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Executives

Ray Zinn - President and CEO

Ray Wallin - CFO

Robert Barker - VP, Business Development and Human Resources.

Analysts

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Arman Ferguson - Credit Suisse

Micrel Inc. (MCRL) Q4 2008 Earnings Call January 29, 2009 4:30 PM ET

Operator

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Micrel Incorporated fourth quarter 2008 results conference call. For today’s presentation all parties will be in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation, the conference will be open for questions. (Operator Instructions).

This conference call is being recorded today, Thursday, January 29, 2009.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Ray Zinn, President and Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

Ray Zinn

Well, thank you. I appreciate all of you joining us today for our Q4 2008 conference call. With me today is Ray Wallin, who is our new CFO, it has been a little over two weeks. We are delighted to have him with us today and also Robert Barker, who has been our Interim CFO, who wanted be here for the transition. And also, Robert is resuming his role as Vice President of Business Development and Human Resources.

So, in a case, I would like to turn the time over to Ray Wallin now to give to you our Q4 results.

Ray Wallin

Thank you, Ray and it’s a pleasure to be at Micrel. In conjunction with this conference call, a number of supplemental charts will be made available on Micrel's website during the following prepared remarks.

To access these charts, go to www.micrel.com and click on the link to the Q4 2008 conference call slides. We will begin today's call with the legal disclaimers. All material contained in the webcast is the sole property and copyright of Micrel, with all rights reserved.

Certain statements in this conference call, which are not historical facts, may be considered forward-looking statements that involve risk and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements include statements regarding future business results, future levels of sales and profitability and future customer demand. Various factors could cause actual results to differ materially from what is set forth in such forward-looking statements.

Some of the factors that could affect the company results have been set forth in our press release dated January 29, 2009, and also described in detail in the company's SEC filings, including but not limited to our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2007, and our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2008. Listeners who do not have a copy of our fourth quarter earnings press release may view the press release on the company's website at www.micrel.com.

We will review the financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ending December 31, 2008 and then discuss our outlook for the first quarter of 2009. Our prepared remarks will then be followed by a question-and-answer session with the financial community.

2008 marked the 29th year out of Micrel’s 30 year history, that the company was profitable on a GAAP basis. Micrel’s 2008 financial performance continued to be solid, especially in light of the current economic conditions. We performed well in a difficult environment.

Full year revenues of $259.4 million were up slightly, compared with $258 million in 2007. GAAP net income for fiscal 2008 was $28.3 million, or $0.40 per diluted share, compared with GAAP net income of $44.1 million, or $0.57 per diluted share in 2007. Included in 2007 net income was a $15.5 million pre-tax gain associated with a first quarter legal settlement, which after income taxes, is equivalent to $0.12 per diluted share.

Non-GAAP net income in 2008 was $34.4 million, or $0.49 per diluted share, compared with non-GAAP net income of $39.2 million, or $0.51 per diluted share in 2007.

Micrel’s 2008 gross margin of 51% is yet another indication of the strength of the company’s market position and manufacturing efficiency. Our design efforts resulted in impressive 93 new product releases in 2008.

Solid cash flow from operation $53.3 million during the year enabled the repurchase of 7.1 million shares of common stock or approximately 9.6% of the shares outstanding at the beginning of the year. In addition, we continued the dividend payment to shareholders in 2008 representing our confidence in Micrel’s operating performance and commitment to enhancing shareholder value.

Now, turning to Micrel’s fourth quarter financial results. The worldwide macroeconomic recession in the fourth quarter caused our customers to focus on maintaining lean inventories. Our global distributors and a number of major OEM customers took action to minimize inventories at year-end.

As a consequence, customer orders and purchases declined faster than anticipated in November and December after strong activity in October as the economy continued to worsen considerably. For the fourth quarter, Micrel’s overall book-to-bill ratio was below 1, order lead times from our customers remained very short.

