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TW Telecom Inc (NASDAQ:TWTC)

JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference Call

May 14, 2013 03:30 pm ET

Executives

Mark A. Peters – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Michael A. Rouleau – Senior Vice President of Business Development and Strategy

John T. Blount – Chief Operating Officer

Analysts

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

All right, let’s get started. My name is Phil Cusick. I cover Telecom and Cable here at JPMorgan. Joined today by John Blount, COO; Mark Peters, CFO and Michael Rouleau, the SVP of Business Development and Strategy. I won’t read the whole bio of Tamura Telecom. Thanks for coming guys. I thought it made sense to just make a couple of quick introductory remarks. Mike is going to do that and then we will jump into Q&A. Thanks.

Mark A. Peters

Okay, I’ll start with my safe harbor statement if you don’t mind. So before we start, I’d like to refer you to that Safe Harbor statement, information in this meeting, webcast contains statements about expected future plans and expectations that are forward-looking and are subject to risks and uncertainties. A discussion of risk factors that may cause our results to differ materially from our expectations included in our 2012 Form 10-K, especially with the (inaudible) titled the risk factors. Mike?

Michael A. Rouleau

Sure, so just by the way a background if you’re not familiar with who we are. TW Telecom is a competitive service provider. A national footprint across the United States, we focus on medium and large enterprise business. We don’t do anything residential and we do that across 75 different markets around the U.S., where we own and operate our own fiber network infrastructure. We of course have domestic ubiquity where we can deliver services just by anywhere for customer. But we focus on those markets where we have a fiber footprint. We go into a market and build a pretty big fiber infrastructure, well outside of just the central business district where mostly the competitors go.

We extend out into the business products, into the suburban areas where the businesses are and focused on delivering that fiber capability, so today we have about 18,500 buildings connected with our fiber, and that includes about 400 third party data centers, so when you think about company’s like Equinix or Core Side or digital reality trust, we are in a lot of those locations.

And so our focus is on, how do we build that fiber infrastructure connect customers, headquarters, regional offices, their data centers, these third party data centers and give them very scalable capability upwards of 10 gig and a wide range of products and services from Ethernet to IP VPN, Internet Access, voice complete portfolio of services for the enterprise customer.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Good, thank you. So let’s start with an update on the business, it seems like the Company continues to execute, but the large numbers might be catching up with you a little bit. You’ve talked about investing in your sales force really start to reaccelerate that business, but that that could drag margins a little bit in the near-term. Can you expand on that a little bit Mark?

Mark A. Peters

Sure. So this year we’ve been talking about four primary growth initiatives that we’re focused on in order to accelerate our sales growth, and then ultimately our revenue growth. And those four areas are expanding our sales reach, primarily through increasing our direct sales force. We can talk about that. It’s also to expand doing the market expansions, continuing within our existing markets to continue to build out our network, our fiber network that Mike spoke as to pass more buildings, to reach more customers.

We’re also doing a lot of work on our products and enhancing our product portfolio, our existing one as well as inventing in real leading EDGE type of capabilities that we can talk about as well. And then efficiencies, both the efficiencies and how we interact with our customers make it faster, better, easier experience for them and buying services from us and that complements us very much integrated with how we internally deliver those services to our customers, so we are much more efficient internally than we even are today and it’s highly stable one.

So those are the areas that we are investing in this year in particular to accelerate that growth rate. So that we expect to pressure the margins this year because we are expanding our sales force and we are adding headcount to the product development and do the product introduction and the product launches and everything that goes with that as well as when we're bringing the new sales folks on board, enabling them to be successful as fast as we possibly can, so all of those go together that we expect as we invest in all of those growth initiatives, we expect this years even margin to be pressured.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

So let’s talk first about sort of the on boarding process, who are you looking to hire, is it experienced enterprise sales people, are you looking for more sort of new people of the business?

Mark A. Peters

Sure, we have somewhat unique philosophy when it comes to hiring sales people. We’ve never been a Company who just add sales people for the shake of adding more numbers to see how they perform, and to see how many of them will stick. So as we look to add sales people we’re really looking to add them where we have see the most opportunity in the marketplace. So, every sales person we bring into the Company we’re bringing into go after specific opportunity.

