Micron Technology's CEO Hosts Shareholder Meeting (Transcript)

| About: Micron Technology (MU)
This article is now exclusive for PRO subscribers.

Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) Shareholder Meeting Call January 24, 2012 11:00 AM ET


Steven R. Appleton - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Unknown Executive -

Unknown Executive

During the course of this meeting, we may make projections or other forward-looking statements regarding future events or the future financial performance of the company and the industry. We wish to caution you that such statements are predictions and those actual events or results may differ materially. We refer you to the documents the company files on a consolidated basis from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission, specifically the company's most recent Form 10-K and Form 10-Q. These documents contain and identify important factors that could cause the actual results for the company, on a consolidated basis, to differ materially from those contained in our projections or forward-looking statements. These certain factors can be found in the Investor Relations section of Micron's website. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. We are under no duty to update any of the forward-looking statements after the date of the presentation to conform these statements to actual results.

Steven R. Appleton

I want to thank everybody for coming this morning. I also want to thank everybody on the webcast who is joining us via the Internet. This morning, we -- as usual, we have a formal part of the business meeting that we need to go through for the shareholder meeting. And then we have an informal section, where I'll talk a little bit more about really what's happened in the last year and more about some of our markets and our products moving forward.

So before I get going, I'd like to introduce our Board of Directors. And if you could just stand and remain standing until afterwards. On the very end we have Larry Mondry, Aoki San, Bob Bailey, Mercedes Johnson, Pat Byrne, Bob Switz and Jim Bagley. And just a special note, up on the screen, we have 2 of them that are retiring this year as of this shareholder meeting. Both Jim Bagley, who's actually been on the board now for 15 years or so. I'm sorry I've tortured you for that long, Jim. I know it felt like it's been like 40 or 50 years. And then Aoki San, who has joined us and been very helpful as he was associated with Sony for a long time, still is and lives in Japan. So he's been on the board for about 6 years, and he's made that trek every year for a long time and we appreciate that. So thank you for being here this morning.

So I'm going to go through the material for the formal business. So bear with me while I read through this. I have received an affidavit stating that notice of this meeting and a proxy statement have been given to all shareholders of record as of November 28, 2011. The inspector of election, James Alden of Phoenix Advisory Partners, has signed the oath of inspector of election. The inspector of election has reported to me that we have present, in person or by proxy, not less than 84% of the outstanding shares entitled to vote at this meeting, which constitutes a quorum. I therefore declare this meeting duly convened.

We will vote by ballot today. If you have turned in a ballot proxy and do not intend to change your vote today, it is not necessary for you to vote again. We will vote your proxy. If you did not turn in a proxy or wish to change your vote, please raise your hand now, and we will get a ballot to you. And just keep your hands up if you can, and they'll get the ballots distributed to you.

Okay, great. The proxy statement describes the items to be voted on today. The first item of business is the election of directors. Bob Bailey, Pat Byrne, Mercedes Johnson, Larry Mondry, Bob Switz and I have been nominated to serve until the next annual meeting or until our successors are duly elected and qualified. Is there any discussion? There being no discussion, please mark your ballots.


Steven R. Appleton

The second item of business is the approval of an amendment to the company's 2004 Equity Incentive Plan. Is there any discussion? There being no discussion, please mark your ballots.


Steven R. Appleton

The third item of business is the ratification of the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as the independent registered public accounting firm of the company for fiscal 2012. And I'd like to introduce the representative here from PwC, Larry Westall. Larry, if you're -- right here on the front. Thanks, Larry. Is there any discussion on this? There being no discussion, please mark your ballots.


Steven R. Appleton

The fourth item of business is to approve a nonbinding resolution to approve the compensation of our named executive officers as described in our proxy statement. Any discussion? Okay, please mark your ballots.


Steven R. Appleton

And the fifth and final item of business is to approve in a nonbinding vote the frequency with which our shareholders will be entitled to have an advisory vote on executive compensation. Any discussion on this? Okay, please mark your ballots.


