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Waste Management Posts Major Loss in First Quarter

Waste Management Inc. posted a big loss in its first quarter and a revenue decline, caused by a combination of financial and operational factors.

The Houston-based waste and recycling firm reported for the period ended March 31 a net loss of $129 million, or 28 per diluted share, compared with net income of $228 million, or 49 cents per diluted share, in the 2014 quarter.

Revenue dropped 10.6 percent to $3.04 billion from $3.4 billion a year earlier, according to a news release.

The net loss includes a 74 cents per diluted share loss on early extinguishment of debt, a 3 cents per diluted share impact from non-cash charges related to post-closing adjustments that reduced the gain on the sale of certain operations in 2014 and an impairment of a short-lived landfill asset. On an as-adjusted basis, excluding those items, net income would have totaled $227 million in the first quarter of 2015 compared with $212 million a year earlier. That comparison also excludes earnings from businesses and assets divested in 2014, which provided 4 cents per diluted share to the first quarter of 2014.

Most of the revenue decline came from divestitures; lower recycling revenue, led by a 14.1-percent drop in commodity prices; lower fuel surcharge revenue; and foreign currency fluctuations.

Solid waste revenue was virtually flat, with high-margin collection and landfill operations offsetting revenue declines in the lower-margin residential and national account lines.

“We are pleased with our first quarter results,” said David Steiner, Waste Management president and CEO. “We continue to see the benefit from disciplined core price growth and cost controls.”

Regarding the remainder of the year, Steiner said, “First quarter results put us on track to achieve our full-year guidance.”

Waste Management’s results fell in line with Wall Street expectations, according to the AP. The average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was also for earnings of 49 cents per share.

The company’s revenue, however, was short of financial forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks anticipated $3.18 billion in revenue.

Waste Management in March completed its recent major acquisition, the Midwest waste and recycling hauler Deffenbaugh Disposal Inc. at a cost of more than $400 million.

The deal went through after Waste Management agreed with the Justice Department to divest small and commercial waste collection assets in Arkansas and Kansas.

After Waste Management divests the required assets, Deffenbaugh represents about $176 million in revenue and $52 million of operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) annually.

In Leone Young’s Waste360 Business Insights column in March, she said Waste Management is looking to replace the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) from its 2014 sale of Wheelabrator “and believes it can do so (or at least most of it) at acquisition multiples averaging around 7x.”

Young also said that Waste Management stuck to a pricing yield outlook of 2 percent, as expected.

Waste Management forecasts 2015 adjusted earnings per share of $2.48-$2.55 compared with $2.48 reported for 2014.

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