STMicroelectronics' Management Presents at UBS European Technology Conference (Transcript)

| About: STMicroelectronics NV (STM)

STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE:STM)

UBS European Technology Conference Call

March 8, 2012 03:45 am ET


Franki D'Hoore - Director, IR


Unidentified Analyst

Thank you very much for coming and Philippe as you know now is the head of strategy at Europe, so (inaudible) and Philippe thank you very much for coming this morning. I appreciate your time. So over to you.

Philippe Lambinet

Thank you very much. Okay, I will go pretty quickly on the slides and then leave as much time as possible for the Q&A.

Okay. Let's go through this in [indeed]. I hope not to give you too many forward-looking statements today, but ST for those who don't know roughly a $10 billion company in 2011, 50,000 employees, a lot of R&D and manufacturing sites all over the world mainly in Europe, but also in Singapore and China for assembly. And a 25-year old company now. So it’s a very important anniversary for us.

So let's dive quickly in the results of 2011 in particular Q4. As you well know 2011 was quite an interesting year. It started well and then a lot of disasters happened, starting from that tsunami in Japan and also the floods in Thailand affected our industry. And ST had to face particular headwinds linked to the performance of our number one customer. So we went through pretty rough times starting in the middle of 2011. However we managed to perform quite well on the core business, the wholly-owned business with profitability in line with the models we had anticipated. The situation at our 50-50 subsidiary, ST Ericsson has been much more challenging. And the transition from our legacy product and legacy customers particularly Nokia and Sony Ericsson has proven to be more difficult than we felt and although we are developing a lot of new customers, the poor performance of the traditional customer has been affecting the results.

In Q4 we did publish results in line with the guidance, however we had to face pretty severe fab underloading. So our fabs were not full and therefore this affected our gross margin in a very significant way. Now all in all, we have a very strong financial position and our own financial position is close to $1.3 billion net cash.

So it was tough environment, but we have managed to adapt and keep a very strong financial position. This is the way our business is organized. I am in charge of the digital sector, so that part of the company plus Corporate Strategy Officer and we have also the automotive business, the analog and microcontroller business which includes what we call extreme analog, the MEMS and also we have the power discrete and the wireless business is what we have in our joint venture with Ericsson

Total revenue, you can see here a lot of structural changes in the way our business has been structured. The pink part here is the former Flash Memory Business which has been carved out first in a joint venture with Intel, (inaudible) and then acquired by Micron.

So we’re totally out of the Flash Memory Business and here you see the 2009 crisis and the proportion of wireless going down basically in our portfolio, so a very strong 2010 year. You see the whole-owned business growth was really very strong in 2010.

You see a stable 2011 wholly-owned business and slight growth even despite the very tough market condition. However, you see a continuous decrease of the wireless business, the ST Ericsson business. So that slide shows really the few, very few graphs, the fundamental evolution of our business.

So the challenge of course is to continue to outperform the market on the wholly-owned business and to turnaround the ST Ericsson business. That’s the job in front of us.

Coming back to the wholly-owned business, we actually performed in a very rough environment in 2011. We performed quite well. You see here the evolution of the market which went down in 2011. And our core business went slightly up. So we gained market share as represented in this chart. We went from 5.7% to 5.8% market share in 2011. So we did perform well in our wholly-owned business.

However, of course, as you know the ST Ericsson side of the business did not perform as well. This is the split of our business by segment, by industry segment. Automotive, a very strong part of our core business. We're well positioned geographically. We’re number three worldwide, but we’re number one in China, where the growth is actually the fastest. In computer peripherals, number one in print head, that is a very nice business of ours and number two in the multi control for printers and hard disk drives.

In consumer we are number two worldwide and number one outside of the US where the growth is happening. So we continue to enjoy here, nice growth in emerging markets such as China and India where ST has a very strong leadership. Industrial and others were number three worldwide, communications number three worldwide, however this is the problem area of the company through our joint venture with Ericsson and in distribution 23% of our business, that’s also an area for future growth.

So these are the revenues by product segment, product organizations finally and this mimics pretty much the segment revenues as I described in the previous slide. By the way, regarding the wireless activity here, this is the proportion of our business. However this is the consolidated result, we consolidate a 100% of the results of ST Ericsson. However at the earnings level, it was a 50-50 share with Ericsson. So the exposure we have at earnings level to the wireless business is actually 9%.

