Atmel's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

 |  About: Atmel Corporation (ATML)
by: SA Transcripts


Thank you. I would now like to turn the call over to Peter Schuman, Director of Investor Relations. You may begin, sir.

Peter Schuman

Thank you, Misty. Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us for Atmel's Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. A copy of the press release issued today is available on our Investor Relations website. A replay of this call will be available after 5:00 p.m. Pacific today and will be archived for 48 hours. The webcast will be archived on the company's website for 1 year. Access information is provided in today's press release.

Joining us for the call today are Steve Laub, Atmel's President and CEO; and Stephen Cumming, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. Stephen will begin the call with a review of our fourth quarter financial results, and Steve will then provide additional information on the business. At the conclusion of Steve's remarks, Stephen will discuss our financial guidance for the first quarter of 2012 and then open the call for questions.

During the course of this conference call, we may make forward-looking statements about Atmel's business outlook, including statements regarding our expectations for market growth, litigation matters and the anticipated course of patent litigation, revenue, target gross and operating margins, product introductions and cost savings for 2012 and beyond.

Our forward-looking statements and all other statements that are not historical facts reflect our expectations and beliefs as of today, and therefore, are subject to risks and uncertainties as described in the Safe Harbor discussion found in today's press release.

During the call, we will also discuss non-GAAP financial measures. The non-GAAP measures are not prepared in accordance with Generally Excepted Accounting Principles. A reconciliation of the non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures can be found in today's press release.

I would now like to turn the call over to Stephen Cumming for the discussion of our fourth quarter financial results. Stephen?

Stephen Cumming

Thank you, Peter. Most of you noticed slight changes to the format of today's earnings press release. Atmel provides both GAAP and non-GAAP results in our earnings release to provide our investors with a better understanding of the results of our ongoing operations.

Many analysts and our closest peer companies continue to exclude equity compensation in their non-GAAP EPS estimates in what is reported in for First Call, FactSet and other reporting services. In an effort to align our non-GAAP results reliably and accurately with these various estimate reporting services, we are now reporting equity compensation by functional areas in our press release to provide increased comparability for the investment community.

The new press release format will increase the comparability of Atmel's actual non-GAAP earnings to those non-GAAP earnings estimates published by analysts, as well as increase the level of comparability of our earnings to those of our closest peer group.

Now let me provide some details of our statement of operations.

Revenue of $383.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2011 decreased 20% sequentially, and decreased 16% as compared to the same quarter in 2010, consistent with our revised guidance and below the low end of our initial guidance of 12% to 16% down sequentially.

After 10 consecutive quarters of sequential revenue growth, the global slowdown in the industrial and Consumer Markets had a significant impact on our business. As we mentioned in our pre-announcement last week, Q4 revenue was also negatively affected by approximately $11 million as a result of rescheduling payments on a receivable related to an Asian distributor. We have a payment in plan in place and expect payment in full by the end of the second quarter.

The full year 2011 revenue was $1.8 billion compared to a $1.64 billion for 2010, representing a 10% increase over the prior year. Excluding the Smart Card divestiture, which occurred during the first quarter of 2010, full year revenue increased 15% during 2011.

Fourth quarter 2011 gross margin was 48.1%. The fourth quarter gross margin was slightly above the midpoint of our guidance range of 48%, plus or minus 50 basis points.

The non-GAAP gross margin was 48.7%. The sequential decrease in gross margin was due primarily to lower factory utilization as a result of decreased revenues due to the downturn. Despite this softness in the semi cycle, our new fab-lite operating model is showing resilience compared to past downturns. In 2009, our gross margin reached the low 30% level.

For the full year 2011, gross margin of 50.4% was a record for the company and was a significant improvement from the 2010 gross margin of 44.3%. The non-GAAP gross margin of 50.8% for the full year 2011 compared to a non-GAAP gross margin of 44.8% in 2010.

Our operating expenses of $134 million were below the midpoint of our guidance of $135 million, plus or minus $2 million. This compares to operating expenses of $133 million in Q3 of 2011 and $130 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. During the fourth quarter, we maintain focus on managing our discretionary spending, but not at the expense of future product development. Due to the lower revenue levels, overall operating expenses represented 35.1% of revenues in the fourth quarter, up from 27.7% in the third quarter of 2011.

R&D expense of $64 million in the fourth quarter was approximately flat compared to the prior quarter and compared to $60 million reported in the same period last year.

SG&A expense was $71 million for the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with $68 million in the prior quarter and $70 million in the same period last year. The increase was related to selective hiring and lower vacation when compared to the prior quarter.

Stock compensation for Q4 was $19 million, and is broken out in the following areas: $2 million was relating to manufacturing, $7 million to R&D, and $10 million to SG&A. For the full year, stock compensation of $68 million increased from $61 million in the prior year, predominantly due to performance of stock-based compensation incentive program, which is based on our expectations of meeting certain long-term performance metrics.

Income from operations was $49 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. The GAAP operating margin was 12.8%. This compares with income from operations of $140 million in the prior quarter, which included a gain of $33.4 million from the sale of our corporate headquarters and income from operations of $94 million in the same period last year. Non-GAAP income from operations for the fourth quarter of 2011 of $69 million or 17.9% of revenue, excludes acquisition-related charges, restructuring charges and stock-based compensation. This compares to non-GAAP income from operations of $124 million in the prior quarter and $112 million from the same period last year.

