Earnings call: Azenta Reports Strong Q4 Results and Outlines Strategic Initiatives for 2024

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Published Nov 14, 2023 04:44AM ET

Earnings call: Azenta Reports Strong Q4 Results and Outlines Strategic Initiatives for 2024 © Reuters.

Azenta reported robust fourth-quarter results for fiscal year 2023, with revenues exceeding $660 million. The company also demonstrated a positive adjusted free cash flow of $14 million in fiscal 2023 and announced a share repurchase program of $500 million for the next fiscal year. Azenta plans to focus on strengthening its leadership positions and leveraging its end-to-end bio-sample management capabilities for growth.

Key takeaways from the earnings call:

  • Azenta reported Q4 revenue of $172 million, a 25% YoY increase, with notable contributions from the large automated stores business and Sample Repository Solutions.
  • The company moved to a new three-segment reporting structure, including Sample Management Solutions, Multiomics, and B Medical.
  • Azenta signed a memorandum of understanding with the Democratic Republic of Congo for a project to support in-country vaccination efforts, potentially generating approximately $60 million in fiscal year 2024.
  • Azenta ended fiscal year 2023 with $1.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, with no debt outstanding.
  • For fiscal 2024, the company expects organic revenue growth of 5% to 8%, with growth across all three segments.
  • The company announced the nominations of Didier Hirsch and Martin Madaus to join the board.

Azenta reported robust growth in the Sample Repository Solutions segment, which grew 9% YoY, while the genomics segment experienced a slight decline due to macroeconomic headwinds. The company has introduced several strategic initiatives, including key leadership changes and the expansion of its unique offerings.

Azenta also reported a strong finish for B Medical, generating $29 million in Q4 revenue. The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Democratic Republic of Congo to support in-country vaccination efforts, which could generate approximately $60 million in fiscal year 2024.

Looking ahead, Azenta plans to strengthen its leadership positions and leverage its bio-sample management capabilities for growth. The company announced a commitment to repurchase $500 million worth of shares in fiscal year 2024, leaving approximately $500 million in cash for future investments. The company aims to achieve mid to high-single-digit revenue growth and improve profitability in fiscal year 2024.

Azenta ended fiscal year 2023 with $1.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, with no debt outstanding. The company has returned over $900 million to shareholders through the repurchase program and plans to repurchase an additional $500 million worth of shares in fiscal year 2024.

The company provided guidance for Q1, expecting a decline driven by the B Medical business. However, they expressed confidence in the pipeline and upsized order from the DRC. They expect growth in the multiomics and SRS businesses, and view China as a healthy market despite a decrease in product sales.

During the earnings call, Steve Schwartz and Herman Cueto of Azenta provided updates on the company’s performance and future plans. They expressed confidence in the company’s ability to outperform and highlighted its superior offerings in both products and services. They anticipate slow growth in the market and aim for 5% to 8% growth to surpass market expectations. The company plans to invest the remaining $500 million in operational programs, such as expanding EBITDA margin, architecture improvements, product line focus, and organizational efficiencies. They have also made organic investments to increase capacity, establish new facilities, develop next-generation tools, and transform product lines. The company aims to become more profitable and efficient through cost reduction and systems implementations. The CFO transition from Lindon Robertson to Herman Cueto was smooth, and the company looks forward to future investor meetings and the next earnings call in early 2024.

InvestingPro Insights

In light of Azenta’s recent Q4 report, InvestingPro provides some key insights. According to InvestingPro data, Azenta has a market cap of $2.88 billion and a revenue of $630.28 million as of Q3 2023. The company’s revenue growth rate for the same period is 13.59%, showing a healthy increase.

Two InvestingPro Tips that stand out are that Azenta holds more cash than debt on its balance sheet and that management has been aggressively buying back shares. These two factors, combined with the positive results from the Q4 report, indicate a stable financial position. Furthermore, the company’s net income is expected to grow this year, which aligns with Azenta’s own forecast for fiscal 2024.

InvestingPro offers many more tips and data points for those interested in a deeper analysis of Azenta’s performance. Stay ahead of the curve with InvestingPro’s comprehensive financial data and expert insights.

Full transcript – AZTA Q4 2023:

Operator: Thank you, and welcome to the Azenta Q4 2023 Financial Results. During the presentation, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Afterwards, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded, Monday, November 13, 2023. I will now turn the conference over to Sara Silverman, Head of Investor Relations.

Sara Silverman: Thank you, operator, and good afternoon to everyone on the line today. We would like to welcome you to our earnings conference call for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023. Our fourth quarter earnings press release was issued after the close of the market today and is available on our Investor Relations website located at investors.azenta.com in addition to the supplementary PowerPoint slides that will be used during the prepared remarks today. I would like to remind everyone that during the course of the call, we will be making a number of forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Litigation Securities Act of 1995. There are many factors that may cause actual financial results or other events to differ from those identified in such forward-looking statements. I’d refer you to the section of our earnings release titled Safe Harbor Statement, the safe harbor slide on the aforementioned PowerPoint presentation on our website and our various filings with the SEC, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K and our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q. We make no obligation to update these statements should future financial data or events occur that differ from the forward-looking statements presented today. We may refer to a number of non-GAAP financial measures, which are used in addition to and in conjunction with results presented in accordance with GAAP. We believe the non-GAAP measures provide an additional way of viewing aspects of our operations and performance, but when considered with the GAAP financial results and the reconciliation of GAAP measures, they provide an even more complete understanding of the Azenta business. Non-GAAP measures should not be relied upon to the exclusion of the GAAP measures themselves. On the call with me today is our President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Schwartz; and our Chief Financial Officer, Herman Cueto. We will open the call with remarks from Steve on highlights of the fourth quarter then Herman will provide a more detailed look into our financial results and our outlook for fiscal year 2024. We will then take your questions at the end of the prepared remarks. With that, I would like to turn the call over to our CEO, Steve Schwartz.

