|SWM PROVIDES UPDATE TO INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION'S INITIAL DECISION|
ALPHARETTA, GA, February 6, 2012 - Schweitzer-Mauduit International, Inc. (NYSE: SWM) today announced the completion of its review of the full, non-public, initial decision issued by Judge Gildea in the Section 337 (b) investigation by the International Trade Commission (ITC).
The ITC's initial decision found that SWM's Claims 36, 43, and 45 of United States Patent No. 6,725,867 and Claims 1-6, 10-18, and 22-25 of United States Patent No. 5,878,753 were not infringed by Julius Glatz, LIPtec and KneX Worldwide.
Frederic Villoutreix, the Company's Chief Executive Officer, stated: "Our legal counsel completed their review of the full, non-public, initial decision issued by Judge Gildea and have noted a number of instances where they believe the Judge made errors of fact and law that warrant petitioning the full International Trade Commission for review of certain portions of the Judge's initial decision. As a result, we have instructed our counsel to file a petition for review with the ITC, expected to be made within the 12 days of the initial decision as required by the ITC. We expect that the other parties to the proceeding will file their own petitions for review."
Villoutreix, continued, "We believe that there are sufficient questions of law presented that the ITC will want to resolve through the review process before issuing a final decision in this investigation. We expect that the ITC will make a determination on the petition for review by late March. Assuming the ITC grants our petition, we would expect a final decision to be rendered in this investigation by early June 2012. As we noted previously, we do not expect to make further comment on this matter until the final decision is issued."
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 such as those statements concerning its projected future earnings, expected restructuring costs and future savings that are subject to the safe harbor created by that Act. Actual results may differ materially from the results suggested by these statements for a number of reasons, including the following:
SWM has manufacturing facilities in 7 countries, two joint ventures in China, and sells products in over 90 countries. As a result, it is subject to a variety of import and export tax, foreign currency, labor and other regulations within these countries. Changes in these regulations, adverse interpretations or applications, as well as changes in currency exchange rates, could adversely impact the company's business in a variety of ways, including increasing expenses, decreasing sales, limiting its ability to repatriate funds and generally limiting its ability to conduct business.
The company's sales are concentrated to a limited number of customers. In 2011, 54% of its sales were to its four largest customers. The loss of one or more of these customers, or a significant reduction in one or more of these customers' purchases, particularly those that impact our higher value LIP papers or reconstituted tobacco, could have a material adverse effect on the company's results of operations.
The company's financial performance is materially impacted by sales of both reconstituted tobacco products and cigarette paper for lower ignition propensity cigarettes. A significant change in sales or production volumes, pricing or manufacturing costs of these products could have a material impact on future financial results. In this regard, Philip Morris - USA began advising the company in 2009 that it disputes the manner in which the company has calculated costs for banded cigarette papers under a cost-plus based contract for this product during the period April 2009 through December 2010. Notwithstanding that the dispute is now over a year old, and SWM has consistently advised Philip Morris - USA that it disagrees with its position, Philip Morris -USA to-date has not instituted any formal action to bring this matter to a close. Philip Morris - USA has also consistently paid the full invoiced amount from the date of the first notice of dispute to the present thereby avoiding any contention by SWM that the agreement has been breached for non-payment. Philip Morris - USA's action reflects a requirement found in the Virginia Uniform Commercial Code, the law that governs the contract, that suggests a party making full payment of a disputed invoice potentially waives any right to recover the amount paid unless such payment is accompanied by an explicit reservation of rights. Currently, the disputed amount is approximately $24.4 million. While the company believes that it has properly calculated the amount it invoiced, the ultimate resolution of this dispute, if unfavorable to the company, could have a material adverse effect on the company's results of operations.
As a result of excess capacity in the tobacco-related papers industry and increased operating costs, competitive levels of selling prices for certain of the company's products are not sufficient to cover those costs with a margin that the company considers reasonable. Such competitive pressures have resulted in downtime of certain paper machines and, in some cases, accelerated depreciation or impairment charges for certain equipment as well as employee severance expenses associated with downsizing activities. The company will continue to disclose any such actions as they are announced to affected employees or otherwise become certain and will continue to provide updates to any previously disclosed expectations of expenses associated with such actions.
The demand for our reconstituted tobacco leaf product is subject to change depending on the rate at which this product is included in the blend that forms the column of tobacco in various cigarette brands as well as the supply and cost of natural tobacco leaf, which serves to an extent as a substitute for reconstituted tobacco. A change in the inclusion rate or the dynamics of the natural leaf tobacco market can have a material effect on the volume of reconstituted tobacco sales, the price for reconstituted tobacco or both, either of which can have a material effect on our earnings from that product line. In past years, the company has experienced the adverse effects for one or more years related to changes in the demand and supply relationship for natural leaf.
In recent years, governmental entities around the world, particularly in the United States and western Europe, have taken or have proposed actions that may have the effect of reducing consumption of tobacco products. Reports with respect to the possible harmful physical effects of cigarette smoking and use of tobacco products have been publicized for many years and, together with actions to restrict or prohibit advertising and promotion of cigarettes or other tobacco products, to limit smoking in public places and to increase taxes on such products, are intended to discourage the consumption of cigarettes and other such products. Also in recent years, certain governmental entities, particularly in North America, have enacted, considered or proposed actions that would require cigarettes to meet specifications aimed at reducing their likelihood of igniting fires when the cigarettes are not actively being smoked. Furthermore, it is not possible to predict what additional legislation or regulations relating to tobacco products will be enacted, or to what extent, if any, such legislation or regulations might affect our business.
Our portfolio of granted patents varies by country, which could have an impact on any competitive advantage provided by patents in individual markets. We rely on patent, trademark, and other intellectual property laws of the United States and other countries to protect our intellectual property rights. In order to maintain the benefits of our patents, we may be required to enforce certain of our patents against infringement through court actions. However, we may be unable to prevent third parties from using our intellectual property or infringing on our patents without our authorization, which may reduce any competitive advantage we have developed. If we have to litigate to protect these rights, any proceedings could be costly, time consuming, could divert management resources, and we may not prevail. We cannot guarantee that any United States or foreign patents, issued or pending, will continue to provide us with any competitive advantage or will not be successfully challenged by third parties. We do not believe that any of our products infringe the valid intellectual property rights of third parties. However, we may be unaware of intellectual property rights of others that may cover some of our products or services. In that event, we may be subject to significant claims for damages. Effectively policing our intellectual property and patents is time consuming and costly, and the steps taken by us may not prevent infringement of our intellectual property, patents or other proprietary rights in our products, technology and trademarks, particularly in foreign countries where in many instances the local laws or legal systems do not offer the same level of protection as in the United States.
Recent uncertainty in the EU financial markets has increased the possibility of significant changes in foreign exchange rates as governments take counter measures. As a large portion of our commercial business is euro denominated, any material change in the euro to U.S. dollar exchange rate could impact our results on a consolidated basis.
For additional factors and further discussion of these factors, please see SWM's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the period ended December 31, 2010 and Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ended September 30, 2011.
SWM is a diversified producer of premium specialty papers for the tobacco industry. It also manufactures specialty papers for other applications. SWM and its subsidiaries conduct business in over 90 countries and employ 2,800 people worldwide, with operations in the United States, France, Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Canada, Poland and two joint ventures in China. For further information, please visit the company's Web site at www.swmintl.com.
Web site: http://www.swmintl.com