Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Other Industries

GrafTech International Ltd (EAF) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

EAF Earnings Call - Final Transcript

GrafTech International Ltd  (NYSE: EAF) Q3 2021 earnings call dated Nov. 05, 2021

Corporate Participants:

Adam DibleAssistant Controller and Chief Accountant

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Quinn J. CoburnChief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President

Analaysts:

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Curt WoodworthCredit Suisse — Analyst

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Alexander HackingCiti — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Good morning. My name is Tia, and I will be the conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the GrafTech Third Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. [Operator Instructions] After the speakers’ remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Thank you.

At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Adam Dible. Please go ahead, sir.

Adam DibleAssistant Controller and Chief Accountant

Thank you, Tia. Good morning, and welcome to GrafTech International’s third quarter 2021 conference call. On with me today is Dave Rintoul, GrafTech’s Chief Executive Officer; Quinn Coburn, Chief Financial Officer; and Jeremy Halford, Chief Operating Officer. Dave will begin with a review of our safety performance, current industry conditions and our demand and production levels. Jeremy will discuss operational matters and give an update on our ESG initiatives. Quinn will cover financial details, and Dave will close with final remarks and open the call to questions.

Turning to our first slide. As a reminder, some of the matters discussed on this call may include forward-looking statements regarding, among other things, results, performance, trends and strategies. These statements are based on current expectations that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements are shown here. We will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, and these slides include the relevant non-GAAP reconciliations. You can find these slides in the Investor Relations section of our website at www.GrafTech.com. A replay of the call will also be available on our website.

I’ll now turn the call over to Dave.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Adam. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining our third quarter earnings call. I hope you, your families and your colleagues are all well. We begin as we always do with safety. Health and safety excellence is a core value of GrafTech and a fundamental element of our success.

Our year-to-date total recordable injury rate is 0.47 through the end of the third quarter, continuing our meaningful improvement over the last few years and tracking ahead of our record low from 2020. Thank you to everyone on the GrafTech team for your continued focus and vigilance on health and safety. Our ultimate goal is zero injuries and every employee going home safely every day.

Before moving on, I’d like to take a moment to discuss our recently announced CFO succession plan. As previously announced, Quinn recently informed us of his intention to retire next year. We were fortunate to identify a great replacement in Tim Flanagan, who has over two decades of experience in senior financial positions, including that as Chief Financial Officer of a significant supplier to the steel industry. Quinn will be staying on to our annual meeting in May to ensure a seamless transition. I’d like to thank Quinn for his 11 years of service and leadership. I look forward to working alongside Tim and continuing the progress that we’ve made over the last number of years during Quinn’s tenure.

Now turning to Slide 4, I’ll provide some comments on the market. Conditions in the steel industry continued to improve during the third quarter, gaining in both pricing and capacity utilization rates. Most types of steel continued to be priced at or near all-time highs as a result of solid demand. U.S. hot-rolled coil pricing remains at record levels. The global steel manufacturing utilization rate outside of China was 74% in the third quarter of 2021, consistent with 75% in the second quarter of this year and a 15% improvement compared to the third quarter of 2020. The U.S. steel industry utilization rate improved to 85% in the third quarter from 82% in the second quarter of 2021 and compared to 65% in the prior year quarter.

The global steel industry’s high utilization rates are driving strong demand and increased pricing for graphite electrodes. We are also seeing rising market prices for petroleum needle coke. We expect these trends to support significantly higher graphite electrode prices in 2022. While the steel industry demand has recovered, and we expect strong demand for graphite electrodes to continue, like many industries, the graphite electrode industry is being impacted by global supply chain challenges and inflationary pressures. As a result of these conditions, we are seeing rising prices for freight. Costs for electricity and natural gas are also rising, particularly in our European locations. In addition, prices for raw materials used in the production of graphite electrodes are also rising. As we look forward, we feel confident in our ability to manage through this inflationary environment.

Turning to Slide 5 on the commercial outlook. As market conditions continue to strengthen and stabilize, demand for our products has improved. Providing superior services and solutions to our customers is even greater importance during these times, given the tight supply side conditions and rising demand. Our commercial team is well positioned and focused on servicing our clients and delivering products to meet market demand. A key indicator for the continued momentum in the market is the rising prices for graphite electrodes.

