NXP Semiconductors (NXPI -1.57%) reported its fourth-quarter results on Feb. 3, the first earnings report following the completion of the company's merger with Freescale Semiconductor. The semiconductor industry is facing a period of weak demand driven by macroeconomic uncertainty, and NXP had previously guided for a double-digit sequential decline in revenue for the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the merger with Freescale mucked up the numbers a bit, making comparisons difficult.
Beyond the headline numbers, NXP's management provided additional details during the company's earnings conference call. Here are five things NXP wants investors to know. Management quotes are from the conference call transcript provided by Thomson Reuters.
Accounting is complicated
It's difficult to tell whether NXP missed or exceeded its guidance for the fourth quarter because the company only provided figures that include about one month of Freescale's revenue. CFO Dan Durn explains:
"Moving to the financial highlights for Q4, please note that our published results today reflect a little less than one month of the financial contribution from Freescale. Given the many moving pieces, we don't plan to break out the individual performance of each company."
There are indeed many moving pieces, and that makes it difficult to judge the company's performance during the fourth quarter. One analyst on the conference call pointed out that NXP's inventories had increased on the balance sheet, but the cash flow statement showed a net reduction of inventories. Purchase accounting requires an acquiring company to revise the value of the assets and liabilities of the acquired company, making the resulting financial statements difficult to parse.
Going forward, NXP's results will fully include Freescale's contribution, so future quarter results will be easier for investors to wrap their heads around.
A tough environment
NXP is suffering from weakened demand in all of its market, driven by macroeconomic uncertainty, as well as elevated levels of channel inventory. The company mentioned the inventory issue during the third-quarter conference call, and progress was made during the fourth quarter, according to Durn:
As Rick noted in his prepared remarks, we believe we are operating in an uncertain demand environment which began to materialize in the second half of 2015. We took specific actions when we provided guidance for Q4, aiming to align our channel inventory to a weaker than anticipated demand environment. While we have some more work to do on rationalizing our channel inventory, we are making progress.
NXP guided for first-quarter revenue of $2.17 billion at the midpoint of its guidance range, which is a significant decline compared to the prior year period, accounting for both NXP and Freescale. During the first quarter of 2015, NXP generated revenue of $1.47 billion, while Freescale generated revenue of $1.17 billion, for a total of about $2.64 billion. That's a year-over-year decline of roughly 18% that NXP expects for the first quarter. The semiconductor industry is cyclical, so this kind of downturn isn't out of the ordinary.
Assisted driving features will drive growth
Following the Freescale acquisition, NXP's automotive segment now accounts for more than one-third of the company's total revenue, based on NXP's guidance. The good news for NXP is that, even if global automotive sales don't grow very fast going forward, increased adoption of advanced driver assistance features provides a growth opportunity for the company. CEO Richard Clemmer explains:
"The strong radar position that Freescale's had historically, combined with the new solution that we talked about coming from CES, and the vision product that Freescale has developed in the past that we can take forward, we think puts us in a leadership position to really be able to address the fastest growing segment of the automotive market, which would be in the assisted or automated driving area."
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, NXP announced a postage-stamp sized radar chip aimed at the automobile market. Advanced safety features like emergency braking require radar, and the self-driving car of the future will require a raft of different sensors. The trend toward increasingly connected automobiles with a variety of advanced safety features can drive growth in NXP's automotive segment regardless of whether the global automobile market is growing.
Synergies are on track
NXP expects to achieve about $200 million of synergies in 2016 from the Freescale acquisition. Durn gave an update on the company's progress:
So, if we talk about synergies, the Company is driving hard to capture the $200 million. Feel very confident that it will actually probably exceed that, but let's stick with the $200 million target. On the April 28 analyst day we will provide margin guidance to the community, which shows progression over time, and it will reflect the capture of those synergies.
Investors will get more information in April, but NXP now seems to be on track to exceed that $200 million target this year. Over the next few years, NXP expects total annual synergies to reach $500 million, which would go a long way toward improving the profitability of the company.
NXP could still come up short of its long-term target, and it wouldn't be the first company to over-promise when it comes to acquisition synergies. A lot can happen over the next few years, and integrating a large company like Freescale is easier said than done. So far, though, the company appears on track.
NXP is the leading provider of NFC chips that enable mobile payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay. The iPhone has contained an NFC chip since the iPhone 6, and high-end Android smartphones generally contain NFC chips as well. NXP expects the high-end portion of the smartphone market to slow down going forward, but Clemmer doesn't expect that to hurt NXP's NFC business in the long run:
When you think about the overall semiconductor demand outside of automotive, we think that the high-end smartphone business is not going to have the same growth it has historically. We think we are getting to levels that are not going to have the same kind of growth. The interesting thing that we have is the deployment of the mobile wallet and smartphones is still at a relatively low level in total. And with the implementation of Apple Pay, which I understand is going to be implemented in a few months in China, we think that the rest of the market that's supplying the market besides iPhone will have to have an equivalent product to be able to be competitive with the iPhone solutions in China.
Apple expects iPhone shipments to slump during the first quarter, but there's still plenty of opportunity for NXP to get its NFC chips into more mid-range and low-end smartphones. At the moment, mobile payment penetration is low. According to eMarketer, there were 23.2 million people who used mobile payment systems in the U.S. in 2015, and that number is set to more than triple by 2019.
Beyond smartphones, wearable devices offer another opportunity for NXP to sell more NFC chips. While wearables may not take off like smartphones have over the past decade, the potential for tens of millions, or even hundreds of million, of mobile payment enabled wearable devices to be shipped annually in the coming years provides NXP's NFC business with a long runway for growth.