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DOW   38,989.83
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Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities
S&P 500   5,130.95
DOW   38,989.83
QQQ   444.02
5 Under-the-Radar Artificial Intelligence (AI) Stocks
Critical asset just had biggest fall on record (Ad)
How major US stock indexes fared Monday, 3/4/2024
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Stock market today: World markets are lower after China unveils 5% economic growth target for 2024
This is the #1 Stock to Buy for the AI Tidal Wave (Ad)
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Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities
S&P 500   5,130.95
DOW   38,989.83
QQQ   444.02
5 Under-the-Radar Artificial Intelligence (AI) Stocks
Critical asset just had biggest fall on record (Ad)
How major US stock indexes fared Monday, 3/4/2024
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Stock market today: World markets are lower after China unveils 5% economic growth target for 2024
This is the #1 Stock to Buy for the AI Tidal Wave (Ad)
Ohio foundation begins process to distribute millions in opioid settlement money
Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Mohawk Industries Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript


Listen to Conference Call View Latest SEC 10-K Filing

Participants

Presentation

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the Mohawk Industries Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today's presentation there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions] Please note today's event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to James Brunk. Please go ahead, sir.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you, Rocco. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Mohawk Industries' quarterly investor call. Joining me on the call are Jeff Lorberbaum, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; and, Chris Wellborn, President and Chief Operating Officer. Today, we'll update you on the company's fourth quarter and full year performance and provide guidance for the first quarter of 2024.

I'd like to remind everyone that our press release and statements that we make during this call may include forward-looking statements as defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including, but not limited to, those set forth in our press release and our periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This call may include discussion of non-GAAP numbers. For a reconciliation of any non-GAAP to GAAP amounts, please refer to our Form 8-K and press release in the Investors section of our website. I'll now turn over the call to Jeff for his opening remarks. Jeff?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thanks, Jim. Our fourth quarter results were ahead of our expectations with net sales for the quarter of approximately $2.6 billion, down 1.4% as reported or 4.1% on a constant and legacy basis. Lower demand in residential remodeling and new construction continued to impact our results. Our adjusted EPS for the quarter was $1.96 with benefits from cost containment, productivity and lower input costs. Pricing and product mix declined, offset by lower raw material and energy costs during the quarter, foreign exchange had an impact of approximately $22 million on operating income or $0.27 on EPS.

Turning to our full year results. Mohawk's net sales were approximately $11.1 billion, down approximately 5% as reported or 7.7% on a constant basis with adjusted EPS of $9.19. Last year, interest rates increased, creating challenges for our industry, which is highly sensitive to rate fluctuation. Even though we have a diversified geographic footprint, all of our markets were impacted by similar conditions. During 2023, existing home sales declined substantially, remodeling projects were postponed and consumers traded down.

New home construction was also constrained as rising interest rates in a weak housing market reduced home starts. Throughout the year, the commercial sector remains stronger than residential, though investments began to slow as interest rates increased and lending cut. These factors reduced industry demand across our business, creating unabsorbed overhead and shutdown costs. As a result, our industry reduced selling prices, and we passed through declining cost in energy and materials. Under these conditions, we focused on optimizing our revenues and lowering our costs through restructuring actions and manufacturing enhancements.

We aggressively managed inventory levels, which reduced our working capital by over $300 million, excluding acquisitions. We've also invested in sales resources, merchandising and new products with innovative features to inspire consumers to purchase Flooring.As we integrate our recent acquisitions around the world we are investing to improve our operations and product offering. In 2023, we completed two acquisitions in Latin America that extended our position as the world's largest ceramic tile producer and solidified our leadership in the region.

In the year, we focused our capital expenditures on product innovation and cost reduction as well as product categories that should have the highest growth as the economy improves. In Europe, our porcelain slab and insulation expansions are now fully operational. While in North America, our premium laminate and LVT projects are progressing.During the second half of this year, we anticipate completing the expansion of laminate in Europe and quartz countertops in the United States. We closed the year with debt leverage of 1.5 times, free cash flow of $716 million and available liquidity of $1.9 billion.

We are retiring a term loan of approximately $900 million in quarter one, which has a higher interest rate. We are well-positioned to manage current conditions and emerge stronger from this economic cycle when the rebound occurs.Finally, in January, Newsweek recognized Mohawk as one of America's greatest workplaces for diversity. Our talented people are our most valuable asset, and we are proud that our teams mirror the communities in which we operate.

And now Jim will provide an overview of our fourth quarter financials.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you, Jeff. Sales for the quarter were just over $2.6 billion. That's a 1.4% decrease as reported and 4.1% on a constant basis as price and mix pressures and unfavorable FX offset limited year-over-year volume improvement.Gross margin on an adjusted basis was 24.7% versus 22.4% in the prior year. The improvement is due to lower inflation, offsetting unfavorable price and mix, along with increased productivity, partially offset by the impact of FX.

