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Edited Transcript of AZPN earnings conference call or presentation 24-Apr-19 8:30pm GMT

Q3 2019 Aspen Technology Inc Earnings Call

Burlington May 3, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Aspen Technology Inc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 8:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Antonio J. Pietri

Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director

* Karl E. Johnsen

Aspen Technology, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO

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Conference Call Participants

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* David E. Hynes

Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst

* Gowrishankar Subramanian

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - VP

* Jackson Edmund Ader

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst

* Jason Vincent Celino

KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Associate

* Matthew Charles Pfau

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Analyst

* Robert Cooney Oliver

Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst

* Steven Richard Koenig

Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good afternoon. My name is Elaine, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Aspen Technology Third Quarter Fiscal 2019 Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) Thank you.

I would now like to turn the call over to one of our hosts, Mr. Karl Johnsen, Chief Financial Officer. Sir, you may begin your conference.

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Karl E. Johnsen, Aspen Technology, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [2]

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Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us to review our third quarter fiscal 2019 results for the period ended March 31, 2019. I'm Karl Johnsen, CFO of AspenTech, and with me on the call is Antonio Pietri, President and CEO.

Before we begin, I will make the safe harbor statement that during the course of this call, we may make projections or other forward-looking statements about the financial performance of the company that involve risks and uncertainties. The company's actual results may differ materially from such projections or statements. Factors that might cause such differences include, but are not limited to, those discussed in today's call and in our Form 10-Q for the third quarter of fiscal 2019, which is now on file with the SEC. Also, please note that the following information relates to our current business conditions and our outlook as of today, April 24, 2019. Consistent with our prior practice, we expressly disclaim any obligation to update this information.

The structure of today's call will be as follows: Antonio will discuss business highlights from the third quarter, and then I will review our financial results and discuss our guidance for fiscal year 2019.

With that, let me turn the call over to Antonio. Antonio?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thanks, Karl, and thanks to everyone for joining us today. We're pleased with our third quarter performance, which demonstrates a continued strong execution by the AspenTech team and positive demand across all major geographies and product suites.

Looking at the financial highlights for the quarter. Revenue was $148 million, GAAP EPS was $0.88 and non-GAAP EPS was $0.96. Annual spend was $526 million, up 9.7% year-over-year. Free cash flow was $89.1 million, and we returned $75 million to shareholders by repurchasing approximately 800,000 shares.

Overall, our business continues to benefit from a positive macro environment and a new product suite that is gaining greater traction. We delivered accelerating annual spend growth for the sixth consecutive quarter and the third quarter's year-over-year annual spend growth of 9.7% is our best performance since the first fiscal quarter of 2016 when our business started to feel the impact from the reduction in CapEx spend by oil companies.

Specifically, our E&C customers' business continues to demonstrate signs of recovery, albeit in the context of consistent mid-single-digit growth in global upstream CapEx spend that remains well below the peak levels seen 4 years ago. We believe this makes the acceleration of our engineering business even more encouraging. We also believe that incremental CapEx spend in other energy sectors such as LNG and refining and in the chemicals industry are contributing to the improvement in engineering software usage.

In the quarter, we saw again a few renewals with lower reduction in spend than expected and more cases of customers who had renewed in recent years increasing their token entitlement after reaching their entitlement limits. In particular, during the third quarter, we saw a notable improvement in our North American E&C business, which has experienced improving trends for the past 4 quarters and is now a materially positive contributor to annual spend growth for the first time in several years.

At the same time, the macro environment remains favorable for owner-operator customers, which keeps us on track to deliver another year of double-digit growth in our MSC suite, supported by the performance of our multivariable control and refinery planning products. The focus on digitalization, as a driver of operational excellence, is a top priority for these customers and remains in its early stages. We believe this is one of the key long-term opportunities for our business. Customers are also realizing the sustainability benefit from our products such as when operations are optimized to lower emissions or to decrease the amount of off-spec product, for example. As a reminder, AspenTech is an operating expense for owner-operators as they run their assets daily, which drives the consistently strong performance of our MSC suite.

Turning to our APM suite. We had a particularly strong quarter with a second consecutive quarter of record growth in annual spend. The third quarter performance was highlighted by the first 7-figure annual spend APM transaction, which equates to an 8-figure booking value for the contract with a customer with multiple refinery and midstream assets. There are several exciting points about this win that we would like to highlight. First, this customer had been spending millions of dollars annually on reliability maintenance with no discernible incremental return and a continued problem with unplanned breakdowns. This would be the initial focus of its Aspen Mtell deployment. Second, based on the strength of our customer reference, we were able to win this business through a sole-source pilot rather than a competitive bake-off. We believe this is a positive indication of the value we're delivering to customers and our differentiated market position. Expanding this customer to a fuller enterprise license could result in incremental annual spend that would be several times larger than the initial contract signed in the third quarter. And third, this customer is also interested in leveraging the integration of Aspen Mtell with Aspen PIMS. The interplay between downtime alert and planning and scheduling is a common topic in digital initiatives. The motivation is compelling with tens of millions in potential gain that could be realized from more optimum asset planning and scheduling enabled by much earlier warnings of asset failure. This is just one example of the kind of cross-functional transformation our customers are seeking with digital initiatives.

