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Agilent Technologies Inc  (NYSE:A)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Nov. 19, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Agilent Technologies' Fourth Quarter 2018 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all lines are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session and instructions will be provided at that time. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

I'd now like to hand the conference over to Alicia Rodriguez, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Alicia Rodriguez -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, James, and welcome, everyone, to Agilent's fourth quarter conference call for fiscal year 2018. With me are Mike McMullen, Agilent's President and CEO; and Bob McMahon, Agilent's Senior Vice President and CFO.

Joining in the Q&A after Bob's comments will be Jacob Thaysen, President of Agilent's Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group; Sam Raha, President of Agilent's Diagnostics and Genomics Group; and Mark Doak, President of the Agilent CrossLab Group.

You can find the press release and information to supplement today's discussion on our website at www.investor.agilent.com. While there, please click on the link for financial results under the Financial Information tab. You will find an investor presentation along with revenue breakouts and currency impacts, business segment results and historical financials for Agilent's operations. We will also post a copy of the prepared remarks following this call.

Today's comments by Mike and Bob will refer to non-GAAP financial measures. You will find the most directly comparable GAAP financial metrics and reconciliations on our website. Unless otherwise noted, all references to increases or decreases in financial metrics are year-over-year. References to revenue growth are on a core basis. Core revenue growth excludes the impact of currency and acquisitions and divestitures within the past 12 months. Guidance is based on exchange rates as of October 31.

We will also make forward-looking statements about the financial performance of the Company. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties and are only valid as of today. The Company assumes no obligation to update them. Please look at the Company's recent SEC filings for a more complete picture of our risks and other factors.

Before I turn the call over to Mike, I would also like to share my plans to retire at the end of January making this my last conference call as Agilent's Vice President of Investor Relations. I've enjoyed working with many of you over the years but as Mike says the best is yet to come and so it is also true for IR.

And now I'd like to turn the call over to Mike.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks Alicia. And hello everyone, thank you for joining us today. Before I cover our finance results, I want to thank Alicia for her years of service and wish her the best in her retirement. Alicia has superbly led Agilent's IR team for the past eight years. She has set a high standard for her professionalism, integrity and transparency in her engagement with the investment community. Thank you, Alicia. You are the best and you'll be missed by me, you can see it's a bit of an emotional day for all of us and our Agilent team and I'm sure by the audience on today's call.

This quarter we reported our strongest quarterly results since the 2015 launch of the new Agilent. We are ending the year with a terrific quarter. Our revenues, profitability and earnings per share are significantly ahead of expectations. Now some of the specifics.

Q4 revenues grew 9% on a core basis to $1.29 billion. This exceeded the high end of our guidance by more than $30 million. Double digit end-market growth in pharma, environmental and forensics along with the continued strength of our chemical energy business are driving results. Geographically, our China business is up sharply with 16% growth for the quarter. For the year, the Agilent's China team delivered double digit growth and achieved a major milestone crossing over $1 billion in business for the first time. Q4 adjusted operating margin is 25.2%, up 190 basis points from last year.This is our 15th consecutive quarter of the Agilent team improving year-over-year operating margins. Q4 adjusted EPS of $0.81 is $0.07 above the high end of our guidance. Compared to last year, this is an increase of 21%. In addition, we took advantage of market conditions to purchase $86 million in stock during the quarter. For the full year, stock repurchase stand at $422 million, underscoring the confidence we have in our future performance.

I am also pleased report to that the Agilent Board has just approved a new $1.75 billion share repurchase plan. This quarter an excellent 2018. Our strong quarterly performance translates into full year core growth of 7.1%, our highest annual growth rate since the launch of the new Agilent. Total reported revenues grew to $4.9 billion. We continued to deliver improved profitability while investing for growth. For the year, adjusted operating margin is 23.1%, up 110 basis points over last year.

Our earnings per share up 18% for the year to $2.97. The numbers tell a story, a strong team delivering yet another stellar annual performance.

Let's now look at the quarter by business groups. Core revenue grew a healthy 9% for LSAG, our Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group. Product strength is broad based driven by mass spec, chromatography and cell analysis. We continue to introduce innovative new products. We are strengthening our molecular spectroscopy portfolio with the launch of the Agilent 8700 Laser Direct Infrared chemical imaging system. This is a breakthrough of both chemical imaging and spectral analysis. We also introduced the Cary 3500 UV-Vis system, the first significant advancement in UV-Vis architecture in decades. We continue to build out our cell analysis business. We just closed the acquisition of ACEA Biosciences. ACEA is provider of cutting-edge cell analysis instruments and will expand our cell analysis portfolio.

The Agilent CrossLab Group delivered strong 9% core revenue growth. Demand was actually across both services and consumables. We continue to invest in our portfolio and extend our customer reach. We completed the acquisition of ProZyme expanding our offer in the biopharma marketplace. We also acquired our South Korean distributor. This acquisition expands our direct customer engagement and further builds out ACG's service business in the market.

The Diagnostics and Genomics Group grew 5% on a core basis. Strength in our NASD and genomics businesses drove the quarterly results. In a significant win, Agilent has been selected by Unilabs to be a preferred partner for the pathology business. Unilabs is one of the largest European diagnostic testing lab providers. This announcement is another strong testament to the advantages of Agilent standing workflow solutions.

Before I leave DGG, I want to provide an update on the construction of our new NASD API production facility. We remain on track for the initial production of GMP grade API by the end of fiscal year 2019 with material revenue contributions in FY '20. Overall, it was a great quarter, coming off an excellent year delivered by the Agilent team. A few final comments before I turn the call over to Bob. Agilent shareholder value creation model is fully activated. First, we are executing on innovation driven growth strategy that is delivering. Second, we continue to focus on improving profitability with our agile Agilent initiatives.

Finally, we are actively leveraging our balance sheet to drive acquisitions of fast growing innovative companies while also returning cash directly to shareholders. We have transformed Agilent into a growth company and our focus on delivering superior earnings growth. We just delivered our highest growth and profitability since the launch of the new Agilent. Since then our adjusted CAGR EPS is up 17%. Our business is also less cyclical today, with non-instrument sales making up over 56% of our total Company revenue. If economic and challenges would arise, our business is now less dependent on capital equipment purchases.

Looking ahead to 2019 while acknowledging current trade discussions we are expecting market conditions to remain solid. The Agilent team is laser focused on sustaining our strong growth into 2019 and beyond. We have momentum. I keep telling the Agilent team the best is yet to come. Thanks for being on the call and look forward to answering your questions.

