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AXT (AXTI) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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AXTI earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

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AXT (AXTI 0.62%)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Oct 27, 2021, 4:30 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to AXT's third-quarter 2021 financial conference call. Leading the call today is Dr. Morris Young, chief executive officer; and Gary Fischer, chief financial officer. My name is Katherine, and I will coordinate -- I will be your coordinator today.

[Operator instructions] Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Leslie Green, investor relations at AXT. Please go ahead.

Leslie Green -- Investor Relations

Thank you, Katherine, and good afternoon, everyone. Before we begin, I would like to remind you that during the course of this conference call, including comments made in response to your questions, we will provide projections or make other forward-looking statements regarding, among other things, the future financial performance of the company, market conditions and trends, including expected growth in the markets we serve, emerging applications using chips or devices fabricated on our substrates, our product mix, our ability to increase orders in succeeding quarters to control costs and expenses, to improve manufacturing yields and efficiencies, to utilize our manufacturing capacity, the growing environmental, health, and safety and chemical industry regulations in China as well as global economic and political conditions, including trade tariffs and restrictions. We wish to caution you that such statements deal with future events are based on management's current expectations and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual events or results to differ materially. These uncertainties and risks include, but are not limited to, overall conditions in the markets in which the company competes, global financial conditions and uncertainties, COVID-19 and other outbreaks of a contagious disease, potential tariffs and trade restrictions, increased environmental regulations in China, market acceptance and demand for the company's products, the financial performance of our partially owned supply chain companies and the impact of delays by our customers on the timing of sales of their products.

In addition to the factors that may be discussed in this call, we refer you to the company's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These are available online by link from our website and contain additional information on risk factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations. This conference call will be available on our website at axt.com through October 2022. Also before we begin, I want to note that shortly following the close of the market today, we issued a press release reporting financial results for the third quarter of 2021.

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This information is available on the Investor Relations portion of our website at axt.com. I would now like to turn the call over to Gary Fischer for a review of our third-quarter results. Gary?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Leslie. Good afternoon to everyone. I want to begin by letting you know that in response to investor requests and to align with our peers as well as to provide better clarity on our operational and financial results, we will be providing non-GAAP financial results beginning with our Q3 reporting. Non-GAAP results exclude the stock option compensation -- stock-based compensation.

Following commentary, I'll also include GAAP results for your reference. Investors can find GAAP to non-GAAP reconciliation tables in our earnings announcement. Today, we are pleased to report that total revenue for the third quarter of 2021 was $34.6 million, up from $33.7 million in the second quarter of 2021 and up 36% from the $25.5 million in the third quarter of 2020. Q3 marks in our seventh consecutive quarter of growth and highlights the increasing demand for indium phosphide and gallium arsenide substrates.

Of our total revenue, substrate sales were $26.2 million in Q3, compared with $24.9 million in the second quarter of 2021 and $20.3 million in Q3 of 2020. Revenue from our two consolidated raw material joint ventures was $8.4 million in Q3, down from $8.8 million in Q2 2021 and up from $5.2 million in Q3 of 2020. In the third quarter of 2021, revenue from Asia Pacific was 76%, Europe was 14%, North America was 10%. Again in Q3, no customers reached 10% of revenue, and the top five customers generated approximately about 25% of total revenue.

Our continued revenue diversity demonstrates that our growth is not overly dependent on one large customer or application. This is another factor contributing to our confidence. Growth has reached a point of sustainability and will continue throughout 2022. Non-GAAP gross margin in the third quarter was 33.8%, compared with 36.4% in Q2 of 2021 and 34.8% in Q3 of 2020.

For those who prefer to track results on a GAAP basis, gross margin in the third quarter was 33.3%, compared with 36.3% in Q2 of 2021 and 34.6% in Q3 of 2020. The sequential decline in gross margin was primarily driven by low-margin sales at JinMei, one of our consolidated joint ventures. JinMei has been selling materials at a preset price to several customers under long-term contracts. The recent rise in gallium prices eroded the gross margin on those sales.

The overall impact to the consolidated gross margin in Q3 was approximately 220 basis points. At least one of those contracts expired in Q3 but we expect some continued pressure on gross margin in Q4 as a result of additional contracts that are coming to conclusion. The rise in raw material pricing also impacts our cost of goods sold on the substrate side of the business. However, this has been offset by contribution to our profitability that our partially owned supply chain companies provide.