For the full year 2011, income from operations totaled $382 million or 21.2% of revenue, compared to a $107.5 million or 6.5% of revenue during fiscal 2010. Excluding acquisition-related charges, restructuring credits, gain on sale of assets and stock-based compensation, our non-GAAP income from operations totaled $440 million or 24.4% of revenue. This compares with the non-GAAP income from operations of $287.5 million or 17.5% of revenue during fiscal 2010, excluding the same previously mentioned items as well as pension charges related to the 2010 fab sale.

GAAP income tax provision totaled $14.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is lower than our guidance of approximately $16 million to $18 million. During the fourth quarter of 2011, our non-GAAP benefit from income taxes was approximately $500,000. As we previously mentioned, we expect to have non-GAAP or cash tax effective rate in the low single-digit percentages for 2012.

The fourth quarter 2011 GAAP tax provision of $14.4 million compares to a tax provision of $23.2 million in the third quarter of 2011, and an income tax benefit of $133.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2010. The fourth quarter 2010 benefit included $118.1 million or $0.25 per diluted share primarily from releasing reserves for certain deferred tax assets.

GAAP net income for the fourth quarter of 2011 was $32.9 million or $0.07 per diluted share. This compares with third quarter 2011 net income of $116.7 million or $0.25 per diluted share, and GAAP net income of $223.1 million or $0.47 per diluted share in the same period last year. On a non-GAAP basis for the fourth quarter 2011, we had net income of $67.5 million or $0.14 per diluted share. This compares with non-GAAP net income of $124 million or $0.26 per diluted share in the third quarter of 2011, a non-GAAP net income of $119.2 million or $0.25 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2010.

For the full year 2011, GAAP net income totaled $315 million or $0.68 per diluted share. Excluding onetime items, non-GAAP net income from operations totaled of $438 million or $0.92 per diluted share. This compares with GAAP net income of $423.1 million or $0.90 per diluted share, and a non-GAAP net income of $283.3 million or $0.59 per diluted share for fiscal year 2010.

As to our stock repurchase program, during the first -- during fourth quarter, Atmel repurchased 14.9 million shares of our common stock in the open market at an average price of $9.04 per share.

For the full year 2011, we spent approximately $304 million to repurchase to 200 -- sorry, to repurchase 28.8 million shares of stock in the open market at an average price of $10.57 per share.

Our plan totals to date for Atmel's $500 million buyback program instituted since the third quarter of 2010 was 40.5 million shares repurchased at an average price of $9.71, amounting to approximately $393 million.

Turning to the balance sheet. Combined cash balances, cash and cash equivalents, plus short-term investments totaled $333 million for the fourth quarter, representing a decrease of $150 million from the third quarter. Cash flow from operations totaled $43 million in the fourth quarter, down approximately $18 million from $61 million in the third quarter of 2011. During the fourth quarter of 2011, we repurchased $135 million of common stock and had a cash outlay of approximately $25 million for the purchase of ADD Semiconductor.

Capital expenditures were approximately $10 million in the fourth quarter, down from the third quarter's $20 million, at the low end of our guidance range of $10 million to $15 million. We have pulled back aggressively on our capital spending due to the weaker macroeconomic environment impacting the semiconductor market. And for the full year 2011, CapEx was $85 million.

Depreciation and amortization in the fourth quarter of 2011 was approximately $21 million compared to $19 million last quarter and $18 million in the fourth quarter 1 year ago. For the full year 2011, depreciation and amortization was $77 million.

Accounts receivable totaled $213 million at the end of the third quarter, down by approximately $31 million from the third quarter.

Our day sales outstanding for the fourth quarter stood at approximately 50 days, up 4 days from the prior quarter.

Fourth quarter inventory went down to $377 million compared to the prior quarter's $380 million. Days of inventory stood at 173 days compared to the third quarter of 145 days. As we've previously mentioned, as a result of the lower revenue during the first quarter, days of inventory ratio would go up during the quarter. We have and we'll continue to take actions to reduce our inventories as we work towards our longer-term inventory model of approximately 120 to 130 days.

Now let me turn the call over to Steve for a commentary of our business. Steve?

Steven A. Laub

Thank you, Stephen. After 10 consecutive quarters of sequential revenue growth and substantially faster growth than our semiconductor peers, the industry slowdown that began the second half of 2011 adversely impacted Atmel's fourth quarter results.

Despite the weaker fourth quarter, Atmel delivered excellent performance for the full year 2011. Atmel's revenue of $1.8 billion for 2011 was the highest since the tech boom of 2000, and was up 10% as compared to 2010.

Revenue grew by over 15% after adjusting for the Smart Card divestiture in Q3 of 2010. This compares very favorably to industry growth of just 0.4% announced earlier this week by the SIA. Our microcontroller business grew by 25% and generated a record revenue of over $1.1 billion. Our substantially improved business model led to a full year gross margin of over 50%, the highest gross margin in the company's history.

The transformation and restructuring of Atmel over the past few years has built a company that provides us far faster growth and profitability during industry up cycles, while also minimizing the adverse financial impact that occurs during periods of industry weakness.

Our new business model is demonstrating resilience during the current downturn, as witnessed by the fourth quarter's gross margin of 48.1%, which was ahead of the midpoint of our expectations and a vast improvement from what we experienced during prior industry downturns.

Our focus on microcontrollers and other proprietary products has clearly paid off in terms of a substantially faster growth rate than our industry and our major competitors during the past year. We are now the third largest microcontroller company in the semiconductor industry, passing our closest competitor during 2011.

