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Microchip Technology Incorporated (NASDAQ:MCHP)

Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference

February 27, 2013 4:55 pm ET

Executives

James Eric Bjornholt - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Vice President of Finance

Gordon W. Parnell - Vice President of Business Development and Investor Relations

Analysts

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

All right, great, thanks. Before we begin, let me just quickly read our disclosures here. Please note that all important disclosures, including personal holdings disclosures and Morgan Stanley disclosures appear on the Morgan Stanley public website or are available at the registration desk.

And for those of you who don't know me, my name is Dan Fuss and I work with Joe Moore, the lead semiconductor analyst at Morgan Stanley. And with me here from Microchip, we have Eric Bjornholt, CFO; we have Gordon Parnell, VP Business Development and IR; and we have Nawaz Sharif, European Finance and IR. Guys, thanks for being here.

James Eric Bjornholt

Welcome. Thank you.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And I know a certain letter from Microchip has been making the rounds recently, and we will touch upon that in current business conditions. But I was hoping to kind of start at the high level, give you guys the chance to kind of introduce the company and just kind of talk us through the product focuses of Microchip. And is there a one market in particular that's kind of key to Microchip's success? And just talk about general company strategy.

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Pleasure to be here with you. I will also be making some projections and other forward-looking statements during the discussion, so I refer you to certain risk factors that are disclosed in our public documents and we'll take it from here. So Microchip is a company that is focused on the embedded control market. About 65% of our business roughly is microcontrollers. We have 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit solutions in that market. About 22% of our business is analog. We've got about 8% of our business that are memory products. There's a mix between serial E-squared memories and flash memory. And we've got about 5% of our business which is licensing. But we tend to think of ourselves as a embedded control company, and that's the focus that we have. We got the start in the microcontroller market in the very early 1990s, and that was at the low end of 8-bit market. And we gradually over time continued to gain consistent market share in that marketplace over the long haul. We've got about 1,000 microcontroller products that are in production today. About 600 of those are in the 8-bit market. About 350, 370 are in the 16-bit market and we've got about 80 32-bit products today. And it's been a natural gradual progression for us as we built up the complexity chain within that particular product line. We come to the market in microcontrollers with a unified development environment. And what that means to the customer is that we have a single development platform with common tools and software that is used across all of our products, which makes it quite easy for the customers to move up and down our product chain without losing their investment in R&D. And that is a distinct difference between Microchip and the competition. So 8-bit, we climbed to the #1 ranking in the 8-bit market in the 2005, 2006 timeframe. With the merger of Renesas and NEC, we are now the #2 player in the 8-bit market but are gaining share on Renesas and are doing quite well in the 8-bit market. 16-bit, we entered that market about 9 years ago. Like I said, we've got 370 products or so. And it's been very much the same type of progression that we had in the 8-bit market and 16-bit. Nothing happens overnight in microcontrollers, it's a proprietary business that's the design and nature and so it's been a gradual gaining of market share year in, year out. And then in the 32-bit market, we entered that market somewhere between 4 and 5 years ago. And it's newer to us but we are gaining very good traction there. And there's third-party studies that are done every year that go out and ask embedded design engineers, who are you going to consider for your next design across all of the products? There is a separate survey for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit. Not a surprise, we're at the top of that list in terms of the results in 8-bit. But in 16-bit and 32-bit, we're at the top of that list. And that speaks to what customers value about Microchip's proposition that we bring them, the uniform development environment that I mentioned, the quality of our products, the product roadmap, our consistency of purpose in that market. And with that, we believe that we will continue to gain share. In our recent earnings call, we shared some information about how we did during the 2012 period. And we compared that to what SIA says is the total size of the microcontroller market. And we grew market share where we ended 2012 with about an 8.25% share of the microcontroller market for that entire period. And actually, in the December quarter, it was well above 9%. So it's been a continuous market share gain, the consistency of purpose that we're