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Planar Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLNR)

F4Q12 Earnings Call

November 20, 2012 5:00 PM ET

Executives

Gerry Perkel – President and CEO

Scott Hildebrandt – VP and CFO

Ryan Gray – VP

Analysts

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Kelly Cardwell – Central Square Management

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Operator

Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2012 Planar Systems Earnings Conference Call. My name is Chanelle, and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are in listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Gerry Perkel, Planar President and CEO.

Gerry Perkel

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for Planar’s fourth quarter earnings conference call. With me this afternoon is Scott Hildebrandt, Planar’s Chief Financial Officer and Ryan Gray, Planar’s Vice President of Finance and incoming CFO. As previously announced, we’re implementing a succession plan in which Ryan will transition to the CFO role effective January 1, 2013. And from this point forward, he’ll be playing a role in our quarterly earnings conference calls.

Before I begin I do need to say that the press release we issued today contain forward-looking statements. On this conference call we will comment on our strategic business and financial outlook and make other forward-looking statements based on our current expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections. Words such as expects, anticipates, intends, plans, believes, sees, estimates and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements.

All forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. I refer you to the earning’s press release we issued earlier today and to our periodic filings with the SEC for a description of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the results described in the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements we make today speak only as of today and we do not undertake any obligation to update any such statements to reflect events or circumstances occurring after today.

With that behind us, let me move on to talk about our financial results. We were disappointed in our revenue performance in Q4, as we had expected revenue fairly similar to our Q3 levels. Q4 revenue was $41.4 million compared to $44.7 million level we had seen in Q3.

The key drivers of our shortfall were three-fold. First, we had a couple of customers push delivery dates out on a few large orders late in the fourth quarter. Secondly, it’s a minor material shortfalls and finally we did see somewhat slower shippable order rates in the second half of the quarter than we had seen in the first half of the quarter.

Also, we did see in Q4, customers being less confident about spending levels, particularly our OEMs that serve the US Military market. The resulting revenue shortfall creates some additional challenges on the gross profit line due to absorption and as a result we also delivered a larger loss than we had expected.

Let me now comment on some of the performance across our various product lines. Sales our digital signage products finished the quarter at $13.6 million, which is our largest quarter of digital signage product sales ever, that level of digital signage product sales represent a 20% year-on-year growth and 15% sequential growth. Our strategies for growing digital signage product revenues are working well and we expect some strong growth in these product lines for the first quarter and in FY13 in total.

Within our digital signage product portfolio, there were some no-worthy developments. Our Tiled LCD products which include our Matrix and Mosaic product lines experienced their highest revenue ever at $9.9 million which represented 18% year-on-year growth and 9% sequential growth. We expect to see strong growth continuing in the Tiled LCD system part of our digital signage product portfolio as we move forward into FY13 and for that growth to be from both our continued growth and Matrix product sales as well as from the addition of our Mosaic product line to the digital signage portfolio.

Additionally, our signage monitor product line experienced a strong quarter and nice growth, a $3.1 million of signage monitor sales in Q4 represented 57% growth on a year-on-year basis and 17% sequential growth. We began shipping our UltraLux offerings which helped to drive that growth.

In our commercial and industrial product lines, the performance was somewhat mixed. Overall commercial and industrial revenues for Q4 were $27.8 million, which represented a 30% decline on a year-on-year basis and a 16% sequential decline.

EL sales of $4.5 million for the quarter represented a 40% decline on a year-on-year basis, as we saw lower demand from a number of customer segments. We also saw sequential declines in our Rear Projection cube, desktop monitor and Runco product lines. While Runco branded revenues were $3.2 million down 36% year-on-year, we did begin to see some significant contribution from our Runco resellers in selling our digital signage product lines as those resellers began to expand their focus to include more commercial projects.

The most positive result in our commercial and industrial product lines was our touch monitor product lines. Touch-monitor revenues were $5.2 million representing 42% growth year-on-year and 35% sequential growth. We launched a new product in this category which offers some additional potential for growth as we look forward. Our Helium product was launched in September and we began delivering in October. This 27-inch touch monitor was specifically designed to meet the needs of Windows 8 users.

As we move forward, digital signage products will continue to be our primary focus and we expect to see strong growth in this area. We also see continued opportunity to expand our touch-monitor product sales. We are focusing our efforts to drive those two product categories to grow as aggressively as possible which in turn will enable us to grow the overall revenues of the company.

With that, let me turn it over to Scott to talk about our financials in a bit more detail. Scott?