So for us is not a matter of just adding lots and lots, and lot’s of adding the right sales person with the right skill level to go after particular opportunity. So, one of the things that we do, we look at each and everyone of our marketplace, we look at the dynamics in Albany are very different than the dynamics in Manhattan. We have a local general manager who determines how we’re going to go after that marketplace and what are the growth areas that are opportunities there. And we method that sales force to go after that.

So we are adding sales people across all of our channels. We are adding local sales people, we are adding national enterprise sales people, we are adding sales people to our federal group and we are adding – expanding our indirect channel as well. So when we look to expand our sales people, it’s a very focused approach, it’s a very disciplined approach and so as we add them, it’s really finding the right person to go after that particular opportunity.

So we have last year we added – we increased our sales force by 6%. This year we have said that we are going to increase that sales force by another 10%. And we know right now, exactly where each and every one of those positions will go. So we are actively hiring, we’re actively seeking talent and we’re making pretty good progress there.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

So it’s sounds like it would be – maybe a little harder to find those people, but once on they would sort of ramp up fairly quickly, is that fair?

Mark A. Peters

I will keep going here. The truth is, as you look at the sales person and their productivity, it’s different by type of sales person that there is. So if we bring a sales person into go after say Fortune 1000 module or certain specific accounts. That may take a little bit longer for them to ramp up and to be successful. So we managed them differently. We’d manage them through operational metrics, their positioning and their counter planning and all those things that lead to success in a big account, but we don’t necessarily expect them to produce day one.

On the other hand of the spectrum, when you think about our AE2 modules which are the territory based more transactional type of sales person. We expect them to have a lot more activity much more quickly. And so as you look at the AE productivity, they can start being effective for us anywhere from six months to 18 months. And we have found that with our indirect channel, that’s a channel that has an impact, so a little bit quicker for us, because they already have business relationships and a lot of times they already own their customer decision because they are selling an application that goes with the network. So there is no simple answer. There is no way to kind of say that will automatically produce in this part, which I know doesn’t help any of your models?

Mark A. Peters

Wall Street sounds like simple answers?

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

You like simple answers? And averages. So if I think about the – not the indirect, but the direct sales model, on average that’s dinging my question. On average, how long does it take them to become productive in terms of sales and then what’s your typical sort of sale to install and revenue production timeframe?

John T. Blount

May be I can touch a little bit to help – a little bit maybe in your model that’s really for equity though. We really look at and John had mentioned the 6% increase in the direct sales in the sales headcount that we had last year, that really happened right at the end of the year, but towards the end of the fourth quarter. So when we look that group in particular, we would see that perhaps some contribution to the sales in the second half of this year, they help move that growth rate and sales up to the second of the year.

And then when we look at revenue contribution because once you sell, then it has to be installed really later part of this year and particularly in the next year. And that’s true even as we then look at our product initiatives, similar kind of trend that start helping the sales as we go into the second half of the year, and then the revenue later in the year and pushing into the next year.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Okay, so really we shouldn’t look for any – it sounds like any significant acceleration from even the people added in the fourth quarter until maybe 4Q 2013 in terms of revenue. And then really it’s the ‘14 timeframe when all of these different initiatives come in…

John T. Blount

We actually coming through the recognized revenue.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Okay. That helps. And then as you, you sort of mentioned on the product side, you talked about the constellation platform that’s coming into the lot of new, new products and opportunities. Can you talk about that Mike?

Michael A. Rouleau

Yeah, so constellation for us is stagey we’re focused on. How we can help the enterprise customer connect to those resources around the network in an open platform way to go into the datacenters, to go through the datacenters to the application providers and give them a connection, a new connection in an automated way on demand. Right so, that’s really builds on our whole vision around how we can deploy consistently the network elements across our business. We can leverage the fully integrated back-office we have, so that we can give the customer that more of an automated service experience and some unique sets of capabilities that they can’t get from anybody else.