SG&A expense as a percentage of sales was 18% on an adjusted basis, which was in line with the prior year. That gives us an operating income as reported of 6.4%. On an adjusted basis, 6.7% versus 4.5% in the prior year as lower inflation of $156 million offset unfavorable price and mix of $127 million as well as productivity gains of $57 million only were partially offset by unfavorable FX of $22 million.

Interest expense for the quarter was $17 million. Our non-GAAP tax rate was 21.3% in the current year. We expect Q1 2024 tax rate to be approximately 21% to 22%, and the full year 2024 to be between 18.5% and 20.5%. That gives us an earnings per share on an adjusted basis for the quarter of $1.96.Turning to the segments. Global Ceramic had sales of just under $1 billion. That's a 0.6% increase as reported or 4.7% decrease on a constant legacy basis with all geographies seeing increased pressure in price and mix, driven by lower demand and decreases in energy costs.

Operating margin on an adjusted basis was 4.8% versus 7% in the prior year. Due to unfavorable price/mix of $41 million, only partially offset by lower energy and material costs of $29 million. Unfavorable FX of $13 million and reduced sales volume of $10 million accounted for the balance of the decrease in the year-over-year margins and were only partially offset by productivity gains of $17 million.Flooring North America had sales of just over $900 million. That's a 3.6% decrease as reported as demand levels and tight budgets continued to pressure pricing and mix. Our commercial category outperformed residential led by the hospitality channel. In this environment, we are focused on new innovative products, which are being well received and position us to take advantage of the pent-up demand.

Operating margin on an adjusted basis was 6.9% and significantly ahead of the breakeven margin in the prior year, due to lower inflation of $73 million, especially in material costs, offsetting the weakness in price and mix of $37 million, also benefiting our results for gains in productivity of $29 million. And Flooring Rest of the World, sales were just over $700 million for the quarter. That's a 1.5% decrease as reported and 4% on a legacy constant basis.

Stronger volume in insulation, resilient and laminate were offset by continued price and mix pressures in all product categories. Consumer sentiment in Europe continues to be impacted by geopolitical events, combined with higher interest rates, which is limiting remodeling activity and increasing the competitive environment.

Operating margins on an adjusted basis were 10.6% versus 7.7% in the prior year, due to lower inflation of $59 million, offsetting unfavorable price/mix of $49 million productivity gains of $12 million and higher sales volume of $10 million also contributed to the year-over-year improvement in operating performance, only partially offset by unfavorable FX of $9 million. Corporate and eliminations for the quarter were $11 million. And in 2024, we expect them to be approximately $43 million to $48 million.

Finally, turning to the balance sheet. Cash and cash equivalents were $643 million for the quarter, with free cash flow of $56 million in Q4 and $716 million for the full year. Inventories were just shy of $2.6 billion with total inventory reduction of approximately $300 million, excluding acquisitions, with a reduction of 8 days versus the prior year to 130 days.

Property, plant and equipment were just shy of $5 billion, with Q4 capex of $240 million and the full year at $613 million and D&A of $630 million. The company plans to reduce capex by approximately 20% to $480 million in 2024 with D&A of approximately $610 million. The balance sheet and cash flow of Mohawk remained very strong with gross debt of $2.7 billion and leverage of 1.5 times, positioning the company well for the market rebound.

Now Chris will review our Q4 operational performance.

Chris Wellborn
President, Chief Operating Officer, Director & President-Global Ceramic at Mohawk Industries

Thank you, Jim. In our Global Ceramic segment, industry volume remains low, which is compressing prices and margins. All of our geographies are experiencing similar competitive conditions and the industry pass through declining energy costs. We are managing our production to align with demand and have significantly reduced inventory throughout the year. To enhance our mix, we are introducing stylized products in large and small sizes to each market. To contain costs, we have increased productivity, reduced overhead and implemented alternative formulation.

In the US, we are expanding our distribution through our local service centers and offering new collections with premium Italian styling to improve our product mix. We're expanding our quartz countertop business with innovative new introductions and increasing our participation in the retail kitchen, bath and DIY channel.

We've integrated Vitromex in Mexico and Elizabeth in Brazil and are enhancing our sales, marketing and operational strategy. In both countries, demand significantly declined last year, due to rising interest rates and slowing economic conditions which reduced our results.Combined with our legacy businesses, these acquisitions give us leading positions in Brazil and Mexico. In Europe, gas prices have continued to decline and are improving our competitive position.

We are optimizing our recent expansion of Premium Porcelain Slabs in Italy to meet growing demand in both the Residential and Commercial channels. In our Flooring Rest of World business, our improved results in the quarter were driven by lower input costs and productivity gains, offsetting pricing pressure and foreign exchange.The European building product category remains under stress with consumers remaining cautious and retailers reducing their inventory levels. We are investing in new products for 2024, while implementing tight cost control.

We are reenergizing our flagship Quick-Step brand with interactive displays. We are completing the transition to rigid LVT, and we have decommissioned our residential flexible line.As material and energy cost decline, we reduced prices across our product categories in response to the competitive market. In Insulation, we have recently experienced material increases and are raising our prices accordingly.

