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Nova Ltd. (NASDAQ:NVMI) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Nova Ltd. (NASDAQ:NVMI) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 9, 2023

Nova Ltd. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $1.23, expectations were $1.09.

Operator: Good day, and welcome to the Nova Limited Third Quarter 2023 Results Conference Call. All participants will be in the listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today’s presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Miri Segal, CEO of MSIR. Please go ahead.

Miri Segal: Welcome all of you to Nova's third quarter 2023 financial results conference call. With us on the line today are Mr. Gaby Waisman, President and CEO; and Mr. Dror David, CFO. Before we begin, may I remind our listeners that certain information provided on this call may contain forward-looking statements, and the safe harbor statement outlined in today's earnings release also pertains to this call. If you have not received a copy of the release, please view it in the Investor Relations section of the company's website. Gaby will begin the call with a business update, followed by Dror with an overview of the financials. We will then open the call for the question-and-answer session. I'll now turn the call over to Mr. Gaby Waisman, Nova's President and CEO. Gaby, please go ahead.

Gaby Waisman: Thank you, Miri, and welcome, everyone, to our third quarter financial results conference call. I will start the call today by speaking about our quarterly performance highlights and the market dynamics as they relate to Nova. Following my commentary, Dror will review the financial results in detail and present the guidance for the fourth quarter. Nova's performance this quarter exceeded the company's revenue and profitability guidance, and our goal is to maintain similar business levels in the next quarter as well, making the second half of 2023 stronger than the first. These results once again demonstrate the strength of our diverse portfolio driven by our expanding exposure to new applications and our ability to leverage market opportunities.

Nova's revenue and margins in this quarter and in 2023, thus far, validate our flexible and resilient business model as well as the actions we took over the past year to address changes in the market. As we look ahead towards 2024, we expect Nova to resume its growth and outperformance trajectory. We were able to deliver better results than our earlier projections by adding several new customers by leveraging the growth in our materials metrology offerings by increasing the adoption of new technologies in our chemical and optical metrology solutions and by the growth of our service business. In every one of these areas, we continue to execute and push forward in accordance with our long-term strategic plan to reach $1 billion in revenues. Before I turn to review some of the business highlights of this quarter, I'd like to address the situation in Israel and its implications for Nova.

Nova is first and foremost committed to supporting our customers and meeting delivery times and business obligations. We have a well-prepared and thought out business continuity plan in place, designed on a global basis. Our global operations continue to run as intended, and there has been no impact on our performance and no disruption to our delivery schedule. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of our employees. We appreciate the support and trust we received from our customers, suppliers and the investment community and we are resolved to continue and conduct business according to plan. Now let's turn to the business highlights of the third quarter. We noted that we expect the company to return to a growth trajectory in 2024 and already, we can observe the seeds of the main drivers of this growth.

The most encouraging sign is the restored balance between memory and foundry logic, which was largely skewed over the past year. In Q3, our memory sales grew by more than 75% compared to the previous quarter and amounted to 35% of our product revenue. We expect this trend to continue into Q4 with DRAM investments, including high-bandwidth memory, acting as the main driver, while NAND shows signs of stabilization. As evidence of the former, we have two new DRAM implementation of Nova PRISM and Nova VERAFLEX of the most advanced version of the platform. I want to note the opportunity we see in memory offerings for our XPS technology. Despite some demand softness in 2023, VERAFLEX platform sales hit a record high this quarter and further expanded its customer base.

Moreover, half of the tools we manufacture are for our most advanced version of the platform, the VERAFLEX 4, which significantly reduces the cost per measurement and provides a much higher value for the customer. In addition to this ongoing demand, VERAFLEX offers a unique value in its capacity to solve specific highly advanced applications. While in the past, these applications have been driven by logic manufacturing we now see them rapidly evolving into both DRAM and NAND production, and Nova's experience in this domain is generating high demand and rapid adoption.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have lost the management line. Please stay with us while we reconnect with the management. Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you for your patience. We have the line for the management reconnected. Gaby, you may please go ahead.

Gaby Waisman: Thank you, operator. Another growth driver is our innovative and unique technologies and portfolio. Let's take, for example, the proliferation of our ELIPSON materials metrology platform. We already have multiple systems at customer sites, we have received several repeat orders and the system has been selected by customers as the tool of record for advanced nodes due to its ability to provide device performance indicators previously available only via electric testing. This selection as tool of record reflects the potential for additional orders as production transitions to high-volume manufacturing. We are seeing more process steps diverted to the system, displacing other metrology techniques and solving applications on the device measuring unique material characteristics that in the past were limited to test structures and blanket wafers.

A technician calibrating a chemical mechanical planarization machine for precise applications.
A technician calibrating a chemical mechanical planarization machine for precise applications.

