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Eastman Chemical Q4 2021 Earnings Call Transcript


Listen to Conference Call View Latest SEC 10-K Filing

Participants

Corporate Executives

  • Gregory A. Riddle
    Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communication
  • Mark J. Costa
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
  • William T. McLain
    Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Presentation

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Fourth Quarter Full Year 2021 Eastman Chemical Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

We will now turn the call over to Mr. Greg Riddle of Eastman Chemical Company Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Gregory A. Riddle
Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communication at Eastman Chemical

Thank you, Tracy, and hello, everybody, and thank you for joining us. On the call with me today are Mark Costa, our board Chair and CEO; William McLain, Senior Vice President and CFO; and Jake LaRoe, Manager Investor Relations.

Yesterday after market close, we posted our fourth quarter and full-year 2021 financial results news release and SEC 8-K filing, our slides, and the related prepared remarks in the Investors section of our website www.Eastman.com.

Before we begin, I'll cover two items. First, during this presentation you will hear certain forward-looking statements concerning our plans and expectations. Actual events or results could differ materially. Certain factors related to future expectations are or will be detailed in our fourth quarter and full-year 2021 financial results news release, during this call, in the preceding slides and prepared remarks, and in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the form 10-Q filed for third quarter '21 and the form 10-K to be filed for full-year 2021. Second, earnings referenced in this presentation excludes certain non-core and unusual items. Reconciliations to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures and other associated disclosures, including a description of the excluded and adjusted items are available in the fourth quarter and full-year 2021 financial results news release.

As we posted the slides and the accompanying prepared remarks on our website last night, we will now go straight into Q&A. Tracy, please let's start with our first question.


Questions and Answers

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We will now take our first question from David Begleiter from Deutsche Bank. Please go ahead.

David Begleiter
Analyst at Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

Thank you. Good morning. Mark, just on Advanced Materials, very nice guidance for 2022. Can you talk to how much line of sight you have to that $700 million EBIT being performed this year between price increases and innovation?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Sure, Dave, and it's good to hear from you. And we are really excited about Advanced Materials and its ability to deliver pretty substantial earnings growth as you just mentioned. and I think to talk about it, it's best to start with the context of last year because it really feeds into why we're so confident about this year. So last year both at the company level as well in particular at the Advanced Materials level, primary demand was incredibly strong at the consumer level, strong in transportation, B&C, durables, a variety of markets, textiles, etc. And so the constraint in serving it, especially in Advanced Materials, wasn't a demand situation. It was a outbound logistics and operational concern because the demand did come back in such a strong way, we, across the world, of course, ran into supply chain outbound logistics constraints in the industry. And we at Eastman had operational constraints.

And so you've got all this primary demand. Then you've got the innovation driving the growth to be well above in markets, especially in durables and transportation and textiles -- well, textiles is Fibers. And you've got these operational constraints, right? They were in three buckets. There were plant shutdowns. And in particular in Advanced Materials, we had to pull forward the line conversion of Tritan because that demand was so strong, we weren't able to serve it with the existing capacity, so we had that line conversion that took a bunch of capacity offline during the second quarter of last year. And then we had a long shutdown in the fourth quarter to expand capacity and improve reliability, and bringing that facility -- set of facilities back up online in December took a lot longer than we expected.

So operationally constrained demand through last year. So when you look at this year from a volume/mix point of view, we expect to have a lot more capacity, and we're in a better logistics position to serve all that demand. The innovation will continue to deliver a lot of strong growth on top of that allows us to have a very large driver on that front.

In addition to that, of course, with the market being so constrained and tight last year, we had extraordinary inflation across the company and in AM, and it really accelerated through the back half of last year in Advanced Materials in particular. And so there was a period of time as always that takes prices to catch up to raws. Now on that front, we did a great job of getting all of our prices back up and especially plastics as well as new contracts and interlayers to recover the distribution energy and raw material headwind that we'd incurred. And as we look forward, those prices are sufficient to cover raw material and energy costs being similar to fourth quarter and a increasing logistics headwind this year. So you've got at least $100 million of spread tailwind that is fairly well defined by the prices we have in place now. So you put those two together, that's very strong growth. But then there's still a cost tailwind as well for this segment. So when you have all those operational shutdowns like we did last year, it's not just the higher maintenance costs, the lost volume opportunities, it also led to a very high air freight expense. At the company level, air freight was probably $65 million last year relative to a normal $10 million and a lot of that was in Advanced Materials.

So our supply chains are in much better shape where we're not going to incur that air freight this year. Already have good plans to materially reduce it back to that more normal level. Not all the way there but good progress. So you've got cost tailwinds, to some degree offset by growth spend, but when you put it all together it adds up to a very impressive earnings outlook for Advanced Materials. And you'll see that immediately in the first quarter with strong sequential improvement as that volume and mix improves without the operational constraints of that fourth quarter, which was over $25 million there, spread expansions [Indecipherable] by those prices that are already in place as we talked about, and the costs will be a bit better. So we feel great about the segment, and it's really a testament to the innovation, right? It's not just about markets. We're growing well above our markets, even in automotive being above the automotive challenges by a significant amount.

