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Ceragon Networks (NASDAQ:CRNT)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Aug 02, 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 Ceragon Networks second-quarter earnings call. [Operator instructions]. I'd like to hand the call over to the first speaker today, Maya Lustig, head of investor relations. Please go ahead.

Maya Lustig -- Head of Investor Relations

Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. I am joined by Doron Arazi, Ceragon's chief executive officer; and Ran Vered, Ceragon's chief financial officer. Before we start, I would like to note that this call includes information that constitutes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, we can give no assurance that our expectations will be obtained or any deviation there from will not be material.

Such statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause future results to differ materially from those anticipated. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to such risks, uncertainties, and other factors that could affect our results as detailed in our press release that was published earlier today and as further detailed in Ceragon's most recent annual report Form 20-F and in Ceragon's other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Such forward-looking statements represent our views only as of the date they are made and should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any subsequent date. Such forward-looking statements do not purport to be predictions of future events or results, and there can be no assurance that they will prove to be accurate.

Ceragon may elect to update these forward-looking statements at any point in the future, but it specifically declaims any obligation to do so. Ceragon's public filings are available on the Securities and Exchange Commission's website at www.sec.gov and may also be obtained from Ceragon's website at www.ceragon.com. Also, today's call will include certain non-GAAP numbers. For a reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP results, please see the table attached to the press release that was issued earlier today.

I will now turn the call over to Doron. Please go ahead.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Maya, and good morning, everyone. Let me start by sharing how proud and delighted I am to be back as Ceragon's CEO. I feel highly energized, and I've already put a lot of things in motion. Some of them I will share with you shortly.

Ceragon boasts repeated success in introducing disruptive technologies as the cusp of wireless transitions. It was the case with the transition from 2G to 3G, 3G to 4G, and now from 4G to 5G. I believe it's our tradition of innovation and our passion for technology that allows us to be ahead of the curve. We continue to invest our time, energy and resources to transform networks across the globe, accommodating for the surge in hunger for more capacity and lower latency.

In Q2 2021, given operators' 5G network development plans, our 5G orders and installations have achieved a strong momentum. Like in Q1, we achieved a number of new 5G design wins and saw very strong bookings. Our Q2 bookings were the highest in three years, especially in North America, Europe, and India. Our book-to-bill ratio was way above one.

In North America, we have been selected and already received initial orders by three leading operators to deploy and improve 5G connectivity. These new orders and renewed partnerships focus on expanding 5G network reach in dense areas, as well as keeping rural areas connected and up to speed. These material orders, among others, have resulted in strong Q2 bookings in North America, the highest ever. I am thrilled by the progress we are making in this region.

Additional two leading Tier 1 operators may become new customers for us. They are evaluating our most recent IP-50 products for different network scenarios, including front haul. They seem intrigued by now -- sorry, by how well our product fit into the new 5G network architecture. What's happening in North America is that operators are in fierce competition to push 5G from initial trials into the field.

Because fiber optic is either not possible or economically not viable in all use cases, more and more operators are turning to us for wireless multi-gigabit transport powered by our IP-50 series. IP-50 provides a fiber-like alternative in terms of speed, reliability, and efficiency. We're participating in several trials and initial rollouts. In fact, 52% of our year-to-date booking in North America are 5G-related, and we are encouraged by the significant opportunities in this region to grow and capture market share.

In India, our strongest region in terms of bookings, multiple Tier 1 operators placed follow-on orders through which we will support multiple network expansion projects to help providing nationwide coverage and prepare operators' network for 5G. With over 620 million Internet users, India has the world's second largest user base. If data consumption is expected to grow over 34 to 40 gigabit per smartphone and a number of users to 900 million by 2025. There's a move toward rolling out 5G by developing 5G corridors.

Trials are planned for the second half of 2021. 5G spectrum auction is expected in the first half of 2022 and commercial launch by the second half of 2022. Today in India, Ceragon boasts around 50% market share. We are the indisputable market leader.