Furthermore, as in the case of VERAFLEX, initial demand stemmed from advanced R&D gate-all-around applications, but now we see new in-line metrology applications in memory devices that were simply not performed before ELIPSON became available. And if we look at METRION, here too, we have a growing customer base, and we expect to add some of the world's leading global logic and memory manufacturers to the list by the end of 2024. Another growth stimulus came in the form of a recent sale of our Nova FIT machine learning software solution to a leading global manufacturer, driven by a new capability called MAPRO [ph]. MAPRO [ph] provides high-resolution, full wafer sampling for early detection of process excursions, avoiding increased physical wafer measurements and leading to a faster yield learning curve and improved process control.

The third engine to propel our business in 2024 is advanced packaging, an area where we see multiple achievements and opportunities for Nova. The Nova PRISM 2 was recently selected by a leading foundry as part of its most advanced node tool set to address hybrid bonding process applications and additional advanced packaging metrology challenges. We have initial orders for multiple systems with more expected due to PRISM's unique ability to make robust measurements in the presence of underlay variations, a capability critical to effective production. Following a highly successful demo, another leading logic manufacturer is also evaluating PRISM 2 for advanced packaging applications, such as through-silicon via, as a better and more effective alternative to its current vendor.

In addition, we recently received orders for integrated metrology and for Nova direct metal replenishment solution targeted for advanced packaging from leading memory customers. Elsewhere, we are working closely with our customers to bring vital capabilities to bear on problems they encounter as they reach inflection points in CMP and plating processes of advanced packaging and face unprecedented challenges. Finally, I want to highlight our service business, which secured record high revenues this quarter. While current utilization levels may impact short-term growth rates, we offset this effect by increasing the contract portion of our total service revenue by approximately 20% year-over-year. With that, I would like to recap our third quarter results.

Nova had a strong quarter against the backdrop of market softness and an increasingly complex environment. As we look ahead into the next quarter and the coming year, we expect to continue our strong execution. We trust that the fundamentals of both our company and the semiconductor industry will steer us into a trajectory of growth and outperformance. Before I turn it over to Dror, I'd like to thank our global and Israeli team for their support, commitment, resilience and dedication. We are fortunate to have an incredible team that is committed to our success. Now for some more details on the financials, let me hand over the call to Dror.

Dror David: Thanks, Gaby. Good day, everyone, and thank you for joining our 2023 third quarter conference call. Total revenues in the third quarter of 2023 were $129 million exceeding the company guidance for the third quarter as a result of several specific customer pull-ins of deliveries originally scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2023. Product revenue distribution was approximately 65% from logic and foundry and approximately 35% from memory. Product revenues included four main territories and four main customers that contributed 10% or more each to product revenue. The continued wider territory distribution reflects continued territorial diversification, driven by increasing investments from the Western territories of the U.S. and Europe.

Blended gross margin in the third quarter was 56% on a GAAP basis and 58% on a non-GAAP basis within the company non-GAAP target model of 57% to 59%. Following cost containment measures implemented by the management to align expenses with the current business environment, operating expenses in the third quarter decreased by approximately 10% relative to the previous quarter and came in at $38 million on a GAAP basis and $35 million on a non-GAAP basis. Operating margins in the third quarter were 27% on a GAAP basis and 31% on a non-GAAP basis at the high end of the company's non-GAAP target model of 27% to 31%. Financial income in the quarter remained elevated following higher yields on cash reserves and came in at $5 million. The effective tax rate in the third quarter was approximately 14%.

Earnings per share in the third quarter exceeded company guidance and were $1.05 per diluted share on a GAAP basis and $1.23 on a non-GAAP basis. In terms of cash flow for the fourth quarter, the company generated $43 million in free cash flow, constituting more than 30% of total revenues. Finally, I would like to share the details of our guidance for the fourth quarter of 2023. Currently, we expect revenues to be between $123 million to $132 million. GAAP earnings per diluted share to range from $0.96 to $1.11 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share to range from $1.16 to $1.31. At the midpoint of the fourth quarter estimates, we anticipate the following: gross margins to be approximately 56% on a GAAP basis and approximately 58% on a non-GAAP basis at the midpoint of the company non-GAAP target model.

Operating expenses to increase to approximately $42 million on a GAAP basis and $37 million on a non-GAAP basis. Looking forward, we expect operating expenses to gradually increase in 2024. Financial income to be similar to that of the third quarter and the tax rate to be approximately 8% in the fourth quarter of the year, lower than the company's 14% model due to end of year tax adjustments and status of limitations. Taking into consideration the midpoint of the fourth quarter guidance, we expect the company to conclude 2023 with an excellent non-GAAP profitability metrics of approximately 59% in blended gross margin and approximately 30% in operating margins, both at the higher end of the company target model. This expected exceptional performance reflects the company agile and resilient operational model in different business scenarios, the increasing value of our new product generation and the prudent cost control initiatives implemented by the management earlier this year.

To conclude my remarks, I would like to highlight the cash reserves of the company, which increased to $614 million and provide the required flexibility to pursue organic and nonorganic business development activities towards executing the company's $1 billion strategic plan. With that, I will turn the call back to Gaby. Gaby?

Gaby Waisman: Thank you, Dror. Our prepared remarks are now concluded. We would be happy to take your questions. Operator?

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