Our non-LTA price rose 12% in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the second quarter. We expect our fourth quarter non-LTA prices to increase an additional 7% to 9% over the third quarter. We expect larger price increases to come in 2022, which I’ll address in more detail later in the call. We have slightly increased our 2021 estimates for graphite electrode sales under our LTAs and have left the balance unchanged, reflecting our confident outlook that the industry remains healthy and is driving demand for our products.

Now turning to Slide 6. We are pleased with the continued strength we have experienced in the third quarter with our sales volume. Sales volumes of graphite electrodes remained robust at 43,000 metric tons in the third quarter, up 30% compared to the third quarter of last year. Our third quarter shipments were comprised of 28,000 metric tons of graphite electrodes under our LTAs at an average approximate price of $9,500 per metric ton and 15,000 metric tons of non-LTA sales at an average approximate price of $4,600 per metric ton.

To provide further insight, the reported quarterly non-LTA price reflects a mix of annual agreements negotiated in the fourth quarter of 2020, quarterly agreements negotiated earlier in 2021, as well as spot agreements. Our non-LTA pricing has steadily improved through the year, and we expect these trends to continue for the remainder of this year and into 2022. By volume, more than three quarters of our non-LTA sales, where our prices agreed to under annual and quarterly agreements at a time when graphite electrode prices were lower than they are currently. This then means that less than one quarter of the Q3 non-LTA business was at spot. Lastly, net sales in the third quarter increased 21% compared to the third quarter of 2020 to $347 million.

Now I’ll turn the call over to Jeremy to discuss operating items and our ESG progress over the past quarter.

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Dave. We produced 39,000 metric tons of electrodes in the third quarter, up 22% compared to the third quarter of 2020. As planned, during the third quarter, we executed our annual maintenance shutdowns in our European production facilities, resulting in lower throughput as compared to the second quarter of 2021. As I discussed last quarter, we’ve been enhancing our capabilities across our manufacturing footprint this year. The pin production line at our St. Marys, Pennsylvania facility is now operational and we are ramping up production. Importantly, this provides us with two connecting pin production facilities. All of our manufacturing sites continue to be very focused on further improving efficiencies and maximizing production, given the strong demand for our graphite electrodes.

So turning to Slide 7. In September, we published our second annual Sustainability Report, which is available on our website. We are pleased with our progress over the past year and encourage you to review our report. We welcome your feedback. We provided some highlights from the report on Slide 7, which includes an overview of our material ESG topics and key ESG initiatives during 2020. We’re also continuing to develop our longer-term ESG goals and look forward to discussing our progress with you in future quarters.

Now I’ll turn it over to Quinn to discuss our third quarter financial results on Slide 8.

Quinn J. CoburnChief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President

Okay. Thanks, Jeremy. We are pleased with another strong financial performance in the third quarter, which is a result of our operational achievements, allowing us to increase sales and profitability. Net income totaled $120 million or $0.45 of GAAP earnings per share. Third quarter adjusted EBITDA of $172 million was $19 million higher than third quarter of 2020, with an adjusted EBITDA margin of 50%. Third quarter cash flow was also strong. We generated $134 million of operating cash flow and $125 million of adjusted free cash flow. We continue to achieve strong free cash flow conversion with 73% of third quarter’s adjusted EBITDA converting to adjusted free cash flow.

Now turning to Slide 9. We further strengthened our capital structure with a $100 million reduction in our term loan during the third quarter. Our total year-to-date debt reduction through the end of the third quarter is now $300 million, and our total debt to adjusted EBITDA is 1.7 times. As of September 30, our total liquidity was approximately $334 million, consisting of $87 million of cash and $247 million available under our revolving credit facility.

Now turning to Slide 10. We’re very pleased with the strong earnings and cash flow that we have delivered through the first three quarters of 2021. While we have used the majority of that cash flow to reduce debt and plan to continue to do so through the balance of this year, in the third quarter, we also used $46 million to repurchase 4.3 million shares of our stock at an average price of $10.77. In addition, as we previously announced, our Board of Directors has approved a new $150 million open market stock repurchase program.

The Company has now authorized to repurchase up to $163 million in shares of the Company’s common stock, inclusive of the $13 million remaining under the prior stock repurchase program as of the end of the third quarter this year. We’re committed to delivering value to our shareholders through a disciplined capital allocation strategy. This includes returning capital to our shareholders while investing in our business and continuing to reduce debt to further strengthen our balance sheet. We are maintaining our full year 2021 capital expenditure outlook of $55 million to $65 million. We are using these funds to support our high-quality, low-cost global operating assets and to target high return operational improvements. Our continued focus on a strong capital structure provides us with significant financial, operational and strategic flexibility.

