Plantronics' CEO Discusses Q4 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

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Plantronics (NYSE:PLT) Q4 2012 Earnings Call May 1, 2012 5:00 PM ET


Greg Klaben - Vice President of Investor Relations

S. Kenneth Kannappan - Chief Executive Officer, President and Executive Director

Barbara V. Scherer - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration


John F. Bright - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Joanna Makris - Mizuho Securities USA Inc., Research Division

Rohit N. Chopra - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC


Good afternoon. My name is Maia, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Q4 Fiscal Year 2012 Plantronics Financial Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Mr. Klaben, you may begin your conference.

Greg Klaben

Thanks, Maia. Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining us. Joining me today are Ken Kannappan, Plantronics' President and CEO; and Barbara Scherer, Senior Vice President of Finance and administration CFO.

I'd like to remind you that during the course of today's conference call, we may make certain forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties as outlined in today's press release. As we've highlighted before, the risk factors in our press release and SEC filings are not standard boilerplate. We update these risk factors every quarter for significant changes, adding and dropping language and changing the order, depending upon the timing and potential impact of the concerns that we foresee.

We believe forecasting our results of operations is difficult, and we ask you to focus particular attention on these risk factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by any such statements.

For further information, please refer to the company's forms 10-K, 10-Q, today's press release and other SEC filings. We'll be discussing non-GAAP measures during today's call, and we have reconciled these measures in our earnings press release and in our quarterly analyst metric sheet, both available on the Investor Relations section of the Plantronics website.

Plantronics' fourth quarter fiscal 2012 net revenues were $177.6 million compared with guidance provided on January 31, 2012, of $175 million to $180 million. Plantronics' GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.55 compared with $0.53 in the same quarter of the prior year and guidance of $0.56 to $0.61.

Non-GAAP diluted earnings per share for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 was $0.62 compared with $0.60 in the prior-year quarter and guidance of $0.63 to $0.68. The difference between GAAP and non-GAAP EPS for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 consists of stock-based compensation charges, net of the associated tax impact.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Ken.

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Thank you, Greg. There are 3 points I'd like to mention about our fourth quarter and fiscal 2012 results. The first is our strong fiscal year '12; the second is how contextual intelligence is critical to Unified Communications; and the third is our continued confidence that our UC opportunity and our updated view of our total addressable market.

First, highlights in fiscal 2012 include revenue growth of $713 million, including Office and Contact Center growth of 8% and UC growth of 76%. We achieved record non-GAAP earnings per share of $2.65, up 10% from the prior year and maintained our position in Office and Contact Center, or OCC, while improving our position in mobile.

Based on the prioritization of UC investments, we had fewer new product introductions in mobile in the early part of our fiscal year. Combined with weak category conditions, we acknowledged share loss through the September quarter with a stabilized share in December.

The launch of new mobile products, we reversed course of market share declines and obtained 35% share in the March quarter compared to a low point in the year under 30%. This is all data from NPD Intellect and represents the U.S. retail and consumer market.

The stereo bluetooth mobile category had not been a focus for us historically. Early in fiscal year 2012, we communicated our intent to invest in stereo; and in early April 2012, we introduced the Backbeat GO, our first stereo bluetooth product in years. It is innovative in its size, so tiny that many people think it's a corded product when it is actually wireless. So far, it appears to be off to a strong start and won PC Magazine Editor's Choice.

In fiscal 2012, we invested in our organization to offer the best solution for our UC customers and partners. In addition to our Smarter Working initiative, which includes redesigned work environments, we added talent throughout the organization, including sales, marketing, R&D and industrial design.

We also have a recent addition to our management team, hiring Marilyn Mersereau as our new Chief Marketing Officer. She has more than 25 years of experience in enterprise and consumer marketing, including experience in UC as SVP of Marketing at Cisco Systems.

The second point I'll cover today is on contextual intelligence. We think the market is moving toward us. 1.5 years ago, we introduced what we referred to as Simply Smarter Communications, our solution strategy to address the challenges inherent in Unified Communications. While UC offers many more capabilities, we added complexity in devices in modes of communications creates a real need for more intuitive products. We accomplished much of the pioneering work in our Simply Smarter Communications initiative through contextual intelligence.

Communications systems typically only have knowledge derived from the use of the network or devices attached to the network. In the case of UC, remote devices starting outside the network, UC system lack an understanding of what was happening for communications on the approximately 50% of work calls were made on mobiles.

