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ZOLL Medical Corporation (NASDAQ:ZOLL)

F4Q07 Conference Call

November 15, 2007 10:30 a.m. ET


Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

Ernie Whiton - Chief Financial Officer


Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

Phil Nalbone - RBC



Thank you for holding for the ZOLL Medical Corporation 2007 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Results. Today's call is being recorded at the request of ZOLL Medical Corporation. If anyone has any objections, you may disconnect now. At this time, all participants will be in a listen-only mode and a question-and-answer period will follow today's speakers.

At this time, I would like to introduce your host, Mr. Richard Packer, President and Chief Executive Officer. Sir, you may begin.

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning and thank you for joining us to discuss our results from Q4 and fiscal year 2007. Both myself and Ernie Whiton, our CFO, will make some remarks and then take your questions. Before we start, I will ask Ernie to cover our "safe harbor" statements.

Ernie Whiton - Chief Financial Officer

All right. Thank you, Rick. Good morning. The matters we will be discussing today, which are not historical information consist the forward-looking statements. Reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements, because they involve risks and uncertainties which may cause actual results, performance and achievements of the company to differ materially from the anticipated future results, performance and achievements, expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements.

Forward-looking statements may contain estimates and actual results may vary materially from estimates. Factors such as overall economic conditions, demand for the company's products and services, availability of raw materials, manufacturing capacity, risk of non-payment of accounts receivable, risks associated with foreign operations, risks involved in litigation and other risks and uncertainties described from time-to-time in the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission may cause actual results to differ materially from management's current estimates and expectations. The company disdains any current intention to update forward-looking statements in the event of any changes in the facts, circumstances or expectations that underlie those statements.

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

Great, thanks Ernie. Obviously, we are very excited with our results this past quarter and for the fiscal year. Almost every aspect of our business made great progress this year. Achieving over 20% growth at our size and in our marketplace is certainly strong performance, but not only did we do a good job on today's results, but with the BIO-key acquisition we discussed last quarter, the hypothermia purchase we will discuss today, and the progress with the LifeVest business, which is growing strongly, but out of the spotlight, we have also improved our prospects going forward.

Turning to the various markets into which we sell, let me add to what was in the press release. In the international market, we achieved higher than expected growth in the quarter and in the year. The growth was broad based in all products in just about every geography. We are seeing very high growth in the areas you would expect, such as China, where we're up 60%; Russia, we're up 87%; and the Middle East, which we discussed last quarter, where we're up 40% for the year.

All impressive numbers, but in markets we're just getting started and have limited market understanding. So, there is no reason to believe that we cannot do even better as we gain a bigger footprint in such areas in the future.

In the North American hospital market, excluding the military for a moment, we had a very strong quarter that built on the momentum we gained in Q3. Recall, we started slow in this market in the first half of the year, but with the shipment of the new R Series product and gathering momentum on the AutoPulse, we turned in an outstanding year.

Our marquee win this quarter was the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which we took from Physio-Control for 68 R Series and 59 AED Pros. This was a whole house conversion, which we won on the strength of our resuscitation strategy, specifically Real CPR Help on our defibs and our total focus on CPR. This was the piece of business that was in the works for a number of years.

We also had great results this quarter in the VA system, where we won over 300 units from half a dozen hospitals. So, perhaps we are seeing some of the military spending move to the VA system.

Turning to the military, we did see a strong uptick in Q4 that allowed us to exceed our original target of $10 million for the year, after running behind all year. A great outcome, but it shows how lumpy and unpredictable this business is for us.

Additionally, we got the California order for their Homeland Security needs, which we will include in what will become a military/big government line going forward. This order is very exciting as it shows our growing strength with government business. Ernie will cover the likely shipment and the economics of this deal in a moment.

As he will discuss, having this order will allow us to be more bullish on our outlook for military/big government in '08. But more importantly, if we can tap into this stream of funding as other states spend similar money, this is potential upside for us over the next couple of years.

