Active Power, Inc., Q1 2009 Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Active Power, (ACPW)

Active Power, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACPW)

Q1 2009 Earnings Call

April 24, 2009 11:00 am ET


John Penver - CFO

Jim Clishem - CEO and President


Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Richard Baxter - Ardour Capital

Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners



Good day everyone. Thank you for holding and welcome to the first quarter 2009 Earnings Release Conference Call, with your host Active Power. Today's conference will begin with a presentation followed by question-and-answer session. Instructions on that feature will follow later in the program.

I would now like to turn the call over to your host Mr. John Penver. Please go ahead sir.

John Penver

Thank you. Good morning and welcome to Active Power's first quarter 2009 conference call. I am John Penver, the Chief Financial Officer of Active Power.

We issued a press release this morning announcing our first quarter 2009 results. If you do not have a copy of this release it can be found on our website at

Jim Clishem, President and Chief Executive Officer of Active Power will lead today's call. After Jim's presentation, I will briefly discuss the financial details, after which point we will be happy to answer your questions in the Q&A section of the call. Before we begin, let me remind everybody that any forward-looking statements that we may make are based on our current views and expectations.

Although, we believe our expectations and views are based on reasonable assumptions, we can give no assurance that will be attained. Factors and risks that could cause our actual results to differ materially from these expectations include, but are not limited to and inability to accurately predict revenue and budget for expenses for future periods, fluctuations in revenue and operating results, dependence upon our relationship with Caterpillar, and inability to successfully manage and integrate new direct sales efforts or channel partners, competition, overall economic and market performance and any other risk factors as set forth in our most recent SEC filings.

With that I will turn it over to, Jim.

Jim Clishem

Thanks John. I will first detail this morning some of the business highlights from the quarter and our current outlook for 2009, after in conclude John will detail our financial results.

Revenue for the quarter was $11.1 million up 48% on a year-over-year basis compared to the first quarter of 2008. Gross margin this quarter was sold and at 29% it was the second level we ever achieved. This compares to 10% recorded in the first quarter of 2008.

EBITDA for the quarter with a loss of $1.9 million or $0.03 per share this compares to an improvise of $4.2 million or $0.07 per share in the first quarter of 2008 an improvement of 47%.

Our net loss of $2.4 million, or $0.04 per share compares to a net loss of $4.5 million, or $0.07 per share, we achieved in the first quarter of 2008. Our results continue to show strong year-over-year improvement. This quarter was characterized by the absence of large individual orders, rather we received a high volume of small to medium sized orders.

Wheel shift this quarter came in at $119 flywheels, our second best result ever. The change in mix this quarter drove a decrease in ancillary and service revenues, which normally accompany large systems orders.

We are also pleased to note, the decrease in cash and investments during the quarter was only $700,000, a significant improvement over the $5.1 million used in the first quarter of 2008.

Overall, we experienced a solid quarter, but are beginning to feel the effects of global economic climate. Slowdowns in the client approval process, in particular with (inaudible) this quarter, especially in large orders.

As mentioned in previous calls, the lumpiness of large orders will continue to affect quarterly results until we increase the overall scale of the business. And speaking of the business and now looking ahead. Since 2006, we have been executing against a comprehensive commercialization strategy to build brand, build distribution, build innovative solutions and build solace.

These strategies manifest themselves in a variety of programs and initiatives being undertaken by the company. Our primary focus in building brand awareness has been to articulate and propagate our value proposition to the marketplace. Our customers recognize and appreciate the concrete benefits that our products deliver. Greater energy and space efficiency, improved reliability, reduced total cost of ownership, all delivered in an economically green package. These differentiators are even more meaningful in these difficult economic times and we anticipate more clients to turn to Active Power to read the performance and economic benefits our solution offer.

We expect to continue to gain share in our over $2 billion addressable market. Reported financial earnings of certain competitor show their year-over-year EPS revenues as declining. Conversely Active Power has experienced significant growth as per to approve that customers were seeking out alternatives to legacy solution.

