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Electro Scientific Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:ESIO)

F2Q10 (Qtr End 09/26/09) Earnings Call

October 21, 2009 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Brian Smith - Director of IR

Nick Konidaris - President and CEO

Paul Oldham - CFO

Analysts

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company, Inc.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

David Nirenberg

Operator

Welcome to the ESI fiscal 2010 quarter two Earnings Call. My name is Ken and I will be your operator for today. (Operator Instructions). I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Mr. Brian Smith, Director of Investor Relations. Please proceed.

Brian Smith

Thank you Ken, and good afternoon everyone. My name is Brian Smith, Director of Investor Relations for ESI. With me today are Nick Konidaris, our CEO, and Paul Oldham, our Chief Financial Officer. This conference call will cover our fiscal 2010 second quarter results.

Before we go in to the details of the call, I would like to remind you that some of what we say on this call will include forward-looking statements concerning customer orders, shipments, revenue, gross margin, expenses, and earnings.

These statements are subject to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements include a number of risks and uncertainties that are discussed in more detail in today’s press release and our filings with the SEC. Actual results may differ materially from those forward-looking statements. This call also contains time sensitive information that we believe to be accurate as of today, October 21, 2009, and which could change in the future. This call is the property of ESI.

Now, I’ll turn the call over to our CEO, Nick Konidaris.

Nick Konidaris

Thank you Brian and good afternoon everyone. The second quarter showed sequential improvement in many areas of our business as revenues, gross margins and non-GAAP operating income all increased over the June quarter. While our markets are still lower than a year ago capacity utilization among our customers has contained to improve bringing us closer to the levels that drive robust investment in new capacity. In this environment we executed well, as effective expense control and good working capital management enabled us to deliver strong non-GAAP operating levers and preserve cash.

For the second quarter revenues improved by 22% sequential to $27.6 million and loss per share was for $0.02 on a non-GAAP basis. All three of our business groups showed double-digit revenue growth over the prior quarter. Orders of $29.3 million were up slightly as increased semiconductor activity was partially offset by lower passive component orders. Paul will provide more details on the financials in a moment.

At the macro level conditions in our markets during the second quarter were consistent with our expectations. Although there are still significant challenges, the overall economic environment appears to be gradually improving. Across our end markets, utilization is rising, but it is still below the levels that drive significant new investment. The exception is our Flex interconnect business which again saw systems demand.

Revenues in our Semi Conductor segment nearly doubled sequentially and orders grew more than 25%. The revenue improvement was broad based with growth seen in memory repair (stream) and LED scribing. Looking forward, we are encouraged by increased activity in the DRAM markets driven by higher memory prices, increasing demand and the transition to DDRC.

However, memory manufacturers continue to look for ways to utilize existing capacity and defer capital spending. As a result, we expect that capital spending for backend equipment in DRAM will remain measured for the next several quarters. During this time systems demand will be driven primarily by the technology transition to smaller nodes and new materials. Meaningful increases in capacity driven by new devices are not expected until the second half of calendar 2010.

In the LED market, there is significant investment in front end equipment to increase capacity, particularly for high brightness LED's. As this capacity comes online and overall demand for LED devices increases we expect to see continued improvements in our LED scribing business.

Let me now turn to our Interconnect and Micromachining Group. We saw growth again this quarter in both orders and sales with solid demand for high density Flex applications. Overall, this market continues to be relatively strong, driven primarily by consumer demand in Asia, supported by investments in capacity by manufacturers in Korea. Our general purpose Micromachining business was slower this quarter after a strong first quarter, but thus we have stated this business can be lumpy. And we are excited about the opportunities we have in the pipeline.

In our Passive Components Group orders for our electrical and optical test systems declined from the prior quarter, which benefited from a multi system order. However, we continued to see increased orders for our consumable and tuning products especially our new high density carrier plates, reflecting increasing utilization among our MLCC customers.

Turning now to the outlook for ESI. We continue to be encouraged by the improvement in overall business activity. As customer utilization rates increase we expect second half orders and sales to be up sequentially from the first half. In addition our investment in new products and applications should create additional opportunities for growth. As a result we are targeting sequentially higher revenues and better non-GAAP operating results in the third quarter.

Now I will turn the call over to Paul, for a detailed discussion of our results for the second quarter.

Paul Oldham

Thank you, Nick and good afternoon. The following information includes results from our second quarter of fiscal 2010, which ended September 26, 2009. To improve comparability we are also providing earnings per share and related income statement results on a non-GAAP basis excluding the impact of purchase accounting, equity compensation, restructuring expenses and non-recurring items.