Steve Schwartz: Thank you, Sara. Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining us. Today, I’ll direct my remarks to a summary of 2023 results and a preview of how we see 2024, including some of our key initiatives. If you’ve seen in our press releases today, we have a lot to talk about on this call, a strong fourth quarter results, a healthy outlook for fiscal 2024, a big order for B Medical Systems, as well as important implications for go forward Azenta, including a significant capital allocation commitment to share repurchases as well as an announcement as part of our regular Board refresh. So let’s get to it. It’s an exciting and energizing time for Azenta. We had a strong finish to fiscal 2023 with fourth quarter results coming in nicely on the top and bottom line. We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made during the quarter and our positioning headed into fiscal 2024. Fiscal 2023 was another transformative year for the company as we reached over $660 million in revenue. We accelerated and adjusted to the demands and opportunities afforded to an innovative standalone life sciences company. We’ve taken substantial prudent actions to reinvigorate growth in revenue and profitability even in what continues to be a challenging macroeconomic environment. We added key leadership and strategic sales expertise and restructured our commercial team to better focus on specific business lines and increase our coverage of geographies. We continue to build out our portfolio of unique offerings that deliver on our purpose to enable breakthroughs faster. We extended our strategic leverage and expanded our geographic footprint with the additions of B Medical and Ziath. And as a standalone company after the divestiture of Brooks, we completed the first phase of streamlining cost reductions. There is much more work to be done, but we have a plan for continued execution in the coming year. Notably, we demonstrated positive adjusted free cash flow of $14 million in fiscal 2023, one measure of the progress we’ve made throughout the course of the year and an indication of what this business is truly capable of as we go from here. And on October 1, we moved to our new three-segment reporting structure of multiomics, sample management solutions and B Medical, which we believe will significantly improve our operating efficiency while better aligning our offerings to customer needs and providing greater transparency to our shareholders. Most importantly, we’re a year better at all that we do and in the value we offer to our customers. Our capabilities continue to enable customers and we’re investing to stay ahead of their needs for solutions that shorten their time to discovery. Altogether we believe we’re extremely well positioned to continue to outgrow the market. And now for some highlights from the quarter. In Q4, we delivered revenue of $172 million, which translates to organic growth of 2% year-over-year and 6% when you exclude our consumables and instruments business which remain soft in line with market trends. Let’s look at the business by segment. In services, we delivered fourth-quarter organic growth of 1% year-over-year. Genomics was down 2% year-over-year primarily driven by continued macroeconomic headwinds. From a regional perspective, in genomics, China was once again notably strong, delivering 12% organic growth. And although there’s been a significant slowdown in the China economy post-COVID, we’re still growing due to our strong customer relationships and continued share gains with new customers in the region. Despite the softer market environment, we believe our team has adapted extremely well to address customer needs and that performance has been solid on a relative basis. Our sales realignment and strategic investments in sales expertise is proving to be the remedy we sought for our slower omics sales at the start of the year. We have more to do, but as the current organization gains traction we’re in for a return to solid growth in 2024. In the sample repository solutions business, we grew 9% year-over-year led once again by growth in core storage. As we previously announced, we’re in the process of opening a new bio repository in the Boston area. We’ve received great customer interest and we’re currently in fit-up mode through the end of this calendar year. We look forward to accepting customer samples in early calendar 2024. Since we last spoke with you, we closed another large deal where we’ll provide sample management and multiomics services for a prospective research study. Similar to our project with the Lupus Research Alliance, we’re demonstrating the value of our sample management and sample measurement platform to provide data to researchers doing discovery. This is a multi-million dollar – multi-year partnership rooted in the strong relationship that we developed over many years in the sample repository side of the business. This win and others like it are a testament to the high-quality capability set and reputation that we’ve built over the past decade. Moving now to products. The products business grew 3% year-over-year on an organic basis, led by record revenues in automated store systems. Store systems grew 38% year-over-year, driven by our large automated stores business which we previously reported has accumulated significant backlog over the past few quarters. This team has done a tremendous job to engineer, deliver and install these orders at customer sites at a record pace. In C&I, we did continue to see year-over-year headwinds but the good news is that this business expanded sequentially for the first time since Q1 of this year. Finally, B Medical ended the year strong delivering $29 million of Q4 revenue led by cold chain solutions. For the full year, B Medical generated $113 million of revenue and was accretive to our earnings per share. B Medical is a differentiated market leader in the areas that it operates in particular vaccine cold chain and it’s profitable. What’s more? Is it from the lens of Azenta ownership? We see meaningful strategic upside in expanding the scope and reach of cold chain projects. We’re building our reputation as Azenta in fast-growing emerging markets and engaging with several opportunities that will leverage B Medical and the important chain to connect precious biological samples to researchers. One piece of exciting news I’d like to share today is about one of these transformative opportunities. Last week, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the Democratic Republic of Congo for a project to support in-country vaccination efforts. This project has the potential to generate approximately $60 million in our fiscal year 2024. Let me put this order into perspective on how it impacts our outlook for the year. On top of the $113 million we delivered in ’23, we expect ’24 to be a growth year for B Medical. Our guidance for the year comes from our view of the pipeline, which is richer than it’s ever been. For the upsizing of the DRC deal, the pipeline already included a program from the DRC but not of the magnitude we just described and with it gives us additional confidence in the outlook for B Medical’s business. We have a healthy and growing pipeline but revenue in ’24 will be delivered with a different cadence than we’ve seen in the past or historically, Q1 was the largest quarter of the year. Keep in mind that B Medical business is agnostic to the macro environment, but it is lumpy. When we guided inside the quarter we’ve anchored on a forecast for which we have orders in hand and our Q1 outlook is no different. We currently expect Q1 to be meaningfully down versus the prior year, but still delivering growth on a full year basis. Herman will provide more color in his prepared remarks. Let me say a little bit more about this DRC project and its strategic significance. It’s important to note that this opportunity began as one that supported traditional vaccine