I would now hand off the call to Bob. Bob?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Mike, and good afternoon everyone. I'm very pleased to be talking with you today on my first earnings call as Agilent's CFO. Before I get started, I want to echo the comments Mike made and say thank you to Alicia. In my time here, she has been a great partner to me and I truly wish her the best in retirement. She will be missed.

Now moving on to the financials. In my remarks, I'm going to provide some additional detail on revenue, walk through the fourth quarter income statement, touch on a few other key financial metrics and then I'll finish with our financial guidance for 2019. Unless otherwise noted my remarks will focus on non-GAAP results and percentage changes will be on a year-over-year basis.

As Mike mentioned, we delivered a very strong fourth quarter to finish an excellent fiscal year. Revenue for the quarter was $1.29 billion, with core revenue growth of 9%, exceeding both our guidance and expectations. For the full fiscal year, our core revenue growth was 7.1%, a very strong performance.

As Mike spoke to the Group's performance for the quarter, I will provide some additional details around our end market and regional performance. Overall, the market environment is positive, and based on our channel reach and product offerings, we saw broad strength across most end markets. Pharma, our largest end market, was up 14% with double-digit contribution from all business groups, both the small molecule and biopharma segments performed well. Traditional areas of strength as well as newer areas of strategic focus such as cell analysis and a strong performance at NASD contributed to the result. Chemical and Energy grew an impressive 7% against a very strong comparison of 15% core growth last year. We continue to see positive ongoing market investment in this area. Balanced gains in both LSAG and ACG were driven by strength in spectroscopy, LCMS supplies and services. Demand from materials characterization applications continued to drive robust ICP-MS growth.

Environmental and forensics grew 17%, ahead of expectations with good demand across major regions. Growth was balanced across both end markets. Forensics saw notable demand for Cobalt Raman spectroscopy and environmental for LCMS and ICP/MS. Academia and government reported 10% growth as funding environment stabilized while diagnostics and clinical grew 1% and food was flat as expected against the top 10% in comparison.

Geographically, we also saw broad based strength. China grew by 16% accelerating from the 10% core growth we saw on Q3, and as Mike mentioned, passed the $1 billion mark in sales for the year in the fourth quarter. Other Asia and Japan grew by 12% and Europe and the Americas had solid mid single-digit growth. In addition, we continue to be pleased with the revenue contribution as non-instrument revenue contributed 56% of the total in Q4. Looking forward, we see non-instrument revenue growth outpacing instrumentation, driving an increasingly recurring revenue stream.

Now turning to the rest of the P&L, Q4 gross margin of 57.8%, increased 170 basis points compared to the prior year. This was due to product mix and volume as well as our order fulfillment and supply chain organization continuing to do an outstanding job driving cost savings using our agile Agilent approach. Operating margin including adjusting for the Keysight billings, was 25.2%, up 190 basis points due to higher gross margins and top line leverage on operating expenses even as we invested more in R&D. This led to non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.81 in the fourth quarter, an increase of 21% compared to the prior year and more than double the rate of revenue growth.

Now before moving to FY '19 guidance, I want to touch on a few additional financial metrics. We continue to generate very strong cash flow. This quarter, free cash flow was $336 million and for the year, we generated over $900 million in free cash, exceeding our commitment. In Q4, we returned $133 million to shareholders, buying back 1.3 million shares for $86 million and paying out $47 million in dividends. We also completed the ProZyme and Young In acquisitions. With Young In, we expanded our direct sales and service capabilities in South Korea. For the fiscal year, we returned $613 million to shareholders, buying back 6.4 million shares for $422 million and paying out $191 million in dividends. As Mike mentioned, we closed a record number of acquisitions in 2018 deploying $516 million.

We ended the year with $2.2 billion in cash and $1.8 billion in debt and we just closed on ACEA Biosciences last week. So we are starting 2019 where we left off in 2018. All in all, we entered 2019 with healthy end markets, good momentum in the business and a very strong balance sheet.

Now let's turn to our non-GAAP financial results guidance for the full year and first quarter of 2019, beginning with our full year guidance. We expect 2019 to be a strong year overall. But before I get into the actual numbers, let me mention a few important points.

First, we anticipate currency will be a headwind in 2019. Based on exchange rates as of the end of October, we expect currency will reduce reported sales growth in 2019 by roughly 220 basis points, translating into roughly $110 million negative impact for the full year. For comparison, our 2018 reported sales growth benefited by 210 basis points from currency. Now partially offsetting the currency impact will be a larger contribution from recent M&A, including the recently closed ACEA Biosciences acquisition. And in addition, starting in fiscal 2019, we'll adopt a new accounting standard which changes how we present pension expenses and benefits on the income statement. In effect, reclassifying certain amounts to other income and expense, while this has no impact to net income, we do expect this will reduce forecasted operating margins in FY '19 by roughly 40 basis points. As we move through the year, we will provide a restated 2018 to provide an apples to apples comparison.

And lastly, we are taking a different approach in setting guidance ranges that include both upsides and downsides. So I would encourage you to model to the midpoint of guidance at this stage.

Now for the full year, we are expecting revenue to range from $5.13 billion to $5.17 billion in fiscal 2019, representing core growth of 5% to 5.5% and associated reported growth of 4.4% to 5.2%. Currency is estimated to negatively impact growth by 2.2 percentage points with M&A contributing roughly 1.6 to 1.9 percentage points of growth for the full year.

Now on to our EPS guidance. For the full year, we are forecasting a range of $3 to $3.05 per share. Adjusting for the negative currency, this translates to 9% to 11% growth in EPS and a 7.5% to 9.3% on a reported basis. Included in this guidance is roughly $4 million per quarter in tariffs. This is slightly higher than the estimate we provided last quarter and is related to list three. A few other metrics as you build your models. Embedded in our forecast is modest operating leverage after accounting for the pension adjustment. We are also expecting the total of interest income, interest expense and OI&E to be $10 million to $15 million in net expense, inclusive of pension and Keysight billings. Guidance is based on a full year tax rate of 17%, down a point from 2018 and diluted shares outstanding of approximately 322 million, flat to Q4 of this year.

We expect operating cash flow of between $1.1 billion to $1.15 billion and capital expenditures of roughly $175 million. As previously mentioned, the Agilent Board has authorized $1.75 billion repurchase program and we plan at a minimum to offset dilution throughout the year. We also continue to look for M&A like ACEA and other recent tuck-ins and have the financial flexibility to be opportunistic in share buybacks as well. And finally, we have announced raising our dividend by 10% continuing a streak of double-digit increases providing another source of value to our shareholders.