We have been highly focused on expanding our distribution network in our ultimate avenues to the customer. We have been diligent about recruiting additional representative and distributors in new market. We held our first global rep and distributor meeting in our headquarters in Austin, Texas during the quarter, and we are pleased to earn them with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in the marketplace.

Our innovative solution PowerHouse continues to garner significant market attention. It has been recognized with awards by two major industry publications this quarter. Our PowerHouse funnel of opportunities is growing as we market this product through our direct channel reps and distributors. You may also recall that our announcements around our relationships with Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems. These companies have selected Active Power's PowerHouse is the recommended solution for clients in need of a modular, power and cooling infrastructure to compliment their containerized data center offering.

These relationships and others like it increase our channels into market and create additional opportunities for Active Power to sell its solutions. We have executed on a variety of joint marketing programs with these partners during the quarter and plan to continue these efforts throughout the year. Geographic opportunities also exists for Active Power, we take steps to expand into new market such as China and India.

While we are early in the process in evaluating these markets, we are optimistic about the potential opportunity for Active Power, we have had ongoing efforts to design cost out of our product and implement reductions in the cost of our manufacturing operations, which have all contributed to gross margin improvements. These activities will be magnified by, of course, higher sales volumes as the company grows.

We have optimized our product brand and are focused on continues improvement in our business and manufacturing processes. We are pleased to have earned our ISO 9001, 2008 certification this quarter and believe our ongoing participation in this program shows our commitment to delivering a quality solution to the market.

In summary, and in this challenging global market, we are pleased to achieve significant year-over-year growth in revenues and overall improvements in our financial results. Our sales pipeline of new global opportunities continues to grow although we are witnessing a longer sales cycle as the impact of the economy and credit availability has been felt by some customers.

During these uncertain economic times, we do remain focused on improving the fundamentals of the business and growing the awareness of our brand by articulating the value proposition of efficiency, reliability and green solutions in the market.

I want to express again our appreciation for the continued support of our customers, our partners, shareholders and employees as we move the business forward.

John will now discuss some of the financial details of the quarter and give a brief overview of our near-term outlook we will then move to the Q&A portion of our call. John.

John Penver

Thank you, Jim. For our results, our revenue for the fourth quarter was $11.1 million. This was up substantially by 48% from the first quarter of 2009 and down by 31% from the fourth quarter of 2008. This decrease was similar to what we experienced last year in our first quarter and does reflect seasonality in the UPS market.

As (inaudible) based, the UPS products again contributed to majority of that revenues this quarter representing 85% of the total. This compares to 71% of our revenue in the fourth quarter and 66% of revenue in the first quarter of 2008. This quarter as Jim mentioned, we did not have as many large system orders as we had in the second half of 2008. This meant we had less revenue from the sale of third-party and equipment and services that we repackage and sell to our customers.

Because of this our ancillary revenue actually declined 93% from the prior quarter to a 150,000 from $2.5 million. We normally realized lower margins on this third party revenue. So, a significant decrease in this type of revenue does not translate into a comparable impact on our gross margins and our operating results.

Our higher portion disclosed revenues was actually from Active Power's manufactured products and services which was the dominating reason for our high margin results given the revenue change. We had an increase in the number of slower and medium sized transaction this quarter and shipped 119 flywheels at an average selling price of $80,000 per wheel. We are pleased to note this was the second highest level of flywheel shipment we ever achieved.

This performance compares to the 64 flywheels we sold in the first quarter of 2008 at an average selling price of $78,000 per flywheel. We would expect going forward that largest system orders will continue to be a part of our revenue mix, but as we witness this past quarter this can't fluctuate on a quarterly basis. Ultimately our goal is to sell more solutions and services to our customers as this leads to higher total revenue for flywheel shipped.

And looking at the geographic mix, North America continue to record strong results with revenues increasing by 83% compared to the first quarter of 2008.

Our overseas operations also showed strong growth compared to the prior year. Although our EMEA operations were lower than the first quarter of 2008. Compared to these foreign regions recorded decreases compared to the fourth quarter of 2008.