Mtell's ability to identify failure signatures in data that encompass both the equipment and the operating envelope where the equipment resides is critical to determine the source that impacts and degrades the performance of the physical asset. We believe this approach is highly differentiated and significantly improved the rate of detection of failures. The combination of domain expertise, data management capabilities and machine learning technology that can be implemented and scaled by engineers without the need for data scientists distinguishes AspenTech's offering in the predictive and prescriptive analysis space.

In the GEIs, we're seeing a strong market interest resulting in a meaningful number of customers and a growing pipeline of opportunities. Our success with GEI customers shares the same fundamental value proposition with our core markets, improving the uptime and availability of the equipment used in operations and predicting process degradation. Customers are increasingly recognizing the cost savings and reliability improvement benefits that APM solutions can deliver across their assets. This is driving a strong interest for APM, including continued growth in pilot opportunities. We believe APM can be one of the largest areas of incremental investment for customers in the coming years and our focus is on ensuring we're best positioned to capitalize on this opportunity. Given these trends and the size of the APM market opportunity, we will expand our APM team to extend our go-to-market presence and increase the number of pilots we can manage at any given time. We will also bolster our implementation services capacity to meet the increasing number of deployments as we win business.

Based on the strength of our performance year-to-date and our outlook for the fourth quarter, we are revising our annual spend growth forecast to 9.5% to 10%, which compares to our prior guidance of 8.5% to 9.5%. At the midpoint, this would represent a 335 basis point increase in growth year-over-year.

We're also adjusting and tightening the guidance range for the APM business to 1.75 to 2.75 point of growth contribution. And we're confirming our attrition guidance of 4% to 5% with a bias towards the lower end of that range. In addition, we foresee that the growth momentum built over this fiscal year will carry over into the next fiscal year and position us for double-digit growth.

Following are a representative sample of transactions closed in the quarter and reflective of growth we're experiencing.

First, we signed a renewal and expansion agreement with a leading North American integrated energy company with operations including oil sands development. This long-time AspenTech customer, which has implemented our Aspen DMC3 product with an estimated $150 million in annual benefits, plans to standardize on Aspen DMC3 across all in situ operations while also increasing its engineering software entitlement.

Second, a top 5 global chemical company and long-term user of our aspenONE Engineering and MSC suites selected Aspen Mtell as part of the company's strategic digital transformation initiative. This customer has identified hundreds of millions of dollars in potential predictive and prescriptive maintenance benefit. After evaluating 26 software vendors and selecting 9 to compete for its business, the company selected Aspen Mtell for deployment of one of its petrochemical sites as the first project in the adoption process of an eventual global rollout. The customer selected Aspen Mtell since it delivers the fastest time to value as it can be implemented and scaled rapidly by process and reliability engineers without the need for data scientists.

Third, a global EPC and operations and maintenance services leader in subsea, onshore, offshore and surface technologies expanded its entitlement to the aspenONE Engineering suite. This long-time AspenTech customer has significantly increased its focus in engineering efficiency and cost accuracy in recent years in response to the decrease in capital investment activity in the oil and gas industry. As a result, this customer has increased its usage of Aspen Basic Engineering and Aspen Capital Cost Estimator, leading to significant wins to develop multiple process design packages for one of the world's largest chemical companies. The customer has also begun to use Aspen Capital Cost Estimator to replace its previous use of simple factor-based estimation methods, allowing it to produce more accurate estimates with less resources.

Fourth, a global food processing company selected Aspen ProMV online batch after a 5 vendor bake-off. The customer chose Aspen ProMV as the winning solution due to our advanced data-driven process optimization tools that is unique in the industry as well as our modern, intuitive web-based interfaces for real-time model implementation. The customer will be presenting 3 use cases at our upcoming OPTIMIZE conference.

And fifth and final, a top 10 global pharmaceutical company that has been an AspenTech customer for over 25 years with extensive use of the aspenONE MSC suite across nearly all its major manufacturing sites expanded its deployment of Aspen Mtell in the third quarter. One of the 4 strategic initiatives of our partnership with this customer is productivity and asset performance, which has led to the increased usage of the APM suite. And initial Aspen Mtell proof-of-concept successfully predicted failures on filling machines and packaging lines and led to the expansion across 6 other sites. This new license extends use to a seventh site with additional opportunity to expand usage to the rest of this customer's major manufacturing sites.

These wins demonstrate a strong customer demand we saw in the quarter and the growth opportunities in each product suite across multiple industries.

Turning to profitability. We generated $89.1 million of free cash flow in the third quarter, which reflects our positive business momentum as well as strong collections. As a reminder, free cash flow is the best way to evaluate the profitability of AspenTech due to the variability of our income statement under Topic 606. We believe our ability to sustain profitability while continuing to invest in the growth of APM and the overall business is a key differentiator for AspenTech.

