InvenSense (NYSE:INVN) reported its third-quarter earnings last Thursday, beating analysts' estimates on both the top and bottom lines. The maker of micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS, brought in $115.9 million in revenue last quarter and turned it into $0.21 in earnings per share.
Its much scrutinized gross margin came in at 46% on a non-GAAP basis, in line with the company's earlier guidance. Near-term pressure on gross margin from big customers like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) caused a round of selling from investors on Friday.
During the conference call, CEO Behrooz Abdi and CFO Mark Dentinger spoke with analysts and pointed out several opportunities for the company over the next year-plus. Here are five of the most important takeaways from InvenSense's third-quarter earnings call.
1. China still represents a massive opportunity
"We continue to see a healthy demand from China despite some recent softness in the China smartphone market as a whole. We now ship to all major Chinese OEMs where the gyroscope attach rate is currently approximately 15% and expect that to rise in calendar 2015." -- CEO Behrooz Abdi. All quotes from Seeking Alpha.
The world's largest smartphone market still has a very low attach rate for InvenSense's products. Abdi expects the rate to climb to the low-20% range. In addition, the MEMS maker now has relationships with all the top original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, in China, including Xiaomi and Huawei, which are expanding internationally and represent excellent growth opportunities in and of themselves.
InvenSense provides a strong value proposition to tier-2 and tier-3 smartphone OEMs with its software integration and tight integration with Android. Doing so allows OEMs to reduce time to market and provide functionality similar to tier-1 manufacturers that integrate software themselves. Management believes this is a key area of opportunity for the company going forward.
2. Software is a key part of the future
"This trend toward software rich smart sensors that support additional applications not only improves our stickiness and value proposition with OEMs throughout the handset space, it also creates opportunity for additional sensor integration and content." -- Abdi
Over the past year, InvenSense made a couple of key acquisitions. It bought Trusted Positioning and Movea to enhance its software suite. These technologies enable InvenSense sensors to help track location and activities better, and it's key not only for smartphones, but also for the growing Internet-of-Things market.
InvenSense's software provides it with an advantage to win hardware sockets in at least a portion of devices from OEMs, which increases its chance of winning sockets in its other devices in the future. InvenSense has proved very capable of taking share within manufacturers' product lines, and that's best exemplified by Samsung (OTC:SSNLF). The company has grown from around a 50% share of Samsung's products to about 90% in the past year.
3. Optical image stabilization, or OIS, is also a significant growth driver
"As camera features became more of a differentiating factor for the smartphone, and as companies like Apple came out and publicly talked about OIS and really touted OIS as a key feature on cell phone, we've seen a drastic increase in the design win activity at tier-2s and tier-3s and then other tier-1s for OIS." --Abdi
Last quarter, InvenSense's OIS and Other segment accounted for 16% of total revenue. Management says OIS modules are attached to fewer than 10% of premium phones, with the potential to double over the next year. Adoption is higher among tier-2 and tier-3 customers, which use OIS to differentiate their product, but adoption by Apple and Samsung will spur additional adoption in lower-tier OEMs.
It's worth noting that Apple doesn't use an OIS gyroscope module for its iPhone 6 Plus. Instead, it uses a standard six-axis sensor in combination with another accelerometer to provide OIS functionality. Abdi believes this implementation is unique to Apple but notes that the company is equally capable of capitalizing on similar designs, as well as electronic image stabilization.
4. The company now has scale in mobile to address its other opportunities
"We've reached the level of scale in our business that allows us to address a host of new opportunities in our core markets and gives us the credibility to pursue adjacent verticals where our technology provides significant value." -- Abdi
Outside smartphones and tablets, Abdi sees a world of opportunities as the number of computing devices grows. That includes things such as smarthome devices, drones, and cars, which can all use InvenSense's sensor chips to improve functionality.
With the addition of Apple and its approximate 90% share of Samsung's business, InvenSense has the scale to produce chips efficiently for mobile customers, while providing it with the ability to use its brand to expand into other markets with devices often made by OEMs the company already works with. Wearables are the most immediate opportunity for it to leverage current relationships.
5. InvenSense has a bigger moat than you might think
"Once you start going to higher levels of integration and software, it gets even harder [to switch chips], and that's why, with customers that utilize our software and algorithms, it's even harder for them to just unwind everything and bring in another source." -- Abdi
Part of InvenSense's strategy with its software acquisitions and in-house development is to make its products more sticky. Abdi sees a direct correlation between software integration and switching costs. That applies for the software integration InvenSense provides, as well as the work that software engineers do at InvenSense's OEM partners.
That means that as InvenSense grabs more share of an OEM's designs or increases the amount of software integration it provides for its customers, its odds of losing those sockets decrease. So while it's true that pretty much the only place for InvenSense to go with Apple and Samsung is down, the odds are pretty low that it will lose sockets.
Capitalizing on the megatrend
Abdi refers to the Internet of Things as a megatrend, meaning it's an industry with massive growth potential. What's more, he sees InvenSense as a key part of the megatrend, providing sensors for all types of applications from low-energy to high-power. The Internet of Things relies on gathering large amounts of data, and that's exactly what InvenSense's chips and software do.
Despite near-term pressure on performance metrics such as gross margin, InvenSense is poised to capitalize on the opportunities ahead while defending the progress it's already made in mobile devices.