So it started with that integration we did back in 2006 with experience when we bought that company to focus on that full integration of the businesses and then this vision of where we want to try and take our customers and give them capabilities to have an incremental capacity on Ethernet for example, connections into the datacentres and so what we have done is really sort of laid out at least to this point the capabilities around our intelligent network which again has better visibility to what’s going on in the network in real-time.

We give them a segmented granular view of their service performance throughout our network so they can see what happens in the local arena, what happens in the long-haul, what happens at the remote and so they can better make application decisions about how to move those applications across the network.

And then we add a dynamic capacity last August, so a customer can go to our portal and literally within a matter of seconds increase their capacity on the Ethernet service to double or triple that capacity. They are presented with the information about how much is going to cost them and as they accept that, we do the inventory check, we will do the provisioning of the network elements. We will establish surveillance. We will establish building record, all that happens in about less than 15 seconds.

So fully automated process and this is available across our footprint nationally and then that leaves them to constellation platform, where we are looking to leverage those over 400 third-party data centers we have for the applications for the cloud are residing and giving customers the ability to build a new service into those facilities on demand. So, customer can decide how much capacity they need how long they need it for and they use what they need and pay for what they use, right? So it’s the flexibility that’s available to them or will be available to them in a really unprecedented way, that they can go in and just go select where they want to go, how much capacity they need and use those applications at the other.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Where you able to establish the network connection for hours, for weeks, for days whatever they need to support that particular application at that time.

Mark A. Peters

And as all this capability done, I’m read to go, okay. So what we’ve launched so far is the two elements of our intelligent network approach which is enhance management we launch that nationally for our Ethernet and our IP VPN services back in June of last year and in August of last year we introduced across our footprint, nationally the dynamic capacity, so customers can go to that portal double or triple their network capacity.

Constellation is under development and we haven't put time frames around that, but that's where we're taking this.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Have you talked about how much capital you are putting into development for constellation or is that mostly expense as you go?

Mark A. Peters

It’s a lot of the work that we have done on both intelligent network building up to the constellation platform, we’ve been building and deploying the infrastructure into our network for years, and so when we talk about these products, the net custom offerings per particular customer, that are embedded in our network so all of our customer with our enhanced Ethernet, product offering can purchase them. So we don’t have very efficient process to deliver so we think about dynamic capacity.

So, if your customer to simplify for the non-telecom folks, if your customer of ours and we have a fiber connection, the one location. Let’s just say five locations across the country from Miami to Seattle and you’re buying 10 meg locations.

And you need this weekend on the fly, you need to triple that up to 30 meg. You just going to the portal you pull the bar across without any human intervention on our part, you can increase that by three times embedded. It’s embedded in the network and pulled all the way through producing and then it goes all the way through provisioning and billing within that 12 seconds that Mike mentioned, when we then offer the constellation platform that connection you can do something similar you’re connected to us but then you want to go to pick that data center that’s got an application you want to get to or server capacity you do the same thing.

As long as you’re connected to us on net with our fiber you will be able to go into that portal push a button and get connections. Dynamically you do it, you don’t have to call us, you don’t have to have a sales rep, you can go to those connections that we have, see if that’s a valid connection that we are offering in the future. So it’s highly stable, but it’s important that’s all built into what our infrastructure is. Now it’s a lot of our developers going into take our capabilities that’s embedded in our network and are turning their rounds and taking all that data we have that allows us to turn around as a product to our customers. So that’s what we are working on now on the constellation platform.

Mark A. Peters

I want to add to your example, our current life situation. So your CIO and you all said you are seeing that you’re having a performance issue that happens every week, maybe it’s happening in on Wednesday at 3 o’clock. You can go into the enhanced management through the portal and take a look and you can look at your performance really back for the last 30 days to say what has been happening to my network. And you can see overall utilization, you could see latency loss, jitter. You can see the performance of your specific network over that period of time.

Now with the control that we’re giving you here you can do some things such as you can schedule dynamic capacity. You schedule that on Wednesday at 3 o’clock, I’d like to increase my bandwidth, so I can support this application, I trying to figure out, what’s going on in my network today.