We sell worldwide, of course being an European company we still have a strong foothold in our home region. 38% of our billing has customer origin based in Europe based in EMEA. Of course if you look at the billings, 2/3rd of our billings goes to Asia. However, only one-third of our billing comes from Asian customers. So we have, from a customer origin standpoint, a very strong foothold in the west, 38% in EMEA and 29% in America but a very much growing presence also with Asian customers. As far as billing and area of shipment is concerned clearly the manufacturing center of the world is there in Asia and that's where we ship a lot of our products and this is also why we have a very strong presence of backend assembly and test facilities in Asia particularly in Philippines and China and Malaysia.

For the core business we've been gaining as I said we've been gaining shares in tough markets. These are our traditional top 10 customers. In 2011 we created a new sales initiative targeting 20 other accounts, 20 new top accounts and we've reported actually very nice results in the first two years of that action. We see 40% growth in 2010 on those top 20 new accounts and 19% growth again in market going down. That's a great result.

In the mass market, particularly through distribution we also enjoy much faster growth than the mass market. So these were big efforts from a sales organization, which actually paid off nicely in 2010-2011. In our top accounts, clearly some of them have been performing extremely well and in the top 10 and some of them have been performing much less well. Nokia in particular in the second half of the year went below the 10% threshold, although for the year they are still slightly above 10% of our sales and in the end of the year they went down below 10%.

Some of our achievements in terms of operations, in terms of manufacturing; 2011 was a year, particularly the first half of year of pretty heavy CapEx. We had to increase our capacity to serve as the demanding MEMS Switch almost doubled from 2010 to 2011. So we have doubled the capacity in our Agrate MEMS fab, 8-inch fab for MEMS in Italy. We continue to improve our Singapore facility converting from 5-inch to 6-inch and starting the conversion to 8-inch there. And the rest of the investments was a lot of mixed enhancements to be able to produce, to prepare for the next generation processes. That’s particularly true for [Crolles] our 12-inch facility, which is now fully ready to ramp-up 28 nano, but of course we have to do some equipment investments there, not to increase capacity, which we increased to improve the mix for those advanced processes.

We also started to ramp-up in the same facility, some of the standalone products in 12-inch. We completed the closure of Phoenix, so we don’t have fabs in the U.S. anymore.

In backend again we grew our capacity, driven by customer demand, in particular again the MEMS, because we doubled the sales, we have to double, in fact more than double the capacity to be ready for further growth this year. So that’s the CapEx in 2011. It’s above the 10% average, which we think is sustainable across the cycle. In 2012, the CapEx will be much lower and already at the end of 2011, we significantly kept the CapEx in Q4. The CapEx was below $100 million and we anticipate that during the first half of this year, CapEx should remain in that $100 million per quarter range. So much, much lower than the run rate of last year. For the second half it’s really too early to say, it will depend on market conditions.

So, manufacturing priorities for 2012, again as I said, CapEx to sales over a cycle, will remain below 10%. So 2012 will be, let’s say, a low year compared to the 10% threshold, whereas 2011 was a high year. We will continue to increase outsourcing. Clearly, outsourcing is a great way for us to manage flexibility. We’ve been able to repatriate a lot of outsourcing to our own internal fabs in 2011 to maximize the loading, which will still been in that mode of maximizing internal production in the first half of this year to maximize the loading of our own internal fab and then as year progresses, we will be sure to increase outsourcing again in the second half. So the target is to load as much as we can, of course, on our internal fab.

These are some of the areas of focus in our portfolio. There is Sense and Power side of the company, where we have a really, broad portfolio and some important success stories in the areas of MEMS sensors, in the areas of 32-bit MCUs and a lot of growth potentials also in the areas of power management with things like new applications, like smart grid and electrical cars and hybrid cars.

The other side of the company, in the area of Multimedia Convergence, clearly the focus is going to be on turning around the ST-Ericsson business and of course it is very important for us to maintain our leadership in the area of digital consumer applications.