Now turning to Q1 guidance, for Q1, we're expecting revenue to range from $1.265 billion to $1.28 billion, representing reported growth of 4.4% to 5.7% and core growth of 4.5% to 5.5%. Please remember that we are going up against a very tough Q1 comp last year where we grew 10% core. First quarter 2019 non-GAAP earnings are expected to be in the range of $0.71 to $0.73 per share which is roughly 9% to 12% ex-currency and 7.6% to 10.6% reported growth.

Now before opening the call for questions, let me conclude by saying, we are very pleased with the financial results and the continued hard work and focus of the Agilent team laying the groundwork for future growth and as we enter 2019 with strong momentum.

With that, I will turn it back to Alicia for Q&A.

Alicia Rodriguez -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you Bob. James will you now open the phone lines for the Q&A and provide the instruction?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Of course. (Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Tycho Peterson with J.P. Morgan. Your lines now open.

Tycho Peterson -- J.P. Morgan. -- Analyst

Thanks. I'll be the first to congratulate Alicia. It's been great working with you. I guess for either Mike or Bob I am wondering if you can maybe help us put some parameters around the guidance for next year either by end market or segment? Can you maybe just talk to weather like for example food can get back to growth post the China restructuring and how should we think about any -- it did moderate a bit against tougher comp but how do you set up for that next year (ph)?

Unidentified Speaker --

Hi, Tycho. I am in the room as Mike and Alicia really appreciates your remarks. And Bob I think maybe you can provide a little color on Tycho's question.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Thanks Tycho and a pleasure to speak with you. In terms of the end markets, I think we still see nice end market growth across all the markets. When we think about the various markets, pharma we would expect leads the way, probably faster than the overall Company growth. But we are expecting growth throughout all of the end markets. So we expect a return to growth (inaudible) for sure but also continued performance across all of the businesses or all the end markets. And really we expect kind of broad based growth across the end markets as well as our divisions.

Tycho Peterson -- J.P. Morgan. -- Analyst

And is there any implications from the lab deal on DDG for next year or how does that flow through?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Tycho, I think it is just one more proof point that we think we can continue to grow the business both in terms of winning some big deals but also as the PD-L1 expands in terms of various cancer states of being able to be treated by the (inaudible) of the world. So just it is more of a proof point to say this why we have confidence we can continue that growth trajectory.

Tycho Peterson -- J.P. Morgan. -- Analyst

Okay. And then just lastly can you comment on the cell analysis portfolio today with ACEA and Seahorse? I'm just wondering whether there are kind of revenue synergy opportunities here or how do we think about the portfolio and the ability to kind of penetrate the single cell market a little bit further?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Tycho, I'm going to make a few opening comments here and then pass it over to Jacob. But as you know we made our first foray into cell analysis with our Seahorse acquisition and we really were attracted by the growth in this space as well as what Agilent can bring to really accelerate the growth of acquired assets in the space. And we're super pleased to have ACEA and the ACEA team as part of Agilent but I am going to turn it over to Jacob and you can share your perspective as well.

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Yes, absolutely Mike, and I'm as excited as you are, perhaps a little more even since it's hitting (ph) my business. So as you say we started into the cell analysis business with the Seahorse's acquisition followed by Locxce (ph) and now here recently with ACEA and all acquisitions gives us a very different shaded position in the cell analysis business where Seahorse is really a technology that allows for measuring the up and down regulation of metabolism based on oxygen consumption. We now have ACEA flow the flow cytometry which is a great way and a very easy way of doing cell characterization, identification based on the phenotype and what -- where this would position in a market is that its very ease of use and we allow many different labs today feel it's very difficult to work with flow cytometry to really start to get their hands around that. And finally the ACEA has the xCELLigence platform which is a great way of measuring cell survival viability through impedance measurement.

So those three different modalities really gives us a strong position, especially in the immuno-oncology and cap C (ph) where basically being the ability to measure live cells and how they operate under different conditions is gonna be key to -- for the inciting immuno-oncology. So you will see us continue to invest into this business but I am very pleased with where we are today.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Tycho, you see the excitement we have on this to further expand out the cell analysis business and I think there is a perfect example of how a company coming into Agilent with this great innovative new product can really benefit by the scale of Agilent.

Tycho Peterson -- J.P. Morgan. -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Ross Muken with Evercore. Your line is now open.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Ross.

Ross Muken -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Good afternoon and congrats guys, and Alicia it's always been a pleasure. Maybe let's talk China. So if I look at some of the color you gave on a segment basis, it seems like not only did the segment outperformed it was pretty broad based. I mean, you called that I think in the presentation academic as well as some of the more traditional pieces of what we think about your China business being. So maybe just give us a feel for the cadence in that business for next year and sort of the underlying assumptions and how you're thinking through some of the macro noise and whether or not tariffs or anything else will impact the sort of demand curve on maybe the non-life side business next year?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, happy to do so, Ross. I think you anticipated some of my response which really was broad based. I mean we were delighted with the numbers, 16% double digit food for the entire year but we saw strong growth in pharma, academia which is really the China government really focused on doubling the number of their what they call the first class university. So very robust funding environment. You saw the overall numbers for environmental and forensics. I mean a lot of those being driven by the investments in the environmental space by the Chinese government. We're seeing strong growth in the aftermarket, continued strength in chemical energy and signs of return to growth in the food segment. So the overall view of China was very positive for the quarter. And as we look at next year I think Bob and I were talking about this earlier. We're guiding -- embedded in our guide assumptions is high single digit growth in China for next year. And despite all the noise that's out there what's really happening on the ground is a lot different. Chinese customers want to buy the most innovative tools for their work. They want to support the government led initiatives and areas such as investments related to healthcare for the citizen are getting funding and we are one of the preferred choices for those customers. So despite the noise in the environment, the environment remains very solid.

Ross Muken -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

And maybe on the margin side, obviously all of the volume absorption in the quarter just given how much you beat the revenue piece by obviously health, but it feels like still underlying a lot of what you've been doing across the business is flowing through on both the gross margin and OpEx side. And so maybe give us a feel for how much you think sort of the margin outperformance kind of came from maybe just the underlying revenue streams versus maybe some of the other actions you're doing and that in the context of some of the investments obviously you're going to be making next year into laser into Lasergen?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Ross, as you know more than just volume it drove the margin expansion as you noted. And I just leaned over to Bob, my guess is probably two-third volume one-third OpEx and specific gross margin initiatives. So as I noted in my call script we have a whole series of what we call Agilent initiatives which continue to drive efficiency and much more effectives inside the Company. A lot has been focused on the gross margins of late but also we're going to apply a lot of this -- and we've been applying this to our OpEx as well. And again I would underline just the importance of our digital transformation (inaudible) really is going to continue to allow us to drive improvements here. So when I came into the role a couple of years ago I wanted my margin expansion not to come just from volume and that's been our mantra and our formula since we started the new Agilent four years ago and will continue to be our approach as we move forward.