cold chain solutions from B Medical, but because of Azenta, it’s expanded in scope to form the first part of a critical country initiative that will also include the retrieval and processing of biological samples. Although the secondary part of the project is still being formed, it’s one of the key tenets for why this engagements has come to Azenta and B Medical. We’re enthusiastic about the prospects for this meaningful human health initiative and our enabling role in this important mission. As we wrap up fiscal 2023 and move into 2024, I’d like to revisit our overarching strategy and vision for Azenta. As I think about the progression of the business over the past decade, we started as a life sciences tools and products company, later added sample management services then genomics or multiomics as we now refer to it, and most recently, emerging markets cold chain solutions. We stand here today as a truly unique end-to-end bio sample management company with a platform that provides expertise from sample to answer enabling our customers to accelerate breakthroughs and therapies. First and foremost, we’re focused on strengthening our key leadership positions in the markets we serve. But we’re also keen to leverage our end-to-end bio-sample management capabilities to drive the next vector of growth. While it’s still early, I’d like to provide some insight into our plans starting with a large deal in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the first live example. As Azenta, we’re able to source biological samples from participants of certain phenotype, format them for storage and automated workflow analysis, keep them in safe cold repositories and systems until they’re to be interrogated for any of many multiomics measurements. We then supply data on these samples to entities who focus on discoveries and cures. Our ability to manage this entire critical sample sourcing, storage and measurement workflow chain is a unique and increasingly valuable capability for our customers. Today, most of the samples we handle are from participants of European descent. And although valuable, there’s tremendous interest in biological samples that are from contributors of non-European descent, but these samples are scarce because they’re difficult to obtain, transport and consent. We have the platform that will allow us not only to source these hard-to-collect samples, will also have a means to secure them in regions of interest, allow in-country research on these samples and simultaneously permit access to those rare and valuable samples through our infrastructure. That’s to say, we’ve developed a platform not only to manage and measure samples for others, which has already driven $650 million of business and still has tremendous growth upside, but we intend to use this unique platform to source and provide data on high-value biological samples to a multitude of interested partners. Hence, the power of our portfolio was clear utilize our cold-chain care and management of samples, exercise our world-class scientific expertise to interrogate these samples and deliver accurate data to discovery teams around the world. The untapped value opportunity of this platform is twofold. First, more customer samples as we tap into a market opportunity that we barely penetrate by bringing order to vast global collections of samples that have accumulated over decades. As we get better at what we do, customers are giving us more to do for them. And second, we can leverage our platform to be the source of high-value samples that are rare, meaning non-European, consented for use in research and discovery, highly annotated through multiomics analysis, and stored even after measurement for use in future research or follow-up analysis. The clarity of our strategy and where we’ll focus in the near future leads us to a conclusion about the next steps in what’s been a disciplined capital deployment strategy. As of today, we’ve repurchased roughly 25% of our outstanding shares relative to when we started the program last November. Today, we commit to an additional share repurchase of $500 million under the authorization approved by the Board of Directors last year, which will take place in fiscal year 2024. This will still leave us with approximately $500 million in cash on our balance sheet, which we plan to prudently deploy in opportunities that will accelerate growth and enhance profitability over the coming years. Our plans for the remaining cash which should be adequate for the next couple of years will be in support of our strategic roadmap. This includes organic growth investments to meet the needs of ramping customer demand, cash deployment for structural investments to streamline the operations, like rationalization of footprint and system upgrade implementation, as well as tuck-in acquisitions likely in the tens of millions of dollars range that provide durable recurring revenue and enhance our current portfolio of offerings in support of sample to data. And we believe it’s prudent to have a couple of hundred million dollars available to run the business. To be clear, we do remain active on the M&A front, with an eye toward financially attractive and strategically compelling acquisitions that would enhance the value proposition and accelerate the growth of our unique sample management portfolio. But as the creator of this unique sample management and measurement capability, we’re also the largest player providing this type of complete service, and companies we target that will add to our capability are necessarily smaller, and though valuable, will not require cash beyond our current needs. While we’re in a challenging macro environment over the short term, we’re confident in our long-term potential. We serve high-growth markets with fundamental underpinnings for healthy expansion. 2024 will be a year of top line growth and increased profitability driven by revenue expansion and significant operational improvements that will drive shareholder value. We’re on a path to be the preeminent provider of high-quality samples and high-value data to the life sciences industry. Herman will provide more detail during his prepared remarks. But suffice it to say, we expect to grow mid to high-single-digits in a market that’s forecasted to be up low-single-digits or even declining slightly next year. At the same time, we’re laser-focused on profitability enhancement and expect to see improvement from fiscal ’23 to ’24 on both the gross and operating margin lines. I want to reiterate how encouraged I am by our accomplishments in fiscal 2023 and the momentum we have as we head into 2024. We’re incredibly well positioned in the markets we serve and we’re ready to outgrow the market as we convert more customers to our value offerings. I want to thank the entire global Azenta team for their contributions and tireless efforts over the past year. Before I turn it over to Herman, I want to make a brief comment about the governance changes we also announced today. As the Board continues to add directors to support the company’s ongoing transformation strategy. And to that end, we’re thrilled to announce the nominations of Didier Hirsch and Martin Madaus to join our Board at the 2024 Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Didier and Martin both possess strong life sciences leadership experience and have track records of creating stockholder value. We’re excited to have their fresh perspectives, and I look forward to working closely with them in the new year. At this time, I’m pleased to introduce you to our new CFO, Herman Cueto. Herman joins us from BD, where he most recently served as Senior Vice President of Finance, overseeing segments, regions, FP&A and operations. Since Herman joined us on the 16th of October, he hit the ground running and has already begun to make great contributions to the team. We’re fortunate to have him on board. And I’ll now turn the call over to Herman.