It is a unique and important aspect of our supply chain strategy. As we look ahead, we believe that our increasing volume, improving product mix, and continued improvement in manufacturing efficiency will allow us to drive continued gross margin and improvement as we progress through FY '22. This will be a primary focus for us over the coming quarters. Total non-GAAP operating expense in Q3 was $7.7 million.

This compares with $7.4 million in Q2 of 2021 and with $5.9 million in Q3 of 2020. On a GAAP basis, total operating expense was $9.1 million. This included $1.5 million in stock comp, of which 518k is nonrecurring. For comparison, total GAAP operating expense was $8.3 million in for Q2 of 2021 and $6.6 million in Q3 of 2020.

R&D is one of the primary drivers of the increase in our opex. We have two major programs that are ongoing: the development of 6-inch indium phosphide and the development of 8-inch gallium arsenide. In addition to R&D, we continue to make necessary investments to enable our IPO in China, which we believe will be significantly beneficial to AXT and our shareholders. Non-GAAP operating profit for the third quarter of 2021 was just $4.0 million, compared with non-GAAP operating profit in Q2 of 2021 of 4.9 million and $2.8 million in Q3 of last year.

For reference, GAAP operating profit for the third quarter of 2021 was $2.4 million, compared with an operating profit of $3.9 million in Q2 of 2021 and an operating profit of $2.2 million in Q3 of 2020. Non-operating other income and expense for the third quarter of 2021 was a net gain of $1.4 million. This included a net gain of $1.1 million from the partially owned companies in AXT supply chain that accounted for under the equity method. It also included a tax credit in China totaling approximately 960k in Q3.

In addition, we continue to be very well-regarded in Kazuo and have positive relationships with the local government, which has been beneficial to our operations. In Q3, we've received two grants from local government totaling $1.0 million for facilities investment in the region. And as we look ahead to Q4, we do not expect our results to benefit from either the tax credit or grants. As such, we expect our EPS in Q4 to come down from Q3.

Qur Q3 results included approximately 338k in tariffs as a result of the 25% tariff charge on importing wafers into the United States from China. For Q3 2021, we had a non-GAAP net income in the third quarter of 2021 of $5.4 million or $0.13 per share, compared with $5.4 million or $0.12 per share in the second quarter of 2021, and with $1 million or $0.04 per share for the third quarter of the 2020. On a GAAP basis, net income was $3.8 million or $0.09 per share. This is a bit lower than we forecasted as a result of the lower gross margin contribution from JinMei.

By comparison, net income was $4.4 million or $0.10 per share in the second quarter of 2021 and $1.0 million or $0.02 per share in Q3 of last year. The weighted average diluted shares outstanding in Q3 of 2021 was around $42.7 million. Cash, cash equivalents, and investments were $56 million as of September 30th. By comparison at June 30, it was $58.5 million.

We do continue to feel good about our cash balance. Depreciation and amortization in the third quarter was $1.8 million and capital investments were $6.1 million. Our net inventory at September 30 increased by $1.8 million in the quarter and ended at $60.7 million. Ending inventory consisted of approximately 44% in raw materials, 50% in work in progress and 6% in finished goods.

So, this concludes the discussion of our quarterly financial results. Let me give you a brief update and comments about our plan to list our company in China on the STAR market in Shanghai. We are working closely with our China investment banker and our China law firm handling the IPO transaction. They have some experience in this as we're also helping another NASDAQ-listed company now.

There are many details involved in this process. As compared to an IPO in the NASDAQ, the number of small details is greater. We hope to submit our application in Q4. That is a credible goal, but is by no means easily accomplished.

Our teams have been responsive and working hard on all topics, and we continue to make good progress. So in conclusion, we now -- we have now had three consecutive quarters of revenue over $30 million level, and we see continued opportunity on our horizon. I'll now turn the call over to Dr. Morris Young for a review of our business and markets.