Turning to the North American pre-hospital market, we performed strongly here as well. Particularly, strong this quarter, was our AED business, which was up more than 60%; and our data business, which was up also over 60% this quarter. EMS results were less spectacular, but we are pleased with our continued progress penetrating the EMS market here in the United States.

In this market, we have added six reps during the course of 2007 to our sales force, bringing our total to 51. And in 2008, we are adding a number of field engineers who will project a stronger technical presence into the EMS marketplace and help offset the advantages Physio-Control has with their large field service force. So, we believe we are making the moves in the EMS market that will allow us to continue to grow this business again strongly in 2008.

On the AutoPulse front, we completed another good year as this product continues to gain momentum and our market creation activities continue. It was especially important to make progress this year in, both the North American hospital and the international market, as the North American EMS team has been carrying the load to this point.

Both the hospital team and the international team did well this year and established good momentum. The product is taking hold in France, for example, with a fire brigade of the region of Val-d'Oise, which is the region just north of Paris will standardize on the AutoPulse with the deployment of 72 units. This is a very exciting development in the creation of this marketplace internationally.

Additionally, we've also cranked up our PR efforts, once again, on the AutoPulse. We've taken a planned timeout after the publication of the ASPIRE results last year in our PR efforts to allow the dust to settle. We are now reengaging our PR efforts once again.

You may have seen the AutoPulse featured on Good Morning America last Thursday. This type of activity is important, because as you know, the network of users and the desire to keep up with the other services, especially in the EMS market, often drives adoption of new technology.

More good news on the AutoPulse front, we have our first site enrolling patients in the CIRC trial. Fox Valley in Wisconsin, a small site that has acted as a beta site for the trial training and implementation, has gotten through IRB and community consultation and started enrollment.

This trial, as you know, is critical to the long-term success of automated CPR. So we have taken our time and spent heavily to get it right. We expect to have an additional site enrolling this month, and then depending on community consultation results, have our bigger site up in January.

Our target is to have approximately 1,500 patients enrolled in 2008, and hopefully, have a result in 2009. I look forward to providing more detailed progress report in January.

Now turning to the Physio-Control situation, everyone's favorite topic. So far, we have been pretty good at predicting what is happening, what will happen, and the effect on our business.

This quarter, we estimate that around 1,000 to 1,500 AEDs fell to us as a result of Physio's issues.

On the professional defib side, we counted about 200 units, but since it's very difficult to judge, I'll estimate between 200 and 300 units as a reasonable range, a business that fell to us from the hospital and the EMS markets. Taken together, this amounts to around $4 million of business that may have benefited from Physio this quarter or about 4% of our total business.

As we've previously said, the effects would grow over time, which they have, but they would continue to be modest, which they are.

Also as we guessed last quarter, Physio did ship product to both hospital and EMS customers in the September quarter. So, they are slowly beginning to ship again. We expect this to increase during the quarter, in both the hospital and the EMS market, and perhaps AEDs will begin shipping again at the end of this quarter or early next quarter.

I remind everyone that Physio has continued to sell in the hospital and EMS markets throughout this period, and I suspect that even limited shipments validate their claim with their customers that they will be back shortly, that they will be able to deliver in no time, and thereby enhancing Physio's ability to get customers to continue to wait for delivery.

At this point, we do not expect a grand announcement that Physio-Control is back in the market, but rather that they will just continue to ramp up shipments over time and incrementally.

As for the benefit or effect on ZOLL, we continue to see long-term benefits from this whole situation. I remind everyone that not only does Physio face the need to get fully back into the shipping mode, but following that, the company will face a potential spin out or sale from Medtronic. So, it will be a while until Physio is back at full speed.

We don't expect anything dramatic either way in the short-term as an impact on our business. As evidenced, I point to you the strong international growth we have been achieving without benefit of the Physio stop ship. Clearly, we have lots going on for us here at ZOLL beyond Physio's issues.

Now looking a little longer term, let me cover a couple of investments we will be making in 2008. Because our base business is strong and we are getting some incremental business from Physio-Control situation, we feel that we can make these investments and do these things while still delivering on our goals for both top-line and bottom-line growth.

The first item is in regards to our LifeVest business. As you know, this business has been growing within ZOLL and we have not been giving it a lot of visibility for couple of reasons. Primarily, it is too small to matter right now and it has not been affecting our bottom line.

However, during the past year, the business grew in excess of 60%, and while we were aiming for a breakeven situation, we actually had a bit of a positive bottom line. So we are now confident that we can grow this business and we have a business model that can make money, if we choose.

So on the strength of this knowledge and the strength of the rest of the ZOLL business, we are choosing to do two things differently in 2008 in regards to this business.

First, we will further accelerate the hiring of sales people for this business and invest some money while these new sales people ramp up.

Second, we will invest in a clinical trial aimed at the MI market, that is, that in the long-term has the potential to make a wearable defib, the standard of care for many post-MI patients.

Doing both of these items in 2008 will require the LifeVest business to invest or show a negative in the bottom line of about $2 million. However, if we execute correctly, the business will be back to breakeven or profitability by our fourth quarter.

We believe these actions will not only accelerate short-term growth for the LifeVest, but also position the product for use in a very large population in the future. We think this is a very exciting opportunity for ZOLL.

The second area we are making a modest investment in is in therapeutic hypothermia. You saw in the release, we purchased the assets of Radiant Medical, a company that had delivered the best catheter-based hypothermia product.

For a variety of reasons Radiant could not make it as a stand-alone company, so we were able to buy the assets extremely cheaply. We obtained designs, tooling, some inventory, and an expensive IP portfolio in the hypothermia space.

We have tucked the remains of Radiant into our ZOLL Circulation Division out in Sunnyvale. We intend to spend an incremental $2 million or so this year perfecting the catheter design and verifying the console designs, so that we can start commercial beta sites in 2009.

The area of hypothermia is very attractive and fits directly into our resuscitation strategy, as induced hypothermia is quickly becoming the standard treatment for resuscitated patients around the world.

Hypothermia also holds promise in many other treatment areas beyond cardiac arrest, but these areas will need to be proven over time. As an example, I am sure many of you saw the heavy press on the Buffalo Bills football player, Kevin Everett, who was injured earlier in the season and whose remarkable recovery from a spinal cord injury was attributed to a new hypothermia protocol.

In any case, our goals in the area of hypothermia will remain modest and will remain focused and with the cost basis we have, we can afford to move judiciously. We will let others do the market creation this time and then follow their lead with what we believe is superior technology.

All up, we think these two moves are very good for ZOLL that we can digest them and benefit from them without putting our bottom-line growth at risk.

Now, let me turn it over to Ernie.

Ernie Whiton - Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Rick. This morning, I will start with the balance sheet, make a few observations on our fourth quarter P&L, and then I will move to our forward-looking guidance.

Our balance sheet remains in excellent shape. We've finished fiscal '07 with $57.4 million in cash and short-term investments, as compared to $62.9 million at the end of Q3 and $63.4 million at the end of fiscal '06.

During Q4, we generated close to $5 million in cash from operations and as Rick noted, we spent almost $6 million in Q4 on the acquisition of the assets of hypothermia company.

Our DSOs and AR of 76 were down from 77 at the end of Q3. They were up four days versus last year end, reflecting the fact that we recorded approximately $4 million receivable related to the California deal, but deferred all of the related revenue.

Our inventory turnover was 2.6 times or flat with Q3. It was down from 3.3 last year-end. Included in our ending inventory was approximately $5 million or so related to our California order, which we expect to generate revenue in early '08.

Our inventory was also increased a couple of million dollars in Q4 in support of our LifeVest business. Recall that over the course of fiscal '08, we increased inventory levels in response to the Physio situation.

Other assets increased $19 million during Q4. This reflected intangible assets related to the hypothermia acquisition and accrued earn-out payments related to previous acquisitions.

Now, let met turn to the fourth quarter P&L. First, let me take care of our housekeeping items, so you don't get confused as you update your models. During Q4, we made an immaterial change to the way we have been classifying amounts from the resale of used trade-in equipment and recording certain charges to customers for technical services. This change had no impact on net income or EPS for any period.

Previously, we reported both on a net basis. This meant that we treated the disposal of trade-in equipment we accept from customers on the sale of new equipments as the liquidation of a receivable rather than additional revenue. Similarly, we recorded certain amounts received from service customers as a reimbursement of expenses rather than revenue.

In general, we considered this treatment to be conservative and it's the way we have historically always done it. Recently, this treatment has been a point of internal discussion on whether it is considered best practice and it appears that most other people utilize a gross approach.

Previously, we reported this on a net basis to be internally consistent and as it appears that most people are reporting on a gross basis, -- we're moving -- we are moving forward. Although these amounts have been immaterial in the past, it is possible that in the future they could increase as our business grows; therefore, we have determined that prospectively we will account for these amounts as revenues. Expenses related to the cost of these products or services will be included in cost of goods sold.

Historically, over the past two years, each of these items has approximated about $1 million dollars a quarter. Accordingly, in order to ensure our apples-to-apples comparison, we have reclassified such prior period amounts in order to conform to our current and prospective presentation. This has the effect of increasing historical revenues and cost of goods sold by approximately $2 million per quarter or so.

It also has the effect of reducing our historical gross margin percentage by one or two points. It also drives the minor change in selling expenses. Again, this change had absolutely no impact on operating income, net income or EPS for any period.

Optically, if we had not made the change, we would have reported 20% sales growth for the year. With the change, we are reporting 21% sales growth. So, we do not believe this should change the way you view our business. Management considers this change to be immaterial, but we wanted to point this out. So, as you update your models, you'll not be confused by these changes to prior quarters.

With respect to the fourth-quarter of P&L, we covered the details of our revenue in this morning's release. So, I will not rehash that here. Our gross margins decreased modestly versus Q4 of last year. During Q4, we had a higher mix of North American hospital business, which typically carries less feature-rich defib sales, including monitoring parameters as compared to EMS.

We also had a higher mix of military revenues. The decrease was partially offset by a higher mix of data management and LifeVest revenues as these products have higher gross margins than our corporate average.

Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue decreased, as compared to last year, reflecting overall leverage on our sales growth. The $1 increase in selling and marketing expenses reflected higher commissions on the higher sales levels, expansion of our LifeVest sales force, and increases in data management and overall marketing spending.

Increased R&D expenses reflected higher levels of clinical affairs spending as our CIRC trial moves forward. Our operating income as a percentage of sales increased modestly from 10.2% to 10.7%. Operating income increased 31%. Our tax rate for the quarter was 36%, and it was 35% for the year. Net income increased 26% for the quarter and EPS was $0.33 for the quarter, up 22% versus last year.

Overall, fiscal 2007 was an excellent year; revenue increased 21%, gross margin remained consistent, and operating expenses as a percentage of sales decreased a point, reflecting leverage in selling and marketing expenses.

Operating income increased 46%. Return on sales improved by over a full point. Net income improved 50% over the course of the year. EPS for the fiscal year was $0.81, up 42% versus last year.

Let me begin our discussion of forward guidance with the discussion of our California Homeland Security order. During Q4 of '07, we received an award totaling approximately $11.5 million from Global Protection, a supplier of emergency preparedness to the State of California.

This order has multiple elements, including the supply of defibrillators and certain services over multiple years. Services include providing preventive maintenance, replacement batteries and electrodes, and assistance with logistics and warehousing. Services represent about $4 million of the total contract value.

As we have now concluded our review of the appropriate accounting guidance, we anticipate recognizing approximately $7.5 million of revenue in Q1 of '08 relating to this contract. We anticipate that the remaining approximately $4 million of revenue will be recognized over the next five years as the related services are preformed.

As a result of this anticipated accounting treatment, I would like to point out a couple of things.

1. Zero revenue was taken on this contract in Q4 of '07.

2. Because $4 million of revenue will be recognized over an extended period of time, we have only included the $7.5 million we anticipate recognizing in the early part of 2008 in our $24 million backlog at the end of Q4 of '07.

3. Our overall operating margin on this deal is in the mid-20s% range, so it is solidly above our corporate average operating income as a percentage of sales.

4. The gross margin over the life of this deal is well below our corporate average gross margin. We believe the gross margin will be in the vicinity of 30%. This gross margin reflects that this is a large, somewhat unusual deal that includes lower margin services.

Let me add that because of the singular nature of the customer, it carried minimal incremental selling expenses.

All things considered, as Rick said, this is a good deal for ZOLL. It may lead to additional business and it may help offset some of the lumpy nature we have experienced in our government military business.

As a result of this, and because it is so early in fiscal 2008, we do not think it would wise to consider this as incremental business just yet. It does, along with the rest of our backlog, however, get us off to a terrific start in fiscal 2008.

Now, let me move to our forward outlook for fiscal 2008. With respect to our core business, excluding LifeVest and hypothermia, we see revenue growth of high teens. For the year, we see core business gross margins about a half a point or so below fiscal 2007 as a result of the California deal.

Core operating expenses should grow towards the low double digits relative to 2007. This should result in solid earnings leverage from growth in our core business. We expect to use a portion of this resulting leverage to support investments in our LifeVest sales organization and in developing our new hypothermia technology, as Rick described for you.

We also expect some of this leverage to drive incremental profitability. At the consolidated bottom line, we continue to expect EPS of around $1 a share in 2008, reflecting mid-20% growth. We also anticipate a full point of improvement in our operating income as a percentage of sales, improving from 7% in 2007 to 8% in 2008 on a consolidated basis. We believe our tax rate in 2008 will be in the mid-30s, say approximately 35% or so.

As Rick mentioned, our EPS outlook anticipates an overall $4 million investment in the hypothermia and LifeVest business.

All in all, we expect consolidated annual revenue growth for fiscal -- for ZOLL in 2008 of approximately 20%, and annual operating expense growth approaching the high teens. 2008 consolidated gross margin should be close to the level in 2007.

By customer class in 2008, we see revenue growth of North American hospital, high-teens growth percentage including military and big government of approximately $15 million. North American pre-hospital high 20s% growth, including LifeVest low 20% growth excluding LifeVest. International, mid-teens percentage growth.

Within pre-hospital, we see growth of professional EMS defibrillators, high-teens percentage, public access, public safety, low double-digit percentage growth, and data management, mid-30s% growth. Companywide, we see AutoPulse growth of approximately 40% or so.

By quarter, we see higher percentage revenue growth early due to the California deal. We also see gross margin percentage starting in the very low 50% range and moving up to the mid-50s after Q1.

As the BIO-key FireRMS asset acquisition occurred in Q3 of '07, the percent expense growth will appear higher early in the year and moderate later in the year. EPS by quarter might look something like mid-teens in Q1, high-teens in Q2, mid $0.20 range in Q3 and $0.40 or a little bit more in Q4.

And now, I will turn the discussion back to you Rick.

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thank you, Ernie. Jonathan, if you would like to please moderate the question-and-answer session.

Question-and-Answer Session


Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question at this time, please press the "1" key on your touch-tone telephone. If your question has been answered and you wish to remove yourself from the queue, please press the "#" key. We'll wait for one moment, while we wait for participants to queue up. Our first question comes from Tim Nelson from Piper Jaffray.

Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

Hi, guys, nice quarter!

Ernie Whiton - Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Tim.

Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

I would like to focus a little bit, first of all and foremost on your guidance. It seems to be a pretty healthy set of guidance. Has it changed at all from Q3, it seems to be about the same?

Ernie Whiton - Chief Financial Officer

From a bottom line perspective, it's the same, roughly a buck a share or so, but included in this are the investments in the hypothermia and LifeVest in business that Rick outlined during the call.

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

So the top line is a little bit stronger?

Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

Little bit stronger. And since July, we've seen a lot of concern in the -- in the general market evolve about municipal finance and health or related to the subprime mortgage crisis and the impact on property values and tax receipts. I remember a few years ago, you had some issues with your municipal customers running out of or having some budget balancing problems and that had an impact on your business in the pre-hospital segment. Could you talk about what assumptions you've made in your guidance relative to that potential risk?