Now I’ll hand it back to Dave on Slide 11.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Quinn. As you heard, we continue to be encouraged by the demand and pricing trends in the graphite electrode industry, driven in large part by the strength in global electric arc furnace steelmaking. Over the long-term, we expect electric arc furnaces will continue to grow their share of the global steel market. We are now seeing the impact of higher graphite electrode prices in our reported results, and as graphite electrode prices continue to increase, we expect the impact on our results to continue well into 2022.

As Quinn discussed, our Board has approved a new open market stock repurchase program. We are committed to a disciplined capital allocation strategy that enhances shareholder value while also improving GrafTech’s financial profile, giving us the flexibility to successfully operate through industry cycles. Our proven track record of high-quality earnings and significant cash flow generation further supports our capital allocation strategy. We believe that GrafTech continues to be well positioned for solid long-term growth as one of the largest producers of ultrahigh-powered graphite electrodes in the world.

We have a sustainable and long-term competitive advantage from our low-cost structure and vertical integration into our key raw material petroleum needle coke. Our graphite electrodes are highly engineered and require extensive process knowledge to manufacture. The services and solutions that GrafTech provides help position both our customers and our Company for a better future. With the commitment of our people and our significant competitive advantages, we continue to strongly believe GrafTech is well positioned to deliver results today and over the long-term.

This concludes our prepared remarks. We’ll now open the call up for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And your first question will come from David Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Hi. Thanks for taking my questions. First of all, I’d like to congratulate Quinn on his retirement, and thank you for all the help over the years as well.

Quinn J. CoburnChief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President

Thanks, Dave.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Just turning to a couple of quick questions — a couple of quick questions on the commentary on the near-term pricing, I thought it was interesting to hear the emphasis on the acceleration in 2022. And I was wondering if we get a little more color, you mentioned, I think you said 75% [Phonetic] — and I could be wrong here, but I think you said 75%-ish of the fourth quarter volumes were priced on lags from a while back. And I’m wondering if you could just give us of the total increase that you expect 7% to 9% for everything, what’s the embedded increase in that 75% piece?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So it was actually — thanks for your interest, Dave. It was actually Q3, we were referencing. So 75% of our non-LTA business in the third quarter was based upon negotiations that took place in the fall in late 2020 as part of an annual program for 2021, as well as early in the year quarterly arrangements.

What we’re trying to stress and provide some additional transparency for everyone is that that’s why we’ve been questioned about, why is it your percentage increase in pricing larger than what you’re reporting, and the rationale and the reason is that three quarters of what we’re talking about in the non-LTA space was deals that were negotiated either last year or early this year, and both for the third quarter and fourth quarter. So those are with us, that pricing won’t change. So we’re only having about a little less than 25% of that business that’s true spot business and reflecting today’s environment. Is that helpful?

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

It is. It is. And I was trying to ask exactly that question in a sort of a roundabout way. The sort of the follow-up here, if you could tell us what — the 25% that was priced closer to current prices, what was — if you want to just tell us that price, that would be great or if not, maybe just the percentage increase that’s flowing through that overall 12% increase that we saw in the third quarter, if that makes sense?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we need to be careful from a competitive position in an effort to provide you transparency without causing some of the issues we had in ’18 when we used to provide that information out at nauseam. So back into, I guess, some of it mathematically in that you know that the — that only 25% of it is — was based upon what’s happening currently in the third — what’s happening currently in the third quarter. So the rest of it was at the same price as the material in the second quarter. So you can actually — and I — you can actually do that calculation, Dave…

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Right. So if we assume — so it’s reasonable to assume that, that other — that the 75% was kind of flat quarter-over-quarter and everything was the — the 25% — the 12% increase is all due to the 25% that was repriced. Is that reasonable to assume?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

It’s pretty much so.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s — it will get you within spitting distance of the number.

Quinn J. CoburnChief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President

Yeah, there would have been a little bit of an increase beyond the Q1 and Q2 numbers just because it’s Q3. But you’re in the right — you’re hitting in the right direction there, Dave.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

All right. That’s helpful. Thank you. And then just my other question. On the cost side, the commentary about, obviously, industry-wide cost pressures. And you gave us the sort of the expectation on overall realized prices, improvement — improvements in the fourth quarter. Can you give us a similar range of expectations for overall cost increases in the fourth quarter?

