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IEC Electronics (NYSEMKT:IEC)

F4Q12 Earnings Call

November 20, 2012 10:00 AM ET

Executives

John Nesbett - IR

Barry Gilbert - Chairman & CEO

Vincent Leo - CFO

Analysts

Mike Crawford - B. Riley & Company

Mark Jordan - Noble Financial Group

Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

Steve Shaw - Sidoti & Company

Allan Lyons - Private Investor

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the IEC Electronics Fiscal 2012 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Financial Results Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions). As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr John Nesbett. Thank you, Mr Nesbett. You may now begin.

John Nesbett

Good morning and thank you for calling in. On the call this morning, we have Barry Gilbert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, as well as Vincent Leo, Chief Financial Officer.

Before we get started, I would like to take a moment to read the Safe Harbor statement. This conference call contains certain forward-looking statements related to the company’s expectations and prospects that involve risks and uncertainties including uncertainties associated with economic conditions in the electronics industry, particularly in the principal industry sectors served by the company; changes in customer requirements and in the volume of sales and the principal customers; competition and technological change; the ability of the company to control manufacturing and operating costs; the ability of the company to develop and maintain satisfactory relationships with vendors and the ability of the company to efficiently integrate acquired companies in to its business.

The company’s actual results of operations may differ significantly from those contemplated by any forward-looking statements as a result of these and other factors, including factors set forth in the company’s 2011 annual report on Form 10-K and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All of which may be found in the investor relations section in the company’s website at iec-electronics.com. the company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise forward looking information whether as a result of new update information, future events or otherwise. In addition, references to non-GAAP financial measures in this presentation are reconciled to GAAP measures in the earnings release for the quarter which also can be found in the investor relations section of the company’s website.

I will now turn the call over to Barry Gilbert. Please go ahead, Barry.

Barry Gilbert

Good morning, thank you for joining us. We are pleased to report a solid fourth quarter and fiscal 2012. This quarter is characterized by a few things; revenues for the quarter grew from 34.9 million to 37.1 million. The growth came from our industrial sector and our military and aerospace sector. Our medical sector business was down a bit in a comparative basis.

For the year, our revenue grew from 133.3 million to 145 million. In terms of our end markets we benefit from a diverse customer base, our sector performance shifted somewhat in this past year. The industrial sector grew from 25.5% of our sales from 13% last year. Military as a percent decreased to 43% of sales from 56%. As mentioned throughout the year, there were numerous congressional delays which impacted our results; the medical sector was 22% of our sales consistent with last year.

Our margins remained strong; we believe some of the best in the industry, gross margins at 18% of sales for the quarter and 19.3% for the year. Our EBITDA for the quarter was more than 4.3 million and for the fiscal year 17.5 million greater than a 19% increase over fiscal ’11. Our net income for the quarter was $0.20 per fully diluted share and $0.78 for the fiscal year. This compares to $0.26 per fully diluted share for the fourth quarter of fiscal ’11. Last year, this quarter included the benefit of a claw back from our acquisition of approximately $0.08 per share. Our $0.78 for fiscal 2012 compares to $0.68 for fully diluted share for four fiscal 2011.

Our balance sheet liquidity remains strong. During the quarter, our net debt fell by 5.5 million and over 10 million for the entire year. Vince will offer additional details on both our earnings and our debt reduction in a few minutes.

Fiscal 2012 was a good year for IEC. As we have grown our business, we’ve stayed acutely aware of the niches we serve. We continue to drive margin and return on equity which was over 20% for fiscal 2012. Our backlog at the end of the fiscal 2012 fell to 94.8 million as compared to 121.5 at this time last year. A change like this warrants colour and understanding. Our backlog change can be divided into two categories. One of our major customers changed their ordering practises from annual to quarterly. Our forecast for this customer in fiscal 2013 has not changed and at this time is consistent with last year; however the ordering pattern is different. The second reason is the broad weakening in our industrial sector.