Herman Cueto: Thank you, Steve. I want to start by saying how thrilled I am to be part of Azenta. Over the past four weeks, I have worked closely with the leadership team, the finance team and other stakeholders to get up to speed on the business. I’ve been impressed by what I have seen and I am energized by the potential that we have as a company. I look forward to meeting our customers and shareholders in the coming weeks and months. With that, I now refer you back to the slide deck available on our website. Turning to Slide 7 for some highlights. Fourth quarter revenue was $172 million, up 25% year-over-year and up 2% on an organic basis. Most notable contributors to growth include a record quarter in our large automated stores business, as well as continued strength in Sample Repository Solutions. Consumables and Instruments, or C&I, remained a headwind to growth in the quarter. However, on a positive note, we did see sequential improvements as we move from Q3 to Q4. Excluding the C&I business, our organic growth in the quarter was 6%. B Medical also performed well delivering revenue of $29 million, up 10% sequentially. I am delighted to announce that our cost savings initiatives are on track, and the benefits were felt in the quarter, where we delivered non-GAAP EPS of $0.13 and adjusted EBITDA of 4.6%, reflecting continued momentum. In the quarter, we also benefited by approximately $0.05 or $5 million pretax from the reversal of a stock-based compensation accrual versus our Q4 guidance. This accrual favorably impacted net income and had no impact to adjusted EBITDA. Moving to the full year. Fiscal year 2023 all-in revenue of $665 million represented 20% growth, while organic growth declined 1% in the full year. When you exclude C&I, our organic growth was 5%, a strong performance relative to the market. For the full year, acquisitions contributed $127 million to revenue, including $113 million from B Medical. Fiscal 2023 non-GAAP EPS was $0.31, and adjusted EBITDA margin finished at 4.6%. As we move from the first half of 2023 to the second half of 2023, we saw an acceleration in adjusted EBITDA margin of more than 300 basis points, largely driven by our cost savings initiatives. Turning to the balance sheet and capital deployment. We ended the year in a very strong position with $1.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities and no debt outstanding. Free cash flow was positive for the second quarter in a row at $30 million as we continue to focus on commercial execution and working capital management. For the full year, when you exclude certain payments in the first half of 2023 related to the divestiture, we delivered positive adjusted free cash flow of $14 million. In addition to the positive finish to fiscal year ’23, I want to highlight to everyone that we have returned over $900 million to shareholders via our repurchase program as of today. This repurchase program has reduced the share count by over 19 million shares, or by approximately 25% over the past year. Today, as Steve mentioned, we announced a commitment to repurchase an additional $500 million worth of shares in fiscal 2024, which will complete the $1.5 billion share repurchase authorization announced last year. We are extremely well positioned from a balance sheet perspective. And after this investment, we will still have roughly $500 million of cash on hand to be used for disciplined and long-term value-creating initiatives. Now let’s turn to Slide 8 to take a deeper look at our results in the quarter. As previously mentioned, total revenue was $172 million, up 25% year-over-year. Non-GAAP gross margin was 42.8%, down 110 basis points. We did see positive gross margin expansion in the services and legacy Azenta product segments. The year-over-year favorability was largely driven by cost savings initiatives within operations and favorable product mix, namely in large automated stores. This favorability was offset by a soft B Medical margin. I’m happy to report that in Q4, our cost savings initiatives within our operating expenses accelerated sequentially, and the benefits we expected to see in the P&L were realized. Non-GAAP operating margin was negative 0.5%, down 200 basis points year-over-year, primarily driven by the dynamics I just described. Again, non-GAAP earnings was $0.13 per share in the quarter. Now let’s turn to Slide 9 for a review of our Life Sciences Products revenue and gross margin. Total segment revenue was $82 million for the quarter, up 70% year-over-year, driven primarily by acquisitions which contributed $30 million. For the first time all year, the product segment returned to growth on an organic basis, up 3%. The performance was led by strong double-digit growth in large automated stores, partially offset by lower C&I sales. Excluding the C&I business, products was up 21% organically. Products fourth quarter gross margin was 37.9% and down 230 basis points year-over-year. Next, please turn to Slide 10 for a review of our Life Sciences Services segment, revenue and gross margin. The services segment delivered $90 million of revenue in the fourth quarter, an increase of 1% year-over-year. The organic revenue for the quarter was also up 1%, led by strength in Sample Repository Solutions, partially offset by softness in Genomics. In Genomics, organic revenue declined 2% as we saw continued double-digit year-over-year growth in China, offset by softer revenue in the U.S. As the genomics market overall continues to face pressures from macroeconomic uncertainty, pricing and a difficult funding environment. In SRS, revenue growth was strong, up 9% on an organic basis, driven by the core storage business. The Services business delivered 47.2% gross margin, up 140 basis points year-over-year, with improvements in both Genomics and SRS businesses. Now let’s review the balance sheet in a little more detail on Slide 11. Key areas to highlight are inventory and accounts receivable, where the improvement was primarily driven by the underlying performance of the business and our operations teams, who have put in significant effort and are making good progress to reduce inventory balances as well as accounts receivable, both of which had become elevated during the COVID period. Let’s turn to Slide 12 to address the current period cash performance. Cash flow from operations was $40 million, primarily driven by the improvement in working capital. Capital expenditures for the quarter were $10 million. Let’s turn to Slide 13, where I want to remind everyone that starting in fiscal year ’24, we will move to a three-segment structure, which consists of Sample Management Solutions, Multiomics and B Medical. Sample Management Solutions combines our Sample Repository Solutions business as well as the product segment, excluding B Medical. Multiomics is the renamed Genomics business. B Medical will be reported in its own segment, given its distinct end market dynamics and revenue cadence. We have provided much of the necessary information to model the new segments in the past disclosures as well as in the appendix of today’s presentation. Now let’s turn to Slide 14 for fiscal 2024 guidance. For the full year, we expect to deliver organic revenue growth in the range of 5% to 8% year-over-year or $696 million to $718 million. FX is currently expected to be a nominal headwind. By segment, we expect multiomics to grow low to mid-single digits, sample management solutions to grow mid to high single-digits and B Medical to grow mid-single digits. Growth will be driven by a combination of sales execution as the investments we made in our sales force begin to reach optimal productivity, broadening the use of channel partners in certain regions, expanding our geographic footprint as well as by innovation and new product introductions as we develop new vectors of growth. As you look to model the OpEx line, please note you will see the expense come up as we reset our variable compensation levels to par as we enter the new fiscal year. We will also have some added expense related to the Boston repository investment. We will, however, see offsetting benefits from the annualization of our cost initiatives completed in fiscal ’23, along with the cost initiatives already identified that will start in the second fiscal quarter of 2024 and increase as we move throughout the year. While we are on the subject of operating expenses, I want to take a moment to recognize the numerous actions we have taken to improve our cost structure, which you could see in the EBITDA margin expansion from the first half to the second half of fiscal ’23. And although we have taken actions to enhance our efficiency, we still have meaningful opportunity to optimize our expense structure. We look forward to sharing more on this in the future. As you could see on Slide 15, on the adjusted EBITDA line, we expect EBITDA dollars to grow nearly 75% year-on-year. This translates to approximately 300 basis points of margin expansion versus fiscal 2023. This expansion reflects the impact of our cost initiatives as well as solid leverage on sales growth. The work we will do to further rightsize our cost structure will positively impact both EBITDA dollars and margin. We expect EPS to be in a range of $0.19 to $0.29 per share. Our commitment to return capital back to shareholders through the completion of the initial $1 billion of share repurchases and as well as today’s announcement for an incremental $500 million of share repurchases for fiscal 2024 is expected to reduce our average share count to approximately 52 million shares in fiscal 2024. However, our share buyback will also reduce interest income in fiscal 2024 to $27 million to $29 million. The lower share count, offset by the lower interest income, creates a short-term net headwind of approximately $0.13 in fiscal year ’24. In addition, we estimate the tax rate will increase to a range of 33% to 37%, which is an approximately $0.03 headwind year-over-year, largely driven by deferred tax assets that will not be realized related to stock-based compensation. If we remove the net impact of stock-based compensation, our effective tax rate would be comparable to 2023. And finally, with regard to cash flow, we expect capital expenditures of roughly $50 million in fiscal 2024 and we are highly focused on free cash flow generation and expect to be cash flow positive in the year. In terms of the quarterly guidance, please refer to Page 16 of the slide deck for color and key considerations. We will provide this color every quarter and update our full year guidance based on what we are seeing. Excluding B Medical, the business is expected to grow low-single digits in the first quarter. Our current forecast for B Medical anticipates a decline of approximately 75% year-over-year due to the timing of orders. In total, we expect Q1 revenue will decline mid-teens year-over-year. Notwithstanding Q1 softness in B Medical, it is important to anchor back to the full year where we feel very good about the 5% to 8% growth for Azenta. B Medical’s expected mid-single-digit growth in fiscal 2024 is underscored by the opportunity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which we just announced, and by itself could represent 50% or more of their full year revenue. We expect gross margin to be down in Q1, driven primarily by B Medical. R&D expense as a percentage of revenue is expected to be around 6%, and SG&A as a percentage of revenue is expected to be at its highest point of the year and approaches the mid-40s. Keep in mind that Q1 reflects the full impact of the strategic sales investments, while our additional cost savings initiatives ramp throughout the year starting in Q2. Overall, we expect the business to be roughly breakeven on adjusted EBITDA and approximately a few pennies negative on non-GAAP EPS for the quarter. In closing, we are pleased with our performance in fiscal 2023 and are especially optimistic about the progress we made in the business as we move through the second half of the year. Still, we know there is much work to be done. Our attention moving into fiscal year 2024 is on continued strong execution with an acute focus on accelerating our margin expansion initiatives, which we will be talking to you more about in the upcoming quarters. I also look forward to an Analyst Day early next year where we can lay out a framework for our longer-term strategy and financial goals. We are committed to delivering on our purpose, serving our customers and enabling life sciences breakthroughs faster. This concludes our prepared remarks. And I now turn the call over to the operator for questions.