Orders for the second quarter were $29.3 million, up from $28.7 million in the prior quarter. As Nick mentioned higher activity in semiconductor was partially offset by lower demand in passive components. In addition improvements in capacity utilization drove sequential increases in both consumables and service activity.

By region we saw broad based improvement with growth in all geographies except Korea, which benefited from several large orders last quarter. Shipments in Q2 were $28.4 million up sequentially from $23.1 million driven by stronger order activity. Pending backlog increased $1.7 million from last quarter to $25 million. Revenue in the second quarter was $27.6 million up 22% sequentially, all three businesses again showed sequential improvement as they did in our first quarter.

Gross margin for the second quarter was 34% and included $640,000 in cost of goods sold for purchase accounting and equity compensation. On non-GAAP basis gross margins were 36.4% up from 28.6% last quarter reflecting higher sales volume better factory utilization, especially for consumables and favorable mix in our service business.

GAAP operating expenses were $18.8 million, up from $14.9 million in the previous quarter. The sequential increase was due to the one time net benefit of $4.5 million from the merger termination fee recognized last quarter. Included in the second quarter's operating expenses were purchase accounting amortization of approximately $230,000 and stock compensation of $1.8 million.

Excluding the impact of these items, non-GAAP operating expenses were $16.8 million down slightly from the prior quarter and reflecting the continued implementation of our temporary cost reduction measures and the timing of project expenses between quarters.

For the third quarter, we expect non-GAAP operating expenses to be approximately $18.5 million. The increase from the second quarter is driven primarily by an extra week of labor and related expenses as our third quarter will be a 14 week quarter compared to the usual 13 weeks. In addition, we reinstated a portion of our temporary pay reductions and expect to see higher expenses associated with investment in new products and increased business activity.

Second quarter interest and another income was $357,000 about flat with last quarter. Other income included a small foreign exchange gain, which is not expected to repeat. On a GAAP basis, the first quarter net loss was $6.1 million or $0.22 per share. Excluding equity compensation, purchase accounting amortization and one time items, non-GAAP net loss was $3.9 million or $0.14 per share, an improvement from the net loss of $6.2 million or $0.23 per share in the prior quarter.

Income tax benefit for the quarter reflects a tax rate of 32%. On a non-GAAP basis, the tax rate was approximately 39%, consistent with our expectation. Looking forward, we expect the non-GAAP tax rate benefit to range between 35 and 40%.

Turning now to our balance sheet, cash and investments including restricted cash were $154.5 million, roughly flat from the prior quarter and up from one-year ago. Restricted cash of $2.4 million resulted from our substitution of a letter of credit where a portion of the bond associated with legal action in Taiwan to protect our intellectual property. We took this action to monetize the funds tied up in a bonded deposit and expect to see an additional $7 million from this effort next quarter. In addition, we continue to hold auction rate securities currently valued at $8.6 million.

Cash used in operations was approximately $1.2 million for the second quarter as losses from operations were partially offset by non-cash expenses and cash generated through working capital improvements. Inventories declined by $1.5 million in the quarter reflecting increased demand in our ongoing inventory reduction efforts. Inventory turns were 0.9 times, an improvement over the last quarter. We continue to manage inventories closely and expect inventory turns to improve over the next few quarters.

Accounts receivable increased by $2 million. However, DSO decreased by eight days to 73 days as strong cash collections during the quarter offset the impact of higher shipments. Capital expenditures were approximately $700,000 and the deprecation and amortization excluding purchase accounting was $2.5 million.

Looking forward, visibility continues to be limited. However we are encouraged by the increased level of business activity and higher utilization rates from our customers. As a result, we are targeting revenues for the third quarter between $32 million and $37 million and a non-GAAP loss excluding stock compensation, purchase accounting and other non-recurring items of between $0.08 and $0.13 per share.

Now I will turn the call back to Nick for a brief summary.

Nick Konidaris

To summarize, the economy and markets continue to improve. While the pace of improvement isn’t clear, we expect this gradual recovery to continue. In the near-term we are managing our business and our spending carefully, while investing in new products and technologies that will move us into new markets and drive growth. We're executing well in this environment and we're excited about what the next few quarters would bring.

This concludes our prepared remarks. We're ready for your questions. Ken?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Our first question comes from the line of Jim Ricchiuti. Please proceed.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Nick I believe you said that orders were up in the semiconductor market about 25% is that correct.

Nick Konidaris

That’s correct.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay. Is there any. Can you give us some sense as to the decline you saw in the other, in the passive components area. And also the sequential improvement you saw in the third business area the Micromachining and Interconnect?