Quinn J. CoburnChief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President

Yeah, Dave, this is Quinn. I might remind you as well that last quarter, we had — last quarter, I think we said we had a cost increase of 1.5% last quarter. This quarter, it was a little over 2%. I would expect in the fourth quarter it to be kind of similar to the past two quarters, where we would see an increase of maybe 1.5% to 2% — excuse me, 1.5% to 2% in the fourth quarter on total cost.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay, perfect. That’s helpful. Thank you very much.

Quinn J. CoburnChief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President

That would be on a — obviously, on a per unit basis, Dave.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Understood. Got it. Thanks.

Operator

The next question is from Curt Woodworth with Credit Suisse. Please go ahead.

Curt WoodworthCredit Suisse — Analyst

Yes, hey, good morning.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Curt WoodworthCredit Suisse — Analyst

First question is with respect to, I guess the kind of your commercial strategy entering next year, right? So you talked about how this quarter you had deals on the non-LTA that were set almost a year ago and some annual contracts. Are you trying to get shorter duration with respect to your spot? Can you give us a sense for maybe relative to the first half of next year, how much of your order book is sold? And then the comment on spot up 7% to 9% sequentially, then you said significantly greater pricing next year and an acceleration sequentially relative to that 7% to 9%. So should we think that your non-LTA pricing should be up sequentially more in the 15% range for 1Q based on that commentary?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So let me address the commercial strategy item first. So as we go to market, we’re the only ones that can offer the full scope of commercial options from annual agreements, quarterly agreements, biannual agreements and LTAs. And so all of those opportunities exist and various customers have their own preference depending upon the way they choose to operate their particular companies. And in some cases, some of our non-LTA sales are to people that have LTAs. So they’ve already got a portion of their buy tied up in a hedge-like mechanism to begin with.

So all of those things factor in, but all of them are in play. Our order book for next year has a mixture of some annual deals, some semiannual deals, some that are based on a quarter, at least one or two that are based upon a formula and a couple of that are signed up in adding to some of the LTA thoughts. So — and, of course, next year is a big year for LTAs for us. But all of those are options that customers are utilizing. But the big issue for us as we go into next year is the reset we get from last year when — if you think back to October, November last year, while the steel industry was beginning to improve, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future. So the graphite electrode market had not yet seen the uptick trickle down as a supplier.

We get a reset on that whole set of circumstances through these negotiations that have been taking place here in October and November. So that’s good news, and that’s what allows us to be using the kind of language we are around significant improvements for next year because we get a reset on a big portion of tonnage to customers that were on a more annual basis and that’s helpful. In terms of nailing that number down, we’re not completely finished yet.

So I can’t give you an exact number because that might influence some of the negotiations that aren’t completed as well as some of the problems I alluded to when we used to give that information out back in early ’18 and what happened with our competitors. So I think that there’s nothing about what you’re suggesting that would scare us, but we can’t nail it down just yet because I don’t want to influence negotiations that aren’t quite complete yet in some cases.

Curt WoodworthCredit Suisse — Analyst

And given the demand, I guess the order book and the demand outlook, which is very strong. And then on top of that, you’ve got all the new EAFs that are going to be ramping as well. Is your expectation right now that you feel like you should be running at close to full productive capacity next year? And is there any — have you given any thought to restarting St. Marys outside of the pin machining?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So — sure. Look, we’re evaluating options as to how to maximize our tonnage for next year, recognize that running somewhere around in the 90% range of any unit, whether it’s a graphite electrode plant or a steel plant or whatever the case may be, you never have the ability to run at 100% on a sustained basis on a permanent basis, that doesn’t happen by and large in manufacturing. But we expect to utilize our resources and run for the whole year at as hard as we can.

In terms of St. Marys, we need to finish ramping up this pin machining operation, that’s a critical addition and provides us more flexibility. And at the same time, we’ll look our handover and determine whether there’s something we want to do there as well as opportunities at some of the other plants that are being studied as we speak. So yes, we’ll be looking hard and long as to ways to increase capacity and throughput, so that as the EAF global industry grows that we can grow with it.

