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Edited Transcript of NATI.OQ earnings conference call or presentation 28-Jan-21 10:00pm GMT

·42 min read

Q4 2020 National Instruments Corp Earnings Call AUSTIN Jan 29, 2021 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of National Instruments Corp earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, January 28, 2021 at 10:00:00pm GMT TEXT version of Transcript ================================================================================ Corporate Participants ================================================================================ * Eric Howard Starkloff National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director * Karen M. Rapp National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer * Marissa Vidaurri National Instruments Corporation - Head of IR ================================================================================ Conference Call Participants ================================================================================ * John Warren Marchetti Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst * Joseph Lima Cardoso JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst * Mark Trevor Delaney Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Research Division - Equity Analyst * Mehdi Hosseini Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division - Senior Analyst * Richard Charles Eastman Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst ================================================================================ Presentation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the NI's Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to hand the conference to your speaker today, Marissa Vidaurri, Head of Investor Relations. Please go ahead, ma'am. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Marissa Vidaurri, National Instruments Corporation - Head of IR [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good afternoon. Thank you for joining our Q4 2020 earnings call. I'm joined today by Eric Starkloff, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Karen Rapp, Chief Financial Officer. We will start with an update on our performance in the fourth quarter and for the year before opening up for your questions. Our discussion today will include forward-looking statements, including statements regarding future growth and profitability, our focus, plans, objectives, strategies, targets, goals, growth rate and other models, commitments, position, estimates, capital allocation plans, dividend, expense management plans, charges, revenue and earnings guidance, operating expense guidance, estimated tax rate and our outlook. We wish to caution you that such statements are just predictions and that the actual events or results may differ materially and could be negatively impacted by numerous factors, including any uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic and further economic and market disruptions resulting from COVID-19, any further weakness in the global economy and changes in the current global trade regulatory environment. We refer you to the documents that the company files regularly with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the company's annual report on Form 10-K filed on February 20, 2020 and the company's quarterly report on Form 10-Q filed on November 2, 2020. These documents contain and identify important factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those contained in our forward-looking statements. We assume no duty to update any forward-looking statements to conform the statement to actual results or changes in our expectations. A reconciliation of our non-GAAP financial measures disclosed in this call to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures or related disclosures are contained in our press release and on ni.com/nati. Non-GAAP revenue is defined as GAAP revenue adjusted to exclude the impact of purchase accounting fair value adjustments. Also, when we're referencing China in this presentation, unless otherwise stated, we mean China plus Hong Kong. And lastly, a reminder that NI management will be hosting meetings at the Goldman Sachs technology conference next month. Please visit ni.com/nati for presentation time. With that, I will turn the call over to Chief Executive Officer, Eric Starkloff. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, Marissa. Good afternoon, and I appreciate everyone joining us today, and I hope that you and your families are doing well and staying safe. I am very proud of our execution in the fourth quarter and a strong close to a challenging year. Revenue in the fourth quarter exceeded the high end of guidance and was an all-time record for quarterly revenue. We saw positive sequential and year-over-year order growth across all regions and orders across all business units were up sequentially. Now being the leader in our space and transforming the business requires bold moves. We've been transforming NI by strengthening our commitment to innovation, building upon our strong position in software through additional data and analytics, focusing on systems to increase our share of wallet, monetizing services to enhance the support of our systems and streamlining our processes to gain leverage and scale with our broad-based customers. 2020 was a stress test for our strategy, and it proved to be strong. The areas where we have focus showed strength and our momentum increased throughout the year. We remain committed to our 3-year financial model, and the momentum seen in Q4 brings me additional confidence as we enter the new year. We will remain focused on accelerating our strategy for growth, executing on our business goals, winning in our markets and delivering increased value to all stakeholders. A part of our strategy is to build on our existing strength in software and to increase our software revenue from approximately 20% of our total revenue today to 30% or more by 2025, shifting towards primarily recurring or subscription based software. We believe our long-term growth will be accelerated by the elevation of our software position through new offerings, particularly at the enterprise level. In Q4, we saw growth in software revenue up sequentially and up year-over-year, with continued strong growth in enterprise agreements, which grew 24% year-over-year. We continue to focus on expanding our system-level offerings to provide a higher level starting point for our customers and increase our share of