Steven R. Appleton

The company has not received notice of any other matter to be presented and voted upon at this meeting. Therefore, this concludes the voting. Please pass your ballots to the aisles for pickup. There being no other formal business to be presented, I now declare the meeting adjourned. And while we're picking up those ballots, I'd like to introduce the executives that are here with us today. And if I miss somebody or I can't see you, just let me know. And I'll just start down here on the left. Ron -- if you guys can stand and remain standing until we're done. Ron Foster, our Chief Financial Officer, Vice President of Finance; Mike Sadler, who's our Vice President of Corporate Development; Rod Lewis, our General Counsel; Jay Hawkins, our Vice President of the Backend Operations; Brian Shirley, who is the Vice President of our DRAM Solutions Group; Mark Adams, our Vice President of our Worldwide Sales; Glenn Hawk, our Vice President of our NAND Solutions Group; Dean Klein, who's Vice President of our Memory Development; Tom Eby, the Vice President of our Embedded Solutions Group; Kipp Bedard, who as investor probably knows more than most of us. He's the Vice President of Investor Relations. Steve Thorsen, our Vice President of Procurement. He's our Chief Procurement Officer; Mike Bokan, who's our Vice President of OEM Sales; Ed Mahoney, our Vice President of Information Systems; Philippe Morali, who's our Treasurer and Vice President of Finance. We have Mark Durcan, who many of you are familiar with. He's our President and COO. I'm trying to look over right now. Did I miss anybody? Any of our other executives? Okay, great. Then, all you guys can sit down.

So I'd like to now move to the informal part of our business. As I mentioned, I wanted to give you an update from the last time I spoke with you a year ago and then translate that into what's going on in some of our products and our markets, and then at the end, we'll have a session for Q&A.

So first off, this was a slide that was showed in the presentation I shared with you last year, and it really was around what we had accomplished in 2010. And Micron had emerged as one of the few remaining players in the memory business. And that we had done a number of things to try to position the company as we move forward for either organic growth or the possibility to take advantage of further consolidation in the industry. If you look at the results for our fiscal 2011, it wasn't as good as 2010. When I stood before you a year ago, we had record results, and obviously, the economy continues to be challenged in some segments of the world. And our industry also came under quite a bit of pressure, in particular in the DRAM segment. And so obviously, the results aren't as good, but we did continue on a relative basis to our competition. We continued to differentiate ourselves. And in particular, when you look at our balance sheet, we've remained strong in terms of our cash position. And if you look at a lot of the metrics, we would like to compare ourselves to the rest of industry. Our cash flow from operations, which is that top line, remained above the average of our competitors as they generated cash. Our selling prices of our products -- and something I will point out on this chart is on that top line, where you can see that the blue line crossed over the green line. That's the average selling price for one of our product categories called NAND Flash memory, and we work diligently to try to get that price above the average for the industry, as we were able to penetrate more differentiated markets. And we're glad to report that we got that accomplished, and we've been able to continue to have a premium in the selling price of our products compared to the average there our competitors sell their products into the marketplace.

From a gross margin perspective, we also continue to be better than the competition. Now just to clarify, when it says our fiscal Q1 '12, remember that, that ended for us in November. So most of these companies report on a calendar basis, and so we try to match up their results with our results. We may be offset by a month or 2 from some of them, but we try to match that up on a comparative basis. And you can see that our gross margins remained better than the competition. Our cash position was better than the competition. And in particular, if you look at the cash position of the company relative to any debt that's due in the next 12 months, we are vastly better than anybody we compete with. And that was part of our strategy, to make sure that our balance sheet remains strong as we move through more difficult times in the industry.

And then in particular, on the debt subject, we have a very strong debt-to-capital ratio. As you can see, it's far better than everybody else we're competing with out there. And so we feel pretty good about what we were able to accomplish in the last year relative to the competition and relative to the difficulties that the industry has suffered.

