mike Leithead of Barclays. Your line is open. You may begin.

Michael LeitheadBarclays — Analyst

Hey. Thanks, guys and good morning.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Thomas A. KellySenior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Mike.

Michael LeitheadBarclays — Analyst

I guess, first, Tim, I want to start with the portfolio review. Your team and the Board’s obviously been working on this for a little over a year. Can you maybe just flesh out what your team has learned going through this process? Kind of how you came to the decision to market to EU [Indecipherable] European tinplate business versus some of the other non-beverage can businesses. Just any color on the process would be helpful.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I — in the prepared remarks I tried to clarify any misunderstanding that a variety of people have or has published with regards to the business. The business is a franchise business for us. If somebody does indeed buy the business, it will be a franchise business for them. And I think it’s pretty obvious, the performance of the business is improving. It’s always easier to sell an improving business that’s one — than one that’s going sideways or dealing with other market conditions. And this business has an exceptional management team, such that if you wanted to own a franchise business, you can own this business, plug it right in and have a management team that understands how to run it, while the new owner learns more about European food cans.

Michael LeitheadBarclays — Analyst

Got it. And then maybe just a follow-up question on capital deployment. Can you just help us with how you’re thinking about the priorities of excess cash flow of the next couple years? Should we expect elevated levels of growth spending beyond ’21? And after the $100 million or so for the dividend, should we kind of think of buybacks sort of the flywheel for excess cash as your leverage is pretty normalized at this point? Thanks.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So I think if you take the leverage number that Tom provided earlier, 3.5 times against $2 billion of expected EBITDA that gives you $7 billion of net debt, which is right around where we ended 2020. So that would imply that — after dividends are paid, that all cash flow that we generate will be utilized at some point during 2021 to repurchase shares. And I think as our — as EBITDA improves in the future and we continue to generate cash flow the leverage will naturally decline, but we can use all the cash flow for dividends and/or share buybacks. As it relates to capital, $850 million is a big number, but it’s a number that we feel comfortable spending. We think we can deploy that in a responsible way, not only responsible into the market, but responsible in terms of our ability to convert that growth into earnings and cash. Little early to say what we expect for the number to be in 2020.

Michael LeitheadBarclays — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

You’re welcome. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Kyle White of Deutsche Bank. Your line is open. You may begin.

Kyle WhiteDeutsche Bank — Analyst

Hey, good morning. Hope everyone’s doing well. Wanted to focus on North America or United States. U.S. industry shipments were up 6% in 2020 and you mentioned actual growth was higher due to imported cans. Do you have a sense as to what the true underlying demand for beverage cans in the U.S. was in 2020 and how many cans the industry was short? And then also, when do you expect the industry to get to a situation where the domestic supply is adequate to meet the underlying demand?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

That’s a mouthful, but it’s a great question. I think our best estimate and we saw some numbers the other day, it appears as if about 8 billion cans were imported into the U.S. in 2020. So if you took, I think the industry came in at what $1.03, $1.04 domestically produced plus 8 billion, that’s $1.11, $1.12 and if you compare that against the 97 billion cans in 2019, that’s pretty significant growth. Do we think we’re going to grow at that clip every year, well, we’ll see, but the first thing the industry needs to do domestically is install enough capacity to cover the 8 billion cans that were imported, because those markets from which cans were imported will rebound in 2021 from their own local domestic demand and need to be supplied locally. So there’ll be less cans available to come into the U.S.

We brought on two lines in 2020, the third line in Nichols, the third line in Toronto. We have five other lines currently being in various stages of construction already in the United States and the other fellows in the in the industry are doing the same thing. So I think we’re going to continue to see a very strong demand in North America.

Kyle WhiteDeutsche Bank — Analyst

Got it. And then my next question, obviously a lot of brewers had to move draft production into a packaged format this year and we’ve also seen the rise of kind of e-commerce was drizzly. So just curious what you’re hearing from customers in terms of keeping their production in cans even as on-premise channels opened back up? Do you think there is a kind of a fundamental uptick in demand here from these customers or do you expect them all to go back into draft production once on-premise channels are open?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think you got a couple of things. As it relates to beer, for those people who still want to drink beer, if bars and restaurants open back up, you’re going to have people drinking draft beer. I do think there’s been a shift though for some prior beer drinkers into these spiked seltzers and it’s not just beer moving to spiked seltzers, if you were drinking a mixed drink, a gin and tonic or a vodka and soda, maybe you’ve gone to a spiked seltzer, and spiked seltzers are all in cans. So I think, yeah, to your — I mean your ultimate question is how much of the growth do you think we’ve had is related to the pandemic. And I think, if we were up 12% or 14% as an industry counting imports, maybe 2% or 3% of that was related to the pandemic. I think the rest of it is real growth is not only the marketers of these products, but also consumers recognize the sustainability benefits of the can, the great marketing features, the billboard print feature of the can versus other packages and the shifting tastes of consumers away from — perhaps some people away from draft beer and mixed drinks toward spiked seltzers.

