Lionbridge Technologies CEO Discusses Q1 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

 |  About: Lionbridge Technologies, Inc. (LIOX)
by: SA Transcripts


Welcome, and thank you for standing by. [Operator Instructions.] Now I would like to turn the call over to your speaker, Sara Buda, vice president of investor relations. You may begin.

Sara Buda – VP, IR

Thank you. Welcome to the Lionbridge investor call to discuss financial results for the first quarter of 2011. During this call, we may make certain statements that may be considered forward-looking statements under Federal Securities laws and which involve risks and uncertainties.

Our actual future results may differ significantly from the matters discussed in any forward-looking statements. We’ve disclosed in greater detail in our Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 15, 2011 the factors that may cause such differences.

And now I'll turn the call over to Lionbridge Chairman and CEO, Rory Cowan.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

Thanks Sara. Good morning everybody. Thanks for joining us on Monday morning. Today I'd like to talk about three things about the quarter the rest of the year. First, our Q1 results and the strengthening demand environment. Second, the trends that are driving this positive outlook for second quarter and second half, which are accelerating revenue and earnings. And third, a brief update on our Geofluent SAS technology offerings.

So first let me summarize the quarter. As you can see, we delivered revenue of about $100 million, within our expected range, and this is despite a $7 million year-on-year decline from our top two accounts due to their product portfolio transitions.

This is what we had been communicating for the past couple of quarters, and I was pleased to see that we were able to offset this temporary decline with new business growth from accounts like HP, RIM, Dell, and Phillips, as well as additional volume in our interpretation segment. So the sales engine that we began to invest in a couple of quarters ago is really finally beginning to kick in.

A second issue, you can see from our stronger than expected revenue forecast for Q2, we expect Q1 to be the end of our three-quarter revenue flatness. This is a little earlier than I had actually thought, but our second quarter revenue is ramping above plan, for two reasons. First, growth from our recent new business wins, as I mentioned above, and strengthening demand from our major accounts. It seems if these are coming in a month or two sooner than we had anticipated.

I'll get into the details of Q2 shortly, but it's clear that we're seeing a broad-based demand across all of our segments. Q1 gross margins were below planned. They were a little bit of a disappointment, but we've seen this before. And this is due to a ramp of new accounts and segment and customer mix during the quarter. We expect these margins to improve in the second quarter, and grow steadily in the second half, as major accounts return and new business ramps. This has happened in other transitional quarters. Those of you that have followed the company before.

We were able to keep G&A flat, despite really extraordinary currency swings, and our continued significant investments in our SAS technology offerings. So we're managing our overhead expenses reasonably well. GAAP net income was a loss of $3.3 million or about $0.06 a share, expense restructuring. That's a decline year-on-year as I mentioned, related to the gross margin impact of that customer and segment mix.

Going further down the statement here, our tax expense remained low at about $500,000 for the quarter, and we continue to manage our FX-related other expense in line as well, which was only about $450,000 for the quarter, and that's really despite a 20% swing from peak to trough, among major currencies during the quarter. It's been a long time since we've had that amount of volatility, and I'm pleased that we were able to keep our exposure to such a small amount in that environment.

And finally, we ended the quarter with about $25 million in cash. And Q1 revenue came in as planned. We had some short term headwinds on gross margin, due to work mix, and we continue to manage our G&A, tax, and currency costs, despite volatility. And our balance sheet remains strong.

So now let me touch on our strengthening demand environment for Q2 and our view of the second half of 2011. As I mentioned, we're seeing positive trends on the revenue side. First, with new account growth, as we break down our sequential quarter revenue ramp for Q2, we're delighted to see growth coming from newer programs with clients outside of our traditional top 10.

This might be companies such as Cisco our Caterpillar, Eli Lilly, or Motorola. We won a number of these new programs in 2010 that are starting up in Q1 and are now ramping in Q2. And now, we're ramping these into what we'll consider major accounts, and this is what we tend to do well. We win the project, we prove ourselves on some smaller projects, and then we grow this relationship over time.