making continued progress on. And we're quite excited about the opportunities that we still have in front of us in microcontrollers. Analog is a growing portion of our business. Prior to our recent acquisition of SMSC, analog was about 13% of our revenue. With SMSC, it's gone to about 22%. We got in the analog market, we had some internal products but we had a acquisition of a company called TelCom Semiconductor back in 2001. And our approach to the market at that point in time was to attach those analog products to our microcontroller customers and sockets. Made sense, we had 40,000, 50,000 customers at that point in time that had analog requirements and we were going to service it in that way. That is a very successful strategy for us, but over time, we've expanded the portfolio, we have close to 1,000 products in analog today and have gained significant share. And today, when we ship products to customers, only 50% of our analog customers are also buying our microcontroller products, so that speaks to the strength of that product line and how it's developed over time. Memory is the smaller piece of our business and it's been declining over time, but we drive this business not for revenue growth but we drive it for operating margins, and it's a quite profitable business. It's very synergistic with the rest of our product lines, it's manufactured on our serial E-squared line, it's manufactured on the same process technologies that we use across our analog and microcontroller products also, so it's quite cost effective that way and another thing that we can deliver to our customers. The last piece of the revenue portfolio that I want to talk about is licensing. And licensing, what we are licensing is the SuperFlash Memory cell that came to us through the FFT acquisition back in April of 2010. This is the flash memory cell that's used in the manufacture of advanced microcontroller products and it's used by many of the foundries out there, it's used by many of our competitors and when they manufacture and ship a product using that technology, they pay a royalty back to Microchip. And it's been a very successful story for us in the FFT acquisition has been quite profitable for us. So that's the general landscape of how our revenue breaks down. We've been very consistent in terms of the margins that we deliver, in terms of our business model. We've got a long-term target for gross margins of about 60%. We're at about 56% today. And we're below that target because of our capacity utilization being under what it's been historically because inventory levels are still pretty high on our balance sheet. You look at the distribution inventory, it's quite low right now. And so it's only about 27 days in the distribution channel for inventory, which is at an all-time historic low. So we tend to look at the blended inventory between those 2 places on our books and at the distributors to see what's out there to support the customers. And right now, inventory is a bit higher than we'd like it be so they're bringing that down through some actions that we've taken in our factories. But there's nothing that's changed in our cost model that won't allow us to get back to these 50% gross margins that we've seen historically. Another key component of our success over the last few years has been acquisitions. We did a lot acquisition, the largest acquisition in our history, of SMSC back in August of this year. And Gordon Parnell really led that for us from a business development standpoint and we could spend some time and answer the questions on that in a bit, but we are using our financial strength to find areas within the marketplace that makes sense for us to elbow out, as we call it, within the embedded control market and expand our footprint, and we've done that quite successfully. One thing that Dan mentioned on the introduction were the recent letter that we sent to our customers and distributors. And what we saw in January and continuing into February was extremely high bookings activities from our customers. And what that has done is it's given us longer-term backlog visibility but it's also increased the amount of what we call expedite activity from our customers where they want a product, and let's say they want it delivered in 2 weeks, and we don't have the ability to do that and so they expedite us to see how quickly can get them the product. The purpose of the letter that we sent to our customers was to indicate we've got a lot of bookings activity, please put your longer-term backlog in place to allow us to be effective in meeting what your customer requirements are for product deliveries. And we prided ourselves on having very high on-time performance to customer requirements over time. And this is just our way of sharing that with our customer base to make sure that they've got the backlog in place so we can build for them effectively. So with that as kind of an overview, turn it back to Dan for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Great. I guess, kind of as we look out into this year, I think it kind of help if we'll take a look back to 2012. And 2012 was obviously a challenging year for the entire semiconductor industry. Can you just kind of walk us through how the year played out relative to your expectations and how they kind of set this up as we go into 2013?

