Greif, Inc. (NYSE:GEF) Q3 2020 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript
Aug 27, 2020 • 08:30 am ET
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Greif Q3 2020 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions]
Thank you. I'd now like to hand the conference over to your speaker for today, Matt Eichmann, Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate communications. Please go ahead.
Thank you, Jack, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to Greif's Third Quarter Fiscal 2020 Earnings Conference Call. On the call today are Pete Watson, Vice President and Chief Executive Officer; and Larry Hilsheimer, Greif's Chief Financial Officer. Pete and Larry will take questions at the end of today's call.
In accordance with Regulation Fair Disclosure, we encourage you to ask questions regarding issues you consider material because we are prohibited from discussing significant nonpublic information with you on an individual basis. Please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up before returning to the queue.
Please turn to Slide Two, as a reminder, during today's call, we will make forward-looking statements involving plans, expectations and beliefs related to future events. Actual results could differ materially from those discussed. Additionally, we'll be referencing certain non-GAAP financial measures, and reconciliations to the most directly comparable GAAP metrics can be found in the appendix of today's presentation.
And now, I turn the presentation over to Pete on Slide Three.
Peter G. Watson
Thank you, Matt, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. As we expected, during the third quarter, we faced unprecedented economic turmoil caused by the global health pandemic, but the Greif team responded and delivered solid results through strong cost control and operational discipline. Through that focus, we generated solid free cash flow and paid down debt. This is only possible, thanks to the commitment of our global Greif team, their extraordinary dedication to our business and our customers, and the pride they have in safely packaging and protecting critical goods and materials that serve the greater needs of our communities all around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic remains an evolving situation. We are focused on executing enhanced health and safety protocols to safeguard the health of our colleagues and ensure the continuity of our supply chain to serve our customers.
During the quarter, we achieved an all-time high trailing four-quarter Customer Satisfaction Index score, which further strengthens our standing with customers. And while profits were lower due to soft industrial demand and a significant price cost squeeze in our Paper Packaging business, free cash flow remained roughly flat to the prior year, and we have reduced net debt by more than $260 million versus the prior year quarter.
Please turn to Slide Four, our Rigid Industrial Packaging business delivered solid third quarter results despite significant volume decreases due to weak demand in the global industrial economy. Global steel drum volumes declined by 10% versus the prior year quarter. And demand was strongest in China, where volumes rose 6%, thanks to an improving economic activity.
As you move west to our EMEA region, demand was weaker. While the Middle East and North Africa business delivered steel