Our international revenues this quarter were 24% of the total down from 33% in the fourth quarter of 2009. The future quarterly results from international sales may fluctuate depending upon the timing and size of orders received and being more unpredictable and dependent our success in winning larger projects.

During the quarter the portion of total revenues sold through our direct channels was 56%. This was the same level of first quarter of 2008 and compares to 67% of total revenue in the fourth quarter of 2008. However revenues from Caterpillar represented 44% of their total revenue this quarter compared to 32% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The higher volume of wheels sold compared to the prior year resulted in better utilization of our manufacturing capacity and led to year-over-year improvement in our gross margin from 10% in the first quarter of 2008 to 29% in the first quarter of 2009.

Our research and development expenses for the quarter were $1.1million, 9% lower than the amount recorded in the fourth quarter and 21% lower than the first quarter of 2008 due mainly to lower headcount.

Our selling and marketing expenses at $3.3 million were 10% higher than the fourth quarter levels, and [13%] higher than the first quarter of 2008.

The increase from last quarter is primarily due to higher sales compensation, from increased sales and headcount and higher promotional and marketing spend in the first quarter which is seasonally nice job.

Our general and administrative expenses decreased by 21% from the prior quarter and were 4% lower than the first quarter of 2009, primarily due to cost control and lower professional fee.

After the above our reported GAAP net loss for the quarter was $2.4 million or $0.04 per share. This was a 47% improvement from the $4.5 million net loss or $0.07 a share that we recorded in the first quarter of 2008.

On a non-GAAP basis our adjusted EBITDA which is our net loss excluding depreciation, stock based compensation and any other one time non-cash charges was a loss of $6 million or $0.03 per share in the first quarter of 2008. This result compares on adjusted EBITDA loss of $3.8 million or $0.06 a share in the first quarter of 2008.

The decrease in our cash and investments during the quarter was $700,000. This net decrease compares favorably to the $5.1 million decrease in cash investments we had during the first quarter of 2008.

Monitoring and controlling our working capital continues to be a management priority to help us manage the growth and expansion of our operations. We have witnessed some customer payment delays but our rule have tried to control inventory growth and worked with their customers to make more deposits and periodic payments against orders to improve their cash flows and to reduce investments that we would otherwise have to make in our working capital.

Based on our current plan for 2009 and experience we have had with managing our cash particularly over the last nine months. We believe we have adequate cash and investments on hand to continue funding the business through 2009.

As long as our business expectations for 2009 are realized, we have more than enough case resources along with our bank credit facility to operate the business. That said we can mange our growth requirements for a foreseeable future based on our current projection.

Our cash and investments on hand at the end of March were $10.6 million. Our capital expenditures were not significant during the quarter. We have historically invested in our manufacturing and infrastructure as a result we can substantially increase our production levels without needing to make any material capital investment.

We will support expansion of ourselves and service capabilities and our marketing at this stage required. The decrease in our accounts receivable reflects lower quarter in sale and a decrease in revenue from the fourth quarter, we are also able to decrease inventory slightly from the fourth quarter.

We did have a decrease in our accrued expenses since year end and as differed revenues declined this quarter reflecting normal payment cycles and customer orders and the payment of year end expenses including bonus and the professional fees.

Now looking forward to our second quarter outlook, based on our orders we require to expect close shortly anticipate our second quarter revenues to be between $8 million and $12 million.

We provided this range because our recent history with order timing could result in some planned transactions slipping into later quarters. Based on our projected sales mixes which results in a gross profit margin between 20% and 26%. And at our current operating expense levels this remain at EBITDA loss of maybe 22% per share and our GAAP net loss would be between $0.04 and $0.06 a share.

Achievement of these results will depend on the realization of our expected orders and our product and channel mixes we anticipate. Operating expense excluding variable selling expenses should be fairly consistent with results recorded in the first quarter.

Our cash requirement will be largely driven by our working capital management, at this point we anticipate our cash balances will decrease this quarter by $1 million absent any major changes in working capital. We will continue to use our banking facility and manage our customer and vendor cash flows to mitigate any consumption.