I will now turn the call over to Vince Leo, our CFO, who will review the numbers. After Vince completes his report, I’ll provide more operational discussion and a look at 2013 before we open it up for questions.

Vincent Leo

Thank you Barry and good morning everyone. This morning we issued a press release detailing our fourth quarter and year-end results. I hope you’ve all had a chance to take a look at it. During the fourth quarter, IEC realized revenues of approximately $37.1 million compared to approximately $34.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. All of the 6.1% revenue increase was through organic growth and the majority of the increase was related to increased volume from two existing customers in the industrial market sector.

Gross profit in the fourth quarter decreased slightly to 18.3% as compared to 20.1% of sales in the prior year period. Gross profit was impacted primarily by a change in the product mix. Nonetheless, gross margin was strong and still on track with our long-term goal of 18. 5 to 21%.

SG&A decreased approximately $1 million to 9.7% of sales in the quarter just ended compared to 13% of sales in the prior year period. The decrease is primarily attributable to decreased payroll and bonus (inaudible). It is important to note in the fourth quarter of 2011, there was a onetime gain of approximately $1.1 million due to the contingent consideration or claw back related to the SCB acquisition. Therefore, our income before taxes for this quarter was $2.9 million compared to $3.3 million for the quarter last year. Excluding that claw back, last year’s pre-tax income would have been approximately $2.2 million in 2011.

As we’ve mentioned in prior calls, IEC used bank borrowings to fund approximately 98% of the purchase price of our two most recent acquisitions. During the fourth quarter of 2012, interest expense decreased to $300,000 compared to approximately $387,000 in the prior year period. The decrease is primarily the result of our decreased average borrowings.

Net income for the fourth quarter was $2 million or $0.20 per diluted share compared to $2.6 million or $0.26 per diluted share in the prior year period. Again, last year’s EPS included a onetime gain of approximately $1.1 million or approximately $0.08 per diluted share tax affected. Therefore without the claw back, the fiscal 2011 EPS would have been approximately $0.18 per diluted share in the prior year period.

For fiscal 2012, IEC realized revenues of approximately $145 million compared to approximately $133.3 million in fiscal 2011. 7.4% of the 8.8% increase in revenue was organic with the balance coming from having a full year of our southern California braiding operations including in our annual results.

Gross profit for the year was 19.3% which was consistent with fiscal 2011. SG&A was approximately 10.9% of sales as compared to 11.5% in the previous year.

IEC’s federal and New York state tax liabilities have been and will be sheltered by net operating loss carry forwards flowing from losses incurred prior to 2005. These NOLs substantially offset payments that would have otherwise been required. The company’s federal NOL at the end of 2012 amounted to approximately $11.9 million and we estimate that those NOLs will produce future cash benefits totalling approximately $4.5 million.

With that said, net income for fiscal 2012 was $7.8 million or $0.78 diluted share compared with $6.8 million or $0.68 per diluted share fiscal 2011. (Inaudible) system basis taking the claw back out of both years, fiscal 2012 would have been approximately $0.71 per diluted share tax affected compared with $0.60 per diluted share tax affected in 2011. Our EBITDA increased approximately 19.5% during the current year from $14.7 million to $17.5 million and further, our EBITDA as a percentage of sales was over 12% for 2002.

Our balance sheet remains strong with $21 million of working capital. During the year we were able to reduce our debt by $7.5 million to $27.6 million. And we’ve begun building cash reserves adding approximately $2.7 million of cash for our balance sheet at September 30th, 2012 effectively reducing our net debt to just under $25 million.

With that, I will now turn it back over to Barry.

Barry Gilbert

Thank you. We continue to achieve some of the highest margins in the industry. These high margins are evidence of our ability to manage our costs and deliver high quality products on time. We do make mistakes. Q1 this past year was ample demonstration of that. However, we continue moving forward growing IEC and bringing the company to ever high levels. Levels which include continuing to build our technology and analytical skills and broaden our capabilities to support a group of world class customers continue to be a tough priority. Our customers are inclined to give a larger percentage of their work to fewer, more capable providers and we believe we are well positioned to capitalize on these industry wide trends.