And as 5G rollout will further expand digital adoption, there will be a demand for higher capacity in all corners of the country, and we will be there to meet it. Indian operators are testing different event solutions, and ours are getting a lot of traction. I believe the combination of our market leadership position, our strong brand name, plus what's unfolding in the country will translate to more business for us. In Europe, also driven by 5G demand, we had a very positive quarter in terms of bookings.

Our European 5G-related bookings accounted for 31% of all European bookings year to date. In Latin America, COVID-19 continues to have greater impact than other regions, yet we also see new signs of recovery in South Cone and Adient except for Argentina. We have been awarded several contracts by operator in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru to provide a wide range of technologies. I believe these awards will generate a funnel of opportunities and translate to new orders in the upcoming quarters.

Overall, we expect to continue at the same pace in the second half of the year. In APAC and Africa, we feel the impact of COVID-19 on most of our countries, and it seems that activity in these two regions will be slow for a while. To summarize, I'm very pleased to report that in the present moment, we have 16 5G design wins, five were new additions to our customer base and the rest were existing customers. Our global 5G booking increased our visibility and confidence in the market demand for the second half of the year.

That said, global component shortages and delays in shipments may have an impact on our ability to deliver. Not only that, but also our gross margin has been adversely impacted by the increase in component and supply chain prices due to the COVID-19 environment. We are taking the necessary measures to remedy both situations. In fact, One of our focus areas is to bring our gross margin back to 33 to 44% and even above.

Ceragon is on an upward trajectory. For me, it proved to be a fantastic time to rejoin the company and witness many years of effort come into fruition. I'm proud to say that we are highly diligent, proactive, and market responsive in our efforts. Our principal objectives are to expand our total addressable market and reinforce our solutions as the go-to for wireless transport.

This is a good time for Ceragon to achieve these objectives for three key reasons. First, 5G is much more complex than previous generations. To grow traffic will demand densification of the network. This will mean backhaul expansions and upgrades to support high capacity and lower latency.

A full-scale 5G rollout is expected to be costly to operators, yet it's also inevitable. According to a GSMA estimate, operators' total cost of ownership for backhaul will increase on average by a range of 16 to 42% annually. Also based on NPI research for February 2021, the wireless portion of the holding market is not expected to change significantly in the upcoming years, still comprising around 60% of the backhaul market. Second, in parallel to 5G, the OpenRAN architecture is going global.

In fact, according to GSMA, to date, 73 operators from 38 markets have either already deployed or committed to OpenRAN deployments. Briefly, OpenRAN establishes disaggregation for hardware and software, leading to vendor neutral component selection. This plays to our advantage as more operators may shift from single end-to-end vendor strategy to best of breed, increasing opportunities for specialists like us. In addition, as 5G densification continues, more and more operators will deploy millimeter wave solutions for front work, such as our IP-50E.

This fronthaul opportunity is not only supported by heavy reading survey from July 2020, but also reflected in the interest in our IP-50E. Therefore, we believe OpenRAN will boost opportunities for us as a market-leading specialist. Third, I'm very excited about the strides we have made in closing new managed services deals. As announced at the beginning of July, we are awarded with multiyear managed services agreement by a leading network service provider in the U.S.

This service provider is using our radio units, as well as our competitors. The fact that this provider is using Ceragon to manage and improve the performance of their entire wireless transport is a statement -- sorry, a testament to our differentiated service capabilities and market strength. Our managed services provide network monitoring and optimization, troubleshooting and upgrade to simplify and enhance the customer journey on the wireless transport network. These services represent organic and natural evolution of the work we have done with numerous operators and the strong software tools we have developed.

It is my intention to strengthen and turn managed services into a significant recurring revenue source for Ceragon in the coming years, as I believe the demand for such services will grow as networks become more and more complex. For these three main reasons, we expect our total addressable market to grow. For us, this is the first time in many years where a market growth is expected. Our readiness to monetize on the growing 5G opportunities is not enough.

