ELECTROLUX AB

ELUX B
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Transcript : AB Electrolux, Q3 2022 Earnings Call, Oct 28, 2022

28/10/2022 | 09:00

Presenter Speech
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Good morning, and welcome to Electrolux Third Quarter 2022 Results Presentation. My name is Jonas Samuelson. With me today, I have Therese Friberg, our CFO; and Sophie Arnius, our Head of Investor Relations. I'd like to mention that this session is recorded and will be available on our website as an on-demand version.

Let's look at our performance in the third quarter of 2022. We had slight organic growth in the quarter and an operating income at breakeven, excluding the onetime costs to exit the Russian market. The reduced earnings was due to a combination of weaker market environment and supply chain imbalances resulting in operational inefficiencies. The decrease was mainly driven by business area in North America that reported a significant loss.

Volumes declined mainly as a result of the lower market demand driven by high general inflation and low consumer sentiment, coupled with high retailer inventory levels. The supply chain constraints improved sequentially in the quarter but still impacted operations predominantly in terms of additional costs. We delivered mix improvements in the quarter, also in this weak market environment through successful product launches. This was across our business areas, though primarily in Latin America and Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Our strong price realization continued, and we offset the significant cost inflation, mainly in raw material and logistics. In general, promotions continued to normalize in the quarter, essentially getting back to pre-pandemic levels with seasonal promotions.

In addition, the high inventory levels at retailers increased promotion in certain product categories especially in North America and Latin America. In light of the weakening market environment, as previously communicated, we have this quarter initiated a group-wide cost reduction in North America turnaround program. The group-wide cost reduction element of the program will primarily focus on 3 areas. One area is to eliminate cost inefficiencies in our supply chain and production by adapting sales and production plans to what can be supplied in a stable manner and to rightsize the workforce in our factories.

Another area is to leverage the organizational changes, which took effect on July 1 this year. Through these changes, we have created stronger global organizations for operations, sales, administration, R&D and IT, which is also enabling efficiency gains.

Finally, we're optimizing in R&D and marketing investments. This includes leveraging recent global investment programs in R&D and prioritizing the highest ROI opportunities as well as centralizing marketing and brand building activities. In addition to these 3 areas mentioned, the North America turnaround requires additional measures to return to stability and then profitability. This, as the production transformation with the 2 new facilities in the Anderson and Springfield includes several new product platforms in combination with the particularly challenging supply chain conditions which have resulted in significantly elevated cost levels.

Specific for North America, key activities will be to stabilize and improve operational planning and to significantly improve cost efficiency in Anderson and Springfield to ensure cost competitiveness in these new production facilities. We remain highly confident in the consumer appeal of the new product ranges, which also the sales execution in the quarter, resulting in year-on-year market share gains proves.

The turnaround will be conducted under the leadership of Ricardo Cons, who has been appointed new Head of Business Area North America. Ricardo has led Business Area Latin America since 2017 and has a strong track record of navigating in a dynamic environment and improving margins.

The initiative program is for the full year 2023 expected to result in a positive year-over-year earnings contribution of SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion from a combination of cost efficiency and reduced investment in innovation and marketing. The activities implemented under the program will gradually contribute to earnings over the course of 2023 and into 2024. The full cost reduction from the program is estimated to be in excess of SEK 7 billion. The majority of the targeted savings will be realized in Business Area North America.

For the sake of clarity, the cost reduction from the program includes and replaces the previously communicated benefits from the SEK 8 billion global reengineering program. Program is expected to lead to a restructuring charge in the fourth quarter of '22 in the range of SEK 1.2 billion to SEK 1.5 billion, which will be reported as a nonrecurring item. More or less, the entire charge will have a cash impact throughout 2023, and 3,500 to 4,000 positions will be affected by the program.

If we go back to the third quarter, Therese will now walk us through the main drivers behind the change in operating income.

Presenter Speech
Therese Friberg (Executives)

We had strong organic contribution to earnings in the quarter. We continue to have very good price realization from our list price increases implemented during the year, whilst the promotional activity essentially normalized from a previously low level.

Our attractive product and brand offering generated a positive mix despite some remaining supply constraints on specific premium products. Volume declined significantly, mainly as a result of the large market decline in our main markets in the quarter.