Kyle WhiteDeutsche Bank — Analyst

Got it. Thank you. I’ll turn it over. Good luck in the year.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Arun Viswanathan of RBC Capital Markets. Your line is open, you may begin.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Great, thanks for taking my question. Congrats on a great 2020.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

And positive outlook for ’21 here. So I guess first question is just on the free cash flow and deleveraging. Do you feel that you accelerated that this year in 2020? Was there some working capital gains that you felt were little bit better than expected or was it production, and is that possible also in ’21? Just understanding the puts and takes on the $500 million of free cash flow guidance for the year.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think Arun, every year we start out — the businesses are somewhat conservative, I think when we start out, especially around working capital needs in the business and we always start the year and run through the quarters with higher projected working capital usage than we end the year. I don’t think we did anything special or exceptional at the end of the year. I think most of the excess free cash flow we had at the end of the year was due to the earnings being just much greater than we had forecasted. Although I will tell you at this point, we are forecasting a significant use of cash from building working capital for all the new beverage lines that we are putting in.

So we’ll see how that goes for the year. But I — you’re always free to look at things the way you want to look at things and do your own projections, but I would caution you against getting too far ahead of the numbers we’ve provided you already only because we’re — it’s early in the year and we like others are going to be bringing on substantial capacity and there is a natural one time working capital need to open up each plant and we’ve got a number of lines coming up globally in 2021.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Sure, thanks for that. And then I just still a bit of a follow-up, I guess an extension is, your European food can — you provided some nice color there, so, thanks for that. The performance has improved, you’re calling for $50 million growth in ’21 and I know that potentially it has been a beneficiary from COVID as well. And maybe there is some structural benefits that are lasting. I guess, I’m just curious as to what the benefits are of divestment at this point. Again, the leverage is already relatively low for the company. I think it is a relatively strong business that provides good free cash flow. So — and along with that, I’m just curious, are there particular other arrangements you’d consider like JVs or retaining an equity interest, maybe you can just elaborate on some of those thoughts.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, it’s a great question. So you’re right, we — for the last couple of years, everybody was concerned about our leverage, everybody but me. I know that we have — when you’re in a packaging business like ours you know you’re going to generate significant cash flow every year. You don’t get overly concerned about leverage, especially when it’s as cheap as it is today. And so we don’t have a leverage problem. I don’t think we ever did we certainly don’t have one now and moving toward three and a half by the end of 2021, demonstrates we don’t have a leverage problem.

I think — you know the thesis behind the portfolio review. The thesis is if we become a single line company with the one product line which one competitor seems to have a very high multiple, that our resulting multiple would trade up toward that. And if that offsets any dilution from selling any or all non-beverage can businesses. So I won’t say a whole lot more other than that we are, we are deeply into a process right now and we’ll see where the process takes us. I think we like food cans, we like the performance of food cans, we like our management team, a whole lot. The European Food business is entirely different than the North American Food business, it’s a much broader geographic and product business than you see in the United States. They pack higher quality foods in cans in Europe than they do in the U.S. It generates a substantial amount of cash flow and it’s a very stable business, notwithstanding some some poor harvests.

We didn’t have an exceptionally great harvest in 2020, but we had a more normal harvest and when we look at the $50 million of improvement we’re forecasting for 2021, roughly $20 million of that is the tinplate carryover and $15 million is currency. So we’re not asking you to believe a whole lot more than $15 million of organic growth in the business year-on-year and that’s going to come from 2% to 3% volume growth.

So I think all those things kind of support what you said, Arun, in terms of why would you want to sell the business. Now having said that, we’re in a process and our view, that Board’s view is depending on the offer we get, we’d be prepared to trade the business for an appropriate offer. If we don’t get an appropriate offer, we’re not going to trade the business. We’d be more than happy to run the business and have a business that generates this kind of cash, support the growth objectives we have in the other business.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. I’ll turn it over. Thank you.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of George Staphos of Bank of America. Your line is open, you may begin.

