American Greetings Earnings Call INSIGHTS: Business Environment, Clinton Cards

On Friday, American Greetings Corporation (NYSE:AM) reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Business Environment

Carla Casella – JPMorgan: I was wondering if you could just talk about the business environment, both in the U.S. and Europe, and whether you’re seeing any slowdown, and we heard a number of retailers and consumer product companies talk about a slowdown in Europe around the back-to-school timeframe. I’m wondering if you’re seeing the same thing.

Stephen J. Smith – SVP, CFO: Well, Carla the things that you’re reading and seeing, we’re seeing as well. The international environment is a bit difficult for us to parse, particularly in Europe because of the Clintons transaction and the noise it has created in our financials so, not much more to add beyond what you’ve already read.

Carla Casella – JPMorgan: Then, have you flushed out any more of your timing or magnitude of your headquarters’ investment?

Stephen J. Smith – SVP, CFO: The project through the end of the fiscal quarter was running on time and on budget, we’re not commenting beyond that at this time.

Carla Casella – JPMorgan: Then, just one other housekeeping, there’s another 55 million of debt on the balance sheet, is that all Clinton Cards and where would that rank in terms of seniority in – or priority in the capital structure is that secured debt, is it at an operating company level at Clinton?

Gregory M. Steinberg – Treasurer and Executive Director IR: It is Greg Steinberg. The incremental $55 million is actually borrowings under our senior secured revolver and so it is senior in the structure and it is under that particular facility, it is not specifically or directly related to the Clinton business.

Clinton Cards

Andrew Ruud – Morgan Stanley: So, it appears that management team is very bullish on the long-term prospects for the company. With that said, what was the thought process you underwent as you weigh the option of acquiring Clinton Cards, which is effectively the first far you’ve made into retail versus investing further capital in Cardstore.com and your other e-commerce efforts.

Stephen J. Smith – SVP, CFO: The transaction with regard to Clinton Cards was driven by a long-term relationship that we’ve had with that group that is decades old. The environment that permitted the transaction was one where Clinton Cards needed long-term capital to support a business model that had a brand that we believed in. So, we invested in that brand and those stores and we hope that that’s a good long-term investment.