A great example of investments we're making is the recent release of aspenONE Version 11, which includes exciting product innovations across all 3 product suites. Key advancements include: First, the introduction of Aspen GDOT dynamic optimization software, which unifies production optimization for energy and biochemical companies in complex industrial environments. Aspen GDOT is a next generation of optimization technology and will enable dynamic, multiunit coordination and help owner-operators to reduce gaps in planning and scheduling. The Aspen GDOT technology was part of the Apex Optimisation acquisition over a year ago.

Second, we have updated the APM suite to now incorporate predictive equipment failure alarming into Aspen PIMS and Aspen Petroleum Scheduler, or APS, so that future equipment failures are incorporated in the planning and scheduling process producing a more optimal plan or schedule more representative of future operational constraints.

Third, we have updated Aspen DMC3 and incorporated nonlinear process control, so that our customers now have one integrated solution for optimizing linear and nonlinear processes in one control environment. In addition, our customers can improve operating margins across the enterprise through a centralized monitoring environment that provides greater visibility of the performance and benefits of older APC applications.

Fourth, the release of Aspen ProMV online batch in Version 11 enables our users to take the off-line multivariate models they have developed to find the true source of variation in their batch production processes and put those models online for 22 -- 24/7 real-time monitoring. The online monitoring provides earlier warning of deviations in the batch process condition so that corrected actions can be taken.

And finally, in V11, we introduced new capabilities in Aspen HYSYS with first-of-its-kind molecular modeling of reactors for hydrocracking unit operations and propagation of molecular information throughout the asset model. Molecular modeling significantly improves the predictive capability of the reactor operations, resulting in higher profitability and improved environmental impact. The V11 release begins to demonstrate the value and use cases from integration of the APM functionality across to our engineering and MSC suites, as just mentioned. Going forward, we also plan to increase our investment in APM R&D to further integrate the products into suite and with engineering and MSC suites.

We believe that our market position and the analytics and AI technologies and expertise that we now possess positions us well for the future. We will continue to build AI capabilities in our products and strive to be the leading digital solutions provider to capital-intensive industries. We will be highlighting these and other product innovations at our biennial user conference, OPTIMIZE 2019, next month in Houston. OPTIMIZE has become the leading gathering of asset optimization expertise and a great opportunity for customers to share best practices and learn how AspenTech solutions can drive value in their businesses.

We're also able to deploy our cash flow and balance sheet to consistently return capital to shareholders. As mentioned, we spent $75 million to repurchase 800,000 shares during the third quarter, and we expect to repurchase another $75 million of stock in the fourth quarter, subject to market and business conditions. Our ability to invest capital back into the business to capitalize on growth opportunities and return excess cash to shareholders provides multiple avenues for value creation.

Before closing, as we announced last week, I would like to welcome Georgia Keresty to the Aspen Technology Board. Georgia's proven success in managing complex operations within the pharmaceutical industry will complement the expertise of the existing Board. Please refer to the press release issued on her appointment for more details.

To summarize, AspenTech's strong third quarter and year-to-date performance reflects a strong execution and improving macro environment and the positive impact of our growth investments. Our focus is to continue executing on our strategy and capitalizing on our multiple opportunities to drive additional growth and value creation for customers and shareholders. With that, let me turn the call over to Karl. Karl?

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Karl E. Johnsen, Aspen Technology, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [4]

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Thanks, Antonio. I will now review our financial results for the third quarter fiscal 2019. As a reminder, these results are being reported under Topic 606, which has a material impact on both the timing and method of our revenue recognition for our term license contracts. Our license revenue is heavily impacted by the timing of bookings, and more specifically, renewal bookings. A decrease or increase in bookings between fiscal periods resulting from a change in the amount of term license contract up for renewal is not an indicator of the health or growth of our business. The timing of renewals is not linear between quarters or fiscal years, and its nonlinearity will have a significant impact on the timing of our revenue. As a result, we believe our income statement will provide an inconsistent view into our financial performance, especially when comparing between fiscal periods. In our view, annual spend will continue to be the most important metric in assessing the growth of our business and annual free cash flow, the most important metric for assessing the overall value of our business -- the value our business generates.

Annual spend, which represents the accumulated value of all the current invoices for a term license agreement at the end of each period, was approximately $526 million at the end of the third quarter. This represented an increase of approximately 9.7% on a year-over-year basis and 2.6% sequentially. Total bookings, which we define as the total value of customer term license contracts signed in the current period less the value of term license contracts signed in the current period but where the initial licenses are not yet deemed delivered under Topic 606 plus term license contracts signed in a previous period for which the initial licenses are deemed delivered in the current period, was $160 million, a 29% increase year-over-year. The year-over-year increase in bookings reflects a significant increase in the amount of term license contracts up for renewal as compared to the year ago period. As I mentioned earlier, bookings can fluctuate significantly between periods since it is driven, in large part, by the timing of when customer contracts are up for renewal. Year-to-date total bookings were $410.8 million, a 23% increase year-over-year.

Total revenue was $148 million for the third quarter, a 16% increase from the prior year period. The year-over-year increase in revenue was a result of the increase in total bookings discussed above.