As I said earlier, innovation, technology passion, and long-term thinking is our DNA. Our flagship product, the multicore all-outdoor radio has been a market-changing technological breakthrough since its launch in 2013. Our new system on a chip, whose tape out is rescheduled toward later this year, will be the next big breakthrough. This new chip is built to provide reliable fiber-like support for the new era.

It represents a new approach in our industry as it is a system on a chip. We believe it will be the most robust chip in our space, and we take our time to ensure it will function flawlessly. It handles all microwave, as well as millimeter-wave bands, including the D band. It will be the very first in the market to achieve this.

It will help impressively high capacity, offering 5G octa core with 16 times more capacity for quarter of spectrum and [Inaudible] energy. Not only that, but also since we have incorporated certain system elements into it, it is planned to be significantly more cost efficient to reduce our yield and our inventory and to improve our delivery lead times. 5G is expected to be with us for a long time, longer than previous wireless generations. And over time, data consumption will only increase.

Our chipset has been designed for these changes in mind, offering a capacity evolution that will meet the connectivity requirements of the future. I would now like to turn the call over to Ran to discuss our financials for the quarter. Ran?

Ran Vered -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Doron, and good morning, everyone. To help you understand the results, I will be referring mainly to non-GAAP numbers. For more information regarding our use of non-GAAP financial measures, including reconciliations of these measures, we'll refer you to today's press release. Like Doron mentioned, during Q2 2021, we saw very strong bookings coming from North America, India, and Europe.

In fact, Q2 was the strongest in terms of bookings in the last three years. Our book-to-bill ratio was way above one. Our revenues were at a strong level and at the highest end of our projections for the quarter. During the second quarter, we continued to make further progress toward normal operations, accelerating the positive trend that began at the end of 2020.

Let me now review the actual Q2 numbers with you. Revenues for the second quarter were $68.6 million, up by 10% compared with Q2 last year. The increase is mainly attributed to stronger sales in North America and India. Our strongest region in terms of revenue for the quarter was India, reflecting ongoing deliveries for our main customers in the region.

Our second strongest region in terms of revenues for the quarter was North America, reflecting continued strong momentum with our Tier 1 customer, other leading ISPs and smaller carriers. Europe also had a strong quarter, continuing its positive momentum and reflecting more initial revenue from 5G projects. Latin America, at slightly higher quarterly revenue than in previous quarter but still lower than its normal run rate. Revenues in Africa and APAC was slightly lower than in previous quarter, reflecting the still challenging situation in both regions.

We are two above 10% customer in the second quarter. Gross profit for the second quarter on a non-GAAP basis was $21.6 million, giving us a non-GAAP gross profit of approximately 32% compared with 26% for the second quarter of 2020. The relatively high-gross profit is thanks to a favorable customer mix positively affecting the gross margin this quarter. It's a great development for us.

That said, there are still challenges associated with component shortages and high-supply chain costs. These challenges plus the overall COVID-19 environment may continue to have an impact on our gross margins. As Doron mentioned, gross margin and gross profit are key metrics for us. We are looking closely on how to improve gross margin for the long term and bring it to the level of 33 to 34% and above.

We see a few elements that can contribute to that: reduce the level of component shortages, release bottlenecks in shipments via sea, as well as air freight surging costs created by COVID-19, better delivery time line alignments with our customers, operational excellence and discipline in all aspects, increased revenue volume. Operating expenses, a non-GAAP basis, for the second quarter were $21 million, slightly higher than our expectations. Research and development expenses for the second quarter on a non-GAAP basis were $7.5 million, an increase from $6.8 million in Q2 2020, mainly due to a continued effort with our chip development. These expenses will continue to stay high until we reach tape out toward the second half of 2021.

Sales and marketing for the second quarter on a non-GAAP basis were $8.3 million, a slight increase from $8 million in Q2 2020 but still reflecting the reduced travel that has come with COVID-19. We expect to gradually increase our sales and marketing expenses toward the end of the year as markets open post pandemic. General and administrative expenses for the second quarter on a non-GAAP basis were $5.2 million, an increase from $4.8 million in Q2 2020. In Q2 2021, we had the write off of related to two of our customers experienced financial difficulties.

