Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Other Industries

GrafTech International Ltd (EAF) Q4 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

EAF Earnings Call - Final Transcript

GrafTech International Ltd  (NYSE: EAF) Q4 2021 earnings call dated Feb. 04, 2022

Corporate Participants:

Adam DibleAssistant Controller and Chief Accountant

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Analaysts:

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Alex HackingCitigroup — Analyst

Michael GlickJ.P. Morgan — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the GrafTech International Fourth Quarter and Year-End 2021 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker, Adam Dible. Thank you. Please go ahead.

Adam DibleAssistant Controller and Chief Accountant

Thank you. Good morning, and welcome to GrafTech International’s fourth quarter and year-end 2021 conference call.

On with me today is Dave Rintoul, GrafTech’s Chief Executive Officer; Tim Flanagan, our Chief Financial Officer; Jeremy Halford, our Chief Operating Officer; and Senior Vice President, Quinn Coburn. Dave will begin with a review of our safety performance, current industry conditions and demands for our products. Jeremy will discuss our sales, production and operational matters, as well as give an update on our ESG initiatives. Tim will cover our financial details, and Dave will close with final remarks and open the call to questions.

Now 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 and 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

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining our fourth quarter and year-end 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. We ended the year with a total recordable injury rate of 0.49. This is a modest improvement over the previous year and, importantly, is nearly half of our pre-pandemic level. We are pleased with the progress as we continue on our journey to achieve our ultimate goal, which is zero injuries. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to send every employee home safely every day. I want to thank the entire GrafTech team for their continued work and focus on health and safety and the environment.

Before moving on, I’d like to take a moment to introduce everyone to Tim Flanigan, who has joined our team as Chief Financial Officer. Tim has an impressive background and brings more than two decades of experience in senior financial leadership positions, including as a Chief Financial Officer to a significant supplier to the steel industry. I’m looking forward to working closely with Tim, as we continue to pursue our strategic and operational initiatives and drive value for all our stakeholders.

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Thanks, Dave.

Certainly appreciate that. I’m excited to be here and look forward to working with everyone on the GrafTech team and spending more time with the investment community.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Now turning to Slide 4. I’ll provide some comments on the market. Conditions in the steel industry remained very strong in the fourth quarter. While hot-rolled coil pricing has come off its recent highs, it still remains well above historic levels. The global steel manufacturing utilization rate outside of China was 75% in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to 74% in the third quarter. This represents a 5% improvement compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.

The U.S. steel industry utilization rate was 83% in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to 85% in the third quarter and 71% in the fourth quarter of 2020. As anticipated, the strength in the steel industry is now being reflected in the graphite electrode industry. During the second half of 2021, prices began to increase as a result of the underlying fundamental strength in the market. These positive trends remain in place as we begin 2022. We continue to see acceleration of demand for needle coke and expect rising prices through 2022.

Like most other industries, we, too, are experiencing inflationary pressures on certain aspects of our business, and we anticipate the impact of this will be in the range of 7% to 9% on our cost per metric ton compared to Q4. Electricity and natural gas costs continue to remain elevated, particularly in our European locations. We are well positioned, however, to effectively manage through this environment. GrafTech’s substantial vertical integration allows us to manufacture a significant portion of our key raw material at a relatively stable price, which is a major competitive advantage compared to our peers.

Turning to Slide 5. Demand for our products continues to remain strong. In these times of tightening supply, we remain committed to providing our customers with high-quality products to meet their increasing demanding needs. As I mentioned, our vertical integration is a key component of our strength and being a reliable supplier and dependable business partner. We are focused on assisting our customers to maintain high utilization rates.

Our ArchiTech furnace monitoring system provides recommendations to our customers, helping them increase productivity and decreasing costs, making us a key strategic partner in the EAF manufacturing process. This strong momentum in the graphite electrode market has led to higher pricing for our products.

Our non-LTA price rose approximately 10% in the fourth quarter of 2021, which is on top of a 12% sequential increase in the third quarter of 2021. In addition, we expect our first quarter non-LTA prices to increase 17% to 20% over the fourth quarter as virtually all of our non-LTA business was reset on January 1. We have kept our estimates for graphite electrode revenue and volumes under our LTAs unchanged for 2022 and beyond, reflecting our confident outlook that demand for our products will remain strong.