David Begleiter
Analyst at Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

Very good. And just one thing -- last thing on Fibers. Mark, you referenced strong growth in textile products. Talk about the growth of that -- of those products in '21 as well as your earnings profitability and what you foresee for 2022 in textile products?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. Textiles is a great story. As you know, we've been investing in building out a new set of markets with an improved Naia textile fiber and then we've been able to add sustainability to this value proposition with not just the biopolymer content that we've had forever but now the acetyl component the other 40% being derived from waste plastic. So you've got a product that is sustainable in -- sustainably grown forest wood pulp made from moist plastic and certified biodegradable as microfibers if they get into the ocean through the washing machine, etc. So that value proposition, especially for luxury brands and the women's wear market where sustainability is a very important factor, is driving just tremendous growth from that market, combined with market recovery from 2020.

So you saw very good revenue in the Fibers segment that was driven by this revenue, volume/mix was relatively stable in tow, and so the revenue growth is really being driven by the great success we're having in this space. And it's exciting because we see that continuing, right, the growth we're seeing in women's wear, also starting to get in athleisure is creating a lot of opportunities to grow. In fact, this is like Tritan where we're moving quickly now to convert more tow lines to making Naia textile fibers to keep up with the growth that we see this year and the years to come. So it's an exciting story and obviously -- and this business, by the way, on the textile side did a nice job of keeping prices to keep up with raws. The spread compression that happened in this segment was really on the tow side.

David Begleiter
Analyst at Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft

Thank you very much.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Vincent Andrews from Morgan Stanley. Please go ahead.

Vincent Andrews
Analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC

Thank you and good morning everyone. Mark, maybe you could just talk to us a bit more about the recycling plant announcement in France. And two particular areas I'm interested in is, one, just on the milestones that you -- and the boxes you need to check and your comfort that you're going to check those boxes and maybe over what period of time you think you'll be able to do it. And then following up on the textiles line of discussion. I did notice that you did include textile applications as an outlet for the France project. So I'm just curious in that overall project, how big of the mix textiles might be and if the -- versus maybe a year ago if the incoming on textiles for that type of a facility is really increasing and maybe that's going to be another vector for these applications.

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Thanks, Vince. And we're really excited to get this second project announced. Obviously, we're incredibly excited about the first project we're building that will be online at the end of this year proving out this technology at much larger commercial scale and enabling very attractive specialty growth here in the short term. But as we look at the French project and getting a position in Europe to serve and enable the circular economy is just an exciting opportunity. We looked all over Europe and France was a very unique opportunity that we're very excited about the French government was very committed to be a leader on plastic waste and climate, as you might imagine, and really trying to develop the circular economy. So they were willing to be aggressive on how they're going to improve their recycling infrastructure to support this plant. And they were helpful in making sure we found the right set of incentives, right understanding, and very available green feedstock for the recycling feed stock as well as green energy and steam. So a lot of factors came together to make France a very attractive location.

And Europe as a market very attractive because, especially in France, those brand leaders, especially in the cosmetic luxury space, are very forward leaning on sustainability, on plastic waste, and dealing with climate. It's a strong engagement. They wanted to have a plant in their backyard, so once again good choice in France. That allows us to have a very strong competitive position in being a solution provider on this space. So market demand very strong. As you saw, a number of LOIs in place. One of the milestones that has to be completed, Vincent, is just completing those agreements to lock in both the specialty off-take of this plant as well as the PET off-take, and I'll come to textiles in a moment. But it is -- this plant's going to be a mix. So the first plant is going to be primarily specialties. This plant will be a mix of continuing to have our specialty capability there around our co-polyesters as well as making PET for packaging. So we got to complete those agreements, the engagement's very strong, and make sure that's done.

The second thing, of course, is sourcing feedstock, and we're making great progress with a number of suppliers in the feedstock. One of the attractive aspects of France is there's over 600,000 tons of polyester waste a year. And so tapping into that as well as other countries across Europe. So we're confident we're going to get the feedstock, but you got to make sure you've completed that sourcing. And then the site selection is the last part, which is we have three very attractive sites identified. They all have very attractive greens -- green energy supply. But we're working through what is the best one with the right logistics for both inbound and outbound as we're moving a lot of material here as well as that green energy which is key to our carbon footprint and our cost structure. And so we're working through all of that. But I'm very confident all three sites are attractive. We just need to decide which one. So we feel good about the track we're on. It's just completing the work that we have going.

Vincent Andrews
Analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC

Okay. And then just...

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

And then on textiles part, Vincent, textiles will be part of it. It's not our primary focus at the moment because we've had so much engagement on the packaging and the specialty side, we've been primarily working with customers on that front. So we're starting engagement on the textile side right after packaging and plastic waste. The biggest second contributor to incineration and landfill is textile waste. So there is going to be a significant and meaningful circular economy. That's why we're having so much success in our Naia cellulosic fibers is for the same reason. But we expect textiles to be a part of this project, but I'm not yet sure what percent. So I don't want to get into that at this point. But no doubt, it's a source of feedstock and it's a source of off-take.

Vincent Andrews
Analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC

Okay. Sounds exciting. Thanks very much, guys.

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Jeffrey Zekauskas from JP Morgan. Please go ahead.