Scott Hildebrandt

Thanks, Gerry. Let me start with our income statement. As you are aware we reported GAAP loss per share of $0.23 and a non-GAAP loss per share of $0.10 earlier today for our fourth quarter of fiscal 2012. Non-GAAP results exclude non-cash GAAP items such as intangible amortization expense, foreign exchange gains or losses resulting from foreign based translations of US denominated assets, share based compensation expense, some tax items and other non-reoccurring charges such as restructuring and impairment. For more details on these items a reconciliation is included in the supplementary tables within our press release.

Focusing in on our non GAAP results, gross profit as a percent of sales decreased to 17.3%. This compared to 26.8% reported in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011. As Gerry previously mentioned, the lower anticipated – the lower than anticipated level of sales recorded drove a decreasing gross profit margent per cent due to an under absorption of expenses in certain production areas with relatively higher fixed cost basis such as our EL production facilities. In addition, gross margin percentage was negatively impacted by an unfavorable product mix with the smaller proportion of total revenue derived from sales of relatively higher margin products such as Rare Projection cubes.

Non GAAP operating expenses for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 declined $2.9 million or 21% to $10.5 million compared with the same period a year ago. Expenses declined in all functions as a result of cost reduction measures implemented earlier in fiscal 2012, partially offset by increased project related expenses in research and development focused at some new digital signage initiatives.

Our non GAAP effective tax rate was approximately 37.5% in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012. Consistent with previous quarters, we expect to have an effective tax rate of 10% in quarters where we have a non GAAP profit before tax and 37.5% in quarters where we report a loss.

Turning to our balance sheet, cash increased to approximately $1.6 million to $17.8 million sequentially compared with the end of last quarter, driven primarily by a reduction in inventory, and accounts receivable which was partially offset by a reduction in accounts payable and the cash impacts of the loss we incurred.

Looking forward, we continue to see opportunities to grow sales of digital signage products. As a result we currently anticipate revenue in the range of $44 million to $48 million and a non-GAAP loss of $0.05 to a non-GAAP profit of $0.01 in the first quarter of 2013.

Shifting to some additional forward looking estimates, we believe average shares outstanding will be approximately $20.5 million shares for the first quarter of 2013. In addition, as discussed during the last few calls, capital expenses will tend higher over the next several quarters as we implement a new core business system to both improve efficiency as we grow and replace some of our ageing legacy systems. As such, we are projecting capital expense of $1 million and $500,000 of depreciation expense in the first quarter of 2013.

With that, I’ll turn it back over to you Gerry.

Gerry Perkel

Thanks, Scott. Our strategy continues to be – to transform our company to be more focused on markets that are growing and becoming profitable to drive increased shareholder value. We are part way through this transformation. Our standard digital signage products revenues grew 48% last year, which demonstrates that we are moving forward with our transformation successfully.

Our touch-monitor product line experienced growth of 18% last year as well. We expect these product categories to grow significantly again this year and to make up almost half our revenues for FY13. We do expect some contraction in other areas of our product line this year, however, our expectations at this point are that the growth in our growing product lines will exceed the contraction in our other product lines compared to fiscal 2012.

We have lowered our operating expense levels entering FY13 in an effort to improve our business model and we become more focused on the growing digital signage product markets. We will continue to monitor our revenue transformation and growth levels and if needed, we will take further cost reduction actions.

Improving the profit picture of the company is a very high priority, while at the same time continuing our actions to transform the company’s revenue makeup to be more and more focused on market segments that offer the potential to grow.

In summary, fiscal 2012 ended with our transformation partially complete. And with strong evidence and our ability to grow revenues in our new strategic initiative digital signage products. Unfortunately during our transformation, we have seen faster declines in our other non-strategic product lines. We continue to explore all actions available as we go forward to assist the company’s transition to a more digital signage market focused company with higher levels of shareholder value.

Our goals for the current year include continuing our efforts to build our growth platform in digital signage products and driving an improved profit picture and cash.

With that, let me now open it up for questions. Operator, can you come on and begin the question-and-answer session, please?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Sure. (Operator Instructions). Our first question comes from the line of Jim Ricchiuti, Needham & Company.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Thanks. So do you – good afternoon. Do you expect your digital signage revenues to be up sequentially in the December quarter?

Gerry Perkel

Yes. We do

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

So, that’s fairly good growth. Which – in the year ago period in digital signage, what was it about $10.7 million or $10.9 million or so, so you’re anticipating pretty robust growth?