Every CIO is the limit today in today’s environment is that they’re getting hit from all sides and they really don’t know what applications are going to do to their network some times until they hit. And so to give them not only visibility, but to give them control over that, what’s happening. It’s very important to them and it’s a real differentiator as our sales people go out to sell the product.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And this security part of this as well? You had an example about security on the conference call last week.

Mark A. Peters

Well, I think as you look at security for the customer, particularly as they go into the cloud, the reason they’re migrating away from the Internet access element of that is because it’s not secure. It’s not that predictable experience. That’s why customers are migrating towards Ethernet as they want go access cloud applications, right. So they want that sort of experience.

Additionally, we have a suite of managed security services, one of which we’re adding some capabilities to is a DDoS mitigation service. So we’re adding some enhancements to that to allow customers to better manage the traffic flow, so that they can filter out good traffic from bad traffic as they are being faced with distributed in our service attacks and better management of their network.

So to your point, we talked about on our call that customer was getting flooded with traffic accessing their network and they didn’t know that it was good traffic, bad traffic. So our ability to look at that and say, we could filter out the bad traffic and they were managing – lot of their users were watching World Cup soccer happened to be, so they could shut that off and they could manage that experience, right. So our objective with DDoS mitigation is to try and remove or move to the point where that traffic, that bad traffic starts to come into our network and stop it there, which keeps the customer operational instead of bring it all the way to their doorstep.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And how much of the pieces of the constellation platform – should I think about this as a defined plan or one that’s sort of evolving as you go along and not one with necessarily an endpoint in terms of the additional services to be developed? Sounds like you have a number of things you are developing now, but do you expect this to grow over time?

Mark A. Peters

Yeah, I sort of think about it on two fronts. There is an intelligent network in constellation platform that we are deploying and building. The other services things like DDoS mitigation are more adjacent services to our core bread and butter of the business. So things like DDoS mitigation were adding capabilities for 40G and 100G wavelength services were adding SIP or enhancing our SIP service offers. So those are the things that we’re doing on the core side of the business to increase the capabilities. The things that you always do to enter this new features, new functions, and continue to develop innovation around and the constellation and intelligent network were also then building and developing. You’ll see more as we get close to the market and customer

John T. Blount

It’s certainly a platform that we’re going to continue to add services on as we go long. It’s interesting, as we said and we talked to customers about their applications and what their business needs. They are creating new applications for us each and every day. We have a group of technical specialists that reside in each and every one of our markets and they work with the customers on their network environment to the business application. And when you start to present to them new flexibility, they create new uses for that. So I can, and as we talk to him about a roadmap of constellation, their ability to establish a connection and flex it up and be able to utilize that, you can just kind of see they’re – all of a sudden smiles come to their faces. They start to think about how they can use that in their own environment. So it’s a pretty exciting time for us.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And forgive me, if I’m not clear, but I just want to make sure I understand, are the first customers moving on to this platform now under constellation or is this really – it’s not ready for sort of full customers yet?

Mark A. Peters

First stage is that it tells the network and we want those many of those features…

Michael A. Rouleau

Last year.

Mark A. Peters

Last year. So we are moving on to that. Now we get to the constellation and particular connection that’s under development now.

Michael A. Rouleau

Yeah.

Mark A. Peters

But everything that we’ve been doing on Intelligent Network builds up to the constellation platform, all the items I mentioned, that’s in the network and all the developments that are – developments, developers are doing and build after that.

Michael A. Rouleau

I’ve got two separate things in our two separate networks. The constellation platform relies on top of the Intelligent Network.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Okay. And are things like dynamic capacity allocation, are those things that other people do or do you feel like that’s really innovative in the system?

Mark A. Peters

Well, I think it’s pretty unique. We don’t know of anybody else offering a similar service on Ethernet and it’s really because of that integrated back office with the consistent deployment of network elements. So we do business the same everywhere across United States and I don’t think the same can be said of our competition that through acquisitions they’ve got separate billing systems. They got separate inventory management systems. So it’s a despair set of infrastructure where we’ve done that integration and we can offer that services across the platform consistently across the United States. That’s a huge advantage.