Our Wood Panels performance has declined during the year from typically high pricing to a more competitive environment with excess capacity. We continue to implement restructuring actions and enhance our smaller bolt-on acquisitions in insulation, MDF boards, sheet vinyl and mezzanine flooring.

In Flooring North America, fourth quarter profitability improved significantly over last year with benefits from decreased input costs, restructuring and productivity gains. Reduced market volumes led to low industry utilization rate, and aggressive competition in the marketplace.

We are continuing to invest in sales and marketing initiatives to expand our distribution and improve our long-term growth. To enhance our business, we are making capital investments to increase our differentiated features and lower our manufacturing costs.

In each product category, we are introducing innovative new collections, which are being well accepted. We have already begun installing our new Displays with retailers around the country to accelerate the sales of these product launches.We have created the next generation of LVT with our solid set Premier collection, featuring new technology that enhances Visuals with Higher Definition, Color and Texture.

We have also introduced a new flooring category called PureTech, which is PVC-free. It is an alternative to LVT made from a renewable polymer core that is waterproof and made with 70% recycled content.The commercial channel outperformed our expectations, led by the hospitality sector. We are leveraging our customer relationships to expand our needle punch flooring and trim acquisitions.

With that, I'll return the call to Jeff, for his closing remarks.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you, Chris. As we enter 2024, the industry is at a cyclical low and we expect, quarter one, seasonality, to be more aligned with long-term historical levels. Our businesses are minimizing their expenses, reducing the overhead and restructuring to adapt to the present conditions. We're continuing to invest in innovative products to increase our sales and mix. We are reacting to competitive pressures to optimize our volumes as we pass through the declines in our input costs. We continue to manage our inventory and anticipate temporary shutdowns to align with demand.

All businesses are implementing initiatives to enhance our processes to reduce the impact of inflation. Given these factors, we anticipate our first quarter to be between $1.60 and $1.70, excluding any restructuring charges. Over the past 18 months, we have initiated many actions across the company to improve our cost structure, manage our lower volumes and integrate our recent acquisitions.

We've closed four manufacturing facilities and a number of higher cost production line, consolidated administrative functions and reduced overall headcount. When complete, these actions will collectively decrease our operating cost by approximately $150 million, with about half of this already realized. Combined with our action, improving industry conditions as we emerge from the bottom of the cycle should improve our results in the second half of the year.

We anticipate central banks will lower interest rates, expanding home sales, residential remodeling and commercial projects. The pace of improvement of the foreign category will be dependent on inflation rates, consumer confidence and the strength of home sales.

We believe the US and Latin American market should improve sooner than Europe, given the current geopolitical pressures. Historically, remodeling activity has led the flooring industry out of downturns, followed by new home construction with commercial projects taking longer given the time to plan and complete.

After past housing recession, our industry has expanded with increased sales and margins for multiple years. Housing remains in short supply across all our geographies and increased remodeling investments will be required to update the aging housing stock. Our restructuring actions, investments in new technology, targeted expansions and recent acquisitions will enable us to further expand our business. As the world's largest flooring company, we believe we are uniquely positioned to improve our results as the market recovers.

We'll now be glad to take your questions.


Questions and Answers

Operator

Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session [Operator Instructions] And today's first question comes from Susan Maklari with Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Susan Maklari
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Thank you. Good morning, everyone and thanks for taking the questions.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Good morning.

Susan Maklari
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Jeff, maybe we could start out with how you think about the cadence and the sequential lift for the business as we move 2024. How should we think about coming into this year cyclical low that you talked about? And where we can go to over the next several quarters? And do you still think that there's the potential for that second half lift that you talked about on the last quarter call?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Let's start with last year. The interest rates increased throughout the year, and our business declined with lower investments in housing and commercial projects. This year, we anticipate the reverse to occur with starting -- with the industry starting out slower and improving with consumer confidence and interest rates throughout the year. The US mortgage rates have declined from their peak and Brazil has already started to lower their rates. We anticipate Europe to lag given geopolitical risk, energy prices and slower economies in the rest of our markets.

We believe the business will strengthen in the second half from these and improved results from last year. We should also see an improvement in product mix as remodeling grows, we expect an extended period of higher demand as the economy recovers and our investments in new products, cost reductions and expansion projects should benefit our future results.

Susan Maklari
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Okay. That's very helpful. And then maybe digging into that a little bit more. When you think about different economies globally and what's going on there relative to the segments of Mohawk segments, how do you think about what that could imply for say, Flooring North America versus Global Ceramics or Rest of World? Anything that you can give us just in terms of the different segments and how you're thinking about the opportunities there?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Sure. The segments we see that we think we're going to see more improvement in Flooring North America and the Ceramic businesses with remodeling in each category leading the way. We think Europe will take longer to improve where they going to be pricing pressures continuing in more in the flooring and panels business than the other categories that we have.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

And we've kind of seen in Europe, consumers have traded down given tighter lower budgets and the geopolitical crisis is further stressing consumer confidence. But as that region recovers, we know we'll see improvement across our business. Just to remind everybody in Europe, they still have the higher energy costs and the regulations make it a less dynamic marketplace get through. And then at the same time, their wages have increased more than the rest of the world impacting inflation.