Moving to a discussion of our business segments. For our microcontroller business unit, revenue of $216 million was down 28% sequentially and up 25% as compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. For the year, revenue grew from $892 million in 2010 to $1.1 billion in 2011, an annual growth rate of 25%.

By product family during the fourth quarter, our 8-bit microcontrollers declined 31% sequentially and were down 30% year-over-year, while 32-bit microcontrollers were down 18% sequentially and decreased 3% year-over-year.

While the overall microcontroller market was softer in Q4, the majority of Atmel's decline was in our touch products due to a combination of special onetime and seasonal factors. As we stated during our Q3 earnings call, we anticipated a substantial onetime decline during the fourth quarter in our touchscreen solutions for Android tablets due to lower-than-anticipated sell through, along with the transition from multichip to single-chip solutions, thereby reducing the dollar content per tablet.

In addition, our touchscreen controller business was affected by reduced post-holiday builds and year-end inventory adjustments by certain handset and other customers, which impacted our revenue. Our general microcontroller business was adversely impacted as well, due primarily to continued softness in the industrial end markets and customers' inventory adjustments.

As to new products. During the fourth quarter, we announced the release of 13 new 32-bit AVR microcontroller devices in 3 different product series. These award-winning AVR microcontrollers feature high-performance, digital signal processing, USB connectivity, secure encryption and capacitive touch support. Included in these new 32-bit products is the new AVR UC3D entry-level 32-bit series, which is well-suited for product designs requiring low-power and capacitive touch for industrial and consumer applications.

In October, we announced sampling of our first ARM Cortex-M4 base flash microcontrollers. Our new SAM4 family offers the markets high Cortex-M flash memory density of 2 megabyte and 192 kilobit SRAM, has best-in-class core protection. We are positioned to significantly expand our Cortex-M product portfolio of SAM3 and SAM4 families throughout 2012.

We also announced in Q4 our complete digital audio platform for consumer, automotive and industrial applications. The Atmel digital audio platform offers audio equipment and mobile accessory OEMs, a complete hardware and firmware solution that greatly simplifies the task of designing high-quality digital audio equipment.

The new digital audio platform is implemented with Atmel's AVR UC3 microcontrollers, specifically tailored for audio applications such a smartphone and media player docking stations.

Among other highlights during the quarter, Atmel received 2 leading product awards from EDN China. The products honored where Atmel's QTouch Studio 4.3, which is a touch design software tool that supports the complete touch design flow. And the second product award was in In-Home Display Unit running the Android operating system on the Atmel ARM microcontroller, an innovative way to monitor energy consumption in real-time.

Moving to our touch products. Consistent with our previous guidance, we are pleased to have exceeded $375 million in maXTouch revenue during calendar 2011, up from over $140 million during 2010, further expanding our market share and cementing our leadership position as the world's largest touchscreen controller provider.

Design activity for our maXTouch products is at an all-time high. Some recent major smartphone wins include several from Nokia, including the new Windows Phone 7.5 manual operating system for the Lumia 710 and 800 smartphones, as well as Nokia's Symbian Belle operating system.

Other new smartphones include Samsung's introduction of an LTE version of its very popular Samsung Galaxy S2 product lineup. Samsung also introduced their new Focus Flash and Focus S Windows smartphones, featuring Atmel's maXTouch E Series. Motorola Mobility released new smartphones for the Asian market with their XT615 and VE538 models. HTC added the Sensation XL, which features a 4.7-inch screen.

Atmel added a major new smartphone customer with the addition of LG, with their Optimus Sol and Optimus HUB products. A second new customer in Korea was KT Tech with their Take HD product. Pantech launched their VEGA LTE product, and then, 2 product wins with Fujitsu in the Japanese domestic market with maXTouch.

In the Chinese market, as we mentioned last quarter, we continue to expand our customer base with a growing number of design wins in China, using multiple maXTouch including both our high end and our lower node count solutions. New customer wins include ZTE, Xiaomi, OPPO Electronics, BBK Communications, DOOV Mobile and Gionee Communication. We expect to see a volume ramp with our 112E part beginning in Q1 and are very optimistic but our future prospects in the Chinese marketplace.

In the tablet market, some recent major product introductions that utilize maXTouch include Samsung Slate PC 7, a Windows 7-based PC with the convenience of a tablet. ASUS released another version of its popular Transformer product called the Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201, which has the ability to transform to notebook mode with a full QWERTY keyboard dock. And Acer released the ICONIA Tab A200. In addition, Pantech introduced its first tablet, the 8-inch Element, which is waterproof in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

Atmel achieved a major milestone. With the launch of our maXTouch S Series, our newest generation of touchscreen controller products at the Consumer Electronics Show last month in Las Vegas. These revolutionary new devices are the industry's highest-performance touchscreen controllers and raised the bar by enabling a new breed of mobile products, with groundbreaking performance, ultra slim profile and superior noise immunity.

Furthermore, the maXTouch S family supports both active and passive stylus. The S Series products launched for smartphones include the maXTouch 224S for screen sizes from 3.5 inch to 4.3 inch, and the maXTouch 336S, the highest performance controller from the next generation of super phones with screen sizes from 4.3 inch to 5.5 inch. We also introduced the maXTouch 1664S, an important new 32-bit single-chip touch platform for tablets and PCs offering the industry's highest node count, which awards screen sizes up to 17 inches.

As a co-engineering partner with Microsoft for Windows 8, the 1664S is designed to meet the stringent requirements of Windows 8 for products with screen sizes up to 12.5 inches. We are experiencing robust design activity and have completed development of multiple advanced Intel reference designs for Windows 8 tablets, convertible PCs and ultrabooks.

