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IEC Electronics Corp. (NYSEMKT:IEC)

F2Q12 Earnings Call

May 8, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

John Nesbett – Investor Relations, Institutional Marketing Services

W. Barry Gilbert – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Vincent A. Leo – Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (Interim)

Analysts

William Jones – Singular Research

Robert Littlehale – JPMorgan Chase

Jennifer Wolfertz – Comstock Partners

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to IEC’s Fiscal 2012 Second Quarter Financial Results. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. John Nesbett of IMS. Thank you Mr. Nesbett, you may begin.

John Nesbett

Good morning and thank you for calling in. On the call this morning, we have Barry Gilbert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; as well as Vincent Leo, Interim Chief Financial Officer.

Before we get started, I’d like to take a moment to read the Safe Harbor statement. This conference call contains certain forward-looking statements related to the Company’s expectations and prospects that involve risks and uncertainties including uncertainties associated with economic conditions in the electronics industry, particularly in the principal industry sector served by the Company; changes in the customer requirements and in the volume of sales to principal customers; competition and technological change; the ability of the Company to control manufacturing and operating costs, the ability of the Company to develop and maintain satisfactory relationships with vendors, and the ability of the Company to efficiently integrate acquired companies into its business.

The Company’s actual results of operations may differ significantly from those contemplated by any forward-looking statements as a result of these and other factors, including factors set forth in the company’s 2011 Annual Report on Form 10-K and in other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

All of which may be found in Investor Relations section of the company’s website at ice-electronics.com. The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise forward-looking information, whether as a result of new, updated information and future events or otherwise.

In addition, references to non-GAAP financial measures in this presentation are reconciled to GAAP measures in the earnings release for this quarter, which also can be found in the Investor Relations section of the company’s website.

I would now like to turn the call over to Barry Gilbert. please go ahead, Barry.

W. Barry Gilbert

Good morning. Thank you for joining us this morning. We’re pleased to report an outstanding second quarter. there are various notable items in the quarter for what stands out about the quarter is the 11.8% operating margin. Anyone who has been following the sector will respect the accomplishment. There is no single magic item, which led to our success this quarter rather this is the combination of a number of things exceptional product mix, cost control, operational improvement, and the benefit of some modest one-time items, which Vince Leo, our CFO will discuss in greater detail.

The biggest operational improvement was Southern California Braiding. They had a solid quarter improving both sales and margins. SCB benefited from the release of some programs that have been delayed. Adding texture to SCB’s progress, they also picked up some new programs and a significant new customer, I’ll provide greater detail in a few minute.

Our sector performance shifted and is now slightly more balanced. The industrial and communication sector improved and now represents 32% of our business, compared to 23% in the second quarter of last year. This increase is a direct reflection of the improvements in the sector of the economy in which we participate, not the broad economy. Our medical sector has remained relatively constant at 21% of sale. Our military aerospace sector remains our largest contributing 43% of revenue in the second quarter, a decrease from 52% of revenue in the same quarter last year.

We continue to experience some delays in military funding however we are seeing signs that funding is being released and expects some strengthening in this sector as we move through the balance of the year. Just as important we’ve had no program cancellation.

I’ll now turn the call over to Vince Leo, who will review the number, after Vince completes his reports, I’ll provide you with more operational fixture and background before we turn it over to questions. Vince?

Vincent A. Leo

Thank you, Barry, and good morning everyone. This morning we issued a press release detailing our second quarter results and I hope you had a chance to review it. During the second quarter, IEC realized revenues of $38 million compared to approximately $35.1 million in the second quarter of 2011. The entire 8.4% [Audio Gap] revenue increase was organic growth.

Gross profit in the second quarter increased to 21.7% of sales, up slightly from 21% of sales in the prior year’s quarter. Gross profit was impacted primarily by increased revenues for the quarter, as well as favorable changes in the product mix.

