Linear Technology Corp. (LLTC)

F3Q10 (Qtr End 27/06/10) Earnings Call

July 21, 2010 11:30 am ET


Paul Coghlan - Chief Financial Officer, Vice President - Finance

Lothar Maier - CEO


Jim Covello - Goldman Sachs

Tore Svanberg - Stifel Nicholas

Doug Freedman - Gleacher & Company

Gus Richard - Piper Jaffray

Ross Seymore - Deutsche Bank Securities

John Pitzer - Credit Suisse

Steve Smigie - Raymond James

Chris Caso - Susquehanna Financial Group

Christopher Danely - JPMorgan

David Wong - Wells Fargo

Craig Ellis - Caris & Company

Blayne Curtis - Jefferies & Co.

David Wu - GC Research

Shawn Webster - Macquarie Capital

Tim Luke - Barclays Capital

Ambrish Srivastava - BMO Capital Markets

Paul Leming - Soleil Securities

Uche Orji - UBS

Craig Berger - FBR Capital Markets

Terence Whalen - Citigroup



Good day everyone and welcome to the Linear Technology Corporation Fiscal 2010 Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. Today s conference is being recorded.

At this time, for opening remarks and introductions I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Paul Coghlan, Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead.

Paul Coghlan

Hello. Good morning everyone. I am joined today on the call with Lothar Maier, our CEO and Bob Swanson, our Executive Chairman. Welcome to our call. I will give you a brief overview of our recently completed fourth quarter and 2010 fiscal year. And then address the current business climate. We will then open up the conference call to questions to be directed at Bob, Lothar or myself.

I trust you ve all seen copies of our press release, which was published last night. First however, I would like to remind you, that except for historical information, the matters we will be describing this morning will be forward looking statements, that are dependent on certain risks and uncertainties, including such factors among others as new orders received and shipped during the quarter, the timing and introduction of new processes and products and general conditions in the world economy and financial markets.

In addition to these risks, which we described in our press release issued yesterday, we refer you to the risk factors listed in the company s Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 28, 2010 particularly management discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operation.

Secondly, SEC Regulation FD, regarding selective disclosure, influences our interaction with investors. We have opened up this conference call to enable all interested investors to listen in. The press release and this conference call will be our forum to respond to questions, regarding our estimated financial performance going forward.

Consequently, should you have any questions regarding our estimates of sales and profits or other financial matters for the upcoming quarter, as well as how they might impact our income statement model and our balance sheet, this is the time we are free to respond to these questions.

As you can tell from our press release, this was another great quarter for us. It was our fifth consecutive quarter of growth, with the last four showing very robust growth; 14%, 9%, 21%, and most recently 18% sequentially quarter-over-quarter. Sales grew in each major area, USA, Europe, Japan and rest of Asia, and therefore soundly beat the top end of our guidance of 7% to 10% growth.

Business was very strong throughout the quarter, and market concerns about a global slowdown did not materialize. To the contrary, our strength was evident in all end markets, except cellphone as each major end market grew substantially in absolute dollars with the largest percentage growth being in the industrial sector. We ended the quarter with another strong positive book-to-bill ratio.

This improvement in sales positively impacted profitability. As operating margin improved by 26%, operating income is now 53.1% of sales, up from 49.4% last quarter. Pre-tax income grew 22%, even after having been adversely impacted by a non-cash charge on the early retirement of a portion of the company s senior convertible notes. And net income grew 24%, with this quarter s tax rate of 26% being roughly similar to last quarter s 27%.

This sequential sales growth was even more pronounced, on a quarterly year-over-year basis, as sales grew 76%, operating income a 146%, and net income a 142%.

For the fiscal year, we recovered from the global recession quicker than we had anticipated at this time a year ago. Fiscal year 2010 sales grew 21% over the previous year, operating income grew 37%, and net income grew 25%.

The company is executing very efficiently in this period of rapid growth and we have unwound all of the restrictions that we had on labor costs. Specifically, there are no more shutdowns, reductions in base pay have been eliminated and profit sharing has increased.

Our employees made sacrifices during this recession and we are now back to normal mode. Headcount again increased in the quarter, largely in the factory areas. However, our revenue per employee is higher than it was prior to the recession.

In summary, the effect of the items I just listed on the published quarterly results was that revenue was a record $366.2 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010, compared to the previous quarter s record revenue of $311.3 million, and compared to $208 million reported in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009.

GAAP earnings per share of $0.54 improved $0.10 over the previous quarter s EPS and doubled from $0.23 per share, reported in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009. GAAP net income of $124.5 million, which included a one time charge of $10.5 million, which was a non-cash charge on the early retirement of debt, increased $23.9 million from the third quarter of this fiscal year, and doubled from $51.4 million in the fourth quarter of last fiscal year.

Earnings per share would be $0.66 on a pro forma basis, without the non-recurring loss on the early retirement of debt and without the recurring impact of two significant non-cash items, stock option accounting and more recently the amortization of debt discount.

This amortization of debt discount is the theoretical difference between the company s convertible debt, actual interest rate, and the interest it would have potentially had to pay, if it had used straight bank debt.

During the June quarter, the company s cash and short-term investments balance decreased by $64 million to $958.1 million. Net of spending, $154.2 million to retire $154.9 million of convertible debt. The company announced that it would again pay a quarterly dividend of $0.23 per share. This cash dividend will be paid on August 25, to shareholders of record on August 13.

Looking ahead to the September quarter, we expect continued improvements in sales and profitability. Our factories continue to execute very efficiently. Strong fourth quarter bookings and a continuing strong positive book-to-bill ratio leads us to again be optimistic, as we enter our first quarter of fiscal 2011.

Though our first quarter is historically a slow quarter for the company, we are forecasting revenue growth for this September fiscal quarter in the range of 4% to 7%, over the just completed June quarter.

Profitability for the company continues to be industry leading, and as we grow sales, we anticipate continuing strong operating margins as a percentage of net sales. From a balance sheet perspective, cash and short-term investments decreased $64 million as I mentioned.

Receivables grew by $30.2 million, roughly in concert with the increase in sales.

Inventory increased modestly this quarter, by $383,000. Our return on assets was 31%, up from 26% last quarter.

Due to the increased demands, our overall ending-on-hand inventory at distribution increased, although it continues to be at historic record turns levels. Our average lead times have moved into the eight to 10 week range, and we continue to be well positioned competitively.

During the downturn, we have maintained all of our manufacturing capacity, which has enabled us to maintain very responsive lead times this year. We are currently adding to capacity and plan to spend approximately $115 million on additional equipment next fiscal year.

June was also the end of our fiscal year. One year ago, as we entered fiscal 2010, we were starting to recover from a global recession and there were concerns about the sustainability of the recovery. However, our recovery from the steep decline we experienced in fiscal 2009, was surprisingly rapid as we delivered four very strong quarters of sequential growth, reaching record revenues in our fiscal third quarter and again handily beating that mark in the fiscal fourth quarter.

Our growth was broad based across all regions and all end markets, most notably in the automotive, industrial and computer end markets.

We worked hard at adeptly changing course from a depressed market to one of aggressive growth. We continue to closely manage expenses, and our rate of profitability improved, and we grew operating margins for the year from 42.5% to 48.2% this year.

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