During the first half of this year, we anticipate introducing Windows 8-certified solutions for screen sizes up to 15.6 inches to support the market for ultrabooks and convertible PCs.

For the Android marketplace, we partnered with NVIDIA to deliver a Tegra 3 reference design for the next version of the Android operating system, referred to as Ice Cream Sandwich.

As the market leader in touchscreen controller solutions for tablets, combined with our new maXTouch S series, Atmel is well-positioned to extend its leadership position to include convertible PCs and ultrabooks. We expect to begin production of the maXTouch S Series in April, with launched [ph] shipments in the second half of the year.

As we stated during 2011, we continue to see that the proliferation of maXTouch into new markets and applications. For example, maXTouch has recently expanded into gaming consoles with Sony's launch this past December of its PlayStation Vita in Japan. We expect the product to be shipping in North America by the end of February.

Other new areas recently adopting maXTouch products are wireless payment terminals, GPS navigation, touch-enabled home answering machines and medical equipment.

In the automotive space, we recently won designs in Japan in addition to previously announced wins in North America.

Another area where we expect major growth from maXTouch this year is the market first e-readers/tablets as they move to more sophisticated touch solutions to enhance the user interface.

And the market for button, sliders and wheel solutions, with Atmel's home-appliance-ready devices that were released approximately 6 months ago, we are experiencing accelerating design activity and increased order rates for our QTouch family of capacitive touch controllers for major appliance makers for washers, dryers, stovetops, refrigerators, HVAC controls and other consumer-related devices.

Many of these capacitive touch customers are complementary to our existing customer set for our core microcontroller products, thereby allowing us to leverage customer relationships by bringing increasing value to our customers.

Reviewing our nonvolatile memory segment. Total revenue was $55 million in the fourth quarter, down 16% sequentially and down 8% as compared to the fourth quarter of last year. The sequential decline in our memory business was primarily the result of slowing market conditions, reported by many of our customers in the PC business, combined with a weak pricing environment. As you are aware, the PC industry is suffering from a hard drive shortage due to flooding in Thailand.

On a positive note, we are seeing a pick-up demand for temperature sensor products for use in solid-state drives which are increasingly moving to the emerging ultrabook product category. We are also continuing to see increasing demand for the product line for a range of consumer and industrial applications.

Turning to the RF and automotive segment. Revenue declined to $47 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, down 10% sequentially and down 9% as compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. The decline during the fourth quarter was primarily due to weakness in our non-automotive RF business.

Our high-voltage automotive products continue to remain strong, delivering 6 consecutive quarters of revenue growth as we continue to gain new customers.

New areas for Atmel's growth in automotive include products dedicated for interior ambient lighting, as well as automotive capacitive touch, we are winning designs in Europe, North America and Japan.

As to new products in November, we announced the launch of the industry's first single package microcontroller with a low frequency RFID reader. The ATA5505, which is an AVR microcontroller with a low frequency RFID reader/writer front end and LIN interface, supports low-cost RFID readers using access control, industrial automation and animal identification applications.

We are confident about our growth prospects for the automotive business as we continue focusing on growing segments in the marketplace, which are synergistic with our microcontroller, memory and ASIC product lines.

Moving to the ASIC business segment. We delivered another excellent quarter as revenue of $66 million in the fourth quarter was up 9% sequentially and increased 12% as compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. We were able to catch up on military aerospace delinquencies during the quarter. Although we do expect that business levels to moderate going forward.

Looking at the fourth quarter revenue by geography. Asia was once again our largest ship-to location, representing 54% of revenue compared with 63% in the prior quarter. EMEA increased by 5 percentage points sequentially to 29% of revenue, while the Americas grew sequentially in absolute dollars and as a percentage of revenue, strengthening to 17% of revenue as compared to 13% of total revenue in the prior quarter.

For the first time in our company's history, Atmel announced our first-ever developers' conference, schedule for the September at the San Jose Convention Center. Our Atmel Technology Live conference offer developers an opportunity to interact with the experts behind the products and solutions that Atmel offers. Developers will have access to formal and informal panel discussions, exciting keynote presentations and hands-on workshops and demos.

In summary, while the industry's softness adversely impacted our results in the fourth quarter, we delivered excellent results for the full year 2011.

2011 revenue was the highest level in 11 years and represent an increase 15% from 2010 when adjusting for the divestiture of the company's Smart Card business. This growth is substantially greater than the overall semiconductor industry, which grew by only 0.4%.

Our focus on microcontrollers and other than proprietary products has fully paid off, as our microcontroller business generated record revenue for the past year of $1.1 billion, an increase of 25%. We gained substantial market share this past year and are now the third-largest microcontroller in the company in the semiconductor industry, passing our closest competitor during 2011.

As to other financial metrics, this is the first time in the company's history that our gross margin exceeded 50% for the full year. Our bottom line also improved dramatically with non-GAAP earnings per share for the year of $0.92 per diluted share, an increase of 56% from calendar 2010.

2011 was remarkably a year for the capacitive touch controller market and Atmel in particular. As the market more than doubled, Atmel grew even faster, gaining market share and extending its leadership position as maXTouch revenue exceeded $375 million. While the market for touch solutions is high-growth, it is also very dynamic and there is substantial uncertainty as to the adoption rate of touch into different applications.

Given Atmel's leading technology and strong market position, combined with enthusiastic customer acceptance of our new maXTouch S Series, we expect that maXTouch revenue for calendar 2012 will exceed that of 2011.