And this new business pipeline continues to be very strong. I think it's clear that we're beginning to see two things. First, the benefits of our increased focus on sales and marketing, and also I think there seems to be a general firmness among our customers at they really get more confidence and are releasing more products internationally.

We also see that our win rates are increasing, and as I mentioned, these new programs are ramping. We expect this new business to continue to ramp into more profitable large-scale programs as the year progresses.

Secondly, this revenue tailwind is also, apart from our forecasted growth from major accounts, including Microsoft, HP, and Nokia. As we've said for the past three quarters, we expect to benefit from a strong product release cycle from these major technology clients starting in the second half of '12. And as you know, we tend to begin to work on projects about a year or 9 months before the public release dates. And so that's what you begin to see here.

And this cycle is really beginning, and hearteningly, it's a few months earlier than we had previously communicated. It's clear that our clients are investing the future with product upgrades, new releases, new applications, and we've seen this in these transitional quarters before. Clients are spending again, and we benefit from these strong product upgrade cycles.

So the headwinds we had in Q4 and Q1 with the major accounts are really beginning to turn into tailwinds in Q2 and second half '11. All this indicates a broad-based revenue growth in Q2 and some earnings acceleration in the second half of the year.

Now let me touch on the progress we're making with our Geofluent real-time translation technology, where a lot of our G&A and technology investment is going. As you remember, we established a partnership with IBM about a year ago to bring real-time automated translation technology to the market.

As we've invested in the technology development and sales and marketing to commercialize and market Geofluent - and this is really becoming a compelling enterprise application - what you may recall is based on the machine translation, or machine learning technology that came out of IBM's Watson labs. We had the quarterly governance meeting here in Waltham on Friday, and we're really very excited about the communication between the two organizations and the quality results and the technology evolution. I think there are very few headwinds in this relationship.

The Geofluent allows us to address enterprise demand for a technology solution that can instantly translate communications such as chat sessions, user-generated content, and websites, and I'm pleased with the ongoing market interest in this technology and the activity coming out of our partnership with IBM.

To remind you, this will allow someone to chat, for example, to type in English on one side and it will come out in French on the other side. A user can type in French and it will come out in English. So things like technical support or real-time web-based activity. As more and more content on the web is user-generated, translating that user-generated and real-time content is becoming a very big opportunity.

So we've completed three beta programs for Geofluent, and the results underscore the value of this technology offering. Our testing has proven that our unique customization capability increases the quality, usability, and comprehension of the MT engine. So this combination of IBM technology, and Lionbridge knowledge is really proving to be as powerful as we had hoped. The metrics are truly compelling.

For the language types in this business and on the call, this is really an exciting development, because Geofluent eliminates a lot of the quality and cost barrier of customized machine translation that has really inhibited widespread adoption of real-time translation. So for enterprises this means that automated translation can finally play a core role in their global communications strategy as branding and their website and technical support as an integrated, secure, SAS-based application. So we'll be embedding this in a number of applications during the coming year.

So we built the technology team last year, and this year I started investing in the sales team to effectively scale this business. We're establishing partnerships that will allow us to accelerate market adoption, particularly in the area of multilingual chat, which seems to be the hottest area of interest. We're seeing strong market demand for taking online chat global, both for presale engagement and post-sale customer support.

One prospect is looking at using Geofluent to help them consolidate their global call center operations. That value proposition is clear. Using Geofluent, one agent can support customers from multiple geographies simultaneously from a single location. This means that you don't need a call center in Germany and France, in Italy. Those all could be supported from one location offshore. This is a significant economic model and savings for them. This will also allow enterprises to increase qualified leads, improve conversion rates, and reduce costs of onboarding and supporting clients in global markets.

So we're excited about the technology that we have here and we expect to convert at least two of these beta clients by the end of the year, and we're reaffirming our expectations of this $5 million run rate for products as we leave 2011 with further acceleration in 2012.

I'm also pleased that our partnership with IBM, both in terms of technology development and the business opportunities within their partner program and within IBM, because we're able to take a lot of their technology, customize it, and then work with their internal operations to achieve some of these savings as well. So 2012 should be a very interesting year for this opportunity for us.