Jeffrey Zekauskas
Analyst at JP Morgan Securities

Thanks very much. In your script, you talked about elevated spreads in your Chemical Intermediates business that you thought in the second half might be more narrow. Which are the spreads that are elevated now that might narrow later in the year?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Sure. Good morning, Jeff. So, obviously, spreads on the olefin side are the area where we've had the most expansion through last year. And there was a belief, at some point, markets will normalize as supply and demand come into more balance. And we thought that would happen in the fourth quarter and it's held up better than expected as you can see in our results. And we expect, frankly, those spreads to continue to hold up as we go into the first quarter. And then our forecast is based on moderation starting in the second quarter and becoming more towards normal in the back half of the year, which is just a forecast. As we all know right now, Jeff, no one really knows exactly how that spread normalization is going to occur. But just to be clear, that's what's in our assumptions.

It's important to remember that there's other things that go on in this segment that create a lot of value, right? So we've got very good volume/mix upgrade, especially mix upgrade and the growth we have in ag functional means, and especially plasticizers. And acetyls will actually be up in earnings in a meaningful way this year versus last year. Because last year we had a very large shutdown in our acetyl complex. We're going to have a lot more volume to sell this year. And acetic anhydride because of contractual reasons didn't improve that much last year and it's catching up to the better market conditions this year, and so we're going to have better margins in the acetic anhydride, which really is the larger part of our business. You have to remember, acetic acid is a small co-product for us, and so we're not that levered to what's going on in that market.

So you've got a lot of positives going on, not to mention substantial cost tailwind for this segment when you think about the high shutdown schedule I mentioned in Advanced Materials and how that's a tailwind. That applies across the company. And a good portion of that high shutdown -- unusually high shutdown schedule last year was in CI, right? we delayed a bunch of maintenance turnarounds from 2020 into '21 for safety reasons and keeping people from getting COVID. So we had a high schedule there. We also had some unplanned outages like Uri and a few other outages in CI in the fourth quarter that we're a headwind that will be -- all become a tailwind. So you've got cost tailwinds, operational cost savings improvements, and then you've got these other businesses growing that net against whatever the normalization of CI is on the olefin spreads.

Jeffrey Zekauskas
Analyst at JP Morgan Securities

Thank you. In your proposed French plant, can you give us some insight into what you expect your customer agreements to look like? Do you want to carve up the plant into certain segments and have some I guess more defined rate of return that's less volatile based on various changes in costs? Or do you wish to go about it in a different way?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

So, no, we definitely are focusing and designed these plants with an absolute focus on maintaining steady spreads as much as possible to provide a very reliable source of EBITDA for the company and margin stability and how it shows up every year. So that's our focus.

Now there are two models in how you do that. The first model is a certain percentage of this plant will continue to be specialties like what we're doing in Kingsport. There's tremendous amount of demand in cosmetics and electronics and some very unique high-value packaging items that are our specialty products that we sell every day now. And we base those prices on value and we have good differentiated positions in the marketplace to maintain prices relative to raw material costs. And so our pricing strategy for the specialty part of the plant would be what we do every day in Advanced Materials.

In addition, and a good portion of the volume will be making PET for packaging. And that will be the circular contracting model we talked about at Innovation Day. Brad covered it pretty thoroughly and those will be take or pay long-term contracts that the prices are based on even the value that we have in providing mechanical recycling content to the marketplace. Remember that current food rPET is trading at a 40% to 50% premium to virgin PET today and for the last couple years in the European market. And these will be cost-passthrough contracts. So we're not going to be taking risk on what the feedstock costs are which makes a lot of sense for the customers because if the feedstock costs for us go up, the food grade mechanical recycling costs are going to go up even more. So this is a hedge for them about the risk of buying mechanical recycled content relative to what the cost-passthrough contract would provide, which will be relatively more stable.

So those are the contracts we have. So stable margins derived from both parts of the plant. The exact mix of what is going to be specialty versus PET and textiles is still being determined by us because we're seeing a lot more especially demand than we originally expected. And so that's good those are higher margins, and so we're working on how to balance all of that out. But whatever we build is going to be flexible. So the lines that make PET will have the ability to flex and make our specialty co-polyesters in the future so we can always mix/upgrade these facilities over time if that opportunity presents itself.

Jeffrey Zekauskas
Analyst at JP Morgan Securities

Okay, great. Thank you so much.

Operator

We will now take our next question from P.J. Juvekar from Citi. Please go ahead.

P.J. Juvekar
Analyst at Smith Barney Citigroup

Yeah, hi. Good morning. Mark, you were in the PET business before, then you got out. What is your confidence level to get this 12% ROC that you're talking about in this French plant? And you talked about recycled PET, rPET. We know it swings wildly. Is that the spread is locked in your mind to get that 12% ROC? Can you just talk about that a little bit?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Sure. And our absolute focus has been on this question because I have no intention of getting back into the merchant PET business that had wide swings in profitability. I ran that business for quite some time a number of years ago and not going back there. So we've been very clear with investors as well as customers that the approach we're taking here is different. And it goes back to what I just said to Jeff's question, right? The PET part of this business is going to be a long-term offtake contracts with cost-passthrough structures where we're not taking spread risk on what the price versus feedstock cost is. That's the only way we're going to build this plant, right? So those contracts have to get in place, customers are engaged, they understand that. That's what's in these LOIs that we're getting. And, of course, we've got to still work through all the details to get to complete agreements, which is one of those milestones that Vince asked for a moment ago. But to be clear, we're not going to build a plant unless we get it that way, right? We're not going to get -- slide back into that volatile business that is the normal PET business.

