Weyerhaeuser Co. (NYSE:WY) Q4 2014 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript
Jan 30, 2015 • 10:00 am ET
Good morning. My name is Brent, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Weyerhaeuser Fourth Quarter 2014 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Thank you and I'd now like to turn the call over to Denise Merle, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Investor Relations. Please go ahead.
Thank you, Brent. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today to discuss Weyerhaeuser's fourth quarter 2014 earnings. On the call with me this morning, are Doyle Simons, CEO; Patty Bedient, CFO; and Beth Baum, Director of Investor Relations. This call is being webcast at www.weyerhaeuser.com. Our earnings release and presentation materials can also be found on our website.
(Forward Looking Cautionary Statements)
We will discuss non-GAAP financial measures, and a reconciliation of GAAP can be found in earnings materials on our website.
I will now turn the call over to Doyle Simons.
Thank you, Denise and good morning everyone. As we enter 2014, we embark in the journey here at Weyerhaeuser to grow at truly great company. As we said at that time, the three primary levers we are pulling to drive shareholders, our portfolio performance and capital allocation. Over the past year, we've made significant progress. Specifically in 2014, we'd invested our home building business to become a focused forest product company, achieved our 2014 operational excellence targets and improved earnings from our continuing operations with before special items about 22% to $700 million or $1.25 per diluted share compared with $572 million or $0.99 per diluted share in 2013.
In addition, we increased our dividend by 32%, authorized a new $700 million share repurchase program and within five months completed nearly 30% of that authorization. Through these actions, we demonstrated our commitment to delivering shareholder value and our total share of return for the full year of 2014 exceeded 17%.
Included in these full year results are the strong fourth quarter operating earnings we reported this morning. We out earned $166 million or $0.31 per diluted for the fourth quarter. Our net sales from continuing operations of $1.8 billion excluding special items, we are into $145 million or $0.27 per diluted share an increase of 31% compared with the year ago quarter.
Special items for the fourth quarter included in ongoing gain from a change to post-retirement health plan and restructuring charges associated with our SG&A cost reductions. I'll begin the discussion of our businesses performance with some brief comments on housing. Housing starts showed continued improvement in the fourth quarter, albeit at a modest rate. U.S. housing starts totalled just over $1 million for 2014 an improvement of approximately 9% compared with 2013.
We are confident that housing markets will continue to strengthen in 2015 at accelerating employment growth; strong consumer confidence, low mortgage rates and initiatives to improve mortgage availability should support increased household formation. We anticipate over $1.1 million housing starts for 2015. Let me know turn to our business segments starting with