Breaking revenue down by line item. License revenue, which represents a portion of a term license agreement allocated to the initial licenses, was $98.5 million, a 25% increase year-over-year. As mentioned earlier, the increase is the result of the higher amount of term license agreements coming up for renewal in the quarter as compared to the year ago period. Maintenance revenue, which represents a portion of the term license agreement related to ongoing support and the right to future enhancements, was $41.9 million, a 2% increase from the prior year period. Maintenance revenue is recognized on a daily ratable basis over the life of the term license contract and will grow more in line with our annual spend. Services and other revenue was $7.6 million, a 2% decline in the year ago period. The decline in services revenue was largely driven by the timing of projects.

Turning to profitability beginning on a GAAP basis. Gross profit was $133.6 million in the quarter, with a gross margin of 90.3%, which compares to $115 million and a gross margin of 90% in the prior year period.

Operating expenses for the quarter were $62.8 million compared to $61.4 million in the year ago period. Total expenses, including cost of revenue were $77.2 million, which was up from $74.1 million in the year ago period and $76.7 million last quarter.

Operating income was $70.8 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2019 compared to $53.6 million in the year ago period. Net income for the quarter was $61.6 million or $0.88 per share compared to net income of $44.5 million or $0.61 per share in the third quarter of fiscal 2018. Interest income in the third quarter was $6.8 million, up from $6.3 million in the year ago period. Recall that under Topic 606, there is an implied financing component to our term license contracts. The imputed value of this financing component is taken from the license fees and recognized as interest income over the payment term.

Turning to non-GAAP results. Excluding the impact of stock-based compensation expense, amortization of intangibles associated with acquisition and acquisition-related fees, we reported non-GAAP operating income for the third quarter of $78.3 million, representing a 52.9% non-GAAP operating margin compared to non-GAAP operating income and margin of $59.9 million and 46.9%, respectively in the year ago period. Non-GAAP net income was $67.5 million or $0.96 per share in the third quarter of fiscal 2019 based on 70.2 million shares outstanding. This compares to non-GAAP net income of $49 million or $0.67 per share in the third quarter of fiscal 2018 based on 72.7 million shares outstanding.

Turning to the balance sheet and cash flow. The company ended the quarter with $65.6 million in cash and marketable securities compared to $54.4 million at the end of last quarter. We ended the quarter with $220 million of debt drawn from our credit facility. As Antonio mentioned, during the third quarter, we repurchased approximately 800,000 shares of our stock for $75 million.

Contract assets at the end of the third quarter were $673.5 million. Recall that this line item on the balance sheet under Topic 606 represents the portion of the initial license performance obligation that has been recognized in revenue but not invoiced. This is sometimes referred to as unbilled accounts receivable.

From a cash flow perspective, we generated $90 million of cash from operations during the third quarter and $89.1 million of free cash flow after taking into consideration the net impact of capital expenditures, capitalized software, litigation and acquisition-related payments.

A reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP results is provided in the tables within our press release, which is also available on our website.

I would now like to close with guidance. Remember, that we will now only be providing guidance on an annual basis and providing directional commentary on the timing of annual spend and bookings during the year. We are increasing the guidance we provided on our fiscal second quarter earnings call. We now expect bookings in the range of $575 million to $600 million, which includes $398 million of contracts that are up for renewal in fiscal 2019. This is an increase from our prior guidance of $565 million to $590 million. With respect to annual spend growth, as Antonio mentioned, we're now forecasting 9.5% to 10% annual spend growth. We're also adjusting and tightening the guidance range for the APM business to 1.75 to 2.25 points. We now expect revenue in the range of $549 million to $569 million. We expect license revenue in the range of $356 million to $372 million. Maintenance revenue in the range of $166 million to $169 million and service and other revenue in the range of $27 million to $28 million.

From an expense perspective, we expect total GAAP expenses of $309 million to $312 million. Taken together, we expect GAAP operating income in the range of $240 million to $257 million for fiscal 2019 with GAAP net income of approximately $217 million to $231 million. We expect GAAP net income per share to be in the range of $3.07 to $3.26. From a non-GAAP perspective, we now expect non-GAAP operating income of $272 million to $289 million and non-GAAP income per share in the range of $3.42 to $3.62. This compares to $268 million to $287 million and $3.37 to $3.60 previously. From a free cash flow perspective, we reiterate our guidance of $223 million to $228 million. Our fiscal 2019 free cash flow guidance assumes cash tax payments of approximately $45 million to $50 million.

In summary, we delivered strong financial and operational performance in the third quarter. The business is performing well and we are seeing a positive impact from the investments in our growth initiatives in recent quarters. We believe we are well positioned to continue delivering an attractive combination of growth and profitability that can generate sustained value for our shareholders. With that, we would now like to begin the Q&A. Operator?

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from David Hynes of Canaccord.