Bob, anything else you would add? Maybe want to hit your mic here.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I was going to say -- I think the other thing if you look at the various groups each one of the groups actually improved their profitability in the quarter which is nice broad based performance. And so it's not just one business or one product that's driving the profitability, it really is across Agilent.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So that's a great bill Bob and one of the things that we noted to our Board last week when the Board meeting was what we've been doing and the gross margins of our service business as well, which as you often think about the margin being in relatively stable and flat there since it's such a high labor content in terms of delivery. But Mark and his team have really been driving efficiency with new tools and approaches. So it really is broad based improvement across all three groups.

Ross Muken -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Awesome. Thanks, guys.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Jack Meehan with Barclays. Your line is now open.

Jack Meehan -- Barclays -- Analyst

Thanks. Good afternoon. And reiterate as well, good luck Alicia, I enjoyed working together. As the -- just as my first question, I want to dig in a little bit more on the LSAG performance. I know one of the products that was flagged out was LCMS. I was curious if you could give us an update on the Ultivo launch there and just where you think you're seeing that resonate in the market?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Jacob, I think I'll let you answer this question since it's one of those good news answers. Let me now pass it over to you, Jacob.

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Yes, absolutely. Thanks for that question. And I mean, it's kind of a very straightforward story is that Ultivo continues to outperform our expectations. We see our customers, especially where we started out here by building applications in the food and environmental and they have been very happy what they see. In the end, you can actually, with the size of it and the performance, you can actually place three -- in the three Ultivo in the same plate as you previously could do with one Mass Spec, which gives a lot of opportunities in many of the labs that actually are lacking space, but on top of that, we have done a lot to simplify and improve the software and also the usability as such.

We start to see now also the Pharma accounts are really interested in taking on Ultivo, but the Mass Spec story and the performance is beyond Ultivo and we see that also in our in our 6545XT Bioconfirm, where we now see on the biopharma side that we start to see a very strong uptick on that, so it's really broad-based that we see that our robust, reliable instrumentation is picking up in the market, very excited about the Mass Spec. But there is a lot of other elements into the overall LCT (ph) business, the ICP-MS is also doing strong, healthy, continues to come back with great momentum. So overall, we are really right now firing on all cylinders.

Jack Meehan -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. Appreciate all that feedback. Just as a follow up, I wanted to get a status update on the Colorado facility. Just help if you could parse out some of the language from the prepared remarks a little bit more, are you assuming the revenue lift starts more in fiscal '20 at this point? And then just on the CapEx side, how much is within the $175 million guide is being attributed to the facility there? Thanks.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Jack, happy to answer the question. I'll take the first one and then pass the second one to Bob. So the language in the script was just to reaffirm to the audience that we're on track as planned and the construction is actually complete. We're now in the process of validation, we just had a review upright last week on the status and we will get revenue in 2019, but what we were just showing was the big pop up when you get the full year is going to be 2020.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, hey, Jack, good afternoon. This is Bob on the capital side and just to build on what Mike was saying, yes, that's we do expect some revenue contribution here, but as we've said consistently, the big revenue uptick is in 2020. And in terms of the capital of the $175 million, most of the capital has been spent at the Frederick site already. There is some additional but most of that has come down, and the $175 million is, the majority of that is still actually the base business. Now recall that higher than perhaps it would have been earlier because of the acquisitions that we've acquired. So we've acquired some capital associated in plan -- expansion plans there.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

By the way Bob, probably also just to mention the -- specific to our second site or our original site which is Boulder, we actually have found some ways to work the efficiency of our efforts there and we're actually planning to get more volume out of there in 2019 and 2018.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

That's right.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So our growth in NASD is not only -- is not solely dependent on the Frederick site, that's right.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

That's right.

Jack Meehan -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. Thanks for all the color, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Steve Willoughby with Cleveland Research. Your line is now open.

Steve Willoughby -- Cleveland Research -- Analyst

Hi, good afternoon and thanks for taking my question.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure, Steve.

Steve Willoughby -- Cleveland Research -- Analyst

I guess a couple of things, first, just on tariffs, Mike, you made a comment about $4 million a quarter, just to be up slightly, I was just wondering is that including any impacts from pricing or supply chain that you're doing as a potential offset? Then I have one follow up.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, hey, Steve. Thanks for the clarifying question and Bob, I'm going to go ahead take a shot at this and if I -- if you need to of course correct me, please go ahead, but what we were trying to quantify was the actual impact of incremental duties after all the mitigation efforts. That does not include anything else we may be doing relative to pricing. So that's not a complete drag on the P&L. It's all baked into the guide for next year, but we've also instituted some other broad-based actions to mitigate that as well. But that was just trying to isolate the specific amount of the net incremental duties to the company.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

You got it.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Like, I got it right, Bob?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

You got it, right.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thanks.

Steve Willoughby -- Cleveland Research -- Analyst

Sure. And then just, Bob, just a quick follow up question, I guess just another clarification, I guess two things really, within the 5% to 5.5% core growth guidance you're providing, what is your assumption for the incremental revenue from the NASD business in Colorado? And then just making sure I heard you correctly in terms of operating margins including this pension accounting change, what is your assumption for operating margin expansion next year ex-this 40 basis point headwind?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, so on the NASD, what I would look at -- what I would think about that is looking at NASD in total and the total growth rate is still there. So rather than looking at it as a suite because we've actually found incremental volume out of the existing plans. So we are expecting growth in NASD next year, consistent with what we shared back in the summer. And in terms of margins, what I would say --

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I'd also say that, that's also have been very customer driven because customers have one batch at the one site with first to kind of finish the work there as opposed to going mid-term into the other sites.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

That's right. That right. And then in terms of the operating margin expansion, what I would say is, after adjusting for the 40 basis point reduction, we are still expecting some modest improvement in operating margins.

Steve Willoughby -- Cleveland Research -- Analyst

Okay.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

So what that would tell you is, it's greater than 40 basis points.

Steve Willoughby -- Cleveland Research -- Analyst

Sure. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Paul Knight with Janney. Your line is now open.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Paul.