This slide shows the sweet spots of our industry and on that axis you have the market size and on that axis you have the market growth. So definitely where you want to be, of course is the top right corner of that slide. And whenever there is a text near a bullet, it means ST is participating actively in those markets and whenever there is no text, ST is not participating. So you see there is a concentration of text on the upper right corner, which is a good sign, means we are participating, where the growth is going to be and where the size is significant., There is few exceptions to this but most of the markets we are participating are actually high growth markets and sizable markets. So clearly this is the area of focus in the company and you see many of our strengths areas like you set-top box, like automotive, like energy, home automation and of course you see there tablet and smartphones, where the ST-Ericsson is active and where we again we need to turn around the business.

How does that translate into numbers? You have here the results of fiscal year 2010 and 2011 by quarter also, so you see a performance in 2011 which has been affected by the market situation and by ST-Ericsson performance. Here ST-Ericsson results are consolidated, 100% in the top-line here. So although the core business grew, total business decreased from 2010 to 2011 as a result of the decrease of ST-Ericsson sales.

You see also a lower gross margins, which is really driven by the under-loading of our fabs in the second half of 2011. However, you see a solid net income and a net financial position which actually managed to improve between 2010 and 2011. So we’ve been able to generate cash despite the tough market conditions.

So this is how our net financial position evolved in the last three years, so this is end of 2008, this is end of 2011. So you see a $1.7 billion improvement over three years, so those three years actually included two crises, so not so bad performance considering how difficult 2009 was in our industry and how difficult the second half of 2011 was. So we are not unhappy of this situation and this is despite the cash consumption of the joint venture, ST-Ericsson joint venture which has been consuming quite a lot of cash as you all know.

So over this period we’ve been able to pay dividends. There's only very few exceptions of some very deep crisis calls where we temporarily suspend this, but overall we've been paying decent dividends. As far as next year is concerned of course, it’s up to the shareholders to decide and this will be known imminently as the resolutions for general assembly of shareholders will be published in April. But it’s always been our policy to pay dividend to our shareholders.

So we now have a level of yield which is high. Hopefully, the stock price will fix that yield and bring it to a more reasonable level. But anyway, we’ve been very constant in willingness to pay dividends to our shareholders.

During 2012 I think the top three priorities are fixing ST-Ericsson, fixing ST-Ericsson and fixing ST-Ericsson. This is really top on our agenda and this will be the plan. The plan will be published by ST-Ericsson as you will know imminently. ST-E’s CEO, Didier Lamouche in Barcelona committed to deliver a plan to get back to sustainable profitability around the end of March, beginning of April. So it’s coming in few days now.

Clearly there is other important items on our agenda, but this is the number one by far. We have a lot of new products coming on the market. We are ramping up now. This year in 2012 we are ramping up a lot of things to help us gain market share and that goes from power PowerMOS products up to 28 nanometer set-top box and TV products. So it’s a very wide range of new, very aggressive products which will help us continue to gain share in the core business.

And definitely MEMS continues to be a very important area for growth for us. We’ve reorganized as you may have seen. You should know our organization before. We’ve reorganized all the digital part of the company which I am heading now and of course this has the aim to exploit synergies and be more efficient there. So there is a roadmap for improvement of the profitability of the digital side of ST as well.

This year also, with the recovery of the market, which we think is going to happen, we should have a much better loading and therefore be able to exploit flexibility; we’ve to build with external foundries and therefore continue to reduce overall CapEx to sales ratio and therefore generate even more cash.

So these are the agenda items all ST management has for this year. It’s going to be again a busy year. It’s not going to be an easy year in the first half, because the market is still not great although, it’s getting better and as we’ve anticipated in our Q1 results when we published our 2011 results in Q1, we think the market has reached a bottom in terms of booking in Q4 last year.

So the bookings are doing better now in Q1 than they were doing last year which will translate in terms of billings, in terms of top-line will translate in recovering Q2 versus Q1; so Q1 should be the bottom in terms of sales; Q4 was the bottom in terms of order entry.

So we see not a great recovery, it’s not like when we move from 2009 to 2010 and the recovery was extremely sharp, extremely hard and it was actually tough to follow the demand of the customers. This time the recovery is much softer, but it’s there. So we continue to say what we said in January, we think we have hit the bottom and moving forward it’s starting to grow again.