Financial and other expenses for the second quarter on a non-GAAP basis were $1.4 million, in line with our expectations. Our tax expenses for the quarter on a non-GAAP basis were $0.4 million lower than in Q2 2020 and in line with our expectations. Net loss on a non-GAAP basis for the quarter was $1.2 million or $0.01 per diluted share. On a GAAP basis, net loss was 1.7 million or $0.02 per diluted share.

During this quarter, we had several onetime events impacting the reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP. The major ones were a Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness and the retirement compensation package of our former CEO. Our inventory for the quarter was $52.3 million, down from $53.6 million in Q2 2020. Our trade receivables are now at $107.4 million, up from $97.5 million in Q2 2020.

Our DSO now stands at 139 days. Net cash used in operating activities for the second quarter was $3 million. Net cash used this quarter for investing activity was $1.7 million. Looking ahead, our strong bookings in Q2, which were significantly better than expected, along with a very healthy backlog in Q3 funnel, reflect increasing business activity mainly North America, India, and Europe.

I'm happy to report today that we are more confident about our revenue growth in 2021 and expect it to be at the higher end of our annual revenue guidance, which is between 275 to $295 million. More than that, we see a bright light ahead of us to return to profitability in the second half of the year. While the current component shortages may still create situations in our quarterly revenues and have an impact on the timeliness of our deliveries we remain confident in our mid and long-term business opportunities and deliveries. With that, I now open the call for questions.

Operator?

Questions & Answers:


Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions]. Our first question today comes from the line of Alex Henderson. Alex, [Inaudible] and go ahead.

Unknown speaker

Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Alex, I can hear you loud and clear.

Unknown speaker

Perfect. Thank you very much. So first off, congratulations to great orders.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Unknown speaker

So I wanted to ask a couple of questions. How many quarters in a row have you now run a book to bill above one? I think it's running on three or four, yes?

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. In my recollection, it's probably three or four quarters that we're a book to bill of above one. But the last two quarters were very significant in this manner.

Unknown speaker

And you said you've seen record orders. So I was looking back, you did $343 million in 2018. Record orders here would suggest a return toward that level at some point. So the question becomes, when I look at these large orders that you're getting, can you talk about the time line to realization on the because I would assume that some of these projects are longer process projects, not stuff that necessarily comes in, in the back half of the year.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Want to take it, Ran?

Ran Vered -- Chief Financial Officer

I think, Alex, I will separate it into two buckets. The first one -- and you are correct. Some of them is projects that will last for more than one year. And it's taking us -- it's taking time for us to convert the bookings into revenue.

Of course, it's improved our visibility for the quarter -- for the next quarter. And this is why we feel comfortable on the visibility for the remainder of 2021. The second piece which is a challenge for us is the component shortages, which I talked pretty lens in my prepared remarks. And this is something that is still putting some toll of us, although we're seeing the signs of improvement.

And this is, by the way, while we were able to do better than Q2 than we initially thought, because we are able to get some of the materials to put the hands on it and we see some of the relief on that, still, we are not out of the woods there. There's still a challenge for us. But again, we're feeling more comfortable on that.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

All right. Alex, just to add to Ran's comment, the issue of the component shortages is still there. Let's not think that it's over here. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we see an improvement.

But obviously, as a result of that, we are kind of setting expectations with our customers in terms of time line. And this is why you see a slower recognition as opposed to booking. We believe that we'll be able to catch up. But also, a significant portion of this catch-up will happen actually in 2022.

We'll not be able to catch up with all these backlog during this year, and we'll have a nice backlog to start of 2022.

Unknown speaker

Two quick questions, and then I'll cede the floor. Can you talk a little bit about what's going on with your ability to gain share out of the Huawei installed base and their ability to ship products? And then the second one, it does sound like the system on a chip product was -- the take-down was pushed out a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about why that occurred and what that implies? Thanks.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, sure. So let's start with Huawei. I think there's no major change in what we have seen in the last couple of quarters regarding Huawei. There are being, so to speak, banned in most of the same countries in the U.S., obviously, we don't -- we hardly see them or we actually don't see them at all.