The fourth quarter was weak across most of our businesses and end markets and we began Q1 with a reduced backlog position. Due primarily to softness in our ASICs and memory businesses, we expect that first quarter revenue will perform below normal seasonality. However, the general tone of business is improving as seen by stronger bookings patterns, and we believe that Q1 will be the bottom for our business activity and that sequential growth will resume in the second quarter.

We are confident that Atmel's long-term strategy, exceptional product portfolio and extremely talented employees will enable us to quickly resume an accelerated growth rate.

Now let me turn the call back to Stephen for our Q1 financial guidance.

Stephen Cumming

Thank you, Steve. For the first quarter of 2012, the company expects revenue to be down 6% to 11% on a sequential basis. We expect gross -- we expect GAAP gross margin to be approximately 45% plus or minus 100 basis points in the first quarter of 2012.

For modeling purposes, on a non-GAAP basis, model 45.6%, plus or minus 100 basis points. We do expect Q1 to be the bottom for gross margins.

First quarter 2012 GAAP operating expenses are expected to be approximately $136 million, plus or minus $2 million. Non-GAAP operating expenses are expected to be approximately $119 million, plus or minus $2 million.

For the first quarter, depreciation and amortization is expected to be $19 million. Capital expenditures to be in the range of $5 million to $10 million and stock compensation to be approximately $19 million.

Other income and expenses is expected to be approximately $2 million to $3 million expense, and Quantum and our recent ADD Semiconductor acquisition-related costs are expected to be approximately $1.9 million for the quarter.

We expect our Q1 GAAP tax expense to be approximately $4 million to $5 million. For those doing non-GAAP models, we expect the non-GAAP or cash tax rate to be approximately 2% to 3% in Q1 and low single-digit percentages for the rest of the year.

For modeling purposes, assume a reduction in fully diluted share count to be approximately 450 million for GAAP and approximately 460 million for non-GAAP share count, as we see the full weighted average impact of the repurchase made in Q4.

This concludes our prepared remarks. We'll now open the call for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Hans Mosesmann with Raymond James.

Brian C. Peterson - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

This is Brian Peterson filling in for Hans.

Just a clarification question. So if I'm looking at the revenue decline of about $96 million sequentially, it sounds like most of that is -- was in the microcontrollers segment. But it looks like you guys actually hit your maXTouch target for the quarter. So I'm just trying to understand the dynamics that are happening in tablets to where you can still hit your target but that the segment has the majority of the weakness...

Steven A. Laub

So the reason for that, I think we touched on this last quarter, was that we have very strong Q3, particularly in the maXTouch products. And a lot of that was also related to the tablet growth, plus the combination of Q2, but particularly also strong Q3. And so we were able to, in our last call, to raise the guidance for the year due -- [indiscernible] this is can be appreciated how strong our touch business had been, while at the same time also communicating or we expect a very significant down in Q4, and again, primarily related to what we expected would be down because of touch and primarily because of the tablet business. And that, in fact, is what occurred. The majority of the down in the microcontroller business is due to touch, a vast majority of that. And that really is primarily due also to the impact of the tablets transition. The tablets transition is really, 2 things, as I mentioned. One being that the sell through of the Android tablets has been relatively light and much lower than expectation. And secondly, because the transition from multi-chip to single-chip solutions.

Brian C. Peterson - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Okay. Got you. And as a follow up, just on the inventory being up, I understand that sales being flat. But can you talk about potentially 1Q being the bottom and how -- maybe, how long it'll take you to work through this inventory and the gross margin dynamics there?

Stephen Cumming

Yes, it's Stephen. So firstly, we did reduce inventory in dollars in Q4, even with a very significant revenue decline. And we do expect that to continue to go down, going forward. Our plan is to work it down to our target ranges, which is somewhere between 120 and 130 days. I think it's worth noting that we do have a take-or-pay agreement with our fab in Rousset, France, which lasts for 3 years. So with -- that has contributed to the higher inventory that we have. And had we not have that, it would be lower at this point. I think also, it's worth noting that the inventory we are holding is predominantly within die bank that really gives us ultimate flexibility in terms of we build out of products and we're continuing to reduce the finished goods. So in essence, we're going to be reducing it down over the next few quarters, subject to revenue projections and growth.


You're next question comes from the line of James Schneider with Goldman Sachs.

James Schneider - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

You talk about the lower backlog in ASIC and memory, specifically. Can you talk about what the other businesses are going to do specifically, the overall microcontroller business and the RF and automotive segments relative to your down 6% to 11% guidance business, please?

Steven A. Laub

Yes, for the MC business in total, we expect it'll probably be down low single digits. Of that, we expect that our -- you can call it sort of our general microcontroller business, excluding touch will be essentially flat is our expectation for Q1. We think that the touch business would be down to some in Q1, primarily as our distributors in Asia are finishing their inventory balancing of the touch products. With respect to the rest of the businesses, ASICs, we expect will be down in the mid-teens. That's really because we had a very strong Q4 because of resolving the backlog delinquencies in the military aerospace business. And so now you're going back to the normal pattern of the business. The RFA business we expect will be down in the mid-single digits and memory will be down in the low double-digits.

James Schneider - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

And then relative to your commentary on the touch guidance for 2012, can you talk about the what -- led you to the saying it's going to grow rather than grow by some certain amount? Is it just uncertainty in terms of the inventory situation? Or what is that? And can you maybe talk to us a little bit about what the implicit assumption is in terms of like-for-like pricing in the touch market, given that, I think, many people are expecting the overall smartphone use grow mid-30s and tablets probably more than that this year?