One of the core promises of UC was that you could call a person, rather than a number, trying to reach a person. This is dependent on accurate presence or availability information. By integrating information from many devices, as well as non-UC soft client such as Skype, we improved presence dramatically. We also strive to incorporate an understanding of user's intent with sensors to detect when a headset was being put on or taken off, to automate many commands you would otherwise have to perform manually in order to answer a call.

Without us, you potentially had to log in, click to pause another application, click to select a different audio device and then click to answer a call. Our UC products automate all of these steps.

Since we pioneered contextual intelligence, we've seen growing interest in contextual intelligence throughout the UC ecosystem and extending beyond it into other areas.

IT organizations are increasingly accepting and even encouraging people to bring their own devices into the work environment. Of course, the devices actually have to work with every other device and software application that people find in the enterprise.

We have focused on this crucial interoperability challenge. We've taken this a step further by integrating knowledge from many of these disparate systems into the UC platform. It allows both to operate more effectively and provides IT with peace of mind and users a seamless experience.

Enterprise vendors have been trying to link they're offerings to UC systems to improve workflow in the organization. Communications-enabled business processes, or CBP, can speed cycle time for approvals in information across organizations. We saw a tremendous opportunity to extend our contextual information to enhance the functionality of many of these applications as well. In a week, we plan to launch a solution to bridge the gap between certain applications in the UC system. We believe the result will be a further shortening of enterprise cycle times and the capability to communicate directly from those applications to deliver documents quickly and efficiently.

Applying contextual intelligence to these enterprise applications should increase the value-add of our systems and products to our customers by taking advantage of a larger developer community. We believe it will leverage the cost development to achieve broader applicability of our products to a wider range of systems. We plan to increase the portion of our portfolio that offers contextual intelligence and to increase the amount of contacts that we can bring to UC and other applications.

Third, while the macroeconomic environment does cause us to be cautious in the near term. We remain very confident in our long-term growth opportunities. UC is the new communications paradigm. And while few enterprises have rolled out the technology to their entire organizations, there are thousands who have started.

In the March quarter, UC drove 21% of our OCC revenues despite the fact the UC with voice is only at a very low single-digit adoption level. We've maintained forecast for some time through the middle of this decade.

With Calendar 2010 to 2015 as a period of the early adopters of UC, most of the enterprise market will still not have adopted UC even by 2015. In fact, we expect adoption to accelerate after our forecast period because we believe UC, like other communications tools, has an inherently viral component. Just as you have to use Word or Adobe for others to send these documents to you, we expect you will have to be ready to take IMs, video calls or have open presence with others via UC when they have it.

In addition, knowledge workers expect advanced tools. As UC systems become more common, expectations for availability of systems in the workplace will rise, and Gartner projects that they will consider it an essential part of a competitive workplace.

Finally, the technical challenges related to bandwidth and other limitation will be overcome, and comp for us will increase as UC usage becomes more common.

At Plantronics, we continue to see broad adoption of UC systems across all enterprises on all major geographies. However, we acknowledged the deployment so far that have taken place a little slower than we expected.

The trajectory to mass-market adoption of UC signifies an exceptional growth opportunity. We've invested heavily over the past few years to achieve a leadership position in UC, and through ongoing investments strong execution, we remain as confident as ever in our ability to remain the leader.

Our focus for fiscal 2013 is as follows: core B2B business, strengthen our consumer businesses, fortify the brand value of Simply Smarter Communications and improve operational effectiveness. We believe these focus areas will allow us to continue to increase long-term stockholder value and cash flow generation.

With that, I'd like to turn the call over to Barbara.

Barbara V. Scherer

Thanks, Ken. Fourth quarter net revenues of $177.6 million were in the middle of the guidance range we'd provided for the quarter. Operating income was just slightly above the low end of the guidance range in part due to the $1.2 million impact from the bankruptcy of one of our distributors.

EPS fell $0.01 below the range on a higher tax rate. Our tax rate was higher because we experienced a different geographic revenue and income mix in the quarter than we had anticipated. The change was enough to shift our income mix for the full year more to domestic and therefore, we needed to adjust our full year tax rate up to 25.3% from 25%, which meant that our Q4 rate needed to be 26.5% to get to the final full year tax rate of 25.3% non-GAAP.

For the year as a whole, net revenues increased by 4% on the strength of OCC, and in particular UC products.