Morris has been in China since July and will remain there for five to seven months. So last year, he and I were the -- both in China for this call. And I can tell you, it's hard to get up in the middle of the night. So Morris was awake and at the office at his 3 a.m.

and has been waiting for this call today. So, Morris, take it over.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Gary, and good afternoon, everybody. Our third-quarter and year-to-date revenue results continue to underscore the gathering momentum in our business. After years of preparation, we are now seeing sustainable increase in demand from the technology mega trend that our substrates help to immune. Trends like 5G telecommunications, data center updates, health monitoring, the Internet of Things, and the proliferation of the LED lighting and display.

Year-to-date, we increase our revenue by 46% over the same period in 2020, including a 36% increase in gallium arsenide and a 46% increase in indium phosphide substrates. With new expanded manufacturing facilities, we are able to capture market share and new opportunities while meeting the stringent technical requirement of Tier 1 customers. As such, 2021 is enfolding to be a pivotal year for our business. We expect to post the growth of approximately 40% in this year with substantial gains in our profitability.

And we're looking ahead, we believe that we can achieve double-digit revenue growth again in 2022 of between 15% to 20% with multiple existing growth drivers and the new ones being layered on to the current demand. Now in indium phosphide, Q3 marked the highest quarterly revenue of AXT's history, and once again, it was our top contributing material. Market demand was strong across the board as capacity in our industry is now tight. Customer, who hasn't worked with us for many quarters, are now returning and several existing customers are forecasting increasing demands and our ability to expand capacity to meet customer demand is beginning to open up new avenues of opportunities in multiple applications.

Of our peers, we believe that we are in the best position to be able to respond. In Q3, indium phosphide and sequential growth were driven by 4G and 5G telecommunication obligations as well as continued healthcare -- healthy demand for data center connectivity. We believe that these applications are closely related and as the exponential growth in data necessities, both the infrastructure to move it as well as our capability to efficiently handle and store it. From a substrate perspective, any modernization of telecom and datacom center infrastructure that utilizes indium phosphide is positive for our business whether that's PONs, fronthaul or backhaul infrastructure or silicon photonics buildout that's within the data center.

While there will be -- continue to be quarter-to-quarter fluctuations, we believe that we have reached a tipping point in which the application that will require indium phosphide have become an essential part of modernization of telecommunications business. And in addition to these major applications, we believe there are significant new applications for indium phosphide now visible on the horizon in healthcare monitoring, automotive sensors, and more. Among the AXT's competitive advantage in indium phosphide is our ability to scale manufacturing volume quickly and efficiently to meet rising demand. In addition, we have been told by multiple customers that our VGF raw material uniformity as well as consistently provide the industry lowest EPD level, which are an essential requirement for high-performance applications in Tier 1 specifications.

Now turning to indium -- gallium arsenide. In Q3, we posted our highest quarterly revenue in more than four years. In our semiconductor gallium arsenide, we continue to see strong demand for high-end LED applications, including automotive and lighting and display. We are also seeing rapid growth in high-powered lasers, particularly in China.

On wireless side, IoT continues to be that strong. In addition, with 6-inch capacity tightening up in our industry, we're beginning to see demand from customers -- from -- renewed customer demand interest in gallium arsenide for HBT devices and our ability to expand capacity. This has not been a strong application for us for many -- more than 10 years, and our facilities give us the opportunity to be competitive and when stocked. As we look ahead to the evolution of gallium arsenide in high-tech applications, we believe micro LED, in particular, hold great promises for our industry.

Major customer device manufacturers are behind the development of the technology for a variety of our applications, including televisions, AR-VR headsets and portable devices and others. Micro LEDs, which should not be confused with mini LEDs, uses gallium arsenide to make red, for the red, blue green led modules that we can provide almost any color. Micro LED devices are expected to consume less power, provide sharper contrasts, and produce brilliant lighting and colors. We're seeing reports that the potential micro LED market for smaller consumer devices like wearables and phones could be larger than the entire current market for gallium arsenide substrate today.

Regardless of the specific numbers, this is an exciting space and could add significantly new value to the LED market in 2024 and beyond. Now turning to R&D. We continue to progress on the development of 8-inch gallium arsenide wafers. Among the many benefits to our customers, 8-inch gallium arsenide will help to enable -- to scale and cost effectively, which is required for very high-volume applications.