Micrel’s fourth quarter revenues were $55.2 million compared to $67.5 million in the third quarter and $64.6 million in the year ago period. Fourth quarter sales were impacted by the tight year-end inventory control in most geographies, channels and end markets. Standard product sales accounted for 97% of total Q4 revenues with custom and foundry sales comprising 3%.

The fourth quarter sales mix by product area was: analog 70%, high bandwidth 16%, Ethernet 13% and foundry 1%. Micrel sales remained widely diversified with the top 10 direct customers accounting for 22% of Q4 and 27% of Q3 sales.

Our fourth quarter revenue by end market was as follows: wireline communications, 24% compared to 26% in the third quarter; wireless handset, 19% compared to 18% in the prior quarter; computing, 18% compared to 16% in Q3; industrial, 37% compared to 37% in Q3; other, 2% compared to 3% in the third quarter.

Sales by geography were as follows: North America, 25% compared to 32% last quarter. Asia, 59% compared to 56% in Q3, and finally, Europe 16% compared to 12% in Q3.

Now, turning to the income statement, fourth quarter gross margin was 52% compared to 55.3% in the third quarter. The decrease in gross margin was a result of underutilization of fab capacity and additional inventory reserves due to a lower sales forecast. Fourth quarter wafer fab utilization was down approximately 5% compared to the third quarter of 2008.

Research and development spending decreased $1.6 million quarter-to-quarter to $12.2 million, or 22% of fourth quarter sales from $13.8 million or 20% of third quarter sales. During the quarter, Micrel released a record 26 new products. This was a very productive and cost efficient quarter of new product development for Micrel. We released six white LED products during the quarter.

These products are the smallest backlight drivers for mobile phones in the world and offer extended battery life, when compared to traditional charge pump solution used today. The product line includes two product families. The first product family consists of the drivers alone, giving the smaller size and highest efficiency. The second product family combines the drivers with power management for application in multimedia chip giving highest efficiency and functionality.

The company also introduced a low cost, small size industrial lighting controller, enabling the new range of high-efficiency white LED lighting products and a new generation of small size, high power MOSFET driver for the power supply industry allowing smaller footprint solution.

We also have developed a family of the world's smallest smart load switches, which allow the customer to turn off blocks of the circuit to save battery life, while using almost no area in the customer's product. We have also developed the world's first IC to power the new low-voltage DDR memory that is coming on to the market now.

We have already begun to obtain design wins in the server market of this new product, which can work down to lower voltages than the competition. We also expanded a line of popular high-current DC to DC converter to 7 AMPs in the world's smallest footprint. This product adds to the 2, 4 and 6 AMPs solutions, Micrel already has in the product line.

In our high bandwidth product line, we released five products including two new power amplifiers, a serial link replicator, a fan-out buffer and enhanced fiber optic module controller. And finally, our Ethernet product group reached the gigabit single side.

Returning to the income statement, Q4 SG&A spending was $9.6 million, down from the $11.3 million in the third quarter. SG&A represented approximately 17% of sales in both quarters.

Fourth quarter operating expenses included $1.1 million of proxy related cost. Fourth quarter operating income was $5.8 million or 10.4% of sales. This compares to operating income of $11.9 million or 17.6% of sales in the third quarter and $11.6 million or 18% of sales in the year ago period.

Other income; net was $0.5 million, down from $0.7 million in the third quarter due to lower interest income. We have included the full year benefit for the reinstatement of the Federal R&D Tax Credit in the fourth quarter lowering our effective tax rate to 28.8%. The effective tax rate was 34.7% for the full year.

Fourth quarter GAAP net income was $4.9 million or $0.07 per diluted share. This compares with third quarter 2008 GAAP net income of $7.7 million or $0.11 per diluted share and GAAP net income of $8.4 million or $0.11 per diluted share in the year ago period.

