NetApp Earnings Call Insights: Growth Rate Outlook and Branded Revenue Growth

NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Growth Rate Outlook

Kulbinder Garcha – Credit Suisse: My question is just to kind of a clarification around OpEx for Nick and Tom. Nick, did you say that this year you expect a mid-teens earnings growth rate for the full fiscal year. My question around that is what is that tell us about how you’re managing OpEx in the balance of the year, together earnings growth is a case of OpEx to sales coming down even in a low growth IT environment, so this further cost cutting you guys are considering. Kind of linked to that, this is maybe for Tom more philosophical. Previously I always got the message Tom that you guys would – you look for the co-OpEx projects because you had such significant share opportunity. I don’t know you have 10% storage share, the number one vendor has 30% and a so much lend out revenue to gain has something changed in your thinking around them.

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Nick Noviello – EVP, Finance and CFO: This is Nick, I’ll start and I’m sure Tom will ray in as well. So, in terms of the go forward for the year, what we are looking at is aiming at that 17% Op margin and based upon a 61% gross margin for the year, those are the targets we are aiming at. Obviously, the first quarter is going to be a little light of that certainly on the operating margin side because of the sequential down from Q4 to Q1 in terms of revenue. But for the year driving for that 17%, we’re obviously conscious of the macro, we are obviously conscious of our investments. One of the reasons why we made this realignment decision, but our investments are going to the areas we think have the best opportunity, they are focused on clustered Data ONTAP, they are focused on flash etcetera. 17% is the operating margin we are aiming at for the year, that yield on an operational level that yield to mid-teens EPS growth before any of the capital activities or the capital allocation activities we talked about.

Tom Georgens – President and CEO: Yes, I think philosophically in terms of the opportunity in front of us, I don’t think that has changed. We led through this an activity similar to this several years back, and the after-math is that we had a 30% year-over-year organic growth year. So, I don’t think that taken this action now is basically signaling anything about the confidence about the future. I think it’s a pragmatic point of view and that is we are in a period where IT spending is constrained, and certainly has impact on our growth rate. We have a number of very, very key initiatives that we need to make sure that we get staffed and funded and we need to do all of that in the context of generating shareholder return. So, I think, balancing all that forces us into a situation of reprioritizing and realigning to get our resources connected to the most important things that we have going on in the Company and things that are going to sow the seeds for the future growth. So, one thing I would say as we go forward we are not frozen, in fact we have more open (NYSE:REX) today than we did a month ago. So we are looking to continue to reinvest around the priorities that we set as a Company and should we see revenue not come out the way we think where the market deteriorate further clearly will modulate that. But right now our expectation is that we are continuing to invest around the key initiatives and we basically did the restructure and to basically free up those resources for reassignment.

Branded Revenue Growth

Shebly Seyrafi – FBN Securities: So you branded revenue growth was 3%, but you said your branded bookings were up double digits. So, I am wondering do you expect branded revenue growth to accelerate because of that strong bookings number to the high-single digits percentage or double digits over the next few quarters.

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Nick Noviello – EVP, Finance and CFO: I think one of the things about the quarter is on the branded side I think we are pretty pleased with how it played out. I think we saw growth in all the deals and it was very, very broad based across all the segments. So, I think we finished exceptionally strong. I think we are very, very happy with all of that. Margins stayed strong along the way. So, we are able to protect our value proposition and we liked the growth and back-end loaded. So, one of the things that we do see is you saw that $130 million plus went to deferred revenue build so some of that growth went into deferred revenue and some of it came too late in the quarter for us to convert. So, while I don’t want to talk about growth in terms of beyond next quarter certainly we are well aware of the earnings cycle and what we’ve heard from other players in this industry and other bellwethers about their expectations, I think, we’re going to be tempered by that. I think we have our own dynamics in Q4. We have our own incentives, our own sales force perhaps overpower some of the seasonality. We need to be cognizant of what we see from the other companies out there. But that said, I think (indiscernible) strong. I think we’ve brought home the big deals in the end. We can see a lot of deals push out of the year and out of the quarter, and I think the team enters 2014 with some confidence. But I think all of that is tempered by a backdrop that we’re all pretty concerned about.

A Closer Look: NetApp Earnings Cheat Sheet>>