Steven A. Laub

So the reason not for specific numbers, I don't think in any past, we've ever given a specific number this early in the year. It's just such a dynamic marketplace, it's very hard to appreciate exactly where that's going to be, and in fact, over the last 2 years, we've consistently beat the number that we've put out there. We are confident that we will grow, and that's primarily based along the very strong design activity that we're seeing. I think I mentioned during the prepared remarks that our design activity on maXTouch is at an all-time high. That's across smartphones, tablets and in this sort of other new applications as well. We have seen the same reports, the smartphone growth in the sort of 30-plus percentages. And we expect that our unit growth will also be very, very strong there, although we do think that there will be some ASP erosion, which will bring down the total revenue for the smartphone, relative to the unit growth in the coming year. On the tablet side, we also do expect a very strong uptick in the tablet side, particularly in the second half of the year, based on design activity that we're seeing now. And being an engineering partner on Windows 8 with Microsoft, we think that will give us a particularly strong position. And we can see that now in our design activity with a lot of different OEMs in the Windows 8 delivery of products in the second half of this year, whether those be tablets, convertible PCs or ultrabooks. And then we're also seeing a tremendous number of new designs in new applications as well. So if -- when we look at this totality, even adjusting for any type of ASP changes or content changes, for example, in tablets going from multichip to single-chip, we still see growth across each of those marketplaces for us.


You're next question comes from the line of Blayne Curtis with Barclays Capital.

Blayne Curtis - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Maybe just following up on that point, Steve. You obviously saw the correction in tablets in Q4. You're going through the transition to single chip. When you look at that business, I just wanted to clarify, are you still looking for growth in the, call it, the large screen tablets or convertible devices, whatever you want to call it, are you still looking for growth in that segment this year?

Steven A. Laub

So if I understand [ph] , with the tablets, convertible devices and ultrabooks, the answer is yes. So on a year-over-year basis, we -- our plans are and our expectations are that we will grow in that number. In that segment.

Blayne Curtis - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Got you. And then maybe just 2 clarifications for Stephen. First, the $11 million that you weren't able to recognize in Q4, if you could just give any color as to what segment that impacted? And then on the gross margin, I believe you flow through your inventory or you take that the underutilization as you flow it through, so you expect Q2 to be up. But when do you feel like all of the inventory will fully be flowed through?

Stephen Cumming

Yes, Blayne. So with regards to the reschedule of payments and the deferred revenue that impacted us in Q4, it went pretty much across all of the product lines. So there's no one in particular that it did impact. With regards to the overall utilization levels, it's actually a little bit of a hybrid to what you said. And that certain utilization thresholds, you would capitalize some of those fixed costs and hold them up in the inventory, and then unravel in subsequent quarters. But once you operate with below a certain operational level, a lot of that then get period expensed. So what we're actually seeing in Q1 is certain expenses are getting period expensed, that will not repeat in Q2. So gross margins will start to improve into Q2, we're calling Q1 as the bottom. And then depending on the revenue levels, we do expect them to get back in subsequent quarters north of 50%.


You're next question comes from the line of...

Steven A. Laub

Yes, this is Steve. I just want to add an additional point. On the deferred payment, I don't know, I think -- but you may have asked the question about when that revenue will come back in. But just for verification for everyone, the expectation is majority of that will actually be in Q2 as compared to Q1. We're getting it back about first 2 quarters, but majority of it in Q2.


You're next question comes from the line of Sujee De Silva with ThinkEquity.

Sujeeva De Silva - ThinkEquity LLC, Research Division

Just trying to understand, I think, Steve, in terms of the segments within touch, how they grow in '12? What's the mix do you expect between smartphones and tablets and the new touch products would be versus '11?

Steven A. Laub

So the mix -- let me give you 2011 mix. The 2011 mix for the smartphones was 60% to 70% of our total, tablets, 25% to 35% and other was between 5% and 10% or new applications. For us, I'm not going to give you a specific as to the general mix, although what I do expect is this is not going to book a lot different in 2012 because we're expecting, as I mentioned before, we're expecting growth in all 3. Right now perhaps, the other grows, actually, a little bit faster. But the new applications grows a little bit faster than the other 2. But right now, we're expecting -- and it's coming from smaller base, so the growth rate will be -- will, obviously, it's easier to have a higher growth rate. But right now, I would say those are probably not bad as a general sense for the mix in Q -- see this for 2012 as well.

Sujeeva De Silva - ThinkEquity LLC, Research Division

Okay. And then on the distributor issue you had late in the reporting period there, it's my understanding of the revenue that you missed there, most of that coming back in 2Q. Is there any contributions to 1Q from that? And also how can we be comfortable -- that was an isolated event versus the distributors that you use, generally?

Stephen Cumming

Yes, Sujee, this is Stephen. So you're right, the majority of that will come in Q2. We will get a little bit back in Q1. So we feel comfortable that this is collectible. We have a payment plan in place. We are -- we do a very thorough review of all of our distributors around the world, particularly in Asia. So there's a lot of controls and credit controls around these sorts of things. This is definitely an isolated event that we expect to remedy in the first half of this year.


Your next question comes from the line of Steven Eliscu with UBS.

Steven Eliscu - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

First of all on microcontrollers, excluding touch, if given some of your selling dynamics in Asia after you're seeing inventory rebalancing a bit later, do you still feel that you can gain microcontroller share if we exclude touch controllers in 2012?

