Nortech Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:NSYS) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

·10 min read

Nortech Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:NSYS) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript March 17, 2023

Operator: Greetings and welcome to Nortech's Fourth Quarter 2022 Earnings Call. I will now turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Chris Jones. Please go ahead.

Chris Jones: Good morning and thanks operator and Happy St. Patrick's Day to everybody. I want to welcome everyone to our conference call today. First, Jay will begin with a review of our industry, our value proposition for customers and operational performance. And then I will review Nortech's Q4 and full year financial results and then turn it back over to Jay for his closing comments. And then we will open up the call for your questions. Before we continue though, please note that statements made during this call and the Q&A session maybe forward-looking regarding expected revenue, earnings, future plans, opportunities and other company expectations. These estimates, plans and other forward-looking statements involve unknown and known risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied on this call.

These risks, including those that are detailed in our most recent Form 10-K, maybe amended or supplemented. The statements made during this conference call are based upon information known by Nortech as of the date and time of this call and we assume no obligation to update the information in today's call. You can find Nortech's complete Safe Harbor statements in our SEC filings. And with that, I will turn it over to Jay for his opening comments.

Jay Miller: Thank you, Chris and happy St. Patrick's Day everyone. We are excited to discuss our 2022 results and we will do so shortly. But today, I want to take a little bit of time to take a step back and answer a simple question. What is Nortech's value proposition? Though what we do here at Nortech is complex, the answer to this question is relatively simple. We engineer and manufacture complex, low-volume, high-mix electromechanical systems, assemblies and components for medical, industrial and defense customers and we do so on a global basis, with plants in Minnesota, Monterrey, Mexico and Suzhou, China. Notably, we do not compete in the high volume, low mix space, which is dominated by larger companies like Benchmark and Plexus, admirable companies in their own right, whose factories churn off thousands of identical products everyday running multiple shifts.

In contrast to those huge firms, Nortech will setup production lines that might run for a week or two or maybe a month. We constantly take down lines and setup different lines. It's a fundamentally different business. And while we leverage some very sophisticated capital equipment in the production and testing, we primarily rely on our experienced high-skilled, high-enzyme workforce to produce these very complex technical solutions. A $2 million to $5 million order is significant for us. And while larger contract manufacturers won't take that business, it's perfect for Nortech. Our largest customer accounts for roughly 25% of our revenue. But after that, our next largest customer is about 7%. We can effectively serve customers of any size that fit our global low volume, high mix, mission-critical business model.

While Wall Street analysts may group all large and small EMS firms together, we do things that those larger firms cannot do or will not do. And candidly, they do things that we will not do. Occasionally, customers learn this fundamental difference in business philosophy in the hard way. We are currently negotiating with a medical customer that had first awarded their business to a large EMS firm. It was a relatively small contract for the relatively large EMS firm and the customer was neglected. Consequently, quality and communication both suffered. The complicated, complex manufacturing process and supply chain was a poor fit for that large company's high-volume, low-mix model. Frustrated, that customer then pulls its manufacturing back in-house.

Data, security, program
Data, security, program

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

But quickly recognizing and then managing all the suppliers they have taken on, the cash implications of managing a lot of new inventory and the complexity of their manufacturing process that customer is now talking to us and this situation fits Nortech perfectly. This simple story reflects what happens somewhat frequently. The Nortech team is very proud of what we do daily for our customers and we feel we do it very well. It starts with taking great care of each other as Nortech employees and taking great care of our families. It's also very important to us that we take very good care of our supplier partners by communicating with them openly and honestly and paying them on time 100% of the time. It also means that we strive to be good corporate citizens locally, nationally and globally.

We know that if we take great care of all these critical stakeholders, employees and our families, customers, supplier partners and our communities, we will also take great care of our shareholders. If there is a secret to our strong results in 2022, this is it. Now to explain our financials in more depth, we will turn it over to Chris. Chris?

Chris Jones: Alright. Thanks, Jay. So I will begin with the top line. And in Q4 2022, revenue totaled $35.6 million. This represents a 6.4% increase from revenue of $32.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2021 and it's up slightly from the prior quarter, increases year-over-year coming from both higher volume and previous pricing actions. For the full year 2022, revenue totaled $134 million, a nearly 17% increase from revenue of $115 million in the full year of 2021. Nortech's revenue performance was driven by growth in net sales across all the markets that we serve. The medical market was up by about $13 million or 20% compared to 2021, with the majority of the increase coming from medical component products. In 2022, revenue from the industrial market was up $3 million or 9% from the prior year.

