SPH » Topics » ITEM 3. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

This excerpt taken from the SPH 10-Q filed May 8, 2008.

ITEM 3. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK


Commodity Price Risk


We enter into product supply contracts that are generally one-year agreements subject to annual renewal, and also purchase product on the open market. Our propane supply contracts typically provide for pricing based upon index formulas using the posted prices established at major supply points such as Mont Belvieu, Texas, or Conway, Kansas (plus transportation costs) at the time of delivery. In addition, to supplement our annual purchase requirements, we may utilize forward fixed price purchase contracts to acquire a portion of the propane that we resell to our customers, which allows us to manage our exposure to unfavorable changes in commodity prices and to ensure adequate physical supply. The percentage of contract purchases, and the amount of supply contracted for under forward contracts at fixed prices, will vary from year to year based on market conditions. In certain
instances, and when market conditions are favorable as was the case in the propane and fuel oil markets during the first half of fiscal 2007, we are able to purchase product under our supply arrangements at a discount to the market.


Product cost changes can occur rapidly over a short period of time and can impact profitability. We attempt to reduce commodity price risk by pricing product on a short-term basis. The level of priced, physical product maintained in storage facilities and at our customer service centers for immediate sale to our customers will vary depending on several factors, including, but not limited to, price, availability of supply, and demand for a given time of the year. Typically, our on hand priced position does not exceed more than four weeks of our supply needs and, during the peak heating season, typically not more than two weeks of supply is maintained in inventory. In the course of normal operations, we routinely enter into contracts such as forward priced physical contracts for the purchase or sale of propane and fuel oil that, under SFAS No. 133, “Accounting for Derivative
Instruments and Hedging Activities,” as amended (“SFAS 133”), qualify for and are designated as a normal purchase or normal sale contracts. Such contracts are exempted from the fair value accounting requirements of SFAS 133 and are accounted for at the time product is purchased or sold under the related contract.


Under our hedging and risk management strategies, we enter into a combination of exchange-traded futures and option contracts, forward contracts and, in certain instances, over-the-counter options (collectively, “derivative instruments”) to manage the price risk associated with priced, physical product and with future purchases of the commodities used in our operations, principally propane and fuel oil, as well as to ensure the availability of product during periods of high demand. Futures and forward contracts require that we sell or acquire propane or fuel oil at a fixed price for delivery at fixed future dates. An option contract allows, but does not require, its holder to buy or sell propane or fuel oil at a specified price during a specified time period. However, the writer of an option contract must fulfill the obligation of the option contract, should the holder
choose to exercise the option. At expiration, the contracts are settled by the delivery of the product to the respective party or are settled by the payment of a net amount equal to the difference between the then current price and the fixed contract price or options exercise price. To the extent that we utilize derivative instruments to manage exposure to commodity price risk and commodity prices move adversely in relation to the contracts, we could suffer losses on those derivative instruments when settled. Conversely, if prices move favorably, we could realize gains.


As a result of various market factors during the first half of fiscal 2007, particularly commodity price volatility during the first four months of the fiscal year, we experienced additional margin opportunities due to favorable pricing under certain supply arrangements and from our hedging and risk management activities. These market conditions generated additional operating profit of approximately $8.3 million and $20.0 million during the three and six months ended March 31, 2007, respectively, compared to the three and six months ended March 29, 2008. Supply and risk management transactions may not always result in increased product margins and there can be no assurance that the favorable market conditions that contributed to incremental margin during the first half of fiscal 2007 will be present in the future. These favorable market conditions and resulting incremental
margin opportunities were not present during the first half of fiscal 2008.


 


 


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Market Risk


We are subject to commodity price risk to the extent that propane or fuel oil market prices deviate from fixed contract settlement amounts. Futures traded with brokers of the NYMEX require daily cash settlements in margin accounts. Forward and option contracts are generally settled at the expiration of the contract term either by physical delivery or through a net settlement mechanism. Market risks associated with futures, options and forward contracts are monitored daily for compliance with our Hedging and Risk Management Policy which includes volume limits for open positions. Open inventory positions are reviewed and managed daily as to exposures to changing market prices.


Credit Risk


Futures and fuel oil options are guaranteed by the NYMEX and, as a result, have minimal credit risk. We are subject to credit risk with over-the-counter, forward and propane option contracts to the extent the counterparties do not perform. We evaluate the financial condition of each counterparty with which we conduct business and establish credit limits to reduce exposure to the risk of non-performance by our counterparties.


Interest Rate Risk


A portion of our long-term borrowings bear interest at a variable rate based upon either LIBOR or Wachovia National Bank’s prime rate, plus an applicable margin depending on the level of our total leverage. Therefore, we are subject to interest rate risk on the variable component of the interest rate. We manage our interest rate risk by entering into interest rate swap agreements. On March 31, 2005, we entered into a $125.0 million interest rate swap contract in conjunction with the Term Loan facility under the Revolving Credit Agreement. The interest rate swap is being accounted for under SFAS 133 and has been designated as a cash flow hedge. Changes in the fair value of the interest rate swap are recognized in other comprehensive income until the hedged item is recognized in earnings. At March 29, 2008, the fair value of the interest rate swap was ($5.4) million
representing an unrealized loss and is included within other liabilities with a corresponding debit in other comprehensive income (loss) (“OCI”).


Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities


All of our derivative instruments are reported on the balance sheet, within other current assets or other current liabilities, at their fair values pursuant to SFAS 133. On the date that futures, forward and option contracts are entered into, we make a determination as to whether the derivative instrument qualifies for designation as a hedge. Changes in the fair value of derivative instruments are recorded each period in current period earnings or OCI, depending on whether a derivative instrument is designated as a hedge and, if so, the type of hedge. For derivative instruments designated as cash flow hedges, we formally assess, both at the hedge contract’s inception and on an ongoing basis, whether the hedge contract is highly effective in offsetting changes in cash flows of hedged items. Changes in the fair value of derivative instruments designated as cash flow hedges
are reported in OCI to the extent effective and reclassified into cost of products sold during the same period in which the hedged item affects earnings. The mark-to-market gains or losses on ineffective portions of cash flow hedges used to hedge future purchases are immediately recognized in cost of products sold. Changes in the fair value of derivative instruments that are not designated as cash flow hedges, and that do not meet the normal purchase and normal sale exemption under SFAS 133, are recorded within cost of products sold as they occur.


At March 29, 2008, the fair value of derivative instruments described above resulted in derivative assets (unrealized gains) of $1.7 million included within prepaid expenses and other current assets and derivative liabilities (unrealized losses) of $5.8 million included within other current liabilities. Cost of products sold included unrealized (non-cash) losses of $2.3 million and $5.0 million for the three and six months ended March 29, 2008, respectively, and unrealized (non-cash) losses of $6.6 million and $7.6 million for the three and six months ended March 31, 2007, respectively, attributable to the change in fair value of derivative instruments not designated as cash flow hedges.


Sensitivity Analysis


In an effort to estimate our exposure to unfavorable market price changes in propane or fuel oil, a sensitivity analysis of open positions as of March 29, 2008 was performed. Based on this analysis, a hypothetical 10% adverse change in market prices for each of the future months for which a futures, forward and/or option contract exists indicates either a reduction in potential future gains or potential losses in future earnings of $5.3 million as of March 29, 2008. See also Item 7A of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 29, 2007.


The above hypothetical change does not reflect the worst case scenario. Actual results may be significantly different depending on market conditions and the composition of the open position portfolio at any given point in time.



 


 


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