I think now it’s time for Q&A. And Celine and I will try to answer all your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

I am just intrigued on your last one about that there is a market recovery and specifically to maybe your consumer related areas which you had a very tough year last year and driven by a lot of extraneous factors like earthquakes and floods etcetera, no plagues or locusts but that's probably the next one. So can you talk about the recovery in those areas whether you are seeing a kind of faster than the group recovery or whether it’s still quite slow?

Philippe Lambinet

No, the recovery I was talking about earlier is across all markets, across all regions, so it’s not linked to any particular market. In the area of consumer there were two factors really in 2011 that made the environment extremely tough. There was the over inventory situation at the end of 2010. 2010 was too good in a way, so we shipped way too much products compared to the real end demand. We shipped whatever our customers wanted, so they wanted too much. So this resulted in an inventory connection in 2011, so this was the first factor.

The second factor was more external conditions, yeah so overall demand, overall economy let's say consumption which of course affects consumer business and external factors such as the tsunami and Thailand flood and so on and the Euro Zone economic situation which gave a lot of uncertainty and therefore not too much appetite for investments and consumer consumption.

So all these external factors made it a very bad year. Now today our projection is not that 2012 is going to be a great year, it’s going to be better than 2011, but there's still a lot of uncertainties. The Euro Zone situation is far from being solved, so although we see good GDP growth and therefore probably good end customer consumption in US and Asia.

We still see Europe as a weak area and however there's some also factors that should help the consumer business in 2012. Olympic games and European football championship are usually good factors for people subscribing to pay television or people buying new TV sets or people buying new consumer gear.

So these are good external factors this year rather than bad external factors like last year. So we see a good recovery, we’ve started to see in our bookings. The booking level in consumer prior to Chinese New Year was very significantly better than last year and we were a bit nervous because there could have been an anticipation because of Chinese New Year. We are nervous about back from Chinese New Year, would that trend continue.

I have to say that after Chinese New Year, so the whole through February, let’s say the booking level have continued to be better than last year. So the recovery is not just a small effect of people wanting to place orders or going on vacation, it’s a real thing which will be across the quarter scene. So there is definitely signs of improvement. As I said it’s not as sharp as the 2009 to 2010 recovery. It’s still a bit less positive, but it’s positive.

Unidentified Analyst

I know, you have got a very strong position in the Set Top box market and ambitions in Digital TV. But I was recently talking to company in Asia that’s very strong in TV and has great ambitions in Set Top box. And then layered on top of that, some people have actually exited the TV chip market. Can you just sort of talk around what you think your prospects are in those area?

Unidentified Company Representative

I think there’s a few evolutions of the markets that are going in our favor and although the market today is dominated by two Taiwanese, both names starting with an M and they’re clearly dominating this market driving a very tough pricing situation and therefore, today it’s not a great market to be in now.

Now what's changing fundamentally, I would say, two major changes are happening in this market. The number one change is the de-verticalization of Japanese TV makers. Toshiba used to source from Toshiba Semiconductor. Panasonic use to source from Matsushita Semiconductors, et cetera, et cetera, so Sony from Sony and so on. So, the Japanese TV industry was very much vertical and integrated. This is disappearing. As you know, the Japanese semiconductor industry is growing through very drastic changes.

Some people are focusing more on memories like Toshiba, some people are focusing on other things, but we see a very big trend where the internal sources are actually not anymore willing to continue the roadmap and serve their internal consumption. So that’s 30% of the market is opening up and it’s not opening up to so much to Taiwanese makers. There is a reluctance from Japanese makers to open too much of their consumption to those two Taiwanese.

And this is happening at the same time when Trident is in chapter 11, nobody knows what's going to happen to their TV business. Broadcom is out, Intel is out and so on and [Zoran] is out. So there is two things, yeah the competition is getting simpler and the internal sourcing is opening up. So this is one fundamental trend which is favorable to us.

The other trend which is favorable to us in a way, but you know as usual there is always two sides of a coin, is the market is moving away from this cost being the number one priority to feature being the number one priority. So TV is going through changes that are extremely similar to phones. And the winners of tomorrow are not necessarily the winners of today. So the phones went from the them phones to feature phone to smartphones and in that revolution you know ST Ericsson suffered a lot of course and some traditional leaders like Nokia suffered a lot and new leaders emerged like Apple, like Samsung and so on, Android in particular the (inaudible) HTC and so on.