James Eric Bjornholt

So when most semiconductor companies, including ourself, entered 2012, we had a pretty bright outlook. And the first half of the year was pretty decent. We saw growth in both the March and the June quarters. But in July, we started to see the slowdown. And Microchip tends to see things happening in the industry cycle earlier than our competitors do. And there's a number of reasons for that. One is we have a full sell-through revenue recognition model for the distribution channel, so worldwide, all distributors would recognize revenue on a sell-through basis, which is much different than much of the industry who are either fully on a sell-in basis or have a partial model where maybe their Asia, their overseas operations are recognized on sell-in. The second thing is we typically have the best lead times in the industry. And the third thing is we've got a very diverse set of 80,000 customers that are made up of primarily small to midsized customers that tend to react more quickly in terms of a market downturn or a market upturn. And we've seen this play out cycle after cycle that we tend to be on the leading edge of seeing a downturn and an upturn.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. And what gives you guys the confidence this time to really truly be able to go out, and you called the bottom in the December quarter. What gives you that confidence because we've seen kind of a number of head fakes when we look back at 2012?

James Eric Bjornholt

So I think the difference is, is inventory levels are extremely low today. Our distribution inventory levels are 27 days, and that is by far the lowest level that we've seen in our history. Distribution inventory went down by, I think, 3 days in the December quarter and it was already at a record low level at the end of December. So all-time record low inventories in distribution, and we don't believe that the end customer channel is really any different. We think inventories are quite low, so I think that's one key difference from the previous cycle.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. And I guess in terms of how you guys are managing your business. You know that inventories are kind of a little high. Could you walk us through how you're -- where your, say, capacity utilization is and how you plan to manage the business over the coming, let's say, 1 or 2 quarters?

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. So back in the December quarter, we implemented what we call a rotating time-off schedule for our employees on our wafer fabs. And essentially what they means is they are not working a full schedule. And with that, we were able to keep our trained workforce in place, yes, they aren't working as many hours, they're not getting paid as much, but that allows us to reduce factory output. And then as the business environment improves, we have a fully trained hired workforce in place that allows us to increase capacity very quickly -- or utilization very quickly. So we have the same process in the 2008, 2009 timeframe, which worked very effectively for us. It is difficult for the employees at times but they also know that the other option is, is to cut headcount. And we've been through these cycles before. They understand that we have a commitment to them and it's worked out very well for us in the past. So with that, we implemented these actions in the December quarter, and we are gradually bringing inventory levels down. Our long-term target for inventory days is about 115 to 120 days. We expect when we get out of the March quarter to be somewhere in the 123 to 129 days, so let's call it 126, still have a ways to go to get back to what our target model is. But depending on what the revenue outlook looks like for the June and the September quarter, we are hopeful that we're able to bring back some of those activities.

Unknown Analyst

[Question Inaudible]

James Eric Bjornholt

So we have so many different SKUs for our products. We have 1,000 microcontroller products, we have 1,000 analog products and plus there's many different variations to that. So what we find is we have spot issues where order comes in and maybe it had a historical run rate of 1 million units and we get upside from 10 different customers and now it's at 2 million units. We don't have the inventory in place because this was unanticipated demand to be able to turn that in what they might consider a reasonable lead time, which might be 4 to 6 weeks, because we might go back to the factory and start wafers. So this is really just trying to protect the customers. And our customers and distributors appreciate it, that we are giving them the heads-up that, hey, put the backlog in place, that allows you to secure your spot in the manufacturing line and ensure we have inventory to service you.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Sorry, do have a question?

Unknown Analyst

Yes. Can you just talk about the revenue and gross margin contribution between 16 and 32-bit a little?

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. So we don't break out revenue by 8, 16 and 32, and we definitely don't break out gross margin, operating margin. But what I will tell you is a new product or mature product in any of those categories have very similar gross and operating margins, so there's not really a material difference between them.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And I guess along those lines, probably we can think about this more in the longer-term outlook. You look back over the last 7 years in the microcontroller market, 32-bit has clearly outperformed, 16-bit has kind of stayed the same and 8-bit share has declined. Do you see those trends continuing? And I know that your largest presence is in 8-bit. How do you see that market going forward and is that a good market to be in?