Gerry Perkel

Yeah, we’re continuing to see our growth be pretty strong. As I said for the year, we saw our standard digital signage products up, what was it 48% almost 50%, 48%. In previous years we had some custom digital signage sales, that’s fairly much gone away and our focus has been on standard products that we can sell to a broad variety of customers. And we see that very strong right now and expect this quarter to be better than last quarter, which as a result would be another record quarter for digital signage product sales.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay. And Gerry just some other factors you cited in the shortfall in the quarter customers pushing out deliveries. What area was that in?

Gerry Perkel

That was digital signage products actually.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay.

Gerry Perkel

It just happened to be a project where the construction didn’t come in at the pace that they expected to and unfortunately we got that notification a little later in the quarter than would have been helpful.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

So, that’s the product you anticipate shipping this quarter.

Gerry Perkel

That’s correct.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

And then you alluded to – I think you alluded to some material shortages?

Gerry Perkel

Yeah, we had a few challenges on the supplier front which caused us to do – we have to scramble on a few areas and we couldn’t quite get some of the material we needed to meet the demand as it came in.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

And what area with that?

Gerry Perkel

Digital signage.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay, okay. So, had it not been for those factors, what would you additionally have shipped in the quarter in digital signage?

Gerry Perkel

I don’t know the exact number but a couple of million more probably and something along those lines.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay. Do you anticipate any improvement in the legacy, in the industrial business or is that business that you think could decline further sequentially?

Gerry Perkel

It’s a little bit of a mixed bag there. As I mentioned in my remarks, we are seeing a real pullback currently from those of our industrial OEM partners that service military customers. The whole potential for sequestration that’s coming etcetera is concerning them and we’ve seen demand from those customers drop-off. Will that return? Well your guess is as good as mine. It depends on what Congress does and what happens to budgets etcetera as we move forward.

On our non-military business, we’ll continue to see good growth in the touch-monitor space. I think desktop monitors kind of goes up and down a little bit each quarter and but we’re – and then I think on our Rear Projection cube business, once again that’s going to move up and down a little bit each quarter depending on the quarter. That’s a market that’s under a lot of technological upheaval as new technology comes in there. But we do get large customer wins on occasion and do have some of those in the pipeline currently.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay, and just one final question in the development expense, up sequentially I think you are about $2.8 million in the quarter, is that – do you see that tapering off or is that going to remain at these levels for a couple of quarters?

Gerry Perkel

No, I think it will begin to taper off. We’ve had a couple of things spike in last quarter and I think we’ll be seeing that begin to normalize and go back down a little bit as we progress through the year.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay. So that should come down sequentially somewhat in Q1 and then decline further as we go through the year?

Gerry Perkel

Yes, I think it should come down somewhat sequentially and then you are right, be a little lower as we move throughout the year.

Jim Ricchiuti – Needham & Company

Okay, thanks a lot.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jeff Martin, ROTH Capital Partners.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Thanks. Good afternoon guys.

Gerry Perkel

Hi Jeff.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Was there a margin impact on the material shortage in the quarter on a gross margin?

Gerry Perkel

Well the fact that we couldn’t produce some of the products and ship some of the products that we had shortfalls from obviously created a lack of absorption from those sales from the fixed manufacturing expenses. So yes, that was there. And I would say that material margins on the particular products would have been accretive to our margin picture as well.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Okay. And then, since digital signage is such an important part of the business and going forward, what are the gross margins on that line of business?

Gerry Perkel

Well, we really don’t take it all the way down to the gross margin line by a product family or segment at this point. But I can tell you that the material margins there are I think Ryan or Scott you can help me about average to what the material margins are in total for the company?

Scott Hildebrandt

That’s right.

Gerry Perkel

And I would say that in general as we move forward, the digital signage products carry with them a little less cost to manufacture than some of our other product lines. And you have to separate out EL from the rest of our product lines because EL is a very different manufacturing model and it’s process manufacturing with very high value-add to that. And so high absorption rates and so the gross margins change quite a bit depending on volume there, whereas the other products look more similar.

But among those I would say that cubes require more work to put together and to assemble than some of the digital signage solutions. And then, we have some that are lesser in the form of desktop monitors where we had very low costs.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Okay. Are you able to quantify what the under absorption impact to gross margins was roughly in the quarter? I’m just trying to get a sense of what kind of rebound we might see in gross margins next year and where do you think kind of is a new normal for the business?

Gerry Perkel

Scott or Ryan, you want to talk about the gross margin levels going forward?

Ryan Gray

Yeah, this is Ryan. So, certainly, compared to the prior year Jeff, it was several points of gross profit on the absorption side, probably between 2 to 2.5.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Okay. So we are looking somewhere in the 19.5 to 20.5 range, it’s kind of where you would expect gross margins to kind of normalize out at?