And last, our aerospace and defense markets were also up from prior year levels by 17.5% or $3 million. So as I mentioned earlier, the overall year-over-year revenue improvement across all our markets was primarily due to a combination of higher production volume and pricing adjustments. Q4 gross profit totaled $5.1 million or 14.3% compared to a gross profit of $2.7 million or 8% from the prior year quarter. The fourth quarter margin was down on a sequential basis, but we believe that over the long run, we are in a more stable gross margin position. For the full year 2022, gross profit of $20.5 million or 15.3% gross margin was up from adjusted gross profit of $11.2 million or 9.7% in the prior year. Notable in 2021 is that GAAP gross profit included the $4.7 million employee retention credit and so our adjusted gross profit excludes that non-recurring item.

The 83% year-over-year gross profit improvement and resulting 560 basis point improvement in year-over-year gross margin relates primarily to pricing actions to overcome inflationary cost pressures. Fourth quarter operating expenses totaled $4.4 million, which is a 23% increase from the fourth quarter 2021 operating expenses of $3.6 million and it was flat on a sequential quarter basis. The $800,000 increase in year-over-year operating expenses was driven primarily by a $347,000 increase in selling expenses related to engineering and marketing to drive new business bookings for future quarters. Next, the majority of the $382,000 increase in year-over-year G&A costs was due to necessary investments in IT, HR and analytical capabilities. And finally, a $174,000 increase in year-over-year research and development cost reflects continued investment in new technologies such as the Active Optical Xtreme cable platform.

For full year 2022, income tax expense was $1.5 million compared to $900,000 in 2021. The effective tax rate in fiscal 2022 was 42%, up from 12% in 2021. So, that's a large change in the tax rate. In 2022, the tax rate was driven by a valuation allowance from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requirement to capitalize and amortize research and experimental expenditures in 2022. And in 2021, our tax rate was driven by the non-taxable PPP loan forgiveness. Fourth quarter EBITDA totaled $1.2 million, which is a significant increase over an EBITDA loss of $400,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021. For the full year, EBITDA totaled $5.8 million, which is a $6 million improvement on an EBITDA loss of $200,000 in 2021. Both the fourth quarter and full year increases resulted primarily from previously discussed revenue and gross profit increases offset by investments in operating capabilities.

Moving on to the balance sheet and cash flow statement. First, in 2022, cash provided by operating activities was $5.4 million compared to cash used by operations of $4.5 million in 2021. Also notable in 2022, operating cash flow included the first of two $2.6 million payments from the IRS for the employee retention credit. The IRS is still processing Nortech's second ERC application and we hope to receive that payment at any time, but we have no visibility to when we receive that payment. We also have a $1.2 million of deferred social security tax payments that will offset the final $2.6 million ERC payment. During the fourth quarter, net working capital improved by about $1 million as inventory levels of $22.4 million declined slightly from the prior quarter.

Throughout 2022, we saw a gradual improvement in supply chain bottlenecks and component lead times. Nortech's supply chain team is working very closely with our customers and suppliers to ensure that the entire end-to-end supply chain is optimized for on-time delivery and working capital efficiency. We ended 2022 with $6.9 million of borrowings on our $16 million line of credit with Bank of America and we had unused borrowing availability of $8.4 million. We believe that our

Operator: Apologies, ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have lost volume from our speakers. Please wait one moment while we try to reconnect, and please bear with us. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, please bear with us one moment while we fix this slight technical issue. In the meantime, I will reactivate the hold music until we have our speakers. Thank you. Thank you for your patience ladies and gentlemen. We are still trying to fix this issue. Thank you for your patience. We are still trying to fix this issue. Ladies and gentlemen, to apologize, we appear to be having a issue to reconnect to our speakers. So you can please bear with us. We will try and recheck, and see if we can get them back on the line. Thank you for your patience and please bear with us.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience, we are still trying to reconnect to our speakers for today's call. Thank you for your patience. And I will update you again, shortly. Thank you for your patience, ladies and gentlemen. We are still trying to contract our speakers. Hopefully, their will be with us shortly. And we can resume the conference. Thank you again for your patience. Hello, is that, Chris?

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