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Vishay Intertechnology Inc (VSH) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

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VSH earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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Vishay Intertechnology Inc (VSH -2.36%)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 9, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Vishay Intertechnology Q4 2020 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to hand the conference over to Mr. Peter Henrici. Thank you. Please go ahead, sir.

Peter Henrici -- Senior Vice President and Corporate Secretary

Thank you, Shelby. Good morning and welcome to Vishay Intertechnology fourth quarter and year 2020 conference call. With me today are Dr. Gerald Paul, Vishay's President and Chief Executive Officer; and Lori Lipcaman, our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. As usual, we start today's call with the CFO, who will review Vishay's fourth quarter and year 2020 financial results. Dr. Gerald Paul will then give an overview of our business and discuss operational performance, as well as segment results in more detail. Finally, we'll reserve time for questions and answers.

This call is being webcast from the Investor Relations section of our website at ir.vishay.com. The replay for this call will be publicly available for approximately 30 days. You should be aware that in today's conference call, we will be making certain forward-looking statements that discuss future events and performance. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ from the forward-looking statements. For discussion of factors that could cause results to differ, please see today's press release and Vishay's Form 10-K and Form 10-Q filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition, during this call, we may refer to adjusted or other financial measures that are not prepared according to generally accepted accounting principles. We use non-GAAP measures, because we believe they provide useful information about the operating performance of our businesses and should be considered by investors in conjunction with GAAP measures that we also provide. This morning, we filed a Form 8-K that outlines the various variables that impact the diluted earnings per share computation. On the Investor Relations section of our website, you can find a presentation of the fourth quarter 2020 financial information, containing some of the operational metrics that Dr. Paul will be discussing.

Now, I turn the call over to Chief Financial Officer, Lori Lipcaman.

Lori Lipcaman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Peter. Good morning, everyone. I am sure that most of you have had a chance to review our earnings press release. I will focus on some highlights and key metrics. Vishay reported revenues for Q4 of $667 million, higher than our original expectations, partially due to foreign currency effects. EPS was $0.26 for the quarter, adjusted EPS was $0.28 for the quarter. During the quarter, we repurchased 2.6 million principal amount of our convertible debentures due 2041 and recognized the US GAAP loss on extinguishment. I will elaborate on these transactions in a few minutes.

COVID-19 continues to have an impact on our business. We see strong signs of recovery during Q4. Similar to the first three quarters 2020, we have identified certain COVID-19 related charges, net of certain subsidies, which are directly attributable to the COVID-19 outbreak. These items were insignificant to Q2, Q3, and Q4 results, but are added back when calculating our non-GAAP adjusted EPS for comparability. Such measures exclude indirect impacts such as general macroeconomic effects of COVID-19 on our business and higher shipping costs due to reduced shipping capacity. Revenues in the quarter were $667 million, up by 4.2% from previous quarter and up by 9.4% compared to prior year. Gross margin was 22.8%, adjusted gross margin excluding COVID cost was 22.9%. Operating margin was 9%, adjusted operating margin excluding COVID cost was 8.9%. EPS was $0.26, adjusted EPS was $0.28. EBITDA was $95.0 million or 14.4%, adjusted EBITDA was $96.2 million or 14.4%. Revenues in 2020 were $2,502 million, down by 6.2% from previous year. Gross margin was 23.3%, adjusted gross margin excluding COVID costs was 23.4%. Operating margin was 8.4%, adjusted operating margin excluding corporate costs was 8.5%. EPS was $0.85, adjusted EPS was $0.92. EBITDA was $352 million or 14.1%, adjusted EBITDA was $364 million or 14.6%.

Reconciling versus prior quarter, adjusted operating income quarter four 2020 compared to adjusted operating income for prior quarter based on $27 million higher sales or $23 million higher excluding exchange rate impact, adjusted operating income decreased by $2 million to $60 million in Q4 2020 from $61 million in Q3 2020. The main elements were average selling prices had a negative impact of $2 million, representing a 0.3% ASP decline. Volume increased for the positive impact of $10 million, equivalent to a 4% increase in volume. Variable cost increased with a negative impact of $4 million, primarily due to increased costs for freight duties and metal.

Fixed cost increased with a negative impact of $5 million, primarily due to the acquisition, and higher year-end repair and maintenance costs. Inventory impact had a positive effect of $5 million. Exchange rates had a negative effect of $4 million. Versus prior year, adjusted operating income Q4 2020 compared to adjusted operating income in quarter four 2019, based on $58 million higher sales or $44 million excluding the exchange rate impact, adjusted operating income increased by $19 million to $60 million in Q4 2020 from $41 million in Q4 2019. The main elements were average selling prices had a negative impact of $19 million representing a 2.8% ASP decline. Volume increased with a positive impact of $27 million, representing 10.3% increase.