As Vince mentioned, our balance sheet continues to improve and we paid down a sizable portion of our debt in fiscal 2012. We have cautiously used debt to build our company and are proud that we reduced our debt net of cash on hand from $47 million to $25 million in the last 21 months. We have been executing our strategy and we’re fortunate to receive inexpensive financing to build our business over the last few years. We have used the cash flow from our expanded operations to bring the company to a unique competitive position to grow our earnings and to increase our cash flow which in turn will use to reduce our debt.

The benefit and legacy for our shareholders is the business with substantially reduced debt, far higher earnings and EBITDA. Since our first acquisition our earnings and EBITDA have doubled, redoubled and we are on a path to redouble again all as a result of our strategy which included carefully managing our debt.

Now we have started to put cash on our balance sheet and expect to continue doing so. Let’s look forward. We currently expect our sales to grow between 9 and 14% for fiscal 2013. As we have indicated before, our targeted margins are 19.5 to 21% for gross margins and 9 to 10.5% for operating margins and we continue working towards these goals. We finished fiscal 2012 with $0.78 for fully diluted share. This compared to $0.68 for fully diluted share in 2011. As Vince discussed, both years were impacted by the claw back from the SCB acquisition. We currently expect our net income per fully diluted share adjusted for the claw back will increase from $0.71 per share to range of between $0.88 and $0.93 per diluted share for fiscal ’13. We are comfortable with the increase in our military and aerospace order activity converting into shipments. Our broad outlook has not changed; we are still concerned about the weak global economy and the muddled US economy. We are also keeping a close eye on the Department of Defence but are encouraged with the recent increase in our military and aerospace order activities. Our business is moving in the right direction. Quite simply, we are growing and we have very attractive business model and in markets that are growing over the long term.

We’ll now turn the call over to the operator and poll for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Our first question is from Mike Crawford from B. Riley & Company. Please proceed with your question.

Mike Crawford - B. Riley & Company

Thank you. With 43% of the revenue during the year from Military, Aerospace, is that the only segment of your business where you would have top secret SCI type work?

Barry Gilbert

Mike, good morning. It is.

Mike Crawford - B. Riley & Company

Okay. And roughly are you able to give any indication of what level that is?

Barry Gilbert

No. we can’t do that.

Mike Crawford - B. Riley & Company

And then you said with medical at 22, and industrial at 25 does that mean the remaining 10% is communications and other?

Barry Gilbert

Yes, that is about right. There is rounding in there, but that’s not bad.

Mike Crawford - B. Riley & Company

And outside of the Military, Aerospace, are you able to disclose any top customers or programs?

Barry Gilbert

No, we will be disclosing that when our K is filed which we expect to have filed over the course of the next week or so, and it will certainly disclose both the customers and concentration associated with those customers.

Mike Crawford - B. Riley & Company

Okay. And then last question, based on your guidance, it looks like you're going to use up the vast majority of your federal NOLs that remain next year, so what would be your cash tax rate expected this year, and then after those are utilized?

Barry Gilbert

Well, this year will still be a bit of a blend, but fundamentally, we see a 36.5% tax rate as being a reasonable number for us; might drift as high as 37, might drift downward to the high 35. But that 36.5 is sort of what we're looking at right now.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is coming from Mark Jordan from Noble Financial. Please proceed with your question.

Mark Jordan - Noble Financial Group

A question relative to SCB. Would you give us a sense of - an overview of how that acquisition is functioning now vis-à-vis your plans and expectations, and secondly, talk a little bit about your M&A plans. Clearly starting to put cash on your balance sheet means that you have more flexibility, clearly on the acquisition front than you had this time last year. Could you tell us what are your goals and objectives on the acquisition front?