Susan Maklari
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Okay. That's great color. Thank you, both and good luck.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Philip Ng with Jefferies. Please go ahead.

Philip Ng
Analyst at Jefferies Financial Group

Hey, guys. Certainly, your business has been hard hit with rates being elevated on the R&R side. When it comes down, is the bigger driver we should be looking at is tied to housing turnover, while rates coming down, just kind of improving consumer confidence that it's going to drive demand? So just trying to gauge what are the things that we should look at? And when we do see -- and how quickly that could kind of unleash that pent-up demand?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

In past cycles, it all starts with consumer sentiment. As it starts improving, they start spending money on discretionary spending. And that then impacts the remodeling business, which the consumer, as soon as they feel more comfortable about it, can walk in the stores and start immediately. So that always starts it.

The central banks loan interest rates then starts increasing the home resales, which also a large part of that shows up in the remodeling business, but it happens concurrently as you start. Then what happens is with the lower rates, you have the builders start building more new homes and they start increasing.

But just to remind you, so they take longer because our products are put in almost right before they sell the home at the end. And then finally, the piece that works is the, you start planning commercial projects, but they take a longer time to complete, and it works through one after the other.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

And so Philip, you also have two key points. One is that in most of our geographies, new homes are really underbuilt. So the inventory is low. And then it's also an aging inventory. So it's kind of a prime position as we start to come out for remodeling to increase, which puts us in a very strong position.

Philip Ng
Analyst at Jefferies Financial Group

Okay. And then a follow-up, Jim. You guys have obviously done a lot on the cost front and pivot the portfolio into -- with some new products. When we think about the recovery in the back half going to 2025, is there a good way to think about the operating leverage of that business, whether it's volumes or just top line more broadly from a drop-down standpoint?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Well, a couple of things are important there. So you're right that utilization rates, which right now are anywhere between 70% and 80%, different, of course, based on geography and business is driving some shutdowns, which certainly impacted us in 2023. As we look at 2024, lower inventory reductions and improving volumes through the year should reduce that impact. And as you look further in terms of demand increasing, incremental margins could be anywhere from 25% to 35% depending on segment and the product category and also whether you're in the premium or more in the commodity product line.

Philip Ng
Analyst at Jefferies Financial Group

Okay. Appreciate the color guys.

Operator

Our next question today comes from Eric Bosshard with Cleveland Research. Please go ahead.

Eric Bosshard
Analyst at Cleveland Research

Thanks. Two things, if I could. First of all, on the commercial side, Jeff, you outlined a path to improvement in the back half of the year. I assume that's more residential focused, especially because commercial has been better. What is the path you're expecting or we should expect for commercial to travel from here? And is there incremental pressure that, that applies to the business in 2024 or perhaps into 2025 relative to 2023?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Yeah. As the -- we went through 2023 and the rates started going up, the commercial business slowed down, we expect it to continue to be slower. We think there's going to be a lag time between projects getting started, given how tight the markets are for borrowing money and the cost of borrowing money. And then what I described earlier was when the interest rates start falling, the projects will come in, but then the time it takes to start them before we actually feel it could be one year to 1.5 years or more.

Eric Bosshard
Analyst at Cleveland Research

Okay. And so within this, the path for revenue growth for Mohawk is 25% of the business is Europe and 25% of the business is commercial. I'm just trying to get a sense of the improvement in rates in US residential. At the same time, those are lags or incremental lags. Can the revenues of the business grow in that type of an environment? Or do you need to wait for the commercial to recover before the total company could generate revenue growth?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

We're expecting the growth in the residential business to offset the decline in commercial and so to have growth in it, even though the commercial is weaker.

Eric Bosshard
Analyst at Cleveland Research

And then the second question, the capex change in 2024 versus 2023. Can you just dig into that a little bit, what are you doing less up in 2024? What did you do more of 2023? Just give us a little bit of perspective on that decision.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Sure. As I noted in prepared remarks, our forecast for 2024 is about $480 million. About 50% of that is going to be focused on cost reductions and product innovation. 20% will be to complete the growth initiatives that we've identified around laminate, quartz countertops, LVT, porcelain slabs and insulation. And then about 30% is for maintenance and other items in the year.

Eric Bosshard
Analyst at Cleveland Research

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from Stephen Kim with Evercore. Please go ahead.

Stephen Kim
Analyst at Evercore ISI

Yeah. Thanks very much guys. First question, I guess, could you talk a little bit more about the pricing dynamic. Maybe give us a sense for how it's varying at all across products or market. I gather in the US, particularly in ceramic, it seems like you've got some pressure coming from imports. But I was wondering if you could just sort of contextualize that sort of across your portfolio, the pricing dynamic specifically?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

So what we believe is that pricing is generally at the bottom or near the bottom. And so you should continue to see that trend through the year. From a comparable standpoint from year-over-year, you certainly still see the pressure.