Now Jeremy will walk us through Slide 6.

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Dave.

We’re pleased with the strong sales results that we generated in the fourth quarter. We sold 44,000 metric tons of electrodes in the quarter, which represents our highest quarterly sales volume total since the second quarter of 2019. Our fourth quarter shipments were comprised of 29,000 metric tons of graphite electrodes under our LTAs at an average approximate price of $9,400 per metric ton and 15,000 metric tons of non-LTA sales at an average approximate price of $5,000 per metric ton.

Net sales in the fourth quarter increased 7% compared to the fourth quarter of 2021 — pardon me, 2020 to $363 million. As we progress through 2022, our commercial team will be focused on leveraging our vertically integrated position, which makes us a key top-tier electrode producer that can provide our customers with security of supply during these periods of high demand. We will look to offer our customers a variety of contract terms tailored to their needs. We believe that our ability to provide our customers with the surety of supply and term flexibility will continue to strengthen our position as a preferred supplier within the industry.

Our production reached 46,000 metric tons in the fourth quarter as we had a swift recovery from our third quarter regularly scheduled maintenance outages in our European plants. Our investment in the new automated pin line at St. Marys continues to progress well and helps to de-risk our pin production capacity. All of our sites continue to be very focused on further improving efficiencies and maximizing production, given the strong demand for our graphite electrodes.

To that end, we’re also targeting highly focused operational improvements at our plants, supported by select capital projects with high return on investment to extract as much capacity as possible from our manufacturing network. As the world moves towards more EAF-based steel production, we are investing to meet the growing demand that this shift creates, and we’re committed to being disciplined in this approach. Like all global suppliers, we have experienced pressures with shipping channels in various markets, driven by container shortages, port congestion and supplier route constraints. Our team has worked diligently through these challenges to meet our customers’ needs.

Now turning to Slide 7. We continue to progress on our ESG journey. In September, we published our second Annual Sustainability Report, which is available on our website. Our enhanced reporting in this area will not only benefit our stakeholders, but will also assist us in identifying projects that will improve our environmental impact.

We’ve already completed several projects in this area. For example, in 2021, every electrode manufacturing plant completed at least one capital project to improve air emissions. We plan to keep up our momentum in this area and have already identified additional projects for 2022 that will further advance our environmental efforts.

So now I’ll turn it over to Tim to discuss our fourth quarter financial results on Slide 8.

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Thanks, Jeremy.

We are pleased with another strong financial performance in the fourth quarter as a result of increased sales and profitability. Net income totaled $141 million or $0.54 of GAAP earnings per share and $0.50 per share on an adjusted basis. Fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA of $183 million was $11 million higher than the third quarter and $7 million higher than the fourth quarter of 2020, again, achieving an adjusted EBITDA margin of 50%.

Fourth quarter cash flow continued to be strong, but was impacted by the build of working capital during the quarter. More specifically, we had higher accounts receivable and inventory balances as we ended the year. We also had increased raw material purchases in the fourth quarter as we began to prepare for the 2022 production plan. We generated $100 million in cash from operations and $87 million of adjusted free cash flow. We expect to achieve continued strong free cash flow conversion in 2022.

Now to Slide 9. We further strengthened our capital structure with a $100 million reduction in our term loan during the fourth quarter, bringing our 2021 debt reduction to $400 million for the second straight year. We improved our total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio to 1.6 times at year-end compared to 2.2 times at the end of 2020. As of December 31, our total liquidity was approximately $305 million, consisting of $58 million of cash and $247 million available under our revolving credit facility.

Now turning to Slide 10. We are pleased with the strong earnings and cash flows we have delivered in 2021. We prioritized the majority of that cash flow to reduce debt, repaying $400 million during the year. Additionally, we repurchased $50 million of stock in 2021, and we continue to have $159 million available to us under our stock repurchase program.

We are 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 expect our 2022 capital expenditures to be in the range of $70 million to $80 million. We continue to use these funds to support our high-quality, low-cost global operating assets and to target high-return operational improvements. Our continued focus on strong capital structure provides us with significant financial, operational and strategic flexibility.

With that, I’ll hand it back to Dave on Slide 11.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Tim.