In the specialties, we have a very long demonstrated track record for a few decades now, especially the last decade of delivering very strong volume growth but also very steady spreads over time. Obviously, there's like all specialties, expansion/contraction with movements in deflation or inflation of your raw materials. But we have very differentiated positions. And frankly, this plant is going to give us even more differentiated position relative to our competitors, because we're going to have recycled content in our products in a plant based in Europe that gives a much better circular economy benefit for anyone who wants to buy from this plant. The circular economy is a very regional concept. So when we build plants in Europe or in the U.S., it's a significant advantage relative to Asian competitors in how we can provide within region solutions.

P.J. Juvekar
Analyst at Smith Barney Citigroup

Great. Thank you. And congrats on that plant. My next question is...

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Thank you. We're really excited.

William T. McLain
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Eastman Chemical

Thank you.

P.J. Juvekar
Analyst at Smith Barney Citigroup

Yeah. My next question is quickly on inventory levels. And looks like inventories must be low given that you are air-freighting raw materials here. What's the inventory levels at your customers when you look down the chain or look across your portfolio? Is it quite low? And some companies are expecting some coil-back in business activity because of low inventories. What's your take on that? Thank you.

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So inventories are at historic lows for us. And as far as we can tell with our customers, historic lows for them, too. I should have put that in my string in David's question around Advanced Materials. That's another driver of volume growth on top of good market pent-up demand and the logistics constraints being freed up and our innovation driving growth, there is this need to rebuild inventories all the way down the chain, pretty much across every market. I would say the only exception I can think of across all of our markets is tow where the cigarette customers are about normal inventories. But automotive, obviously, has a huge amount of pent-up demand and need to build re-inventory. Building construction, same thing. Durables, where we've seen a lot of growth, there's still a lot of inventory rebuild in that stream and the list goes on. And that's an AFP as well with coatings and care chemicals and animal nutrition. So another upside that creates a lot of demand that this year will still be pegged against what we can make and ship as we continue to expand capacity to enable more growth next year.

P.J. Juvekar
Analyst at Smith Barney Citigroup

Thank you.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Kevin McCarthy from Vertical Research Partners. Please go ahead.

Kevin McCarthy
Analyst at Vertical Research Partners

Yes, good morning. You signaled plans to deploy $1.4 billion of capital in 2022, and I was just wondering if you could help us understand what the mix of repurchases versus M&A might be, also the timing of that deployment, recognizing that you're set to close the adhesives deal, I would think relatively soon. And then as a matter of clarification, is that deployment included in your EPS range?

William T. McLain
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Eastman Chemical

Thanks, Kevin -- this is Willie -- for the question. So, yes, we actually put a lot of the proceeds and the free cash flow to work at the end of 2021. So I'd highlights that we repurchased roughly 1 billion shares of which 700 million was during Q4 mostly in November and December. As we think about having $1.4 billion next year, it's a combination of the proceeds from our adhesives divestiture, and we anticipate that that'll be at the end of Q1 from a closing standpoint, as well as the additional I'll call it cash flow that we'll have from operations as we think about also increased organic spend. So $1.4 billion, we would expect to start putting that to work in Q2 is when we would expect to do that. And you can think about probably greater than $1 billion on share repurchases with additional optionality as we think about the other $400 million as we get into the back half of the year and see how things develop with our portfolio of bolt-on and pipeline.

Kevin McCarthy
Analyst at Vertical Research Partners

Great. That's helpful. And then maybe, Mark, as a follow-up to that, what are you looking to do with the bolt-on M&A pipeline strategically and I don't know how you want to frame that in terms of product interest or geographic interest or other objectives?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So we are looking at bolt-on M&A. I would say that we are exceptionally busy with our top specialty innovation growth programs across the company and ensuring we deliver on that, as well as building out the circular platform, right. We've now got the project in Kingsport, we've got the announcement in France, we're still working on that third project in the U.S and making progress on that. So that is a huge amount of EBITDA in play for long-term growth from the -- from an organic point of view on the specialty side, accelerated by all this circular opportunity. So, bolt-on M&A is a priority, but it's after those two topics.

We do see opportunities in Advanced Materials and AFP. As I've said before, our priorities remain the same around ways to open up new markets with compounding capability in a few targeted areas in specialty plastics. The renewable content of Tritan is opening up new market opportunities in the opaque space and some other more engineered performance dimensions than what we've had in our typical value proposition in electronics and automotive. So a lot of opportunity there that we want to make sure we can exploit and grow.

We're always interested in growing our performance films business and have had a great track record of continued bolt-ons there that should continue. And then whether it's performance, personal care or coating additives, there's those opportunities that leverage our very strong position in our technology platforms and our market positions that we'll look at. So it's those four areas -- and animal nutrition, right? So number of different places where we could consider doing it, and the markets are pretty overheated, and we're going to always remain disciplined in our capital deployment to make sure we get an attractive return for investors. So we'll just have to see if that gets done. If it doesn't happen, as Willie said, that extra $400 million of cash above the $1 billion this year we'll turn into share repurchases.