We see them a little bit in Latin America, they are still there, and in Africa and obviously in some of the countries in APAC. But generally speaking, at least the markets we are trying to focus on and attack, we don't see them that much. And that obviously opens up bigger opportunities for us. In terms of the chip, this is, as I said on the script, on my statement, this is probably the most robust chip ever in the wireless transport.

It's a 28 nano chip, very complex. We did a huge progress by also putting in some system parts into it. And obviously, the biggest or the highest the complexity is, the more careful we are in testing it, checking it and making sure that once we go for the initial production, it is, I would say, almost bulletproof. It's very critical because if you go to production, and after three, four months of initial production, this chip comes out faulty, you go back much longer.

And this is why our preference is to invest more in testing it, making sure that all the bugs that we have found are kind of [Inaudible] and it will take us a little bit more time.

Unknown speaker

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you, Alex. Our next question today is coming from the line of George Iwanyc. George, you can go ahead and [Inaudible].

Unknown speaker

Hi. Can you hear me?

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, George.

Unknown speaker

Hi. Thank you for taking my questions. And, Doron, congratulations on your new role.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Unknown speaker

Looking at the managed services announcement, that's an interesting new opportunity. How do you view that unfolding? What type of opportunities do you see globally for that? And what kind of impact does that have on the operating model?

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So I need to go back for a second to kind of give you a much bigger background. Actually, within the company, with some of our more trusted accounts and customers, we have developed a very strong operation capability, so to speak, over time. And in fact, in one of our bigger operators, customers in Latin America, we have been providing with, I would say, a full-network operation that starts with obviously maintenance, optimization so to speak, the advanced maintenance to accommodate for things that might be faulty and optimization.

And by the way, it was not only on our products, it was also on competition products. And we're even able to take part in managing the fiber part of this particular operator. So we have developed these capabilities. And in parallel, we have developed also software solutions that automate and provide a lot of, so to speak, manual work substitute to actually operating the system flawlessly.

At this point, with what we believe is going to develop in 5G, we believe that more and more operators, especially the smaller ones, the Tier 2 will need that kind of service because it will be very difficult for them to handle a much more complex transport network. And the idea is to really focus on this part of developing business and to provide more and more services in this area. I think it also creates two major advantages. One is what I would call customer stickiness.

Just for the sake of example, this particular customer, after three months has decided to explore an opportunity of upgrade his our current transport network into something that is more current. And obviously, we are the first in line to provide with this upgrade. So stickiness is a very important piece. And the other piece is we want to generate a bigger piece of recovering revenue in our business.

I think it creates a higher stabilization. I think it will be easier to explain to the capital market, I would say, less fluctuations, although this is the type of the business. So actually, we want to achieve these two goals by exploring this opportunity that we believe becomes more and more imminent as we move forward with 5G implementations.

Unknown speaker

And Doron, following up on that, so that sounds like a very positive addition. But with you coming back, have you seen other growth levers that you'd like to explore or new opportunities that you're vetting as far as maybe expanding the TAM further?

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

First of all, the short answer is yes. The long answer is that, at this point, I would prefer not to comment. Because, first of all, I need to kind of deep dive into some of the additional opportunities as seen to ensure that these are viable opportunities and to try and quantify what it will contain to kind of monetize on them. But generally speaking, let's not forget, this company is an expert in developing model chipset now has become an expert in also developing system on a chip.

It's also expert in developing RFICs or radio chipset. And this is a huge advantage that might we used for other areas or for adjacent areas. The other thing is that we know best the transport network, and we can leverage that to become a bigger player also in the optimization of network that will become also almost, I would say, a prerequisite in the area of 5G and in the era, sorry, of OpenRAN.