Operator: [Operator Instructions] And your first question comes from the line of David Saxon with Needham. Your line is open.

David Saxon: Great. Hi, Steve. Hi, Herman. Thanks for taking my questions and congrats on the quarter. Maybe I’ll start with a multipart question on multiomics or genomics – legacy genomics. So you called out weakness on pricing. It would be great if you could break down, the price versus volume contribution for growth in the quarter. Is any modality more impacted by pricing than the others? And then in terms of guidance, obviously calls for some acceleration for multiomics. So maybe can you talk about the puts and takes for reaching the low-single-digit growth floor versus getting to the mid-single-digit growth ceiling that’s embedded in guidance? And then I have one follow-up. Thanks.

Steve Schwartz: Okay, great. Hi David, this is Steve. Herman and I will share the response. Just a couple of things. There is some pricing impact. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but we saw the similar growth across each of the elements across NGS, across Sanger and across Synthesis. So it seems to be a softness in the market as opposed to specifically pricing. But we sustained the revenue with just a really slight decrease, but we’re battling for everything. There’s no question about it. But I think the volume of customer activity in each of the areas is depressed and we’re seeing that uniformly across. So it’s not a single area of the omics business, but rather uniformly across. And without question, we’re down in some of the small bio-techs. I think everybody is feeling that, and we’re certainly no exception. But there’s pricing – there’s a pricing differential of a few percentage points for the compare year-over-year, for example, in NGS. And we’re making up for a lot of that in volume and we’re continuing to maintain good margins in that business.

Herman Cueto: And David, maybe – it’s Herman. Maybe I’ll just add a couple of things. The pressure was probably worth about 50 basis points to margin in the quarter. But where I would like to anchor you on is when we talk about the guidance of low single digits, I think there’s a couple things to think about. We do expect pricing pressure to continue into fiscal year ’24 and we’ve cared for that in the guidance that we’ve given, but when you think about the sales force investments and the direct alignment, we feel good about the coverage that we now have, and those investments should start to pay off as the reps begin to hit their optimal productivity levels. We are expanding channel sales in places like Europe and Japan. And there’s a really good innovation story here when we talk about things like AAV packaging and Sanger easy. And that’s what gives us a lot of confidence that we have in the low single digits that we described in the guidance.

David Saxon: Great. That’s super helpful. Thanks for that. And then just on my follow-up on the B Medical agreement with the DRC, so $60 million comes out of that B Medical, obviously you’re calling to be down 75% in the first quarter. So does that project start to kick in, in the fiscal second quarter or is it later? And then this $60 million, that comes from that, is that all assumed in guidance or does that extend into fiscal ’25? Thanks so much for taking my questions.

Herman Cueto: Yes. So, David, I – what I would say is we don’t want to sit here today and predict the timing of when this is going to come in. It wouldn’t be prudent for us to do that. We do think that we should have the ability to – as soon as the order comes in, fill whatever portion of it is requested. We do expect a lot of it to come in fiscal year ’24, as we described. We have the inventory ready to go. So as soon as the order comes in, we will ship it. But right now to predict the timing on that, we – it wouldn’t be wise for us to do that. There’s a lot of moving parts to it. What I would say is this that think of it in terms of – it’s a pipeline. And we did have DRC in the pipeline, but it certainly wasn’t at the magnitude that we’re describing now. So it does bolster the pipeline quite a bit. So the way I would think about it is, is this order gives us a ton of confidence in the full year and probably gives us the ability to potentially do better than what we’re currently describing.