Our balance sheet remains strong. Cash and short-term investments were $74.2 million at the end of December, a decrease of $8.1 million from the end of September. During Q4, the company generated $13.4 million in cash flow from operations. The company repurchased approximately 2.5 million shares of Micrel common stock for $17.2 million.

Capital expenditures totaled $2 million in the fourth quarter, compare to $2.4 million in the previous quarter and $6.3 million in the year ago period.

During the fourth quarter, the company paid a dividend of $2.4 million, a $0.035 per share. Accounts receivable balances decreased on a sequential basis by $13.6 million in the fourth quarter to $20.6 million due to a more front-end loaded quarter. Day sales outstanding were 34 days at the end of Q4 compared to 47 days at the end of Q3.

Net inventory increased by $1 million during the fourth quarter to $37.4 million. Fourth quarter days of inventory increased to 130 days from 113 days in Q3 due primarily to lower than anticipated sales in the quarter. While inventory in the distribution channel was down approximately 15%, weeks on hand stayed flat at 16 weeks.

Q4 depreciation and amortization excluding the amortization of stock-based compensation was $4.7 million. Capital expenditures through all of 2008 totaled $11.2 million, and depreciation and amortization was $19.2 million or 7.4% of revenues. This compares to $18 million or 7% of revenues in 2007. It should be noted that in the last downturn in 2001, our depreciation and amortization was $32.4 million or 14.9% of revenue.

As we indicated in the press release this afternoon the Company’s Board of Directors has authorized the quarterly dividend of $0.035 per share to be paid on February 25, 2009 to shareholders of record on February 11, 2009.

Now, turning the outlook for Micrel and the rest of the semiconductor industry. As you all know, the slowdown that we have projected would occur in the second half of 2008 was in fact more pronounced than we originally anticipated. This necessitated Micrel to take further cost cutting measures as we entered Q1, 2009.

In January, 2009, the company reduced its workforce an additional 6%. In total Micrel has reduced its workforce by approximately 13% since Q4 of 2007. In addition, we have reduced our production output an additional 29% by going on shortened work weeks to minimize an inventory build until growth resumed.

Industry-wide forecast suggests a continued pullback in the first quarter of 2009 and growth is not expected to resume until mid-Q2, 2009. As we stated in our conference call in October 2008, we believe that bookings growth will resume no earlier than February and no later than May 2009.

Let’s turn to chart number one, which is Micrel’s familiar weather chart. You will note from the chart that Q1 remains cloudy and stormy due to the overall world economic condition, and Q2 is a little brighter but with some clouds of uncertainty. However in Q3, we do see a brighter outlook for the industry with Q4 somewhat following the pattern of Q2 because of the typical uncertainty associated with the slowdown in orders, as customers reduced their inventories exiting the year.

Now, let’s turn to chart number two, which is the industry cycle chart. You will note that we have accounted for the extraordinary slowdown that began in September of 2008, and that we project will continue weak until May of 2009. ASPs may see some erosion as customers push for lower pricing in light of the overall world economic slowdown.

However, with the lean inventories and the pressure for the semiconductor industry to pull back its own inventories, we do see that there will be less leverage on behalf of the customer to get significantly lower ASPs.

With that in mind, we have forecasted the revenue growth for the semiconductor industry for 2009 to be down 10%. Lead times will continue to remain quite short as customers push more and more inventory control back on to the suppliers. This will make it even more difficult for semiconductor companies to forecast accurately their next quarter's growth and earning. With backlogs at nearly record lows and lead times relative short, it requires companies to rely on higher than normal turns-fill business, which is business that is booked and shift within the quarter.

We may see a turns-fill for the industry at an all time high in 2009. As you know, some companies are reluctant to even give guidance because of the current world economic conditions. However, we know that it is important that a company does give its best estimate of what it thinks it can do, taken all factors into consideration.