We anticipate though that lower material and energy basically to align with price and mix, and then other inflation items such as wages and benefits and insurances and those types of items to be more covered by productivity and restructuring actions.

In the EU, Europe remains still weak with pricing pressures and lower production rates. But as Jeff pointed out, as we go through the second half of the year, and that improvement should drive improved year-over-year results.

Stephen Kim
Analyst at Evercore ISI

Okay. Helpful. [Technical Issues]

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

I'm sorry, Stephen, you're going to have to repeat that broke up.

Stephen Kim
Analyst at Evercore ISI

[Technical Issues]

Operator

Mr. Kim, this is the operator. We're not able to make out what you're saying. I'm going to clear the question. If you can dial back in, we'll get you back in the queue, sir. Our next question comes from Timothy Wojs with Baird. Please go ahead.

Timothy Wojs
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Guys, good morning. Just really had two questions. So the first one, maybe just a longer-term or bigger picture question around M&A. Historically, Jeff, kind of coming out of cycles, there's been a little bit more kind of M&A activity in the flooring industry over the last couple of decades. I guess how would you kind of characterize the opportunity around M&A as maybe we come out of the bottoming of this cycle? I mean, was that same kind of M&A opportunity be there today like it was over the last several cycles?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

I don't know how to predict the future. But in the past, what's happened is that when you get with low margins in the businesses that the expectations of the sellers are high and the expectations of the sellers are high. And the expectations of the buyers are low. And you can't get together.

So as you start coming out and the margins start going back up, it's easier to align with valuations. So anybody who -- who has wanted the seller who wants to get out, it typically comes as you're in the first couple of innings of the coming out of it. And I would expect the same thing is going to happen this time.

Timothy Wojs
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Okay. Okay. Good. And then just the second question on the new kind of LVT formulations in line is there any way you could give us an update on kind of what you're seeing with that? And maybe any sort of kind of preliminary feedback or expectations for maybe what sales might look like there over the next several quarters?

Chris Wellborn
President, Chief Operating Officer, Director & President-Global Ceramic at Mohawk Industries

I can just comment that we're ramping up our West Coast production and our new Extrusion process in Georgia. We've also got unique technologies to provide improved visuals and surfaces and so we've got a -- and we're also introducing a new renewable polymer core as an alternative.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

So it takes -- once you get the equipment running, you still have to align the sales with it. And it takes a while to get the -- you can't sell it before the equipment is up and running. So it's coming up now and the sales are coming up. And we would expect to fill it up, as we go through the year.

Timothy Wojs
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Okay. Any feedback preliminarily from the channel or is it just kind of too early?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

It's too early to tell exactly. We have -- we're gaining commitments to fill it up. And we think we'll get it filled up as we go through the middle of the year.

Timothy Wojs
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Okay. Okay. Very good. Thanks everybody.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Keith Hughes at Truist. Please go ahead.

Keith Hughes
Analyst at Truist Financial

Thank you. Just a question more on the pace of business in North America and the weak volume in the quarter, is the remodel market appear to be bottoming out right now? Is there a way you can tell where the pace of business is going here in the short-term?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

All we can do is get feedback. One is we know our own volumes, we get feedback from our customers of how they see it. They're all pretty optimistic at this point about next year getting better, but there's no way to actually measure where the pieces and what's going to change it other than the things that impacted our consumer sentiment in to a bottom. So that helps as people get on the higher prices on homes and things.

There's people have been postponing it. So, it really comes down to gaining confidence in the pieces. And it's not that much different in the other regions, if you want to know the truth. They're all in similar places.

Keith Hughes
Analyst at Truist Financial

Okay. And then, raw materials obviously part of the quarter here. Jim, will those numbers, assuming input costs stay where they are now, well those numbers continue to be a positive for you and sort of how long -- how many quarters until they fade away?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

You're right. They are starting to fade away, but I anticipate that we'll continue to see lower energy and materials flow through from a comparison standpoint, at least through the first half of the year on a year-over-year basis, in terms of raw material and energy, which kind of aligns with where price and mix are in that same time period.

Keith Hughes
Analyst at Truist Financial

So at a diminishing rate in the first and second quarter, is that a way to think about it?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Yes, because there's that much less to kind of flow out of the inventory through the P&L.

Keith Hughes
Analyst at Truist Financial

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Michael Rehaut with JPMorgan. Please go ahead.

Michael Rehaut
Analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Hi, guys. This is Andrew [Phonetic] on for Mike. Appreciate taking my question. Just one for me. As you think further out and all the initiatives you've been taking with cost actions and mix initiatives, all the things that have been going on there, where do you think the margin perhaps in Flooring North America can get to maybe on a longer-term basis? And how does that compare to what we're seeing recently in the segment?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

The margins in the segment are still low as the plant utilization goes up, the stoppages of the plants, you're going to get decreased costs, you're going to get leverage on the SG&A as it goes up as -- we're going to try to hold the SG&A barely flat and the volume goes up. So we'll get leverage there. And those things will expand the margins. And we think you'll see continued margin growth as it occurs over the next few years.