We're exploring a number of other areas where Geofluent can add value to IBM's market-leading applications. That's the embedding it in existing applications, particularly in the area of their unified communications and collaboration software and in their own customer service organization. So we're in the early stages of these relationships, but I'm heartened by the enthusiasm and support from the IBM teams.

So in summary, our SAS technology strategy and IBM partnership is opening new opportunities. Our investments in technology, sales and marketing, are starting to pay off, and we're beginning to ramp the new business a little bit earlier than we had forecast a few quarters ago. Major accounts are spending again, and we expect our numbers to rebound in Q2 and strengthen throughout the year as revenue scales.

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

Thanks Rory, and hello everyone. Today I'm going to walk through our first quarter of 2011 financial results, and I'll also provide an update on our outlook for Q2 and our expectations for the second half of the year. Let me begin with an overview of Q1.

In the first quarter, we delivered revenue of $99.7 million. This reflects a year-on-year decline of about $1 million. As Rory said, two of our major accounts were down $7 million year-on-year, due to product release cycles. So I think the team has done a good job of making up for that decline. And as you look ahead to Q2, it is nice to see these new accounts growing and our major accounts beginning to rebound.

As you know, Q1 tends to be our slowest revenue quarter, as client programs begin to build. This quarter was no different. As you can see from our forecast, we expect strong sequential revenue growth in Q2. Gross margin was 28% for the quarter, a decrease from last quarter and last year, mainly related to revenue mix by segment.

Our GLC language business tends to run at about 31-33% gross margin. In Q1, GLC segment gross margins were 29% due to a $3 million lower sequential revenue volume compared to Q4 and work mix. This was related to short term declines at Nokia and a few other clients who had slow starts to the year.

We made up for most of the GLC revenue decline with increases in our GDT testing and development segment, and our lower margin interpretation segment. The gross margins by segment for the first quarter were as follows: GLC 29%, GDT 29%, and interpretations 12%. As we look ahead to Q2 and the rest of the year, we do expect sequential gross margins to increase slightly in the second quarter and then improve steadily in the second half. This is driven by higher revenue volume, particularly in GLC, and improved work mix as major accounts strengthened in the second half.

As a reminder, our larger, longer-term clients tend to be our strongest accounts, so profitability should improve in the second quarter and the second half. First quarter operating expenses decreased sequential versus Q4 2010, as we continued to control our operating costs despite ongoing investments in sales and marketing, technology, and R&D. We also incurred $2.1 million restructuring expense during the quarter.

As Rory said, we continue to effectively manage currency and tax. Our other expense was in line with our estimates at under $500k third quarter, despite significant currency fluctuations, and the tax provision came in at about $500k in Q1, which was at the low end of our estimates.

On a GAAP basis, we reported a loss of $5.5 million, or $0.09 per share, adjusted earnings were a $0.03 loss in the quarter.

Moving to the balance sheet, operationally we consumed about $1 million of cash during the quarter. This is consistent with our typical cash flow seasonality. While we continue to focus on working capital management, we will likely see an uptick in our second quarter accounts receivable balances given our expected acceleration in sequential revenue growth of between $8 million and $12 million.

DSOs remained in great shape in Q1, at under 49 days, which is lower than the fourth quarter of 2010. Capital spending was $2.9 million in the quarter, and in the second quarter we do expect to see a bit of a sequential increased in capital spending, driven by our investment in a large incremental long-term GDT revenue opportunity with HP that will commence in the third quarter.

We continued to be net cash positive in Q1, as we ended the quarter with $25.3 million in cash and our bank debt remained at $24.7 million. As we've said, we've been using cash to fund restructuring and invest in our technology product strategy. Going forward, we will continue to fund our technology development and make investments in the business to support our expected growth. Now is the time for us to focus on innovation and growth, and that is exactly what we're doing.

Let me wrap up by talking about our outlook for the second quarter. For Q2 we are increasing our revenue estimates to $108 million to $112 million. This compares to our current analyst consensus for the second quarter of $105 million. Our customer environment is clearly strengthening as new customers scale and major accounts begin to spend again. Our strong cost management continues, and we expect sequential earnings acceleration in Q2 and for the rest of the year.