Nick Konidaris

Yes. Talking about passive components what I would say is that we are encouraged by the fact that we see improving utilization and increased business activity in accessories that are goals that are associated with our systems. This basically says that things are moving in the right direction. We did have a big order in Q1 that made Q2 appear to be lesser than Q1, but overall the trend is upward.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

If you took out and this was a customer in Korea.

Nick Konidaris

That’s right.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

If you took that out of Q1 I am just trying to get a sense as to how the business is improving with some of your other customers sequentially?

Nick Konidaris

I would say that the, what I hear from customers. And I was recently in Asia, is that they expect that, there is clearly a big driver which is the “Chinese consumer”. With that the drive since the consumer business, but they expect as a result of that and improving economies all over the globe. That what I hear from customers is about 15% improvement in activity next year.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay and just as you look at that business over the second half of the year, you are seeing improved bookings in that area as well as utilization rates continue to creep up?

Nick Konidaris

That's right.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

And then final --

Nick Konidaris

…up people buy more dense plates and they buy more of them.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay. What's driving the growth, the demand that you are seeing in Flex interconnect on that that part of the business. Can you talk specifically?

Nick Konidaris

It is strong and Flex is behind almost every consumer product from laptops to leap phone to hard disk drives and so forth. And it's again it's the consumer.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay. Customer concentration and I will just jump off, let somebody else, can you talk about that?

Nick Konidaris

No different patterns than before, it's most of the business transformation.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay, but any 10% customers.

Paul Oldham

No 10% customers this quarter

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Our next question comes from a line of Matt Petkun. Please proceed.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Sorry I missed some of the beginning of your call as few other calls going on right now. So the capacitor business Nick, it was down sequentially from a booking perspective in Q2?

Nick Konidaris

Yes, that's right. But again difference is in the right direction, utilization is

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Right

Nick Konidaris

Moving, I am repeating whatever I said in the previous answer.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

And then the Micromachining business was up what percentage?

Nick Konidaris

I forget the percentage in Micromachining business.

Paul Oldham

Booking were up in the single-digits.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Okay.

Paul Oldham

Perhaps since I remember, it was a strong quarter last quarter.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Yes, it was, definitely.

Paul Oldham

Where we have seen, demand.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Okay, and then Nick, when we’re thinking about the memory business in particular for your, the Semiconductor Products Group. Up 25%, it is still coming at a low base. Looking at the numbers that we’re starting to see for some of the front end guys on the memory side, a lot of that’s technology related order, but some capacity related order. What type of lag effect could we expect for you from a technology related order standpoint or are we more likely going to need a real capacity build before we see orders for you, guys?

Nick Konidaris

Yes. The way I think about memory is as follows. The wafer starts for the next three to four quarters, more or less are going to remain flat, and during that period, there is going to be more memory bits being supplied through transitioning to smaller nodes or sinking within a node. That drives primarily technology orders, both because of geometry and new materials.

Later on, however, there is going to be real capacity increases that are going to translate in additional wafer starts per month. A good signal of those capacity increases would be announcements of building new fabs. And those things you know few years ago, people at any point in time, they were paneled towards fabs that are in construction. Right now, this is not the picture.

So what is going to happen in our case is, for a while, there is going to be increasing activity that is going to be within this regime of fixed wafer starts for about three to four quarters and that increased activity is going to be because of technology and later on with real capacity increases you are going to have capacity plus technology.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

And in an environment of fixed wafer starts by growing, bit growth obviously. At what point do you see a more meaningful improvement in this business.

Nick Konidaris

Good question. Already as probably you can see a lot of the front end equipment companies report increased activity to that will allow the customers to transition to smaller nodes. Usually the lag in our case is in the neighborhood, six to nine months.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Right. And from a product perspective do you see your portion of your installed base that’s idle today. What portion of that do you think needs to come back online or will there actually be orders for new systems more capable of performing at lower nodes?

Nick Konidaris

Yes, there is some excess capacity of some of the latest equipment that we're selling prior to this downturn, that would be absorbed for a while, and our systems can overlap technologies although if you take an older system and try to use it in a newer technology smaller node, you may have to slowdown the speed of that system. So some of that has to be absorbed, but after that it has to be newer type of systems we have announced for instance, the Tailored Pulse that is fundamental for the smaller nodes..

Operator

We have a follow up question from the line of Jim Ricchiuti. Please proceed.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Nick, you have talked about expanding the product portfolio in the LED area. Can you give us an update on that and generally how is demand for your existing products in this area right now?