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David E. Hynes, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [2]

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Antonio, I want to ask you about APM, obviously, a lot of momentum there. Just as we think about where you are seeing success, I mean, is it still largely in your core markets? Or I mean, part of the story was APM is diversifying, kind of, the customer base. Are you seeing traction outside of, kind of, your core markets? And I guess how would you qualify, kind of, the competitive environment there versus maybe where you have a better foothold with your customers?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Well, I mean I think it's a good question because certainly, in the process industries, chemicals and energies, we're having a lot of traction, and that's where we see a lot more competition. In the so-called GIE industries, we're gaining traction, 2 of the 5 vignettes that I gave you, one in food company, the other one a pharmaceuticals company. But we also have a number of customers already in mining and metals. So we're gaining traction and -- the thing in those markets not so much in pharmaceuticals but in other -- some of these other industries we also need to establish our brand, AspenTech, but at the same time, once we are given the chance to do the pilots, I think these customers quickly realize the advantages of our technology and we're successfully closing business.

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David E. Hynes, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [4]

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Yes. And then you mentioned Apex and the GDOT upgrade cycle in your prepared remarks. I remember you guys are pretty excited about that acquisition I guess was back in February of last year when you did that. Just help us kind of quantify how material the potential upgrade cycle is there. I don't know what the best way to do that is but is it, kind of, percent of your manufacturing base that it's applicable to? And I guess I'm curious how much of a spend uplift could it be for a customer who chooses to take on GDOT?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [5]

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So we're very excited about GDOT. The factors there was -- the Version 11 was released and there was a quiet release of Version 11 in early March. It was announced to the market in April, but in that period, between March and April, early April, we actually signed a customer for GDOT. It's mostly applicable in refining bulk chemicals really ethylene, and there is significant excitement in the market about this. It's not an upgrade. It's a new technology that has its own space in the technology stack between planning and scheduling and multivariable process control. So this is all white space. And really, the spend you could equate it to the spend that we get from refiners and ethylene producers around multivariable process control, perhaps a little bit bigger. So we're very excited about this and the fact that it's a total white space is even more exciting.

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David E. Hynes, Canaccord Genuity Limited, Research Division - Analyst [6]

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Okay. That's helpful. One last one quickly if I may for Karl. Karl, you guys have shared slides in the past that, kind of, depict what you expect from a renewal portfolio on an annual basis, right? And I think the pictures, there's no numbers ascribed to it, showed that fiscal '20 is going to be a down potential bookings year just based on that renewal backlog. Is there any way you can quantify -- I mean we all obviously have to put numbers out there for revenue for fiscal '20, and I don't know if this is something you'll hold for an Analyst Day, but is there any way you can, kind of, give us an early feel for just how much that renewal portfolio dips at. I think you said it's -- let me get my numbers here, $398 million this year. What that could be in fiscal '20?

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Karl E. Johnsen, Aspen Technology, Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [7]

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Yes. I mean we will give that to you at Analyst Day, DJ, and we'll update that -- what that range looks like or what that picture of the mountain range looks like there, mainly because it can change, as we've talked about it. It's almost like a living organism that it can change depending on early renewals and supersede and the like. So we will give that number out when we do Analyst Day in August.

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Operator [8]

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The next question comes from Rob Oliver of Baird.

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Robert Cooney Oliver, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [9]

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Just to follow up on DJ's question, I wanted to lead with APM. So first off, I know you mentioned the one large deal that was an 8-figure total looking. It sounds like clearly even more expansion opportunity there. I wanted to talk about the strategic digital transformation deal that you mentioned where you guys won among the 26 vendors at a petrochemical company. And it sounds as if that was out of one site, Antonio? And I just wanted to try to drill down on that a little bit and get a sense for what the land and expand magnitude of that deal could be. And then I just had one follow-up as well.

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [10]

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Well, I mean, look, we also said that, that's one of the top 5 of global chemical companies in the world. So this is a company of significant size and number of manufacturing assets. It is a deployment on one side and that's normally the pattern that we see from customers if they go through a competitive pilot. They select one company and then the technology gets implemented on one site. Once they get comfortable with the value and the technology then they start expanding it to other sites. But think of any top 5 global chemical company and the number of manufacturing assets that they have and certainly, the potential upside there is significant.

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Robert Cooney Oliver, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [11]

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Great. And I wanted to follow up by asking about the expansion of the APM team. I know recently you guys have been commenting on how you're full in terms of your ability to go out and meet the demand for a pilot. So it sounds like that's a good sign. How -- what's the visibility on hiring there? And are you still gathering hires from, kind of, the usual suspects? And what is the thought process on, kind of, building that out versus going the partner route?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [12]

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Yes. So there's 3 main areas that we're targeting for incremental headcount in APM. One is our customer-facing organizations, really business consultants, a little bit of sales and certainly some product marketing there. So that's one area and the business consultants around the world. Then there's professional services implementation capacity and we set up our center of expertise to be able to scale deployment efficiently. So we will continue to expand that center of expertise because it's actually working very well for us. But now, we're going to -- so that center of expertise is in the Americas. We're now going to start expanding our implementation capacity in Asia and Europe as well. But yes, the ultimate goal is to have most of the APM deployments being done by partners or third parties, and we're already training some third parties. We have engaged a handful of third parties already, and we're training them. They're working with us on deployments to get trained and eventually take over or be the lead on future wins, so that we're not involved. And then the third bucket is R&D. I also talked about that in these sort of 18 months, 19 months or 21 months that we've been going to market. We've learned a lot, especially about use cases and the ability to leverage some -- the cross-pollination of the products in the APM suite. So we're going to start accelerating that work. But also, as I said, there's also an opportunity to then integrate to the MSC and engineering suite, and we'll also start that work as well. So staffing in R&D professional services and customer-facing groups. I thought you had another question?