So to summarize, at a high level, Q1 revenue was solid at $99.7 million, within our expected range, our Q2 revenue outlook is ahead of forecast. We had some gross margin headwinds in Q1, but expect improvement going forward. We continue to manage expenses efficiently while continuing to prudently invest in the business, and we expect revenue and profits to grow sequentially in the second quarter and second half of 2011.

So Rory, back to you.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

Thanks Don, and before I open the call to questions, I know a Monday morning call is a tough time for many of you, so I think we're really laying down the tape here rather than having many questions.

So as Don mentioned, revenue growth is returning ahead of plan after three quarters of relatively flat or stable quarters really comes to a close. Demand is strengthening, we're ramping these new accounts into solid multi-year relationships. Pipeline is growing and we're getting good indications that our technology programs are on track. So we expect revenue and profit growth to return in Q2 and accelerate in the second half.

So with that, we'll open the call to questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


[Operator instructions.] Our first question comes from Jo Vafi with Jeffries. Your line is open.

Joe Vafi – Jefferies & Co

So Rory, sounds like after a while your commentary, and Don's commentary also, here on this ramp in Q2 is pretty strong, so I guess it's fair to say that all of this work's already going on, and there's no new business that needs to ramp to get to these guidance numbers here for the quarter I guess.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

Yeah, I think that in our business we don't - with the larger customers, you don't have a lot of what I'll call "book and bill" within the quarter. Larger programs, these might be multi-quarter programs and the growers leading the pack are pretty all household names. I would like to just [expand] a little bit. Nokia had that little body blower, that pause in Q1 as they really began to figure out what's going to be Android, what's going to be Windows. We fortunately understand both of those programs, and Android's going to continue on, at least from our view, for quite a while, because they still have presence elsewhere. We're feeling pretty good. Cisco is also a strong one that's come onboard and we're feeling good about Q2. I'm a little surprised, actually, Joe, that the strength came in earlier in Q2. As you know, we had been talking that this was really going to be a second half situation, so beginning to see it come in in Q2 is heartening.

Joe Vafi – Jefferies & Co

And then Don, could you give us an idea what FX did in the quarter on the top-line and to margins as well?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

Basically it was pretty de minimis, Joe. Sequential in year-over-year FX impacted the P&L at the operating profit line by about a half million dollars, negatively. That's all. It wasn't a big deal.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

But we've spent a lot of time really focusing on getting our costs and revenue aligned, and so the euro-dollar thing, we don't really care where it ends up. We'd just like to stay there a little while. I think that's what makes it easier to manage. And I guess that the quarters, Don, last year the euro was what? I see on the screen here about $1.38, and this year $1.37. It's really more of a yen issue this time, wasn't it?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

Exactly. Fortunately for us our expenses and revenue exposures in yen are pretty small. If you go back, just to refresh people's memories, revenue in the company is about 60% USD and about 30% euro. The balance of revenue, the other 10%, is primarily pounds and yen, and a few other currencies. Expenses, about 70% of our expenses are split 50-50 between USD and euro, and then there's 10% in emerging currencies, zlotys and rupees, renminbi, and then there's another 10% kind of split between the yen and the pound, and then there's probably a dirty dozen 10% of other currencies. So we've got that pretty much under control. There's certainly a lot of volatility, but as I said, the sequential in year-over-year from an operating profit standpoint, it was pretty small.

Joseph Vafi – Jefferies & Co

Okay, did we reduce euro costs in Q2?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

Yeah, the restructuring that we did, the $2.1 million, was all western Europe related, so you saw that expense was recognized in euros, obviously, but going forward, that will reduce our expenses in euros as a percentage of the total.

Joseph Vafi – Jefferies & Co

Okay. And then just switching back to revenue, I know Rory that over the last couple quarters you've put out various press releases on some new customer wins. Is there any progress on some of those new customers in ramping to be one of your big guys here at this point?