Now in addition to that, we ran last year a business unit structure that we had put in place just prior to that, where we really tried to segment the parts of the company, either based on technology or markets. We have somewhat of what we consider to be a hybrid organization, which is we have technology-focused organizations, and we have product market-focused organizations. And so we have really 4 large business units, and they're listed here. We have the DRAM Solutions Group, the NAND Solutions Group, the Embedded Solutions Group and the Wireless Solutions Group, and all of those have been focused on their markets and their customers. And it's, I think, been fairly successful for us as we've tried to be successful in those markets they address. And if you think about some of the highlights from what they've been able to accomplish in the DSG group, which I mentioned Brian Shirley is the Vice President of, we were able to get back to the #1 ranking in the networking space. We introduced something called the Hybrid Memory Cube, which is really an innovation that came out of Brian's group, which you don't see a lot of it in the marketplace today, but it's been accepted, and we're working closely with Intel and other customers to have that as really a new technology that's utilized and how memory's interfaced in lots of platforms around the world. And as I said, we're not recognized as much for it yet, but it's coming. And these guys did a great job getting that into the marketplace.

On the NAND Solutions Group, let me just say one thing. Of all these items listed, they have done a fabulous job of really taking our NAND flash memory bits and getting it into solid states drives, where we have better margin. And we -- in other words, we were able to achieve a higher ASP average for selling our products into those markets. And when I say a solid-state drive, most of you may not think of it as simply as that. It's -- In computers today in particularly, you think about notebook computers. A lot of times they want to go to nonmechanical storage of memory because it's lower power, much more reliable, faster access, et cetera, and that happens. And that's where a lot of the market has been in early penetration but more importantly, in what we call the enterprise space, which are big systems that do transactions and have memory, have data come and go and are using our memory in order to do that. We're also very -- we also have a lot of traction there, and I think over the next year, you'll see a lot of growth in that segment for us.

On the wireless group, the wireless has been a tough business this last year, as obviously some of our customers have struggled and as the market's been fairly flat, in some cases down. But nonetheless, we've continued to do a lot of things here in trying to improve our position. Micron was one of the largest producers of what we called pseudostatic RAM and those combined with our NOR business and that went into the wireless space. That has been transitioning to other products, and in particular, as the phones move up in density, they're taking combinations of NAND and DRAM into what we call eMMC packages and then go on into the smartphones and penetrating the rest of the world. We've done a lot of work around that. We think that the market eventually will strengthen, and we're in a good position to take advantage of that.

On the Embedded Systems Group, that is not as I think apparent to some people on what those kinds of products go into because they're embedded. But when you think about gaming applications like pachinko machines, you think of applications where it's in combination with some other device. That's where these products go. And as you can see, from this next chart, we started breaking out the results of the company by business unit so people could see what the revenues and the operating income were. You can see that all of the groups are large. All of the groups have had a lot of success and market penetration. And in particular, if you think back to what I showed you 2011 versus 2010, even though 2011 was a more difficult year for us, we were still able to grow our revenues year-over-year, and in large part, that's a reflection of the success that these groups have had as they've moved forward.