Barry Gilbert

Sure. So let me move to the first part of the question. SCB is performing better. It is taking longer to integrate than we envisioned. [It was cost] [ph] integrate than we envisioned. But at the end of the day, the processes are in place and we are starting to see actually a broadening, a wide broadening of our position with the primes. And we’re starting to get very excited about some of the things that we’re seeing. I think there is still a gap between the excitement that we’re experiencing and booking the order but at the end of the day, things are clearly moving in the right direction.

With respect to your broad question about M&A, we are paying down our debt. This is an interesting time for the country. I don’t want to get philosophical, I don’t want to become an economist but at the end of the day, we’re not ignoring opportunities that are being presented to us. We are absolutely reviewing them and we are determining so far that none of them make any sense to us because for us to add bulk just doesn’t work. What we’re after is continuing to improve our position with our key customers and in turn to also add technology which would make us even more attractive to those key customers. Does that answer your question Mark?

Mark Jordan - Noble Financial Group

Yes.

Barry Gilbert

Because if I didn't, I mean I will do it again.

Mark Jordan - Noble Financial Group

No, looking at sort of the sequential gross margins that you've had, or the gross margins you had for the first through fourth quarters, I mean there’s been a wide variance, obviously a disappointing first quarter, but I look at the second and third quarters, which were 21.7 and 20.6, versus the 18.3, in the fourth quarter. Could you talk about the specific, I guess it’s mix changes or what’s happened that sort of generates that 300 basis points swing that is to some extent normal?

Barry Gilbert

Sure. So I think to go ahead and calibrate us, our rough range now, assuming a normal mix, is clearly running between 18 and 18.5%. As mentioned in Q2, when it swung up to 21%, all of the stars aligned for all of these major customers, and there are clearly programs which are more profitable to us than others. Either we're just more effective in managing some of our costs with some of these programs. And when they all align, we just have great returns. And when they don't align, and we end up going ahead and producing for our customers, what they need, and they're not the more profitable stuff, sometimes we find ourselves in clumsy positions. And when our sales increase, one of the things we're able to do is also leverage a little bit more of our fixed structure and cost structure and you saw some of that, too.

Our goal though is and I say this, our goal is to level that variance out and we’ll never get rid of it but we can certainly reduce the swing and that’s what’s driving us to the 19.5 to 21% broad goal by 2014. We’re working on very specific programs to try to reduce that variation so that it’s no longer 300 basis points and the swing is now 150 basis points. Still a lot, but it’s better than what it was.

Mark Jordan - Noble Financial Group

And that's just building a broader a more diversified portfolio of customers and programs?

Barry Gilbert

There is some of that. And some of it is clearly manufacturing execution. We continue to focus very heavily on manufacturing execution.

Mark Jordan - Noble Financial Group

Given the business plans that you have, what is your goal for debt reduction in the next 12 months and I guess related to that, you’ve got looks like 42 million committed in the accounts receivable and inventory lines, do you see opportunities to free up cash there?

Barry Gilbert

So from the standpoint of our debt reduction, at this time, I am prepared to go ahead and say that we’re going to reduce our debt by the $7 million that we’re obligated to reduce our debt annually. I don’t envision that that cash flow is going to be completely consumed by receivables and inventory. We actually do think that we’re going to be able to do a better job managing our inventory over the course of this next year. Receivables is challenging, but these are big customers that are pushing us very hard for wanting more and more days and that becomes an interesting dialogue with them and so I am not envisioning lots of advances in the way of receivables.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our next question is coming from Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

I wanted to focus on your projection for next year and could you just give us a little more insight into where the 9 to 14% revenue growth projection comes from? What areas of the business, how confident are you that that’s a realistic projection and that sort of thing?

Barry Gilbert

We’re recently comfortable with the projection. We think it’s a sloppy projection in the following sense. I don’t want to sound negative towards the projection we just put out, but we see that as we look out, different sectors of the business are likely to have stronger performance in different quarters of the year by way of illustration and I want to make it very clear that it is an illustration that we might very well see our industrial sector performing a lot better in the back half of the year than the front half of the year. We may see our military performing recently well all year long and our medical sector being relatively flat during the first part of the year but performing quite well at the end of the year. I’d like to say it’s linear, it just isn’t.

Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

That's fair enough. If I recall correctly, at this time last year, you were fairly, or you struck me as being somewhat negative on the general revenue outlook, concerned about the government funding and general economy, and I think in hindsight, you are probably more conservative than you should have been. Do you feel as though you're taking the same factors into account at the moment? Or do you really feel that you can see a better prospect this year than you did at this time last year?

Barry Gilbert

Some of the customers that are giving us pause and concern at the moment are some of the customers heavily involved in international markets and I think that the international economy is not particularly bright in some of the sectors of the world that have historically been growing well beyond anything the United States has been growing. You can talk about China. You can talk about the BRICs. Well, I gather China is part of the BRICs. But so that clearly is something that I think about. I also recognize that the US economy is not as robust as I believe we would like it to be, and I think it is going to take a lot more work to move it forward so that some of our customers are positively impacted, so that my cautious outlook is removed or eliminated. So I think that’s a long answer to say that I haven't changed a lot. Maybe I'm the kind of guy that wears two pairs of boots to keep his feet dry. I really don't know. We take risks when we think that they are appropriate, as we have with our debt, over the course of the last few years. To responsibly grow the business both in earnings and in cash flow. And I am the same individual that sees that this could be a tough year.

Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

Yes, frankly if you can make the kind of positive forward projections you’re making under the assumption that the overall atmosphere is not going to be particularly positive, then so much the better. To move on to the earnings side of things…

Barry Gilbert

I do want to say one thing Charlie before you move forward, I do believe that sequestration as a specific subject is not likely to impact us as much it will be sensational news in the press.

Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

Now I was just going to take it one further step. You're talking 9 to 14% top line growth, which is certainly good. And if my calculator is doing its job, you're talking double the percentage increase in earnings. And so obviously, some of that is going to come from paying down debt, lower interest expense, but I would feel sure that the majority is coming from margin improvement. Could you further explain how the earnings are going to grow at twice the rate of revenues?

Barry Gilbert

Two things. First, that is broadly been a goal that we have stated for the last, I want to say three years now, that we tried to grow our earnings at twice the rate that we grow our sales. And so in that regard, it’s a demonstration and a statement of consistency. But I shouldn't make the statement if I don't believe it. So let's move forward with that. And so I currently believe it. I think there are a few things that are coming about. We have some important programs that we're putting forth with respect to managing our costs. And in a contract manufacturing environment, our major inputs are the labour and materials. And so if we're able to responsibly manage that that clearly is accretive to us, even if our sales don't grow a dime. The second element is that we do believe that our flow-through or our leveraging of our overhead is going to contribute. And the last part of it does look like we could experience some favourable mix, and so it’s that blend which is yielding the results that we have identified that you've questioned.

Charles Neuhauser - Mainwell Investment Management

Well with any luck, if you actually produce the kind of results you’re projecting as stock may one day sell for more than a single digit price earnings ratios. Good luck.

Barry Gilbert

Well thank you very much and as far as luck is concerned, we have a lot of three legged rabbits running around this place.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our next questions is coming from Steve Shaw from Sidoti & Company. Please proceed with your question.

Steve Shaw - Sidoti & Company

Quick question on SG&A, I think Vince mentioned that there were lower bonus expenses; does that have to do with timing or (inaudible) year? Some color on that?

Barry Gilbert

So we’re clearly we’re cost associated with the change in administration. So that’s correct, but from the standpoint of the bonuses, we set pretty rigorous targets for ourselves and when we don’t achieve them, then we don’t deserve to receive bonus and so we’ve got to go ahead and make our accruals all year long as if we are going to achieve them, we clearly adjust them as the year moves on and at the end a couple things, that we thought might happen didn’t happen and an adjustment was made. So you have the two factors.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is coming from Allan Lyons, Private Investor. Please proceed with your questions.

