United States Lime & Minerals Inc Digs Up Another Solid Quarter

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Sleepy materials maker U.S. Lime & Minerals (NASDAQ: USLM) reported another quiet quarter. That is after increasing demand for the company's core lime and limestone products led to mid-single digit growth on both the top and bottom lines. While weak commodity prices continue to weigh down the company's energy-sensitive revenues, it is more than making up for it with stronger demand from other customer segments.

U.S. Lime results: The raw numbers

Data source: U.S. Lime & Minerals.

What happened with U.S. Lime this quarter?

Environmental and roof shingle customers picked up the slack this quarter.

  • The company's core lime and limestone operations continue to do the heavy lifting. Revenue was up 4.5% to $38.1 million on increased sales volumes to environmental and roof shingle customers, which offset reduced demand from oil and gas customers. That said, while demand was up, pricing was somewhat lower from the year-ago quarter.
  • Meanwhile, revenue from the company's natural gas interests finally stopped plunging. Overall, revenue was basically flat at $0.6 million. While production declined from 177,000 MCF to 156,000 MCF, the average price increased from $3.25 per MCF to $3.56 per MCF.
  • Gross profit in the company's lime and limestone operations rose from $10.3 million to $10.5 million, while gross profit from its natural gas segment edged up as well.

What management had to say

CEO Timothy Byrne commented on the quarter by saying that,

Byrne laments that U.S. Lime does not have much pricing power in the current environment. That said, while aggregate producing rivals Vulcan Materials (NYSE: VMC) and Martin Marietta Materials (NYSE: MLM) have yet to report their third-quarter results, both have pushed through price increases this year. In Vulcan's case, its aggregates shipments expanded 3% during the second quarter while aggregates pricing rose 7%. Martin Marietta, likewise, saw a 7% increase in aggregates pricing in the second quarter, on 4.9% volume growth. These higher prices could be due to their much larger scale, which provides greater diversity of product type and more pricing power.

Looking forward

While U.S. Lime did not offer any forward guidance in its earnings release, we can look at what rivals are saying to get an idea of what to expect. For example, Martin Marietta's CEO Ward Nye said last quarter that his company remains "highly optimistic as we look toward the second half of the year and well beyond." Likewise, Tom Hill, CEO of Vulcan Materials, said last quarter that the "fundamentals of our aggregates-focused business remain attractive" which reinforced his confidence in the outlook for both 2016 and the longer term. Given that U.S. Lime's third-quarter results did not disappoint, this would imply that like its rivals, it should continue to see steady growth in the quarters ahead.

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