George StaphosBank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Hi, thank you. Hi guys, good morning, thanks for all the detail.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, George.

George StaphosBank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Congratulations on the progress. I wanted to go into, Tim, your comment on balancing the capacity expansion responsibly with market trends. And I pretty much know what you mean there, but if you could maybe give a bit more detail in terms of what that means for Crown over the next couple of years, and relate that to whether we are in a a heavier than normal or normal contract renewal period as we get into ’22 and ’23. Relatedly, did you give a global beverage can volume outlook or number for the fourth quarter? I don’t know that you provided that. And then, I had a follow up.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I didn’t George because Asia was down and it kind of — it will skew your comparison to others because the others don’t operate in Asia. I think what I gave you was Europe at 10% North America at 11%, Asia down 1% but I think if you take that globally, I think our fourth quarter was probably on the order of 3% to 4% because Asia drags it down.

George StaphosBank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Okay.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I don’t think we gave — I think our estimate for one is probably 10% or 11% growth, just because of all the capacity coming on. When I talk about responsibly Georgia, the first level of responsibility is to our own company. And it’s one thing to throw a lot of capital at a business and ask your people to do it, it’s another thing to make sure you’re asking your people from the top of the organization, you need to be responsible with what you’re asking your people to do.

And we’ve had a lot of experience building plants over the last 25 years. I think probably, nobody has built anywhere near the number of plants we’ve built globally. Our expansion has largely been from the construction of new plants as opposed to the acquisition of others businesses. So we have a skillset, a core competence within the company to design, engineer and build our own buildings, design, engineer and build our own production lines, start them up with our own people in an efficient manner and in a relatively short period of time and try to convert through the learning curve and get cash flow and earnings to convert as quickly as possible.

So we are focused on generating earnings and cash flow. Yeah, we want to grow the business and we want to have our fair share of the growth that’s available. I think we can do that. I think we look at ourselves in the North American marketplace, we’re probably about 24% of the market. I think we can modestly grow that 24%, but that doesn’t mean we need to be 25% or 28%, it means 24% or 24.5%. We’re trying to be responsible in the market and we’re trying to be responsible to ourselves.

George StaphosBank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Okay. I guess just — if you can comment, Is ’22, ’23 a more normal or heavier than normal renewal season? And then my second question is, just as we think about the strategic review, can you comment to the extent possible how your views of both Transit and European Food have evolved over time? My sense is, the businesses have probably improved in terms of your own outlook, maybe not, but I throw that out there. And what does that mean in terms of your expectations in terms of how this will ultimately conclude or things that you’re looking for? And should we expect that whatever you do receive from the strategic review, assuming you do a transaction, would that be largely applied to buyback? Thank you, guys, and good luck in the quarter.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, George. So I think your question with respect to 2022 and 2023 contract renewals, and if we just deal with the North American marketplace. I would say that there is nothing sizable that I’m aware of that comes due during 2022. There are a couple of very large contracts which come due at the end of ’23 for the entire industry. And I would expect that the customers and the suppliers will all determine how much they want to accelerate the renewal or delay that renewal, depending on where the suppliers and where the customers see the supply demand balance.

As it relates to the — our view of the business, I think we’re going to be up — as I said on the European Food business, the business is going to be up roughly $50 million year-on-year. And if you add that to the 2020 number George, you’re going to get to a number that’s probably the highest number we’ve ever had in our European Food business despite the euro being at about EUR1.20 versus, I think it was about a $1.35 when we bought Mivisa six years ago. So despite 12% currency headwind, the business is still going to be greater than it was six years ago, and that’s a testament to the amount of cost we’ve taken out of the business, the efficiency, the operation and the excellent management team.

On the transit side, we’ve had fairly anemic industrial conditions over the last 18 months, coupled with the pandemic, and I think if you look at what we expect our performance to be in 2021, the EBITDA is going to be somewhat close to the EBITDA we paid for the business. Notwithstanding the incredible amount of cash we’ve generated and taken out of the business over the last couple of years. So I would say that, on balance, very, very pleased with Food can performance and on — if you take a balanced view of Transit, yeah, it might be down $10 million or $20 million EBITDA versus what we — when we bought the business, but given what’s happening in the marketplace with industrial demand in the pandemic, really pleased with how the team has taken cost out to react to that and keep the business much more stable than perhaps many of you thought it would be based on their performance in the ’08, ’09 financial crisis.

George StaphosBank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Thank you very much.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, George.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from Salvator Tiano of Seaport Global. Your line is open. You may begin.