Kevin McCarthy
Analyst at Vertical Research Partners

That's helpful. Thanks a lot.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Mike Sison from Wells Fargo. Please go ahead.

Michael Sison
Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities

Hey, good morning. Quick one on AFP. You're looking for 10% growth versus last year. Any commentary you have for businesses in the segment now or will they all grow in that line, some above, some below?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yes. So, the -- first of all, we're really excited to have the new focused AFP and its very attractive growth when you look at what we're guiding to a recast $450 million EBIT last year of the AFP business, excluding tires and adhesives. So that is very strong growth. And it really is the same story, just not as extreme as the Advanced Materials story earlier, right? So we've got pretty good volume/mix growth in coatings, in personal care, and water treatment, in animal nutrition, and specialty fluids. All of those elements of the market were drivers of growth last year and are expected to continue to be drivers of growth this year.

This is also a place where we had unusually high shutdown schedule last year, especially for the care solutions business. And so you've got just that freed up capacity to enable more volume growth on top of market growth as we go into this year. And then you've got restocking because none of these customers have inventory, as I mentioned earlier. So there's the restocking benefit and then there's the innovative growth that is continuing to gain traction here and starting to build like what we have in Advanced Materials across coatings and care solutions. So that's all contributing.

You've got spread improvement. Now, this business, increased prices a lot faster last year, because a lot of their positions are in cost-passthrough contracts that track pretty quickly with the raws by definition. And so those prices increased a lot. So we didn't have as much of a spread headwind in this business last year as we did in Advanced Materials. Therefore, this year we're not going to have as much of a tailwind, but we're still going to have a meaningful tailwind. And then, of course, you've got the overall net cost structure being considerably lower this year for the company and AFP will pick up part of that. And then it gets netted off by growth spend.

So well-positioned to deliver growth, and it's really across all the segments; coatings, residential construction is obviously incredibly tight. Automotive has plenty of room for recovery this year. We've got some actually great growth in semiconductors in the coatings business, and animal nutrition is going to have a very good solid year and personal care is a great stable business with more capacity to sell this year.

Michael Sison
Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities

Got it. And then just a follow-up in Advanced Materials. Just curious if you could give us a little bit of a sensitivity in the $100 million spread recovery. Oil is pretty high now. And if inflation gets worse, how does that affect that $100 million? And I guess would you just make it up in intermediates in the event that happens? So the net-net number would still be pretty good?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So, first of all, we said greater than $100 million. So we have some room for air with some -- of the more recent inflation to deliver that $100 million. Second, we have good pricing power in a strong demand environment. We just spent considerable time talking about how our primary demand and our direct customer demand is well in excess of what can be provided, and they need to rebuild inventory on top of that. So we feel confident in that environment. We have pricing power. And if we see raw material inflation go up, we'll increase prices further from where we are today. But I think the team's done an excellent job. When you look at the raw material inflation really didn't accelerate toward -- until towards the end of August. And by January, we caught up to it. That's actually in the world of specialties actually very good, excellent, when you think about the extremity of this inflation we were chasing to be in a very good position for the first quarter.

And to be clear what our assumption is, on a full-year basis, this year raw materials and energy are going to be a headwind relative to last year, which is basically assuming those prices remain elevated around fourth quarter. We are also expecting distribution costs to be a headwind this year as the supply chain tensions are not resolving anytime soon. And the prices we currently have in place get you that greater-than-$100 million tailwind. So I think we're in a good position. And if oil keeps going up, we will raise prices.

Michael Sison
Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

We will now take our next question from John Roberts from UBS. Please go ahead.

John Roberts
Analyst at UBS Warburg LLC (US)

Thank you. Are there any constraints on growing the green textile fiber business? Can we assume that for many years, you can convert capacity from acetate tow [Phonetic] and are there any constraints on putting more waste plastic into the gasifier to grow the acetyls component of that?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So there's no limitation to our ability to grow the Naia textiles business long-term. So we definitely have tow assets available to be converted. And obviously, the tow market continues to have a 2% to 3% decline, making additional capacity available. So it's just time and capex to convert those lines to make the Naia fibers. And we've had some really interesting breakthroughs on the process innovation side to improve our ability to do that in a capital efficient manner. So we're really excited about that.

So we can definitely convert capacity to growth market. And then when it comes to recycled content, for the -- when we look at where we can go in Naia textiles, where we can go in engineered thermoplastics and specialty plastics, where we could go in food service, which could be significant volume with our biodegradable polymers. We have the ability -- and the microbeads, which isn't very much volume but very high value. We have plans in place where we can, with reasonable capital, improve the capability in front of the gasification complex to process whatever plastic waste we need to support all that growth.

John Roberts
Analyst at UBS Warburg LLC (US)

And then should we assume all of the PRT facilities going forward are going to have a mixed waste plastic processing as well? You've got it in Kingsport. Now you'll have it in France. I was thinking before, you would basically only have mixed waste in Kingsport and the PRT plants would be really polyester only.

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

No, we'll have it everywhere. It's really important. Just the scale of it will depend on the market and the opportunity that we're pursuing. The -- whatever plastic you get, even if it's "all polyester", it's not. When it shows up at the plant gate, there's all kinds of stuff, rocks, aluminum, other polymers that are still in that bale. And you really don't want to put that in the plant. So, to some degree, you've got to have this processing on the front to make sure that what you're putting in the front of the plant is as pure polyester as possible. And this is one of the competitive advantage I think that Eastman is going to have versus our competitors is this is a very efficient process we've developed and patented on how to do that. And if you don't have that ability, no matter how good the bale is that's being delivered to you, you're going to have a serious conversion problem on what's going in the front end to getting high-quality output on the back end.