Paul Knight -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Hi, Mike. Hey, how are you?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Doing great.

Paul Knight -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Could you talk about, as we -- as you think about January -- Lunar New Year and with the effects you expect out of the way holidays are rolling out, how we should think about the first quarter, specifically? I know there's usually been a little bit of noise around how calendars lay out.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Paul. Thanks. Thanks for the question. So it's my hope, one year as CEO of not to be talking about the Chinese Lunar New Year and 2019 may actually be that year. So as you know in 2018, it caused lot of seasonality swings between quarters and also prior year comparison. The way it's laying out this year, it's happening in the same period of time as it happened in 2018. So Bob, I think, we're not really expecting anything unusual this year from the time of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

That is correct.

Paul Knight -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

And then lastly, I don't know if this question was put in, but how should we think about tax this year and also going forward even beyond FY19?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think Bob has got a really good story here. So why don't you talk to him about what's going to happen in 2019?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I think we know. Yes, thanks, Paul. And so this year in FY18, we ended the year at roughly at 18% effective tax rate, we're guiding to 17% in FY19 and we're working on plans to continue to improve that going forward.

Paul Knight -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Patrick Donnelly with Goldman Sachs. Your line is now open.

Patrick Donnelly -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Great, thanks. Mike, may be one for you. We've shown continued news flow on some of the bigger build outs from chemical companies in China. Can you just talk through the market's demand there? I know chemical and energy is an area you've been pretty bullish on historically in that region. So where are we in the process, some of those bigger projects building out capacity at GC, some of the other areas, you act as a supplier in there?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Patrick, happy to share my insights here. So I have been bullish on the growth prospects of China as it relates to the chemical energy market where I think good reason because we have some pretty good insight in terms of the projects that are under way. And as I mentioned I think in a prior call, a lot of this is not only to support their economic growth but also is what they view as an element of national security. We continue to invest in the coal to chemical plants to really reduce their dependency on natural -- imported natural gas for example. So we've seen the projects, they have a multi-year program. I think, we're probably in the third or fourth inning of what looks to be a multi-year build out of plant capacity and this is really important for our GC business as you mentioned, Patrick, that actually is the tool of choice, and Jacob I know you just got back from a trip to China and did you hear the same thing from the teams?

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Yes, absolutely. Mike, It's really just to repeat that there are plenty of opportunity in China right now with the larger XPI installations coming in here also in 2019 and 2020. So I think, there are great opportunities in front of us also in that space.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So I guess the message here, Patrick, is not over yet. So we think we've got a few more years of really solid growth in this segment of the market in China.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

And I think -- hey, Patrick, this is Bob, maybe just to build on that. Obviously as Jacob and team laid the groundwork for putting in the instrumentation, I think Mark and his team around the chemistries and the supplies business also continue to drive very strong growth in China. So I think it's a multiple phased opportunity for us as we go forward and -- so we're really excited about that.

Patrick Donnelly -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Great. Thanks. And then Bob maybe now that you've been on the seat for a few months, can you just talk through kind of initial impressions, maybe a particular focus on the margin side? Obviously came in to a nice clean balance sheet, we've seen some activity there between the dividend increase and the bigger share repo than the historical trend. But maybe just on the margin side, given some cost saving initiatives that have been in place for a few years, what opportunities have you seen, confidence level on continued expansion opportunities going years out?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, thanks Patrick. I think one of the things that I've been very pleasantly surprised with is the amount of regular discipline that the organization actually comes through. We probably under market the Agilent approach externally but I think the teams are very operationally focused, not just on cost savings at the gross margin line, but really through increasing productivity and efficiency across the organization. What I would say is there are still several big opportunities as we go forward. Obviously still focused on gross margin. But Mike mentioned the digital aspect to this and this has a multifaceted approach. Not only does it enable us to actually do business easier with our customers and actually drive some stickiness, it also is going to be driving efficiencies in our customer -- cost per order dollar activities and so forth. And so as we think about that driving I'd see multiple layers of levers there. And I think there's opportunity to continue to do that as well as continue to reinvest some of those proceeds in R&D. So very excited about the things going forward.

Patrick Donnelly -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Dan Arias with Citigroup. Your line is now open.

Dan Arias -- Citigroup. -- Analyst

Good afternoon, guys. Thanks.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi Dan.

Dan Arias -- Citigroup. -- Analyst

Mike just wanted to -- Hey Mike. I wanted to follow up on the expectations for growth in food this year. How far along are you at this point in working through the government reorganization headwind in China? Did you fully come through on the other side there or are you still working through some things?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think you're talking specifically to China, yes. So by the way one thing you have to (inaudible) when you look at our food numbers Europe was relatively flat against the double digit compares. I know we're going to -- I know your question was focused on China but we saw some smaller geographic dynamics in the fourth quarter. Albeit said that we think the business will be growing again in 2019. We think -- you may recall I think it was the second quarter I talked about two sets of reorganizations, one we thought would happen faster which was the environmental one which is done and you can see that the pop in some of the growth rates we had. And relative to the food ministries we expected that to take longer to get that side of the reorganization done. I think it's still holding true to form, which is we're anticipating that kind of taking through the rest of this calendar year. That being said we also know some of the money is starting to move to the Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities and we've been actively building up our channel there over the last several quarters to ensure we can capture the growth. So I guess the message here is still developing as we thought a few quarters ago. Not done yet.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I would agree with them, Mike, and what I would also point to is, if you look at the performance of our China business it's accelerated quarter on quarter. So --

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

I don't want that to be lost after just posting a 16% year-on-year growth rate for the total company.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks for that reminder, Bob.

Dan Arias -- Citigroup. -- Analyst

Yeah. that's helpful. Okay. And then if I could just go back to the guidance range just to make sure that I have it correct. It looks like you tightened things up relative to where you were at the Analyst Day. So I'm curious if you can just sort of hone in where you feel like you're maybe 50 bps better at the low end? And then it seems like things are going pretty well, so I guess and you called 6% prudent at the Analyst Day, so why trim that 50 bps at the top of the range?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, just as reminder at the Analyst Day we actually didn't guide for '19, we were really just trying to illustrate that really about what our margin expansion might look like at different revenue levels. But I think relative to our guide, Bob, I think we're actually feeling very positive about. I think we're -- we came out stronger this year than we did last year. So, what else you add to that?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

No I think that's right. I think when we think about core growth of 5% to 5.5% that's faster than what we're expecting the overall market growth to be. So we're feeling bullish about our ability to continue to gain share not only through launching a new products that we talked a little bit about but also continued market execution across our businesses and as we mentioned this will probably be led by the farm in China areas. But we're expecting solid growth across all of our end markets as well as geographies.