Our investments in consumer experience innovation and marketing increased, mainly in product development and innovation that is harder to impact within a short time frame. Cost efficiency was very negative. The supply chain constraints resulted in considerably increased cost for logistics and components as well as large inefficiencies in production.

The higher cost was both inflation driven and due to use of express freight and spot buys of components. Price did offset the continued significant cost inflation, mainly in raw material that is included in external factors, and in logistics, that is part of cost efficiencies.

Worth mentioning is that we had a contribution from currency translation in the quarter where our method for calculating the currency translation is based on earnings last year and not this year.

Let's take a deeper look at our price and mix development. The EBIT margin accretion for the group from price and mix in the quarter was 14.3 percentage points. This was mainly from price as we continue to have a strong price execution across all regions, driven by the list price increases implemented both during this year and in 2021 to offset the significant cost inflation. Promotional activities is now essentially normalized, which we mainly see in North America and Latin America.

Mix also continued to improve in the quarter for the group. In Europe, mix was favorable, even though the lack of specific electronic components has still had a hampering factor. Our clear focus on our premium brands, Electrolux and AEG as well as on our high-mix products showed a positive mix also this quarter.

In North America, we continue to mix up based on the new product ranges. In Latin America, mix was positive, where the product launch is enabled by our reengineering program are well received by our consumers and significant growth in aftermarket sales also contributed to the mix improvement.

In Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, mix also increased, partly driven by successful product launches. An attractive product and brand offering is essential for our profitable growth, and Jonas will now give you some concrete examples of what we do.

Presenter Speech
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. So this year's IFA in Berlin in early September, several new product launches were announced. The most significant ones were our new 75-centimeter wide built-in fridge freezer and the new AEG laundry range. The new built-in refrigeration ranges are a result of our new product architecture investments in Susegana, Italy. The new products are extremely well received with a 4.8 out of 5 consumer star rating.

Technology innovations enable reduced food waste and increase capacity while significantly reducing energy consumption and energy costs as well as the carbon footprint. With regard to the new laundry range, we know that washing clothes too often and at too high temperatures can affect the color and fabric and have a negative impact on the planet. Despite this, we've learned that nearly 2/3 of European still wash at 40 degrees or higher.

This is why we in Europe now have launched a new range with a water savings team in function and programs which automatically adjust time, water and energy usage based on the load. The range has features such as ProSteam Technology, getting rid of odors in 25 minutes using 96% less water than a regular washing cycle, and the Power Clean program that cleans your clothes efficiently and remove stains at only 30 degrees.

The new range of tumble dryers has been developed to minimize energy use and uses 3D scan technology to identify humidity levels inside the items, ensuring that even layered garments are evenly dried. Also, I'd like to highlight an accessory and add-on filter for washing machines that catches up to 90% of microplastic fibers released by synthetic clothing. This new range provides us with a great platform to continue driving premiumness within laundry and to further strengthen the AEG brand position in Europe.

These were some examples of how we drive profitable growth.

Presenter Speech
Therese Friberg (Executives)

Operating cash flow for the third quarter amounted to negative SEK 1.5 billion. From a year-over-year perspective, the decline is mainly related to the lower EBIT, but also higher capital expenditure. We also paid the charge now in Q3 related to the tariff case in the beginning of the year for which we received the settlement payment in the second quarter, underlying the working capital levels stabilized during the quarter. Inventory remained at an elevated level, partly related to inflationary pressure, but in the quarter, primarily due to market demand deteriorating faster than anticipated, coupled with continued extended lead times and irregular supply that is generating a generally high component stock. Our main focus remains in optimizing the inventory level going forward. And to note here is that the exit from the Russia market in the quarter had a negative net cash impact of SEK 367 million that is reported separately in the cash flow statement below cash flow after investments.

Presenter Speech
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Let's now go into our business areas performance in Q3, starting with Europe. The European market declined significantly in Q3, resulting in lower sales volumes. This was partially offset by strong price realization and continued mix focus. We continue to launch new premium products at a high pace, as just described. The lower volumes was the main driver of the reduced EBIT, but strong price and cost management mitigated the effects of the market. We continue to experience high inflation and supply challenges in the quarter, even if the supply constraint sequentially improved.

The EBIT includes a nonrecurring effect of minus SEK 350 million from the exit from the Russian market.