Non-GAAP gross margin was a strong 54.2%, up from 53.6% last fiscal year. To position ourselves for growth, we invested in increased sales presence, integrate marketing and a higher level of software value-add in current and planned future products. We also grew and strengthened our worldwide G&A support team and continue to enhance our infrastructure. Those investments contributed to the approximate 10% operating expense growth for the year, resulting in relatively flat operating income.

That said, we did have a $5.1 million gain from litigation in fiscal '11, which makes the comparison a bit tougher for fiscal '12. Excluding that gain in fiscal '11, our non-GAAP operating income increased from $153.7 million to $159.2 million.

With our commitment to stockholder-friendly capital allocation, we reduced our diluted weighted average share count from 49.5 million shares in Q4 a year ago down to 43.3 million shares in Q4 of fiscal '12 and grew non-GAAP EPS by 9.5% from $2.42 to $2.65.

Despite the use of $274 million of cash to buy back shares, we ended fiscal year '12 with total cash, cash equivalents and short- and long-term investments of $390 million compared to $469 million at the end of last fiscal year.

Our balance sheet and business model clearly remains strong, and we are very well positioned competitively.

Total net revenues for the fourth quarter of $177.6 million were up $4.5 million or 3% compared to fourth quarter last year. While we experienced healthy growth in the U.S., our EMEA region declined year-on-year, driven primarily -- due to the economic downturn in the region. Year-on-year growth in our Asia Pacific region was slower than we have experienced in recent quarters, primarily on a slowdown in the economic growth rate in a number of the key countries in which we operate in the Asia Pac region.

Key product line comparisons to Q4 last year are as follows: OCC net revenues of $131 million were down $1 million or 1%. Net revenues from OCC products grew in the U.S. but dropped in EMEA, Canada and the Asia Pacific region. Net revenues from mobile products were up $7.2 million to $35.2 million, a 26% growth rate compared to Q4 last year.

While the mobile category grew in all 3 major geographies, the largest pickup came from the U.S., driven by strong contributions from newly introduced products such as the Voyager PRO HD, which is our next-generation Voyager PRO Bluetooth headset, as well as our M155 Marque and M50 mobile products.

Gaming and Computer products were down $1.8 million or 21% compared to the year-ago quarter. An older console gaming line discontinued by a major U.S. retailer last spring accounted for about half of the decline and 2 other relatively mature gaming products are also down in revenue. We expect to refresh our gaming product line and grow this business in the future.

And finally, Clarity was up 3% in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter last year.

Turning to the sequential revenue changes. OCC net revenues were down $2.4 million or 2% compared to the December quarter with growth in the U.S. region -- growth in the U.S. offset by significant declines in EMEA and Asia Pacific.

Increases in the U.S. were principally from our CS wireless products, which recovered nicely after a weak Q3. In EMEA, the sequential drop was primarily due to macroeconomic factors catching up after what had been a surprisingly strong Q3. Mobile net revenues were excellent. A typical March quarter is down 15% in comparison to the seasonally strong December quarter. Our net revenues in Q4 were down just $0.7 million or 2% sequentially with net revenues in the U.S. actually coming in higher than the December quarter. We are continuing to experience an enthusiastic reception of our new products. And according to NPD Intellect and the U.S. consumer market they track, our overall market share in bluetooth grew over 3 points sequentially to 27%.

Gaming and Computer audio products experienced a more typical seasonal decline versus the December holiday quarter of $2.3 million or 25%. Our typical average seasonal decline has been 20%. The decline was apparent in all major geographic regions, and Clarity net revenues declined $0.2 million.

Geographically, our revenue mix in Q4 was 60% domestic and 40% international compared to 55%, 45% in Q4 last year and 54%, 46% in the December quarter.

Turning to gross margin. Non-GAAP gross margin was up 0.3 points year-over-year and 1.1 point sequentially. Compared to the fourth quarter last year, the 0.3-point margin growth was primarily the result of 0.7 points benefit from lower material costs, including the nonrecurrence of gold surcharges incurred in Q4 last year; 0.6 points benefit from manufacturing efficiencies and lower cost of freight versus a year ago; 0.6 points benefit mostly from lower requirements for excess and obsolete inventory and lower warranty costs.

Those benefits were partially offset by 0.8-point detriment from product mix, mostly from the effect of this quarter's revenue being weighted more heavily to mobile than were those in the year-ago quarter; 0.5 points detriment from the effects of the stronger U.S. dollar on international revenues; and 0.3 points detriment from the bankruptcy of one of our distributors.