Ryan Gray

Depending upon the product mix as well. So there was a product mix impact in the current quarter.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Okay. And mainly being, if you add Rear Projection cube orders, that would jump up a bit in those periods?

Ryan Gray

Right.

Gerry Perkel

Yeah, and then I think as we move forward, if we can continue to drive growth, we have the ability I think to produce a lot more revenue given our infrastructure than what we’re producing today. So, we should be able to see some better absorption as we get more growth as well.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Okay. And then, in terms of your restructuring what kind of annualized cost savings do you expect to see from that and is there any additional to come?

Gerry Perkel

Ryan, do you want to answer that?

Ryan Gray

Yeah, we expect based upon the action that we took in the fourth quarter, probably 200,000 or 300,000 per quarter saving.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Okay. And then any further destructions coming down the pipe?

Ryan Gray

Well, as Gerry alluded to we’re going to be monitoring the revenue line and reacting if necessary.

Gerry Perkel

I think one of the challenges right now is we clearly are finding a lot of success growing in the digital signage area. And we’re going to continue to drive that growth. We’ve got a little challenge in making sure that we can manage the pace at which we see decline in some of the other lines and we need to balance that with our expense levels. And then taking on top of that there is a little bit of I think kind of concern about the more global economy situation. And it’s something going to change with the current actions in the Congress and the issues in the Middle East etcetera, etcetera.

So, we are going to continue to watch how fast we can grow that revenue line and provided we can grow with what we think – we need to that probably won’t be further actions. If we don’t find that we can do that then we’ll take actions to normalize and get the expense levels aligned better with what we can generate revenue in the margin wise.

Jeff Martin – ROTH Capital Partners

Got it, and that’s all I had. Thanks guys.

Ryan Gray

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line Kelly Cardwell, Central Square Management.

Kelly Cardwell – Central Square Management

Hey guys, how are you doing?

Gerry Perkel

Good and you?

Scott Hildebrandt

Good, how are you doing?

Kelly Cardwell – Central Square Management

Good, good. I just had a question on the share count. I think you said $20.5 million for the first quarter?

Gerry Perkel

Yes.

Kelly Cardwell – Central Square Management

Can you just maybe walk us through a little bit of history and just describe I guess what – where the share issuance has gone because a few years ago, it seemed like it was more like $17 million or $18 million?

Scott Hildebrandt

I’ll let Ryan walk through that.

Ryan Gray

Pulling that together, I think the increase in the outstanding share-count relates to some of the award activity over the last several quarters and years, that’s what you’re trying to reconcile from Kelly.

Kelly Cardwell – Central Square Management

Can you talk a little bit, just about – maybe bigger picture, just how the incentive comp structure works because, on the surface it looks like numbers have been fairly difficult for the last couple of years, so I’m trying to reconcile that I guess with incentive share issuance?

Gerry Perkel

Yeah, let me take that – the incentive pay for management is broken into two pieces as the cash incentive portion and an equity incentive portion. The cash incentive portion is related to performance within the 12-month window typically at least it has been for the last several years, in this past year it paid out very, very low because the performance obviously was not what we had expected it to be.

The equity incentive is a performance based incentive as well at least it has been for a number of years now. It’s linked to the strategic goals of the company, which are to drive the digital signage revenue, to drive overall growth and to drive profitability. And so, based on achieving those various metrics, there is some vesting, it’s been vesting at below what was the awarded amount because the – clearly the profit metric has not been delivered the way it had been intended to.

So, there has been some award as it relates to the growth in digital signage revenue and thus the revenue generation that’s gone on during that time. So, that – the bulk of the resources in those two buckets are cash that’s a 12-month and an equity that’s a three-year looking horizon linked to the strategic goals.

Kelly Cardwell – Central Square Management

Okay. Thanks for the color.

Operator

Our next question comes from Dan Weston, WestCap Management.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Yeah hi, good afternoon guys. Thanks for taking the questions. Most of them have been answered by now but I just had a couple of quick follow-ups. In terms of the – you mentioned you had some help or seeing some pre-existing resellers in the Runco business, started to getting into the digital signage business. Is that a new phenomenon and is there any way you can quantify what they’re contributing at this point?

Gerry Perkel

Yeah, I think what we have seen is that the residential market for high-end video solutions is a challenged market not only for our Runco products but for the industry in general. And that’s been tough obviously on the resellers that have serviced that market. And so, in an effort for them to try to make their businesses stronger, they’ve started looking for other alternatives.