Let's look at the European market. In the third quarter, overall market demand in Europe declined by 15%, excluding Russia. Since we have executed -- exited the Russian market, we will from now on present European market demand excluding Russia, and the graph is reflecting this as from Q1 2020. In the quarter, Western Europe declined by 15% and demand in Eastern Europe by 19%. Market demand is now also at a lower level than before the pandemic and declined by 8% compared to the third quarter of 2019.

Consumer confidence levels were low with consumer demand being negatively impacted by the higher general inflation, increased interest rates and geopolitical tensions. This trend accelerated sequentially. In addition, high inventory levels at retailers amplified the decline in market demand. There are some signs of consumers mixing down, mostly in the lower price point though, which increases the polarization in the market.

Let's continue with business area in North America, which reported a substantial EBIT loss with slight organic sales growth. The loss was the result of significantly elevated cost levels due to supply chain imbalances in combination with a weaker market environment. To be more specific, the challenges related to significant supply chain congestions and costs, high production inefficiencies and planning and ramp-up instability, altogether caused very high cost inefficiencies and unstable output.

Despite this, market share increased in core appliances year-over-year, even though volumes declined due to the weak market. The strategic decision to move away from certain sourced product categories with low profitability contributed to the lower sales volumes. Mix developed favorably, confirming the consumer appeal of our new product ranges. The price offset the significant cost inflation, mainly in material and logistics.

As previously mentioned, turnaround measures aiming at taking North America back to stability and profitability were initiated in the quarter under the leadership of Ricardo Cons. Looking at the U.S. market, industry shipments of core appliances in the U.S. decreased by 9%, but still increased slightly compared to the third quarter of 2019 by 1%. High general inflation and increased interest rates impacted consumer sentiment negatively. The drop in consumer demand was amplified by high inventory levels at retailers. Market demand for all major appliances, including microwave ovens and home comfort products decreased by 13% year-over-year. We have not yet seen a clear shift in demand towards lower price points but expect to see a shift towards mid or value price points based on the economic outlook.

Let's move on to Latin America. Consumer demand dropped substantially in Brazil and Chile, while increasing in Argentina. Electrolux continued the strong price execution, supported by a high number of successful launches in laundry and food preparation. Aftermarket sales continue to grow, partially compensating for lower market demand. EBIT increased despite the challenging market conditions, driven mainly by the strong price and effective cost controls.

Finally, turning to Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Market demand remained solid in key markets which in combination with improved product availability, led to improved volumes. Mix continued to develop favorably, driven by product launches, also supporting solid price execution. The strong profitability was driven by solid top line in combination with efficient cost control. Price almost offset significant cost inflation, including currency headwinds in the quarter.

Further list price increases were implemented in the quarter.

So let's turn to our market outlook. The market environment has since 2020, been highly volatile and it continues to rapidly change. Inflation is soaring to historically high levels, increased interest rates and supply constraints exacerbated by uncertainty regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine result in limited visibility.

We maintain our regional market demand outlook for the 2022 full year.

In the first half of the year, global supply chain constraints impacted the industry's ability to fully meet underlying demand. In the third quarter, the slowdown in consumer demand was the main constraint for our industry shipments, while the global supply chain situation improved. This was in line with our expectations, and we anticipate this to also be the case in the fourth quarter.

Let's look at our 2022 full year volume demand view year-over-year for the specific regions. In Europe, we expect market shipments to be negative. High general inflation, rising interest rates and Russian invasion of Ukraine have resulted in a sharp drop in consumer confidence and hence also in consumer demand. Replacement is, to some extent, mitigating this demand decline.

In North America, market shipments are estimated to be negative for the full year compared to 2021, but above pre-pandemic levels. The year-over-year decline is mainly driven by a slowdown in consumer demand as soaring general inflation and rising interest rates negatively impact consumer sentiment.

Lately, we've seen a slowdown in new home starts and expect that to continue into 2023. However, on the positive side, we expect support from existing home remodeling as home owners are expected to remain in their homes and utilize equity to drive home improvement and kitchen remodeling.

In Latin America, we expect consumer demand for 2022 to be negative, driven by Brazil and Chile. In both Brazil and Chile, higher general inflation and increased nominal interest rates combined with reduction of government aids and uncertainty on the political situation contributes to the negative demand view. In Argentina, consumer demand growth is expected to continue in 2022, but we have to bear in mind that it is from a weak baseline from several years that is starting to catch up.