As you’ve heard, we continue to be encouraged by the demand and pricing trends in the graphite electrode industry, driven by the strength of 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 as it is more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly process and an effective way to decarbonize the steel industry.

We are now seeing the impact of higher graphite electrode prices in our reported results, and we expect the impact on our results to continue well into 2022. 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. 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 strong 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. And we’ll now open the call up for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Dave Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Hi. Thank you for taking my questions. And thank you for the additional information regarding pricing and costs. Just two quick questions on those metrics. First of all, on the pricing side, you mentioned you expect the impact, I believe in the prepared remarks right at the end, you expect the impact to continue well into 2022. I’m wondering if you could speak to that in a little more detail with regards to spot prices in terms of the trend as we get into 2Q and 3Q. I know in the past, you’ve talked about lags being about six months. And obviously, we’ve seen a little bit of a wobble in the steel market. So, I’m wondering what you’re seeing in terms of your spot market activity and your pricing as of now. That’s my first question. I have a follow-up on the cost side as well.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thanks, Dave. So let me kind of answer your question, taking the latter part first. I would suggest to you that the wobble that you referenced is only maybe, to a small extent, in the American market. And this morning, hot-rolled coil prices were at $1,220 a short ton, which is well above anything historic. Certainly, everybody’s maybe perhaps got a little accustomed to numbers slightly higher than that, but $1,220 is certainly a very healthy number. And I would also point out to you that rebar is at historic levels at $1,040 a ton. So when I think about that and I think about the projections that we’re hearing on vehicle build — the light vehicle build for 2022 being in the plus 15 million units compared to 12.9 million in 2021, I think there is plenty of reason to be — that’s for North America. I think there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic and confident in the stability of the North American market.

And when I look globally, Black Sea billet prices have been increasing over the last several weeks, sitting at $655 this morning, demonstrating the strength in the Middle East and Far East markets that use those products. And at the same time, the hot-roll number in Europe has remained reasonably stable of late. So, I think there’s plenty of reason to believe when we look at a global perspective that the market is still quite stable and stable at a relatively high number.

Having said that, we talk often about spot market and the lag that you point out is, in fact, present. And therefore, we’re commenting on the first quarter as we have begun to do over the last couple of these earnings calls. But consistent with that, we don’t normally go beyond that, other than to say that our expectation is that spot pricing will continue to increase as we go through the year.

And our competitors will need for that to happen as they’re facing rising needle coke costs. And I know I’ll be asked that later, so we might as well tackle it now. Needle coke costs, if you look at the information that’s available through the import-export statistics in various countries across the world, you’ll see that, that number is ranging from $1,700 to $2,300, which is upward from where it was last year. And our anticipation is there will continue to be upward pressure on that value as well.

So for all of those reasons, the stability in the overall global steel market, increasing impacts on needle coke that affect our competitors at a higher rate than us. We continue to be optimistic that pricing will continue to move forward as we go through the balance of the year. It might not be at the clip that we’ve seen in the last two quarters, but we do expect it to move upward.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. That’s very helpful information. Thank you for that. And just my follow-up, which you touched on with regards to the needle coke side of the cost. But just overall, I believe what you said in the prepared remarks, the 7% to 9% quarter-over-quarter increase. It’s kind of a two-part question. I just want to make sure, is that a overall unit cost quarter-over-quarter increase?

And then second part of that question is, if you could parse out how much of that 7% to 9% increase is driven by, for example, higher power prices in Europe versus needle coke versus other pieces. Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So thanks for the clarification. Yes, the 7% to 9% is an all-in cost per metric ton value. So it is a unit cost and includes — it’s an all-in cost. And you’re correct that some portion of that is the increase in needle cost, as well as some of the pressures we face in the area of electricity and natural gas. And I’m going to [Phonetic] have Tim provide a little color on that. But suffice it to say that most of that pressure, as I referenced in our prepared remarks, is more so in our European locations. And some of those commodities, we have short term, rather meaning one-year type arrangements where some portion of those costs are, in fact, fixed to provide us some protection. But I’m going to defer here to Tim to provide a little color on that.