Unknown speaker

Thank you for that. And maybe switching to you, Ran. When you look at your supply chain constraints right now, it seems like you're confident in showing growth in the second half of the year. How loose or how quickly is it loosening up? And do you expect it to be pretty much resolved by the end of the year? And when you look at that, are you also expecting to continue to increase your OpEx on the R&D side? I know you mentioned that you see a little bit of an uplift on the marketing side.

Ran Vered -- Chief Financial Officer

Hi, George. So first of all, for the material shortages issue. We started to see it loosing up. This is also why we feel confident, more confident about the growth in the second half of the year because we do see some areas of improvement.

In that sense, although we are not yet finished with the issue, we see some areas across the board of still shortage issues. And this is why we're saying that although we still feel comfortable and even more comfortable this quarter about resolving some of the issues, it's still a matter of concern to us. And this is why, at this point, we're raising it still as an issue. As to the OpEx, I don't expect anything dramatic.

Yes, there might be some uplift in the R&D, but this is mainly because, as Doron mentioned, we'll continue to invest on the tape-out of the chipset. And this is an area of focus for us. It's -- and we're not going to stop it. And the second layer on the OpEx is the sales and marketing.

We do plan to do some ramp up, especially on the travel side. we do see some more relaxation on COVID and see perhaps some increase in debt. Overall, I don't expect it overall to be higher than one we have in Q2.

Unknown speaker

And just a last question. On the gross margin -- that sounds like more of a 2022 type of ramp. And just given the uncertainty on the gross margin side, you've kind of flattish near-term results as more likely?

Ran Vered -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. This is -- so you are correct, and we do hope this is going to be the 2020 trajectory still way ahead of us. There are still challenges, as I already mentioned, in sea freight and airfreight. And I don't think that some of these issues are going to be resolved in 2022.

Some of the things that we are seeing, by the way, speaking about that is going to be resolved in 2024. But we do see -- and we're going to invest a lot on operational excellence and resilience. Part of it is, of course, going to be an increase of the revenue. And some of the material shortages that are going to end and back to normality are going to improve to that as well.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Just to add to this point, the 33 to 34% and above is a kind of long-term goal. There are things that are in our control, and there, we are going to continue and push for being much more efficient. And actually by that, driving our margins up. There are things that are not in our control.

And actually, Ran mentioned, the most important ones were the, I would say, heavy lifting ones in terms of their burden on our gross margin, which are the freight cost that has increased dramatically and also the component prices. We are doing various things that can, so to speak, is the pain for us. But it will take us time. And this is why, at this point, we need to look at the 33% to 34% as the long-term goal.

Unknown speaker

OK. So just following up on that, Ran, as one of the things you're able to do at least maintain pricing. I know this is normally a market that pricing kind of trends down? Or can you increase and pass along some of those costs?

Ran Vered -- Chief Financial Officer

I would say the following. Every idea for improving our margins is on the table and is being discussed meticulously. I would say that in some areas, it's easier. In some areas, it's more difficult.

I think that being part of our customers understand that this is a global crisis that is driving this cost increase, and it's not a particular vendor issue. And therefore, I tend to believe that there will be slightly more tolerant to a discussion about various ways so that they will take at least part of this burden. Obviously, we're looking for the golden line so that we eventually don't lose business and continue with this, so to speak, trend over the last two quarters in which we ramp up our building business dramatically.

Unknown speaker

All right. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you, George. Doron, you have no further questions.

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. So Ceragon has successfully innovated on past wireless generation transitions. We take pride in this transition and remain committed to it. We are prepared to meet the new 5G era with state-of-the-art technology, excellent services, and confidence.

I'm also pleased to share with you that Ran and I are traveling to the U.S. next week to enjoy face-to-face interactions with our investors and analysts. Finally, we look forward to seeing you there. Have a good day, everyone.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 45 minutes

Call participants:

Maya Lustig -- Head of Investor Relations

Doron Arazi -- Chief Executive Officer

Ran Vered -- Chief Financial Officer

Unknown speaker

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