TTM Technologies Expands to Meet Demand

August 11, 2011

TTM Technologies (TTMI) makes PCBs (printed circuit boards) for the communications, industrial, medical, and consumer electronics industries. It is a U.S. corporation, but in 2010 bought a Chinese PCB manufacturer. The U.S. facilities generally do small runs of PCBs for prototypes and specialized, low volume products. Chinese facilities largely do larger PCB runs for computer and communications equipment, cell phones including smartphones, and more recently tablet computers.

TTM is a value plus growth proposition, but let's start with the caveats. The Chinese segment, formerly Meadville, had borrowed substantial amounts of money to buy capital equipment to serve the rapidly expanding market. TTM took over those debts. As of the latest quarter reported, long term debt was $432.3 million. On the other hand the cash and equivalents balance was $235.9 million, giving net debt of about $196 million. Cash flow from operations was $67 million, but capital equipment is still being purchased to meet demand (and replace obsolete equipment). Capital expense was $44 million. So it will take some time to pay off the debt, which fortunately carries a low interest rate.

Given the debt, a serious slowdown in demand for PCBs would set back TTM, but with so much cash on hand they should be able to get through a slow period better than most businesses, including much of their PCB competitors.

On the positive side TTM has a great model within its industry. It is one of the largest players in the world. It also specializes in the very highest end PCB technologies, the ones needed to create ever-smaller, more powerful devices. This involves, for instance, drilling holes for component connections with lasers, from computer-generated designs. Increasingly prototypes will be engineered and tested in the U.S. When production runs are large, they can be done in China. Clients like this model, and TTM is likely to pick up more clients over time.

While there are a few big players at the global scale, much of the PCB competition in the U.S. consists of much smaller businesses that can't afford to buy the capital equipment necessary to make high tech PCBs. One notable competitor at the high end in the U.S. is DDi Corporation.

In the last year, one of little growth in the U.S. economy, TTM revenues for Q2 2011 were $366.1 million, up 18% from $310.2 million in the year-earlier quarter. Non-GAAP EPS was $0.40 per share. When you analyse TTM be sure to note that revenues are somewhat seasonal.

Aside from the recent general stock market turmoil, TTM had a stock price drop based on a one-time non-cash charge of $48.1 million for obsolete equipment. Also, management honestly does not know what the effect of the current macroeconomic uncertainty will be on end demand. However, if demand slacks they can stop adding capital equipment, so they have plenty of a cash flow cushion in that scenario.

I have been observing TTM's management for years now. They appear to be honest, smart, and hard-working. I take notes on their analyst conference calls, which you can find at TTM Technologies analyst call summaries. If you go back to 2008 you can see how they managed their way through the last recession.

Keep diversified!

William P. Meyers

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Copyright 2011 William P. Meyers