Compared to the December quarter, the improvement was primarily the result of 0.6 points benefit from the lower requirements for excess and obsolete inventory; 0.5 benefit from lower cost of materials; 0.4 benefits from product mix, mostly from the effect of this quarter's revenues being more heavily weighted to OCC than they were in the third quarter. And those benefits were partially offset by 0.3 points primarily due to the bankruptcy of one of our distributors.

Turning to operating expenses. Non-GAAP operating expenses were $59.4 million in the current quarter or 33.5% of revenues. Compared to our fourth quarter last year, operating expenses are up $6.6 million. Remember, however, that a year ago, we received a benefit of $5.1 million from a favorable settlement on a litigation matter that reduced total operating expenses by that amount. Excluding that $5.1 million, our operating expenses for R&D and SG&A combined are up just $1.5 million versus the year-ago quarter and both quarters would then be at 33.5%.

Sequentially, non-GAAP operating expenses were $4.7 million higher, mainly due to the March quarter's seasonal increase in fringe benefits for our employees versus seasonally low levels in the December quarter. The seasonal effect is driven by higher use of accrued vacation and holiday time in the December quarter in comparison to the March quarter.

In addition, at the beginning of the calendar year, we also experienced an increase in certain employee-related payroll taxes as annual tax limits are reset, and employees have not yet reached these limits.

Expenses were also higher due to a $0.6 million provision for bad debt expense, and there were also substantial marketing expenditures.

Our non-GAAP operating margin was 20.4% in Q4, 2.6 points lower than in Q4 last year. But excluding the effect of the one-time litigation benefit, it would be 0.3 points higher than our year-ago operating margin.

Our year-to-date non-GAAP operating margin is 22.3%, in the upper range of our long-term operating model of 20% to 23%, and we remain comfortable with that operating model of 20% to 23%.

Our effective non-GAAP tax rate for the quarter was 26.5% compared to 24.7% in the year-ago quarter. The increase in the tax rate to the 26.5%, I really already covered. As a result of all these items, our Q4 non-GAAP net income at $26.8 million was $2.8 million or 9% lower than the non-GAAP net income of $29.5 million in the year-ago quarter.

The cumulative benefit of our stock repurchase programs was the main factor driving a 12% lower weighted average diluted share count versus the year-ago quarter, which combined with our net income, resulted in non-GAAP EPS of $0.62, up by $0.02 or 3% from the year-ago Q4 of $0.60.

In terms of the balance sheet and cash flow highlights, we finished the quarter with nearly $390 million in cash, cash equivalents and short- and long-term investments, after spending approximately $30 million on repurchases of our common stock during Q4. We generated approximately $53 million in cash flow from operations in the fourth quarter and continue to have a strong financial position. Of the approximate $390 million that I just discussed at quarter end, $11.6 million was domestic.

DSO increased to 57 days from 54 days compared to a year ago and from 54 days sequentially.

Net inventories were down $2.8 million versus a year ago and down by $4.1 million sequentially.

Non-GAAP inventory turns improved from 5.7 a year ago to 6.1 in the quarter just ended and compared to 6 in the December quarter.

Turning to our capital expenditures. Our Q4 spending was $4.1 million or 2.3% of net revenues, bringing year-to-date capital expenditures to $19.1 million or 2.7% of net revenues, which is right in line with our plan for the year.

Depreciation and amortization expense was $3.4 million in the quarter, $1.5 million lower than in the fourth quarter last year when we recognized a one-time $1.4 million GAAP charge for accelerated amortization.

Turning to the outlook. Given the macro environment, we remain somewhat cautious about the June quarter. The macro environment definitely remains uncertain, and the market's volatility has continued to reflect that. With 11 countries in Europe officially in recession, including most recently, the U.K., we continue to be cautious about the environment due to the impact it is having, and may have in the future on our core OCC business.

In light of that uncertainty and to assist us in having the most appropriate skill set mix at the best overall cost envelope, we eliminated 14 positions in Santa Cruz principally in our product development organization.

The severance cost associated with the reduction was approximately $0.5 million and will be part of our Q1 operating expenses.

We believe total net revenues for the June quarter will be in the range of $177 million to $182 million, assuming some recovery in the Asia-Pac region. We currently believe a recovery in the Asia-Pac region is reasonable given our bookings to date in Q1.