And as you know, every step up in diameter size comes with a major increase in the technical challenges of producing it but we have successfully delivered sample quantities to interested customers and we are working with them to meet the requirement of their emerging projects. Moving now to germanium substrates. Revenue have decreased modestly in Q3 from the prior quarter. However, the satellite solar industry -- market remains healthy, and we are well on track for 2021 to be a growth year.

Finally, to raw materials. As you may recall, we currently consolidate two joint ventures, BoYu, which manufactures high-temperature pBN crucibles and pBN-based tools for OLED; and our other joint venture, JinMei, which is -- who is a diversified industrial high-fuel materials supplier. Demand continues to be strong. We are on track to achieve significant growth in this area of the business over the prior year.

In 2020, both companies relocated to our campus in Kazuo, enabling them to expand capacity in response to market demand. This, coupled with a recovery in pricing of raw materials such as raw gallium has contributed to their growth this year. As Gary mentioned, while the increase in raw material price has negatively impacted our gross margin, and the supply chain companies provide enormous benefit in terms of our overall profitability as well as our supply. We're highly focused on driving renewed improvement in gross margin in 2022.

We believe that our expanded growth in revenue, favorable product mix and continued improvement in our manufacturing efficiency at our new facilities will allow us to return to or exceed our prior performance. In closing, this is an exciting and transformative time for AXT. Our strong growth highlights the market expansion we are experiencing in our key product categories. So, across a diverse set of applications, customers are forecasting rising demand and a positive sentiment for the coming year.

Gary and I have been around for a while and we sense that even with [Inaudible], this is just the golden convergence of market and emerging technologies. For this reason, we're making important investment in our business, including larger substrates, capacity expansion, and our IPO in China. While these investments bring us to a higher level of operating expenses, they give us a significant competitive advantages in our ability to scale our business and meet the need of Tier 1 customers in emerging high-volume applications. We believe we have laid a strong foundation for business transformation and opportunity in 2021.

As such, we're setting the stage for yet another year of meaningful growth in 2022. I'll now call -- turn the call back to Gary for our fourth quarter guidance. Gary?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Morris. As Morris discussed, the demand environment remained strong in Q4 with some seasonality expected in certain applications like PON and gallium arsenide for wireless devices and continued strength in several of the indium phosphide applications. Reflecting this, we expect to see revenue in Q4 of between $34 million to $36 million. In accordance with our commentary on Q4 gross margin and taking into consideration the expected absence of China-based tax credits or grants, we believe that our non-GAAP net profit will be in the range of $0.06 to $0.08, and our GAAP net profit will be in the range of $0.04 to $0.06.

Share count will be approximately 42.8 million shares. And then to put this in perspective, let's look at our expected results for the total fiscal year of 2021, including our Q4 guidance. Revenue growth is more than 40% and reflects an increase in annual profitability of more than 300% as compared to 2020. This growth is the result of years of cultivating customer relationships, investment in operations and the convergence of technology trends that are likely to drive our growth for years to come.

OK. So, this concludes our prepared comments. Morris and I would be glad to answer your questions. Operator?

Questions & Answers:


Operator

[Operator instructions] And we have a question from Richard Shannon. Your line is open.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Excellent, guys. Thanks for taking my questions here. Maybe I'll touch on a couple of elements of the guidance here. First of all, on the revenues.

My line is a little spotty. I'm traveling. I might have missed some of the drivers here that helped you get to your revenue guidance. And I guess implicit in that question here is that the range of revenue guidance here, $34 million to $36 million is a million wider or double the width that you normally have in your revenue guidance.

So just wondering if you can give us a sense of what you're thinking there and what are the drivers up and down?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Go ahead, Morris.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, let me try that. I think raw material is going to be down slightly. Indium phosphide, we project to go up slightly. Gallium arsenide, we project it to go up slightly and germanium is approximately flat.

As far as the widening range of the substrate revenue, first of all, I want to remind also everybody, Q4 usually is a down quarter for us. And given that we have the first 10 days of national holiday in China as well as the back end of the Christmas holiday season, so we are guiding actually sort of flat for the quarter but we're just winding the range that -- bit to give us potential cushions. As you know, that with the potential power shortages in China, although we do see that customer demand are there, but we just want to make sure that we have all the capacity to deliver and -- to our customers.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. That is helpful. My second question here is on the bottom line guidance for the fourth quarter. I haven't had time to run through those numbers here, but -- and obviously, your opex has been moving modestly higher over the last few quarters or so.

