Veeco Instruments Earnings Call Nuggets: Order Trends, Hard Disk Drive Business

On Monday, Veeco Instruments Inc (NASDAQ:VECO) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Order Trends

Mahavir Sanghavi – UBS: This is Mahavir Sanghavi for Stephen Chin. Just a question on the order trends. John, you talked about the capacity utilization rates are either close to 80% or greater than 80% in all of the three regions. Do you expect the MOCVD recovery to be more of a hockey stick on the other side of this downturn or more of a slow and steady recovery?

John R. Peeler – CEO: It’s a little hard to tell, Korea has been moving up. Taiwan is getting a quite high utilization rates and for China, I have mentioned that the leaders are over 90%, the whole country is not at that level, the second tier and third tier are a good bit lower. It’s really hard to tell whether this is going to takeoff at some point or gradually recover. I think we’re going plan on a modest and gradual recovery, at first probably followed by some acceleration.

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Mahavir Sanghavi – UBS: Then maybe a follow-up John, you’ve done a great job generating cash throughout this year. I am wondering if now with your cash at 55% of your market cap, do you think you can cut OpEx further to not burn cash if we get into a more severe downturn?

John R. Peeler – CEO: We don’t expect to burn cash during the downturn. Our cash breakeven rate is a good bit lower than our EBITA breakeven rate and we expect to stay profitable. So, we don’t expect to burn cash.

Hard Disk Drive Business

Bill Ong – B. Riley & Company: So, my question is on the hard disk drive business, with $60 million in orders that implies about four disk drive tools give or take, that’s comfortable to the levels back in 2008 or mid-2009 when we had the global financial crisis. So, do you think it requires customer confidence for the macroeconomic climate to be stable and also bookings to snapback? Or do you think hard disk drive orders could rebound on its own merit to supply constrains or technology investments? Same question applies with LEDs, does we really require a macroeconomic confidence or can LED industry dynamics help to lead a business recovery?

John R. Peeler – CEO: So, on the Data Storage side, as the floods occurred, some of our customers built some access capacity trying to make sure they had enough capacity to meet demand that needs to get used to up and a little bit of boost in the economy or the PC market, which sure help to do that. So, there are more than 1 billion terabytes of information being stored this year. So, there’s a huge underlying drive for more storage and ultimately the market will catch back up and orders will resume, we’re not worried about that, it’s hard to predict the timing, but we do think orders will get better soon. On the LED market, the underlying driver is really solid state lighting and solid state lighting is growing. You might have seen Philips’ announced earlier today, they’re doing quite well in their LED lighting business, and ultimately as capacity utilization catches up this market will takeoff and I don’t think it needs a great improvement in the economy, but that would sure help.

A Closer Look: Veeco Instruments Earnings Cheat Sheet>>