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

Yeah. Hi, guys.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Sal.

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

So, congratulations on another strong quarter. Firstly, I wanted to talk a little bit about the European Beverage, you had a very nice quarter. And I guess things are improving in the south. Firstly, if you can talk a little bit about what’s — what are you’re seeing as lock downs were implemented again in December, because I think that was an issue during the summer. And also, did you have a pretty nice operating income growth here? I know last quarter you seemed less excited about it, but is your view starting to change about the potential to grow volumes there more and adding more capacity in Spain, Italy, etc.?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So I think, it’s a good question. I’ve got to decide how much I really want to answer of that. But as I said in the prepared comments, there are reasons why European income performance was so much greater than the fourth quarter of last year. It really has to do with the depressed level in the fourth quarter of last year, owing mainly due to start-ups in Italy and Spain, and then — and also the fact that the big two line can plant in Seville was down for conversion from steel to aluminum. So that’s behind us. I think as we look forward, obviously, demand is intensifying across Europe. We believe we’re going to see some of the same trends in Europe over time with respect to spiked seltzers that we’ve seen in the North American marketplace, and that’ll put greater demand on cans.

We still have the issue of tourism, which is still negatively impacted by the pandemic. And while there — the lock-downs or the shutdowns are not as great as they were over the summer months, there still is a lack of tourism, especially across the southern countries, Spain, Italy, Greece. Hopefully depending on the vaccine rollouts, we’ll see some greater movement in tourism as we get into the tourism season next summer. But I think as we look forward, clearly, we’re adding a lot of capacity in North America, a lot of capacity in Brazil where we’re adding capacity in Southeast Asia, there’ll come a time when we’re prepared to add capacity in Europe, yes.

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

Okay, makes sense. And by the way, I think, at least in Greece vaccination start going better than most people would expect. So, at least, that’s a good thing. Now a little bit again on Europe, I think in other markets, Western, northern countries, the U.K., Germany, demand is growing very solidly. I wonder, can this affects demand for your — the countries in which you operate, could you export in those regions? Is there a potential to essentially to have a spillover of that tightness into other countries?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we operate two large beverage can plants in the U.K., so we’re there already. We have a large modern two-line can plant in eastern France, so we can get to Germany pretty easily from there. We can also get to Germany from a two-line can plant in Slovakia. So while we’re not in the German market, we have the ability to get there. So yeah, we’re going to participate in that growth. I would tell you that, currently our growth is limited by our capacity. So to your earlier question, we — we’ll continue to evaluate when it’s appropriate for us to add more capacity in the European business.

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

Thank you very much.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. The next question would come from the line of Neel Kumar of Morgan Stanley. Your line is open, you may begin.

Neel KumarMorgan Stanley — Analyst

Great, thank you. In terms of your 2021 guidance, can you just give us a sense of what kind of volume growth you’re assuming by region? And then in terms of start-up cost, do you expect that to be a significant headwind year-over-year? I mean is there any particular quarter where start-up costs will be heavier or should it be generally consistent throughout the year?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, somewhere I have growth for ’21 by region, let’s see if I got it here. So I think, I said, it will be up 10% or 11% overall. It’s probably about 10% in the Americas, probably 7% in Europe, maybe about 12% or 13% in Asia. I would describe the European numbers and the Americas numbers as capacity constrained. They could be greater if we had more capacity, but we’re bringing on what we’re bringing on. And Asia will be largely a recovery of a down year in 2020 and a resumption of the growth profile we’ve seen for the last decade at least. So pretty — 10% — for a boring can industry, 10% is pretty good. I’m sorry, Neel, what was the second question?

Neel KumarMorgan Stanley — Analyst

It’s around start-up cost, you said that it could be heavier year-over-year and…

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we have start-up costs every year. I think the — we bring on plants every year, we’ve been building plants for 20 plus years. We’ve — sometimes we bring on one or two plants a year, sometimes we bring on four to five. So there are start-up costs every year. The differential is obviously the rollover impact, how much more do you have this year or less than you had last year. I think we’ll have more in 2021, although the — it really comes down to how do you measure start-up cost and you can get real creative in assigning a number to that. But we’ll have start-up costs in 2021, but it’s embedded in the number we’ve given you.