And finally, we estimate market demand in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region to be positive for the full year 2022, mainly driven by our 2 largest markets, Southeast Asia and Australia. In general, underlying consumer demand has been solid across most markets in the region so far even if we have seen some signs of slowing growth lately.

The uncertainty going forward is mainly around potential pandemic restrictions and impact from higher general inflation on consumer demand.

Looking at the full year 2023, we estimate industry shipments of core appliances to be negative in Europe and in North America. This has consumer sentiment also next year is assessed to be negatively impacted by inflation and higher interest rates. A complete market outlook for full year 2023 will be provided in the '22 year-end report.

Let's look at our business outlook. In 2021, the combined contribution from volume, price and mix to operating income was nearly SEK 9 billion. We expect this organic year-over-year contribution to be even higher in 2022, mainly driven by price increases that already have been implemented. Through strong price execution, we have in the first 9 months of the year offset significant cost inflation, primarily in raw material and logistics.

We remain confident to do so also for the full year as we have done for the past 4 years.

In an inflationary environment, price increases are more accepted in the market. This, combined with an attractive product range makes us well positioned to continue to be successful in raising prices if needed.

If we shift focus on price to the other 2 levers, with inorganic contribution, we expect the combined contribution from volume and mix to be negative for the full year. This is fully driven by volume given the current demand situation and also as a consequence of the supply chain constraints we experienced mainly in the first half of the year. We still expect a strong earnings contribution from mix for the full year, and 2022 is our most launch-intensive year ever, partly enabled by our reengineering investments.

I'm very pleased with how well received the product launches have been so far, also in this more challenging environment that we've experienced lately. This gives us confidence that we have a great platform to drive mix improvement from. In recent year, mix improvements have contributed an average of SEK 1 billion annually to operating income.

Investments in innovation and marketing are for the full year expected to increase. In light of the weaker market environment, though, we are optimizing our R&D and marketing activities and started in the third quarter to reduce discretionary spending primarily within marketing. The constrained global supply environment has resulted in cost inflation, especially for logistics, in particular, ocean freight, but also for electronic components.

Global supply chain constraints are expected to sequentially improve also in the fourth quarter with continued risks of disruptions related to the resurgence of the coronavirus as well as consequences of the war in Ukraine. The increased geopolitical tension has so far mainly impacted logistics through higher fuel prices and lately, the availability of price for both gas and energy that have emerged as an area that is high on our agenda.

Presenter Speech
Therese Friberg (Executives)

Looking at the line cost efficiency. We expect this to be negative for the year. Main drivers are cost inflation on logistics, finished goods and components as well as operational inefficiencies related to constrained environment, especially in North America. As already mentioned, we, in September, initiated a group-wide cost reduction and North America turnaround program. We expect to see some traction of these activities already in the remaining part of 2022 in areas such as airfreight and spot buys.

As we continue to start up additional production lines and new product platforms in our factories that are part of our SEK 8 billion global reengineering investments, we will also see an increase in depreciation. With 1 quarter left of 2022, the estimated negative full year headwind for external factors is narrowed to be in the range of SEK 8 billion to SEK 9 billion from previously estimate of SEK 8 billion to SEK 10 billion. The year-over-year increase is mainly driven by raw material, especially steel prices.

Investments to strengthen our competitiveness through innovation, automation and modularization continue in 2022 and total capital expenditures are expected to be in the range of million SEK 7 billion to SEK 8 billion. The increase compared to 2021 relates mainly to some timing of investments from 2021 and raw material inflation on equipment.

Presenter Speech
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

So to sum up the quarter and the strategic drivers we've delivered on, needless to say, this has been another very tough quarter with a further weakening market environment and cost challenges, but there are also highlights. I'm very pleased with the way we continue to drive mix through successful product launches also in this environment with lower consumer purchasing power and confidence levels. It shows how well our new innovative products are being received by consumers, which is a key driver for us to deliver profitable growth.

Our strong price realization continues in all regions, making me confident that price will fully offset the significant cost inflation for the full year. I'm also particularly happy with the robust performance in our business areas, Latin America and Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, delivering solid results with increased earnings through successful product launch execution and efficient cost management. We have now initiated a group-wide cost reductions and North America turnaround program, instrumental to reestablish stability and profitability, while simultaneously progressing on our long-term strategy.