Nick Konidaris

Yes, LED was, as you mentioned we expect that as a result of a lot of front equipment investment by the LED people. That actually translates to the backend we are scribing LED. That is going to provide improved activity for our scribing business. And at the same time while we are enjoying the scribing business we are developing an LED spectroscopic tester that basically is going to be based on our ability to handle small parts. That is based on the MLCC business, so at very high speed, we will be able to measure the light output and the live characteristics of the LED devices. This is something that’s going to effect revenues in the next fiscal year. Not this fiscal year.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay, so you don’t anticipate having a tool. When would you have tools at a beta later this year, in fiscal year?

Nick Konidaris

We are talking to customers right now. We have a lot of demand for the tool, but it’s not available right now. Betas will be available early next fiscal year and we expect after that to be enjoying business.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Okay, Paul, a question for you. It looks like some of the spending that had been the temporary reductions in spending are being restored. In that 18, I agree was 18.5 million of non-GAAP operating expense that you are talking about for Q3. Is there much of that spending that is the, some of that temporary spending that’s restored?

Paul Oldham

Yes. If you look at the increased from sequentially from the second quarter to the third quarter almost half of that is related to the extra week. So that's a big portion. The balance is kind of split in between the reduction in the temporary measures and just incremental investment on project spending for new products and increased levels of business activity.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). We have another follow-up question from Mr. Jim Ricchiuti. Please proceed.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

The general purpose micromachining that's tended to be somewhat uneven, what are you seeing there? Is that business typically more as you see it economically sensitive as opposed to the real cyclicality you see in some of the other businesses and do you see that recovering in the second half as well?

Nick Konidaris

I will not characterize that business as in need of recovery. This is a lumpy business, it is sensitive not so much to economics but it's sensitive to designing. Designing a particular solution to an application and by the nature of this designing feature it is lumpy.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

And what's the outlook, Nick do you think for the second half in terms of order activity in this area given the lumpiness and sometimes the customer concentration issues?

Nick Konidaris

We are very busy on a number of designing activities.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

And those designing activity would translate to equipment buys in the early part of the next fiscal year, or the latter part of the current fiscal year?

Nick Konidaris

Well, if we are successful they are going to translate the second half of this year and will continue after that. If we are successful it’s in a timely way.

Paul Oldham

Jim, we said that overall, we thought our business would be up in the second half compared to the first half and I think we feel that’s true about all three segments.

Operator

We have another question from the line of Matt Petkun. Please proceed.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Paul, one of the thing that’s hard to gauge for you guys right now is just what the margin structure should look like in a recovery. Has there been any meaningful change from a pricing perspective, competitively and again, since things have mostly been going down into the right on the top line over the last year. It’s hard to gauge how you pulled cost out to impact gross margin. So can you refresh us on what your margin targets are and kind of what the last 12 months has done to those targets?

Paul Oldham

Yes, I would say we haven’t really seen a lot of pricing pressure or pricing reduction across our business. Prices, for the most part have held there’s just been lower volumes. So price hasn’t been the issue. People just haven’t needed equipment. We don’t anticipate seeing large price pressures as the markets recover. Typically, we don’t see a lot of that when markets recover as people are buying new equipment and most of our equipment is a value sell.

From a model perspective, we continue to target the same margin structure we had before, although we should have been in a little bit stronger position to achieve that as we come out of this given the cost reductions that we’ve made. Another way to think about this is, we would expect to see leverage on operating income as things improve. That’s pretty significant. On a gross margin basis that leverage should be sort of 50 to 60% and on an operating income basis maybe 40 to 45% and that will vary a little bit by quarter based on seasonality and mix, but overall that’s the trend we would expect to see.

Matt Petkun - D.A. Davidson & Company

Okay, so I don’t know what we believe mid cycle revenues look like anymore but let’s pretend that they're $50 million. Is that roughly a 42% or 43% gross margin?

Paul Oldham

I would say that’s roughly right.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of David Nirenberg. Please proceed.

David Nirenberg

One question is that one of your principal global competitors in one your largest business units, the semiconductor group recently has gone through some very severe difficulties. Can you talk in general terms about the competitive opportunities which have been opened up for ESI by virtue of that competitor's problems?

Nick Konidaris

David, what I would say is that we are very focused on improving our product line and sticking to the roadmap for the memory opportunity. This is the business that has been very good for us. As it comes back it’s going to be again good to us. It’s a business that as we state, its between us and our competitor and we are very well positioned to enjoy our traditional market share as we move on forward and clearly if that kind of situation prevails between the two competitors we may be even better positioned to improve market share.