Dan Arias -- Citigroup. -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks a bunch.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hope that was helpful.

Dan Arias -- Citigroup. -- Analyst

Sure it was.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Dan Leonard with Deutsche Bank. Your line is now open.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Dan.

Dan Leonard -- Deutsche Bank. -- Analyst

Hello. So first question. Can you elaborate more on the timeline for the share repurchase and any target capital structure you have in mind?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Hey Dan this is Bob. I'll take that. We're thinking about it in two ways. One is obviously as I mentioned doing something throughout the course of the year to maintain our share count at roughly 322 million shares and then we'll be opportunistic similar to what we have done in the fourth quarter. Still a little early for me to actually come out and give a target in terms of capital structure. But what I can tell you is I'd expect us to continue to be very active in the M&A market. And I think we have an opportunity to optimize the strong balance sheet more effectively going forward.

Dan Leonard -- Deutsche Bank. -- Analyst

Okay. And then just a follow up on your forward-looking commentary on end markets. So how should we think about -- in regards to pharma where you expect strength in 2019, how should we think about the sensitivity if capital markets were to climb (ph) up here if at all would Agilent be sensitive to that or just walk us through your thinking on that front?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Great question. My view is that what's powering the investments in pharma, it's really all about investments to improve the human condition, it's all about investing in new classes of drugs, new therapies, whether it be the biopharma, whether it be cell therapies, various gene approaches that are going on there. We see a new class of drugs such as the RNA based therapeutics. So we think they're fairly resilient, if you will, to those kind of headwinds -- economic headwinds in fact they would occur. And also just remind you particularly in our pharma space how much of our business is non-instrument related. So we have a very large recurring revenue business really centered around our ACG business.

Dan Leonard -- Deutsche Bank. -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Happy. Happy to do so.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Derik De Bruin with Bank of America. Your line is now open.

Derik De Bruin -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Hi. Good afternoon.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good afternoon, Derik.

Derik De Bruin -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Hi. Alicia as only -- it's the only other New Mexicans on Wall Street that I know, I'm going to miss you. So a couple of questions. So when you look at your segments for 2019 the implied sort of organic core growth rate looking forward is something around 3% to 4% for LSA mid single digits for diagnostics and then 7% to 8% for ACG. Is that a good way to sort of look at it?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, what I would say is you're in the ballpark.

Derik De Bruin -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. And one of the key questions we're getting from a lot of investors is obviously the macro has been choppy. There's a lot of angst about how businesses performed during a downturn. I mean obviously you're a heck of a lot less cyclical than you once were. But I guess could you sort of think about how the current portfolio performed during a steeper recession? These are quite back tested, what you've forgot now sort of think about where we've grown in a tougher time?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure, Derik. I think you pointed out maybe one very good point which is the portfolio businesses is a lot different than it was a few years ago. And in fact I was just sort of anticipating that I might get this question that's why you saw a comment I made in my script if economic headwinds wouldn't occur it's a different company. By the way we're not at all predicting that's in fact going to be the case. And I didn't say that it would probably follow a fairly similar pattern that we saw a few years ago mainly reflecting -- impacting the replacement cycle in certain industries, most likely the chemical market. But a lot of the areas where there's money being spent on research I would think they are going to be fairly resilient. I don't remember the exact numbers but that would be kind of my top of mind thinking on that.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think maybe to build on that point, Mike, as I look at the business and the characterization, obviously the product portfolio that we have today is very different than what we had before and I think it's actually more focused on what customers need in terms of solving their problems. And so whether it'd be OpenLab where we're actually helping productivity and so forth or the CrossLab group just in general, I actually -- you can envision where you may have some impact on the instrumentation. But that potentially could be offset because you'd actually have more consumable usage going through as they are looking to keep their instruments longer and so forth or want them serviced. And so I think we're in better position now than we've ever been. And as we think about where our growth is coming from it's coming from the fastest part of our business or I should say growing is in fast-growing markets like cell analysis that we talked about before which is going to be less impacted I think in that just because of research and the pace of innovation or ACG business and then obviously our Diagnostics and Genomics Group as well.

Derik De Bruin -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Right, I mean (inaudible) sort of when I was talking about the segment growth, I was noticing that back in 2015 to 2016 when oil was softer you basically were growing LSAG in the 3% to 4% range. So I'm just assuming that you are always building some sort of -- some conservatism in the numbers, just given just historically how that -- what was the condition of the business at that time and those businesses that are growing the size? Thanks.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

(multiple speakers) don't you think, Bob?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah.

Derik De Bruin -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thanks.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Derik.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Steve Beuchaw with Morgan Stanley. Your line is now open.

Steve Beuchaw -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks for taking the questions. Just a couple trying to dig a little deeper on points that have been raised. I think first maybe on margins, Bob there have been some questions asked about some of the specific points on the margin progression from '18 to '19. But as you take a step back there is actually a lot of moving parts when I think about Lasergen spending, the impact of M&A spending on NASD, the accounting change you flagged in FX, I mean any chance you have a view on what core operating margin expansion is next year to give people a sense for what a jumping-off point might be for fiscal '20 because hey, it's never too soon to start thinking about '20 right?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

I haven't even finished the call for the initial FY '19 but I'll give it a shot. What I would say is there are a number of moving pieces. Obviously we've got a full year of Lasergen built into the plan. That being said we're still guiding full year operating margins to grow despite that important investment. And then we've got NASD as well and some of the headwinds around the FX. But when I look at operating margin incremental, so this is not necessarily core but this would be just looking at the incrementals in FY '19, they are very consistent with kind of how we exited FY '18 and what I would say is we're focused on continuing to drive operating margins but also most importantly earnings growth.

Steve Beuchaw -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Okay. And then the second thing I wanted to see if I could get both of you Mike and Bob to talk a little bit about was guidance policy, guidance practice. You alluded in the prepared remarks to hope that people would model at the middle of the guidance range. And I got a sense from the prepared remarks that you thought that there might have been a change or at least a need for there to be a perception of change the way you guys went about constructing the guidance for the year. It would be really helpful to hear you talk about how you went through that and why you think the middle of the range is the right thing. And then before I lose the podium here. I will echo thanks for Alicia. Thanks for being so helpful for us as we ramped up on the story over the last few years.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well thanks, Steve. I know Alicia has been doing all the great feedback from you and others today. So and as you heard in my opening comments (inaudible) moving on to her new role in term of being a retired Mexican who used to work on Wall Street.