Variable cost decreased with a positive impact of $9 million. Cost reductions, lower material prices, as well as improved manufacturing efficiencies more than offset increases in labor and freight costs as well as metal prices. Fixed cost decreased with a positive impact of $2 million, primarily due to lower travel cost which more than offset inflation. Inventory impacts had a positive effect of $4 million, exchange rates had a negative effect of $5 million.

2020 versus 2019, adjusted operating income for the year 2020 compared to adjusted operating income for the year 2019. Based on $166 million lower sales or $180 million lower excluding exchange rate impact, adjusted operating income decreased by $73 million to $214 million -- from $287 million in 2019. Average selling prices had a negative impact of $71 million, representing a 2.8% ASP decline. Volume decreased with a negative impact of $53 million, representing 4.2% decrease. Variable cost decreased with the positive impact of $32 million, cost reductions and lower material prices as well as improved manufacturing efficiencies more than offset increases in labor and freight cost and metal prices. Fixed cost decreased with the positive impact of $15 million, primarily due to lower travel costs and general belt tightening, which more than offset wage inflation. Inventory impact had a positive effect of $8 million, exchange rates had a negative effect of $5 million.

Selling, general and administrative expenses for the quarter were $92 million, which includes a net benefits of $0.6 million of subsidies in excess of identified COVID cost. Selling, general and administrative expenses for 2020 was $371 million, which includes a net benefit of $1.5 million of subsidies in excess of identified COVID costs.

For Q1 2021, our expectations are approximately $103 million of SG&A expenses. The increase was primarily due to uneven attribution of stock compensation expense, incentive compensation accruals, and wage inflation, which are not completely offset by the impact of our restructuring program. For the full year, our expectations are slightly above $400 million at the exchange rates of quarter four. This increase year-over-year is primarily due to the weakening of the US dollar versus our relevant currencies, increased travel cost anticipated in the second half of the year and incentive compensation accruals and wage increases not completely offset by the impact of our restructuring program. Based on our cost cycle, our SG&A expenses will be at the highest recorded level in Q1.

During the quarter, we were able to repurchase the final $3 million principal amount of our convertible debentures due 2041. Last Thursday, we completed the redemption of our convertible debentures due 2040, of which only $300,000 principal amount is outstanding. These actions complete the programs we have undertaken over the past three years to retire the convertible debentures due 2040, 2041, and 2042, which had certain tax attributes, which were no longer efficient after US tax reforms. We continue to have a series of convertible notes outstanding, which are due in 2025, while we did not be purchase any of our convertible notes due 2025 during quarter four. During 2020, we opportunistically repurchased $135 million principal amount of the convertible notes due 2025. The average repurchase price for the notes was 95.3% of face value. By reducing our fixed term debt, repurchase of the convertible notes provides us with future flexibility to better utilize our revolver and to adjust our debt levels as necessary. We continue to be authorized by our Board of Directors to repurchase up to an additional $65 million of convertible due 2025, subject to market and business conditions, legal requirements, and other factors.

We had total liquidity of $1.5 billion at quarter end. Cash and short-term investments comprised $778 million and the useful capacity on our credit facility is approximately $730 million. Our debt at year-end is comprised primarily of the convertible notes due 2025. The principal amount or face value of the convert is $466 million. The carrying value of $395 million net of unamortized discount and debt issuance costs. There were no amounts outstanding on our revolving credit facility at the end of the year. However, we did utilize revolver from time to time during Q4 to meet short-term financing needs and expect to continue to do so in the future. No principal payments are due until 2025 and the revolving credit facility expires in June 2024.

Vishay will early adopt the new accounting standard for convertible debts, effective January 1, 2021. First on to the new standard, our convertible debt will no longer be bifurcated into debt and equity components and we will no longer be required to amortize the related debt discounts as non-cash interest expense. This means that our reported debt balance will increase to approximately the face value of the convert. It also means that our US GAAP interest expense will decrease to approximate the cash coupon. We expect interest expense for Q1 to be approximately $4.4 million. The new standard also requires application of the if-converted method for EPS share count, which would have added 14 million shares to our diluted EPS share count. In response to this and consistent with our previously stated intention to net share settle, we amended the indenture for the convertible notes due 2025, requiring Vishay to pay the principal amount of any converted note in cash with any additional conversion value settled in shares of common stock.

This results in a similar impact on the diluted share count to that which was achieved under the old standard when assuming net share settlement. Total shares outstanding at quarter end were 145 million. The expected share count for EPS purposes for the first quarter 2021 is approximately 145 million. For a full explanation of the EPS share count and variables that impact the calculation, especially after the adoption of the new convertible debt standard, please refer to the 8-K we filed this morning and our annual report on Form 10-K, which will be filed in a few weeks.