On the next capital markets update, we will share more of the progress on the program, especially in North America, which we will have a deep dive on. The other focus area for the capital markets update will be on how we're strengthening the relations with consumers and, of course, the benefit including aftermarket sales. You're very welcome to join on March 20, either in Stockholm or digitally. More information will follow.

With that, I'll leave the word to Sophie.

Presenter Speech
Sophie Arnius (Executives)

Thank you, Jonas. We will now open up for questions. [Operator Instructions] So with that, I leave the word to our operator.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Johan Eliason of Kepler Cheuvreux.

Question
Johan Eliason (Analysts)

Jonas, Therese, Sophie, tough days, obviously, for you right now. I was wondering about your net debt, obviously coming up now in the quarter. I think it was 2.6 or something like that. You have a new dividend policy. Previously, you said the dividend at least 30%. Now you say around 50%. How should we think about dividends going into next year? I mean, the share buybacks you've already put on hold. Is there a risk on dividend falling? Or is it still the ambition that the dividend should be stable and one hopefully grow in?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. So clearly, the debt level has increased to a higher level than what we'd like it to be over time. This is a temporary effect of the high inventory levels that were -- that we've been running with the supply chain inefficiencies and then following that, the rapid decline in consumer demand. But these are very current inventory. So we will sell through in the fourth quarter and beyond and realize that sort of trapped cash in working capital over time. So the debt levels are very manageable, and we'll get through that hump that we have here.

When it comes to the dividend, unfortunately, I can't give you any type of update on that right now because that's as you know, a Board decision, and we haven't had that discussion with the Board yet. So I can only refer to our dividend policy at this point.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

Our next question comes from the line of Andre Kukhnin of Credit Suisse.

Question
Andre Kukhnin (Analysts)

I'd like to talk about North America and try to segregate the kind of internal issues impact versus the external factors. Could you help us with maybe what kind of the impact was from the ramp-up issues in the quarter within that SEK 1.2 billion loss. And then when we think forward about the cost saving program that you've now quantified, that SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion contribution, does that include dealing with the ramp-up issues? Or is it purely kind of a cost saving from reduction of employees and we should think about kind of ramp-up issues disappearing and savings coming through. I just want to make sure we don't double up -- double count.

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. Right. So I think good questions. And so first of all, in the quarter here for North America, we had very good price realization, which did offset the, let's call it, the ordinary inflationary pressure that we had in raw materials and logistics and so on. But -- on top of that, we had massive inefficiencies in our supply chain as well as in our production during the quarter and as we've had now for the last few quarters.

And this is driven by the fact that we still -- even though it's now improving, still have very irregular supply in North America, which -- and that in combination with the fact that we are ramping up these new product platforms, and we are very, very keen on increasing the production rate of those, that has resulted in really tremendous inefficiencies in the quarter with overstaffing with high cost of logistics and so on.

And part of what we're doing is, of course, reversing that and stabilizing our operations in North America. So if we go then to the impact of the cost reduction and turnaround program, so first of all, the SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion just exactly because there are so many ins and outs of that. For example, the timing of when logistics cost increases hit this year versus the timing of when the -- we expect to negotiate them down next year. The impact of coming into last year with lower valued inventories versus coming into next year with higher valued inventories and so on rather than trying to piece all of those pieces apart, we've chosen to communicate what we see as the net benefit next year of -- in the 2 areas that we report, which is investments in innovation and marketing and in net cost, right? Those are the 2 buckets that we report externally.

And the combined net year-over-year full year impact of that should be SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion. And I realized this is complex, and it's frankly somewhat complex for us because there are so many moving parts. And just to provide that sort of clarity to you, we decided to say this is that overall net year-over-year effect.

So then coming to the final part of your question, and I choose to recognize it as 1 question, by the way. But is that the ramp-up issues that we faced this year really has 2 consequences. One is significant cost inefficiencies. Those -- the reversal of that is part of the SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion. But then, of course, our ability to drive mix and revenue through our new products have also been hampered. So we continue to ramp up these fantastic new products that are very well received and as that get more free flow with less disruptions, uncertainty and which has resulted in difficulty to place these new products in an effective way in retail as that starts to roll through, we have fantastic new products that would generate higher margins. So that's outside of the SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion.

Question
Andre Kukhnin (Analysts)

Great. I have a follow-up, but I'll go back in the queue.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

Our next question comes from the line of Akash Gupta at JPMorgan.