Alicia Rodriguez -- Vice President, Investor Relations

You still haven't answered --

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I still haven't answered the question, that's right. So Steve, as you can see in our script we were leading the witness a little bit. I think you picked up on it. So I am going to make some initial comments and then turn it over to Bob. So I think it's important to go back in time when we started the new Agilent. And I would dare say we really lacked credibility in terms of a company that consistently delivered results relative to expectations. So Dedea (ph) and I really set forth a philosophy that really ensured that we're being reasonable in terms of our outlook but also that you could count on us to deliver and we now have a track record of almost four years of doing that. And I would -- but we do think it's time for an evolution of approach because -- and I think that's what Bob has brought to Agilent and perhaps why don't you share your thinking here Bob.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, thanks Mike and I would agree. I mean I think one of the things that we want to do is obviously continue to be and feel comfortable about our forecast but also recognize some of the potential upsides that we have as well acknowledge some potential downsides and try to shrink the GAAP. And that's what we've attempted to do here is to actually provide a little more color in terms of where we think the business is going in terms of performance particularly when we've just come off of some very strong business and we're forecasting strong end markets. And so it -- as Mike said, it's not a revolution, it's more of an evolution of the guidance to help and we've got a track record that gives us more confidence in our ability to operate with and without it.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Catherine Schulte with Baird. Your line is now open.

He guys. Thanks for the questions and congratulations and thank you Alicia, you will certainly be missed. First for Mike and maybe Jacob can comment on this as well. As you think about your innovation pipeline for fiscal '19 what gets you most excited? Should we be expecting to see the technology used in Ultivo, applied to some of your other platforms as well?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So I think we're -- just like any parent would be we are excited by all of the members of our family. So we've got a lot of great new things coming on. I made a few announcements already. Things that are happening in the molecular side but I think we've got more coming right without sharing the specifics. So what we can say there, Jacob?

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Yeah, I think I will not go out and destroy Christmas by go out and tell all the presents we have for over the next year here. So I'm not gonna speak directly to what is coming out but what I can say is that I'm very proud and I'm very excited about the '19 on the NPIs that will come out there. I think, we have already started strong with three NPIs that came out the first few weeks in the area between the LDIR and the Cary 3500 and also the ICP-MS water analysis system and the ESI, so that was actually four. And there's much more to come. So I'm pretty pleased but I won't speak to the specifics yet. You'll be positively surprised when you see it.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I would add Kevin to your comment about the technology leverage across the platforms. In fact that is the intent both for the Intuvo and the Ultivo. In fact we haven't really had an Intuvo question today but I would just mention that I think we've posted 14% unit growth in the Intuvo this past year as well.

Operator

Very helpful. And then Bob you mentioned remaining active on the M&A front. So can you and Mike just comment on your appetite for potentially a larger acquisition and then what your key area of focus would be?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Catherine happy to do so. I don't think there's really a new story here because what we've been saying for probably the better part of last year or so is that we've developed our own internal capabilities and then I think we have just augmented our capability here with the addition of Eric Gerber coming over to us from the from Danaher. We believe that we have the ability to really deliver for our shareholders value on the M&A we do. And so I'm much more confident on our ability to tackle M&A and really make it part of the Agilent growth story. So we would be willing to take on larger acquisitions. As Bob mentioned in his early comments, there's plenty of room on the balance sheet. I think it really is more about having the right opportunities. And we will continue to be remain very disciplined in terms of what we look at but I think it's really limited -- our actions will be limited by availability of active targets as opposed to our willingness to engage.

Yeah and Catherine what I would add to what Mike is saying is when we think about M&A I think we're focused mostly on the three groups in the channels and the strength that we have to be able to leverage as opposed to creating a new level.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. That's correct.

Operator

Great. Thank you.

Thank you. Our next question comes from Brandon Couillard with Jefferies. Your line is now open.

Brandon Couillard -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thanks. Good afternoon.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Brandon.

Brandon Couillard -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Alicia, I'd echo that you'd certainly (ph) be missed. Quick one for Sam, if you can give us an update as to whether you've finished with the Dako rollout of Quest yet, whether those instruments have been fully transitioned and started scaling? And then secondly, if there's a plan to port the PD-L1 assays over to the Omnis platform anytime soon?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I'm going to pass. So why don't you Sam?

Operator

Yeah. Thank you very much for the question. We are, as you know, very pleased to have earned the business of Quest, and we're continuing to ramp. We have a significant percentage of that business where we've made conversions, but there's still work in progress which is actually good news, that means increased opportunity for us. And in terms of your second question, absolutely we are, it is in our roadmap to continue expanding the menu on this and having PD-L1 available on this is absolutely something that is within our plans, it's something that will happen in 2019.

Brandon Couillard -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Different then, two quick ones for Bob. One, the operating cash flow growth implies only about 3% growth in fiscal '19, any one timers to point out there? And then secondly, I think there was an asset impairment in the fourth quarter. Could you elaborate on where that was? Thank you.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Thank you. Thanks Brandon. In terms of cash flow, yes, I mean I think it's a prudent forecast right now at the beginning of the year, there were no one timers really in the -- in FY18 or in the fourth quarter other than the tremendous performance that we had, not only on the revenue coming in early and early part of the quarter and then also -- which enabled us to generate tremendous cash flows with our accounts receivable teams and so forth. So I think it will evolve as we go forward. In terms of the asset impairment that's a small business within our DGG business and we're still expecting it to grow, but not at the level that we had forecasted.

Brandon Couillard -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Again, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Doug Schenkel with Cowen. Your line is now open.

Doug Schenkel -- Cowen Inc. -- Analyst

All right. Good afternoon and first off, I know it's been said a bunch of times already but thanks again to Alicia, we'll miss you. I want to start with a follow up on an earlier chemical and energy question, broadly not just in China, what are you seeing among chemical and energy customers given the recent decline in oil prices and a bit more of an uncertain macroeconomic backdrop and relatedly, what are you assuming for growth within fiscal '19 guidance across the chemical and energy subsegments, meaning breaking it down by chemical refining and E&P?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey Doug. Thanks. Happy to provide a perspective on that. And as we mentioned earlier, the oil price gets a lot of attention, but it really is the view of global growth that often drives a lot of this market. But we're seeing a couple of things going on here. Well, first of all, we're not seeing any change in customer buying behavior. In fact, we continue to see a lot of demand for replacement products. So the new generation of equipment tied to our open lab informatics portfolio really drives productivity. So the customers are seeing an economic benefit of the investments, so even in situations where perhaps the -- there's some uncertainty about oil prices and the economic growth, they won't invest because it helps the P&L by taking cost out of the structure.