Our global cost reduction programs that were announced in mid 2019 have now been fully implemented with lower cost of approximately $15 million annually. The full-year effective tax rate on a GAAP basis was approximately 22%. The full year normalized tax rate was approximately 21%. Both the quarters mathematically yield the tax rate of approximately 19% for GAAP and approximately 11% normalized. Our year-to-date GAAP tax rate includes the unusual tax benefits related to the settlement, some of the convertible debentures from Q1 and Q4 and an adjustment to uncertain tax positions $4 million in Q4. Our year-to-date normalized rate excludes the unusual tax items as well as the tax effects of the pre-tax loss and extinguishment of debt, the identified COVID costs and the Q2 restructuring charge.

Our effective tax rate for the full year was lower than we expected at the end of Q3 due to changes in certain processes and business practices, as we continue to adapt our financial and capital structure in response to US tax reform. We expect our normalized effective tax rate for 2021 to be between 22% and 24%. Our consolidated effective tax rate is based on an assumed level of mixed income among our various taxing jurisdictions. A shift in income could result in significantly different result. Also a significant change in tax laws or regulations could result in significantly different result.

Cash from operations for the quarter was $126 million, capital expenditures for the quarter was $53 million, free cash for the quarter was $73 million. For the year, cash from operations was $315 million, capital expenditures were $124 million, but approximately for expansion $83 million, for cost reduction $9 million, for maintenance of business $32 million. Free cash generation for the year was $192 million. The year includes $60 million cash taxes paid related to cash repatriation plus $15 million cash taxes paid for the current year instalment of the US tax reform transition tax. Vishay has consistently generated in excess of $100 million cash flows from operations in each of the past now 26 years and greater than $200 million for the last now 19 years.

Backlog at the end of quarter four was at $1,240 million or 5.6 months of sales. Inventories increased quarter-over-quarter by $1 million, including an exchange rate impact. Days of inventory outstanding were 79 days. Days of sales outstanding for the quarter were 45 days. Days with payables outstanding for the quarter were 31 days, resulting in a cash conversion cycle 94 days.

Now, I will turn the call over to our Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Gerald Paul.

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Lori and good morning everybody. The year 2020 for Vishay and its business partners has been overshadowed by a completely new experience, a global pandemic. During the year, there were several phases of the pandemic impacting our business in very different ways. From numerous plant shutdowns mainly in Asia and temporary shortages of supply in the early part of the year over drastic negative reactions of many customers in particular in the automotive segment in the second quarter to an extremely steep and broad recovery of orders since October. Vishay managed to adapt to a fast-changing economic environment fairly well, keeping up efficiencies, minimizing fixed costs, controlling inventories, and capex. Vishay in 2020 achieved a gross margin of 23.3% of sales versus 25.2% in 2019, and adjusted gross margin of 23.4% of sales versus 25.2%. Operating margin of 8.4% of sales versus 9.8% in 2019, and adjusted operating margin of 8.5% versus 10.7% in 2019. Earnings per share of $0.85 versus $1.19 in 2019 and adjusted earnings per share of $0.92 versus $1.26 in 2019. The generation of free cash also in 2020 remained on a quite excellent level. We in 2020 generated free cash of $192 million, which includes taxes paid for cash repatriation of $16 million.

The fourth quarter, while benefiting from an accelerated economic recovery, suffered from higher than expected freight costs and metal prices. Additionally, the US dollar weakened versus practically all currencies in which we just incurred costs, but achieved no sales. Vishay in the fourth quarter achieved gross margin of 22.8% of sales versus 23.7% in Q3, adjusted gross margin of 22.9% versus 23.7% in Q3. Operating margin of 9% of sales versus 9.6% in the third quarter, adjusted operating margin of 8.9% versus 9.6% in Q3. Earnings per share of $0.26 versus $0.23 in quarter three and adjusted earnings per share of $0.28 versus $0.25 in Q3.

Currently, the economic environment for electronics in general can be expressed as friendly to booming. The pandemic even raised its consumption in several market segments and automotive came back to the full extent. There is some economic -- some economic recovery was already seen in the third quarter, but now it has developed quite drastically in the course of the fourth quarter. In particular, distribution contributed and continues to do so, also driven by some anxieties, concerning potentially upcoming shortages of supply. We have realized reduced price pressure across the board and lead times in general are stretching out.

All regions enjoyed growth in the quarter, lead by automotive and distribution in Europe. There is a strong continued broad performance in Asia, and growth is also in the Americas to be seen, despite the weakness of oil and gas and commercial avionics. Global distribution currently is very confident, concerning the short and mid-term business outlook. In fact, there is growing nervousness concerning the availability of components in particular of semiconductors. In the year 2020, POS of global distribution was 3% below 2019, mainly due to a very weak second quarter. POS in quarter four 2020 on the other hand was 4% over prior quarter and 9% over prior year. POS in quarter four was strong in particularly in Asia, with 9% above prior quarter, whereas in Europe and in Americas, POS remains virtually on the levels of the third quarter.