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Robert Cooney Oliver, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [13]

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I could go on, but I'll let some of my esteemed colleagues step in.

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Operator [14]

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Our next question comes from Matt Pfau of William Blair.

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Matthew Charles Pfau, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Analyst [15]

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First, just wanted to follow up on APM. So a lot of positive commentary around that in terms of the deal signed and expanding the team and everything else, but high end of the guidance for the contribution for annual spend is coming down a bit. So help me understand why the high end of the guidance is coming down a bit while the product seems to be doing quite well.

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [16]

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Well, I mean, look, the guidance is something that we determine at the beginning of a fiscal year. We gave that range of 1.5 to 2.5. And now with basically a couple of months left in the fiscal year and the outlook that we have, we've tightened that range, 1.75 to 2.25 points of growth contribution. And -- so we feel very comfortable with that. But I also want to frame that range because this point of growth contribution into a very large base of business, if you -- even if you assume the midpoint of that range, and what we did in fiscal '18 plus what the midpoint assumes we would do in fiscal '19, you're talking about a business that in fiscal '19 would grow almost 350% versus the previous year. 250% I think is the number, and would be almost $14 million to $15 million run rate business in a couple of years. So we're very satisfied with what we are achieving in APM, and we also have an outlook into FY '20 that we will talk about in August, but we're happy with what we're giving you.

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Matthew Charles Pfau, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Analyst [17]

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Got it. Okay. And then in terms of the increase in annual spend on -- for the engineering and MSC products, you're maintaining the churn expectation. So what's primarily driving that upside in the annual spend then? Is it expansion of some customers that you weren't anticipating? Or are there other areas there that are contributing to that increase?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [18]

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So certainly, the attrition guidance staying the same. So that means that our products suites are generating more gross growth, and specifically, the engineering suite. The engineering suite, as we've mentioned in the call, is overperforming versus our expectations at the beginning of the fiscal year. Certainly, we said from the very beginning that we expect the MSC suite to deliver double-digit growth but the MSC suite is also having a solid year and then APM. So I think it's an overperformance on new growth against the same amount of attrition that we expected.

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Operator [19]

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Our next question comes from Sterling Auty of JP Morgan.

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Jackson Edmund Ader, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [20]

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It's Jackson Ader on for Sterling tonight. A couple quick questions from our side. In terms of the, Antonio, the improving environment of CapEx in your core suite, can you give us a sense for the balance between how much of the improvement is coming from a recovery of CapEx from your oil customers? And how much of the improvement is coming from maybe chemicals or other areas picking up the slack?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [21]

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Yes. I mean, look, certainly we've talked about CapEx growing -- CapEx in upstream oil and gas upstream growing sort of low to mid-single digit the last 4 years. And while it is sort of low to mid-single-digit growth rate over 4 years that has an accumulating -- cumulative impact of probably over 20% of CapEx growth from the bottom of the market in 2016 -- 2017. So that slow increase is having -- is starting to have an impact on use of our products in EPC, E&C companies because they've been hiring a little bit. The chemicals market continues to be a strong CapEx market. Certainly, we're seeing investment in the Middle East, the ongoing investments in the United States, a big investment in Asia, in China specifically but also Southeast Asia and India. And then what I think is new, certainly, refining has continued to do what it's done, but what is new is LNG. And there is a number of massive LNG projects that have been sanctioned and basically this has taken all that shale gas production in the United States or in general, gas production around the world and liquefying that gas so that then it can be used for energy to power homes and everything else. And there's quite a number of LNG facilities that are getting sanctioned for investment and we're seeing engineering companies, especially the Japanese and the Koreans but also here in the U.S. that are benefiting from that investment.

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Jackson Edmund Ader, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [22]

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Great. That is really helpful. Then a follow-up on the APM deal that you mentioned the competitive deal, so there were kind of 2 phases, right? It started out with 20-plus competitors and then it was narrowed down to 8 and then Mtell was selected. So can you just walk us through in those 2 stages? What was the initial criteria that narrowed the field down to 8? And then what was the biggest driver of Mtell winning?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [23]

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Yes. The numbers were 26 and 9. I mean look at -- I don't know about the criteria for how they came up with 26. Maybe it was 26 different companies that had approached them that are in analytics and machine learning. We hear that a lot when we go talk to customers that they're getting inundated by companies offering AI capabilities. How it got down to 9. I think eventually, they sold their real technology from wannabes. Especially, what we're hearing from customers is that yes, there is a lot of companies talking to them about machine learning and AI. But very quickly, they're able to discern those companies that have both data management capabilities and domain expertise. And by data management capabilities, I mean understanding of process industries' data, time series data and all the other types of data that are involved in a refinery or chemical plant. That's one criteria they quickly use to, sort of, select companies. And then the other one is domain expertise. Does this company know anything about our business, about refining, about chemicals? And with that then, I'm sure they got down to the 9, and the 9 is probably a list of who is who in the process industries, industrial companies, some IoT platform companies, AspenTech some software companies. And they look at the technologies, and we feel very good that they selected us.