John T. Blount

At all of our locations.

Mark A. Peters

Right.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And how much of this was sort of brought to you by customers as a need versus you going in and saying, what really would be valuable as these things?

Mark A. Peters

Well, I think from a customer perspective we have talked forever in this business about a bandwidth on demand service. And so, we’re in a unique position with the platform we’ve deployed in the Ethernet market leadership we have to offer that to customers, where others are struggling, right. So, definitely started with the customer and customer insight panels where we go in, we talk to them about where they’re heading, where they’re heading with their network, what’s driving their choices and that’s really where we came up with this vision, but it’s been in the building, this vision we’ve been building this for years.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Okay. So if we go back to where we started with the sales force sort of expansion is going to create benefits in the second half of this year and into 2014. The additional products have been available for the whole sales force. How should we thinking about that in terms of relative timing to the expansion?

Mark A. Peters

I think it’s important when you look at all of these products we have been talking about is that, fundamentally it’s to enhance our underlying Ethernet and data and Internet service revenue line item. So it’s to drive that growth rate there, so data and Internet revenue grew 14% last year and that’s over half of our revenue. And all of our efforts are pushed or directed toward growing that at a faster rate.

So when we talk about enhanced management or dynamic capacity, dynamic connections, all the other services just to feed into that.

So fundamentally I think about it as we are competing against any other carrier with an Ethernet product offering and let’s say it’s the same basic capacity. And we think that we’re better with the service delivery, but let's say that's even equal and let's say the prices are even the same. But then we can deliver the enhanced features, functionalities to that product offering. We think it's going to get us into more opportunities and let us close more of those deals. So it’s fundamentally intended to drive more data and the Internet revenue, that Ethernet and IT based revenue stream.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

If you don't continue to innovate you become a commodity?

Mark A. Peters

Yes.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And how do you think about your sort of sweet spot in terms of customer size, what’s that demographic look like?

Mark A. Peters

So I will call it medium to large enterprise, sort of high defined medium but for us about call it about 250 seats to 5,000 seats, that’s our prime target, its multi-location and multi-market. So, when we talk to customers, we’re connecting not only their headquarters and their regional offices and their data centers but with their branch offices and have that national footprints. So that we’re actually delivering those services across the multiple market right, that’s typically how we go to market focused on certain verticals like healthcare, regional finance those kinds of organizations.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And who is the typical competitor, I mean people will ask you about cable companies, but those guys can’t plan your business, what’s the typical competition?

Mark A. Peters

Yeah, when you think about our capabilities and the ability to construct a fiber network to the customer with great scale with the product portfolio that we have it’s typically the encumbrance that we go head to head everyday.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

And do you find them innovating to the same pace?

Mark A. Peters

Well, I think we’re in a unique position because of all the ground work we’ve laid where we have integrated that back office, where we have a product portfolio enhancement program. We can do some things much faster, more nimbly than our competitors.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Okay. I’m going to open it up to the floor for questions. Anybody have in here. Yeah, please. Can you use the microphone?

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

Can you just explain on the motivation to do the sales expansion? I wasn’t really clear. Is that you are trying to get more business out of the 400 data centers plus the buildings or is it something different than that?

Mark A. Peters

Well, I’ll start with that. We always start from the enterprise side and work out. So right now the expansion of our sales force is tied to opportunity that we see in the market today. It also maps very well to our new product line up and the roadmap that we’ve talked a little bit about here today.

We are having a lot of new conversations with a lot of new customers. As we differentiate our offer, enterprise customers want to talk to us. Sometimes, if customers may have been in a situation where they were looking for any new network, they weren’t that interested in talking to us, but we really then we go and we start talking to them about our intelligent network and our unique capabilities in the roadmap of the constellation platform, it’s creating more opportunity for us and I think it’s an opportunity for us to add sales people to address that opportunity and getting in front of that as always the other things we talked about with our growth initiatives like the network expansion.