With regard to the stock, NASDAQ had announced an extension of the temporary suspension of the $1 minimum bid price rule required for the continued lifting of stock on the NASDAQ market.

This moratorium was recently extended for third time, and now extend through July 20, 2009. The effect of this extended moratorium for Active Power is now moved to timely price for us to regain compliance with the minimum withdraw after November 21, 2009.

Finally, as a reminder, I will let you know that Active Power's Annual Shareholder Meeting will held on Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 1 pm, Central Time at the company's headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Again, we appreciate your support in Active Power, and Jim and I will now be happy to answer any question.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions). And our first question comes from Stuart Bush. Your line is open, sir.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Yeah, hi, guys.

John Penver

Hi, Stuart.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Congratulation on the good quarter.

John Penver

Thank you.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Can you give us some further insight? You had mention that you expect your cash to be sufficient to operate the business for 2009 if your expectations are met. Can you give us some more clarity on what's your annual guidance would need to be for that get through?

John Penver

Stuart, we haven't historically provided annual guidance. I mean I can tell you that we have done a fair amount of sensitivity analysis and outlined multiple scenarios from June to wildly optimistic.

And basically based upon those various outcome, that with the visibility into our sales cycle, we generally have a fairly lengthy visibility. We know what deals we are working on, which gives us, a reasonably good indicator of what we expect the result to be over six to nine-month period.

So that visibility would give us time to adjust or react if we felt that there was going to be some kind of slowdown, or there is going to be certain expansion that we wanted to try in our working capital requirement.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Okay, so when I look at this quarter on the balance sheet, I am trying to connect your statement that you have seen some delays in customer payment, yet your account receivables were down rather significantly in the quarter, and you also worked down your inventories in the quarter. So, can you just help me understand how that matches with your expectation that you will need just $1 million in burned cash for Q2.

John Penver

Yes, it's true. The decrease in receivables was actually not a significant as the decrease in revenue. So, if all things held equal, you would have expected receivables to have come down more based on fourth quarter results.

And so as result, we are carrying a fair amount of receivables into the current quarter, which will fund our operations for this quarter. And on the inventory side, we have done a much better job in the last six months and having a stronger backlog has helped that being able to plan production better and do it more efficiently, and then we are definitely just carrying that inventory.

So I don’t know if that answer is specifically, but that's really major changes. We have seen normally where we have more large orders, we are usually able to encourage our customer to pay deposits and advance payment, and we used that money to fund the procurement inventory for those orders, but as the number of large orders have slowdown, the deferred revenues balances come down as well.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Yeah, that's helpful. A couple of things on the products front. I know you had talked probably about the Sun containerized solution, have you talked to those guys or gotten any insight from what impact if any from Sun's corporate alliance or acquisition from Oracle.

Jim Clishem

Yeah, Stuart this is Jim. We have not at this point got anything really definitive about what the future plans are for the Sun and the box, and all their plans would change it all with the Oracle acquisition. So I'm sorry, I just don’t really have any tangible information to pass along to you, which is also one of the reasons why wanted to mitigate any one particular risk with a channel by virtue of also bringing and both, Hewlett-Packard as well as Ferrari as another channel for the same type of PowerHouse interest. So we will have to disclose that to you as we find out ourselves.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Okay, sure. And lastly, what we noticed in the stimulus bill there was a significant portion of money that was applied for smart grid solution.

Jim Clishem


Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

And portion of that was for energy storage demonstration projects, which included a variety of technologies, including the possibility incorporating flywheel. Have you, have you gone down that path of pursuing, or do you see that as any significant source of product orders as we look forward to remainder of this year?

Jim Clishem

We actually have, we have started a little project inside the company right now to evaluate the opportunities that stimulus package could generate for us and they are really common in two particular areas. I will address the first one that you just mentioned as you did mention there is a lot of interest in sort of improving the grid. And as you know flywheel energy storage system along with our UPS is on the demand side of that equation, not the supplier side which is the power generation but that being said there are many opportunities for us to continue working with those utilities which were on that supplier side to level out their loading capabilities with more efficient UPS. And there are programs in place that we believe we will win indirectly by virtue of those utilities looking to deploy more efficient both supply and demand side components on the grid.