Now, with that backdrop in mind, Micrel believes that its revenue for the first quarter of 2009 will be in the range of down 12% to down 17%. Micrel will need turns-fill in the range of 54% to 57% to hit the guidance. This compares to an average turns-fill of 51% in 2008, excluding Q4.

Gross margin will be in a range of 50% to 51%. We anticipate that operating expenses will be flat on a sequential basis. The approximate savings of $0.6 million from the reduction efforts in Q1 is offset by the severance costs and high payroll taxes. The increase in payroll taxes always occurs in the first quarter of the New Year.

Other income is projected to be about $22 million and diluted shares outstanding are estimated to be 68 million shares for the first quarter. The estimate of FAS123R costs will result in approximately $1 million of pre-tax stock compensation expense.

We anticipate that the 2009 effective tax will be approximately 35% on a GAAP basis. Based on these aforementioned projections, we believe Q1, 2009 GAAP diluted earnings per share will be in the range of $0.01 to $0.03 per share.

Micrel is pleased with its design win momentum, which remains strong even in the face of all this economic gloom. We are encouraged by both the magnitude and the adoption rate of our new products. We will continue to introduce about the same number of world-class products, as we did in 2008. Morale remains high even with storm clouds that still loom.

Financially, the company remains strong and we are poised to grow, when the economic climate supports us. Hey, we want to remind you that we now have two Rays on the call. So, we would appreciate you are referring either Ray Zinn or Ray Wallin, when you ask a question.

Thank you. We will now go to the question-and-answer portion of our conference call.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you, sir. (Operator Instructions)

And our first question comes from the line of Tore Svanberg with Thomas Weisel Partners. Please go ahead.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Yes, thank you and congratulations on managing here in this environment. Maybe first question for Ray Zinn, I know you usually don’t give guidance for end market, but can you just qualitatively talk about what you expect from each of your segments in the March quarter?

Ray Zinn

Well, it looks encouraging, we got, the wireline was down a little bit, as you know in Q4 and it's looking a little better now for Q1. Wireless looks about the same. Industrial will probably be down a little bit overall, just because of the weakness in the world economy and computing looks just to be about the same.

So now a big change, we are incurring the wireline which normally by the way looks better in the first half of the year, and so that’s reflecting in itself and we are seeing the effects of that, albeit we are seeing all channels, are still down. And as Ray mentioned in the prepared remarks, we still did not expect bookings to resume with any kind of upward momentum until February and maybe not until May.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Great, and then on your gross margin, I know in the past you’ve talked about for every $1 million license revenue. Your gross margin will be impacted about 25 basis points. Should we keep that rollup sum here in 2009?

Robert Barker

Yeah, I think that seems to be right and the only other thing that perturbs that is, and this is Robert Barker speaking. If we have our sales forecast drop-off and causing reserves and inventory, and I’ll just tell you, we are seriously managing inventory going forward. So, we are aggressively trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Ray Wallin

So, we comprehended in that 50% to 51% gross margins, did comprehend the revenue range in that area that you are talking about, Tore.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Okay. So, that also assumes that inventories could potentially be down in dollar terms for the quarter?

Robert Barker

Correct.

Ray Wallin

That’s correct.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Okay. And then just looking at, you mentioned bookings, you’re expecting bookings to improve February no later than May, other semiconductor competitor talked about maybe some improvement in bookings. Ray, could you just give us your flavor on what’s happening? How sustainable do you think those bookings improvements will be going forward?

Ray Zinn

Are you talking about Ray Zinn or Ray Wallin?

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Ray Zinn.

Ray Zinn

Okay. What we’ve seen since the first of the year, as we have seen an upward momentum in bookings but we attribute that to some degree to the Chinese New Year. And so until the Chinese New Year is over we really won't get a clear picture of just that how dynamic that recovery is, and that’s why I am still sticking with February as the earliest that we will actually be able to detect or see any kind of upswing.