Michael Rehaut
Analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Thank you. And then maybe also actually in these investments in sales resources and merchandising, is there any way to like quantify the magnitude of those initiatives Or is that more of a longer-term horizon?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Part of the magnitude is in the -- you can see it in the SG&A costs, which relative to historical high. We made conscious choices to maintain our sales organizations to continue investing in products, continue investing in merchandising in order to set us up for the long term. So you can see it in the higher level of SG&A as a percent of sales, which will come down as the volume comes up.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

And so as you see the pickup in the placement of samples and new materials in the marketplace, and we strengthened in the -- through the second half as consumer some if it improves, then that will position ourselves as we go through the end of the year into next year.

Michael Rehaut
Analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Thanks a lot guys. Good luck on the next quarter.

Operator

Our next question today comes from Joe Ahlersmeyer with Deutsche Bank. Please go ahead.

Joe Ahlersmeyer
Analyst at Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

Yes. Thanks very much guys. Good morning. Jim, you are talking here about the price/mix sort of offsetting the deflation benefits that you're seeing. And then on the other side of it, the productivity sort of offsetting the other bad guys here. I mean it sounds like you're to the place where you've been trying to get to, which is that improvement in EBIT is just going to be a function of volume. And if we're talking about a back half improvement, it seems like maybe what you're suggesting is that we could see flattish EBITDA in the front half, which you're already kind of guiding to on the first quarter and then EBIT up in the second half, so potentially EBIT up for the year? Are you willing to kind of flush that?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

I think that's pretty much in line, Joe, with what Jeff has indicated, As the business strengthens, if in fact, we're correct. -- through the second half of the year, that it will be a volume-led story to improve the results from a year-over-year perspective and then from a full year perspective

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Just as a comment, if the business picks up as historical with remodeling, the mix also improves because they sell better products to homeowners.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

You also have the benefit, Joe, of more steady production. And with that, you have less of the shutdown, which is that unabsorbed overhead, which also plays into the second half of the year as if volumes do indeed begin to improve.

Joe Ahlersmeyer
Analyst at Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

Right. And this is actually my second question on the shutdown because it feels like you've had -- I think we're just looking at the back half, the most recent two back half, they're sort of negative or negative. And the way I've always understood these is they're positive once you lap them. So if you're getting volume growth and you're lapping these, that would kind of be a double positive, just wondering kind of the timing around decision to improve production, do you have to do that in anticipation of the improvement in demand in the back half? Or is it more flexible for you?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Given the capacities we have we assume we're going to flex it up as it occurs, so you won't build the inventories in anticipation of it. If we were running at very high levels, you'd have to build some of it beforehand, but we're not intending to.

Joe Ahlersmeyer
Analyst at Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

All right. Understood. Thanks a lot, guys.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you, Joe.

Operator

And our next question today comes from John Lovallo with UBS. Please go ahead.

John Lovallo
Analyst at UBS Group

Good morning, guys. Thanks for taking my questions. The first one is just around the comments on returning to normal seasonality in the first quarter. So if I look at 2017 to 2019, for instance, is it fair to assume that kind of low to mid single-digit sequential improvement maybe in both global ceramic and Flooring Rest of World revenue and maybe flat to slightly down revenue North America? I mean, is that the right way to think about it? And along those same lines, how do you think about sort of normal seasonality in segment margins from fourth quarter to the first quarter?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

So if you look from a segment perspective, in the first quarter, we would believe Flooring North America margin should improve from last year with increased productivity and lower costs, some of which coming from the restructuring actions. Ceramic and Flooring Rest of the World are more impacted by lower mix, a weaker mix and lower volumes with Flooring Rest of the World being impacted more, given so much of its market right now is in Europe and lower prices and wood panels and the laminate categories compressing margins.

John Lovallo
Analyst at UBS Group

Got it. Is that cadence that I mentioned in terms of revenue though, consistent with how you guys are thinking about it? Low to mid single-digit sequential improvement in both global Ceramic and Flooring Rest of the World and maybe flat to down in North America?

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Are you speaking of just in the first quarter versus the prior year?

John Lovallo
Analyst at UBS Group

Sorry, sequentially fourth quarter to first quarter.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

The fourth quarter -- why don't you.

John Lovallo
Analyst at UBS Group

We can follow up.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

Follow up on that one.

John Lovallo
Analyst at UBS Group

Sure. Not a problem. Second question is just on capital allocation. I know you guys mentioned paying down the $900 million term loan. Any thoughts on when you might get back into the market in terms of repurchases?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

We haven't decided to do it yet. We can change whenever we determine at the short-term, we still see uncertainties in difficult financing conditions. We've decided to pay off $900 million of debt in the first quarter. So we haven't decided to begin buying back stock at this moment.

John Lovallo
Analyst at UBS Group

Okay. Thank you, guys.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from Laura Champine with Loop Capital. Please go ahead.