Neel KumarMorgan Stanley — Analyst

Great, that’s very helpful. And then do you anticipate any meaningful headwinds from non-metal costs like freight, labor, and utilities in 2021? And with freight, in particular — I think in the past you’d mentioned, you were changing contracts to have prices more representative of actual freight cost rather than a basket, like the produce of price index. Could you just give it a sense of what percentage your contracts have this updated structure?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I would say most. I think the headwinds that everybody is going to feel in 2021, not just the can industry here, but it’s just a general tightening of commodities and upward price pressure on commodities, specific to freight. There is a container shortage across Asia right now, so getting containers timely is difficult and the price obviously is reflecting that and so you attempt to pass through those exceptional costs if and when you incur them. On steel, we’re going to see a general tightness in steel globally this year. I think the Chinese are using more steel. The container shortage, I mentioned earlier, to get steel out of Asia. And then during the pandemic, there were a number of mills that were idled. So the time it takes for those mills to come back on stream, if they actually do, but until then, steel will remain tight.

Neel KumarMorgan Stanley — Analyst

All right. Thank you.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Ghansham Panjabi of Baird. Your line is open, you may begin.

Ghansham PanjabiRobert W. Baird & Co. — Analyst

Hey, guys, good morning.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Ghansham.

Ghansham PanjabiRobert W. Baird & Co. — Analyst

Tim, so pre-pandemic, standard cans were sort of flat to down in North America and any growth the industry generated was really in specialty cans. Do you have a sense on how much of the 15 billion cans in terms of incremental growth for 2020 sort of year-over-year, including the imports, came from specialty versus standard? And would the standard can be the category that sees reversal post-pandemic? Maybe you can just tie it more broadly to some of the commercialization initiatives you see in the categories in North America, hard seltzers and whatever else.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

A hell of a question. So I think all sizes, Ghansham, were up tremendously in 2020. The customers were — we’re all trying to get the customers as many cans as we can regardless of where we get them from. So they’re taking as many cans as they can take regardless of the size. There are some customers who only market in the sleek or slim cans. But the big customers obviously market in all sizes and they still market primarily in 12-ounce standard cans. And what they did to try to get more product on the shelf, not only for us to make cans quicker, but also for them to fill cans quicker was, limit the number of SKUs that they were requiring from us and that they were putting into the marketplace.

So take beverage company A, they might have 200 SKUs over the summer. They probably cut it back to four or five to be quite honest with you. So I think that all sizes were up, but your comment that prior to the pandemic, just be a little careful, because prior to the pandemic was also prior to the — to this greater realization of sustainability and responsibility toward the environment and recyclability — superior recyclability of the can versus other products. So there is a kind of a combination of pandemic and sustainability-related factors here that are driving can usage up. I think that post the pandemic, we’re going to continue to see out-sized growth in beverage cans. Off a smaller base the specialty cans will have a bigger growth number, but I think standard cans will continue to grow as well.

Ghansham PanjabiRobert W. Baird & Co. — Analyst

Got it. And then in terms of just a competitive, yours is, obviously massively step function capex for 2021 to ramp up capacity up of already pretty high numbers. You have an $850 million number baked in for 2021. That’s well above your historical levels and you’ve already guided toward that previously. But curious as to what is sort of the internal limitation in terms of if you see opportunities being able to ramp up that number more significantly? I guess, the question is, is there a wide range around that number or is that just based on what you see in terms of constraints that’s $850 million is a pretty tight number at this point for this year?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Listen, $850 million is $850 million. It’s I know the number you’re referring to. I guess the number you’re referring to is a — it’s probably about 170% of our number that the other fellows talked about. If you just deal with the North American or Brazilian business, their business is significantly larger than ours. So I guess if you want to maintain your market share and you’re looking to satisfy the growth of customers in the marketplace, if you are 45% to 50% of the market, you need to spend a lot more than somebody who is only 24% of the market. That’s the way I would answer that.

Ghansham PanjabiRobert W. Baird & Co. — Analyst

Got it. Thank you.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Phil Ng of Jefferies. Your line is open, you may begin.

JohnJefferies — Analyst

Good morning, Tim. Good morning, Tom. This is actually John Donegan [Phonetic] on for Phil. How are you doing?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, John.

Thomas A. KellySenior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, John.

JohnJefferies — Analyst

Congrats on the good print. I first wanted to touch on transit. Transit in 4Q with the first quarter in 2020 that was up year-over-year, looks like a lot of that was based on some of the cost reductions that you called out with margins improving. How much of that is sticky going into next year? And as your forecast calls were significant upside for the business in 2021, is that based more on a reopening or those cost initiatives kind of continuing through next year?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think it’s both. Although you’re right as we recover, most notably, the recovery you’ll see in Q2, because Q2 was the first, if you want to call, the COVID quarter. It was the first COVID quarter we had and it was the one was impacted the most. But there’ll be — there’ll still be further cost savings there. Structurally, we’ve taken a lot of costs out of the business as it relates to administrative overheads. So I think it was a — when we bought the business we understood it was a pretty fat business up top and it didn’t need to be that fat up top to service its customer base.