Our SG&A was $3.8 million or approximately 9.9% of sales in the quarter just ended that compared to approximately $4 million or approximately 11.5% of sales in the prior year’s period. The majority of this decrease is attributable to our realignment of our people costs in the current quarter. We have been focused on lowering our SG&A costs and we’ll continue our efforts throughout 2012.

As we mentioned in prior calls, IEC used bank borrowings to fund 98% of the purchase price of our two most recent acquisitions. As we fast forward to the current quarter, our interest expense decreased to approximately $300,000 compared to approximately $500,000 in the prior year’s quarter.

The weighted average interest rate on our debt was consistent with the second quarter of last year as well. For 2012, we expect to continue repaying our debt at the rate of $500,000 to $750,000 per month on average. IEC’s federal and New York state income tax has been and is currently sheltered by net operating loss carryforwards flowing from losses incurred prior to 2005. These NOLs substantially offset payments that would otherwise, have been, or maybe required. The company’s federal NOL carryforward at the end of 2011 amounted to approximately $24.5 million. we estimate that the NOLs produce future cash savings benefit totaling approximately $8.9 million or approximately $0.89 per share.

Net income for the second quarter was $2.6 million or $0.26 per diluted share compared with approximately $1.7 million or $0.17 per diluted share in the prior year’s second quarter. Our balance sheet remains strong with approximately $19.7 million in working capital and we reduced our debt by approximately $2.6 million in the quarter from $33.8 million to $31.2 million.

With that, I'll turn the call back to Barry.

W. Barry Gilbert

Thank you. Our strategic long-term focus has allowed us to achieve some of the highest margins in the industry. these margins are a testament to our team and the quality of the products we produce, our ability to deliver products on time and exactly the specifications has been the key to getting IEC where it is today. we live by simple words, absolutely positively perfect and on-time, and we strive for that everyday.

I appreciate that this sounds like a commercial. it’s our Holy Grail. One example of our long-term focus is the new counterfeited detection and avoidance laboratory, dynamic research testing laboratory, which we call DRTL. we started that in the second quarter of last year and it’s growing. The ability to identify counterfeit components is an increasing concern for a number of our customers. The lab builds upon technology and analytical skills which have been part of IEC’s heritage and the expansion of the historic platform and we view this as the type of internal development and others like it, which we are working on as an integral part of growing our company and broadening our service offerings.

Our customers are telling us that they want to give a larger percentage of their work to fewer more capable providers. We believe we are well positioned to benefit from this industry wide trend. A moment ago, I mentioned our counterfeit detection and avoidance lab and this has been added to capabilities, we have acquired over the past few years, such as coax cable and wire harness assembly, sheet metal fabrication and sophisticated cables for military aerospace industry. All to our core of sophisticated electronic assembly and test business.

Our product line has been broadened and strengthened. Expanding up on one of these capabilities and our latest acquisition SCB, is an important part of this broaden capability step to our customers. Though the results were disappointing for the last six months and did not meet our expectation, SCB has markedly improved their performance. Military funding continues to impact SCB in achieving their anticipated revenue levels. They are absolutely moving in the right direction and starting to have a positive impact on IEC’s financial performance. However, in our estimation, they still have a long way to go.

I want to talk about the balance sheet for a moment. As Vince mentioned, our balance sheet continues to improve. We pay down $2.6 million of debt during this quarter. We now believe we will pay down at least $9 million of debt, which is at the high-end of the estimate we shared last quarter. On the negative side, we are not comfortable with the growth in our inventory we experienced. Inventory reduction will receive more attention over the next few quarters reducing debt remains an important priority.

Looking forward, at the shareholder meeting, we provided sales growth estimates of between 9% and 14% for fiscal 2012. At this time, we see no reason to change those estimates. Our broad outlook has not changed. We are still concerned about the weak global economy in the modeled U.S. economy, though we have clearly had success as demonstrated by the expansion of our commercial activities in the industrial sector, it is not clear to us at this time if the expansion is sustainable for the long run, it may be.