So the TV is going to go through the same changes, which means for us an opportunity, also means for us a threat because people like Qualcomm who are not at all in TV are entering the TV space because the Smart TV is not so far from a smart phone. So it's mostly an opportunity and a threat. If we play it well, if we understand well how we can synergize in the ST digital sector across all applications and why not together with our friends at ST Ericsson if we understand well how to play this and we play it well, it is a good opportunity for us and it’s a big threat for the two Taiwanese , MStar and MediaTek.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. So you think your main opportunity is with the Japanese TV, not the Korean TV manufacturers?

Philippe Lambinet

Well, the Koreans, I think one Korean remains and we will probably become much more verticalized. So we see Samsung following in TV, the same thing they are following in their smartphones, which is the source, the core from Samsung semiconductor. So we don't think Samsung is going to open up much, probably the other way. However LG remains an important target.

Unidentified Analyst

So if I ask another and changing direction, your asset light manufacturing model and what kicks you in the backend especially given, you having to invest in copper?

Philippe Lambinet

Well, the cost. I mean the strategic, you know, we are not doing backend because we love to be in plastic, gold, copper and things like that. We do it because it’s much cheaper. We have a cost advantage versus outsourcing, which is tremendous and we do it purely for cost reasons. We also do it, one area, for example. Today the proportion of copper versus gold in ST factories is much, much higher than the proportion of copper to gold in assembly subcontractor. We have been leaders in moving from gold to copper for cost reasons, because we control our manufacturing and we've been able to implement the process transition. So a much faster than any subcontractor. So and now the subcontractors are following us. So clearly the fact we've mastered the process, we've mastered this part of the technology, is giving us a tremendous advantage.

Now, we don’t want to do everything. Thee some packages we are were very happy to do outside, because the advantage is not great, but on very high volume packages, we are extremely competitive and we have a big cost advantage. When you subcontract, the subcontractor has to make margin. And the fact we do internally in the same areas in the same region because we don’t produce in Europe in backend. Now we produce in low cost countries mostly. So we are as competitive as they are in terms of infrastructure cost and labor. We buy at cost, so we don’t have to go to let them enjoy margin. So it’s very simple. And really we are very competitive in the backend. That’s’ it.

Unidentified Analyst

Thanks a lot. You mentioned the restructuring of your operations into one digital unit this year and you also mentioned how less famous Set Top Box business, you are seeing new entrants like Qualcomm and you also said your top priority is ST-Ericsson, ST-Ericsson, ST-Ericsson. Can you help us understand the possible synergies between ST-Ericsson and your digital business? Thanks,

Philippe Lambinet

Okay. I will do it conceptuality. This is in no way to be understood as an announcement or anything like that. But conceptually the world is moving to, and this is a message, I remember passing in every year in Las Vegas consumer electronic show. I do a speech about the trends in consumer electronics and already three years ago, I was talking about the evolution of the set top box moving to more and more open systems, internet open systems. So moving from proprietary operating system, like the CDI or NDS or open TV or like (inaudible), you know, proprietary operating systems, in to more open operating systems, such as Android and this is a fundamental trend.

Now as this happens, in set-top box, as this happens in TV, some TV manufacturers in China, 100% of their connected TVs are developed based on Android today. It’s not 10%. It’s 100%. Some of the major TV makers in China are basing all their connected TV strategy on Android. So, we’re talking about pretty heavy change here and as these things happen and you know, the story of Android and smartphone. Isn’t that pretty obvious that there are things that we should share more and things we could do together more. I think it’s very obvious.

So first, we do it in ST because you know, we see set-top box TV, car navigation and so we’re moving to very similar platforms, very, very similar. And I think, the obvious concept is that at some point, to be defined, there would be synergies exploited between what we’re doing in ST what we’re doing in ST-Ericsson. They are already by the way quite logical, which is not seeing because the products are different but you know, it’s pretty obvious, that’s a trend, which we will continue over the next years and that makes a lot of sense also for our customers and that makes a lot of sense for the ecosystem and because you know people -- we have seen for example the set-top box business and the TV business of some of our customers being merge into one. That has happened to Samsung, now it’s under one organization, which used to be under two or three or four organization, now it’s the same boss has the TV and set-top boxes businesses in Samsung. And we see it across the market.