David Saxon: Great. Thanks so much, Herman.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Jacob Johnson with Stephens. Your line is open.

Jacob Johnson: Hi, good evening. Congrats on a nice quarter and thanks for taking the questions. Maybe just sticking on the B Medical topic. I think revenues were up sequentially, but gross margins were down sequentially. Can you just help us understand kind of what drove that? Was it mix? Was it something else? And then on the DRC contract, is there any way to think about any impact that could have on B Medical margins?

Herman Cueto: Yes. So just in the quarter, you’re right, there was a soft B Medical gross margin. In the quarter, we took a precautionary warranty reserve for a component in our vaccine cold-chain products. We have some work we need to do with the supplier to resolve a spec issue. It was a couple of million dollars. And what I would ask is, keep in mind, these products have a long warranty of up to 10 years. So we took it as a precautionary measure.

Jacob Johnson: Got it. Thanks, Herman, and welcome by the way. And then —

Herman Cueto: Thank you.

Jacob Johnson: Maybe for Steve, just on the large stores that was a standout again this quarter. You cited that backlog. Can you just kind of update us on where that backlog stands? And then kind of any commentary around like new order trends, I guess large capital equipment has been an area that some have called out some softness in this quarter. So I’m just curious if you’ve seen any change there.

Steve Schwartz: Yes. So we got – Jacob, we have roughly half of the year’s forecasted backlog. So we continue to make good progress on the stores. The pipeline is robust as it’s ever been. And so we’re working to make sure that we continue to bring in enough business to keep it full. But we’ve always talked about the opportunity here beyond the rare disease and population studies. We’re putting large automated stores now into companies that manufacture biological materials. And that’s helped us to drive another vector. So we feel good about the pipeline. We feel confident about the growth rate that we forecasted going into 2024. But a healthy backlog right now, we continue to add to it. That’s one part of the business we feel really strongly about continuing to be healthy in 2024.

Jacob Johnson: Got it. I’ll leave it there. Thanks for taking the questions.

Steve Schwartz: Thanks, Jacob.

Herman Cueto: Thanks, Jacob.

Operator: And your next question comes from the line of Andrew Cooper with Raymond James. Your line is open.

Steve Schwartz: Hi, Andrew.

Andrew Cooper: Hi, everybody. Thanks for the questions. And Herman good to chat with you here for the first time.

Herman Cueto: Thanks, Andrew. Nice to meet you.

Andrew Cooper: Just on C&I if I go back to last quarter, there was some commentary around the instrument dynamics actually giving you a little bit of comfort that there was going to be consumable pull-through, things would hopefully start to get better. I don’t think you put an exact timing on it. But just – maybe an update on to that thinking and how you think about potential for recovery in that business? Because obviously, the product business is doing well other than that. So I just would love to know kind of how you think about when that could normalize?

Herman Cueto: Yes. Andrew, it’s an interesting question. So I think where I would start – it’s Herman, by the way. Sequential growth in C&I was 8.6% from Q3 to Q4. So we feel really good about that. As we speak with the teams, we do continue to hear that C&I budgets are constrained. But right now, we have the largest active funnel in this period than we’ve had at any point in the last calendar year. And when we dig a little bit deeper and we ask about what’s going on with U.S. distributor inventory levels right now, they tell us that they’re basically at par where they need to be. We do hear that the levels in EMEA are a little bit lagging behind right now, but they do expect to cycle through that inventory by mid-2024.

Andrew Cooper: Okay. Great. That’s helpful. And then maybe just another one on the large stores business. Asking a little bit different way. Any changes there in terms of the sales cycles you’re hearing about and the duration to close that backlog just in terms of, obviously, a pressured funding environment for some of these customers?

Steve Schwartz: Yes. There just aren’t enough to give you a detailed trend here, Andrew, but for sure the projects that have been out there are active often takes us, 18 to 24 months from identification in order to closing it. So we’re not seeing anything different from normal behaviors. But once a customer needs a store, we usually get moving pretty fast. And the indications we have usually start with the design work that we do upfront to get the specification close enough and we think that activity is in normal course right now. So there’s some reluctance for sure at some places, but then we focus on other stores where it’s more active. So I can’t tell you that it’s different, but it’s not overly robust, but it’s certainly adequate for us to have a good look into 2024.

Andrew Cooper: Okay, great. I will stop there. Appreciate it,

Herman Cueto: Thanks.

Steve Schwartz: Thanks, Andrew.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Paul Knight with KeyBanc. Your line is open.

Paul Knight: Yes, Herman, thanks for your time today. The – Steve, I guess I’ll start with you first, though, and that is this SRS, the storage business, is this the ramp-up of some of these cell therapies and/or the three PDUFA dates we’re expecting here in December?

Steve Schwartz: Yes, Paul. So some of it – it’s difficult to say. I’ll give you a number, Paul, that will make sense. For us, this – the growth in the Cell and Gene Therapy business for us has slowed this year compared to what we’ve seen in the past, but we’re up 7% year-over-year for the full year. But it’s been slower – without question, it’s been slower here in the third and fourth quarter. I will tell you, one of the things that we observed is for the first time in a few quarters, we had a multisystem order for the BioStorage III cryo systems. It’s been a little while since we had those. We used to – they used to come rather frequently. This is the first we’ve had probably in four quarters. So it’s a good green shoot for us as people are starting to stabilize and make sense of which projects are going to go forward or not. So I won’t say it’s off to the races yet. But it’s a healthier environment for us. And the pipeline that we have continues to build in a way that we haven’t seen now in a few quarters.

