ARM Holdings PLC Earnings Call Insights: Graphics ASP and Licensing Growth

ARM Holdings (NYSE:ARMH) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Graphics ASP

Gareth Jenkins – UBS: A few if I could. Firstly, I just noticed the licensing of Skrymir high-end graphics. I just wonder whether you expect an upward drift in graphics ASP over time, similar to what we are seeing on the mobile side and processor side? Secondly, I wonder if you could just give us a sense Warren or Simon in terms of the (attach rates) of Mali within tablets and low-end smartphones. It feels like you are seeing a very real impact of that market taking off and I just wonder whether you could give us a sense of whether it is DTV driving or whether it’s low-end tablets and smartphones that’s really driving that Mali volume forward. Then finally, just on PIPD royalties, again really quite strong in the quarter, just wondering whether we are now in inflection terms of royalty revenues on PIPD?

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Warren East – CEO: Right, let me start, Gareth, and I’ll chat about Mali and then we’ll ask Simon to comment on those Physical IP royalties. So, yes, good that you’ve noticed the licensing of Skrymir, there is no specific guidance here on royalties going forward in our graphics products, but the general principal is if there is more value in the product that we’re licensing, then we do charge more. The next-generation graphics processors do deliver more value as in the previous generation graphics processors and so exactly the same sort of trajectory that we’ve seen in our general-purpose processors where when there’s more value-added, there’s a higher rate of royalty associated with it. Our plan is to continue to execute that with our graphics processors. So as we license more of the next-generation graphics processors, hopefully, we’re going to sign those licenses with incrementally higher royalty rates. On the second question about Mali was what’s really, sort of, driving the volumes here. I think the answer is both. As we have commented before, our graphic presence is relatively strong in digital TVs as we see as a sort of greenfield area for graphics and it’s very encouraging that our share in digital TVs is very strong for Mali. But you’re right, in the more cost-effective, smartphones and in the lower priced tablets, we are very strong as well and last year we saw Mali being in 60% of the world’s Android tablet, that trend is continuing and as the low-end smartphones continue to grow, then we’re seeing more Mali there. So the trajectory of Mali volume increase is driven by all of those things. Simon, would you like to comment on the Physical IP royalties…

Simon Segars – President: Yeah. So, as you’ve observed the royalty growth has been strong and a lot of that does come from the work we’ve been doing over the last many years to develop technology for leading-edge processes and develop technology for POP IP to allow our customers to get a more optimal implementation of an ARM pool and now Mali Graphics score as well in the their (SoC). So, the fruits of that work are starting to come through in the royalty and that’s driving the growth, quite a significant proportion of Physical IP royalty now comes from advance technologies, 40-nanometer, 32-nanometer, 28-nanometer and so on. We expect to see some continued growth there as all of the designing have been going on over the last few years do come to fruition and wafer start shipping.


Licensing Growth

Didier Scemama – Bank of Ameirca/Merrill Lynch: Couple of quick ones; first maybe a question for Tim on licensing. I just was wondering why you were not bit more optimistic on licensing growth given the presumably initial recognition of 64-bit licensees over the course of this year? That would be my first question. Secondly, just a question on the broader ARM ecosystem, it seems as though TSMC is going to start making 20-nanometer wafers already toward the later part of this year and is bringing forward 16-nanometer of FinFET. Do you have sense of when the ARM ecosystem will start producing 16-nanometer FinFET chips and perhaps (indiscernible) to be 64 bit, just so that we understand where you are relative to your main competitor?

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Tim Score – CFO: Didier, on licensing, and obviously as you know, licensing is potentially quite lumpy and the guidance I gave is to try and take into account how we see the backlog maturing into revenue and how we see our opportunity pipeline unfolding in future quarters. You can see from last quarter in Q4, we did GBP85 million, in the two quarters before that we did GBP67 million and GBP69 million and now we have done an GBP81 million. I mean it is quite hard and it is going to move around a bit. Observing the consensus coming into these results, I note that effectively licensing consensus averages out at about GBP79 million to GBP80 million per quarter. Relative to the guidance of GBP75 million plus or minus, that’s already on the upside. So I don’t think it’s sensible this early in the year to fan the flames any further than that. There is already an expectation in the market that licensing is going to unfold at the top end of my guidance. I think that’s broadly the appropriate level. There will be quarters where license starts with (an 8) like we’ve just seen. There will be quarters where it starts with the 7 and we shouldn’t be concerned about that. So that’s why I’m reiterating GBP75 million plus or minus…

Simon Segars – President: I will take the question on FinFETs and availability (indiscernible). So yeah, the foundries that are continuing to vest aggressively in their development of FinFET technology, I think two weeks ago TSMC had their Annual Forum here in San Jose and reiterated their expectations that their 16 FinFET technology would go into risk production at the end of this year. Now what risk productivity in TSMC speak typically means is that there very early adopter customers would be in a position to tape out some devices. Now, we’ve been working with them. We’ve been working with others on making sure that the ARM ecosystem is going to get the best out of FinFET technology. We announced couple of weeks ago that we had collaborated with TSMC on an early tape out of Cortex-A57 on the 16 FinFET process. So that’s running in the (indiscernible) right now. We’ll see the results from that a bit later this year. So I think the ARM ecosystem is set to take advantage of FinFET technology, and I think the development schedules from the foundries are progressing well. So I think the timing of that is about right for the kind of SoCs our partners want to do.

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Didier Scemama – Bank of Ameirca/Merrill Lynch: Brilliant. Then maybe just one quick follow-up. Is it fair to assume that you have yet to see the benefit of the licensing you’ve done recently in the base station and router market in networking division, because you had very strong volume growth year-over-year, but I would have thought you have not yet seen those share gains coming in your P&L yet?

Warren East – CEO: That’s correct. (I’ll say today), you’ve seen the order book increasing. Part of that is due to v8 licensing, some of these networking designs are where companies have taken v8 licenses. We’ve seen the first of those products really sort of launched this year. I mentioned LSI’s product launch they were at Mobile World Congress with their product in February. It’s to come.

A Closer Look: ARM Holdings Earnings Cheat Sheet>>