JohnJefferies — Analyst

Okay. And just in regards with the capacity expansions, I think with maybe the exception of the greenfield in Vietnam we had most of those capacity expansions already known. But we’re a little light maybe in our estimates on the 15 billion, so kind of coming in a bit short of that. Would you be able to walk us through maybe the line capacity of each of those facilities to kind of get to that 15 billion? And then just thinking about 2022, you have that Henry County, Virginia greenfield coming up. It seems like your capex might still be pretty elevated in that $850 million range going into 2022 with that. Is that accurate or how should we maybe thinking about that working capital in kind of the out years?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

So I think, since the beginning of 2020, we’re bringing on four lines in Brazil. That’s probably about 5 billion cans. You’ve got the four lines in the two new plants in the United States, Bowling Green & and Martinsville, that’s probably another 5 billion cans. Between the third lines in Olympia, Nichols and Toronto that’s three lines there. That’s another 2.5 billion to 3 billion cans. You’ve got Vietnam, you’ve got Thailand. So you add it up, you get the 15 billion pretty quickly. So your second part of your question.

JohnJefferies — Analyst

Was just the capex going into 2022 given the additional North America greenfields that you’re starting up in that year.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I, John, I think it’s a little early to talk about capex for 2022, but I — it’s just too early.

JohnJefferies — Analyst

Okay. Thanks for the color.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Gabe Hajde of Wells Fargo Securities. Your line is open. You may begin.

Gabe HajdeWells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Tim, Tom, congratulations on the year.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Gabe.

Gabe HajdeWells Fargo Securities — Analyst

And I hope you guys all well. I’m — Tim, you were the first to kind of be a little bit, let’s say, cautiously optimistic about if this was a new trend and I think we’re detecting that it is. But taking a little different angle to what’s driving growth, including individualized packaging and consumers’ affinity for convenience. So I’m specifically thinking about premixed cocktails which enables these brand owners to sell a $25 bottle back up for $50 in 20 premixed cans. So I would think that this is in very early stages, and even in 2020, all of these product launches were in fact delayed. So any kind of color you can provide there in terms of just directional discussions or where you’re seeing growth. And then separately on the carbonated soft drink side, there is one brand owner that I would say, is pretty far down the path in terms of customer segmentation with specialty cans. Do you envision this as an opportunity for Crown going forward?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think on this — your second question, the answer is, obviously, yes. On your first question, you’re right. To the extent that marketers of premixed alcoholic or cocktails they would have had desires to get to the market. It would have been very difficult in 2020 just given the tightness in can supply. That will open up as we go forward. And so I think there’s an opportunity there, yes. I won’t say anything beyond that.

Gabe HajdeWells Fargo Securities — Analyst

All right. And I’m detecting a little bit more of a constructive tone in your voice, maybe it’s misconstrued, for Europe. Has something changed in perhaps the past six months on the demand side that gives you a better outlook there? Or is it…

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

You’re talking beverage?

Gabe HajdeWells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Yes, on the beverage side sorry, commercially.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, if I wasn’t constructive before I apologize, I would say that I think there is a general tightening that we’re seeing and even with a year in which the pandemic had a much greater — had an impact in Europe, it had no impact in North America, unless it was positive. But it did have a negative impact, especially in the second quarter across Europe. We still had a very tight year. So I think we’re starting to see greater movement on the sustainability front in Europe toward cans. If North America was lagging on sustainability as it relates to cans versus every other packaging fronts — lagging Europe before they are way ahead of Europe now. So I think we’re starting to see the European market more fully embrace the can and we’re seeing tightness. More tightness than we would have seen a year ago.

Gabe HajdeWells Fargo Securities — Analyst

All right, thank you.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Mark Wilde of Bank of Montreal. Your line is open, you may begin.

Mark WildeBank of Montreal — Analyst

Thanks. Good morning Tom, good morning, Tim.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Morning, Mark.

Mark WildeBank of Montreal — Analyst

Wanted to just talk about the beverage can market and if we — we’re to see the market start to slow down, Tim, how quickly would you — could you respond kind of a shift in market growth? And what would be kind of the indicators you are looking at? Because it seemed like everybody got caught by the swing to the upside here. I think the tone kind of across the sector right now is quite bullish. But if we were to see a deceleration what would you be looking for? And then how quickly might you be able to react?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think it’s a good question. We’ve tried to talk about this in the past, nobody wanted to listen to us. So now you want to ask the question and thank you. I think that — we had including imports what 12% to 14% growth and 15% growth in North America in 2020. We’re not going to see that every year. So what does a deceleration mean? Does it mean we only grow 5% or 6%. Well, that’s still 6 billion or 7 billion units. That still requires seven can lines. Or by deceleration do you mean we start going backwards? I don’t think we’re going to go backwards for the next several years. I think we’re still going to see growth. The only question is, how much growth. Is it going to be 4%, 8% or 10%? And can the industry meet that demand growth? So I think for next two to three — at least for the next three years, we’re not going to be dealing with that.

Could we react to that? Sure. I think we’ve described to you, we’ve got a number of projects currently under construction. We would finish those projects, but we would certainly reevaluate the other projects where we haven’t started or announced yet, yes.

Mark WildeBank of Montreal — Analyst

Okay. And then just back on North American market, just briefly. Do you have any sense of sort of how much incremental volume the industry might have been able to sell, had the capacity of their imports been there? Because you see these articles about beverage companies complaining that they can’t get cans. You just mentioned the kind of the pre-mix cocktail guys being constrained to what they could do in 2020 by lack of supply. Just any general sense of that?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I don’t. It’s a — part of the problem is I think sometimes we’re all counting the same cans, right? So if we were up including imports I don’t know what, we have 14 billion cans. Could we have been up another 2 billion or 3 billion cans? Yeah, sure. Beyond that, I don’t know it’s just purely a guess.

Mark WildeBank of Montreal — Analyst

Yeah, OK. Thanks, Tim. Good luck in the quarter. And I appreciated the commentary about the review. I don’t think anybody on the call here today wants to see you do a bad deal just for the sake of doing a deal.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, your name today is Joe Strummer. So thank you. Hopefully you understand the reference.

Mark WildeBank of Montreal — Analyst

Yeah.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Mark.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Anthony Pettinari of Citi. Your line is open, you may begin.

Anthony PettinariCitigroup — Analyst

Good morning. Tim, Is it possible to give a kind of a broad overview of the regions that you’re importing cans from and to? And to the extent that that trails off either in ’21 or ’22, if you have a sort of a sense of when that sort of normalizes, should we think about that as moving the needle on margins with domestically sourced cans presumably generating higher margins?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

So we — in 2020 we imported a significant number of cans from Mexico and Brazil as those countries were initially shut down with the pandemic. Those cans will be — the availability of cans to come in from those markets in 2021 will be, I don’t want to say zero, but significantly less than it was last year. We are importing cans from one of the Middle Eastern countries, but the imports this year will be far less in the Crown system than they were in 2020.

And we have the Nichols and the Toronto line, the third lines of both of those plants are operating really well, efficiencies are really high. I think our cost per thousand in both of those plants is now lower than it was before we put the third lines in each of those plants. So that will replace much of that demand. And we expect to get the Olympia line up some time here in the first half of the year as well. So we’ll get Bowling Green going in the back half of the year.

So the imports are going to be a lot less in ’21 than they were in ’20 and — but we have capacity coming on to replace that. And then, yeah, you’re going to see some improvement, I think that’s baked into the estimate we’ve given you for 2021 already.

Anthony PettinariCitigroup — Analyst

Okay, that’s very helpful. And then just switching to Transit, is there any — is that business seems to be recovering? Are you seeing any notable trends in terms of mix? And I’m specifically thinking about customers may be picking up investments that they delayed during COVID. Anything that you’re seeing in January, February in terms of consumables versus equipment and tools versus protective solutions?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I would say that on the consumable side, strap and protective, we saw an acceleration of demand in the late fourth quarter early part of this year. Equipment is now — the orders for equipment and tools are picking up now, it will take us a little while to obviously build that, that’s why you didn’t see that come through in the fourth quarter, but I think we’ll start building that those — we’ll get some of that equipment out in Q2, Q3. So yeah, the answer is yes, we’re seeing an acceleration in demand.

Anthony PettinariCitigroup — Analyst

Okay, that’s helpful. I’ll turn it over.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question would come from the line of Adam Josephson of KeyBanc. Your line is open, you may begin.