Distribution inventories in the fourth quarter came down again by $24 million. Inventory turns of global distribution increased to 3.1 from 2.8 in prior quarter. In the Americas, 1.6 turns after 1.5 in Q3 and 1.4 in prior year. In Asia, 5.0 after 4.3 in Q3 and 3.3 in prior year. In Europe, 3.2 after 3.0 in Q3 and 2.8 in prior year. What can be stated is that Asian distribution has a very low inventory level currently.

Coming to the industry segments, continued strong orders come from automotive, as OEMs attempt to recoup volume lost during the second quarter closures. Production volumes of light vehicles are approaching pre-Corona levels, but the electronic content has grown and continues to do so. Advanced driver-assist systems, 48V hybrid systems, autonomous driving and in particular electric vehicle charging programs boost the volume. Industrial continues to provide major growth opportunities, despite the present weakness of the oil and gas sector. Industrial automation, new power generation and transmission systems as well as increased residential development propel growth.

The market for computers and related products remains remarkably strong, driven by continued demand for tools to support global work from home trends. The AMS sector continues to be burdened by an extremely weak market for commercial avionics, will remain. For Telecom, we for the mid-term continue to expect the major upstream in the context of the introduction of 5G, more short-term 4G systems will continue to grow. Quarantine restrictions favor consumer products in general and medical continues to show stable growth.

Let me comment on our business in the fourth quarter in particular, mostly due to a high demand from distribution Q4 sales, excluding exchange rate impact came in slightly above the upper end of our guidance. We achieved sales of $667 million versus $640 million in prior quarter and $610 million in prior year. Excluding exchange rate effects, sales in the fourth quarter were up by $23 million or by 4% versus prior quarter and up versus prior year by $44 million or by 7%. Sales in the year 2020 were $2,502 million versus $2,668 million in 2019, a decrease of 7%, excluding exchange rate effects.

The book-to-bill ratio in the fourth quarter, may I say jumped really to 1.44 from 0.99 in Q3, mainly driven by Asian distribution; 1.89 book-to-bill for distribution after 0.99 in Q3, 0.96 for OEMs after 1.01 in Q3. 1.61 for semiconductors after 0.98, 1.27 for passives after 1.0. 1.15 for the Americas after 0.92 in Q3. 1.75 for Asia after 1.04 in Q3. And finally, 1.27 for Europe after 1.01 in Q3.

Backlog in the fourth quarter climbed to an extreme high of 5.6 months after 4.3 in quarter three, 6 months in semis after 4.3 in the third quarter and 5.2 months in passives after 4.4. There is further decrease in price pressure 0.3% prices down versus prior quarter and 2.8% down versus prior year. In semis, there's less price pressure due to the current high demand minus 0.2% prices versus prior quarter, minus 3.9 versus prior year. Passives price decline is on normal levels 0.5 down versus prior quarter and minus 1.7% versus prior year.

Some comments on operations. In 2020, we were not completely able to offset the normal negative impacts on the contributive margin by cost reduction and by innovation, despite good manufacturing efficiencies. During the year, we suffered from increasing transportation costs, increasing metal prices and in particular in the fourth quarter from the impact of a weakening US dollar. Adjusted SG&A costs in the fourth quarter came in at $93 million, $2 million below expectations, when excluding exchange rate effects. Adjusted SG&A costs for the year 2020 were at $373 million, 15 million or 4% below prior year at constant exchange rates, mainly due to less traveling and general belt-tightening. Manufacturing fixed cost in the fourth quarter came in at $133 million, in line with expectations when excluding exchange rate effects. Manufacturing fixed cost for the year 2020 were $513 million flat versus prior year at constant exchange rates.

Total employment at the end of 2020 was 21,555, 4% down from prior year. Excluding exchange impacts, inventories in the quarter remained virtually flat. Inventory turns in the fourth quarter improved to 4.6 from 4.4 in the prior quarter. In the year 2020, inventories were flat versus prior year. Inventory turns for the entire year 2020 were at a very satisfactory level of 4.3. No change to prior year. Capital spending in 2020 was $124 million versus $157 million in prior year, $83 million for expansion, $9 million for cost reduction, and $32 million for maintenance of business, some acceleration vis-a-vis previous expectations of programs had been required in view of the sharply increasing orders. For 2021, we expect increased capex of about $175 million, required to fulfill a strong demand.

Concerning cash flow generated, we generated in 2020 cash from operations of $315 million, including $16 million cash taxes for cash repatriation compared to $296 million cash from operations in 2019, including $38 million cash taxes for cash repatriation. We generated in 2020 free cash of $192 million including $16 million cash taxes for cash repatriation, compared to a free cash generation of $140 million in 2019, including $38 million cash taxes for cash repatriation. I think we can say that Vishay also in a year of an unprecedented economic destabilization has continued to live up to its reputation as an excellent and variables producer of free cash.