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Yeah. Thanks, Dave. And you’re absolutely right about the conditions in Europe being a little bit challenged on the energy front. I’d probably just remind everybody that the energy, both natural gas and electricity, probably represent about 15% of our total cost structure. So, you can kind of back into then what the variability of that would otherwise impact from a cost structure perspective. But to Dave’s point, on our contract structure and what we’ve done proactively in Europe around both electricity and natural gas, has gone out and in many cases, entered into fixed price contracts in Europe.

So a vast majority of our power needs in Europe are fixed at this point in time. We’re probably not quite as fixed on the natural gas side across the board. But again, natural gas is a much smaller piece of the overall cost structure that we have. And so we’re probably somewhere less than 50% fixed, but we do have some contract structures that just give us a little bit of a muted effect from spikes in peaks and valleys in the spot market, if you will.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

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

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Arun Viswanathan with RBC Capital Markets.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking my questions. Good morning. Hope you’re all well. So yes — so appreciate the color as well on the pricing commentary. So, I guess that implies something in the $5,850 to $6,000 per ton range for Q1 non-LTA business. And then I guess you noted that subsequent quarters could also see rises but maybe not in that 17% to 20% range.

So assuming that’s something like 10% or so a quarter or 5% to 10% in that range, it looks like you can get into the mid-6s in the middle of the year of ’22 and then maybe exit at 7%. And that would also kind of imply something in the $2,000 to $2,500 range for needle coke. And your current price of, say, again, in Q1 of $5,850 to $6,000 indicates kind of a needle coke price close to $2,000. So could you kind of comment on some of those ranges? Am I in the right neighborhood as far as how I’m thinking about how the year could play out?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Arun. I think you’re doing fairly well. I think your Q1 value is in the right vicinity. And as we walk through the balance of the year — as I said earlier, it’s a little early for us to start projecting Q2, Q3, Q4, price increases. You know we refrain from doing that because the minute I do that, I’ve just told our competition what our numbers are. And history has taught us early on after the IPO that then they undercut us by about $100 and then we’re between rock and hard spot. So respectfully, I’m going to refrain from confirming those exact values.

I think you’re — again, you’re in the right church. Whether you’re exactly in the right queue [Phonetic] remains to be seen. But I think you’re not too far out. I think your needle coke thoughts might be a slight bit conservative. I expect between the increase in graphite electrode business and the EV world. We might see a bit more pressure than you are suggesting, which I want to remind everybody is actually helpful for GrafTech because it actually does help us at the end of the day. So, we’re one of the few people that have that kind of view on that particular cost.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. Great. And then — I appreciate that. Also, just questions around steel and utilization. So it looks like steel market utilization is still in the north of 80% range. But electrode utilization — I mean, your own utilization looks to be in the 70% range. I’m not sure if the industry is also around there, but I would assume that it is. I guess is that right? And — or — and again, I’m also making that assumption because it appears the appreciation in electrodes has been a little bit behind what we had originally thought.

We’ve seen steel prices rise over a year ago, and it’s taken a little bit longer for electrode prices to catch up. And my assumption is that there’s extra supply or inventory out there on the electrode side. So is that right? And have you seen electrode prices continue and needle coke prices continue to go up when steel prices are going the other way? And is that just a function of the typical catch-up? Maybe you can just comment on that dynamic.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. So let me help you a little bit on the utilization rate. I’m assuming you’re looking at Page 3 of the earnings release where you see at the bottom, something that says total capacity utilization, 78%. Please bear in mind that, that is all in, and we’re not currently running the front end of St. Marys. So, we really don’t have that. The right number you should be thinking about is on that same page, capacity utilization, excluding St. Marys, which is 88%. That’s the way you should currently be thinking of.

Regarding the steel side, again, I think you hear all the steel guys being on their calls still relatively bullish. I think that, as I referenced earlier, if you look at the projection for the North America light vehicle build, it’s about two and a half million more units than were built in 2021. The non-residential infrastructure projections are up for the — for 2023 by over 40,000 tons. If you look at the infrastructure bill that just got passed in the United States, the impact of that is projected to be 20 million tons to 25 million tons over five years.