So we have to get through, over the next few days here, I guess on Chinese New Year and in fact some companies are actually taken off an extra week. So, it may not be until after the first week in February that we will be able to really see, that you really come back of this shutdown that we will get our clear picture of the actual, the relative strength and momentum.

So, we have seen the bookings increase substantially almost doubling since the first of the year. I should say the rate is doubling since the first of the year. But again I think we need to wait until February, before we can actually see whether or not we are going to get this upswing.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Great, thank you. And last question for Ray Wallin. Ray Wallin, do you have an estimate for CapEx for 2009?

Ray Wallin

Yes, for 2009, our CapEx will be somewhere between about $6 million to $8 million.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Great, thank you very much.

Ray Wallin

Thank you, Tore.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Aaron Husock with Lanexa Global. Please go ahead.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Great, thanks for taking my question. Maybe, just quick one, can you tell what your current percentage was in Q4?

Ray Wallin

It’s quite low because of the drop-off we had in the last part of the quarter. So, it was down about 40%.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Okay. Have you written?

Ray Wallin

Sorry, we didn't include it in that turns-fill that we have all for 2008. Because it was abnormally weak because of the fall.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Ray, if you look, again comparing, what were you've been doing so far in January. How much of a pickup you need to get to that 54% to 57% turns. So, are you looking at?

Ray Wallin

We're there. I mean, we're there now. But we have to look and see how Chinese New Year plays out, okay. So, if it’s all of it came because of the Chinese New Year, then of course, we have to see this pickup. I just mentioned that to Tore, just a few seconds ago that we really want to know until sometime in February, at earliest.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Okay.

Ray Wallin

Again, we also said, qualified this in our prepared remarks. We said, it is difficult to do, with the turns-fill higher than this, 54 to 57 is not a record for Micrel. It’s high, but it's not the highest we have been. We have actually seen turns-fill higher than that.

So, we are not requiring Micrel world record beating turns-fill. We do need to see higher turns, okay. If you look at turns for last, let's say, six or seven year it has been higher than prior to the downturn. And so we’ve gone from say, like 20% to 30% turns business prior to the downturn to more on the order of 45% to 55% turns since the downturn. It hits the high end, but it’s not off the charts.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Okay. Can you tell me roughly what you are expecting for cash flow from operations in Q1?

Ray Wallin

We have models, if you take the high end of the guidance to the low end of the guidance, we would be expecting that our cash flow from operation would be approximately $6.5 million to about $7.5 million.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Okay. So, you are very aggressive with the buyback in Q4, clearly you saw value in where the stock price was, but with your cash balance coming down and just a level of macroeconomic uncertainty out there and cash flow coming down from. Could you intend to see that type of pace of buyback, I mean--.

Ray Wallin

We’re looking at that now. We’re actually examining to what degree we can sustain that level of buyback. It probably will slow down as you can want to appreciate the fact that our cash flow is dropped in almost a half that we’re going to have to do something.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Yes, okay. Maybe just lastly on your outlook for the whole semiconductor industry. I like your model, but a lot of other companies have been using the planning assumption, 2009 maybe a year of down 20% to 25% semiconductor industry revenue. What do you think they are missing and how confident are you?

Ray Wallin

What are they missing? Well, we also mentioned, I don’t know. Did we include that Ray in, about what some of the world economists are saying that they don’t see recovery until 2010. But I think maybe they are adding that back into the equation as opposed to looking at kind of the normal dynamics of our industry, which doesn’t necessarily indicate that while the world economics may be down all the way to 2009 and not recovering until 2010, that our industry tends to lead out the recession anyway.

And because again, there are so many new products that are being developed by our customers and they need to do that, just kind of replenish their product portfolio that they tend to keep designing in like crazy and keep bringing out these new products, which favors the semiconductor industry and we are seeing that.

Actually we are seeing our customers, not all of them, but we are seeing a good portion of accelerating their new product introductions just to perk up their revenue growth.