Depending on the revenue mix and other factors, we believe non-GAAP operating income will be approximately $34 million to $36.5 million or 19% to 20% of revenues. The outlook anticipates operating expenses of approximately $61 million, inclusive of the $0.5 million in severance I mentioned earlier. This expense level also includes an anticipated increase in sales-related travel in the June quarter.

Based on all of the above, we currently expect non-GAAP EPS to be $0.58 to $0.63 on average diluted shares outstanding of approximately 43.5 million.

The GAAP charges we expect in the coming quarter include approximately $4.8 million in stock-based compensation expense or $0.08 EPS. We thus expect GAAP EPS of $0.50 to $0.55 for the June quarter.

While the operating income estimates I've outlined above are lower than Q1 last year, our plan for the entire fiscal year calls for an increase in revenues, an increase in operating income and an increase in EPS, and we'll be focused on achieving these results while making the right investments for the longer term as well.

In summary, we had a solid Q4 and fiscal year. Our focus on UC paid off, with excellent growth in that category, and our mobile products have grown in market share over the last 6 months.

During fiscal '12, we generated over $140 million in cash flow from operations and purchased over 8 million shares of our common stock, helping drive non-GAAP EPS growth of 9.5% for the fiscal year as a whole.

Our long-standing philosophy has been to return cash in excess of our operating needs to our stockholders. Our stock repurchase programs have been our primary means of executing on this philosophy. Our management team and our Board of Directors continue to have a strong conviction in our growth prospects, business model and cash flow generation capability. Thus, in addition to our ongoing stock repurchase program, I'm very pleased to announce that our Board approved the doubling of our regular quarterly dividend from $0.05 per share to $0.10 per share.

With that, I'll turn it back over to Maia, the conference facilitator, for the Q&A session.

Question-and-Answer Session


[Operator Instructions] Your first call -- I'm sorry, your first question comes from the line of John Bright.

John F. Bright - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Ken, could you give us what the changes are in your updated view of the UC opportunity?

Barbara V. Scherer

Yes. So I'll answer that one, John. Basically, we took the model out to calendar '16, and the UC portion is that -- $900 million for that year. It's a -- that was up from an estimate of $850 million for calendar '15. In 2016, we're expecting to get to a total attach rate against the worldwide office worker market of -- there's about 440 million office workers worldwide. We're expecting to be at an attach rate of approximately 11%. That's traditional and UC, and that would compare to 4% last year. On the UC piece of that, in terms of coming to that $900 million market for UC, we're looking at approximately 52% headset adoption against an estimated $73 million active UC voice licenses. In the past, when we've been projecting out, we've been looking at a bit lower headset adoption. And you may recall that Microsoft, at least, has been on record of talking about seeing somewhere between 50% and 100% adoption at sites that have installed Lync. So with the $900 million in UC out there, if our market share is somewhere in the 45% to 50% range, we should be north of $350 million in revenues from UC in that time period. So it's really very consistent with where we've been. We've had about $350 million as the target for calendar '15. And we believe calendar '16, we should be north of that.

John F. Bright - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

And the -- have -- of the past 3 quarters, traditional OCC has been -- looks like slightly weak. And has cannibalization or competition played a factor in traditional OCC weakness?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

We don't believe it has. We've discussed cannibalization a number of times. And of course, there is a very, very tiny impact when we sell a UC that we won't sell somebody from a traditional product portfolio. But I'll just kind of reiterate the math for everyone else for a second, John. If we had a big customer, and they had 100,000 people that were in the knowledge worker space, it would've been reasonable to assume on a kind of a global distribution that we might have perhaps 7,000 headsets there, and realistically might sell them 1,400 headsets in a year, almost 100 a month. If there was a major UC installation, it's possible we would sell 50,000 or 60,000 headsets that companies spread out over the course of what is realistically a couple of year timeframe, or phrased differently, a much higher level of units per month nearly 5x. Now that at the same time, might mean that we do forego that 100. But this is, again, for those enterprises that have actually adopted UC. Right now, we see that as being in the, let's just call it, 2%-or-so of the market. So the impact is pretty slight there. We don't believe in all the data that confirms that we're having any market share loss to our competition. So we really think that it's economic factors. And I think that what we've seen from the published data is that the levels of voluntary turnover have not risen back in this recession. And this is something that's affecting economies globally, where the level of fear, unfortunately, has not really gone down. In fact, perhaps, it's even risen a little bit in some economies as concerns over a double-dip have increased. And that voluntary turnover is a core factor for what drives the cyclical element of our traditional business. When somebody leaves, they wind up going to a new company, and both their replacement gets a new headset. And where they go, they don't expect to get somebody else's used headset. So it drives a significant portion of our business. All the data suggest that we haven't gotten to that point of robustness in the labor market yet to see any bounce.

