FEI Company Earnings: Strong Dollar Leads to Weaker Results

By Markets Fool.com

FEI Company reported fourth-quarter results after the closing bell on Wednesday. The results were decent but a little below expectations as currency issues affected the company's performance across the board. The theme this quarter really is the strong dollar, as the company sees it weakening its results throughout 2015.

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A closer look at the numbers
Revenue for the quarter came in at $265.3 million, which was in line with the fourth quarter of 2013. However, it was $8 million less than analysts were expecting and at the low end of FEI Company's guidance range. The strong dollar is the culprit here, as it erased $9.6 million in revenue based on foreign exchange rates just last quarter, when the company also highlighted its issues with exchange rates.

Net income also came in less than expected, as the company reported non-GAAP net income of $41.2 million, or $0.98 per share. That was $0.04 less than analysts were expecting and just a penny more than the company earned in last year's fourth quarter. Another reason profits were weak is that the company's gross margins slipped from 47.7% last quarter to 46.5% this quarter, as it shipped more of its lower-margin Science products this quarter.

Continuing the trend of less than stellar news is the update on the company's backlog. While bookings grew by a record $261.9 million in the quarter that was less than revenue so the book-to-bill ratio was 0.99-to-1. Ideally, this ratio should be above 1, as that would signify that demand was strong. However, we can blame the company's currency issues for this, as the bookings and backlog were negatively affected by $17 million because of a revaluation of the backlog to adjust for changes in the exchange rate. So adjusting for this, the backlog would have grown by $278.9 million, or 12%, for a book-to-bill of 1.05-to-1.

A look ahead
This might start sounding like a broken record, but FEI Company expects 2015 to be affected by exchange rates too. In the first quarter, the company sees the strong dollar having a negative impact to the tune of 5% on its revenue growth. Revenue for the quarter is thus expected to be in the range of $215 million to $230 million, which would represent 1% to 7% year-over-year organic revenue growth. Meanwhile, GAAP earnings are expected to be in the range of $0.55 to $0.65 per share.

Looking even further ahead, the company sees full-year revenue growth by 5%-9% over 2014. However, the growth could be stronger if the dollar weakens, as the company currently estimates that the strong dollar is going to negatively affect growth by 4%. Meanwhile, GAAP earnings should be in the range of $3.40 to $3.70 per share, or upwards of a dollar more than the company earned in 2014. So it's solid growth, but not exactly spectacular.

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Investor takeaway
It wasn't the best of quarters for FEI Company, as if fell a bit short of expectations. However, a lot of that had to do with currency issues, which are plaguing more than just FEI Company at the moment. That being said, that headwind could turn into a tailwind should the dollar begin to weaken. So there is some upside potential just from a reversion to the mean.

The article FEI Company Earnings: Strong Dollar Leads to Weaker Results originally appeared on Fool.com.

Matt DiLallo owns shares of FEI. The Motley Fool recommends FEI. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.