So as our customers are doing it, you know we have no choice, but to do it as well so that’s what these all new organization means and by the way, we also see some of our more traditional ASIC business for example which we’re doing for communication infrastructure, at the end of the day ASIC used to be, just give a few cells to customers and they do the design themselves; now the kind of cell you have to provide is a full as part of the system here, with the dual 8 or 9 with the 3D graphics with the video processing and that’s the base for various it design.

So the world of ASIC is also changing; it is also aligning towards this kind of application process and platform, so that’s also why our ASIC business has been included inside the digital sector because that’s side of the business also.

Now when I mention Qualcomm entering the TV business, I didn’t mention them entering the set-top business, so I just want to back on your point. The set-top box business has certain characteristics in terms of fragmentation, in terms of security which are very particular and not everybody can enter that market and you know that’s one area of difficulty for the Taiwanese, but also for some of our American competitors like Marvell or Qualcomm who would love to enter set-top box. Broadcom and us have some particular security technologies which are extremely tough to master and which are very important for content protection and are essential.

Now we believe by the way, security technologies will become important in many other businesses which content protection is very important. So actually that’s why I went very fast in some of my slides, but clearly data protection, security is an area for ST of traditional strength and we intend to leverage that strength in many other businesses. It’s very clear that the hackers, terrorists and industrial spies are driving a need for higher security levels in every system that's true for a TV and set-top box, but that's also true for a smartphone, for a router and for any devices. So it’s very important for us to use that competitive advantage in many markets and again here we are in advance compared to many of our competitors.

Unidentified Analyst

Sorry I don’t want to hold the mike. But, MEMS, I don't know whether I am right in thinking they are something like doubled in revenue terms last year; is it going to do the same this year?

Philippe Lambinet

At a certain size it’s getting tough to double, but its going to continue to grow fast, its too early to say whether it will double or not. We have high ambitions clearly and we have high ambitions first because some of our customers are extremely healthy. So our growth is driven all by the growth of our customers and the market in general. But our growth is also driven by introduction of new types of MEMS. We started with accelerometers and actually the first application wasn’t smartphone. It was gaming, remote controls, joysticks. Then we entered the smartphone area and now we are leaders in this kind of application for MEMS through not only accelerometers, but also gyroscopes. So that was the first transition.

I think gyroscope business on top of accelerometers. This year we will introduce a lot of new MEMS families, some of them we demonstrated in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, things like pressure sensors, things like MEMS microphone, things like magnetometers I think that’s the proper pronunciation, I am not so sure. So there is a lot of new MEMS families that are being introduced and of course this will help us grow.

In 2011 we had 0% share of magnetometer. This was a Japanese source business. We had 0% share in pressure sensors. We had 0% share in microphones. So this is in evolution and therefore will help us to drive growth. So we have a very wide portfolio of MEMS now, starting from just one type to two types then to five, six. So there is a big expansion there. And of course, I was looking, this some of which I don’t want to make any advertising.

So I will hide the brand, but this one is big screens, so everybody knows who it is, has 10 sensors. Two of them are ST; the accelerometers and the gyroscope. So that’s a 20 -- we just did a third one and that’s a 50% growth. So the math is pretty simple. So we can grow and you know we don’t have here the magnetometer, we don’t have here the pressure sensor. We don’t have here the temperature sensor. We don’t have here the microphone. We don’t have here several sockets and so on. It’s very clear what we have to do and the execution in that particular area of the business is absolutely outstanding and our customers love us because we arrived on time, with the right products, with the right spec at the right process and as long as this execution is outstanding, I think the future can be really, really bright.

Unidentified Analyst

Great. Philippe, thank you very much for coming.

Philippe Lambinet

Nice questions, thanks you. Thanks.

Copyright policy: All transcripts on this site are the copyright of Seeking Alpha. However, we view them as an important resource for bloggers and journalists, and are excited to contribute to the democratization of financial information on the Internet. (Until now investors have had to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees for transcripts.) So our reproduction policy is as follows: You may quote up to 400 words of any transcript on the condition that you attribute the transcript to Seeking Alpha and either link to the original transcript or to All other use is prohibited.


If you have any additional questions about our online transcripts, please contact us at: Thank you!