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

Yeah, I think that a lot of those that we've won, generally the way it works, you know, the sales cycle may be a six or seven month sales cycle. You get a small project, you succeed on that project. So it's really about a year from first knock on the door to when you really put some numbers on the board. Those new project ramps are really a lot of household names in technology, for example, personal computer manufacturer on the west coast, you've got some of these other players as I mentioned. We have RIM ramping and Nokia is coming back as I mentioned, some of the other wins.

Joseph Vafi – Jefferies & Co

And then just finally, if we do get to this $5 million run rate on Geofluent in Q4, is that going to start to move the needle on gross margin for the overall company at that point?

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

It should, because if you think just easy math, you know, $100 million quarters, every million dollars is very, very meaningful, of software revenue versus, say mid-30s or low-30s revenues. So that leads us into '12, gives us some enthusiasm about '12.


Next question comes from Richard Davis at Canaccord. Your line is open.

Richard Davis - Canaccord

So maybe with regard to the Geofluent, we talked about the $5 million run rate, at least at a high level. Baked into that thought, or anticipation or hope or possibility, how do you think about, or what kind of initial indications have you gotten with regard to pricing, kind of how you'll sell this either direct or channel, and those kind of things. And also maybe just a thought on kind of how you view the addressable market.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

Great questions all. First, we're in that process right now. I've just built up a sales and marketing team really starting end of Q4 early Q1. So we're working with a number of technology partners that are really in two areas. We're finding most interest for this, of course, is in captive contact centers or support centers inside of companies. So as a feature in a chat platform. And you know who all the major chat platform vendors are. So that would be a channel partnership.

The way we're starting with these guys, what I liked about working with them, there's a lot of pragmatism with these guys. We're co-selling with them right now. Once we get a number or two on the board, or get a customer closed, then we'll really craft those into a reseller relationship, and we're working with both of those and you'll probably see some announcements coming out in the next six eight weeks about some of those activities. So that's one.

Two, the sort of deal size of these things, at the small end it's probably a couple hundred thousand dollars. At the big end it's probably about a million dollars, depending upon the number of seats and the applications that we're seeing. That's sort of how we're scoping this right now, and of course, you can imagine, like many things, it's a matrix of seats across one side and languages down the other side. So that accelerates for the broad swath of pricing.

Direct sales, I think we're also getting some significant in-bounds. We've held some webinars and it's been a most interesting group. It's a new set of buyers for us. I think if there's any challenge that we have to learn, it isn't our traditional buyers inside of our traditional customers, so learning to connect with a new group inside of these large enterprises is a large part of our learning. So we'll have more information on this at the end of Q2, because we're right at that point right now where all these activities are beginning to really clarify for us.


Our next question comes from [Sarbi Sharbashan] from B. Riley & Company. Your line is open.

[Sarbi Sharbashan] - B. Riley & Company

Can you maybe provide me the revenue breakout either as a percentage of sales, or just straight revenue breakout for the different segments?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

Q1 GLC was 69.1%, GDT 24.7%, and interps was 5.8%.

[Sarbi Sharbashan] - B. Riley & Company

And with respect to real-time translation, you said you had three prominent beta clients and you mentioned that you may have converted two. Do you see any other opportunities in the pipeline that you can talk about besides these three beta clients?

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

I appreciate your enthusiasm. Maybe half-converted. We plan to convert, I think we should say. I want to get that done. And it feels like there's a lot of interest here and until we have a signature on these things - we don't have a signature.

So I think the other thing that we're finding is that the sales force that we've hired, we've brought in a couple of guys that are proven SAS and software sales guys from the venture community that they know that this is their focus. I'm carving this out as a separate business to give them a separate sales team, a separate set of buyers. And the webinars we've had, and the [areas] of interest we've had it's really quite heartening.

Of course, early on, the two major applications are real-time web activity, user-generated content or things that people don't want to pay to have translated, or chat. And both of those seem to be from the top technology 200s if you will, worldwide. Largely those that use contact centers internationally. You have to have a fairly substantive international infrastructure that you want to reduce cost and increase responsiveness around.

[Sarbi Sharbashan] - B. Riley & Company

And with respect to Cisco streamlining its operation, do you see them shying away from the real-time offering, or do you still think that they would be one of those that sign off?

