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Waters Revenues Up 9 Percent in Q4

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Waters today reported that its fourth quarter revenues were up 9 percent compared to the year-ago period.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, 2017, Waters' total revenues increased to $687 million from $629 million in Q4 2016, besting the consensus analyst estimate of $669 million.

The effect of foreign currency translation boosted Q4 revenues by 3 percent, the company said.

On a conference call following the earnings release, Waters CEO Christopher O'Connell cited broad-based growth, particularly among the company's pharma customers, as driving sales in the quarter and throughout 2017.

Pharma sales were up 8 percent (in constant currency) on the quarter and 7 percent in 2017. Government and academic sales were up 13 percent in Q4 and 6 percent in 2017. Sales to industrial markets were flat in the quarter and up 5 percent in 2017.

Instrument platform sales grew 4 percent in Q4, while full-year sales were up 5 percent. Growth was "led by particular strength in core LC and LC-MS systems sold to our pharmaceutical customers," O'Connell said. He cited as particularly strong performers the company's benchtop LC tandem mass spec systems including its Xevo TQ-XS and Xevo TQ-S micro.

"We continue to see the expansion of mass spec technology into routine quantification workflows," he added.

Waters' recurring revenues grew 8 percent in the quarter and 7 percent full-year.

In Q4, sales were up 6 percent in the Americas, 6 percent in Asia, and 7 percent in Europe. For full-year 2017 they were flat in the Americas, up 10 percent in Asia, and up 8 percent in Europe.

O'Connell discussed on the call the potential impact of the recently passed US tax bill, saying that the bill provided the company "tax-efficient access to our significant global free cash flow."

He suggested this could increase the company's US investment, noting that "there is now opportunity to invest in the [US] at a lower cost of capital."

"There are clearly some investments that historically maybe we have been a little more cautious on in the US given the uncertainty of the tax situation but now are taking a more careful look at," he said.

O'Connell added that Waters planned to continue and potentially expand its share buy-back program in 2018. He said the new US tax laws did not change the company's thinking around M&A, noting that the company is "more organically driven."

The company posted a net loss for the quarter of $353.2 million, or $4.44 per share, which included a $550 million income tax charge related to the recent US tax reform bill. In Q4 2016, it posted net income of $174.4 million, or $2.15 per share. On an adjusted basis, the company reported EPS of $2.51, beating the consensus Wall Street estimate of $2.44.

R&D spending in the quarter was up 7 percent year over year to $35.1 million from $32.8 million, while SG&A costs rose 14 percent to $148.8 million from $130.2 million.

Revenues for full-year 2017 increased 7 percent year over year to $2.31 billion from $2.17 billion in 2016, beating the Wall Street estimate for revenues of $2.29 billion.

Profits for the year were $20.3 million, or $.25 per share, compared to $521.5 million, or $6.41 per share, in 2016. Adjusted EPS was $7.49, beating the consensus analyst estimate of $7.43.

For full year 2017, R&D spending was $132.6 million, up 6 percent from $125.2 million in 2016. SG&A spending was up 6 percent to $544.7 million from $513.0 million the year before.

Waters ended the year with $3.39 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and investments.

For Q1 2018, Waters estimates adjusted EPS to be in the range of $1.48 to $1.60, CFO Sherry Buck said on the call. Adjusted EPS for full-year 2018 is anticipated to be between $8.00 and $8.25, she said. Analysts are expecting Q1 earnings of $1.58 per share, and full-year 2018 earnings of $8.08 per share.

In Tuesday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, shares of Waters were down 3 percent to $208.35.