Paul Knight: And Herman, the 7 or so percent EBITDA margin you’re targeting on FY ’24 is a long way from peers. What has to happen there to get – I don’t know —

Herman Cueto: Yes. I mean, listen, there is still work to be done. As I said in the prepared remarks and listen, I’m going to come in here and I’m an operator. I see the same things that everybody sees and we need to work through that, and I look forward to talking more about that in the future. What I would say on the EBITDA margin that we put into the guide. We are seeing nice operating leverage on sales growth. So I’m happy to talk about that. We do expect gross margin to expand despite price pressure and genomics and some of the investments that we’re making in places like the Boston repository. You see the cost initiatives that we’ve been talking about. They are showing up in the P&L. We have great line of sight to the Phase 2 initiatives that we’ve been talking about. So we feel really good about that. And I do want to remind everybody that the investments in the sales force, they do ramped in the first part of the year and then the savings will happen throughout the year. So again, listen, there’s a lot to be done. We have work to do in this area. I do think we can be more efficient. We just have to work those plans and we’ll be happy to talk to you more about that in the future.

Paul Knight: Okay. Thanks.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Vijay Kumar with Evercore ISI. Your line is open.

Steve Schwartz: Hi, Vijay.

Vijay Kumar: Hi guys, thanks for taking my question. Hi, Steve.

Steve Schwartz: Hi Vijay.

Vijay Kumar: I had a few questions, if you don’t mind, Steve. One on this guidance here. So Q1, looks like we’re looking at minus 15%. It’s all being driven by B Medical. I think implied B Medical is $10 million revenues, what were orders with B Medical in the quarter? Like why is B Medical low to start the year? And I think you mentioned multiomics plus SRS is low singles. Is that assuming declines for multiomics, and what kind of declines are you expecting? Are you expecting China to grow in Q1?

Steve Schwartz: So Vijay, so a lots going on here. So let me give you a few. So the core business, we anticipate growth in the December quarter. So as you said, the decline comes from the B Medical. And again, as Herman mentioned, we give you the forecast on B Medical for where we are at this point in the quarter, just not knowing what else will come. But as we mentioned, the pipeline is particularly healthy. The expanded – this expanded order from the DRC is particularly positive for us because we’ve had some other – we had a different forecast in the original pipeline. And now that they’ve upsized the order, this gives us great promise for what the year can be. So we’re really confident about how we’ll land for B Medical. We hope there’s upside even to that number. But we feel confident about where we are. The timing of orders for the B Medical business, as are unpredictable. And so we give you what we’re holding at the moment. The pipeline is rich. And it doesn’t mean things can’t drop in between now and the end of the year, but we’re not going to commit that yet till we hold it because a lot of things can happen. But the team is bullish, the order pipeline, the customer list is pretty significant and we feel really strong about the opportunity growth for B Medical in the year. And we’re particularly enthusiastic about the strategic implications of the DRC order, because of the ability now to handle biological samples, which is the reason – really the driving reason for us to be connected to B Medical. So vaccines out, human biosamples back. We think that’s the start of what’s going to be a tremendous value proposition for the customers.

Herman Cueto: So, Vijay, it’s Herman. I think the way you’re characterizing the Q1 orders, your – you have that pretty well figured out. I – when we think about Q1 growth in multiomics, I would point you to the full-year range. And I would say the legacy genomics business is probably on the lower end, and SRS is probably on a little bit of the higher end as a way to think about it. So we do see growth on that side of the business.

Steve Schwartz: Vijay, finally about China. We don’t give you the forecast there, but we still see really healthy environment in China. We recognize that’s different from what other people are seeing. I’ll give you a little extra color here. The genomics growth of 12% was countered by a decrease in the product side. So the overall China growth was 2%, but we had 23% growth in the prior quarter, 12% growth in Q4. It just continues to be a robust environment. A lot of that’s because there are hundreds of companies within walking distance of our Suzhou facility. And so we have a really strong customer base, and if they need any kind of work, we’re there for them. So it’s – that’s a customer capture proximity capability that allows us to remain really strong in China. And we anticipate that we’ll outperform the market in China here in the first quarter.

Vijay Kumar: Understood. Hi, Herman, welcome. One on the –

Herman Cueto: Thanks, Vijay.

Vijay Kumar: – guidance here. On – I guess if DRC’s adding $50 million – in think your implied B Medical revenues for fiscal ’24 is $125-ish million. So ex-DRC, are we looking at base 75? Is that the right run rate for B Medical, just because DRC seems like outsized, I’m trying to understand B Medical, what’s the right run rate exiting ’24?

Herman Cueto: Yes. I mean, Vijay, I would anchor you back to the guidance that we gave for B Medical. I come back to the way I described it. We have a robust pipeline. This is a lumpy business. I think everybody knows that. The way the pipeline converts to revenue takes a little bit of time. We don’t want to bet on it. But the DRC order certainly gives us a lot of confidence that the guide that we gave of mid-single-digits for B Medical, we have a lot of confidence in that.

Vijay Kumar: Understood. And Steve maybe apologies for the multi questions here. Just one maybe on capital allocation here.

Steve Schwartz: Yes.

Vijay Kumar: I saw the new share repo announcement here. If I just look at the last interest income here, that’s a pretty sizable EPS headwind, right? I’m just curious what drove the $0.5 billion share repo when we know that – knew that it was going to be an EPS headwind. Just curious on the back process here?

Steve Schwartz: Yes, Vijay, we’ve always been clear that managing the cash isn’t – that’s not our business. We’re about growing the company. When we looked at the strategic alternatives we have in terms of acquisitions from organic growth first, then acquisitions and investments that we’re making in the company to streamline to reduce costs to compress facilities. We really have adequate cash for the next couple of years, and we’ve been clear with the shareholders that if we don’t have better use for cash, it belongs to them. And that’s really what drove the decision. So we made a decision a year ago for $1.5 billion. We committed $1 billion, and we’re simply following through on the remainder of that authorization from the Board that we put out a year ago. So we still have $500 million of cash. And we got a lot of internal work to continue to improve the operations to get the profitability up. And that’s how you’ll see us focusing mostly here over 2024. We’ve got a good path toward growth. And now we’ve got to get the profitability up, and that’s how we’ll make internal investments, organic investments to make sure that we’re able to deliver on that. And these are investments that have – a $700 million revenue company needs to be making now to make sure that we are a hugely profitable $2 billion revenue company. And that’s really the focus that we have here in fiscal ’24.

Vijay Kumar: Understood. And Herman, one last one for you here.

Herman Cueto: Sure.