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

No, I think that Cisco, in terms of streamlining their - we've all been reading about this in the news. We've been reading about Nokia in the news. I think Cisco is really doing, sort of right on schedule, this is my observation, they've bought so many companies that it's really time to start integrating these and taking advantage of their scale rather than running them as individual business units. As a result, the shared services organizations seem to be getting a little bit more authority inside of Cisco that they've never had before. And that's part of the reason why we're enthusiastic about our relationship with Cisco.

[Sarbi Sharbashan] - B. Riley & Company

And with respect to Microsoft, they're one of your larger customers, correct? So you still anticipate them coming back as a big spender towards the back half of the year, and that's where you're getting your confidence for the 5-10%?

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

As you know, they've been aligning all their produce cycles for the past couple of years, and so we see, depending upon business unit, on the name products we tend to see the early spend with us for betas and other things, as much as nine months or a year before public release. We're already seeing that with some of the big name products. On some of their other divisions, we're also beginning to see their products ramp as well. So we expect that - I don't know, is it going to be up $6 million half one to half two? Is it going to be up $8 million or $9 million half one to half two? Too soon to tell, because it depends on when the code drops. But that's a sort of range for us.


[Operator instructions.] Our next question comes from Vincent Colicchio with Noble Financial. Your line is open.

Vincent Colicchio – Noble Financial

Don, what level of restructuring cost should we assume for Q2? And how does that look for the year?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

We expect to be ramping down our restructuring expenditures through the balance of this year. You won't see probably another $2 million slug this year. You'll probably see a half million, a couple of quarters, so you might see $1-2 million rest of the year.

Vincent Colicchio – Noble Financial

And Rory, as far as the industry environment, is there any change in the buyers on pricing?

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

I think that in terms of pricing, we enjoy long-term relationships and we do well with scale, so I will tell you that we've been - I don't want to say aggressive, but we've really wanted to win the big deals. And so I don't know what others are doing with prices, but I don't know if there's an opportunity that fits us well, we've been trying to be as positive, make it as easy for them to buy from us. By the way, I would like to make one correction. I misspoke. I've been reading about Google and Android. It's Symbian and Windows for Nokia, not Android. It's my error, and I'm certain you all understood that.

Anyway, that's what we're feeling here, that we're beginning to see good straightforward in the second half, and it's beginning a little bit earlier in Q2.

Vincent Colicchio – Noble Financial

And one more for you, Don. Gross margins should be improving going forward. Should we do better than we did last year? Can you give us some color on that?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

I think what we said in the call was that we expect gross margins to improve slightly on a sequential basis. So slightly can be 1-2%, 100-200 basis points, so you're looking at a range of maybe 29-30% in Q2. And then the second half should accelerate beyond that as we see the major account activity that Rory has alluded to kick in.


Our next question comes from Harvey Poppel with Poptech LP. Your line is open.

Harvey Poppel - Poptech LP

I just wanted some clarification on the statement that you're reiterating your guidance, given that you seem to have enjoyed a better than expected outlook for second quarter from where you were, say, a quarter ago. And yet you're not raising your full year guidance at this point. What should we take away from that?

Don Muir – SVP and CFO

Well, I think the reference that we made in the conference call, that I made certainly, was that the consensus estimate for Q2 was $105 million and our current forecast is above that. For the full year, it's a broad range of 5-10%. We probably came in at sort of the midpoint in Q1, and we were on track for a 5-10% growth for the full year. It doesn't really change anything other than it probably helps us get toward the higher end of the range.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

And I also think that we're working with some large customers, with some very big programs, and all it takes for one of them to find a rock in their code and delay by a couple of weeks and you could be plus or minus a million dollars in actually recognized revenue. Even though we've been awarded the project, the schedule of revenue recognition about it could tilt back and forth. So I don't think there's any reason for us to ring the bell right now and we'll let you know as soon as we get more confidence.


At this time we have no further questions.

Rory Cowan – Chairman, President and CEO

Great. Well, thank you everyone, and again thanks for a Monday morning participation. It's hard to make a call on Monday morning, but we have conference we're participating in tomorrow, so we wanted to make certain we got the numbers out on time.

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