Question
Akash Gupta (Analysts)

My question is also on the SEK 7 billion or more than SEK 7 billion cost-saving program. When I look at your restructuring cost of -- that you guided for Q4 and the savings, it looks quite high number. So maybe if you can break down into how much of the savings do you expect to come from this SEK 1.2 billion to SEK 1.5 billion charge, which could be more structural than some of the other savings where some of that would be discretionary and some of that could be. So maybe if you can help us understand the various state of this SEK 7 billion?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

No, I mean, obviously, your point is accurate that the headcount reductions of 3,500 to 4,000 people that is specifically what drives the charge of SEK 1.2 billion to SEK 1.5 billion. And that, of course, is a very significant cost reduction element.

Then on top of that, we are working very hard to eliminate areas such as express freight and logistics, airfreight, spot buys, and other significant inefficiencies that we've had in our supply chain that are not sort of inflation related, but there are -- that are real inefficiencies that we've had. And that's another significant part of the benefit.

And then, of course, we're expecting to negotiate better freight rates and so on next year. That's not the largest part of the saving because we -- the way our freight contracts work is that they run over several years. So the impact is staggered over time. And again, these are -- there are so many different factors, as I mentioned to the prior question, that we've chosen not to break out the different elements here rather than just describing the way I've just done because otherwise, everybody will be completely confused about what goes up and what goes down.

So -- but that's also why we have indicated that the full implementation run rate of this once every -- all of those ins and outs are washed out is then SEK 7 billion. And that, in turn, includes that we are, just as we've said before, ramping up our new factories in North America to full productivity as we were targeting in our reengineering programs and that we get full sort of run rate impact of all these benefits in supply chain logistics and so on.

So I think we'll have to leave it at that level of breakdown because otherwise, we'll have a very confused discussion, unfortunately.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

Our next question comes from the line of Olof Cederholm of ABG Sundal Collier.

Question
Olof Cederholm (Analysts)

If I may follow up on the program again, maybe a bit on the timing of things. How much is reasonable to expect to come through already in Q4? And if you could also maybe, I know it's difficult, but shed some light on the phasing of savings throughout 2023?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Sure. So some of the activities that we're taking here will have impact already in the fourth quarter, particularly the ones that relate to eliminating excess freight costs and logistics and so on and really trying to stabilize what has been a very, very unstable manufacturing and logistics situation. That we expect to be favorable sequentially Q3 to Q4. The benefit of that is not part of the SEK 4 billion to SEK 5 billion. That's still a full year year-over-year benefit. But we expect to improve sequentially just by stabilizing.

And then the headcount reductions and so on then happen, of course, gradually, starting union negotiations and the like here in the quarter. And then as we go through next year, first half of next year, we start to see more and more of those benefits.

But then to the point to some of the earlier questions, specifically for Q1, we had last year a situation where we were still operating off a fairly attractive cost levels in our inventories, whereas this year, as we roll into Q1, we will still have fairly high cost levels in our inventory. So that means that Q1 is a bit more challenging to really realize significant net gains. But then as we go into Q2, there's significant more opportunities and then we get really good traction in the second half of the year. That's kind of how we look at it.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

And our next question comes from the line of Gustav Hagéus of SEB.

Question
Gustav Sandström (Analysts)

So back to North America then, you referenced that some improvement to be made already sequentially into Q4. And then obviously, we're approaching discount season with Black Friday and whatnot, and a lot of players holding inventory, as I understand, in several layers. So could you shed some light a little bit on where you think net pricing and competition and so forth will -- how that will develop into Q4 and if you're already seeing now sort of price slippage in the market?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. I think to your point, we do expect the sort of Black November to be quite promotional. I would say, back to pre-pandemic levels and we're ready for that. The benefit though of the significant price increase -- list price increases that we've already made means that we will have continued good net price traction also in the fourth quarter. So that's not something that is a concern to us.

And in fact, I think the flip side to that is that volumes are holding up, relatively speaking, better in North America than in -- for example, in Europe because households still have money to spend and a more promotional environment also is pulling more consumers into the market. So it's a bit of a mixed bag. But net-net, we will continue to have strong net price realization in the fourth quarter as well in North America.