Laura Champine
Analyst at Loop Capital

Thanks for taking my question. On the Flooring North America, we were struck with the 700 basis point year-over-year profit improvement, given that sales were down 4%. I'm wondering if that is mostly cost recapture, if there's something else really driving that? And then on the segment profitability for Ceramic, I'm wondering how much of a hit that segment is taking from the acquisitions in Brazil and Mexico?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

So the -- in the Flooring North America, the earnings did improve from lower costs, offsetting pricing, restructuring as well as productivity gains in the period. And then we continue to invest in all these different marketing activities and new product collections to drive business. We think it's going to carry over into the first quarter and continue on with the margins.

Chris Wellborn
President, Chief Operating Officer, Director & President-Global Ceramic at Mohawk Industries

And Laura, on the South America, both in Mexico and Brazil, had dramatic increases in interest rates, which impacted the acquisitions and our base business. In that environment, we've done a lot to reduce the cost. We've got the businesses more or less fully integrated, and the interest rates are starting to come down, which should improve those businesses a lot in the future.

Laura Champine
Analyst at Loop Capital

Got it. But any more granularity you can give me on how much the negative impact was on the acquired revenues to the margins in Q4?

Chris Wellborn
President, Chief Operating Officer, Director & President-Global Ceramic at Mohawk Industries

Well, we -- the businesses are fully integrated. I expect that they are somewhat dilutive as the markets have slowed down and were underutilized.

Laura Champine
Analyst at Loop Capital

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Matthew Bouley with Barclays. Please go ahead.

Matthew Bouley
Analyst at Barclays

Good morning. Thank you for taking the questions. Just zooming into global ceramic, obviously, price cost was positive for the entire enterprise, but it was still negative. And Ceramic. Any color on how you're expecting price versus cost to play out sequentially into Q1 in Ceramic? Thank you.

Chris Wellborn
President, Chief Operating Officer, Director & President-Global Ceramic at Mohawk Industries

Yeah. Let me -- I'll comment on Ceramic. So Q4 was in line with what we expected. Year-over-year margins were impacted by lower demand, price mix and FX. And then we also took extra production downtime around the holidays to manage our inventories. In that environment, we still were able to enhance our mix with new products. We reduced our cost, and we've increased our productivity And we also got those acquisitions integrated. You are seeing some decline in price/mix as the energy prices are coming down and most of those have been passed along to the consumers.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

I would say sequentially, so from -- if that's what you're speaking of from Q4 to Q1, I think you've seen a lot of that bottoming them out and it should actually slightly improve again sequentially.

Matthew Bouley
Analyst at Barclays

Got it. Okay. Perfect. Thank you. And then second one, obviously, you've gotten -- or you've announced a few cost reduction programs over the past year. Can you just sort of remind us of the magnitude of these cost reduction programs together? And are you kind of at run rate today in terms of those savings flowing through? Or there's additional benefit to kind of accrue as we move through 2024? Thank you.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

So we focused in the restructuring actions late -- over the last 18 months of trying to take out high-cost assets, aligning our capacity and implementing other lower-cost processes really across all three of the segments. Collectively, there's about $150 million of cost reductions that we should garner from these actions.

Almost half of that has been realized in 2023. So you get the remaining portion to flow through 2024. Of course, you're seeing some of that in 2023 being offset by other factors. We'll continue to evaluate our current -- the current situation and take actions as necessary to continue to try to drive improved results.

Matthew Bouley
Analyst at Barclays

All right. Thanks guys. Good luck.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Kathryn Thompson with Thompson Research Group. Please go ahead.

Kathryn Thompson
Analyst at Thompson Research Group

Hi. Thank you for taking my questions. Tagging on the previous question, you're largely behind the bulk of cost-cutting measures. But earlier in the call, you said that you don't know when you can't predict M&A. But that said, you can -- and we have plenty of public companies and private companies that can comment on their path for growth, including the balance more focused on organic growth and what the pipeline looks like for M&A. So could you please comment on your thoughts on growth going forward, both from an organic focusing on what products and geographies greater focus and then comment on just the flavor of the pipeline for M&A? Thank you.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Let's start out with all the businesses are underutilized the capacities that we have. So the goal is to drive the utilization of the present product categories and operations that we have as the business improved.

On the other ones, there were -- on the other products that we're investing in are the areas where before we went into the slowdown that we're more constrained and we're investing in those, those include the LVT category, which we're in the process of changing the plants over and they should be filled up as we go through this year. We're introducing a new LVT renewable polymer core structure going into the marketplace and being well accepted in laminate.

We're introducing new technologies in acoustics and durability to improve the use of those assets. Ceramic, we're putting products in that have differentiated color intensity textures and three-dimensional surfaces. Countertops is in every product category. So, the main objective is to use the assets that we own and drive them up as we go through.

On the acquisition side, there are no pending acquisitions sitting at this moment that we're ready to close is that we're always in the market to look at opportunities, but there's a large difference between buyers and sellers at the moment, which we discussed before. So there's nothing immediate waiting to be closed at this point.