Curt WoodworthCredit Suisse — Analyst

Great. And just last one on needle coke. We’ve been hearing that availability has become somewhat of an issue. And then when you look at what PSX is doing with NOVONIX and some of the other investments being made in Europe as well around synthetic graphite production for anode of the EV. Theoretically, it’s a pretty big increase in the needle coke demand rate. So I’m just curious your thoughts on that. Do you have any concerns around availability? And is the rate of change in the spot needle coke market commensurate with what you’re seeing on the non-LTA pricing? So your mark — you expect — you would expect unit margins to still improve on that basis? Thank you.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I’ll start with your last, yeah, we do expect as we move through 2022. From a margin perspective, we would continue to improve despite all of the inflationary pressures, including the needle coke situation. But you’re correct that there is a lot of demand factors come into play in needle coke, particularly as the EV world begins to ramp up, perhaps even faster than have been projected even as late as a year ago.

So I think all of those are, you’re correct, and that they have to be taken into consideration. And Jeremy and his crew are working hard with the needle coke suppliers, making sure that we get what we require for next year. But I think that will — the outcome of all of that is there’ll be upward pressure on needle coke. There’s no question about that, I don’t think.

Curt WoodworthCredit Suisse — Analyst

Great. Thanks very much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question will come from Arun Viswanathan with RBC Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking my question. And thanks for all your help, Quinn, congrats on your retirement. So I guess, I just wanted to ask a little bit about spot pricing. So it sounds like you’re optimistic about another increase sequentially of 7% to 9%. But that would still kind of put you, I would imagine, in the mid-5s and kind of still quite a ways away from your contract pricing.

So could you just describe the contracting environment as you see it now? Are you seeing your customers kind of come to you with objectives of extending their contracts? And if so, where would they be comfortable with on a pricing standpoint? I imagine it’s not necessarily at the $9,500 level from previous, but maybe somewhere in between spot and that level. Is that a fair assumption or how should we think about that?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So look, the LTAs are hedging mechanism. And when those deals mature, which is not until the end of 2022. So we actually don’t expect to have much conversation with existing LTA folks about that until we get into the third quarter, probably more like September next year because they are a hedge, and from the number of years when I was in steel and I hedged other items, whether it’s gas or electricity, etc., it would be unusual a year in advance to start thinking about it unless you had some suspicion that was going to be in your favor.

So given that pricing is in an upward mode right now on graphite electrodes, I would not expect that people would be looking to ante up a year in advance, I think that would be unusual. I think they’re going to wait and see how the next 12 months or so or 10 months play out in terms of the supply and demand from their side and then make a decision as to where they want to go. So I’m not — I would not have expected that. We’ve had a couple of new players come in and talk about a completely new LTA.

But I don’t think the bulk of those discussions would happen until then. And at that point, just like any other hedge, it will be priced at what the market is bearing at the point in time that the hedge is applied. So it’s a bit impossible for me to answer your question in terms of what I expect on pricing. It will be wherever the market gets to by that point in time, say, September next year and to the extent to which people want to hedge or otherwise, which we still think that that’s a very valuable tool for both us and our customers. And — but the bulk of those negotiations are still almost a year away.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. Thanks for that. And so again just another question on this topic. So you’ve seen a couple of quarters now of sequential increases. I think a year or a year and a half ago when the steel market started to rise, we had the impression that electrode pricing would follow hot-rolled pricing, hot-rolled pricing tripled and eclipsed $2,000 a ton at times, but electrode pricing has kind of been a lot slower to regain that momentum. We’ve now actually seen hot-rolled pricing roll over at times and potentially start to plateau. So have we missed kind of the electrode ramp in pricing or is it your expectation that we continue to see kind of mid or high single-digit sequential gains on electrode pricing over the next 12 months?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So there will be, and we use the word significant. So I think the first time that I’ve chosen to use that adjective since we went public when I — in speaking with pricing. I’ll drive to your attention that I never use that adjective about Q3 or Q4. So the best I can do for you is draw that to your attention. Yes, I expect pricing to increase significantly for 2022.