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. So I just want to clarify your point that you're talking about the overall microcontroller market. It's not Microchip specific because Microchip has continued to gain share in all those markets and they're all still very attractive to us. I mean, there's no doubt that the 32-bit market is growing the fastest of the 3, but there's still lots of opportunity for us to expand in 8-bit, 16-bit we've been growing significantly year-over-year and 32-bit is growing for us. So I think none them are markets that we aren't excited about and continuing to invest in. We're continuing to have significant R&D activities to introduce new products across all 3.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. And then shifting back to 2013, as we think about kind of the trajectory of the recovery, on the top line side, what would you expect to kind of lead that? I know that analog has been very strong for you recently, has been outgrowing industry. Would expect that to be kind of your best-performing segment? And then as we think about margins throughout the year, what do you think you can achieve on the gross margin side as revenues gradually recover?

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. So in terms of what business is going to grow at the fastest pace, it's really hard to forecast that. If you look back historically over the last 3, 4 years, analog has definitely outpaced the growth of our overall business. And you know what, it was growing from a smaller base, now it's much more sizable with the acquisition of SMSC. And we've got from SMSC a mix of 8-, 16- and 32-bit revenue also. And so we're kind of working through that and understanding each component, but we're quite excited about the growth in all the markets.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. And just on kind of the margin side, I believe kind of your long-term model calls for about 60% gross margins, and I believe 32%, 33% on the operating margin side. Could you just talk about maybe either what revenue level would take to get there or just for our understanding, what kind of flow-through you're seeing on any type of revenue recovery this year?

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. So gross margin, you are right that our long-term target is to be at about 60%. Historically, we've been at about the 61% range as a high and with the acquisition of SMSC, we dropped that long-term target to be about 50%. There's nothing that's changed in our cost models or our average selling prices to our customers that is going to change our ability to get there. It's really a function of manufacturing capacity utilization, which we're underutilized right now because of the fact that we have this rotating time-off program. We're trying to bring inventory levels down. So from a gross margin standpoint, I'm not going to give you a revenue number that's tied to, but we've been at those levels before and above that and we're quite confident that we can get there over the long term. On the operating margin side -- excuse me, operating expense side, this quarter, we're guiding at the midpoint at about 29.75% on a non-GAAP basis. And our longer-term model is 27.5% so there's a couple of hundred basis points of improvement that we believe we can get there. You should expect that as revenue grows, that our investment and operating expenses will obviously be at a lower rate than what revenue is growing. We've got some improvements that are coming into the business with the acquisition of SMSC, which I'm sure we'll talk about here in a little bit that will also help us continue to rush it down the operating expenses.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And along those lines, let's shift gears to SMSC. I mean, just starting off high level, could you talk about what SMSC brings to your business and kind of what was the underlying purpose of acquiring them?

James Eric Bjornholt

Sure. Really, Gordon led the SMSC equities, so I'll turn it over to him and chip in where it make sense.