We have some of those alternatives for them and they have access to our Planar product line as well as the Runco product line. And they’ve begun to see some opportunities to leverage those products, occasionally into residential applications but mostly into commercial applications where there is a bigger market and with digital signage growing, an opportunity for them to access some growth.

So, we started to see that – I would say, we’ve seen more of that over the last year or two than we saw previous to that. And I don’t – I wouldn’t want to commit to a number but my recollection in the last time we looked at it, is I think in this last year they generated over $2 million of digital signage business and that’s a growing picture. And so, we expect to be able to see those resellers of Runco mix that start to focus on that, even drive more of that as we move forward.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Yeah, fair enough, that makes sense. On that note focusing on some of the – maybe the home, high-end home, how is your launch of the Planar Mosaic and some of the other architectural design related products ramping vis-à-vis your expectations?

Gerry Perkel

Well, I think it’s pretty early still in Mosaic we just began shipping it in this last quarter. Mosaic is primarily aimed at commercial architectural installations we’ve installed a few systems already. We have a lot of activity going on there. And that’s a matter of getting this new system more visibility among the architectural and design community.

And we’ve had a – like I said, a lot of interest placed, this is kind of a new technology and opportunity for these folks. And so, getting them to – integrated into some of their designs and their bids is what we’re going through right now. And like I said, began installing a few in this last quarter and a have a number of them underway right now.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Thank you. And a couple of more, I just wanted to make sure I wrote it down properly, did you mention that you saw that digital signage alone would comprise 50% of your total revenues in 2013?

Gerry Perkel

No, I think I said that the combination of digital signage in our touch-monitor revenue, yeah, they would be in the area of half of our revenues in FY13.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

That’s good I appreciate you clearing that up. Relating to some of the financials, I know that you’ve been working on implementing the new ERP system for the last few quarters, is there any way to gage where you are in that process and how many more quarters do you think it would take to complete that project?

Gerry Perkel

Well, we’ve seen some pretty good progress but let me let Scott talk about that.

Scott Hildebrandt

Yeah, we’ve been making good progress Dan. And we’re pretty much on schedule to implement it globally here during the current fiscal year, probably around half way through the year. And we expect to get some efficiencies from the implementation and such that we’ll be able to manage our working capital better and with lower levels of inventory and a number of other things too. So, it’s on track and its on-budget.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Any ETA in terms of completion?

Scott Hildebrandt

Yeah, I would say, sometime around the middle of this current fiscal year.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Got you. Okay, good. By the way, do the expenses that are associated with that system, are those all bundled into your CapEx?

Scott Hildebrandt

Yeah, pretty much the expenses we go into, the internal labor, the software, the hardware that we’ve acquired get capitalized. And then we’ll – once we implement the new business system, we’ll begin a depreciation of those costs.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Got you. And what were your CapEx – what’s your CapEx for your Q4 please?

Scott Hildebrandt

Right around $800,000 in the fourth quarter, and then, we’re seeing around $1 million for Q1.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Got you, got you. And then, lastly, Scott, you’ve done a really fantastic job in managing the working capital quarter to quarter, especially the last two quarters, where numbers weren’t so good. But you were able to generate cash, do you foresee that happening in you Q1 as well. Any idea of what your ending cash balances will look like at the end of this current quarter?

Scott Hildebrandt

Well, I think there is some more opportunity, I do appreciate that, it’s really reflective of the folks that we’ve got here both in the accounts receivable organization, Mark Montgomery’s Group and then of course Rob Baumgartner’s operations team to reduce inventory like they have over the past. I think there are, still some opportunity and like I said, with the new business system, I think we’ll have some additional opportunity once we’re able to implement that.

But when we look at cash, I think, as we’re still right around breakeven, I think cash is probably going to stay kind of roughly where it is. We did talk about a little bit more CapEx than depreciation in Q1. So, there is a little bit of risk, it might come down for that. But I think we’re kind of forecasting right around the same levels Dan, and hopefully not – back down a couple million or so.

Dan Weston – WestCap Management

Very good. Guys thanks again for the color. I look forward to speaking with you real soon.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). And there are no further questions.

Gerry Perkel

All right, let me just close by saying thank you for joining us. And also I’d also like to comment and say thank you to Scott, Scott’s been a tremendous CFO partner to me and we’re going to continue to leverage him as we move forward. But Ryan will be taking the rains come January. And I think Scott’s done an excellent job in his CFO role, I just want to thank him for that.

Scott Hildebrandt

Thank you Gerry.

Gerry Perkel

And we will talk to you again soon when we have more news or at the first quarter results. Thanks.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the presentation. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect. Have a great day.

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