Question
Gustav Sandström (Analysts)

And just a short add-on, if I may. We see destocking now in several layers throughout different industries. Do you anticipate -- how do you feel about sort of channel inventories for your business into Q4? Is there -- do you expect sell-out to be similar to sell-in Q4 in retail?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

No, I do expect retail inventories to come down in the fourth quarter as well as our own inventories as we pulled back quite significantly on production plans, both in the sort of latter part of Q3 and then into Q4. So I think the quarter will be a kind of destocking type quarter, which also makes sense because it's also typically the highest consumer demand quarter. So it's the right quarter to do the destocking, let's say, from a total value chain perspective, supply chain perspective.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

Our next question comes from the line of James Moore at Redburn.

Question
James Moore (Analysts)

I wondered if I could just ask a little bit more about raw materials within the external factors. Obviously, the majority of external factors is raw material. I thought it might have been a bit less this year with the metal prices coming down. And I understand that you're hedged, and I understand that you have contracts but the nature of that hedging and contract structure can vary from year-to-year. And I wondered if you can in any way help us think about what the carryover might look like into next year at current spot rates for both raw materials and energy, which I believe you're moving across the bucket, anyway [indiscernible] because it's quite difficult for the outside to underscore structures look like at the moment.

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. Yes. No, I think that's fair. It's difficult, and it's frankly quite challenging from the inside as well to have clarity on raw material costs going forward. So the dynamic, I would say, both on steel and on plastics has been that we had a very significant bump -- a pricing bump in the spring of 2022.

We saw a run up, let's say, from over the course of 2021, from 2020 to end of 2021. And then from that level, we saw a big spike in the spring. That has now leveled back down. And in many cases, specifically in steel, we're now kind of below the spot levels that we had a year ago, right? So we've cycled through that bump.

If we then look at our cost impact this year, compare them to 2021, that was mainly driven by that cost run up in 2021, which we then contracted for 2022. And then on top of that, there are certain portions of the cost that are unhedged always. And there, we took some additional costs in the middle of the year and now as Therese indicated, we're seeing some of the benefits. So we reduced the range a bit for raw material cost headwinds as a consequence of that, of those prices coming down on the unhedged part of our exposure.

Now looking into next year, to your point, bulk prices for many raw materials are currently at or below 2021 levels. So hopefully, that will give us an opportunity to negotiate good contracts. But of course, we don't buy a spot, but it's a bilateral agreement. And we'll see how that plays out to the extent we do fixed versus variable, the price contracts for 2023. That's yet to be finalized.

And then finally, your point about energy, and it's correct that historically, we've reported energy costs as part of our, let's say, net cost efficiency. But since it is such a big and volatile element right now, especially in Europe, we've said it's better to move that to external factors because it is truly a commodity price impact that we have there. And again, the volatility of it, plus the fact that we have the price for it because this is something that every actor in the industry will be exposed to and that is producing in Europe and we have to price for it. So that will be the way it looks right now or even though that's very volatile, there will be a headwind for next year. And then on top of that, we also have this excess inflation on labor cost, which we have historically not had that much of outside of, let's say, Latin America, which is now becoming a real factor in Eastern Europe, for example, in North America and in other places. And that we also have to price for.

So when you look at it, we -- I think there's a good chance that we'll see tailwinds, benefits from steel and plastics. And it's also likely to see headwinds from excess labor salary inflation and energy. How that's going to play out, we'll have to come back on.

Question
James Moore (Analysts)

If you could scale [indiscernible] for the current year, just so we know the size of the [indiscernible] would be helpful.

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. The reduction you mean right now or?

Question
James Moore (Analysts)

Just the absolute annual cost of energy for the group?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

For cost of energy. Yes. No, we haven't called that out exactly, but it's historically a relatively minor cost. But with -- if we talk about tripling or quadrupling, then suddenly it becomes a meaningful number. We will see how that plays out now throughout the winter.

By the way, sorry, operator, I needed to fill out to 1 thing. And that is that the energy cost is really 2 elements of it.

One is that it's our own manufacturing resources requiring, obviously, energy consumption, but also -- and this is potentially actually quite significantly more important for us is that some commodities have a very, very high energy content in the production. And here, we are potentially looking at additional costs and surcharges, which then we would reflect in the external factors. Also hear very significant uncertainty. But for things like glass shelves, manufacturing and so on, obviously, that requires a lot of energy, and we have to kind of take height for the likelihood that, that's going to be challenging for our suppliers going forward. Sorry, back to you, operator.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

Our next question comes from the line of Uma Samlin at Bank of America.