Now I want to pause there for a second and take a little bit more of a futuristic look on what's going on in our marketplaces. Now we had spoken historically around what we were trying to accomplish in the semiconductor business with respect to major trends that are occurring in the marketplace, and there's a lot the major trends that occur. Not all of them big. Some of them smaller. I think most people would readily admit that energy's one of the megatrends. It's going on in the world, trying to figure out what the right path is there. Well, we always viewed that the world was going visual as also one of the megatrends. And how did we participate in that? I used to think actually it was capture, move and store. And it's actually, as it turns out, it's really kind of capture, store and share. And that's evidenced by all of the things that all of you are doing when you capture this data, whether it's a picture or a video or a movie or a piece of data. And so we really have focused on how do we take advantage of what's going on in these marketplaces and why are we so bullish on memory as we move forward and being able to be a part of that ecosystem. So when you think about everything that's available today and all of the data that's being generated, we're constantly bombarded with media, and we're constantly bombarded with data from a whole variety of sources. But what people always -- don't always recognize is how does that occur. What's going on when that happens? And how much is it really that gets stored? And how much is it that gets shared and moved around? So when you look at just some trend lines -- and I tried to give you a picture of really the last 10 years what's happened. If you look at the amount of images and the amount of video that's being collected, it's really pretty stunning. When you try to do a 10-year comparison -- and by the way this is per year. So if you do a comparison of what was done 10 years ago in terms of capturing data around pictures and images and videos compared to what's being captured today, it's exponential. It's really phenomenal what happens. And to try to put some of that in a more simple context, if you think about the data that was created in just 2011 -- and I'm going to come back to the exabyte thing in a second -- the equivalency is 136,000 books per person on earth that we generated data in just 2011. I mean, that's the equivalent. It's a phenomenal amount of data. And if you look at storing it, obviously, there's a lot that we store, but there's a lot more that's stored now. Anybody know what an exabyte is by the way? I mean, most people don't know what an exabyte is. It's a big number. It's actually 10 to the 18th is one exabyte if you wanted to put 0s on the end of it. It's a lot of data that's being stored and collected. And of course, we love that. And when you think about specifically to some of Micron's portfolio, I was mentioning the NAND flash space, a lot of this data is being collected and then moved around via the NAND. And you can see that the new applications drive an incredible amount of bit growth. And of course, that's what we're producing, NAND Flash bits. And you can see that from where we sit today, that it's just exponential, the amount that's going to grow over the next number of years. So it's really an exciting place to be. If you look at the amount of data that's being shared, that's also gone through quite a revolution, and you can see that the amounts that existed before versus the amounts that existed now over the last 10 years, that the rate of change has really been pretty incredible. And part of that is what happens with all of this data and how we collect it. And I thought I'd show you just a real quick example. You look at YouTube here, and you're talking about how much gets loaded every month. I mean, they're loading up more every month than has been combined in all of the network programming in the last 7 to 10 years. Of course, they haven't been around that long. But that's because the availability of this is so readily achievable now that it's phenomenal what happens. And so I want to show you a quick video, and then I'll come back and talk about it in a second.


Steven R. Appleton

Now the good news for my Board of Directors is I was not in one of those cars. Okay? But I do occasionally do some off-road driving. And I happened to be at this race. This was a race that was 2 weeks ago on a weekend down in Laughlin, Nevada. And I went to the race. I actually just went down there for a Sunday afternoon and then I came home. And when I got home, someone said, "Hey, I know the 2 guys who were driving these trucks." And they say, "Hey, did you see the race between this Robbie and this guy, Knuckles?" And I said, "What are you talking about? I didn't see it." Because when you look at off-road racing, a lot of these things can happen around the world, whether it's off-road racing or things that -- they're hard to get to, right? Because you can't just cover a 10-mile course or a 20-mile course or whatever it is or you're out in the mountains or the things these people do. What's amazing though is I just typed in Laughlin, Nevada, and I typed in one of these guys' names and this came up. And instantly, I can watch it. And I could see almost real time what happened. And so these are the kinds of things that are available to us now. And we love it because this is just consuming memory bits left and right as it gets collected, as it gets moved around, as it gets stored. And so it is really one of the reasons that we're so excited about our business moving forward. And then you translate that into the number of people that are doing these kinds of things. You talk about the number of photos that are being uploaded every day to Facebook. It's a stunning number, a stunning number. You also talk about some of the things that are coming down the line. Now this has, for us, allowed us to really diversify not only in our product but our markets. And when I talk about our product base, if you look at this chart here and you can see that for the last quarter, just under 40% of our product was DRAM. And I point this out not because we don't like DRAM. We love DRAM. But I point this out because of memory's permeation through almost all the products around the world. I mean we really are the oil of the technology world if you will. It's allowed us to have a very diversified portfolio. And if you were to look at this chart 10 years ago, 90% or 95% of that bar chart would be blue, 10 years ago, going really into the computing segment, in large part mostly into the PCs. And that has all shifted for us. And we've done the kinds of things in the coming to make sure we could take advantage of it, which is why we have such a diversified technology portfolio today.