Kathryn Thompson
Analyst at Thompson Research Group

Any type of -- just in terms of -- from an M&A standpoint, is there --just a further clarification or confirmation in terms of geographic and/or product focus?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Was that an acquisition question or an investment question?

Kathryn Thompson
Analyst at Thompson Research Group

That's the acquisition question, it's an acquisition question.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

We're just -- in Latin America, we completed two acquisitions. They are basically fully integrated. And so there's nothing more to do and those managements are taking care of those. We have a number of bolt-on acquisitions that we're finishing up and improving that we haven't got all the benefits across the world, which we've gone through at earlier points those are going through.

We really don't have a specific piece that we need to drive. I guess, if I had to pick one, we have our insulation business, which the installation business is growing. So I would say that investing in additional assets in it would be done sooner than other ones to expand capacities in an additional area.

And then on the acquisition side, it's really more where do we find the right acquisition that fits in with the business. We prefer bolt-on ones because of the advantages you get by putting them together, but we would go into new geographies if we found the right product and the right management to drive it.

Kathryn Thompson
Analyst at Thompson Research Group

Thank you very much.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you.

Operator

And our next question comes from Adam Baumgarten with Zelman. Please go ahead. Hi, good morning. Just Jeff, to confirm, do you expect residential markets to outperform commercial in 2024? And if that is the case, would that have a negative impact on mix and maybe margins?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Built in our plans are a decrease in the commercial businesses because what happens is you have the projects that were started a year to two years ago completing. As they complete, there's less being started, so there's going to be a gap for a period of time. And then the mix, you're correct. The mix in commercial is higher, but we think it's going to be offset by gains in the residential business and the mix in the consumer purchases in retail, which they buy higher quality products.

James Brunk
Chief Financial Officer at Mohawk Industries

You have to remember, Adam, when you say residential is kind of split, right. New construction and remodeling as we've talked about as consumer settlement improves, you should -- that leads to higher remodeling more higher ticket items, which then leads to an out-mix for our business. So that could also help.

Adam Baumgarten
Analyst at Zelman & Associates

Okay. Got it. And then just thinking about North America, maybe just some color across the various product categories and where you're seeing the most pricing pressure? I know, I think it's pressure across the board, but maybe the degree across the various different products you sell in that business?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

The whole category is under pressure as the volumes have dropped. As you would suspect, in each category, the more commoditized products have more pressure than the differentiated ones. The carpets under pressure with both pricing and mix, the LVT prices have declined as the prices -- the import prices have come down in it. And there's also less volume being sold in the categories.

So those might be a little worse than the others.

Adam Baumgarten
Analyst at Zelman & Associates

Got it. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Rafe Jadrosich with Bank of America. Please go ahead.

Rafe Jadrosich
Analyst at Bank of America

Hi. Good morning, Chris and Jeff. Thanks for taking my questions. I wanted to ask if continued rates have moved up recently, I'm wondering, is that helping your business or reducing competition either in Europe or the U.S. And if container rates were continuing to rise, could that lead to less pricing competition on the LVT or Ceramic side?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Let's first start out that with imported products, there's a long supply chain. So when the things move, it takes a while before it flows through into the marketplaces and it has to be sustained for a while. So it's too early to tell.

If the freight rates would move up and stay up. It would flow through after the inventories were absorbed that are already in the market and the prices would rise. At this point, it's too early to decide if it's going to have any input -- impact and be sustained.

Rafe Jadrosich
Analyst at Bank of America

If container rates stay where they are today for the next quarter or two quarters, do you think that would start to have an impact to pricing and you'd see some price either stabilization or actually improvement?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

What happened is, as you would suspect, it would have to flow into the cost of the product. It would raise the prices and the prices in the marketplace would go up, and it would help our local manufacturing.

Rafe Jadrosich
Analyst at Bank of America

Great. And then where you do you compete the most against imported product is that in the US.? Or is that in Europe? And the context is obviously with some of the disruptions in the Red Sea. Does that -- like could your Europe business start to benefit from fewer imports from Asia?

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Yeah. The -- so from Asia, you have the imports in Europe would be mostly LVT, then you have the Ceramic is moving where the most aggressive players are in India is that's so those two would be the most.

On the other side, we do ship product around the world. We ship high-end ceramic all over the place. We ship sheet vinyl to the Middle East and other marketplaces. So it impacts those limited ways.

Rafe Jadrosich
Analyst at Bank of America

Thank you. Very helpful.

Operator

Thank you. This concludes our question-and-answer session. I'd like to turn the conference back over to Jeff Lorberbaum, for any closing remarks.

Jeff Lorberbaum
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Mohawk Industries

Thank you very much. We appreciate your interest in Mohawk. We believe we're well positioned for the recovery that's going to come in the United States. So thank you for joining the call. Have a good day.

Operator

Thank you. The conference has now concluded, and we thank you all for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect your lines. And have a wonderful day.

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