wallet. This also provides us an opportunity to monetize our recurring services. As we have elevated our engagements with customers to meet these needs, we have continued to invest in experienced sales and support staff. Significant growth in our largest accounts are orders over $20,000 and our opportunity pipeline are all a result of these investments. Our orders over $20,000 grew year-over-year and sequentially in Q4 and represented approximately 67% of our orders and value. Semiconductor is the most mature of our focus areas and where our system offerings have been most successful, and we believe this system success can be replicated across the business to accelerate growth. Now turning to our results by industry. Semiconductor represented approximately 17% of total revenue in 2020. Semiconductor orders were up double digits year-over-year in Q4 and up sequentially from Q3 2020, representing a record year. Despite China geopolitical and trade tensions, the semiconductor market in China was strong and a driver of growth. We are seeing increased adoption of our RF test capability as a result of 5G, including new production test and lab wins at key semiconductor accounts. With the addition of OptimalPlus, we can now leverage this technology as the underlying platform for our new connected life cycle and analytics solution, focused on supporting our customers' needs throughout their product development flow using software and data. There are commonalities in the supply chains of our semiconductor and electronics customers. Therefore, starting in Q1 of 2021, we are shifting our electronics business from the portfolio BU to create these semiconductor and electronics BU. Transportation represented approximately 13% of total revenue in 2020. Transportation orders were down low single digits year-over-year in Q4. Despite headwinds from continued COVID-19 shutdowns, particularly in Europe, we began to see positive impacts from recovery in vehicle production in the fourth quarter. Total orders were up mid-double digits sequentially with strong momentum in all regions. We believe the vehicle production recovery will serve as a tailwind to our business, in addition to fueling increased investments in key trends of electrification and active safety systems, where we continue to see strong growth. These areas of focus for NI saw strong double-digit revenue growth year-over-year in Q4 and high single-digit revenue growth year-over-year in 2020 despite the challenging headwinds in this industry. The continued success in these high-growth trends, we recently announced a strategic agreement with Konrad Technologies, an expert in systems integration and solution delivery for ADAS tests. Together, we plan to deliver new technologies to help automotive suppliers and OEMs leverage massive amounts of real-world data, which can better help our customers improve vehicle and passenger safety as the shift to autonomous driving accelerates. Aerospace, Defense and Government, or ADG, represented approximately 26% of total revenue in 2020. ADG orders were up double digits year-over-year in Q4 and sequentially with growth across all 3 regions. We continue to capitalize on a relatively steady spending environment, particularly in the U.S., and expect it to continue to be robust in 2021. In addition, we believe our recently announced strategic collaborations with SET and Tech180, experts in aerospace and defense test systems, will help accelerate our ability to deliver solution level value for customers in this space. Portfolio represented approximately 44% of total revenue in 2020. In Q4, orders in our portfolio business were up low single digits year-over-year and up double digits sequentially, supported by the recent recovery in the global economy. This represents the highest year-over-year order growth for our portfolio business in 9 quarters. We believe this is indicative of the strengthening macro economy as well as traction in key growth initiatives we focused on in 2020. A key part of that focus is to continue to drive scale and efficiency in serving our broad-based customers. Our strategy to streamline the process of doing business with NI means both reducing our costs and improving the experience for the large number of smaller accounts we serve. We believe redirecting these customers to a more self-service model is better scaled to their needs. This will require continued investment in ni.com and the increased use of distribution partners to expand reach to current and new customers. We believe this shift will maximize the value of our experienced direct sales force and allow them to continue to focus on proactive engagements with accounts where we can deliver enterprise level value through software and systems. This month, Farnell, an Avnet company and global distributor of electronic components and solutions joined our expanding network of distributors. Their product portfolio will now include NI software connected test and measurement solutions Farnell offers direct sales and technical support globally, and we are excited about the value their scale and capability brings to our customers. Now I'd like to shift to an organization update. Carla Piñeyro Sublett, NI's CMO and GM of our portfolio business, will be leaving NI to pursue the role of CMO of IBM, next month. This next step in her career reflects not only her individual contributions and leadership capabilities, but also the incredible work of our teams. She led the marketing organization to a brand refresh and modernization and most recently partnered with the portfolio leadership team to bring a fresh perspective to our focus and opportunity in this portion of our business. I'm confident in the ability of the strong leadership team that succeeds Carla. To ensure focus on the most critical areas of our business, increased agility and clear accountability to drive growth and profitability, I am making additional changes to my executive leadership team effective immediately. Ritu Favre will be promoted to Executive Vice President overseeing our transportation and aerospace, defense and government business units, in addition to her current role leading the semiconductor and electronics business. These will each remain separate business units. As a seasoned high-tech industry leader and previous CEO of a public company, she is the ideal leader to drive these businesses forward for long-term growth. In addition, Jason Green will be promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer, overseeing our sales and marketing teams as well as our portfolio business unit. The focus to unlock the synergies between sales and marketing and our portfolio business as well as driving the changes in our go-to-market approach for our broad-based customers, aligns well with Jason's keen understanding of our customers and his focus on driving return on investment. I look forward to partnering with them both as we look to accelerate growth and win in the market. With that, I'd like to turn the call over to our Chief Financial Officer, Karen Rapp, before closing with a few comments. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Eric. Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. As you heard from Eric, we ended the year strong with momentum going into 2021. For Q4, we reported GAAP revenue of $368 million, a record for a quarter and above the high end of guidance shared on October 29, 2020. We also saw record quarterly non-GAAP revenue of $370 million, up 20% sequentially. For the full year 2020, I'm pleased to announce that we achieved the targets we shared at our investor conference in August. Revenue was $1.3 billion, down 5% year-over-year and in line with our expectations. Our 2020 non-GAAP gross margin was 75%, and non-GAAP operating margin was 15.7%, ahead of the model we shared in August and up 170 basis points from 2017 when we had similar revenue, demonstrating the focus we have had on driving efficiency in our cost structure. In the fourth quarter, total orders were up 7% year-over-year. Orders under $20,000 were down 4% year-over-year and up 12% sequentially, which aligned with our expectations of Q3 being the low point of the recession. Orders over $20,000 were up 13% year-over-year and up 41% sequentially, continuing to demonstrate the success of our strategy to provide higher level solutions for our customers through systems and software. We reported positive sequential and year-over-year order growth across all regions. In the Americas, orders were up 7% year-over-year. Orders in EMEA were up 2% year-over-year, and orders in Asia Pacific were up 10% year-over-year. Despite the previously discussed headwinds, orders were up 19% year-over-year in China, driven by an increase in government stimulus and our focus on the growing number of semiconductor customers in this fragmented market. Non-GAAP gross margin in Q4 was 74.2%. We continue to see about 60 basis points of impact from additional costs related to COVID-19. Services has been an accretive growth area for us, and we will continue to focus on monetizing the services we provide and leveraging our services expertise to drive high-value system sales. This operational change shifted approximately $3 million from operating expenses to cost of goods sold in Q4 on a year-over-year basis, but had no impact on our operating margin. Non-GAAP gross margin was 74.6% in 2020, continuing to demonstrate the value of our brand and the benefits our platform and systems provide to our customers. We reported Q4 2020 GAAP net income of $4.7 million and diluted earnings per share of $0.04 per share, just above the midpoint of our guidance shared on October 29, 2020. GAAP earnings per share includes higher restructuring charges than previously expected, primarily due to the acceleration of exit timing in some locations. Q4 non-GAAP net income was $67 million, and diluted non-GAAP earnings per share was $0.51, exceeding the high point -- the high end of our previous guidance. Our balance sheet remains strong. We ended the quarter with $320 million in cash and investments and $221 million in net cash after debt. For the year, our cash flow from operations was $181 million, representing 14% of revenue. I believe this consistent and solid result demonstrates the benefit of the diversity and resiliency of our business model. Our capital allocation priorities remain clear and unchanged. We plan to continue to invest in innovation and technology to stay ahead of the needs of our customers and deliver a world-class customer experience. Dividends remain a priority. In Q4, we paid $34 million in dividends. The NI Board of Directors approved a dividend of $0.27 per share payable on March 1, 2021 to stockholders of record on February 8, 2021. This represents an increase of 4% per share. We will continue to be opportunistic with share repurchases. In the fourth quarter, we returned $9.5 million to shareholders through repurchases of 275,000 shares of our common stock at an average price of $34.39 per share. Shareholder returns in the form of dividends and share repurchase totaled $185 million in 2020. We view our strong cash position as not only a way to provide returns for our shareholders through dividends and opportunistic share repurchase but also for strategic investments for long-term growth and stability. Our M&A funnel is focused on opportunities aligned to our strategy, where we can leverage additional technologies across the business and acquire industry-specific technology or expertise, both serving as strategic accelerators to help us achieve our 2023 financial model faster. We're pleased with the efficiency and progress of the OptimalPlus integration. The synergy with our strategy, technology and industries of focus is clear. A priority of the acquisition was to accelerate our opportunity in enterprise level product analytics. We have aligned our technology road maps to leverage the OptimalPlus platform. We're already seeing new and expanded sales opportunities for OptimalPlus products and our new combined offerings. We have integrated operations across the company to help drive efficiency and support revenue growth as this business scales up in 2021 and beyond. As mentioned last quarter because the OptimalPlus technology will be integrated within the NI platform and channel and the revised offerings will combine NI and OptimalPlus technology, we do not intend to break out financial details specific to OptimalPlus. Now for additional color on the shift of our Electronics business. In 2020, Electronics represented approximately 8% of total revenue. The growth for Electronics is not expected to be as high as our semiconductor business, but we remain committed to the long-term growth targets shared at our August investor conference. Shifting to a view of 2021. We previously modeled Q3 2020 as the trough of the recession, and we're encouraged by the sequential improvement and strong Q4 results as we enter Q1. 