Now the reason for the lag we’ve talked about in the past, Arun, there was a lot of graphite electrode inventory on the ground. And that had to be worked through until the supply and demand dynamics actually came into play, which really didn’t start happening until the second quarter of this year. So we’re really only two quarters into true supply and demand dynamics taking place.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Got you. And then if I could also ask a similar question around needle coke. So it sounds like you’re indicating that the electrode market is tightening up. And so would you say that utilization rates in electrodes are, say, mid-80s across the industry or where are we on the utilization rate side on electrodes? And then similarly with needle coke, do you expect kind of needle coke to get back into a more of an inflationary cycle as well kind of in the $3,000 per ton to $5,000 per ton range. And if so, what’s kind of the cadence, would it kind of be ratable increases over the next year or so or are you expecting a spike or how should we think about utilization rates and the needle coke market as well? Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So in terms of utilization rates, not all of our competitors release or share what their operating rates are. From our, I’ll call it, market intelligence, our belief is that outside of China, they’re all running about as hard as they know how at this point in time. But you’re not going to find that in a public report anyway because — anywhere because they don’t report it. We get some of this, obviously, in the market, and some of it’s anecdotally through our contacts in the industry and from customers.

So our belief is everybody outside of China is running pretty hard. Inside China, we know that they have some issues with electricity, and that’s caused their domestic industry within China, both steel and graphite electrodes to run at less than capacity over the last probably quarter, maybe four months. Jeremy, anything more you would add to that?

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

On the graphite electric capacity, no, I think you’ve really kind of hit it, Dave. We, as best as we can tell, everybody is hitting it as hard as they can.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

And in terms of needle coke, from our perspective, it would appear that those outside of China are running and making as much needle coke as they know how, and there is no — there’s not a lot of — there’s no extra needle coke to be found at the moment.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

So you do expect needle coke prices to rise as well over the next 12 months to 24 months or so?

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. What I guess I would say is that we’ve talked in the past about the import/export data and some of the ranges we’ve seen on pricing. And I think the last time we talked about this, we said that we were seeing prices in the range of $1,300 to $1,800, maybe something along those lines. If we look at the recent data, we see that trending up. And over the course of the last quarter, we’ve seen pricing more in the range of $1,700 to $2,300. And I guess we would expect that if there’s continued tightness in availability that we would continue to trend towards the high end of that range.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think it’s important to acknowledge that the data that Jeremy is referencing is trade data, which is always lagging, right? So that data is publicly available, but it’s always a quarter roughly there…

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, based on what was contracted, right?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah.

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yes.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. Thanks a lot.

Operator

The next question is from Alex Hacking with Citi. Please go ahead.

Alexander HackingCiti — Analyst

Yeah. Good morning. And let me add my best wishes to Quinn. I just have two or three clarifications, if that’s okay. So firstly, as we look at your pricing heading into next year, in 2022, will there be any carryover from this lower-priced non-contract pricing that you referenced in this quarter or are you really starting next year with prices all sort of reset to the levels that we’ve seen more recently in the last three months or so? Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Alex, they’re — thanks for your question. They’re reset. There’s really no carryover. Everything gets reset for January, and that’s why we’re as optimistic and bullish in using the kind of words that we are.

Alexander HackingCiti — Analyst

Okay, great. And then in terms of the trajectory of the spot price, is it still sort of moving higher in your view? Is it higher today than it was two months or three months ago or it’s kind of plateaued here? Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

It’s higher today than it was two months or three months ago. We’re in it, we’re heavy into — and pretty much will soon be completed. So we’re nearing the final phases of a few dotting a few Is and crossing a few Ts, if you will, but yeah, it’s been a steady improvement. We’ll see where the first quarter of next year takes us, but so far, it’s been continuing to improve.

Alexander HackingCiti — Analyst

Okay. Thanks. And then just finally on needle coke, I mean, obviously, if you’re going to run hard next year, you need to — you’re going to be up in your purchases of third-party needle coke. I mean were there any challenges on availability there or you — it was fairly straightforward for you to get as much material as you needed? Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

To my earlier comments, there’s no extra needle coke anywhere. So it’s, I would classify the — describe the needle coke market as being a situation that it’s becoming tight.

Alexander HackingCiti — Analyst

Okay. As tight as it was in 2018?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Perhaps for some few different reasons, we’re approaching a pretty aggressive supply and demand situation. 2018 had some really special components to it that created some very lofty numbers. So I want to be careful not to suggest that we’re projecting those kind of lofty numbers to return. But certainly, it’s good to be a needle coke producer right now.

Alexander HackingCiti — Analyst

All right. Very good. Thank you so much.

Operator

And at this time, there are no further questions. I would like to turn the conference back over to Mr. Rintoul for any closing comments.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you very much, operator, and thank everyone for their interest and the opportunity to speak with investors today and address some of their questions. And we wish all of you good health in the coming months. Thank you, and have a great day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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