John F. Bright - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Ken, in your prepared text, you talked about 2010 to 2015 being the early adopters for UC. Are you pushing out the adoption curve or the slope associated with that?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

We haven't pushed it out. But I once -- tried to make 2 points there. The first one being that when we set up that chart, some people were wondering, and particularly as time has passed, what happens after 2015, and we think we just start to really hit the early majority at that point in time, and that the acceleration begins to get sharper. And we've begun hearing that more and more from partners and from customers and from others in terms of what their expectations were. We've been trying to get market research data that will illuminate that point, so that it can just become a little bit clearer because all the forecasts we had were through 2015. We're not changing our model on 2015. I did note that at this point in time, we have seen some of the deployments, that we talked about before, be a little bit slower than we thought. So any forecast and certainly for 2015 is not a perfect level of precision. If anything, I think therefore, we're probably a little bit light. But I don't think that it's way off, and it's within the range of reason. And earlier, in fact, we thought we're a little bit ahead. So I think it's a forecast we still think is reasonable, if slightly high. But the purpose again was really to talk about that we think that there's a pretty good chance that the pace of UC will accelerate in the back half of the decade.

John F. Bright - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Last question. Barbara, you mentioned the growth in FY '13. From a top line perspective, could you give us some qualitative expectations for growth?

Barbara V. Scherer

I don't want to provide an actual quantitative number for growth for the full year. We believe doing quarterly guidance is appropriate. But I did want to make it clear that we do have a plan that management has signed up for that, includes top line growth, operating income growth and EPS growth. Obviously, the environment is not terrific, so we're not expecting significant growth. But we are expecting growth in all 3 areas.


Your next question comes from Joanna Makris.

Joanna Makris - Mizuho Securities USA Inc., Research Division

I wanted to follow up a little bit on the traditional business. I understand your comments that you're not seeing any UC cannibalization. But just thinking, if there is a sustained macro weakness internationally, how do you view the 12 months growth trajectory for traditional ONC -- OCC? I mean do you think it's flattish? I mean could it decline, if we do -- if this is a beginning of more pronounced weakness internationally, kind of how should we think about longer-term growth now of the traditional business?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Well, so let me talk secular and cyclical for a second. So I can start with cyclical. The business is definitely affected by economic activity. And if we see a recovery, we would consider that to be good for the business. And likewise, if we see some kind of double-dip or if we see places where there are double-dips, that will be negative for the business in those regions. We -- I certainly don't consider ourselves better forecasters than all of you experts on Wall Street. And so I would say that your own forecasts for economic activity are probably as good as ours. We really, frankly, use yours as a general guidance. What we generally see out there is still an expectation that global GDP will be positive. And so we are still basing our expectations on that, although we've recognized that in some areas that it has been negative, and it may continue to be negative in the near term. Nonetheless, for the fiscal year as a whole, we are expecting a positive global GDP. And therefore, as Barbara said, we are expecting growth in that. Within the narrower kind of -- well, within that business, let me just kind of talk for a second, the enterprise business continues to have a secular growth rate that is, generally speaking, overall higher. That's of course heavily influenced by the growth in Unified Communications. The contact center is a more mature market, particularly in the developed economies, but we are still seeing growth in emerging markets. So overall, our expectations over the next 5 years or so are that we'd see a 13%, 14% compound annual growth rate in the coming year, again, heavily influenced by economic conditions outside of the UC market where we would be surprised if it didn't grow even if the economic conditions were quite adverse.

Joanna Makris - Mizuho Securities USA Inc., Research Division

Okay, fair enough. And on the UC business, you obviously, you commented on strength in the U.S. Just interested in getting more color around deal sizes and just general comments on the sales cycle, just because some of the related vendors, say, in the video conferencing space, like Polycom, have seen sales cycles elongating. It's hard to tell if that's market share dynamics related, but it seems like they've been a little more cautious on just the sales cycle of enterprise and related segments.

