Zebra Technologies’ Stock Pops; Company Soars to New Highs

by Richa Gupta | 05/14/2015

Zebra Technologies (ZBRA) reported its Q1 2015 earnings on May 13th, beating the market consensus on EPS by 27 cents and that on revenues by $11.37 million. Net sales of $892.3 million for the quarter included the $561 million contributed by the Enterprise business unit acquired from Motorola Solutions, a 6% increase on a constant currency basis. Zebra’s legacy business accounted for $331.6 million, up 15% from Q1 2014, a remarkable increase for what is generally viewed as a stable and relatively saturated market. The company’s gross margin now stands at 45.8%, down from 51.3% for 2014; this is reflective of the change in product mix and the contribution of Enterprise solutions to the overall revenues, which tend to have a lower margin than legacy Zebra products.

Zebra also spent a substantial amount on integration-related activities. The speed with which the company has integrated the two businesses is rather impressive, especially given the size and scale of each of the individual business units. In the past few weeks, Zebra has also launched a new website and hosted its annual partner conference, all with a goal to communicate its new market messaging and value propositions.

Now, here are some key highlights of the company’s first quarter performance:

  • The data capture business unit experienced its second strongest quarter ever (following Q4 2013) – with a healthy run rate business and a number of large deals. Its camera-based bioptic scanner product line is doing particularly well, with the value propositions resonating immensely with large retailers in the US.
  • North America and EMEA continue to be the strongest regions for Zebra. With sales of $443 million and $291 million in the two regions respectively, the company is re-affirming its market leadership position, especially with its legacy printer products.
  • Retail sales were particularly strong in the US as the company saw large deals for printers, mobile computers, and data capture solutions. Healthcare has consistently been a strong performer for Zebra in the past few quarters. The trend continues with growing traction for the company’s solutions to help care providers with medication management, patient identification, and specimen tracking.
  • Perhaps the most noteworthy development in Q1 was the company’s price increase announcement in Europe in late March, effective late April (after four weeks). This is a move to counter the impact of the strengthening dollar and weakening Euro on the company’s profitability and bottom line given that the region represents about 25% of overall revenues. Zebra expects high stickiness for its run rate products like printers and data capture solutions.
  • Enterprise business unit sales in Asia are in the process of getting back on track after having faltered for much of 2013 due to issues with the sales force and other operational challenges. The company’s efforts to reengage with channel partners in the region and rebuild relationships seem to be paying off with sales in China up sharply for Q1. Overall revenues in the region were at $106 million with sales to customers in logistics and healthcare verticals offset weakness in demand in manufacturing.

The company expects the growth trajectory to continue into the second quarter especially with a strong pipeline for large deals. For Q2, Zebra expects total revenues in the range of $865 to $895 million. The price increase on Euro-dominated sales will start to have a positive effect this quarter and is expected to have a more pronounced impact in the second half of the year.

Following its earnings release, ZBRA’s stock went up more than 12%. This speaks of investor confidence in the company and the efficiency with which Zebra seems to be communicating its “One Zebra” message to its customers and partners. Zebra Technologies’ executive leadership is confident in its market standing and optimistic about market opportunities for the remainder of 2015. At VDC, we will continue to follow its progress and keep our readers updated.

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