Let me go to our main product lines and as that is always with Resistors. The Resistors, we enjoy a very strong position in the auto, industrial, mill and medical market segments. We offer virtually all Resistor technologies. Vishay's traditional and historically growing business in the second quarter had suffered substantially from the weakness, especially in automotive, but now is in process of a fast recovery. Sales in the fourth quarter were $161 million, up by $15 million or by 10% versus prior quarter and up by $8 million or 5% versus prior year, all excluding exchange rate impacts.

Sales in 2020 of $606 million were down by $56 million or by 8% versus prior year again, excluding exchange rate impacts. Book-to-bill in the fourth quarter for Resistors was 1.24 after 1.06 in prior quarter and backlog for Resistors increased from 4.5 months to 4.9 months. Due to higher volume, gross margin in the quarter increased to 26% of sales from 24% in prior quarter. Gross margin for the year 2020 was at 25% of sales down from 28% in 2019 due to still lower volume. Inventory turns in the fourth quarter were at 4.5. Inventory turns for the full year were at a good level of 4.1. Low price decline for Resistors minus 0.1% versus prior quarter and minus 2% versus prior year. The acquisition ATP is in process to be integrated and we do expect a successful year 2021, based on more volume and on an even higher focus on specialty products.

Coming to Inductors, the business consists of power inductors and magnetics since years our fast growing business with Inductors represents one of the greatest success stories of Vishay. Exploiting the growing need for investors in general, Vishay developed the platform of robust and efficient power inductors and leads the market technically. With the Magnetics, we are very well positioned in specialty businesses, demonstrating steady growth. Sales of inductors in Q4 were at $75 million, down by $4 million or 6% versus prior quarter and down by $2 million or 3% versus prior year, excluding exchange rate impact. Sales in 2020 of $294 million were slightly down versus prior year by $6 million or by 2%, again excluding exchange rate impacts. The temporary slowdown of automotive in 2020 also had an impact on the growth of Inductors.

Book-to-bill in quarter four for Inductors was 1.03 after 0.96 in prior quarter. The backlog is at 4.6 months after 4.3 months in prior quarter. Gross margin in the quarter was at 30% of sales, down versus prior quarter, which was at 34% of sales, but this has been a record. The exchange rate and higher transportation cost burdened to performance in the fourth quarter to a degree. Gross margin for the year 2020 was at excellent 32% of sales, virtually on the same level as in prior year. Inventory turns in the quarter were at a very high level of 5.0 as compared to 4.6 for the whole year. We planned for some inventory additions for supporting service. There is some price pressure predominantly at power inductors minus 1.7% versus prior quarter at minus 3.6% versus prior year. We continuously expand our manufacturing capacitors for power inductors and we do expect to return to traditional growth rates in 2021 and ongoing financial success in our Inductor lines.

Coming to Capacitors, our business with Capacitors is based on a broad range of technologies with a strong position in the American and European market niches. We enjoy increasing opportunities in the field of power transmission and of electric cars namely in Asia, especially in China. Sales in Q4 were $92 million, 2% below prior quarter and 6% below prior year, which excludes exchange rate effects. Year-over-year Capacitor sales decreased from $423 million in 2019 to $362 million in 2020 or by 15% at constant exchange rates. This was strongly impacted by delays of governmental projects and by a non-repetition of a specific 2019 program, two things came together. Book-to-bill ratio in quarter four was 1.54 after 0.95 in the previous quarter. We received now a large order or large orders for power capacitors from China. The backlog increased substantially to 6.2 months from 4.4 months in Q3. Gross margin in the quarter was at 18% of sales, down from 20% mostly due to a less favorable mix. Gross margin for the year 2020 was at 19% of sales, down from 22% in 2019 due to lower volume. Inventory turns in the quarter increased to 3.8 as compared to 3.6 for the whole year. Prices were stable minus 0.2% versus prior quarter and plus 0.4% versus prior year. We do expect increased volume and better profitability in 2021.

Opto products. Vishay's business with Opto products consists of infrared emitters, receivers, sensors and couplers as well as of LEDs for automotive applications. The business in 2020 experienced a significant recovery from disappointing results in prior year that had been burdened by major corrections in the supply chain. Currently, we see a really sharp increase in demand. Sales in the quarter were $68 million, 5% above prior quarter and 29% above prior year at constant exchange rates. Year-over-year sales with Opto products went up from $223 million to $237 million or by 5% when excluding exchange rate effects. Book-to-bill in the fourth quarter was 1.46 after 0.97 in the prior quarter and the backlog increased substantially to 5.9 months after 4.6 months in the third quarter. Gross margin in the quarter came in at satisfactory 28% of sales after 33% in the third quarter, which had been a spike. Gross margin for the year 2020 recovered to a level of 28% of sales as compared to 24% in prior year, which had been depressed primarily due to low volume. Very high inventory turns of 6.0 for Opto products in Q4 as compared to 5.5 in the year 2020. Prices were fairly stable, in fact 1.2% up versus prior quarter and minus 1.1% versus prior year. We remain confident that Opto products going forward will contribute noticeably to our growth and we are in process to modernize and expand our higher growth in Germany.