So when you expand your network, which we were doing in a number of our different markets, it creates opportunities for more sales people to go and capture share in those new marketplaces. So it’s really I would say, it’s comprehensive across all of our growth strategies that Mark outlined before and it’s really tied primarily to the fact that we see more opportunity out there for us to capture. We need to get our sales force positioned to grab that business.

Michael A. Rouleau

And I said a little bit on the timing, last year we were repositioning internally our sales force just to do a concept to look at our product set and look at our product development. So we’re doing internal alignment with our sales organization and then once we get close to completion on that, then we decided it was time to add when it comes and that’s by the 5th Gen we had last year right towards the end of the year and we are continuing that 10% this year. So we’re just really thoughtful in mapping those expansions, those investments with the overall strategy and where we are taking the business.

It’s very complementary and we think on last year – we grew last year. We grew our sales last year where before we have that 6% we actually had fewer and average sales reps out there. So real good production, but now that we’re positioned bright, but the sales group and are launching these new products, it’s time to add more in those areas, as John said.

Unidentified Analyst

Maybe this is too early to ask, but that 6% growth that you brought in late in the fourth quarter, is there a level of efficiency that they are bringing on already that sort of is in line with targets or is it just too early four months to even talk about that?

John T. Blount

It’s pretty early.

Michael A. Rouleau

It’s pretty early.

John T. Blount

Came up pretty late in the year.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. And as you think about your capital spending, you have guidance out for this year and it looks like you’re sort of running at a pretty stable rate. As you bring on more sales people, do you anticipate them coming with – we need to wire more buildings, we need to put more capital in the network along with that increase in revenue growth or can a lot of that be done on the existing base?

Michael A. Rouleau

As we look at the production from the increase in sales, I mean, ultimately it’s increase in sales.

Unidentified Analyst

Yeah.

Michael A. Rouleau

So with the increase in sales, again we’d like to mention before, we expect in the second half of the year they sell (inaudible) bring on that new connections, we will be happy with the increase in the CapEx type 2 new sales because it’s very much return focused, before we go on to a new location for a customer, our bogie is at 30% internal rate of return over like that customer contract. So if we are selling more to the company and we have makeup new buildings as a result is very much return focused so that’s a good thing if it goes up, but based on our CapEx guidance for the year, it ties in what our expectations are for what our growth initiatives are.

Unidentified Analyst

For pacing on that?

John T. Blount

Majority of our CapEx is success based, so we hope it goes up.

Unidentified Analyst

So you talked about that 30% IRR, when you go into a new building, you are brought into that by a new customer or you are doing that pro actively?

Michael A. Rouleau

No and this is a long held approach is that and this is what’s good and all of our decisions are return based. I mean our sales people know the IRR threshold, so first of all they have to go out and they pitch the deal with the customer and collaboratively and it’s okay. Here is the solution. They figure out how much revenue they are going to generate from that solution.

We give them what it’s going to cost us to connect up and deliver that solution and CapEx or incremental OpEx and then we generate the 30% IRR. It’s an after-tax calculation even though we’re carrying an NOL [similar] – now we have this nominal federal tax. If they hit that 30% bogey, they can commit to the customer will do it, but we don’t do it the way to sign customer contract. So we believe with the customer and the sales and then we built-in the book customer locations and afterwards.

Unidentified Analyst

Do you assume that there is a level of additional sales that can happen as you look at the project?

Mark A. Peters

No, return threshold. We will make certain calculated decisions before going into a third-party data center and we have that first anchor customer and we want to build into satisfy our strategy that we’ve been talking about going to these data centers. We’ll make exceptions, but there is rules based to guide the sales people on where they can go with those exceptions, but we average higher than that 30% and because we target and with all the modules and how we set up our sales organization, they know where to go and where we are being the most successful.

Phil A. Cusick – JPMorgan Securities LLC

Guys, we’re out of time. Thank you very much for coming.

Michael A. Rouleau

Thanks Cusick.

Mark A. Peters

Thank you. Thanks everybody.

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