When I pointed this, this is not new. People have seen this PillCam before, and we still make a lot of imagers for the world. But that's not why. I point this out because it's collecting lots of data. Now so this is one of those -- these little pills, you can see the light flashing, and I've shown this before. You swallow this, and then it just takes a picture of your insides and collects that up in a video format, and then you can take a look at it. And as these technologies come along, I don't know about everybody here, but I, for one, I had my introduction to this bad boy a couple of years ago. And this is what kind of the old method was. By the way, I'm looking for volunteers if you guys -- I can work this out with you. And so now what's happening is the technology that comes along in the data collection, the video connection capability, it's being replaced by things like this. And so it's exciting. It's phenomenal what we're able to achieve. And all of that is really good for Micron. Okay? Because there's a lot of discussion around the industry maturing and demand not being what it used to be, et cetera, and I'm here to tell you, I think that's just not true. I think that the things that are evolving and the way that we're using data and collecting data and sharing data and whether it be in the medical field, whether it be in off-road racing is nothing short of phenomenal for us as it speaks to what we're going to be able to accomplish in the future. And we have a lot of neat products that we continue to develop to take advantage of that in all of these different segments.

So at the end of the day, it comes down to where are you at in the marketplace, both in your -- the markets that you access and where are you at in the world. And I'll come back to that in a second. In terms of the markets that we access, you can see that we now have a very good distribution of our products as they move into the marketplace. And we're addressing almost all the markets that exist in the world, and that's why this has continued to become more diversified as we move through the various years in being able to do that.

Now where are we located in the world? Because that's also very important. I took a chart of the GDP of the various countries during 2010. And 2010 was an interesting year because it was a little bit of a snapback year for a lot of economies. In 2011, it slowed down a little bit. But the trend doesn't really change, whether it's 2010 or 2011. You can see that a lot of the development is occurring in Asia in terms of a higher GDP growth and a lot in terms of product consumption. Now this is just a fact. I'm not saying it's good or it's bad or anything else. I'm just pointing out that this is really what's happening in the world. And it's in large part, being driven by demographics. As you can imagine, the population sizes that are in lots of parts of Asia that are part and parcel driving this. But more importantly, what are we doing as a company to try to make sure that we are well positioned in taking advantage of this? And as you can see, more and more of the world's GDP will shift to those regions as those growth rates are higher than some of the more westernized countries. And what does that mean for us? Well, we're pretty well positioned today. This is the 2011 distribution of revenue by geography for the company. And you can see that we were just under 70% that's already headed to Asia. And then obviously, the U.S. is still a staple of our marketplace and Europe is less. Clearly, I doubt much of this will change for Europe in 2012, as they go through some of the struggles that they're going through. But the most important message here is that we're very well positioned in terms of our revenue distribution of the company. In other words, the customers that we're selling to, we're in the right places today, as those GDP demographics take effect over the next 10 years.

Now we also have to continue to do development, and I think this is another item worth noting. This is a picture of the R&D expansion that's going on right here in Boise, Idaho, out back, and that will allow us to continue to do the types of development for a lot of the new technologies across that memory portfolio that we have as we move into the future. And equally important, as we continue to develop manufacturing sites that are closer to our customers, this is a picture of the Singapore site. When I spoke to you last year, we were in the early stages of getting it equipped and then trying to get on with some production there. We are now essentially fully ramped in that facility to the capacity that we installed, and so that's going well.

And then finally, when you look at our locations around the world in terms of our manufacturing capability and our operational capability, we are probably one of the most geographically distributed semiconductor companies in the world. If you're a customer in Asia, if you're a customer in Europe, if you're a customer in the United States, we can be there for you, and we can service you with our products. And so we are uniquely, I think, positioned moving forward to be able to take advantage of wherever the GDP growth occurs in the world in order to make this company stronger.

So let me just summarize by saying we feel like 2011 obviously wasn't as good a year as 2010. 2012, I think, could be a tough year, but relative to our competition and relative to where we see the markets moving, we think we are very well positioned to take advantage of that as we move forward.

Okay, I'd like to now open it up for questions and be happy to entertain any of those. And if you have a question, by the way, it'd be helpful if you could use the microphone because we do have people that are on the webcast, and they'd be able to hear the question at the same time. That'd be great.

Question-and-Answer Session

Steven R. Appleton

Randy's got one here.

Unknown Shareholder


Steven R. Appleton

Yes, I can hear you.

Unknown Shareholder

Oh, okay. Steve, what can we, as shareholders, do to help Micron reinvigorate the company in Idaho, specifically?