S. Kenneth Kannappan

So we've not seen a change to our sales cycle. And our business may be different than theirs, so I don't want to comment on theirs. We've commented before that the sales cycle has been fairly consistent, and the deployment cycle is actually where we see this stretch out in terms of the activity and sometimes perhaps even influenced by economic activity. We believe that we are going to see some downward migration from enterprise into mid-sized corporations, where generally speaking, the sales cycle, if anything, seems to be a little bit faster. So we are not seeing a slowdown in the sales cycle.

Joanna Makris - Mizuho Securities USA Inc., Research Division

Okay, great. And then lastly, just on gross margins. You've been operating above long-term targets. So just general commentary around the dynamics of gross margin and kind of how you're thinking in the near term.

Barbara V. Scherer

Yes. We have been, and I think we will generally continue to operate at about these levels, let's say, with quarterly fluctuations probably over the course of this coming fiscal year as well. Another market that we didn't really talk to a change in view, but we did get updated information from strategy analytics on the mobile market, and the outlook for growth in the global market for bluetooth headsets for mobile applications is weaker than it has been estimated to be in the past. So the CAGR on that has dropped about 2% to 4%, with stereo expected to grow fast and mono expected to decline. This is over a 5-year projected time horizon. And should that play out, well I think we still have some terrific opportunities in front of us to gain share, particularly internationally in mobile. It doesn't create pressure from -- on a gross margin percentage, I'm not talking about gross profit but a gross margin percentage, it doesn't create the pressure from very fast-growing mobile market. And our margins in all of OCC, so traditional corded, wireless, UC, all continue to be very, very good. And we are working hard to add value to those products and help maintain the margin. Our cost structure is excellent. Our ops team has been doing a number of things to take costs out. So for the -- for 12 months or so, pretty confident that our gross margins should be reasonably in this range that we're at.


Your next question is from Rohit Chopra.

Rohit N. Chopra - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Ken, I just wanted to get a little bit of sense of what's happening with your partners? You used to talk a lot about Microsoft, and we haven't heard too much recently. So I just want to get a sense, is there anything changing with any of your partners? I don't know if you want to mention any of them, but is there anything happening?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Well, there's a lot happening of course. And our relationships with all of our partners, we think, are extremely strong. And if anything, I would say getting yet stronger. I mean part of what I talked about with contextual intelligence, although I didn't name any partners by name, is how we add value to their system. And this is very unique. This is very differentiated. And they've come to realize that this is invaluable. I mean it's just kind of like with all those search guys, why they are desperate to know more information about you, so you can get more relevance back to the individual. It's the same thing for communication systems. If you're not on their system or using a device attached to it, they are blind as to what's happening, and they are desperate to add more value themselves. So we're in a really good position to do that. And they're very, very appreciative of that innovation. In addition to -- a lot of the other things that we do is a great partner for them. So the relationships are going well across the board: sales, marketing, technical, et cetera. I feel very good about where we are. There wasn't a monumental item that I needed to announce in connection to it, so I was really focusing on the core strategy and the growth opportunity rather than the partnerships, but they're all good.

Rohit N. Chopra - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Okay. And then, can you just talk about attach rates in the Q4 quarter? Did you notice any type of decline in attach rates? Or were they fairly stable, and it was just the macro?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Yes. So 2 points on the attach rate. First, as it relates to enterprise, of course, it doesn't move very much in the period, so the big change there is really the replacement rate. As it relates to UC, which is of course part of enterprise, we don't think that there's any real change in attach rate. And actually, we did still see growth in the UC part of the business.

Rohit N. Chopra - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

And just a couple more questions. Were there any deal pushouts? I know you didn't mention any, but I just thought I'd ask.

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Well, so the only thing about that is you can argue that there might have been some. But the truth is, there's always some deal pushouts at any point in time. I don't think that there was a big impact that was negative on the quarter from deal pushouts. The primary impact in the quarter, in my mind, was weaker economic conditions that affected us in some places. And of course, we also had the bankruptcy with one particular channel partner. Those were, I think, the main things.

Rohit N. Chopra - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Okay. And then my last question is just related to Apac. So you mentioned there was some macro factors in the Asia-Pacific region. But then you also mentioned that bookings are strong, so you'd expect that to come back to some extent. So does that mean the macro factors are short-lived and that you're actually seeing a nice rebound?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Well, so I just want to say, what we've seen also in some of these geographies is a greater level of volatility. I mentioned this in the past. We've seen this for some time where, whether it's induced by emotional states or comes from the business, we've seen for some time that our bookings, which used to be very, very linear and steady have now become more volatile. And so both up and both -- and down. People are reacting more quickly to changes in what they see as their outlook with changes in their business investments, their hiring inventory levels, all different types of things. So that's -- let me say that. I think Barbara is going to add to the point.