Coming to Diodes. Diodes for Vishay represents a broad commodity business, where we are largest supplier worldwide. Vishay offers virtually all technologies as well as the most complete product portfolio. The business is in very strong position in the automotive and industrial market segments and keeps growing steadily and profitably since years. Diodes for a few quarters had suffered from too high inventory levels in the supply chain and from the weakness of its main markets. Now the business has entered the phase of strong recovery. We currently see a fairly dramatic upturn in demand. Sales in the quarter were $139 million up by $15 million or about 12% versus prior quarter and up by $14 million or 11% versus prior year, which excludes exchange rate effects. Year-over-year sales with Diodes decreased still from $557 million to $503 million, a decline of 10% at constant exchange rates.

Book-to-bill ratio in Q4 climbed abruptly to 1.65 after 1.05 in the third quarter. Backlog increased to 6.2 months from 4.7 months in prior quarter. Gross margin in the quarter improved to 18% of sales as compared to 17% in the third quarter. Gross margin in the year 2020 was at 18% of sales, down from 20% in prior -- down from 20% in prior year due to substantially lower volume. Inventory turns increased to 4.8, as compared to 4.4 for the whole year. We see a reduced price pressure, stable prices plus 0.2 really versus prior quarter at minus 3.7% versus prior year. We expect profitability of Diodes to return to more historic levels with increasing volume.

MOSFETs. Vishay is one of the market leaders in MOSFETs transistors. With MOSFETs, we enjoy a strong and growing market position in automotive, which in view of an increased use of MOSFETs and automotive will provide a successful future. We currently experience like in Diodes, a quite dramatic increase in demand. Sales in the quarter were $132 million, 2% below prior quarter, but 12% above prior year at constant exchange rates. Year-over-year sales with MOSFETs decreased slightly from $509 million to $501 million by 2% excluding exchange rate impacts. Book-to-bill went up sharply to 1.64 in the quarter after 0.93 in quarter three. Backlogs climbed to 5.7 months as compared to 3.7 months in the third quarter. Gross margin in the quarter was at 22% of sales. No change from prior quarter. Gross margin in the year 2020 came in at 23% of sales, a reduction from 25% in 2019 due to a combination of higher metal prices and inventory reduction. Inventory turns in the quarter were 4.3 as compared to 4.0 for the entire year. Price decline is relatively normal minus 1.2% versus prior quarter, minus 5.6% versus prior year. But given the high market demand, we expect prices to stabilize going forward. MOSFETs in general remain key for Vishay's growth going forward.

Let me summarize. I think there is no need to emphasize that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges for the people globally, for the economy in general, and naturally also for Vishay. Nevertheless, the following should be highlighted. Electronic components continue to be a success story, also during difficult times. Vishay is a remarkably stable enterprise that reacts quickly and professionally to changes that has a viable business model and pursues its strategies also during times of severe challenges. We remain excited about the fairly overwhelming opportunities electronics increasingly will enjoy in the future. Vishay is prepared to participate to the full extent. Fortunately, concerning the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we, despite still existing obstacles, expect the strong year 2021.

For the first quarter, we at quarter four exchange rates guide to a sales range between $705 million and $745 million at the gross margin of 25% of sales, plus/minus 60 basis points. Thanks for your patience. Peter?

Peter Henrici -- Senior Vice President and Corporate Secretary

Thank you, Dr. Paul. We will now open the call to questions. Shelby, please take the first question.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Absolutely. [Operator Instructions] Your first question is from Karl Ackerman of Cowen.

Karl Ackerman -- Cowen International Ltd. -- Analyst

Yes. Good. Thank you everyone and thanks Dr. Paul and Lori and Peter. My first question is on inventory. Could you characterize the health of channel inventory given one of the strongest book-to-bill metrics you've had on record. I guess are you discounting the $200 million plus in excess bookings above your revenue guide given signs of double ordering or is your outlook based simply on what you can ship at the moment?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

That's -- as a matter of fact, you know that for quite some time, inventory distribution was a concern, a year ago or so and it worked -- and we worked down this inventory levels at distribution over the time span of nearly a year. In the meantime, I must say really in Asia, inventory is low, very low and people yearn for more, can I exclude double booking, not really, not exactly, but the book-to-bill is quite overwhelming 1.6 and really as you said, clearly we base our guidance on what we can ship.

Karl Ackerman -- Cowen International Ltd. -- Analyst

I understand. I appreciate that. I guess as a follow-up. The last time you exceeded $700 million of revenue, you were able to generate gross margins in the high 20s, I guess what prevent you from achieving that range over the next few quarters given several cost realignment initiatives you've enacted since 2018. And then I guess, in addition to that, are you able to achieve $800 million or more of revenue, a quarter based upon your existing manufacturing capacity in the context of your -- and I guess how that frames your view for capex for 2021. Thank you.