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Operator [24]

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Our next question comes from Shankar Subramanian of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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Gowrishankar Subramanian, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - VP [25]

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Congrats on the strong results. I have a last question on APM, a lot of questions asked on this, but we did a recent survey, and it seems like there's a -- I mean obviously, you elaborated on all the use cases that you're seeing, there seems to be a huge interest in running proof-of-concepts with the APM solution and based on the survey that says about 25% of 500 customers are evaluating your products, and they would go to production in the next 3 to 6 months. But -- and you are also increasing capacity on the APM theme and try to see how you can convert that to production. My question is, the improvements you are making, can it shorten the lead time of the proof-of-concepts of production? And if it is the case then do we see these opportunities quickly convert over by fiscal '20? And kind of walk us through how it was like a year ago and maybe how it can change in terms of the lead time from conversion to proof-of-concepts of productions?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [26]

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Yes. No, thank you, Shankar. Yes, no, look, absolutely, one of the things that -- we've learned many things over the last 2 years in APM. And certainly, our ability to execute pilots efficiently and effectively has been one of those things. In the process, our teams have developed tools to accelerate the identification of failure signatures in the data, we'll be productizing those tools, so that they can then be available to anyone that uses Mtell, whether in pilots or in operations, in order to -- yes, accelerate the deployment, but also make the deployments more efficient and easier for the AspenTech team, third parties customers and so on. So this is part of our focus. And with respect to your comment on the number of pilots and what you're seeing in the market, it is absolutely. We've seen a handful of customers that have moved forward without a pilot based on our reference and this is why references are important. But most customers, because the technology is new, are doing pilots. And this is no different than what we saw over the last 20 or 30 years that we've rolled out new technologies to the process industries. I just want to -- the only other thing that I would highlight is that in AspenTech, we're focused on the application of AI on predictive equipment failure as opposed to IoT platforms, which is really setting up a data infrastructure and so on. So but yes, no, pilots are a common thing at the moment.

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Gowrishankar Subramanian, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - VP [27]

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Got it. So just one question on the product side. I know you're getting a lot of deals on Mtell, and that seems to be the workhorse in terms of APM wins, but in the survey, we also picked up the root cause analytics and Fidelis as being another important use case. Can you talk about how the adoption is trending for other products within the APM suite?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [28]

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Yes. So -- and Thank you for that question because it's also a good one. So in the prepared remarks, I talked about ProMV and really ProMV online. So in the APM suite, we've had ProMV off-line, which is an engineer can get some data, do an analysis of the data and then based on that analysis, go and manually take some action. The version that was released is an online version, which is basically you can then put the technology online, stream data continuously through the product. The product is able to detect deviations in the preparation of a batch or product and based on that detection of a deviation then take corrective action to put that batch back in -- on the right track, if you will. We believe that the online version of ProMV will accelerate the adoption of that product, and we actually -- again, there was a soft launch of Version 11 in early March. We closed the first couple of site licenses for ProMV. I talked about one of those deals in the vignette, but we're very -- we have a lot of expectations about the acceleration of the ProMV business. And then Fidelis, we're working on the integration of Fidelis with our engineering suite, and we believe that will also help that product get better traction in the market.

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Operator [29]

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Our next question comes from Steve Koenig of Wedbush.

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Steven Richard Koenig, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD [30]

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I'll hit you guys with both of my questions upfront at once here, just 2 quick ones. First one is, I'm particularly interested in the multisite deal for the pharmaceutical company with Mtell, as we look forward to more multisite Mtell type deals. If you could maybe give us some more color on what were the enablers there? And are those enablers relevant to other customers? And then just to finish it off, my other question would be perhaps you explained this and I just didn't understand but maybe more color on the work you're doing to integrate the APM alarms into planning and scheduling. What does that do for your customers? And what kind of specific actions does that facilitate?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [31]

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Thank you. All right. So look, on the multisite pharma customer, so first of all, Mtell is agnostic to equipment or industry -- is machine learning capabilities and you can feed it data from any type of equipment. So we start with our premise. In pharmaceutical, certainly, this customer has a medicine that is delivered via an atomizer into your mouth, and they are full out on demand, basically they have a lot more demand than the supply that they can generate. So -- but also, the manufacturing line, these filling machines in the packing plants, the equipment was failing often, and when you're maxed out on what you can supply to the market, then a failure means a lot of revenue and profitability. So they were looking for technology to predict when this equipment was going to fail, and this has been a long-time customer of AspenTech. We introduced him to Mtell. We did a pilot and based on that pilot, really that was completed about a year ago. Now they've rolled out the technology to -- it's going to be a seventh site now. But a similar case exists across other pharmaceutical companies and the fact that we have another pharmaceutical company already with that technology. The one thing I would say as well about pharmaceutical companies is that ProMV is specifically developed for the type of batch processes that you find in pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals. So we expect pharmaceutical companies to be big customers in the ProMV area. And then your second question around integrating...