Adam JosephsonKeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Tim, Tom, good morning. Congrats on a really good second half of the year. Tim, just on the portfolio review a two-part question, I understand the objective is to become a pure play beverage can company, obviously the pure play producer is trading at very high multiple. Why — first part of the question is why European template rather than Transit Packaging in that regard? And the second part of the question is, if you look at the pure play food can producer out there, their relative multiple is the lowest it’s been in a decade. You look at a pure play beverage can producer their relative multiple’s the highest it’s been in a decade. So are you at all concerned that you would be in effect selling low and buying high in that regard?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

You want us to sell beverage instead, Adam?

Adam JosephsonKeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

You tell me.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Listen, I think we described our food can business for you earlier, it is a business that recovered nicely in 2020. It’s a business that’s going to perform exceptionally well in 2021. It is a franchise business, it is a business that others should want to own, it’s a business they can plug in, it’s a business you don’t have to have any experience in food cans to own. You’re going to get a management team that’s second to none. So for that reason we believed it was more readily marketable, and more readily marketable and a fair price to trade than the other business, which is coming out of a weaker industrial backdrop and a pandemic — more impact from the pandemic.

Operator

Any follow-up questions, sir?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

I’m sorry?

Thomas A. KellySenior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Does Adam have a follow-up?

Adam JosephsonKeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Tim?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yes.

Adam JosephsonKeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Sorry, sorry. So just on the second part of it. So again the — given the cash flow characteristics that you’ve always talked about with respect to the food can businesses, given the list they’ve gotten from the pandemic, whatever that may be, and perhaps some of it’s sustainable rather than temporary. How much reservations do you have about parting with such a business?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, you know you’re — the beverage business is going to be really strong for the next, at least for the next three to four years. We know that. We can see that. Beyond that, you don’t know. But investors, at a much shorter time horizon than three or four years. So we’ll see where the world takes us. I — from the standpoint of putting together a portfolio of businesses and having within that portfolio stable businesses, which generate a lot of cash flow and don’t require a lot of capital to support the other businesses which do require capital from time to time, and generating cash to do other shareholder-friendly things, like buyback stock and/or pay dividends. Yeah, you always have reservations. But the Boards have undertaken this process and so our job as a management team is to see that through, one way or the other. We’ll determine whether or not we sell the business or we don’t sell the business depending on the offer to trade. Well, yeah you always have reservations. You got — you cross the street in the morning, Adam, you have a reservation, but you still cross the street.

Adam JosephsonKeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Got it. Thanks a lot, Tim

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. We do have another question from Salvator Tiano of Seaport Global. Your line is open, you may begin.

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

Yeah, hi. A couple of quick follow-ups. One is, in Europe Food, you talked about the number of difference of the U.S. I don’t know if — I don’t think I heard about a little bit on the pass-through mechanisms. Generally, in Europe, it seems things are only — have always a longer life. So can you comment on pass-throughs for European Food cans versus U.S. food cans? And the second one which also is tied a little bit to cans. You did the conversion of the food can line in Toronto earlier this — well, I guess last year. Do you see any other opportunities perhaps as the food can spike subsides in the next few years to convert more lines to beverage cans?

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, I — one of the things that can — the Toronto line, it really was not the food line converted into a beverage line. It was a brand new beverage line. What we converted was the space in the plant that was allocated toward food, toward beverage. But it was a brand new beverage line, it was not a conversion. And I do not see any further opportunity across the portfolio to convert food — a food line in to beverage. So on your first question, yeah, we have pass-through mechanisms across many of the contracts in Europe. The one big difference in the European business as opposed to the North American business. In the North American business, 90% plus of the contracts are multi-year, in Europe, I would say that 50% to 60% are multi-year and 40% to 50% are annual. So you’re naturally renegotiating all those terms on an annual basis.

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

Okay, got it. Thank you very much.

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

You’re welcome. So, Kirby, I think that was the last question. So I want to thank everybody for joining us today. That concludes the call and we’ll speak together with you in April to review the first-quarter results. Bye now.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 62 minutes

Call participants:

Thomas A. KellySenior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Timothy J. DonahuePresident and Chief Executive Officer

Michael LeitheadBarclays — Analyst

Kyle WhiteDeutsche Bank — Analyst

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

George StaphosBank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Salvator TianoSeaport Global Holdings, LLC. — Analyst

Neel KumarMorgan Stanley — Analyst

Ghansham PanjabiRobert W. Baird & Co. — Analyst

JohnJefferies — Analyst

Gabe HajdeWells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Mark WildeBank of Montreal — Analyst

Anthony PettinariCitigroup — Analyst

Adam JosephsonKeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

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