And you typically don't guide on gross margins but certainly, the end EPS number here is a bit lower than what we already had, and I think what was in consensus. So I guess I want to make sure -- I want to get a sense of the drivers here. Any way you can quantify or at least help us understand the magnitude of the changes both in opex and the gross margins and other points that help us get there? And then to the degree to which the pricing things related to the gallium raw material contracts and how they bake into that would be great as well.

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

OK. So I'll go first. One of the drags for Q4 is the situation with JinMei, one of the companies that we consolidate. That's a temporary problem but they have made some commitments for deliveries that have a long trajectory.

And as a result, the change in cost of raw gallium, which they have to buy went up. So that's a key factor there. And so when we go down to the bottom line, yes, opex -- this quarter in Q3, the GAAP opex was $9.1 million. That included about $500,000 of onetime charges related to stock compensation.

So in Q4, it will come in below $9 million, for sure, we hope, we think. So and -- but you're right, opex does take back some of these gross profit dollars and then we think based on the changes that we see from Q3 to Q4, that it's going to come out about what we guided a few minutes ago.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. Maybe to follow up on the -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Morris.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

No, go ahead with your follow up.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

I guess the follow-up question is you quantified here in your prepared remarks about the gross margin impact, I think, 220 basis points in the third quarter. Is this impact similar or higher or lower in the fourth quarter?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

It's similar, but slightly lower.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. OK. And then do we see those things abate after the fourth quarter, too?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Go ahead, Morris. What were you going to say?

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, hi. I think so but let me go back to the -- I think, obviously, the EPS drop is sort of lower than Q3 for our guidance in Q4. So if you look at what benefit us, Q3's EPS, one part of it is that we have a tax reversal in China, which we don't expect it to repeat in Q4, and the other is the JinMei has lower gross margin of this particular contract signed with the customers, which will not continue, but it will drag down for a little bit. I think we -- as we establish new contracts with new customers, that is going to recover.

And yet, the other is the government award that we have received in Q3, which is not going to repeat itself in Q4. So overall, I would say the SG&A has increased mainly because several things, we're spending quite a bit of money in R&D in 6-inch indium phosphide as well as 8-inch gallium arsenide. Another big part of the increase that we're spending is build up our infrastructure for the proposed IPO in China. And as you know, that proposed IPO in China is about to give us great valuation, so we can dilute very -- much smaller proportion to get the fund necessary for us to grow our business in the future.

So that's beneficial for AXT. But in the meantime, some of these necessary costs, which is attaching to the IPO process is now burdening the pricing structure. However, I would also remind you that now we have grown 40% year over year. We expect our revenue to grow again next year, which I think will take care of some of the added expense that we incurred, and we're building a much larger and really stronger foundation for future growth, which will hopefully give us better profitability next year as well as more profits drop down to the bottom line.

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I would just underline one important thought, which is that I view and we view as a company, Morris and me and this leadership team, we do -- we want opex to flatten out but we view it as a great investment. It's clear there's something happening in our markets and we think we're uniquely positioned, having completed the relocation to take advantage of these things. We think we can move faster than our competitors, and we're investing in that. And then on the same -- in the same note, some of the expenses are resulting from driving for this IPO, so they're also an investment.

So -- and we think we're going to get a return on our investment, starting next year.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. Per Morris' comments on growth, I did want to have my last question to your comments about the 15% to 20% growth next year. I wonder if you can characterize in three different ways by the revenue segments here even within substrates. And then also, to what degree are some new customers, particularly some of these Tier 1 customers have been recently qualified, how much they're adding to that overall growth profile next year.

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Go ahead, Morris.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think we do expect our revenue projection. We do see -- we're talking to multiple customers in indium phosphide, and they have very exciting new applications for indium phosphide, and we do expect indium phosphide to continue to grow. And our projection actually, it will grow more than 30% next year so we'll have a higher percentage of growth for us for next year. Gallium arsenide, we are also seeing renewed interest -- well, first of all, what we already see is the high-powered laser in gallium arsenide, especially in China, is giving us a very high expectation for growth next year.