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Steven Richard Koenig, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD [32]

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Yes, integrating APM alarms into planning and scheduling?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [33]

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Yes, yes, integrating. So look, that -- now that we have predictive capabilities around equipment failure, this is a sort of no-brainer because normally in a refinery or ethylene plant, when you come up with a plan and that is done on a sort of weekly basis, a forward-looking plan for a month, and you're making crude oil purchases decisions on that basis, you want to execute that plan as close as possible to the plan because that's the optimum. That plan you break it down into schedule and the schedule actually is a set of instructions on how you're going to operate your refinery. But if you don't know that a piece of equipment is going to fail and then it fails, then it basically -- then you have to reschedule and possibly replan because you were hit with a failure. If you then have the ability to know when a critical equipment is going to fail in your refinery or chemical plant, then you can use that information as a feed forward to your planning function or a scaling function so that then you can proactively plan around it or schedule around it. And that alone can represent millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars in revenue and profitability. And like that, there are many cases in refining and chemicals where we'll start seeing the synergies from integrating APM capabilities into engineering, into MSC, but also embedding AI capabilities in general in our engineering and MSC products, and that's an area that we're going to research in and will talk about it at OPTIMIZE. We're very excited about it. But yes, I know, alarming of potential failures into planning and scheduling is going to open up a whole area of new profitability.

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Operator [34]

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Our next question comes from Gal Munda of Berenberg.

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Unidentified Analyst, [35]

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This is actually [France] on for Gal. We just have one quick question about your APM business. So we just wanted to know how do you plan to compete in a market with lots of competitors who claim to be able to provide a similar service and maintain comparable margins to that of your core business.

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [36]

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Well, I mean, look, I'd say for 35 years, we've been competing against companies that are claimed to have the same capabilities that we have in our products, use software as a loss leader because they're more interested in selling hardware than software. And in that context, we've been able to maintain the -- to achieve the market leadership position that we have achieved with the margins that we have. In APM, we believe we have very competitive technology. When we talk about pilots and bake-offs and competitive evaluations, that's against those companies that you're referring to. And they also tend to use price as a competitive tool as opposed to the value creation. We're striving to maintain the pricing that we believe is -- equates to the value that the product is generating. And time will tell, but at the same time, this is a total wide space where there -- initially, there's opportunity for a lot of people and over time, I think the leadership -- the leaders will separate from the laggards and we'll see what happens. But we're very confident about what we're seeing.

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Operator [37]

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Our next question comes from Jason Celino of KeyBanc.

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Jason Vincent Celino, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Associate [38]

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Really one around APM. So it seems like that business is doing really well, and you're building your pipelines and you might be adding some capacity this year directly. But as I kind of take a step back and look at where we were a year ago, you were, kind of, building out your distribution channels, you added Emerson, you had a number of resellers and SI partners. I think last quarter you said that GEIs was 10% of, kind of, the pipeline but going forward as we think about over the next year, I mean, could -- it seems like we're kind of reaching an inflection point. I mean do you kind of agree with that from like a capacity standpoint?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [39]

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Well. Yes, I mean one -- we've been very careful about not getting ahead of our skis on APM. We like what we're seeing. We like the pipeline that we see into the future. We like how the business is developing, and the risk here is to fall behind on investments. So we've made the decision to put -- basically put in place additional investment as to capture the opportunity. I think if what you mean by inflection point is that we are now crossing the chasm, I don't think we're there yet, but certainly closer than we were 18 months ago. But we feel good about what we're seeing.

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Jason Vincent Celino, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Associate [40]

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Okay. And then last question around APM. As we look at the use cases and the pricing for some of the savings that you're driving, I mean do you have any updates on how you are looking to maybe evolve pricing over time?

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Antonio J. Pietri, Aspen Technology, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [41]

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Well, I mean, look at -- from the very beginning, so while initially, we thought we'd go to tokens by machine, we quickly figured out that, that wasn't the right pricing model. So we went to site licensing for Mtell and for ProMV as well and Fidelis. And really from the beginning, we established what we thought was going to be fair pricing in the market for our customers based on the value we would create and for AspenTech as well. We've tried to maintain that pricing initially. Certainly, we were keen on getting some references, and we achieved that, and those references have worked wonderfully. But as we go to market, we are going with the pricing that we originally estimated was fair. This customer that I talked about the first 7-figure deal, 8-figure total booking value that's pricing representative of what we initially felt was proper pricing, and that customer if we were to go to an enterprise deal, the APM suite would become the largest portion of their spend with AspenTech. So we're satisfied with the value we're getting in the market at the moment, and we'll see how things develop.

All right. Well, I think that was the last set of questions. So appreciate everyone joining and look forward to certainly see hopefully all of you or as many of you at OPTIMIZE 2019 in Houston, May 13 through the 16 and then when we attend investor conferences and we do another road show. So thank you, everyone.

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Operator [42]

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This concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.