For the quarter, our operating income margin saw a short increase to 11.8% well above our average of the last few years of approximately 8%. With that said, we envision over the next 18 months, our average operating margins climbing to approximately 10%. This increase in margin is supported by the anticipated improvement in our SCB operations and some of our long-term cost containment activities taking hold. We believe our business is moving in the right direction and we are confident in our ability to continue to drive long-term value for our shareholders.

We’ll now turn the phone over to the operator and we’ll take questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Thank you. Our first question comes from the line of Bill Jones of Singular Research. Please proceed with your question.

William Jones – Singular Research

Thank you, excellent quarter guys. My question is, in the press release and on the call, you talked a little bit about cost containment programs and I’m not sure if you said that primarily people realignment or maybe you can give us some examples of what you’re doing there?

W. Barry Gilbert

Good morning, Bill. Many of these programs are people related programs. and in our column from a broad perspective, support service programs, which are being realigned, reconsidered. That’s really all the details that I can provide at this time.

William Jones – Singular Research

Okay. And you also mentioned possible opportunity with inventory, do you know like, what potential opportunities there is like in terms of size of the opportunities?

W. Barry Gilbert

I have an internal number right now, but at the end of the day, we view inventory unlike receivables. Receivables become a reflection of sales and then collection. But inventory is really driven in many cases by not a new orders, how the orders have placed, but also the way management goes ahead and acquires the asset, which is to be assembled into a final product.

And with that said, we think we can take at least $1 million out of the inventory number, if not more I really don’t want to advance my thoughts beyond that only because we just want to make sure that we have ample opportunities to put programs in place, words may take a little longer to mature, since our inventory levels are kept at a pretty consistent level going forward.

William Jones – Singular Research

Excellent and then you had mentioned part of the improvement in the quarter was related to SCB operational improvement and I think in the past you had indicated that you didn’t think that delays in military spending would ease up until the second half. It seems perhaps that things are getting a little bit better there, may be you can give just a little more color and I’ll drop out.

W. Barry Gilbert

Sure. There is no question that we did not see at the time of our last call many of the programs opening up. I guess world event is changing have opened up some of the programs a little sooner repeating a little sooner the ambition. From the perspective of SCB’s performance, if you recall last quarter, they lost money and they lost a lot of money. They didn’t lose any money this quarter, and so that change alone is a pretty substantial operational improvement and had a non-trivial impact on the total company.

William Jones – Singular Research

Well, excellent.

W. Barry Gilbert

Thank you.

William Jones – Singular Research

Thanks again.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Mark Jordan of Noble Financial. Please proceed with your question.

Unidentified Analyst

Hey, good morning. This is Eric (inaudible) in for Mark Jordan. I have a couple questions, one of the previous questions touched on that relating to your comments about cost containment for the quarter. Is your cost containment effort, is that really going to effect on your commitment towards new business developments and is that change at all over the last six months?

W. Barry Gilbert

No, so let me separate the two items into the cost containment in the new business development and activities. The new business development and activities remain strong. From the standpoint of cost containment, I think it’s important to recognize that when you look at this comparatively, we have had some modest one-time adjustments and that effectively of about $300,000 and that went to hit in effectively reduced, not only our SG&A expenses, and so percentage comparison period-over-period, it looks really cool. We’re not quite that cool yet.

We’re getting cooler and we’re getting a lot better. And so I certainly don’t expect the 9.9% of sales number next quarter, but I do expect it to be regularly and steadily inching down as we go forward and continue to realign certain areas of the company. And by the way, the realignment has two things, it’s also creating efficiency and affected we’re making a stronger better organization that allows us as we continue to grow and hopefully add other sectors to the business will be able to go ahead and be neatly tucked in to the structure that we’re creating.

I think one of things that exist is probably a longer answer. You thought you get, but one of the things that exist is that when you go ahead and you acquire a number of companies, you’ve got to give them a chance to become properly seeded and acclimated to the new environment. and then you’re able to go ahead and start making the adjustments. there are a lot of people, a lot of companies that will go ahead and make those adjustments very quickly. I personally see that that creates a lot of trauma for the acquired company and a lot of start talents will walk out the door. Well, we’ve now gone ahead and have seeded these companies properly. and now, we’re able to make adjustments, so that they recognize that we’re really not older and that we’re really individuals starting to strengthen the broad organization.

Unidentified Analyst

Gotcha.

W. Barry Gilbert

Okay.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, great thank you. Also in the previous question, also one of the previous questions touched on this too, just to clarify, you guys announced that SCB had a good new customer win. Was the customer in the defense industry?

W. Barry Gilbert

Yeah, it was.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, all right. And lastly, you noted...

W. Barry Gilbert

I will broaden as to say, it’s one of the majors that they’ve not been serving, but we’re not prepared to discuss it beyond that.

Unidentified Analyst

Gotcha, okay. And you noted roughly 10% decline in backlog in the press release. Has that impacted visibility in your business, how you’re managing your business?

W. Barry Gilbert

No. And in order we envision that being the case at the end of the year, we see our backlog bouncing back a little bit at the end of the year. I think there is clearly a lot of disruption with those that are supporting the military aerospace and defense industry. And we’re just part of that group.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. And is that decline in backlog, can you comment on that? Is it related to product mix or maybe increase industrial as you mentioned in that shorter contracts.

Vincent A. Leo

No, it’s not related to industrial. In some of the contracts that we have, you are correct from the standpoint or the characterization of shorter contracts, but I think it’s important to appreciate the many of the programs we run have extensive visibility, certainly running 9, 12, 15 months and beyond from the nature of the products that we’re involved with, and so we certainly have that visibility, but this is just localized one area at the moment.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, all right thank you.

Vincent A. Leo

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Robert Littlehale of JPMorgan Chase. Please proceed with your question.

Robert Littlehale – JPMorgan Chase

Good morning. Barry as it relates to the medical business, your niches in the military side as you continue to focus on the opportunities in the medical part of the business, does that present a whole new set of competitive challenges?

W. Barry Gilbert

Bob, good morning. It does but their competitive challenge is that we are able to manage. We clearly are bumping up against some of the larger players in the industry. At the end of the day, we offer some unique capabilities, which make us attractive to the low volume, high reliability product that these major companies are offering. We will never be competing for a glucose meter, they just know who we are and that does going to go offshore. But we certainly do compete for very complicated analytical instruments, which are used in the operating surgical theater and so in that regard, I think we’re better positioned to support that the medical community than – many other companies. Did that I answer your question Bob or if it is not, ask it again I apologize.

Robert Littlehale – JPMorgan Chase

No, no that’s helpful just to…

W. Barry Gilbert

I hate crummy answers and I hate giving them.

Robert Littlehale – JPMorgan Chase

And then the other question I had is it relates to acquisition strategy. Southern California operating is obviously looking much more where you’d hope it would be and you expect it to be. Does that now change your view as far as acquisitions going forward or you pretty much a status (inaudible) as far as that concern?

W. Barry Gilbert

No, our attitude towards acquisitions has not changed. We really have two triggers. The first trigger is expanding with a quality customer base in the market segments we’ve chosen to support. And again that’s the military, aerospace, medical, high reliability, industrial and high reliability communication or SATCOM.

And the other aspect is we’re able to capture new technology. I have to say, we’ve got a pretty broad platform of capable people. And as I mentioned earlier, as counterfeit detection lab was really an out growth of our core capability within the company, and candidly we’re working on and as I alluded to in this discussion, we’re working on and as I alluded to in this discussion, we’re working on other capabilities, which are being developed internally almost like an – our own internal R&D operation not quite like that, but it’s got that some of those attributes, meaning they don’t make a lot of money and we spend cash. But we believe as they got great potential that comes out of that core technology capability and so for us to be able to add something that’s got different technology than we’re able to develop ourselves, it is still important to us, but it’s not as easy to find. But we are clearly looking for acquisitions, absolutely.

Robert Littlehale – JPMorgan Chase

Great, thank you very much.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Jennifer Wolfertz of Comstock Partners. Please proceed with your question.

Jennifer Wolfertz – Comstock Partners

Good morning, Barry. How are you?

W. Barry Gilbert

Good morning, Jennifer. How are you? It's good to have you back in the call.

Jennifer Wolfertz – Comstock Partners

Thanks. Can I get a little bit more clarity around the margins, I’m just curious regarding gross margins, do you anticipate staying at this level or do you think that you’re more likely going to come back to more around the 17% range?

W. Barry Gilbert

Really a very thoughtful question. The 21.7 is pretty special right now. the 17% has been our historic figure. I believe that our historic figure is going to increase. it’s probably getting increased closer to 19% in the short run, but we do see it climbing over the course of time over the same 18-month period that we see our operating margins increasing. and again, that’s with the lens and the visibility that I have today with the programs that are underway. But there’s no question we see things improving and that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to go ahead and have an occasional (inaudible) and that doesn’t mean that we were one of a quarter, we will fall backwards, last quarter was a perfect illustration, but overall we see things advancing. Thank you for the thoughtful question.

Jennifer Wolfertz – Comstock Partners

Okay, great thanks. Thanks for the background.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Alan Lyons, a Private Investor. Please proceed with your questions.

Unidentified Analyst

Hi, Barry and Vince.

W. Barry Gilbert

Hello.

Unidentified Analyst

Congratulations on a really outstanding quarter. My question more or less relates to the – you talked about 9% to 14% growth still expected. How does the improvements in margins, you know the outstanding performance this quarter I know it’s not going to – and so repeated (inaudible). How does that affect your outlook for your bottom line, which you just talked about being double that? Is that still impact or is that possibly to be higher than that or could you comment on that? And also about your organic growth of 17%, you’re still confident in that going forward beyond this year?

W. Barry Gilbert

I’d like to shape, okay, so let me take your, first of all, good morning Al. Sorry for the stuttering, to many thoughts coming together in my head at one time. Let me go ahead and shape your question in an inverse order. We do see 17% for the long-term, but I think I want to shape that from this perspective of more of a contusive worldwide economic environment, I mean this is clumsy economic world we’re living in right now. And so even though we see 17%. I just don’t know that we’re going to be able to get to that 17% if things continue in the same pace and the same way that they’ve been continuing. However, to the more important part of your question, not to diminish the first part, but to the stronger part of your question, do we see our income continuing at effectively double the growth, by way of the illustration if we grow at 10% do we see our income growing at 20%. And right now, we do that is what our lens hold. We like some of what we see, and yeah, I think that that’s still there.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. But as far as or being even better than that because your margins that’s not [quiet right]?

W. Barry Gilbert

I’m sorry.

Unidentified Analyst

That’s because of the margin improvements that you’ve been seeing probably not expected, you’re still in that range as you had a range and that range still would incorporate the improve margins.

W. Barry Gilbert

It would incorporate to improved margins, absolutely.

Unidentified Analyst

All right.

W. Barry Gilbert

Absolutely, this was a very special quarter. And I think the message that I want the shareholders to understand or to appreciate is that historically we’ve been saying, look we think we’re going to be above 8% and in around the 8% range and those are great margins in our industry, operating margins in our industry, anyway. We’re now advising the shareholders that as we make progress over the next 18 months, we see those margins improving. Did that support your answer?