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

The $800 million -- first of all, the $800 million is achievable depends, of course, on the product mix, as you can imagine, but in a normal mix, it's achievable. Secondly, there are a few factors, which at the moment burden vis-a-vis the times you were referring to. Number one, and this is by far the strongest, the US dollar became relatively weak not only vis-a-vis the euro, vis-a-vis the euro, it doesn't matter, because we have a natural hedge. We have cost in euro and we have sales in Euro, so it balances, kind of. But we are producing in many countries in the world and practically all of them became stronger vis-a-vis the US dollar. This was also the reason why the incremental performance in quarter four was not as perfect as I would have liked it to see. But as a matter of fact, these are things we cannot really influence, but it plays a big role. Furthermore, transportation costs, this is COVID related, no question transportation costs went through the roof and of course we will normalize again as soon as the situation around Corona will normalize and of course gas pricing. There has been plenty since the time I believe there was some price pressure even on the way, special price pressure, which I believe we now are in the position to correct a little. Did I answer your question?

Karl Ackerman -- Cowen International Ltd. -- Analyst

Yes, you did. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Ruplu Bhattacharya of Bank of America.

Ruplu Bhattacharya -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking my questions. For the first question, I just wanted to follow up on the margin comments, Dr. Paul in 4Q, gross margin came in below your guidance, I think you mentioned three things, the freight duties and metals and the guidance for the next quarter, the fiscal 1Q is 25% gross margin at the midpoint, so that's 210 basis points of sequential improvement. Can you help us understand what are the factors that are going into that sequential improvement. How much of that is volume growth, how much of that is your expectation of freight cost going down and metals costs. So, just help us understand where that 210 basis points, how that will be achieved?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Ruplu, we do not speculate on the US dollar, so if we really didn't pursue any change there. As a matter of fact, it's not from there. We also did not expect transportation costs to come down significantly somewhat, yes somewhat. But I believe what really can be stated is a combination of a couple of things. We believe we have reasons to believe that certain purchasing will become more attractive and of course, for the most part, it's higher volume, which plays the role. Volume is the key to that improvement.

Ruplu Bhattacharya -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Got it. For my second question, can you talk about uses of cash. So you've had $100 million -- over $100 million of free cash flow over many years. How do you see your spend on buybacks versus dividend versus M&A at this point in the cycle. So can you -- can you talk a little bit about uses of cash at this point?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, first of all, it's of course up to our Board to decide in which direction we go. But I would suspect that we keep our eyes open in M&A and also we'll put -- foreseeably, we have to put more money into equipment going forward as it looks. We pay dividend whatever the dividend in terms of increase or no increase, it's not my decision, it's the decision of the Board. But in reality, I have some -- we keep our eyes open in M&A.

Ruplu Bhattacharya -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Got it. And then, sorry, for the last question if I can ask. I think you guided higher capex for fiscal '21 at $175 million, which are the areas that you're investing that capex in and do you have any concerns that you and if your competitors are also adding capex, then at some point then the industry can have excess supply versus demand, at least in the medium term. So your thoughts on industry capex as well as where your own CapEx is happening? Thank you.

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Really, it's an oscillating system, it's -- I'm here since old times and looking back, there was always a time when the industry had invested somewhat too much, but this was always, always used at the very short time after. But I think in our case, in the situation we are in, you can hardly be wrong. We will put it into MOSFETs, we will put it into Diodes, in Opto, and especially Inductors also in our case, we have many product lines. The likelihood of being completely wrong in the short term is very little. And so it goes into the main product lines, where we have shown growth over years.

Ruplu Bhattacharya -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Matt Sheerin of Stifel.

Matthew Sheerin -- Stifel -- Analyst

Yes. Thank you. Dr. Paul, I'd like to ask another question regarding the book-to-bill ratios, which as you've acknowledged are very high in some areas and that tends to spook investors and we're seeing your stock trade down, I think on the concern that we may be at peak levels and at some point, you're going to see a correction. What's different, why should we not be concerned? And in terms of the booking and backlog, are you seeing some orders being placed for one to two quarters out, which is one reason why the book-to-bill is inflated?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I believe -- well, we are watching both. We are watching the cyclical backlog and we are watching the total backlog by nature by that and there is urgency in the expectations. The cyclical backlog went up in the same form that means really people want the product, I believe partially, of course it's a catch-up situation, partially it's -- certain nervousness to get products and there are limitations on the market, certainly the lead times long these days. I can -- as I said, I can of course not exclude completely that there's double ordering -- in such situation, there's always double ordering, but it doesn't effect, I believe our sales expectation for the year, which is good.

Matthew Sheerin -- Stifel -- Analyst

And do you have any outlook or visibility beyond in Q1, where you're looking at above seasonal growth, are you expecting the June quarter, which is typically is up for you to be up again or is it too early to tell?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Normally, we should say it's too early to tell, but I'm quite convinced that the second quarter will be above the first quarter.