One of the great things that 30 years of experience got us in working with a commercial scale plant with Kodak and Eastman is, we learned a lot about how to have high conversion efficiency and how to have high energy efficiency. So our plant is capable of a 93% conversion on a polyester level from what goes into what comes out, which is incredibly high compared to most technologies. But you still got to make sure it's polyester you're sticking in the front end, so that mix processing is another competitive advantage that you put together with all of our other advantages that gives us confidence that we can be a leader in this space.

John Roberts
Analyst at UBS Warburg LLC (US)

Thank you.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Frank Mitsch from Fermium Research. Please go ahead.

Frank Mitsch
Analyst at Fermium Research

Hey, good morning, Mark. I can safely say that you had a more eventful Martin Luther King Day than most people on this call. That looked pretty impressive, that backdrop, to be sure. One of the key drivers for growth in '22 is the $75 million tailwind from plant shutdowns and operational disruptions year-over-year. I do like the slide on -- I do like slide 16. It shows the plant shutdowns. But if I'm reading that correctly, it's a $5 million net benefit and you're talking about $75 million. Is that just the unplanned outages that you had in '21 that obviously you're not counting on for '22? But how should we think about that?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Hey, John, I will let Willie answer the question, but Macron visit was great. And I put myself in lockdown for the two weeks leading up to it, so I didn't get Omicron and couldn't go so -- but he was impressive, actually, I have to say. He was well briefed, detailed conversation that went for a long time with him around what he wants in a circular economy and how we're going to be the largest investment in France this year. And he wanted to make sure that the government's doing everything they can to ensure our success. And so it was impressive to see him spend that -- a lot of time with me and actually on the detail of making sure we succeed. So it was good experience. But to the cost question, I'll let Willie take it.

William T. McLain
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Eastman Chemical

Thanks, Frank, for the question. To your point, '22 there's several significant tailwinds on the cost front. So, first, it's greater than $75 million versus last year. And that's due to the unusually high plant shutdown schedule. And the schedule should be about $50 million relative to that on a year-over-year basis. But we also had some unexpected challenges like winter storm Uri. Obviously, that seems like a long time ago at this point. And if you think about, I will call it, the momentum from '20, we had to defer several shutdowns into '21 because of COVID. And then also accelerated, as Mark highlighted earlier, debottlenecks and to improve our reliability. And it's not just the higher maintenance cost. It's the impact of that lost capacity that we had in 2021 that gives us the growth potential given the pent-up demand and, I'll call it, the supply chain that still need to rebuild inventories.

Also, there's an $85 million tailwind on variable comp that goes back to normal in 2022. And we continue our operations transformations, and we think that'll be another $50 million to $75 million. Now, also, as we enter 2022, inflation is going to be much higher than traditional. We think that number is probably $100 million to $125 million. So, as you look at this, the net tailwind is greater than $100 million and it likely offsets any of the scenarios on CI normalization of margins. And in other words, our growth forecast really centers on the belief that we can grow specialty volumes and catch up to the raw material headwinds and also the logistics headwinds that Mark highlighted earlier. And on top of that, we'll be buying back shares.

Frank Mitsch
Analyst at Fermium Research

Got you. That's very helpful, very detailed. And then if I could ask a follow-up on the moving of the pricing in specialties up to the level of inflation during this quarter that you caught up. And I know you're guiding to keep raws flat 4Q '21 through the balance of '22. But if you get a situation that perhaps raws do erode, what's your confidence level in being able to hang on to your higher pricing in a specialties arena, or how should we think about that interplay?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So it all comes down to why things happen, Frank. But if raws are eroding because supply-demand is a little bit more balanced, but demand is still reasonably good, which I think I've covered earlier on our conference on why that will be the case, that becomes a tailwind. So that would be an additional tailwind relative to our forecast.

Frank Mitsch
Analyst at Fermium Research

Great. Thank you so much.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Bob Koort from Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Robert Koort
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Thank you very much. Good morning. Mark, I want to start out on the French announcement, the French plant. You mentioned you're going to have the mixed plastic processing upfront. What do you do with the non-polyester stuff? Do you sell that to somebody else that gasifies it or burns it or where does it go exactly?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So the -- so what we don't use, goes back into the recycling stream and ends up being used by another recycling process. So, for example, most of what would be leftover, could be used by a pyrolysis plant, there's several of those kinds of projects being developed in France. So, they could take the material and turn it into a circular economy for the olefin world. Worst case scenario, it gets incinerated like it does today. All this material these days is being incinerated, right? So you got to keep in mind that the overall recycling industry has a significant need to improve its infrastructure and it's recycling, right? So France alone does 600,000 tons of polyester waste. Just over half of that is packaging, the rest is textiles and carpets. The textiles and carpets is incinerate, has no alternative solution until we show up on the polyester side of carpet and textiles with a solution where it can be recycled.