Unidentified Analyst

Right, it does. The other question, when you talk about backlog and now it’s been about $110 million, do you have a backlog goal in mind in order to sustain the growth as you’re looking to achieve or is really not that significant or they can change rapidly, but [one big] order or whatever?

W. Barry Gilbert

No, I don’t know. I really don’t have a backlog goal in mind. I think that I’d like the idea that we have the backlog that we do. I think that if the level, which forces us to continue to run very quickly to support our customers. There is clearly a lot of comfort that for a hypothetical only, if our backlog were double, I can tend that that could create some lesser (inaudible) in the organization and then we like running quickly and this works for us.

Unidentified Analyst

Thanks, again congratulations on really a great quarter and I hope we continue to get slightly surprised every quarter.

W. Barry Gilbert

Thank you, Al and thank you for the characterization of the slight surprise.

Unidentified Analyst

All right.

Operator

Thank you. Our final question of the day comes from Gerard McLean, a Private Investor. Please proceed with your questions.

Unidentified Analyst

Yes, I’m just thrilled, I got in a little late, so this might have been asked, I don't know, but I own quite a bit of stock, and I’ve been like everyone else. I’ve been worried to know what’s going on, especially with the California operation. That thing has turned around, if you had to do over again, you would do the SBC thing again?

W. Barry Gilbert

(Inaudible)

Unidentified Analyst

That's good, because I thought to myself and I think some other people might have thought so to that you might have temporarily lost your mind, but maybe things are working out that way.

W. Barry Gilbert

Do you know Gerry, the number of people that think that everyday about me?

Unidentified Analyst

No.

W. Barry Gilbert

That I lost my mind, most of you have learned.

Unidentified Analyst

Well put this way, it was a courageous move and if it works out, I think that’s wonderful.

W. Barry Gilbert

Thank you.

Unidentified Analyst

Like it is. but the question I had well back, you had made a comment and it was a deliberate company strategy to apply yourself to those sorts of things that were not easily offshore that could not be as produced, go to China and go to somewhere else, whatever (inaudible) that what you get based on the precision and the uniqueness of it et cetera that you were trying to keep your business to where it couldn’t be that easily stolen away from you, do you still maintain that position?

W. Barry Gilbert

Absolutely, and I’m going to now take you back many, many years. but one of the lessons that I learned while going to graduate school and while also working for a very fine company at the time that one of the keys to growing your company is to create something, which is sustainable and not very easy to replicate and that is effectively the model that we’ve been putting together. I see ran into trouble about a decade or so ago maybe a little bit longer than that, when they tried to go ahead and the offerings to our people and play in some very competitive marketplaces where they really brought nothing to the party and those that has non-trivial scale beyond them ended up winning the game, where we have – so this business has been reshaped to only support areas where now, I do believe we have core competency. but also areas where someone say boy we’ve really liked that model this guys have got. let’s go ahead and duplicate it, go. I wish them great success.

there are a lot of ingredients that go into this model, I mean I heard a comment the other day and it was sort of a cool comment from a colleague of mine that went ahead and call this business much like creating tomato sauce or pasta sauce, everyone’s got their core basic ingredients, but as you know, some sauces taste materially better than others. I hope we’re putting together a pretty good sauce.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. I think is that along with your model of absolute perfect and on time every time, put together I think your company deserves a much greater recognition in the marketplace and I think it might start to get it, I think we’re all going to be able to happy (inaudible)?

W. Barry Gilbert

Well, thank you very much for your kind words.

Unidentified Analyst

Good, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. There are no further questions at this time. I would like to turn the floor back over to management for closing comments.

W. Barry Gilbert

I would like to thank everyone for calling in this morning. And I want to also thank you for your continued support of the company. I appreciate at the end of last quarter when we assembled many of you were most uncomfortable and were second guessing your support of the organization, I hope that we’ve been able to reestablish your confidence in IEC Electronics and we look forward to speaking with you next quarter. Thank you again. Take care.

Operator

This concludes today’s teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.

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