Matthew Sheerin -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful. And just on the cost side, you talked about some of those headwinds and offsetting that with volume growth and you're guiding to a typical margin contribution. Could you talk about the pricing environment you said ASPs are basically, it's more stable, but you seem to be in a pretty strong position here in terms of leverage, particularly the distribution channels, so should we expect that to help margins as you get through the year as well, the ASPs?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, indeed and you named it already, of course we are never breaking contracts, of course not. But in the distribution channel, I could imagine that there can be some price increases, already impacting -- starting to impact the second quarter.

Matthew Sheerin -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay. And then, someone asked about your capacity ability right now and I know you talked about lead times stretched out, but -- but if there is upside demand in the next few quarters, particularly in MOSFETs and Diodes, where things seem to be pretty tight, I mean do you have capacity in place to meet that upside?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Depends how big the upside is, but upside for sure. We have in combination of own resources and foundries, I think we are -- we are well positioned.

Matthew Sheerin -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you very much.

Operator

Your next question is from David Williams of Loop Capital.

David Williams -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Hey, good morning and thanks for letting me ask the question. I wanted to just kind of get back into the Inductor segment and just kind of think about the strength that you had there and with your capacity that you have in other areas, how do you think about the capacity there and have you been constrained at all just given that demand?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, you hit exactly the point where we have to accelerate. We have to accelerate expansion. We are expanding since many years, and it's never enough, ironically it's never enough and we are going to do something special also for especially this power capacitor line. We always sold out since many years and we never can catch up, but this time I think we will have a special effort. It's a big success.

David Williams -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Yes. It's a good problem to have. Very good. And then maybe regionally kind of thinking about North America and maybe the Americas region overall, but it's been fairly soft, but just kind of curious if you're seeing strength anywhere or maybe any bright spots that you're looking forward to maybe in terms of growth for 2021?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think automotive has come around, medical is steady, military is strong. So I do not -- it's America is like Europe by the way, it's not as booming as Asia is at the moment. Asia drives the show at the moment. But I would say America is for us, at least based on our customers has enough strong supports. We are also confident for the US.

David Williams -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And then maybe just one last one, if you're -- if we're thinking about lead times on orders, how have they stretched, I guess in terms of what are you seeing now, are you putting in the order for 6 to 12 months or are you seeing just longer in terms of weeks or maybe just anything of the magnitude of the spreads on the lead path of orders?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Very much on the product line as you can see. But you have product lines with north of 20 weeks, 25 weeks lead time for people that come due to us. There, you may even find some that are at 30 weeks, but this is not the rule, but it happens.

David Williams -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Thanks so much. Certainly appreciate the time.

Operator

Your final question is from Harlan Sur of JP Morgan.

Harlan Sur -- JP Morgan -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, Dr. Paul. Thanks for taking my question. On the gross margins, yeah, it looks like the contributive margin for Q4 and implied in Q1 guidance is 43%. So it's below your target of 45% and if we look back at the 2017-2018 timeframe, you guys were driving about 46% contributive margins. So given some of the positive dynamics that you've talked about, do you see the team getting back to a 45% contributive margins beyond Q1 -- assuming a continued strong demand environment?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

It is -- but of course, the 45% is our normal level of performance. And the couple of things as I tried to explain came together in quarter four. Some of them are really COVID related, some of them is currency related, there is not much to be done, but I would expect that, especially also in the combination of some pricing measures we could, our target is definitely to come back to the 45%.

Harlan Sur -- JP Morgan -- Analyst

Got it. Okay. Thank you. Book-to-bill strong in Q4, as somebody mentioned June quarter is typically seasonally stronger for the team. So first question is, are you still seeing positive book-to-bill trends so far here in Q1 and what end markets are you seeing the most strength?

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Generally, it's like -- it's like quarter four, it's a continuation of quarter four. So it's the same thing. It's really high book-to-bill, where does it come from, automotive is strong. Yeah. But I think distribution is the major part of it. Distribution is a major part of it. And in Asia, if you look at the inventory levels, you understand that they order.

Harlan Sur -- JP Morgan -- Analyst

Yeah. Thank you, Dr. Paul.

Operator

There are no other questions in queue. Do you all have any closing remarks?

Peter Henrici -- Senior Vice President and Corporate Secretary

No. This concludes our fourth quarter conference call. Thank you for your interest in Vishay Intertechnology.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 65 minutes

Call participants:

Peter Henrici -- Senior Vice President and Corporate Secretary

Lori Lipcaman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Dr. Gerald Paul -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Karl Ackerman -- Cowen International Ltd. -- Analyst

Ruplu Bhattacharya -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Matthew Sheerin -- Stifel -- Analyst

David Williams -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Harlan Sur -- JP Morgan -- Analyst

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