And we're already engaged with customers but they are telling us that for next year, the expect the volume ramp in high-power laser demand and we're also seeing a very exciting -- new interest in HBT market for us. As you know, that HBT has been the sort of flat for many, many years and because of our strength in providing [Inaudible] substrate for the cellphone market. So we have been absent on that HBT market for a long, long time. But now the industry expert are telling us in the next two years, they are seeing the HBT market actually demand to grow between almost 40% to 50% in the next two years.

As you know that this market, capacity is kind of tight so they are talking to us, and we're excited about returning to that market in the near future. And so that's the two big growth driver. I think raw material, we believe that we are poised to also grow, mainly because our two joint ventures have moved to a much larger and expensive new manufacturing facility that will allow us to grow as well as the demand is very strong in PPM, both in terms of providing crucibles for crucibles as well as for our LED market, and so they are poised to grow. And our high-purity material business, which is JinMei, although they have been flat this quarter because of the low margin because of the overall company, but then that business is a very healthy business and there's increase in demand.

We have the right technology and capacity to serve our customers, so we expect that to grow as well. Germanium by the way, it's sort of a flat projection for next year.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. Great. That's great detail for me in all my questions. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Gus Richard with Northland. Your line is open.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

Yeah, thanks for taking the questions. I just want to make sure I get my housekeeping right. Gary, I think you mentioned you're going to try to get opex for the coming quarter at around $9 million. Was that GAAP or non GAAP?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

That's GAAP. I think it will be -- we currently predict it will be south of $9 million, a little bit, so...

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

And then on the STAR listing, your SG&A rose, modeling it up about $5 million this year. How much of that spend is for the STAR listing?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, we've hired a number of people to help us on the project. There's also been a lot of administrative and permit kind of issues that are driving all these things. Things that we can't slip into the balance sheet into the equity section, so I don't know if I can give you a solid answer. And I haven't carved that out enough.

We've observed the phenomenon, but we -- I don't know specifically how to answer the question.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

So maybe -- let me help out a little bit. I think -- look, we are probably the second NASDAQ listed company going -- trying to go public on this STAR market, OK? So perhaps the Wall Street expert doesn't have a whole lot of experience. But I can tell you first hand, there's a lot of required conformity that we need to follow. I'll just give you one example.

In some of our employee compensation section in China, we have -- because we're going to propose to go public in China, the requirement to be a public in China requires that we pay the certain -- they call it housing allowances for employees. And our compensation to our employees was not minimum, to say for sure. But because of the new requirement, it's sort of elevated to a really new level, and we have to sort of lump it in and so that's an expanded expense. Although it's not large, but there's a lot of these small things piling up.

So they are just required conformity that we need to follow as a proposed -- and that's -- I mean, China as a public company. But as you know, the other side of the equation is that once we go public, the valuation of this new company in China that we propose to go IPO is going to be much higher valuation than we could never get. And so as a result, we will be able to get ourselves much lower cost -- much less dilution for the gross fund that we need to also enter some of the capacity expansion, a new business opportunity we're going to capture. So that's the two side of it.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

I understand. So, Gary, just looking for a ballpark, is it a couple of $3 million a year? Is it just -- do you have any ballpark whatsoever?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

No, I don't. I'm sorry. I should [Inaudible]. Yeah.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

Yeah, let's move on. And then in terms of R&D, in the past, when you guys have started to ramp up your efforts in 6- and 8-inch, 6-inch indium phosphide, 8-inch gallium arsenide, some of it had flowed through this gross margin that -- the pressure in the quarter. Was that just from the raw materials company or was there some incremental pressure from that R&D activity?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

You're knowledgeable about this, and I think that's good. There is some in cost of goods sold. It's the way that -- because this is -- we manufacture it's -- there's such many process steps in our process technology, so it's difficult to capture everything that's development based. There's not a lot of R in cost of goods sold, but there is D in terms of research and development.

And so yes, there is some there and that it probably contributes some to the shortfall of the gross margin.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

But the major capture was just a rising place of the raw gallium that was impacting the raw materials and not so much the R&D, or the D if you will?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, but I think the driver -- the standout -- most notable driver is the 2.2% in gross margin percent that we would normally be getting from JinMei, and we didn't. So that's the biggest single element. And then I would say there's still some settling in. As I look at it from a business standpoint, I do have an operating background as well.