Question
Uma Samlin (Analysts)

So my question is on your inventory levels. I mean, at the current historical high. You had mentioned a few times during the call that the pricing of those inventories are high into next year versus the year before. So how should we think about the impact when you start to do some destocking on your inventories? How -- I mean, what impact do you have on your profitability into the next few quarters? How do you plan the destocking in relation to your production level in North America just when you're ramping up in the new factories?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

I'll pass it on to Therese, speak into that.

Answer
Therese Friberg (Executives)

Yes. So as Jonas indicated, we are planning to reduce inventory already here going into the fourth quarter. So already, I would say, in the third quarter, we have had quite large production cuts compared to what we planned going into the quarter. Unfortunately, they're not enough, let's say, to compensate in terms of inventory levels during the quarter due to an even more rapid market decline than we anticipated.

But let's say, we have already taken action during the quarter. And of course, I mean also with the weaker market outlook, we already also taken action in reducing our purchases and so forth of incoming goods. And then, of course, also for the fourth quarter, we have already planned for a lower production than previously. So I would say it's not about doing destocking through kind of heavy promotions to come through in that way, but we have been anticipating that we need to reduce inventories in some time, and this has been an active plan on our side.

Of course, as Jonas indicated, we are going into a promotional season now. So we will take advantage of that in certain categories where we think we would be too high to, of course, be more aggressive in those types of categories where we see it's needed. But when -- and then of course, we should remember still in terms of the size of inventory, we also have an effect of the inflationary pressure that we have seen. Hence, also that will take some time going into next year of getting benefits from the cost reduction since we have also from a high-value base inventory.

So it's several different components. I think we have an active plan to bring them down, not through crazy promotions, but through, yes, active replanning that we have done in some time.

Question
Uma Samlin (Analysts)

That's very helpful. Would you be able to quantify the production cut you just mentioned?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

No, we typically don't -- because again, it's always related to a plan and we don't -- we don't have a published plan, so it becomes a meaningless number. But it's a significant cut compared to what we were originally planning.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

And our final question comes from the line of Andre Kukhnin at Credit Suisse.

Question
Andre Kukhnin (Analysts)

Can I squeeze 2 quick ones. One is back on North America, what I was asking and what you started saying by Q4, is there a kind of -- could we see a meaningful improvement in that loss kind of run rate that you saw in Q3? Or is it kind of more around edges at this stage and as you said, primarily really Q2 next year onwards?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. I mean we're pushing very, very hard. But of course, the challenge is that what we already have an inventory at high cost and so on, means that it takes time for that role -- to roll through. But the activities are at a full speed, and we do expect substantial significant benefits also sequentially from reduced spot buys and express rates and things like that. And some of that will come through in the -- a reasonable amount of that will come through in the quarter. But of course, still a volatile environment, so challenging.

But the benefit of North America is that we can take quicker actions than in Europe when it comes to employment levels and things like that. So we will get a quick impact, but it still takes time to roll through fully in the P&L.

Question
Andre Kukhnin (Analysts)

Great. And if I may, just on the demand environment in middle of September or early September when you preannounced, you clearly indicated, look, this is accelerating downwards 2x the speed of the prior quarter, now that we are 6 weeks forward, are you seeing any signs of that demand drop starting to level out, given that it's sort of fifth quarter in a row? Or are we still in a more kind of free-fall environment?

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Yes. No, I would not call it a free-fall environment. I would say that the run rates that were established in Q3 are, I would say, kind of the run rate that we're seeing also going forward. But of course, the year-over-year impact of that is still quite negative. But then the question mark is then what will happen this winter in Europe, in particular, given the high energy prices and so on. I think that's the high uncertainty level that we see.

Question and Answer Operator Message
Operator (Operator)

And with that, I'll hand the floor back to our speakers for the closing comments.

Answer
Jonas Samuelson (Executives)

Thank you, operator, and thanks, everybody, for very good questions. Yes, we recognize that this is a very tough quarter. But nevertheless, I'm very pleased with our continued strong price and mix execution. And going forward, we will most likely continue to experience a challenging market with high levels of volatility and uncertainty. However, with the program that we're now initiating and with strong agility short term, combined with a solid long-term strategy for profitable growth, I'm confident that we remain very well positioned to create value over time. Thank you very much, and look forward to talking to you soon again. And don't miss out on our Capital Markets update next spring. Thank you.

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