Steven R. Appleton

Yes. So we've -- clearly, we have had a difficult time on a relative basis here in Idaho as we had to restructure the company. And I think many of you know that we had larger operations historically. I think that as shareholders, of course, it's a little more peripheral other than supporting the company the best that you can. We -- I think as we move forward, we are trying to do things to try to increase the value of the company, which increase the value for the shareholders, and that's not always so obvious for us. So I think that one thing that is worth noting is there's a level of patience that's required as you go through these long-term industry trends. And I think shareholders being patient and letting the company unfold on its strategy is -- would be very helpful because sometimes shareholders are only in the stock for 30 days. It's amazing when you think about the number of shares of the company that trade. I mean, we essentially trade today between 30 and 40 million shares depending on the cycle in the year. We trade between 30 and 40 million shares per day. And then when you do the math on that, that means that almost the entire shareholder base in terms of number of shares turns over every 1.5 months to 2 months. And so there's a segment of course that trades a lot, and then there's a segment that is more patient, the segment that is with us for the longer term. And of course, we -- as shareholders, I think you can help us by being patient as we try to go through some of these longer-term trends. Our effort is to -- we can't -- it's hard for us to know what's going to happen in the marketplace in terms of supply and demand and so forth. What we try to focus on are those things that we can control: our product portfolio, the efficiency of our manufacturing operations, the quality of our customer base, those kinds of things. And that's what we do. And over time, that will result, I think, in a higher value company for everybody. And it just takes time sometimes, and we have to have patience as we try to do that. Other questions? Any other comments?

Okay. Well, let me -- oh, I'm sorry. There's one right here.

Unknown Attendee

Steve, looking ahead into 2012, what are the 2 or 3 biggest challenges facing the company?

Steven R. Appleton

I think the challenges that are facing the company as we move forward to the next year, there's a couple that we control and a couple that we don't control. The ones that we do control, as I said, we -- the wireless segment group is challenged. And when I say wireless, I'm really talking about mobile phones. An interesting statistic, I don't know if it's true today but it was, say, 6 months ago. Of all the phones that -- of all the mobile phones that exist in the world, Micron had a product in 1 out of 2, might have been a NOR device, might have been a DRAM device, might have been a NAND device, might have been an imaging device. But basically, we had a product in 1 out of 2 phones in the world. And that market, I think, as most people know, has been slow, relatively slow. And some of our largest customers, in particular one of our largest customers, has had a difficult time in that market. And so we've been challenged by that as well. I think -- so the thing that we have to make sure we do is internally we're executing on the product portfolio to try to make sure that we get our disproportionate share of that space. And the thing that's external that we don't control, of course, is what happens in the economy and the demand for those phones, but I'd say that's one of our challenges as we look forward. The other one is I think what you would expect me to say, which is in an industry where you have to reduce your costs in DRAM 30% a year or 35% a year, you have to reduce your costs in NAND per bit somewhere in the neighborhood of -- it depends on the year -- but 40% to 55%, 60% a year. It's that story where -- when if you're in the safari, I guess, then you wake up in the morning, you better be -- one way or the other, whether you're hunting or whether you're the prey, you better be running when the sun comes up. And that's how it is for our business. There's no slacking here . We have to be moving all the time. And when you think about our requirements in order to be competitive in this business, we have to execute on the strategy and the roadmap and the operations in order to be successful because if we don't for just one year, we don't do it for one year, we are way behind the competition. And so that's something that we do control internally. We have to stay focused on. The other thing that we don't control externally, which I think all of us have to contend with, it doesn't matter whether it's Micron or whether it's any of you and your personal lives is, the economy is pretty uncertain. We are kind of plugging along okay in the U.S. Europe is in a very difficult situation, and Asia has slowed down somewhat. So we're affected by these macro global trends, and we need to make sure that we're nimble and can react to them. But that's just something that we don't control, and that could be a challenge for all of us as we move forward. Any other questions?

Okay, let me wrap up by again thanking you for coming out. We appreciate that. We appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts about the company with you. We do think we're in a very good position as we move forward, and we're looking forward to accomplishing everything we're setting out to do in 2012. Thanks for coming.

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 www.SeekingAlpha.com. All other use is prohibited.


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