So it's new facilities that it's new equipment, and it's new people. So I think there's some, what I would call, low-hanging fruit there that as we mature in those areas of facilities, equipment, and people, that the -- let's say, manufacturing efficiencies will help the gross margin. And I might as well just to speak to it now, well, we have lots of listeners that we're a little bit disappointed in Q3, Q4 gross margin but we're very confident about bringing that number back up. And for sure, that 35% but our goal is to be greater than 35%, and we think that it's an achievable goal.

I mean there are some situations in this business where you need a miracle for something to happen. This is not one of those. We know -- we see exactly what's going on in manufacturing. We know what's going on in the marketplace.

We have pretty good visibility right now from our customers. But I would say better than any time in the seven and a half years I've been at AXT, so we'll get there. And I would encourage our shareholders to view the -- not just the quarter to quarter, but year on year, which is significant. And I think next year, will be another very positive comparison year on year.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

Just on gross margins, Gary, what would you expect the trajectory to look like? I mean, I think Q4 looks like it's going to be the bottom based on our guidance. Is there a steady ramp back to 35% or is it more stereo-step depending on how those long-term contracts could get for purified gallium go?

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, we have to get out of the weeds with JinMei. And a lot of that's already happened, but there's still some more happening in Q4 and it may dribble into Q1. We're not sure yet, so -- but I don't think that it's -- I think it's not going to be -- we won't get to 35% until 2023. It's going to be next year.

And maybe not Q1, but definitely Q2 is very possible. I haven't done a grounds up yet with the team but really intuitively, we -- based on the things I just previously said about our visibility and our understanding of the business, I think it's very achievable to get there in Q2 and stay there and then go on past that.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

Got it. All right. Thank you.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Well, let me chime in a little bit. Hi, Gus. Let me repeat what I think our prepared comments. First of all, we believe that indium phosphide is going to grow and actually grow faster than our product mix next year and that is going to help us.

On top of the 40% growth this year, we think we're going to grow our revenue again, and that is also going to help us on our gross margin. And so thirdly, as Gary mentioned, we are going through some kind of a -- some sort of a growing pain. Although the pain is not much, I mean, hopefully, it's -- most of it is over with. And then with our added capacity and with more manufacturing that we're going to do on the more attractive product offering we have, and with also the marketing rising.

The market demand rising, I think is very important. And I think the -- part of the gross margin drag, also I want to remind you is we're seeing gallium price going up and the germanium price to go up, OK? And they are good component of our cost of goods sold, OK? But -- so I would expect every competitor or every substrate provider in our business, having this gross margin squeeze. However, with our supply strategy that we have joint ventures in making the raw gallium and in making the other raw material for us, so we are partially then mitigating the gross margin hit. In other words, we got a margin hit on the top, but below the line our joint venture is providing us the better return.

And yet -- also, as you know, inflation pressure is also coming and if the capacity becomes tighter, who knows? There may be a -- it could be a point that maybe the price is going to go up. But as you know, in our industry, it's difficult to raise prices but there are different ways to improve our margins such as there are better product offerings that we can also do, such as high-powered laser, which require low EPD and the brand-new market for us to get into. And that will give us better opportunity to improve our margin that way.

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Very helpful. Thank you so much.

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Gus.

Operator

Our next question comes from Hamed Khorsand with BWS Financial. Your line is open.

Hamed Khorsand -- BWS Financial -- Analyst

Hi. I just want to understand your working capital needs here as you continue to burn cash and build inventory. Is there a particular customer or customers that are requiring you to build this kind of inventory? Is it a supply chain issue? Because also your cash has also been declining since the beginning of the year as well.

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

There are some customers that require us to build inventory, including customers that want the inventory consigned to their site, but it remains on our balance sheet. And one in particular, is growing, and so that is a contributor, so -- but the -- another comment that I can make here about working capital that's -- may be insightful for this time period is that September was our -- of the three months in the quarter, September was the largest revenue month. And when that happens, I don't like it because it tends to load up AR. AR went up $3 million Q to Q, maybe $3.1 billion, I think.