So we've seen no changes in buying behavior and really the growth in chemical energy has been really broad based. You know we talked a bit about China already, but we saw -- again, I'm talking about the CapEx side of things, it's been really broad based across all regions. And then again I would just say that the -- our ACG business continuing to do quite well here as well. And Bob, anything else you would add there, I think?

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, the only thing I would add Doug is in terms of your question around FY19 you know, I can't give that level of specificity into the submarkets within the chemical and energy market, but what I would tell you is if we look at chemical and energy, we're expecting that business to grow slightly lower than what our core guidance.

Doug Schenkel -- Cowen Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. That's great. And Bob may be if I can just as a follow up sneak in a couple guidance clarification questions. First on the buybacks which have come up a couple times, your stock seems pretty depressed relative to your strong operational performance relative to peers on a valuation basis and your balance sheet is very pristine. Your guidance assumes a flat share count in spite of the fact that you have plenty of cash on the balance sheet to get more aggressive with buybacks and still have room to do more and bigger M&A. I guess, it's still unclear to me why you're not getting more aggressive with the pace and size of buybacks? Is this really a function of it just being pretty early in your tenure?

And then, I guess the second guidance clarification question would be just regarding the tax rate, your cash tax rate is still a lot lower than 17%. I'm just wondering if there's any opportunity or chance that ultimately the tax rate go to a lot lower than what your guidance incorporates? Thank you.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, thanks. Thanks Doug. You hit the nail on the head. I mean, it's still relatively early in my tenure as I'm trying to figure out all the other various pieces. But what I would tell you is, I think there's opportunities now. Our primary use of cash is actually to do M&A, after investing in the business and growth. And I think we've seen that starting with the work that we did in FY18 and then just starting here in FY19, with closing the CEO and so forth. But I do think we were opportunistic in Q4 and I think that there will be opportunities that we will -- if there are opportunities, I should say we will capitalize on them in FY19. And then in regards to --

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

The second point there is cash rate. I love this one which is yes, Doug there sure is a difference between our cash tax rate and our non-GAAP tax rate and I think Bob and the team have brought down a point so far, but I think you're still looking at some things and --

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, stay tuned.

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

We're not ready to commit. So we're --

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

I'd tell you to stay tuned on this.

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

We're not done our work yet.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes.

Doug Schenkel -- Cowen Inc. -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Puneet Souda with Leerink Partners. Your line is now open.

Puneet Souda -- Leerink Partners -- Analyst

Yes. Hi Mike.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Puneet.

Puneet Souda -- Leerink Partners -- Analyst

Thanks for taking the question and obviously, Alicia, thanks for all of the help and really get great working with you. So if I could touch first on just wanted to clarify how much of a contribution was USP regulation and LSAG if you could quantify that? It seemed like in past quarters we had seen some significant contribution from ICP-MS. I just want to make sure we have that number for this quarter too?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, I don't think we have that level of granularity in terms of specific numbers, what I can tell you is that it's been part of the story of a former growth and I think that's a trough, I see a massive double digit dollar growth.

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Yes, it was well in excess of -- it was greater than 20%.

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Yes, we got on our tailwind from that regulation. So yes that was good.

Puneet Souda -- Leerink Partners -- Analyst

And then what's your expectation there of how long of a tail that could be for USP, longer term? Could you give us a sense of how many quarters or may be years that this could last?

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. This would be just my guess. But I think you've probably heard, we're not done yet. I think we expect that to continue into '19.

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Yes. I think we saw a lot of great performance based on that regulation in '18 and we would also see it sail into '19 but we have a lot of other things going on in ICP-MS and we really see that technology being applied in more spaces now with the water regulations coming up where we have really made a nice workflow. I think that we can see a lot of opportunities there. But generally speaking, ICP-MS is just being a tool that will be picked up from many other opportunities. So I don't think that we are dependent on one part and one workflow but we will see these great opportunities in '19.

Puneet Souda -- Leerink Partners -- Analyst

Got it. And then Mike on Intuvo, I think you pointed out the 14% growth -- unit growth here. Just wanted to get a sense of do you want to address broader applications here? My question is would Intuvo evolve into another set of product or should we expect may be potentially a next gen 7890 here or along the lines of what you have produced in past to address then the full market compared to the GCs that you had in the past? Thank you.

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Puneet. Thanks, thanks for the question. So I was trying to pre-empt the audience about it, that we're really quite pleased with the pick up or really that the double digit growth if you will of the Intuvo product because as we said for -- since the launch, we knew it would be a measured adoption by customers because they really want to put the equipment through the paces and really be convinced that it actually does work as advertised and guess what it does. And now we're starting to see some really nice multiple unit orders coming in particularly as it relates to Mass Spec and at the risk of being Santa Claus or destroying Christmas or (inaudible) Jacob said earlier, what I can tell you is that our plan is to leverage a lot of the core technologies that were developed in the Intuvo product for potential new versions of gas chromatographs. And we work really hard to keep the overall complete portfolio as competitive as possible. And as you know the Intuvo covers only about 60% of the application space, so there's work to do in the rest of the portfolio as well.

Puneet Souda -- Leerink Partners -- Analyst

Okay. Got it. Thanks so much.

Operator

Thank you. I show no further questions in queue. So I'd like to turn the conference back over to Ms. Rodriguez for closing remarks.

Alicia Rodriguez -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, James and on behalf of myself and the management team, I'd like to thank everybody for joining us today. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call in IR. Thanks a lot. Bye-bye.

Operator

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude today's conference. Thank you very much for your participation. You may all disconnect. Have a wonderful day.

Duration: 71 minutes

Call participants:

Alicia Rodriguez -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Mike McMullen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Robert W. McMahon -- Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Tycho Peterson -- J.P. Morgan. -- Analyst

Unidentified Speaker --

Jacob Thaysen -- Senior Vice President, President, Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group

Ross Muken -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Jack Meehan -- Barclays -- Analyst

Steve Willoughby -- Cleveland Research -- Analyst

Paul Knight -- Janney Montgomery Scott -- Analyst

Patrick Donnelly -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Dan Arias -- Citigroup. -- Analyst

Dan Leonard -- Deutsche Bank. -- Analyst

Derik De Bruin -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Steve Beuchaw -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Brandon Couillard -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Doug Schenkel -- Cowen Inc. -- Analyst

Puneet Souda -- Leerink Partners -- Analyst

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