Barbara V. Scherer

Probably just going to add that I think what's different about Asia-Pac than EMEA is that what's been happening is that the growth rates are slowing some or dropping to low end of expectations versus higher numbers that had been out there even 3, 4 months ago. So you're still in a growth environment, not with 11 countries in recession, obviously very different sizes. And in EMEA, it makes it a big difference. But the change in a growth rate can definitely affect business. And then we also had the very early Chinese New Year. And so February itself was also just really slow, and didn't have the level of recovery that we would -- thinking in March. But we have, in fact, seen a very strong level of bookings quarter-to-date out of Asia-Pac. So we're reasonably optimistic that it should recover, and we have built a recovery into the guidance.

Rohit N. Chopra - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Just while we have you, is there a timeframe for your replacement?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Let me comment on that rather than Barbara because although she's familiar and intimately involved, I'm actually also very much involved in the recruiting process. So we don't have a timeframe. But I would say that we believe that we have found a number of qualified candidates that seem to be interested in Plantronics, and we do expect that we will be able to fill that position with somebody. We don't see a need to rush it. Barbara has been gracious enough and agreed to stay until we find someone and help them get up to speed and onboard. So that's all I got to add on right now.


And your next question is from Greg Burns.

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

In terms of your first quarter guidance, could you give us some maybe a little more color about how the -- do you assume revenue growth segments out?

Barbara V. Scherer

Well, so we've got a range in there that allows for growth in OCC. But we could also end up being pretty flat in OCC, and we could end up with a little upside on mobile. So it is a -- it's not really clear where the winning segment would be, but leaning more toward OCC than mobile.

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. And in terms of the overall market guidance that you gave, looking for 13% to 14% long-term growth in the OCC market. I guess this year we ended up at around 8%. So over what timeframe do you foresee getting to that kind of low-teen growth rate?

Barbara V. Scherer

That goes out to 2016. So it's a 5-year projection.

S. Kenneth Kannappan

If you will, UC is going to become a larger part of the business and fill up the adoption curve. At the same time, we expect eventually, we will see some cyclical recovery in the traditional OCC business.

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay, so maybe there's more acceleration in the fiscal '14 timeframe?

Barbara V. Scherer


Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. And just a question on your software platform. How many, I guess, software -- or softphone platforms is that integrated with? And how many enterprise deployments with your Plantronics enterprise Android yet?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

So to answer the second question is real simple, and the answer is yes. The answer to the first question, somewhere, we actually have an exact number. I don't remember what it is off the cuff. I will tell you that we are on virtually every major softphone platform right now with compatibility. There are some smaller and/or regional ones where we're not there yet.

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. And with the enterprise manager, is that -- do you receive revenue from that? Or is that just given to a person that takes your headsets or a company that takes your headsets?

S. Kenneth Kannappan

Yes. That's typically a part of the sale, okay? So people are using that in order to deploy the software that we're providing them.

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

And, Barbara, in terms of the guidance for the first quarter, back to that, the -- I guess, it implies a sequential contraction in the operating margins. And I know in past quarters you've talked about selling some of the more discretionary spending. Are you picking up spending in certain areas of the business?

Barbara V. Scherer

We do expect operating expenses to be up sequentially to about $61 million. That does include the $0.5 million for the severance charge that I talked about for the 14 people whose positions we need to eliminate here, and it does include a pretty big spike for sales-related travel. This is a quarter where we have quite a number of activities related to our sales team and our channels, channel partners around the world in terms of getting aligned on the plan of products. We have some exciting launches that are coming up this quarter. So there is a spend increase as well.

Gregory Burns - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. So could we see that decline through the balance of the year? Or is it...

Barbara V. Scherer

Not -- I mean -- it's not that large of an increase. I mean it's in a -- it'll -- I really don't want to give a full year OpEx view. We obviously have an OpEx plan, but it is subject to increase or decrease based on the overall conditions.


And there are no further questions at this time.

S. Kenneth Kannappan

All right. I'd just like to thank all of you for joining us on the conference call. Of course, we're all available if you have any additional questions or you would like to follow up. And most of the information is also available on our website. Thank you very much.


This concludes today's conference. You may now disconnect.

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