Steven A. Laub

The answer to that is yes. We do -- obviously, we track within all of our product lines their individual performance and then how they are proving against their competition. We track how they've done in 2011. And from what we can tell, based on the remarks by other people, we have gained share, 2011, in that business. We expect also in 2012 to do the same.

Steven Eliscu - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

So in other words, if microcontrollers are flat for the industry, you will grow?

Steven A. Laub

Yes, I mean, a lot of it, obviously, dependent as how the industry does. But whatever the industry does, we expect to do better than the industry does.

Steven Eliscu - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Okay. And as a follow-up question on the big buyback, should we look at that, the taking down the share count significantly, should we look at that more as a onetime event that you saw an opportunity with the share price or should we expect, over time, a more material lowering of share count?

Stephen Cumming

Steven, I think what it demonstrates is that we announced to the investment community, I think it was in 2010 timeframe, intention to do a significant buyback. We subsequently increased the size of that. I think we've demonstrated consistently that we have moved forward with that each quarter since its adoption. And now we've increased that because we feel very good about the company and its position and its prospects. But I wouldn't -- we're not going to single to you our future intentions with respect to that.


You next question comes from the line of Raji Gill with Needham & Company.

Rajvindra S. Gill - Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division

You talked about ASP erosion seeing a little bit having accelerated this year. Can you maybe talk, elaborate a little bit further on -- is that -- are you seeing that from the handset OEMs? Are you seeing that from competitive pricing from Synaptics or Cypress or other competitors? Any dynamic there you could just describe in terms of the ASP erosion?

Steven A. Laub

Yes, I think my comment was really to do with 2012 because I think the expectation is that the smartphone marketplace, I think, the current forecast that people are looking at or saying it will grow roughly 30% plus. We expect to, on a unit basis, to hold a very substantial share. But I don't expect that our -- necessarily our revenues will climb with the same amount. It's either -- will there be ASP erosion there? I think we've mentioned is we are now penetrating into these sort of lower node count or some of the sort of lower-end smartphones the we didn't participate in. Initially, we've always primarily been a high-end and mid-range player. We're now participating in all 3. And so the better way to think about it is our overall ASP, driven by mix is probably what's going to drive that. So we may see more that kind of impact. We're not saying -- I would say any kind of extraordinary or unusual changes on the ASPs in that business. The only place we are seeing -- across our businesses is where, I'd say, it's been more erosion is in our memory business.

Rajvindra S. Gill - Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And then just some on non-touch microcontroller business, a competitor microchip, which is, I think, the #2 supplier, I think guided up 1% to 5% for Q1. You're guiding your non-touch microcontroller business flat. They're obviously are more broad-based. But could you describe maybe that vis-à-vis microchip?

Steven A. Laub

I think there's a slight aerodynamics between the 2 of us. They also, I think, had their business declined pretty substantially. Q3, we as a company saw that our general business was actually slightly up in Q3. And so I think that, that's not a material difference for us whether it be Q1 or Q2 on that business. And I know also, you guys often distinguish between the sort of general microcontroller, the touch microcontrollers. We look at those too, but at the same time, we look at the total microcontroller business for which we feel very proud having achieved 25% growth and exceeding $1.1 billion when the rest of the industry, I think at best, saw perhaps low single-digit growth, and many people actually saw decline. And I think when it's all rolled up, we actually feel very proud of that business. And we do look at it as a total microcontroller business.


Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Schreiner with Capstone Investments.

Jeffrey A. Schreiner - Capstone Investments, Research Division

My first question quickly is just what percentage of your overall maybe touch phone units are likely be sub-$100 ASP smartphones during calendar year '12?

Steven A. Laub

We don't break out that kind of distinction with the gossipers. I mean, it's relevant from the standpoint of what they'll pay for a touch controller and the kind of features, performance and so what they're providing. But we don't provide that sort of guidance necessarily to an external marketplace.

Jeffrey A. Schreiner - Capstone Investments, Research Division

And can you help us maybe directionally or maybe start to shape a little bit for us what the potential snapback in industrial, leading market for Atmel? And certainly, with your distributors could be given several periods of what has been probably under shipping demand or certainly below seasonal levels, if Q1 is the bottom, how quickly can things really reaccelerate based on the visibility you have today?

Steven A. Laub

That's a very good question. So to give you guys a sense, we're already seeing, for example, and I'll give you guys a little bit more granularity on our business. So our backlog coverage, which somebody hasn't asked yet, but I'll provide it to you guys, our backlog coverage going into currently as compared to last quarter at this time is roughly the same as a percent. So what I mean by that is our backlog is a percent of our final number last quarter, is roughly the same today our backlog coverage as a percent of our guidance to you for this quarter. But one big difference we're seeing from the standpoint of the tone of the business is that our bookings that we saw in January are about -- are over 25% higher than our bookings than we saw in October. So we're already seeing a very significant change in the tone of the bookings, and we actually do expect that the strength in total bookings will continue to increase through February and March as we do believe that the channel, the inventory levels for our customers is actually quite light now. So in that respect, as I said, we do really see a change in tone of the business. We do see that, with confidence, that Q1 will be that bottom. I do think this industry, fortunately or unfortunately, because of its cyclicality does lend itself to quite a strong snapback. And I do expect to see that, that could begin as early as Q2. I do not expect it will be quite will be experience in 2009 and '10, timeframe because I think the drop in that time from us much more substantial. But nevertheless, I do expect that we'll start seeing some of that recovery back to the norm of our business in the Q2 timeframe. The reason for that is you get the double whammy of both our customers beginning to buy consistent with their run rates. On top of that, they also need to buy inventories now to replenish consistent with those run rates as well. And so that's why you get that snapback effect.