So -- and on the packaging side, only about 15% to 20% of what is captured by the mechanical recyclers actually finds its way back into a bottle. The rest of it ends up being down-cycled. So as we optimize this system, we're -- and mechanical recycling feedstock, as we've talked about, degrades over time. So we have to have this molecular recycling technology to close this loop. And it has to be done because plastic is by far the most carbon-efficient product versus other materials. So if we're going to be science driven, that's where this opportunity is so significant for us. But there's a whole ecosystem of recycling infrastructure, Bob, that gets created in this mix plastic processing, actually doesn't just enable polyester for us but actually enables a cleaner feedstock for other technologies at the same time.

Robert Koort
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

And can you license that technology? It sounds like if you get something that's novel there. Maybe there's a stream -- a licensing stream there?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. We're looking at licensing and partnering opportunities because it in itself can really unlock and enable a lot of feedstock recycling infrastructure affordably. So we're very much looking at that as part of how we partner with people who are going to source us feedstocks and other opportunities.

Robert Koort
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

And I guess in Kingsport, you're going to use some of your material to do some Tritan renew. Would it make sense if you're going to have a suite of products, one of those being a PET resin plant, to not just send that DMT and paraxylene to an existing PET plant and have them toll [Phonetic] it because they could still get the same renewable certificate for it, and then you wouldn't have to spend the capital, or maybe have a subscale plant versus a fossil fuel plant?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So it's unfortunately not that simple. A long time ago -- DMT is a relatively high-cost way to make the intermediate for making PET. It enables a much higher-performing product, which is why we use it in our specialty products. It gives you much better clarity and better performance on many dimensions. So we're DMT based as a competitive advantage for specialties. But the existing PET infrastructure that's in Europe, and really across the world for that matter, is based on PTA. And so you can't just swap out the PTA and use DMT in an existing PET plant. You'd have to spend a significant amount of capital to convert the facility. And once you start looking at that capital conversion cost, you might as well just build a new plant. It's more -- it's a better-integrated return.

Robert Koort
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Got you. Great. Thanks very much.

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

You bet.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Matthew DeYoe from Bank of America. Please go ahead.

Matthew DeYoe
Analyst at BofA Securities

Thanks. I wanted to talk a little bit about Naia and tow and the conversions. Is there a point where converging -- converting tow lines can happen at a big enough rate that you'll substantially tighten the tow market? Or is that unlikely or too far out or not the right way to think about it?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

No, it's a very good question and one we spend a lot of time on. And as we look at the Naia tow conversion as well as before you get to tow, the ability to redeploy flake, the intermediate polymer basically that goes into the spinning lines, into food service and into thermoplastics, creates different ways to redeploy the entire integrated stream, and it created very tight stream relative to where it is today. But, yes, there are ways to look at converting capacity on the tow front. There's also new technologies, the next-generation technology we're working at that I'm not going to get into detail now, that would be a different way to make the fiber at a much more capital efficient and advantaged greenhouse way.

So, we're pursuing all those options. And whether it makes the total tow industry exceptionally tight isn't just about us, right? It's also about what happens with our competitors and what they do with their capacity. And we're very fortunate to have a long, multi-decade history of innovation in cellulosics to all these different specialty applications that allow us to create all these new opportunities for growth, that allow us to keep our stream tight and grow it when you include the specialties with the fiber complex. But the -- it's not as clear that everyone else can do the same thing. And so I hesitate to say that the industry in total is going to become extremely tight. But I will tell you with the capacity reductions that have already happened to the tow industry over the last several years and what we're doing is certainly tightening the market in a meaningful way.

Matthew DeYoe
Analyst at BofA Securities

Got it. I appreciate that. And you might have answered this a bit in Mike's question. But if I think about the cadence on raw material recapture in AM, is it really like January you're back? What quarter are we looking at here where price overtakes raws? Because I think things like advanced interlayers could see a meaningful step-change day one just given annual pricing, but I don't know that that's the correct way to think about it.

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah. So day one of this quarter relative to the fourth quarter, you're going to see substantial spread expansion with the prices that we've put in place relative to Q4. That's a big driver of the not just annual outlook for Advanced Materials but the strong improvement we're guiding to you about Advanced Materials on Q1 to -- I'm sorry, Q4 to Q1 basis. Combined with the volume and mix growth, it really is a big substantial step up from where we were in the fourth quarter. So, yeah, it's going to start happening right now. It picks up momentum though. So the expansion gets more significant in the second, third, and fourth quarter when you look at it on a year-over-year basis for where all the value comes from, not just on spread but also in volume/mix improvement. We were really constrained because we're normally seasonally stronger in the second quarter in volume/mix. Last year, we couldn't do that, because of the shutdown that we had to do due to the Tritan conversion. So a lot better ability to grow volume in the second quarter as well as spread improvement. So AM will actually have a very good second quarter relative to the first quarter when you put that together. So, no, it's happening now.

Matthew DeYoe
Analyst at BofA Securities

Thanks.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Alex Yefremov from KeyBanc. Please go ahead.

Aleksey Yefremov
Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

Thank you and good morning, everyone. Mark, so waste sorting is one of the key steps in recycling. You talked about your experience with proprietary sorting process. So in terms of scale, what you've done so far in this area, how much of a scale increase is what you're going to be doing in France or other sites, how much of an increase in operational risk is it?