So, I think there’s plenty of reasons to be still pretty optimistic and positive about where the overall industry is going. There’s always some puts and takes as we get through certain parts of the year as build schedules are being looked at and this whole chip crisis is being worked through from the automotive guys. The ISM manufacturing index is still at 60, and the durable goods index is projected to increase through 2023. So, I think there’s many reasons to remain, again, optimistic and positive about the steel industry and then by, subsequently, the graphite electrode industry. Not to mention the conversion to electric arc furnaces that is in the number of projects that have been announced both in the United States, Canada, Europe. There’s a lot of, I think, positivity in the space in which we play.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Could you also comment on — thanks for that. Could you also comment on just inventory levels of electrodes, I guess, at your own plants and maybe what you see in the industry? I mean, do you think the industry is tighter right now than it was maybe a year ago? Or has that — conditions on the inventory side continue to improve?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, look, compared to a year ago, absolutely, inventories are much tighter, not just a little bit. People went into the year last year with — because of the pandemic, they are still feeling the impact of the pandemic. And as you might recall, it was the end of Q1 last year where we began to see some normalization of those inventory levels.

So, we view inventory levels today at what I would call a pre-pandemic normal value, maybe slightly below normal, but not a great deal. But by and large, people running with — I think you guys have heard me reference this before. A lot of people run with about three months of inventory because it takes three months to make an electrode. So that’s kind of — keep — that’s a balanced place, if you will.

So, I think the inventory situation is healthy from our perspective, meaning — healthy, meaning there’s not excess in the system, and we can be reliable suppliers with what we have. We, by no stretch of the imagination, have excess inventory in our system. We have just enough to continue to be reliable and meet our demands and keep it flowing at a good pace. In turn, keep our days of inventory at a good financial value.

Arun ViswanathanRBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Alex Hacking with Citi.

Alex HackingCitigroup — Analyst

Yeah. Good morning, Dave and team. I just wanted to follow up on the cost side a little bit. Can you remind me if the — is the needle coke manufacturing process significantly more energy-intensive than the electrode manufacturing process? Or are they roughly similar?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

No. Remember that the needle coke process, at least our process at Seadrift — I’m going to speak to that. We are very much like a small — you can think of us in the context of being a small refinery. It’s mostly a chemical reaction process as opposed to high amounts of natural gas and/or electricity.

Alex HackingCitigroup — Analyst

Okay. Thanks. And then also at Seadrift. If I remember correctly, when you sign the LTAs four, five — four years ago, you also hedged out the decant oil going forward. Am I remembering correctly? And therefore, are you still effectively using hedged decant oil prices today, and those will start to roll off as the LTAs roll off going forward?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. You’re thinking of it absolutely correctly. And one thing that I should have mentioned in the answer to your previous question at our Seadrift facility, we take any of the energy that’s created in the chemical reactions and run it through a boiler, capture that energy and make our own electricity and we’re a net provider. We actually put electricity back out onto the grid.

Alex HackingCitigroup — Analyst

Okay. Thanks. Okay. And then that 7% to 9% increase in unit COGS for the first quarter, given that a lot of your energy costs in Europe would be on — as you said, sort of fixed for the year, should we assume that costs maybe — assuming needle coke is flattish, should we assume that your costs are still rising after that in the second and third quarters, but at a significantly lower rate given that most of our European power sort of inflation and increased use of third-party needle coke would already be in there? Or should we expect a similar magnitude of increases?

Jeremy S. HalfordExecutive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. I think it’s fair to say that we wouldn’t expect to see the same increases as we go through the second and third and fourth quarters given the dynamics that we talked about earlier on, on the European power side. But obviously, the year still has to play out, but you would be at that same order of magnitude in any way, shape or form.

Alex HackingCitigroup — Analyst

Okay. Thanks. And then just one more, if I may. Can you just remind me of the rough sort of contract mix that you have? And I guess my question is, as we stand today, how much of your non-LTA business is priced for the year? Do you have any one-year contracts left? Or is it mostly on kind of three months, six months at this point? Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We have a few one years, but we have a number of one-year contracts where we agreed that we would revisit the price in the second half, and we did that with the expectation that pricing would be increasing during the year. So, we don’t have much that’s fixed for the whole year, more that look at the second half. So — and we’re still waiting. We haven’t really even begun to talk much about the second half because it’s too early.