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

It's a good question Tim, and you are recalling correctly that when the states had those unprecedented deficits, it certainly eventually found its way into the EMS market.

In '08, we are not anticipating much of an effect just because of the way that these things have a tendency to lag through. And if there is an effect, we expect it to maybe kick in at the end and perhaps in '09. But we're certainly not seeing anything right now and usually there is a pretty good lag time from when people begin to worry about it to when the EMS agencies actually get affected.

The other thing that may offset that, that's a little bit different than what was going on previously is that there still is a significant amount of grant money flowing through different parts of the Federal Government that are supporting EMS agencies. And I think that's a little bit different than where we were a few years ago. That money really hadn't found its way out to the streets, so to speak. So, that may also moderate the effect on this particular municipal service.

Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

And is that FEMA money or is that grant money?

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

It all falls under Homeland Security these days as does FEMA. So, some of it is FEMA, some of it is assistance to Fire Department, some of its Homeland Security. I mean, there is just a number of different sources for that funding.

Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

Okay. Will you disclose at all the level of LifeVest revenues in your pre-hospital business now or in your projected guidance?

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

This year, we did a little over $16 million.

Tim Nelson - Piper Jaffray

$16 million. Okay, great. I will get back in queue. Thanks.


Thank you, our next question comes from Phil Nalbone from RBC

Phil Nalbone - RBC

Hi, congratulations on a great quarter and a great year! Rick, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the uptake of the R Series and what you are seeing as a result in your hospital market business. Is this kind of pushing the high end? Are you using it to bifurcate your selling effort around price as you did in the pre-hospital market? And what impact is the availability the R Series is having on margins in that business?

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

So far, so good with the R Series, I would certainly say that the product and the features are being well accepted in the marketplace. As to pricing, we are attempting to execute same maneuver that we used with the E Series in the pre-hospital market where we are pretty religious about keeping the R Series up at a relatively high price compared to the M Series, and we use the M Series as our fighting piece.

The net, net right now is about equilibrium, where the M Series pricing has come down a little as we use it more aggressively fighting in those places that are price sensitive and the R Series is holding up the average pricing.

We're hoping that as we move forward, we can get a little bit of a lift in that marketplace. You saw that we had very strong growth in the core hospital business this year. So, clearly we were after trying to take some market share going forward, if disciplined enough I think, we can get the R Series pricing to be enough of the business and the pricing strong enough that it could lift the whole pricing there for us.

Phil Nalbone - RBC

Okay, great. You have been hinting for quite sometime that you would enter the therapeutic hypothermia market. So, this looks like a nice opportunity to do that. Can you give us a clear understanding of where Radiant stands with regulatory approvals and what needs to happen between now and '09 when you can start to make that a commercial opportunity?

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

So, from a regulatory perspective, Radiant has all of the same approvals that ALSIUS has or Medivance has in terms of using hypothermia for a number of different applications. As you know, no one has a specific approval for cardiac arrest and the use of cardiac arrest is driven by physicians as they apply hypothermia where they think they can apply it. So, Radiant is in good position there. The product needs to be validated against approval that they have, which is not unusual. The FDA often approves things with the assumption that you are going to execute the the final IEC testing or whatever, the UL testing, various things. So that needs to be done.

And the basic status of the product is that it was about to be commercialized by Radiant at a -- with a catheter that -- whose cost structure I just didn't think, we didn't think would really support a business. So, we are going to step back and redo the catheter for cost, get a catheter by the end of this year that we think will be commercially viable, and then begin to enter that marketplace.

Phil Nalbone - RBC

Great. Thank you very much.


Thank you. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question at this time, please press the "1" key.

Richard Packer - President and Chief Executive Officer

All right, Jonathan. As there are no further questions, we will get everybody off the phone early here. I appreciate the time this morning. A lot of positive things happening here at ZOLL, and I hope you share our enthusiasm for the business. We look forward to talking with you in the future. Thank you.


Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your participation in today's conference. This does conclude the program. You may now disconnect. Good day.

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