David Nirenberg

My next question really builds on the first one, because obviously one of your strongest selling point vis-à-vis that competitor has been and continues to be your extraordinary financial strength. Paul and the rest of the team have done a magnificent job during the quarters of the downturn. Not only of maintaining the company’s cash position but actually of growing it at a time when other companies have seen their cash positions dwindle.

As you and the other people on the call know however with respect to cash sometimes my position is a little ambivalent, because while I like having it I also believe that having too much of it can turn to depress return on invested capital. And has the potential to depress the rate at which companies grow their earnings per share. Is there anything you would like to say on this call with everybody listening about how much longer you think the shareholders of the company should wait before you do something material with what you’ve accumulated?

Nick Konidaris

Well its, as you state Paul and his group have managed very well our cash position and we expect even an improvement of that cash position next quarter. The primary objective for our cash has been stated is to provide a solid foundation for the company and enable profitable growth. But equally we are totally committed to provide the best possible returns to the shareholders that we know how

So while we believe that the worst is behind us there is still some significant uncertainty in the economic environment and raising money as we found out about a year ago during our last major discussions, if it’s well near that it is still extremely difficult. But I think just the discussion we are having in the last two minutes, can indicate how the difficulty that some can fall in if he does not have the right cash position. And having the right cash position may provide especially in the current environment additional potential opportunities for growth. And as a company we want to retain dry powder in order to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.

With your permission let me not put any, any timing to how long we want to keep that cash, this is not proper in a call, but what this proper to says that we will continue to monitor of the conditions that exist around us. We are not afraid of buying back stock, we've done that before. But we also want to explore opportunities that may exist to really grow faster with the company like our environment.

Operator

We have another question from the line of Jim Ricchiuti. Please proceed

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Well you talked in the past -- we have all actually a discussion about breakeven points and it looks like right now, is it still in that 40 to 45 million area.

Paul Oldham

Yes, that's right. And that really hasn't changed. And again it will depend a little bit on the mix of the business in the particular quarter and the timing of expenses and things but that's the correct range.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Right. And that's what I wanted to ask about it. As we think about the mix to get to say a break even at the low end of that range. Can you give us a sense of what that mix might look like? Is it going to be more heavily weighted towards the Interconnect Micromachining Group, less so in passive? I’m just trying to get a sense as we think about that range that 40 to 45 million, what should the profile look like?

Paul Oldham

Historically, our passive component business has been a lower margin of the three businesses as you know. The Interconnect Micromachining can kind of be a spread depending on what application it’s selling into. Some of our older applications are lower margins and our newer applications are somewhat higher margins and then semiconductor has traditionally been the highest.

When we’ve looked at our model, we kind of think about the similar mixes that we’ve had historically to achieve that model, so we’re not assuming a great mix to achieve it or a bad mix, but it does give some sense as to why we have some range there. And that’s really our thinking about it. It’s hard for me to characterize we have to see certain things happen in order to see that because we’re really looking at that as a range and as a normalized mix, would be in that range.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

Fair enough. And Nick, just a follow up on David’s question about market share gains, same question in the semiconductor area, in the trim area, do you see an opportunity to gain some shares. It’s an area where you’ve had less share than your competitor and what kind of shifts are underway in that market or is it too soon to really say because you’re not seeing the investment yet?

Nick Konidaris

We’re not seeing the investment yet, but again we are very focused on our road map. We are very focused on our customers as this thing – this the market improves. We are very well positioned and if any competitor of ours is not equally well positioned that would be good for our markets here without question.

In addition in the semiconductor area, we are working very hard to really catch the way for dicing thin wafers. We think that the Excel Technology that acquired as we couple that with the tool that we have and the technology we have gives us the opportunity to develop a more flexible platform and accelerate our entry into this dicing portion of the market that we -- its really looking desperately for a laser based solution for dicing.

Jim Ricchiuti - Needham & Company

And that solution from your standpoint being, getting into the market, is that still six to eight months away?

Nick Konidaris

Yes that would be next fiscal year event.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. I'll turn the call back over to you Mr. Konidaris.

Nick Konidaris

Okay. To reiterate, we see our markets improving and slowly making their way back to previous demand levels. Over the last year we have become a leaner and more efficient organization executing well on our initiatives to enter new markets and improve working capital. With our strong market position, exiting new product pipeline and efficient business model, we are well positioned to leverage our growing revenues into faster earnings growth.

Thank you very much for joining us. You are welcome to call Paul, Brian or me if you have further questions. This concludes our call thank you for your interest in ESI.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen that concludes today’s conference thank you for your participation you may now disconnect. Have a good day.

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Source: Electro Scientific Industries, Inc. F2Q10 (Qtr End 09/26/09) Earnings Call
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