So if anything, I think it favors more of what I am saying than maybe, and by the way I am not hearing or seeing any news from the industry that indicate, they are going to be down 20% to 30%. I am not seeing that, I don’t where you are getting that, but certainly our charts, our analysis indicates more like down 10.

Aaron Husock - Lanexa Global

Okay great. Thank you.

Ray Wallin

You are welcome.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of [Arman Ferguson] with Credit Suisse. Please go ahead.

Arman Ferguson - Credit Suisse

Yes, hi. Could you possibly quantify a little bit more the market share gains that you expect, and also given the product cycle you have in introductions, what’s your expectations for performance relative to market, relative to your expectation to market being down to 10%?

Ray Wallin

Well, that’s a guess. That’s kind of a forward-looking statement there. We hope we do better. I mean so we hope that we are no worse than flat for the year. And so we think we will outperform the industry even though we don’t give guidance past the first quarter and I’m still reluctant to do that, but just, do you want to stand back 40,000 feet, I do believe Micrel will outperform the rest of the sector, semiconductor sector that is.

So, our new products are, we are introducing at the rate almost double what we introduced a couple of years ago. And just looking at our, the effect of that, if I go back and look at prior years and see what the effect of new products are on revenue and then if I double that and then that would tell me then that I am going to appreciate a little faster than the rest of the sector. Are you there?

Arman Ferguson - Credit Suisse

Yes, okay. Thank you.

Ray Wallin

You are welcome.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions)

We do have a follow-up from the line of Tore Svanberg with Thomas Weisel Partners. Please go ahead.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Yes, I had a follow up on utilization. You said it was down 5%, what was the level in Q3 and where is that heading in the March quarter?

Ray Zinn

Do you have the report regulatory of what we did in Q3? I don't know what we said. We just did a relative number.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

And then the tax rate 35% for 2009, any chance that you could deal with it lower as we move throughout the year?

Ray Wallin

I think, it's possible it could be maybe one or two points lower. But we have modeled it conservatively at 35%.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Okay. And then in Q1, there you had some offset to your cost reductions, some payroll taxes. Should we then assume that in the June quarter, even if you get some revenue growth, your operating expenses will not be as much?

Ray Wallin

That is a very safe assumption there, because we did the reduction in force in the Q1, so neutralized by the severance costs and the payroll taxes. We should see some benefit in Q2 from the lower salaries as a result of those reductions.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

Great, and then lastly, let's say you start to see some growth for the June quarter. Would you start to ramp utilization already in April-May or you’re going to hold up a little bit just to get a little bit more feel on the backlog before you do this?

Ray Wallin

Well, again we don't have to move real quickly. We are just talking 29th of January. So, it just again depends well, how the bookings momentum come out as a result of the Chinese New Year resumption back to work. And so, while I said, take a look at, I mean, I’m looking very carefully everyday, what our seven-day rolling booking rate is and then deciding how to moderate the factory based on that.

So, currently we have the bill forecast substantially below, where we believe the mid-point of guidance is. So, we do expect that to be pulled down anyway and then with what the dynamics of the industry, our customer base is, exiting Q1. But we can move quite quickly because we’re doing this primarily off the shortened work weeks and so putting everybody back on regular schedule, is not hard to do. We don’t have to hire and battling like that.

Tore Svanberg - Thomas Weisel Partners

That’s helpful. Thank you.

Ray Wallin

You are welcome.

Operator

Thank you. And management there are no further questions. I’ll turn it back to you for closing comments.

Ray Wallin

Well, thank you. I appreciate all of you joining with us today. I know it’s a busy schedule and people reporting, and so again thanks and look forward to seeing you in April. Thank you

Operator

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude this teleconference. If you would like to listen to a replay of today's conference, please dial into 303-590-3000 or 1-800-405-2236 and enter the access code of 11125697 followed by the "pound" sign.

We thank you again for your participation. And at this time, you may disconnect. Have a nice day.

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