So, our interest is going to be more of an indirect one on that particular front which is the demand side by working through the utilities. We have a pretty good history right now working with several utilities where localized credits are subsidized monies have been put in place to procure equipment like Active Power’s. It’s a little fragmented and across the country but nonetheless that’s in place.

The second area of the stimulus bill that looks interesting to us is one in the, if you look at that there is an R&D and new technology development fund that’s been put in place. And so, we are investing some future developments not only with our CleanSource UPS but with our IP, intellectual property that we have on our CoolAir line to integrate some of our efforts there to go after the stimulus package for the R&D money that factor is going to be available for funding new developments.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

When do you think you may potentially find out about that towards the end of this year?

Jim Clishem

I asked the same question to my team this week that was actually gave me a forward view on it, and it is really interesting because the government as you know even with all the interest in getting these funds out there don’t necessarily move very quickly. And there is lot of ambiguity as to what the right way to engage the right departments. Now the funding of that I just mentioned on the R&D spend, looks like it's coming from a subsidiary of the Department of Energy, I think it's called EERE, forget what the acronym stands for at the moment. So, we are engaging them directly. We had a person that's been in Washington DC here recently as well. So, we are pursuing lot of avenues but it just really isn’t clear how to engage them completely yet where it's a matter of just filling out form putting it in a bid.

But I can tell you the R&D funds look like it's going to be a grand process, Stuart. So it will be a matter of filling out of grant and then submitting that for review and then hopefully approval. So we are watching it very closely.

Stuart Bush - RBC Capital Markets

Okay. Well, great. Keep it succeeded.

Jim Clishem

Yes, we will do.


Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Richard Baxter. Your line is open.

Richard Baxter - Ardour Capital

Yes. Thank you. Can you describe a little about the impact of recession on your sales cycle like what sort of product that's hitting and then what sort of visibility you might have or when people not have more availability for credit and you can start picking up some of the orders that are not being generated now?

Jim Clishem

Sure, Richard. This is Jim. I will give you sort of the sales side of it for a moment to give you a color of what we are seeing in the field. You saw in this quarter results a lot of transaction that we did and there were high margin transactions despite the fact that revenue was a little off from Q4, but much higher when compared to Q1 of '08, right. So, the large orders in particular what we are seeing is that people are delaying in getting approvals and that those individuals that either in the past we dealt with or by their position you would have expected that they were able to approve say large project work, its being balanced up to much higher levels with the new organization. If it’s a government entity in many cases is now going out for public bid, so on their behalf it’s a more approvals and interjecting a lot more delay.

The good news is, we are not seeing any orders or interest being cancelled, so they are just pushing to future quarters it looks like, that’s one element, that’s the sale side of it. On the receivable side maybe I will let John respond to this a little further, but I think to a large degree lot of companies are trying to handle their payables in such a way to preserve cash, and so they are sort of doing that across the Board and I don’t think it's unique to Active Power, but I will let John sort fill here little bit more on the customer collections receivables.

John Penver

A couple of comment on both Richard, coming to this kind of way that, the sales pipeline has actually shown a lot of strength as last quarter. There has been a lot of interest in a lot of large projects on a global basis that we are actively perusing. And so want to take some comfort from that fact, what we are seeing is that it's taking a little bit longer to get from the valuation interest stage to the composing of the proposal. And at the same time we have had a strong demand in the small to medium size orders. So, in some respect that’s actually a good thing, we are seeing a lot of demand under the megawatt as well interest in those multi-megawatt projects. And so if we can get a strong basis going in our sweet spot under a megawatt and supplement that with more and more of these large orders as the economy starts to improve and people in to summarize big capital projects we will be able to rebound very nicely.