Vijay Kumar: On the EPS guidance, is the tax ratio, should that normalize once these DTAs go away or what’s the normalized tax rate? And do you expect gross margins to be up next year?

Herman Cueto: Yes. Let me take the gross margin one first. Yes, I do expect gross margin expansion next year, so we should certainly count on that. And what I would say is it’s growing. And it’s growing despite some investments that we’re making. So the Boston repository would put pressure on margin. We talked about some of the pricing pressures we’re seeing in genomics would put pressure on margin. But I think the big story is we do see volume. And with that volume coming in, we do expect leverage on our fixed overhead and labor efficiency. So we feel really good about that. Going to the tax rate, yes, I mean, I would anchor you back to where we were in ’23 as sort of a more normalized tax rate. And in the prepared remarks, I think I alluded to, if you remove the – this headwind, you do get back to that more normalized rate in that mid-20 range.

Vijay Kumar: Understood. Thanks, guys.

Herman Cueto: Thanks, Vijay.

Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Yuan Zhi with B. Riley. Your line is open.

Yuan Zhi: Hi team. Congrats on a good quarter, and thank you for taking on my questions.

Steve Schwartz: Hi, Yuan.

Yuan Zhi: Hi, Herman. Hi, Steve. So based on – sorry about this multiple question here, for the guided organic growth 5% to 8%, can you please clarify how much of it is contributed from B Medical? And then is the organic revenue growth in line with the overall industrial growth? Can you highlight the segment you think that grows higher than the industry average? Thank you.

Herman Cueto: Yes. I mean, let me start with a couple of things, and then Steve, feel free to jump in. If you look at – you want – I think maybe the best way to look at it is if you look at Azenta ex-acquisitions and ex-C&I, we grew 5% organically for the full year and 6% in the quarter. We did see sequential growth in C&I, which tells us that, you know, maybe we’ve cycled through these tough compares. Beyond that, when you think about the sales team investments, the channel expansion that we’re doing and the strong backlog that we have in stores, it gives us a lot of confidence in this 5% to 8% that we’ve guided today. And on top of that, we are seeing – you know, when you think about the stores business, we are seeing new vectors for growth. We’re seeing companies who are – who manufacture biological materials that are using our stores as part of their supply chain. So we have a lot of confidence in the 5% to 8%. And this is a tough market and we do believe this 5% to 8% represents us outperforming it.

Steve Schwartz: And Yuan, to answer your question a little bit about how do we compare with the market, it’s tough for us because we don’t have full year looks from people and because we’re up cycle here. Our fiscal year started on October 1. We look at peers and kind of what they’re guiding for the quarter. We think in our core business, we’re outperforming. And just the momentum we’ve had in the bottoms-up look we have in the business, we’re really comfortable with the 5% to 8%. If the market picks up beyond what we believe it looks like, we’ll outperform that. We think we’re set up to do that. We focus on our ability to outperform. We think the offerings we have are superior. And that’s really how we’ve guided the business. On the product side, on the services side, we remain very competitive. And so we’re imagining a slow growth market, and that 5% to 8% growth would outgrow the – our current view of what the market is.

Yuan Zhi: Got it. Thank you for that helpful color. And maybe one last question from me. For the remaining $500 million, do you see any long-term initiatives where you can invest or improve internally to improve the top line and product margin?

Herman Cueto: Yes. It’s Herman, Yuan. Yes, I do think there could be – as we start to build out our plans on how we expand EBITDA margin through what I would describe as operational-type programs, there could be the need to use some of that money. Certainly, that’s a lot of money, $500 million, but use some of that money to build out some of those programs. And you know, we’re looking at architecture-type things that we want to think about. You know, maybe there’s some product line focus that we could do, and then certainly continuing with the org efficiencies that we’ve already began.

Steve Schwartz: And Yuan, I’ll put a couple in for you. We – you know, we made investments, we’ve basically doubled the capacity we have in the Indianapolis area. We’re putting a Boston by repository in. We’re about to open a genomics laboratory in Oxford in the U.K. We’re developing next-generation tools. So we are making organic investments from the top-line standpoint. And those are already in place, and it’s really to satisfy customer demand that we see coming, and also to transform some of the product areas where we’re already market leaders, but we think we have product lines that will help to distance from even where we are today. So those will be top-line value creators, without question. And as Herman mentioned, other investments inside to rationalize footprint to continue to reduce cost, to get systems implementations in place so that we’re a much more profitable, much more efficient company as we go forward. So we – it’s hard to earmark a full $500 million for that. But we’ve got a couple of things that strategically make sense. They are rather small tuck-ins. But they’ll add to the strategic portfolio and we think we have good line of sight for how to keep growing the company with a significant balance sheet that has that $500 million on it.

Yuan Zhi: Got it. Thank you.

Operator: And there are no further questions. I’ll turn the call back to Steve Schwartz for closing remarks. Thank you.

Steve Schwartz: Okay. Thank you, operator, and thanks everybody for joining us today. But before we conclude, I just wanted to deliver a brief message of thanks to Lindon Robertson, who most of you know now for quite some time. But over the past 10 years, Lindon has been really an incredible partner to me as a collaborator and a teacher. And in doing so, really a tremendous value creator for all of us. He’s been extraordinarily customer-focused. And by that, I mean, Azenta end-use customers, but also you, our investors and analysts. He’s been a patient, detailed, precise communicator, and he’s always been someone who delivered the messages with care, really with the sole intent to provide clarity to you. His focus is always on what was best for Azenta and for you, our shareholders. In every way, Lindon’s represented Brooks Automation (NASDAQ:) and Azenta in a manner that made each of us proud to be part of his company, and we’ll miss his presence in his leadership. Of course, we’re enthusiastic about Herman as our new CFO, and I thank Herman and Lindon for the means by which they’ve worked together during this transition period. It’s been great for the company, particularly smooth. And I think you can tell from Herman’s ability to answer a myriad questions that have come in already, he’s 100% up to speed. And I just thank both of them for that transition. So that said, we really thank you for your support of Azenta. Herman and I look forward to seeing many of you at various upcoming investor meetings and certainly on our next earnings call in early 2024. So we thank everybody and look forward to speaking next time. Bye.

Operator: That does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your line.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

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