And our AP went down $4 million, which means that was cash out, so -- but in general, working capital, I think we're managing it OK. I don't -- we need to have inventory to keep growing the revenue and we're comfortable with the -- our cash position. So yes, I hope that's helpful. I know working capital moved quite -- it moved around a lot from June 30th to September 30th but I think it's OK.

Hamed Khorsand -- BWS Financial -- Analyst

OK. That was it from me. Thank you.

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Hamed. Good afternoon to you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jonmichael Dolgetta with Octavian Capital. I'm sorry. He just removed. We have a question from Richard Shannon with Craig-Hallum.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Well, great. Thanks for taking a couple more questions from me, guys. OK. Let's see here, Morris, on the opportunity with HBTs.

I've covered you and AXT for, I think, over a decade, and I haven't heard you talk much of this. I guess I'd love to understand the underlying reasons for this. Is this basically a capacity issue on behalf of your competitors that's now opening this opportunity up or are there other drivers for this?

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

I think it's the former. I think HBT market is very mature. But from what we hear from our customers, the demand forecast seems to be very strong. We are still engaging our customers and there is -- when our market -- prior to this, this market is fairly mature and it doesn't grow a whole lot.

But we're seeing -- from our first-line customers, the [Inaudible] grower, and they're all buying quite a bit of number of MOCVD reactors. And they are the ones who told us that this market demand is going to grow between 40% to 50%. Of course, we are looking at this very cautiously because this -- although the demand is there, but the price pressure is that there is -- because it's a very large market and -- but it does give us the opportunity to get into something which we exited almost like 10 years ago.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. So we shouldn't necessarily be baking anything -- any contributions into, say, next year's revenue stream. Is that what you're telling me?

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

In our projection, we do. We are putting in something, but we were cautiously -- but we're putting -- let me see, our projection, I think that we're putting about $4 million worth. So overall scheme of things, it's not going to be large. But definitely, we think the opportunity is there.

Yes.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. That's helpful. My second and last question is on micro LED. And I think I asked a version of this question last quarter.

And that is, obviously, you've been talking some revenue ramp starting maybe middle of calendar '24 and some big opportunities, big customers, and a big ecosystem. What has to happen between now and then? Like when do you determine -- when you've got a customer, when do you have to start building capacity for this? Do you anticipate having take or pay kind of situations here? And so clearly, what would ask you to build a lot of capex that I'm sure you don't want to strand in any way. So how should we think about the time frames between now and then in your micro LED business?

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. That's a very good question, Richard. Yes, we are very cautiously optimistic. I mean, this is a great opportunity, and the demand is there.

We are talking to our customers -- multiple customers, actually, and we want these assurances that the order is there, the demand is there. But although we've been saying that the big demand is going to come in 2024 but the pilot production and sampling is actually starting now and that something like, I would say, between 500 to 1,000 wafer a year next year and we're going to need to work with our customers to see what kind of spec they need and we're going to have a very good feeling of what's going on. And as we speak now, we are engaging with our customer. We gave them our projected capacity expansion and they're giving us the forecast of where they will be.

But as far as take or pay, as far as we've signed contract is concerned, yes, we are contemplating that, and it is -- but on the other hand, if you sign a take or pay, then we have to deliver, don't we? So there are mutual requirements for each other, but that this is a great opportunity. I think we are spending the necessary front-end development cost to ensure that we can capture this opportunity down the road.

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

OK. That's a good characterization. Thanks for that detail, Morris. That's all from me.

Operator

Thank you. And I'm showing no further questions in the queue. I'd like to turn the call back to Dr. Morris Young for any closing remarks.

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

All right. And thank you, everybody, for participating in our conference call. In November, we will be participating in the Craig-Hallum Alpha Select Conference. I think -- and we hope to see many of you there.

As always, please feel free to contact me, Gary Fischer, or Leslie Green directly if you would like to set up a call with us. And we look forward to speaking with you in the near future.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 58 minutes

Call participants:

Leslie Green -- Investor Relations

Gary Fischer -- Chief Financial Officer

Morris Young -- Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Richard Shannon -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Gus Richard -- Northland Securities -- Analyst

Hamed Khorsand -- BWS Financial -- Analyst

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