On the payment side, as Jim indicated, we have seen some customers looking for more favorable for them, payment terms and difficulty collections. We have not really had any major problems but certainly keeping the foreign markets where, I would say that their economic performance is lagging in order back little bit. They try to be a lot more aggressive but so far we have been able to manage without any real deterioration in quality.

Richard Baxter - Ardour Capital

Okay, thank you.

John Penver

Okay, thanks Richard.


Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners. Your line is open.

Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners

Hi, congratulations.

John Penver

Thanks, Abhi.

Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners

I have a quick question that with the valuation now so low while fundamentals keep getting better. It looks like now we are trading at something close to half of better price value of the sale and given all the momentum that you successfully built out. I was wondering if you could remind us what protections we may have if any, if any one got really excited and decided to as in conversation with the company?

John Penver

Abhi this is John, did you say what protection?

Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners

Yeah, waiting fields or --

John Penver

Okay, yes, I think I will answer that. Yes, you are correct. The company actually does have a position still in place which will preclude anybody taking an ownership position about I believe set of things stand without the consensus of board otherwise I will be forced to make an offer of both stock of the company at a much higher price where the stock is today.

This was set up back in 2001. The company also does maintain a board at the annual shareholder meeting in May. One-thirds of board will be up for election for a three year time. So, that would preclude anybody coming in with a light of substitute director to try and effectively take control over the company. That's basically the primary defensive majors, and then obviously the best one would be to continue to improve the performance and results of the business, which we are actively trying our best to do.

Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners

Terrific, and also Jim had mentioned some efforts to start penetrating China and India and we did see nice sales in the China grid in recent months. Is there any further color you can provide on those markets they clearly have got money and an appetite for infrastructure spending but specific to the UPS markets can you give a little more color on those?

Jim Clishem

Sure, obviously, Jim, I can provide that for you, in the case of China we are seeing in a great deal of interest even mandated by the federal government there, Central Government really. They have distributed backup continuous backup power for the grid and so to your reference we have deployed now over 10 power house systems in China for that purpose alone. But it not just the grid interest we are seeing a great deal of interest from entities in China that are looking like everyone else to save money and including utility expenses believe or not and so data centers and traditional enterprises of all source and sizes that continue to move into the 21st century and as they further industrialize.

We'll see India and China both grow in their GDP this year as opposed to many other countries and as a result they are looking in many cases and not tainted by long legacy power system. So there are willing in interest in looking at new technologies that can give them benefits similar to what Active Power can deliver, high density efficiency and the like.

So the markets that look interesting to us include telecom, which happen to really drive the data center business unlike the US which they are sort of bifurcated telecom versus traditional data center in China they are actually integrated together data centers, like co-location and hosting centers along with telecom.

So we brought on board two new distributors in China focused on both of those markets, the grid first and also telecom. And then we are seeing a great deal of interest just in enterprises of all shapes and sizes which would be traditional like the information top technology companies or even some bricks & mortar companies that would be very similar to US base type of companies pharmaceuticals, insurance and the like.

In India, little bit different. We are seeing again a growing GDP there, although they are seem to be a little upset about not growing as fast as they traditionally have been which is been over 10% for last several years.

Market place in India is the one where the infrastructure is very weak on power and there have great deal of interest as they began to this whole push to step ahead in industrial. They have a strong software base, they have a strong IT base there also call center base. These are all companies requiring much more mission-critical power delivery. And they are faced with the same things I mentioned in China which is to not just the reliability of course but the space savings and the electricity savings for multi mega watt systems on these large installations in India.

So we are investigating now partnerships of all shapes and sizes in our own people.

We just brought on a country manager for China based on in Beijing and looking to make similar moves in India from the remainder of this year.

Abhi Kanitkar – Rho Capital Partners

Terrific. Thank you. Keep up the great work.

Jim Clishem

Thanks, Abhi.


Thank you, sir. (Operator Instructions). And at present there are no other questions in queue.

Jim Clishem

Okay. Well thank you all very much for your continued interest in Active Power and we will speak to you again next quarter. Thanks.


That concludes today's presentation. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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