Your next question comes from the line of Kevin Rottinghaus with Cleveland Research.

Kevin George Rottinghaus - Cleveland Research Company

My questions have been answered.


Your next question comes from the line of John Vinh with Collins Stewart.

John Vinh - Collins Stewart LLC, Research Division

Steve, I just had a quick clarification. You talked about the 30% plus unit growth in smartphone. And I just wanted to clarify, do you expect, on a unit basis, for you guys to continue to track in line with that unit growth expectation in 2012?

Steven A. Laub

I do think that our unit growth in 2012 would be consistent with that because we have begun to participate much more in this sort of, I would say, the lower end part of the marketplace. We're not participating at the bottom of the low end. And so it will depend to some extent on what the mix is of growth is next year -- or excuse me, this year. If the bottom of the low end tends to be the highest growth aspect, then we would probably track slightly below that. But we are participating much more in the Asian market places, on the Asian smartphone marketplaces, I think we announced a number of design wins during our call, consistent with that. And so I think that's going to allow us to participate and to have a much greater -- have unit growth consistent with industry.

John Vinh - Collins Stewart LLC, Research Division

Great. And then my follow-up question is if you look at the larger screen market, can you give us a sense of how we should be looking at the mix in 2012 of traditional tablets versus convertibles versus ultrabooks? And I don't know if you also talk about eReaders within that segment as well?

Steven A. Laub

So, first of all, the way we look at it is the following, everybody has access to the same information, to the same suppliers and same OEMs. I don't think anybody has a crystal ball that can tell you exactly what the volumes are going to be on these tablets, ultrabooks, convertible PCs and so forth. The beauty for us is that our solutions work in all of them. And so what we look at is the general uptick of the entire marketplace. We look at all the different pieces, different segments for that, and assure ourselves that we have solutions that will work in each of them. It's not as important for us whether it be a tablet, whether it be a convertible PC, whether it be an ultrabook. The important thing for us is to make sure that we have that design. And so we take from that standpoint, we look at what people are projecting, both our customers, as well as what the third parties are projecting. And we actually take a more conservative approach than what the bullish forecast are out there, because we think things always take a little longer than people anticipate. The beauty for us is that with the relationships that we have with the OEMs, the fact that we are co-engineering partner with Microsoft and that we have the reference designs and designs occurring right now for this marketplace. When it does take off, we think we're really extremely well-positioned to capitalize on that.


Your next question comes from the line of Li-Wen Zhang with Pacific Crest.

Li-Wen Zhang - Pacific Crest Securities, Inc., Research Division

Would you please provide the channel inventory by the end of Q4?

Stephen Cumming

Yes, Li-Wen, it's Stephen here. Our channel inventory is approximately around 12 weeks as we exited the year.

Li-Wen Zhang - Pacific Crest Securities, Inc., Research Division

Okay. So actually increased from 11 weeks last quarter -- no, at the end of Q3, right?

Stephen Cumming

That's correct, yes.

Li-Wen Zhang - Pacific Crest Securities, Inc., Research Division

How about in dollar terms?

Stephen Cumming

In dollar terms, it went down. I don't -- but it directly went down.

Li-Wen Zhang - Pacific Crest Securities, Inc., Research Division

Okay. And then also, what is the mix for wafer shipments internal versus outsourcing?

Stephen Cumming

It's roughly now more in-sourced than in our foundries. We're probably about in the mid to upper 50s in-sourced versus the foundries, percent-wise.


Your next question comes from the line of Betsy Van Hees with Wedbush.

Betsy Van Hees - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

I was wondering if you could go back to the inventory, $11 million. Can you let us know when that product shipped? And then was it you that found the issue or was it your auditors that found the issue that, so late in the quarter or actually in the review cycle?

Stephen Cumming

Yes. Betsy, during our normal control processes, we identified the issue. It was found by us. We put immediate controls in place. It's a sort of thing that, given the nature of those distributors and the size of accounts that they use for fulfillment, the volumes are fairly substantial. So this can creep up with you pretty quickly. So we did find issue. We corrected it pretty quickly. As I said earlier, we deferred that revenue and we do believe we've got a payment in place and we'll get paid for it.

Betsy Van Hees - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Stephen, so did you ship the product to them in Q3, in Q4...

Stephen Cumming

This is product that we shipped to them in Q4.

Betsy Van Hees - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Okay. And was it during the entire quarter or towards the end of the quarter?

Stephen Cumming

It was fairly linear throughout quarter, Betsy.


At this time, there are no further questions. Mr. Schuman, are there any closing remarks, sir?

Peter Schuman

Yes, thank you, Misty. During the first quarter, Atmel will be presenting at the San Francisco -- in San Francisco at Pacific Crest Emerging Technology Summit on Tuesday, February 14. The Goldman Sachs Technology Conference on Wednesday, February 15, and the Morgan Stanley Tech Conference on Wednesday, February 29. We'll also be in New York for the Wedbush Technology Media and Telecommunications Conference on Wednesday, March 7. Webcast information for these events will be available on the company's Investor Relations website.

In the meantime, you're always welcome to contact our Investor Relations Department at (408) 518-8426 with any questions that arise. And thank you again for joining us, and this concludes today's call.

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