Allan Lyons - Private Investor

My question really is, could you talk a little bit about the new customers? I am glad to see that you still didn’t lose any of your old customers, what about new customers and potential does some of these new customers, assuming they were, what’s kind of outlook do you see there in the next couple of years generating for you?

Barry Gilbert

Couple of things, first thing, with respect to next year, I just want to calibrate not only you but your colleagues that are on the call that we’re not miracle makers and nor are we looking for miracles and like everything else, we’ll have our challenges that we’ll work our way through and I think we’ll get through most of them. With respect to the customers, I want to shape things, that discussion a little bit differently. I’ll answer the question, but if we look at a customer such as a Lockheed or a customer such as a L3 and we’re working with four locations of Lockheed or four locations of that three and we pick up two more, conceptually to us, we picked up two new customers because they are producing different stuff, maybe all for the same end market but they are producing some very different stuff than therefore sister operations. Yet, some can say well you didn’t add another name to your pie chart, so you didn’t get a new customer, well yes, we did. Because they went ahead and reviewed us and they spent time with us from the standpoint of understanding our quality systems and our measurement systems and the programs we support and they made their decision to work with us. So with that said, we clearly have added a few new names to our list and those three customers have affectively asked us not to discuss that as that generally who they are because they are still extracting themselves from their existing relationships and I certainly understand that. In addition, we’ve gone ahead and picked up a number of new locations consist with the story that I just offered you, using L3 or Lockheed as backdrop. I don’t know if that answers your question but I think that’s about as close as I can get.

Allan Lyons - Private Investor

Talk about majority a little bit and the technology advancement and opportunities there that you started, how is that coming along?

Barry Gilbert

Well, I guess we could easily define well as it is making money or not making money, or it is positive cash flow or is not positive cash flow, and I think about that, and I look at that kind of decision set of variables I say well then it is not well because it is not making money and its negative cash flow. But I look at it as well simply because some of these additional facilities that we just talked about, literally a moment ago, with the other question, came to us because we provided that skill set and capability. Then I go, that's outstanding.

Allan Lyons - Private Investor

That's definitely what I meant.

Barry Gilbert

And so then we're both in the same place as it relates to well. And as a matter of fact, though we've not really talked about it, we're in the process now of starting another operation that we think is going to be equally as important and equally as valuable to the company in a sub-niche in the military arena, that could pay dividends for many years.

Allan Lyons - Private Investor

What about, if you continue to see cross selling opportunities among your…

Barry Gilbert

Oh golly yes, you know the cross selling has been working reasonably well, we’re finding that the businesses in Albuquerque and California are doing quite well together, we’re going and ahead and finding that the businesses in the Rochester region are working well together, we’re actually finding that some of the Rochester operations are going backwards across the country to go ahead and help those other operations. Those aren’t big numbers but that’s okay, it’s a start and that’s all that matters. We expand from there.

Allan Lyons - Private Investor

And a last question I had is really, are you seeing a lot of systems integration opportunities pertaining to the various acquisitions to lower cost and more effectively run your business and what are your goals in that arena?

Barry Gilbert

So I want to take the systems and expand a little bit, because quite often when you think of the term systems you start thinking of a very large information technology. And so I want to think of it from a broader perspective which would be, are there ways that we’re able to go ahead and remove the replication in accounting and finance or in payables and receivables and things of that nature and the answer is, absolutely and we are moving forward as rapidly as we can but we clearly are seeing some of benefits in that area which will reduce our S&GA and overhead and improve our margin which supports part of the discussion that the two callers before which was part of Mark Jordan’s question.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). We have reached the end of our question and answer session. I’ll like to turn the call back over to management for any further or closing comments.

Barry Gilbert

I want to thank everybody for joining us this morning. We look forward to speaking to you at the end of Q1 we hope that this year turns out to be a bright one for all of us. Take care now. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. This does conclude today’s teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time and have a wonderful day. We thank you for your participation today.

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