Gordon W. Parnell

Sure. When we look at opportunities in the acquisition space for Microchip, it really begins with the products in the embedded control space. SMSC had quality proprietary products with a mix of microcontroller and analog, about a 50-50 split. Good gross margins that they brought to the table. They were 100% outsourced so they were in the range of 52% to 57% over time. But they had operating expenses that really didn't have scale or they didn't have the focus to be able to bring that in line with where I think the investment community saw the opportunity. Microchip believes that it was an area that could add incrementally to our business. It was an area where we felt the operating synergies can be successful. In the December quarter, we had $0.065 of accretion and we had some headwinds there because obviously we've talked about the issues from the economy in the latter part of 2012 and SMSC's business suffered in the same fashion. Looking into the March quarter, we're guiding to $0.07 to $0.08 accretion as we have now shipping products beginning in December 1 on the Microchip system. A lot of the redundant costs are coming out of their business model. And we look for that to improve even further in the June quarter, $0.09 to $0.10. And fiscal '14, we expect $0.38 to $0.42 of accretion. So it fits in extremely well with our business model. There's a lot of cross-selling opportunities that are longer term in nature to see improvements. There are elements of their cost of goods and probe assembly and test. Again, that will take longer to come to the party but they will incrementally add to the capabilities of that business. So we're pleased with where we are. The people are fully integrated into Microchip's process, we have a very unique culture, it's very important to us. And we reach out to the employees of acquired companies and share with them the vision we have. They're obviously very concerned initially as to what direction the business may be going, and we feel we've created a bridge with the employees at SMSC over time. You probably are aware that we had a voluntary 5% salary reduction. Really adjacent to the RTO that Eric spoke to. And many of the SMSC employees participated in that, which is really a credit to them and a credit I think to the outreach that we had with their management team.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

And just thinking about that business, do you have kind of similar growth expectations for that SMSC business as you do with kind of your pre-existing business?

James Eric Bjornholt

Go ahead.

Gordon W. Parnell

It's a proprietary business. It's got some great positioning. You're all probably familiar with the automotive business and the most capability that it has there. Very deep relationships. Microchip's traditional business has had a strong automotive business. So they're very complimentary to each other in terms of that element of their business. The analog and microcontroller concepts and the sharing of intellectual property, the sharing of R&D overtime is another element that we think will add incrementally to the growth capabilities of the business as we take the R&D effort and make sure it is as efficient as possible.

James Eric Bjornholt

Right. And we have sales synergies that we expect that really aren't built into the modeling at this point in time in terms of the combination of distribution resources. So with SMSC, Microchip brought Arrow Electronics back into our distribution mix and we have introduced Future Electronics, as well as all of our regional distributors to SMSC. So having more speed on the street selling the combined company's products, we think is going to be a good thing for the long term.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Great. And with that, just like to open up the floor again to questions if there are any. If not, I'll keep firing away.

All right. We're talking just along the lines of acquisitions. I know that you guys have been more acquisitive over the last 2 years with the acquisitions of SMSC and SST. Can you just kind of describe your approach towards acquisitions? Clearly, you have plenty of cash and overall?

Gordon W. Parnell

Sure. As I say, all of our acquisitions really begin with the product. It's in the embedded control space, our CEO Steve Sanghi describes it as being an elbow out strategy. So where can extend that reach whether it be in the analog space or is it adjacent from a technology perspective into the microcontroller space. You probably appreciate, we take a look at a lot of properties before we bring what we believe are the cream of the crop into the Microchip family. And it's really our intent to share that information with investors, so I wanted them to see what a strategic fit is for those businesses, to share synergies and accretion and to execute on those over time. And I think that we've proven that with SST and SMSC. We've done about another 8 smaller acquisitions that had scale issues or really just needed to move into new platform. So you should expect to continue to see acquisition activity from Microchip and it's part of our process in terms of increasing shareholder value.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. And then speaking along the lines of capital allocation, generally, we just talk about on the acquisition side, but how do you think about returning cash to shareholders particularly as you look out and we anticipate a recovery and you're clearly going to be generating lots of free cash flow.