Alex HackingCitigroup — Analyst

Okay. Yeah. I had some conversations that needle coke prices were going up in the second half, but it sounds like that’s maybe with other electrode manufacturers. Okay. Appreciate the feedback and answers. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Michael Glick with J.P. Morgan.

Michael GlickJ.P. Morgan — Analyst

Hey. Good morning. Just one question for me. Just how are you all thinking about capital allocation in terms of debt repayment versus stock buyback? Thanks.

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Yeah. I think, as we stated, we remain committed to a disciplined process. We talk to our Board on a quarterly basis and think about capital allocation accordingly as we look at the projections for our business. We’ll continue to invest. As we noted, a slightly higher capital expenditures planned for the year. Again, targeting some high-return projects and operate projects to generate some operating improvements for us in the long term. We remain committed on the balance sheet.

I think we’ve said a number of times that our target debt level or debt-to-EBITDA level is no more than 2 times to 2.5 times, and we’re certainly comfortable being below that as we are today at 1.6 times. But we have been active in the markets as well in terms of returning capital to shareholders both in the form of dividends as well as share buybacks with the $50 million that we did in the third and fourth quarter of 2021, And we have the $159 million still sitting out there that was authorized by our Board in the second half of last year. So, we remain committed to that program, and we’ll continue to do so going forward.

Michael GlickJ.P. Morgan — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

You have a follow-up question from the line of Dave Gagliano with BMO Capital Markets.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking my follow ups. Just two quick ones here. First of all, on near term volume expectations. If you could just speak a little bit to your first quarter and perhaps second quarter volume expectations if you’re willing to? And then I have a follow-up on the cost.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So Dave, I think on the last call, somebody was asking me about capacity utilizations and what have you, rather. And I made the statement that round numbers, our theoretical capacity is somewhere around 200,000 tons and that running at about 90% capacity over a longer-term period is probably a place that’s prudent from an expectation perspective. You might have moments of greatness where you get over that for a short period of time and then you’ve got scheduled maintenance outages that you got to do. So hopefully, that helps answer your question.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Yes. So no notable variations from that on a near-term basis? That’s really what all I was asking about.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean we’re going to obviously — Jeremy works hard with the operating guys to get as much juice from the orange as we possibly can and then that won’t stop, but I think that’s a good place to think about it. And we made a little bit of reference here. We’re a little bit higher CapEx spend, and that extra additional spend is directed towards thinking about where the market’s going on a, I’ll call it, a medium-term basis and being sure that we’re doing some things not unlike we did in ’18 to be prepared so that we can grow.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. That’s helpful. Thanks. And then just my follow-up on — actually on Alex’ question a few minutes ago on decant oil and the hedges. I was wondering if you could drill down into that a little bit more. Specifically, when we think about your overall unit costs, roughly what percentage is decant oil? That’s my first question.

And then the other part of that question, specifically, when were those hedges put in place? And more specifically, when do they start to roll off?

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. The hedges were put in place at the time that the LTA program began over — hard to believe, over four years ago now.

Tim, you want to comment on the cost structure and the percentages?

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Yeah. I mean I think if you think about the decant oil, I mean, that is the primary raw ingredient for making the petroleum needle coke. So it’s probably about two-thirds of the overall cost structure of our internally manufactured needle coke.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. And I apologize, I don’t have the numbers in front of me. How much of that — like when we sort of filter through the graphite electrode overall unit cost, how much is the internally manufactured needle coke? What percentage of total cost would that piece be?

Timothy K. FlanaganChief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance and Treasurer

Yeah. We haven’t given that level of specificity because it’s obviously a mix of what we generate internally, as well as what we buy on the market from a third-party needle coke perspective.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. All right. Appreciate it. Thanks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

On a broader term. I mean, in the past, we’ve always talked about from a capability perspective that we could — we can support about two-thirds of our order book with Seadrift and would need about one-third from the outside world. So, at a high level, you can think about that in that context.

David GaglianoBMO Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. All right. That’s helpful. Thanks.

Operator

This concludes our question-and-answer session. I will now hand the call back over to Mr. Rintoul for closing remarks.

David J. RintoulPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Phyllis. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone on the call, health and safety in the coming months. Thank you for your interest in GrafTech. And we look forward to speaking with you in the next quarter. Take care. And have a safe day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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