William T. McLain
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Eastman Chemical

Yeah, there's really not much operational risk in the mix processing part of cleaning up the feedstock before the plant, and it's very low capital in the way to do it. So, we've already -- are constructing the facility here for our 110 KMT of inbound feedstock to this facility and the same larger-scale facility will be built in Europe. What's interesting is it's modular. So as we look at this, there's an opportunity to actually do it in multiple locations to be more logistically efficient in how we source waste and collaborate with sourcing partners. So we're still debating on how much we do it on site versus closer to where the feedstock is being sourced to get a more streamlined stream moving across the road to us. So there are definitely some design options there with our sourcing partners or feedstock sources and how we're trying to take that through.

Aleksey Yefremov
Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

And a follow-up on rPET. What is your cost position relative to food-grade mechanical rPET? And on the pricing side, do you think your customers would be willing to pay a premium for chemically recycled PET versus mechanical rPET?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

So the -- our cost structures, we're not going to get into debating and discussing detailed cost structures. But what I can say is that, when we look at our cost structure and the pricing, which is being centered around the alternative material, which is mechanical recycled content, we are in a very good position to have spreads that will then be locked-in in cost-passthrough contracts to deliver a greater than 12% return.

The -- from a premium point of view, when you think about the quality of mechanical recycle versus our molecular recycled product, our product is much higher quality. Because the nature of unzipping the polymer and purifying it allows us to then have identical intermediates to what we use today from fossil fuels, so the products we make, both specialty as well as PET, will literally be identical, no compromise, right? There are quality compromises with mechanical recycle in haze and color and its limited ability to be recycled over time. So, we think and believe it's more valuable product. Customers, I think, understand that.

So -- but what's interesting is the way they -- many of them are looking at it is, well, our premium is going to be in this zone, it's actually likely to be a hedge against the risk of mechanical recycled PET being a lot more expensive. You got to remember, mechanical recycling can't remotely provide enough material for the recycled content targets the major brands have set for themselves in Europe and the U.S. So the supply-demand situation on the mechanical is going to continue to get tighter. And so we provide a reliable source of very high-quality product, and we believe that demand's a reasonable premium.

Gregory A. Riddle
Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communication at Eastman Chemical

If we can, let's make the next question the last one, please.

Operator

We will now take our last question from Laurence Alexander from Jefferies. Please go ahead.

Laurence Alexander
Analyst at Jefferies Financial Group

Good morning. Two quick ones. Just the level of urgency at the customers about restocking, do you see it as a more of a 2022 couple of quarters event, or do you see it as a more drawn-out tailwind that spills into 2023. And can you give -- update your thinking on the carbon renewal platform, specifically given the feedback you've had and the urgency, both political tailwinds and customer interest, what we should see on that front?

Mark J. Costa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Eastman Chemical

Sure. So on the inventory restocking question, presuming we've got a growing economy this year around the world, I think the world is going to struggle to keep up with demand. So it's hard to see that anytime soon we're going to -- the customers or Eastman for that matter are going to get inventories back to where they should be for more stable level of performance. So I think this could drag out to the year and go into next year, especially if the economy is reasonably good.

When it comes to the CRT, a lot of attention on the polyester renewal technology and where we're going with those circular platforms, but I'm equally excited about what we're doing with our cellulosics. That's a stream that's core to who Eastman is, been around for almost 100 years, and it's amazing to see how sustainability has changed the mindset around these products, right. They've always sold on performance. They've never sold on sustainability until three years ago. And now you've got all these great performance elements in different applications from engineered thermoplastics to textiles to now food service being compostable and microbeads being biodegradable.

So, you've got a tremendous amount of growth opportunity across that spectrum of businesses that drive growth in AM, AFP, and Fibers. And as I said earlier, we're confident in the technology. We've been operating it now for quite some time, and has been processing plastic wastes really well. There are reasonable capital ways to expand that capacity and grow with all these markets. And the margins in our cellulosics are some of, if not, the highest margins in the company. So, as we grow this stream, you're getting a nice mix upgrade, not just a volume growth and asset utilization benefit. So it's all good.

So, with that, I'd like to just wrap up and just make a couple of quick comments. We're really excited about our strategy to grow the company, believe in the specialty model, the circular platform, the strength of our cash. We think these are all differentiators. But what's incredibly important for me to mention and highlight right now is I couldn't be on this call talking about all of this, if it wasn't for the employees we have around the world. They've encountered phenomenal challenges in the chaos that we've faced with this snapback in demand and how to serve it and get through incredibly difficult logistics situations, supply chain situations, pushing our plants incredibly hard, and supporting all of that in every function across the company.

And at the same time, they were able to continue our specialty growth platforms of innovation across the company and add a circular platform on top of it to position us for very strong EPS growth this year and well-positioned to keep it going as we go into the future. So I just want to thank all of them, because with COVID and constraints in the work environment, and in particular, I want to thank the operators out there because they go into the plant every day since COVID started, managing in a very difficult operating environment while having to wear a mask and follow the safety protocols. That's incredibly difficult. And the real heroes in our company is the operators who showed up and kept customers supplied around the world every day, and they get my deepest appreciation out of everyone for what we've been able to do. So, with that, I'd love to thank you for -- compliment all of them and thank you for your interest in Eastman and have a good day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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