James Eric Bjornholt

This is an amazingly cash flow generating business that we have here at Microchip. And we really were the first to come to the industry with a dividend, and we did that back in 2003. And since that introduction, we've returned about $1.9 billion in cash to the shareholders through that program. We're extremely committed to and I believe it's about a 3.8% yield if you look at today's trading price. Definitely provides some differentiation from others in the industry. But others in the industry have also followed that path more recently in increasing their dividend. So that's an important component of it. But with the excess cash that we generate, we're looking to invest that appropriately within our operating guidelines that I talked about before, operating model of roughly 32.5% operating margins. And above and beyond from that, Gordon talked about what our strategy is in acquisition. We aren't big fans of stock buyback. We did a large stock buyback back in 2007 when we executed a convertible debt. We used all the proceeds for that to buy back stock, but we really haven't been active in that market since then. We get feedback from our longer-term shareholders that they much prefer the dividend to buy back.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. So how would you think about managing that dividend in an environment -- in a recovery environment where you would have kind of a robust free cash flow? Would you kind of expect gradual steps up, or would you be willing to kind of really increase similar to what TI announced kind of a massive increase in dividend?

James Eric Bjornholt

We do not have an intention to having massive increase in the dividend. With the yield we're as at today, I think it's serving its purpose. We've been very consistent in having very small increases in the dividend on a quarterly basis, but it will not take a step function up.

Gordon W. Parnell

I think TI were following us rather than the other way around.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Actually speaking of TI, we had Greg Dalagi, Head of Embedded Processing in earlier today and he made an interesting comment on the microcontroller side that when he looked out at the competition, he said looking at Renaissance, looking at FTN, he just thought there would be opportunities given the competitive environment and some people maybe not focusing as hard as they had in the past on that market for them to gain some incremental share. Can you just talk about the competitive dynamics in the market right now, and if you kind of see the same thing?

James Eric Bjornholt

Well, it's a competitive market and it always has been. So nobody is just going to just hand over market share. And I think our consistency of purpose that I talked about before to the Microchip controller market really has helped us over time. TI is a good competitor. There's lot of good competitors out there with good products. Some of them are more financially challenged than others. Without naming names, there's definitely that are struggling and don't have the resources to invest in their product roadmaps that Microchip does. And I think that does create some pause from customers and allows us the opportunity to get our foot in the door and customers that we haven't penetrated in the past.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Got it. And I guess kind of along those lines, how should we expect that to play out? Thinking about kind of the long design-in times and whatnot, is this kind of something that you'd expect to see kind of a big share gain if people were to move out of the market over the course of a year, is this something that's just going to gradually play out?

James Eric Bjornholt

The microcontroller market is not going to move quickly. All right, these are design-in proprietary products and it's going to be steady gradual share gains like Microchip has shown over the last 15 years.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Great. And if there are no further questions from the crowd...

Unknown Analyst

Can you just talk about, I guess, the general message of [indiscernible] microcontrollers? And if that's changed the competitive dynamic at all. There's been some commentary about customers wanting, liking that they use this common architecture of ARM so you could swap kind of suppliers more at ease rather than being kind of pushed into a proprietary architecture. Do you have any comments on that?

James Eric Bjornholt

Okay. We get this question a lot. So Microchip has selected the MIPS architecture when we entered the 32-bit market. We evaluated ARM and MIPS and [indiscernible] core and all sorts of things and shows MIPS for a variety of reasons: One, we thought it had higher performance; two, we're more easily able to integrate MIPS into what we call our common development environment, so it's having the same tools and software. And we believe that we've made the right choice. Now there's many others in the industry that have selected ARM. But if you talk to each of those competitors of ours that use ARM, they're going to tell you that they have a differentiated product offering. And so the ARM core or the core that you're using is maybe 5% to 10% of the area on a chip. And it's everything that you put around that core that is really important from a customer's perspective. And there's leading indicating survey that I mentioned before asking embedded design engineers, who are you going to consider for your design in 32-bit? Microchip is at the top of that list. And so we're still fairly new entrants into this market. We're happy with our choices, actually with the acquisition of SMSC. Now we have ARM in our portfolio but there's no intent to change anything in terms of our internal direction, in terms of upgrading products using MIPS.

Daniel Fuss - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

All right. And with that, we're out of time. Guys, thanks for being here.

James Eric Bjornholt

Thanks. Thanks, everybody.

Gordon W. Parnell

Thank you.

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