2021 to date, we continue to see year-over-year bookings growth across all business units, with an especially strong start to the year in Asia Pacific and a more challenging environment in EMEA. As Eric mentioned, we've been transforming our business for scale and to reach our full potential in the market. Innovation continues to be a top priority, with R&D investments aligned to systems and enterprise software. We continue to focus on our investments on higher growth opportunities, where we believe our leadership in software, product analytics and automation is highly differentiated. Our shift in strategy requires strategic investment, some of which has been self-funded through efficiency gains, utilizing shared service centers, centers of excellence and low-cost geographies. And restructuring to better align resources to the most critical areas of our business for long-term success. Other investments include areas like IT infrastructure to support selling complete systems, support of a distribution model for our broad-based customers, an investment in e-commerce to enable an enhanced digital and self-service experience for all our customers. We're also building a higher-performing culture with a focus on retaining our top talent and recruiting external expertise where needed to accelerate our strategy. As we look forward, we remain committed to our long-term financial model targets and believe our goal of delivering a consistent compound annual growth rate of 9% revenue growth with 20% operating margin by 2023, which serve as a proof point to the value received from these investments. Now on to guidance. For the first quarter of 2021, we currently expect GAAP revenue to be in the range of $324 million to $354 million. We expect total non-GAAP revenue, which adjusts for the impact of purchase accounting fair value adjustments to be in the range of $325 million to $355 million. At the midpoint, this represents 10% year-over-year revenue growth versus Q1 2020. We're cautiously optimistic as we look forward, but we recognize that the recovery from a global pandemic may lead to different seasonality than we experienced normally. The test and measurement space tends to grow at approximately the rate of GDP, which is currently estimated at approximately 5% for 2021 according to the IMF World Economic Outlook survey. We believe that we can grow beyond this GDP estimate in 2021. We expect GAAP -- we expect Q1 GAAP operating expenses to be down approximately 4% sequentially and up approximately 10% year-over-year. We expect Q1 non-GAAP operating expenses to be up approximately 5% from Q4 2020 due to currency headwinds and plans for increased variable pay to employees in 2021. Also due to the pandemic, we delayed merit increases from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021. We expect Q1 non-GAAP operating expenses to be up approximately 6% year-over-year. Year-over-year increases are also driven by the addition of OptimalPlus. We expect GAAP diluted earnings per share will be in the range of minus $0.05 to $0.09 for Q1 with non-GAAP diluted earnings per share expected to be in the range of $0.24 to $0.38, an increase of 20% year-over-year at the midpoint. For Q1, GAAP earnings per share guidance includes pretax charges of approximately $0.05 of final onetime integration charges related to the OptimalPlus acquisition and $0.05 for remaining restructuring charges from our Q4 restructuring announcement. We expect minimal additional restructuring charges for the remainder of 2021. In summary, we delivered record Q4 revenue and closed the year strong. This is a testament to the hard work and adaptability of all our employees globally. I believe this is also indicative of the stability provided by our broad customer base and industry diversity, the value customers see in our innovative platform and the strength of our operational efficiency. We will continue to align resources to what we believe are higher growth opportunities while working to reduce costs in pursuit of our long-term financial model, and we believe our strong balance sheet puts us in a position of strength to capitalize on inorganic investments to help accelerate growth. Now I'd like to turn the call back over to Eric for some closing comments. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, Karen. Reflecting on the challenges of 2020, I'm extremely proud of our ability to adapt and remain focused on our long-term potential while executing in the short term during circumstances no one could have predicted. The areas of our business we have focused on strategically showed growth. And though the global economy proved to be a headwind, we continue to see stability across our business. I believe this is proof that our strategy is working. As we've seen all too vividly in the past year, the work of our customers drives critical, often life-changing innovations. I believe we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us to improve that work, to help them bring their products to market faster with more efficiency and better quality. Although the market remains dynamic, I am optimistic and believe we enter 2021 poised to accelerate growth. I firmly believe that when we as a business unite towards a common goal, we will be well positioned to meet or exceed those expectations. We achieved the 2020 financial targets shared at our investor conference in August, and we remain committed to our 2023 financial model. We have and will take a broad range of actions to accelerate growth. We will continue to hire critical expertise, make investments aligned to our (inaudible) strategy and continue to view our strong balance sheet as a way to leverage inorganic investments as strategic accelerators to help us achieve our growth targets faster and across a broader range of customers. We also believe that doing good is good for our business. Early next month, we will release our first ever corporate impact strategy report that outlines how we'll drive the positive change NI and our customers can create in the world. It includes important goals and focus areas to guide our work and will measure our progress towards creating a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive world. And it will embody our mantra of engineer ambitiously. And finally, I want to recognize all of our global employees for your resiliency in an extraordinary year. I challenged you all to come through this environment stronger, and that's exactly what you did. I'm immensely proud of the work you have done together and your support of the incredible work of our customers. I look forward to what's in-store for the coming year and the opportunity to work alongside all of you to make it happen. With that, we'll now take your questions. ================================================================================ Questions and Answers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Samik Chatterjee with JP Morgan. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph Lima Cardoso, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is Joe Cardoso on for Samik. My first question is around the profile business. So I guess what I'm trying to understand is the strategic actions that you guys referenced. Can you kind of dive into what strategic actions you've taken thus far? And what other actions you guys have to take going further in the future? And then I guess my second question is just around operating expenses, taking a big jump in 1Q. Just trying to understand how we should think about OpEx trending through the remainder of the year as it relates to typical seasonality? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. Joe, I'm going to take the first one, and then Karen is going to take the second one. So portfolio BU, yes, the way I think of that is, as I mentioned, so the nearest term is that, that business has been pretty correlated to economic indices. So I commented on that in the prepared remarks. And certainly, we've seen improvement with Q4 going into positive territory for the first time in 9 quarters. And that continuing into Q1 so far. In terms of the actions we're taking, first and foremost is really about the go-to-market motions with that business unit. It's got a very broad set of customers, and we see opportunity to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our sales and marketing channel. And so things that we're doing in terms of our website with ni.com with the distribution actions we're taking, have a disproportionate impact on that portfolio of BU. So that's a big focus in the shorter term. Now in the longer term, we're also working on things that we will do to essentially make the products fit better into those channels, if you will. So these are incremental improvements to our products, to improve their ease of use, to make them easier to buy, easier to use, easier to support. And we see increased opportunity in our software position in that space and through more subscription-based models in the way that we serve those set of users. And Karen... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, for the operating expense, yes, the way to maybe think about that is in 2020 was a pretty unique year. I would -- as I build out models, I would go back and look at 2019 and the profile of operating expense across the quarters in 2019 to build out a 2021 model that looks more like a normal type of years. Now that assumes that 2021 is going to return to a normal type of year, but that's how I'm looking at it at this point for the year. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Joseph Lima Cardoso, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Got it. And if I could just throw one clarification on the profile question. Just to confirm, in your guys strategic decisions, you're not looking in terms of walking away from any markets that you might see more growth there. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No. No, this is an important part of the business. It's pretty tied in from a product and platform point of view with the rest of the company. So it's really about how do we most efficiently serve those customers and how do we make incremental investments that will improve the growth opportunity over time. That's the focus. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from John Marchetti with Stifel. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Warren Marchetti, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst [8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric, I was wondering if you could comment for a minute on bringing the electronics business into that semiconductor segment. That's obviously been a growth engine for the company for a while now in semiconductor. And I've always thought of that as a fairly close knit group of customers that you are very, very closely aligned with in terms of how you're bringing product to market and meeting those needs there. I'm curious as you bring the electronics piece in, which obviously is growing slower as well, what are some of kind of the puts and takes that we should be thinking about? And if that really significantly broadens out the customer base that, that segment now reaches. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [9] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. Good question, John. So yes, let me describe a little bit of the logic of the synergies between them. So first and foremost, the actual measurement challenges and test challenges have a lot of synergy between electronics and semiconductor, the same type of measurements that are done. So we see alignment there. And then alignment and sort of the way we serve those customers from a sales and support point of view. You're right that the -- it's a bit broader set of customers. There's a larger number of customers in Electronics. It's been growing, but not growing as fast. But the other trend that leads us to that is that you see a lot of the larger electronics companies doing more of their semiconductor in-house. So there actually is some synergy and overlap that comes from the way that we're serving those accounts. And then on the other side of the equation, if you will, it does make our portfolio BU more of a pure play to the broad base and we think that kind of hones in and focuses our strategy a bit more in the ways that I just described to Joe in the last question. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Warren Marchetti, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst [10] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Got it. Okay. And then if I can just follow-up very quickly on the semiconductor business overall. It sounded like China, in particular, outperformed expectations from a quarter ago. And I'm curious as you're looking for where you're standing now and into '21, how you think that China piece of the semiconductor business continues to perform? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [11] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So it did -- as we mentioned, China performed very well overall in Q4 at 19% growth, and we've seen continued strength in Q1 to date in APAC overall. And semi is a big piece of that. Now there's a lot of moving pieces, to be honest, in terms of China. As we've highlighted in the past, we have trade tensions and restrictions, but then there's also an economic recovery really taking hold in APAC and in China. There is a stimulus that's going on, which does affect semiconductor as well. So there's a large investment in new semiconductor companies in China that we think is a tailwind, certainly right now and going forward. And then really proud of the execution of our team. So it's been a dynamic environment. And certainly, they've had to adjust to a lot of change. And one of the areas, in particular, is in the semiconductor space the work that we've done to position ourselves with the literally thousands of semiconductor startups that are -- have emerged in China that need software, connected, test equipment and so forth. So really proud of the execution of the teams there as well. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [12] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Richard Eastman with Baird. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Richard Charles Eastman, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [13] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. John or Karen, could you just reconcile for a minute, we talked a little bit about the portfolio products business, and I think the reference was order growth was low single digits year-over-year. And when you look at the order growth in orders under $20,000, it looks like maybe that was down 4% year-over-year. Is there something to reconcile there? I think the portfolio of products is falling into that category, but there's a pretty big delta there between maybe the low single-digit growth and minus 4% that was reflected. Am I doing the right math here? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [14] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. There's actually -- the orders under $20,000 go across all of our business units. So our portfolio has the highest percentage of them. Portfolio also has a significant piece of the orders over $20,000. So you can't correlate them exactly like that. Because every one of the businesses is now -- I think we've laid that out -- we've got some of that information previously, but semiconductor has the least amount of the under $20,000 business, transportation and ADG have similar amounts kind of in 40% or so. And then portfolio was the higher percent 50-ish percent or so of the under $20,000 business. I'd have to go back and get the exact numbers for you on that, Rick. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [15] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rick I also comment that -- exactly what Karen said. The -- certainly, we did see a lot of sequential improvement on both order sizes, right? So the under $20,000 business improved significantly sequentially. So that did reflect in portfolio BU. But as she said, there's also over $20,000 business, which obviously grew and put it into positive territory. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Richard Charles Eastman, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [16] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I see. Okay. Okay. Fair enough. So Eric, the order cadence through January, is that kind of support that midpoint revenue growth? Because again -- in your orders, you have some software some deferral -- deferred revenue there. It doesn't all fast turns, quick turns type stuff. But just curious, is the midpoint supported by the book and ship or the order cadence through January? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [17] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Rick, if it's okay, I'll take that one. The guidance actually builds in the expectation that we do plan to build some backlog in Q1. We're seeing -- -- you may have seen in some of the other companies that you're following, there's some supply constraints right now going on across the supply chain. And so we've lived through this before. We can mitigate a lot of that with the inventory position that we hold. But there's potential to be 1 or 2 components we aren't able to get or lead times push out and they push out beyond the quarter. So we have built some expected backlog build into the guidance, specifically on the hardware side in that case. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Richard Charles Eastman, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [18] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Okay. And then just my last question here. As we look at maybe the adjusted op profit for '21, again, given how we finish '20, the '23 maybe plan, the business plan or at least the goals there would suggest if you straight-line the trajectory towards the goal there for '23, it would suggest that maybe the target for adjusted op profit is somewhere in the 16% to 17% range. And again, there's going to be a lot of flex here with how revenue turns out. So I totally understand that. But is that still kind of -- midpoint being 16.5, is that still maybe a realistic goal here as we move towards our '23 target? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [19] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Specifically for 2021, you're talking beyond Q1 now, right, as you're looking at... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Richard Charles Eastman, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [20] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, I'm just talking for the full year, that would be in the range if we look at the trajectory towards '23 is adjusted op profit goal that you laid out. And if I just straight-line the improvement off of '20, I'm going to end up with about 1.5 points of adjusted op profit margin. And it would seem that again at least with the first quarter start of 10% sales growth at the midpoint, that maybe that's a realistic way to think of a target for '21. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [21] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. The Q1 guide, for example, increases operating income year-over-year for the quarter for Q1. So I think you can kind of build out a model that does that throughout the rest of the year, depending on as you said, it's going to determine -- it's going to be determined by what revenue does for the year. But yes, I mean, our expectation is to continue to build toward that 20%. And we talk about it we're committed to that model. And a lot of what we're focused on is how to accelerate that model. So we'll be working towards getting there faster than 2023 as possible. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [22] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, and just one other comment on that thread, Rick. Certainly, as you noted, coming in, in Q1, the midpoint of the guidance is 10% revenue growth, 20% earnings growth. That's building confidence, frankly, in the 3-year model. And our ability to hit the commitments that we've shared. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Richard Charles Eastman, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [23] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And just if I draw that -- again, just draw out the trajectory here, if we look at what would be typical seasonality in 2020 year, again, we should get -- we should build off the 10% revenue growth, at least, I would think, in Q2, Q3 [just because] of the pothole that we're passing over there and the current order momentum. Is that a reasonable expectation? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Karen M. Rapp, National Instruments Corporation - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [24] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. It's hard to look out even that far. At this point, right? This is a new experience coming off of pandemic like this that still isn't honestly over. But I'm a little hesitant on the normal seasonality at this point, especially, Q4 will be a tougher compare for sure after the strength we saw coming out of the end of 2020. I'm just encouraged by the starting point 2021. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Richard Charles Eastman, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [25] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Sure. Okay. All right. Yes, as am I with the guidance. And this is last, I promise. Eric, the strategic partnerships that we've been kind of tracking here over the last literally almost few months and certainly the fourth quarter. You had this autonomous driving one with Konrad. You have a semiconductor with Soliton, this A&D with SET. Just maybe just a couple of thoughts on this does this bring in some systems and solutions capabilities? Is this kind of a buy or partnership versus build internally? And given that these are already NI partners, how do we accelerate the growth with these partnerships in solutions in semi, A&D and autonomous driving? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [26] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. No, Rick, you're thinking of it right. I mean, this is really about us, first and foremost, in our strategy, identifying the secular growth trends that we're focused on to deliver these higher level capabilities. And then it really is where can we utilize existing partnerships or even new partnerships and really build -- when we talk about these strategic ones that I highlighted, it is a coordinated sort of development and go-to-market of some specific technology around systems that serve those areas of focus. So it is a way to accelerate delivery of those systems and solutions into the areas where we're focused, exactly what it is. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [27] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Mehdi Hosseini with SIG. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mehdi Hosseini, Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division - Senior Analyst [28] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When I look at your product revenue and compare it to software, it seems like software is gaining momentum, especially as you capitalize on OptimalPlus acquisition, but I still need some additional color as to how to think about the mix. As you scale Optimal should we expect software revenue to continue to outperform product? Or would there be additional opportunity that you can capitalize on? And in that context, how should I think about the mix for 2021 compared to 2020? And I have a follow-up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [29] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Mehdi, it's Eric. Yes. So software, as I've said, it's a very strategic part of the business. We view it as building on an existing strength. And we do expect that to be a higher percentage of mix over the next several years. We've laid out a pretty long-term goal of a sort of a 5-year trajectory to 30% of revenue. And that's, of course, also assuming the top line is growing overall. It is influenced certainly by OptimalPlus. It's not only OptimalPlus. We have a number of different organic investments as well of building out new offerings. In our software capability, we see those gaining traction and have expectations that, that will be, yes, a higher percentage over time. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mehdi Hosseini, Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division - Senior Analyst [30] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. Okay. And then one follow-up. I remember the last time we were at your user group, ADAS was a growth driver -- a long-term growth driver. And since then, the whole evolution of electric vehicle, which I think is a driver behind ADAS has taken off. And now there is more of a organized effort by the other industry to migrate that way. And I'm trying to reconcile that with benefits to NI. And is this something that we still have to wait? Is it more of like a part of the 5-year target? Or are you beginning to see incremental benefit? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [31] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Good question. So we're seeing significant growth in both electrification and active safety or ADAS. Those are the 2 main growth drivers or focus areas within our transportation area. They grew in 2020 despite the headwinds in the industry, and it is our expectation that they will grow and be a bigger part of the mix. We are bullish on the long-term opportunity in transportation for that reason. We view this as kind of early innings of what's going to be a [sea] change in that industry. You may have seen today, GM announced that by 2035, they will only have zero emissions vehicles. This is going to be a significant change, and that level of technology change requires this sort of software-centric approach that we provide, it requires significant amounts of testing and validation. And we think that, that's going to be an opportunity for years to come. And so we are focused in this time frame in 2021 on wins and sockets of our test platform in those opportunities. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mehdi Hosseini, Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division - Senior Analyst [32] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Got it. And then just one final question for me. I'm going to go back to the change in management or leadership. I joined the call as you were discussing it. Are those changes driven by market dynamics? Or is that just fine-tuning the teams? I think it's been a little bit more than a year since you took the leadership. And I'm just trying to see how you're managing different portfolios of products and services and markets and how you're recalibrating? And is that reflected in the change in management? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [33] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. Sure. So I got 3 days until my 1-year anniversary comes up, getting close. So yes, the -- these are sort of incremental moves on my leadership team, and they're reflective of a couple of things. One is, as I mentioned, with portfolio, on one hand, there's a continuity of strategy. We have been doing a lot of work with the existing leadership team, focusing on some of the areas that I discussed in the beginning of the Q&A. And then I see an opportunity and aligning that with -- pretty closely with our marketing and sales organization. I described that as the sort of nearest term lever. And so combining that under Jason's leadership makes sense from an execution and driving the performance. And then Ritu [I brought her] into the organization a few years ago, as I mentioned, she had significant external expertise, including at the CEO level and has been quite successful in leading our semiconductor business, which has been a strong performer, and that's an opportunity for her to expand her leadership role as we see similar opportunities to scale our strategy, add systems and customer intimacy and focusing on these end market opportunities in transportation and ADG. And as our strategy matures there, she'll be able to accelerate that. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [34] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our next question comes from Mark Delaney with Goldman Sachs. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark Trevor Delaney, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Research Division - Equity Analyst [35] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was wanting to start first with the semiconductor business. And given some of the supply/demand constraints that are impacting the semiconductor industry, I'm wondering if there's an opportunity for NI to benefit by and help to alleviate the situation by selling more test equipment and perhaps increase semiconductor industry output. So is that something you think is an opportunity for the company? And if those are something you're already benefiting from this quarter? Or is that something that -- in the current March quarter? Or is that something that perhaps is later in 2021? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [36] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure, Mark. Yes, we think -- look, we think semiconductor is clearly in an up cycle, and that's good for the business. That's reflected in Q4, but also in early Q1. The other -- kind of under the hood some other things that are helpful to that business, part of that recovery economically, the mixed-signal and analog part of the business that we serve is healthy. 5G, we expect to be -- it was a growth driver in 2020. We expect it to be a growth driver in 2021. And then I shared a bit of the commentary about China and about the investments in semiconductor supply chain and test equipment. So those are benefits. And then really -- it's our own execution. It's the strategy that we put in place to have more system-level capability in software and services in that space. And we did see that gaining traction. So those are the positives driving the semiconductor business and why we have an expectation for it to continue to grow and to meet the 3-year growth targets that we shared previously. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark Trevor Delaney, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Research Division - Equity Analyst [37] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That's helpful. And for a follow-up question on software and the company's goal to get to 30% of revenue from software or more by 2025, is that a percentage you think you can achieve organically? Or do you think you need to do additional M&A in order to get to that type of software mix? And then perhaps not so specific to 2021, but if you could help us think a little bit more generally about the linearity of going from 20% to 30% or more? Is this something that you expect to be relatively consistent over time or more back-end weighted as you think about that mix increasing? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [38] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. So as we said, we will look to inorganic opportunities as strategy accelerators across our strategies. This is software, but inclusive of the other areas as well. We're also investing significantly in our own capability. As Karen mentioned, we've got this new jewel in the -- and the capabilities and OptimalPlus platform that we're building on and integrating, and we see opportunity to extend that in different ways, both technically and through the channel. And so those are all opportunities that play into our view of our software opportunity over the coming years. We've set out a 5-year goal. It's our intent to report over time about the progress on that goal as we go through the next few years. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [39] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm not showing any further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the call back over to Eric Starkloff for closing remarks. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Howard Starkloff, National Instruments Corporation - President, CEO & Director [40] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. Thank you all very much for your time. Thanks for joining us today. Have a great rest of your day and stay safe. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [41] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect.