Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Industrials

Nordson Corp. (NDSN) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

NDSN Earnings Call - Final Transcript

Nordson Corp. (NASDAQ: NDSN) Q4 2020 earnings call dated Dec. 16, 2020

Corporate Participants:

Lara Mahoney — Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Allison Poliniak-Cusic — Wells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Matt J. Summerville — D.A. Davidson & Co. — Analyst

Jeffrey D. Hammond — KeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Andrew E. Buscaglia — Berenberg Capital Markets — Analyst

Saree Boroditsky — Jefferies — Analyst

Michael Halloran — Baird Equity Research — Analyst

Christopher Glynn — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Nordson Corporation Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2020 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the call over to your speaker today, Lara Mahoney. Please go ahead.

Lara Mahoney — Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications

Thank you. Good morning. This is Lara Mahoney, Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. I’m here with Sundaram Nagarajan, our President and CEO; and Joseph Kelly, Executive Vice President and CFO.

We welcome you to our conference call today, Wednesday, December 16, 2020 to report Nordson’s fiscal year 2020 fourth quarter and full year results. You can find both our press release as well as our new webcast slide presentation that we will refer to during today’s call on our website at nordson.com/investor. This conference call is being broadcast live on our Investor website and will be available there for 14 days. There will be a telephone replay of the conference call available until December 30, 2020. During this conference call, references to non-GAAP financial metrics will be made. A complete reconciliation of these metrics to the most comparable GAAP metric has been provided in the press release issued yesterday.

Before we begin, please refer to Slide 2 of our presentation, where we note that certain statements regarding our future performance that are made during this call may be forward-looking based upon Nordson’s current expectations. These statements may involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors, as discussed in the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that could cause actual results to differ.

Moving to today’s agenda on Slide 3, Naga will discuss fourth quarter and full year highlights. He will then turn the call over to Joe to review sales and earnings performance for the total company and the two business segment. Joe also will talk about the year end balance sheet and cash flow. Naga will conclude with high level commentary about our enterprise performance as well as our fiscal 2021 first quarter guidance. We will then be happy to take your questions.

With that, I will turn to Slide 4 and hand the call over to Naga.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining Nordson’s fiscal 2020 fourth quarter and full year conference call. In this unprecedented fiscal year, we did not just weather a challenging macro environment, we advanced our long-term strategy and achieved solid financial results.

First, I want to thank our Nordson employees for their flexibility, resilience and commitment as we navigated fiscal 2020. From the beginning of this pandemic, our leadership team has worked together to protect the health and safety of our employees and respond to the needs of our customers. Representatives from our global teams came together to share best practices and lessons learned as COVID-19 span the globe. We implemented new protocols of social distancing and face coverage as well as regular cleaning and temperature checks, all of which continues to this day.

By protecting our employees, we were able to offer uninterrupted service to our customers, many of whom were deemed to support critical infrastructure. Nordson products are a very diverse set of end markets, including medical, electronics, consumer non-durables and general industrial. This diversity helped us drive the relative stability of our results. We have also stayed invested in our direct sales application and service model, and committed to the innovation in our precision technologies.

For the full year, sales decreased only 3% compared to prior year, which is commendable in this environment. Simultaneously, we made meaningful progress on our long-term objectives. We built and started to deploy the next generation of Nordson Business System, which we are calling NBS Next, our growth framework. Using critical insights generated by NBS Next segmentation tools, our divisional leaders are prioritizing investments in our best growth opportunities and simplifying non-value-added tasks in operations to deliver best-in-class product quality and delivery.

Use of this data-driven growth framework led us to take actions that could strategically position our portfolio for sustainable long-term profitable growth. In September, we announced the technology acquisition of vivaMOS, which designs, develops and fabricates high end image sensors that would further differentiate our X-ray inspection product offering.

Earlier this year, we acquired Fluortek, a precision plastic extrusion manufacturer in medical device industry. Fluortek brings highly differentiated PTFE medical tubing expertise, which is complementary to our current value-added component offering for minimally invasive therapies, such as heart valve replacement. Scaling up our highly differentiated test and inspection and medical product lines will continue to be a priority of our capital deployment strategy.

We also took actions to simplify our portfolio in less differentiated areas. On December 3, we announced the divestiture of our screws and barrels product line from our polymer processing systems division to Altair Investments. While this business is a respected leader in the plastic industry, it does not meet Nordson’s long-term profitable growth objectives. We believe it will be better positioned with Altair. By directing this business, we will focus our resources on growing more differentiated profitable product lines that will deliver on our long-term growth objectives. We believe our remaining PPS division has the right degree of differentiation and related technical competitive advantages to deliver Nordson-like growth and returns.

I’ll speak more about the business in a few moments, but first, I’ll turn the call over to Joe to provide more detailed perspective on our financial results for the quarter.

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Naga, and good morning to everyone. As Lara mentioned, we have provided slides to complement the narrative during today’s earnings call. On Slide number 5, you see fourth quarter 2020 sales were $559 million, a decrease of 5% compared to the prior year’s fourth quarter sales of $585 million. The decrease was primarily related to organic volume, offset by favorable currency and benefits from the Fluortek and vivaMOS acquisitions. Test and inspection product lines were solid again this quarter, and we continue to see growth in our product lines serving medical end markets. Sales decline in the quarter was largely driven by weakness in the industrial and automotive end markets.

Gross profit totaled $297 million or 53% of sales in the quarter compared to $319 million or 54% of sales in the prior year. The 100 basis point decrease in gross margins primarily relates to the $1.3 million in amortization of acquired inventory step up from the fiscal 2020 acquisitions. Looking sequentially, gross margins improved 100 basis points as the manufacturing inefficiencies related to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and unfavorable product sales mix experienced in the third quarter of 2020 were primarily temporary in nature.

Operating profit was $37 million in the quarter. This included an $87 million non-cash impairment charge related to classifying the screw and barrel product line within the IPS segment as assets held for sale. This classification aligns with the company’s strategic decision to divest this product line to improve the ongoing earnings and overall profitable growth profile of the business. Excluding this item, plus cost reduction actions and the amortization of acquired inventory step up, adjusted operating profit totaled $130 million or 23% of sales. EBITDA for the fourth quarter was $159 million or 29% of sales, which is 5% below the prior year EBITDA of $168 million.

Looking at non-operating expense, net interest expense decreased $4 million or 37% from the prior year levels associated with lower effective borrowing rate. Other net expense increased $2 million, driven primarily by a $1 million increase in pension costs. Tax expense in the quarter totaled $8 million or an effective tax rate of 30% in the quarter. Excluding the tax impact and non-recurring items and the $2 million discrete tax benefit associated primarily with stock option exercises, the fourth quarter and full year normalized tax rate is approximately 21%.

Net income in the quarter totaled $18 million or $0.31 per share. Adjusted net income and earnings were $93 million or $1.59 per share. This represents an 11% decrease from the prior year adjusted earnings, reflective primarily of a 5% year-over-year decrease in sales.

Turning to Slide number 6. I’ll now share a few comments on our full year results. Sales for the full year 2020 were $2.1 billion, a decrease of 3% compared to the prior year. This change in sales included a decrease in organic volumes of 4%, offset by growth related to acquisitions. The full year impact of currency translation differences was not significant. Excluding the non-cash impairment charge, cost reduction initiatives, acquired inventory step up amortization and the discrete tax benefits, adjusted operating profit was $454 million and diluted earnings per share were $5.48, a 7% decrease from the prior year adjusted earnings of $5.87. EBITDA for the full year was $567 million or 27% of sales, which is in line with our prior year EBITDA margin percent of sales.

Now let’s turn to Slide 7 and 8 to review the fourth quarter 2020 segment performance. Industrial Precision Solutions sales of $308 million decreased 8% compared to the prior year fourth quarter. This decline was driven in part by weaker demand in industrial and automotive end markets where we had record sales in the prior year fourth quarter. Currency was favorable 2%, primarily driven by the strengthening of the euro, offset by an organic volume decrease of 10%.

Adjusted operating profit for the quarter was $92 million or 30% of sales, which excludes the $87 million non-cash impairment charge and $4 million in structural cost reduction actions. Despite the decrease in sales volume, cost control measures and sales mix improvements enabled the segment to deliver the same 30% operating margin as the prior year fourth quarter. Structural cost reductions taken in the fourth quarter were primarily related to early retirement incentives offered to employees in the industrial coatings systems division. These actions will generate $3 million to $4 million in annualized savings starting in fiscal 2021.

Advanced Technology Solutions sales of $250 million increased approximately 1% compared to the prior year fourth quarter. This change included a decrease in organic sales volume of 3%, an increase of approximately 2% related to acquisitions, and a 1% increase related to currency. Continued sales volume growth in test and inspection product lines serving electronics end markets and steady demand in medical product lines were offset by weakness in fluid dispense product lines serving industrial and automotive end markets.

Reported operating profit for the segment was $51 million. Excluding one-time charges associated with the amortization of acquired inventory step up, adjusted operating profit was $52 million or 21% of sales. The year-over-year decrease of 100 basis points in operating margin in the fourth quarter and the full year was driven by unfavorable product sales mix within the segment.

Finally, turning to the balance sheet and cash flow on Page 9. We ended the quarter with a strong balance sheet and plenty of available borrowing capacity. Cash totaled $208 million and net debt was $898 million, ending the quarter with a 1.6 time leverage ratio based on the trailing 12 months EBITDA. Free cash flow in the quarter was $178 million. This brings the full year 2020 free cash flow total to $452 million, a conversion rate on adjusted net income of 141% as working capital liquidation and lower cash taxes paid contributed favorably to free cash flow in 2020. For modeling purposes, in fiscal 2021, assume an estimated effective tax rate of 21% and capital expenditures of $50 million to $55 million.

In summary, our top-line has held up well considering the unique challenges of fiscal 2020. The team has taken constructive actions to manage cost, while also aligning our resources and product portfolio with the best profitable growth opportunities. We continue to maintain a strong balance sheet with sufficient liquidity to allow us to stay focused on long-term strategic initiatives to drive profitable, organic and inorganic growth.

I will now turn the call back to Naga.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Joe. Let’s turn to Slide 10. We are well positioned going into fiscal 2021. We have been operating safely and efficiently in this pandemic environment. We also have found creative ways to connect with our customers, whether it is virtual training and tech support or safely distance on-site product implementations.

For example, our adhesives team recently participated in the Annual Tactics Show, which is the largest North American packaging trade show. They rose to the challenge of this virtual event, showcasing our recent innovation through virtual demonstrations and videos. No matter the environment, Nordson employees remain focused on innovation and delivering on the needs of our customers.

I’m also pleased with the engagement of the team in adapting our NBS Next growth framework. This is truly about making a strong Nordson even stronger. Fundamental to this framework is to select and invest in the best profitable growth opportunities. This data-driven, customer and product segmentation approach, which we refer to as strategic discipline, identifies where we create the greatest value for our customers. It is the new capability that our team is learning.

Using a data-driven segmentation approach in a consistent and disciplined way, division leaders across the Nordson have been working to define their strategic business priorities. This framework empowers our division leaders to take action on the data and focus on the areas where we win.

Our decision to divest the screws and barrels product line was based on critical insight gained from this data-driven segmentation approach. Realigning our portfolio is another step forward in positioning Nordson for long-term profitable growth. This divestiture will improve earnings on a go-forward basis. It also gives our PPS leaders more time and energy to focus their resources on their differentiated and profitable product lines. This action exemplified the power of NBS Next, identify our businesses’ goal, simplify the areas that distract you from focusing and growing with your core strength.

The consistent deployment of our data-driven growth framework will complement Nordson’s great strength of innovation, customer passion and culture and plans. We will continue to strengthen our newer capability by unleashing an entrepreneurial mindset at the division level, while also building deep and diverse winning teams.

We are excited to announce that we will be hosting a Virtual Investor Day on March 30, 2021. At this event, we will share more details about our long-term strategy, our differentiated product portfolio and our growth objectives. We will be sharing more information about the details of this event in January, but please save the date in your calendars for the morning of March 30.

Now for the outlook on Slide 11. As I previously mentioned, we are well positioned entering 2021. During the challenging year of 2020, we remained invested in what makes Nordson strong, the direct sales model and our innovative precision technology portfolio. Additionally, we were successful in advancing several aspects of our long-term growth strategy. As we begin fiscal 2021, backlog has increased approximately 5% compared to the same period a year ago, and the trailing 12-week order entry is 5% above prior year level.

That said, it remains a dynamic environment and our business conditions are changing frequently as the world responds to the challenges of resurging COVID-19 virus. Given these factors, we’re not providing annual guidance at this time. However, we have a good line of sight to the fiscal 2021 first quarter. Based on current order entry trends, backlog amounts and the correlation to sales timing, we expect the first quarter of 2021 sales growth to be approximately 2% to 3% with adjusted earnings growth in the range of 15% to 20% as compared to fiscal 2020 first quarter. As always, I want to thank our customers, employees and shareholders for your continued support.

With that, we will pause and take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Allison Poliniak with Wells Fargo. Allison, your line is open.

Allison Poliniak-Cusic — Wells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Great, thanks. Good morning, guys. Within the 5% order rate for this past couple of weeks, is there a noted vertical that’s driving that or is it fairly broad-based here?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Allison, good morning. Thank you for your question. Let’s just maybe talk in terms of specific end markets, that’s probably the better way to answer that question. So if you think about our consumer non-durable business, what you’re really finding is, this is a recession-resilient end market for us, food and beverage packaging. Adhesives have been trending slightly up. And so our expectations are, this is a better growth than what we have seen in some time.

In the medical business, order rates remained stable. It still remains a dynamic environment. Remember that parts of our metal business that is certainly impacted by elective surgeries or selective surgeries, but we also have little bit component parts of our business that has been serving biopharma end markets. And so — and disposable, single-use plastics as well. So that part of it is doing really well.

So overall, medical is stable, still continuing to grow. In electronics, I would tell you the test and inspection business is really doing extremely well. They are driven by advanced components in semiconductors, camera modules. In the quarter, we experienced double-digit growth. I would — my expectations would be slightly lesser than that, but certainly high-single-digits is where this is trending.

Our Industrial business, I would tell you, is challenged, but things are starting to look up. We expect some recovery in the first quarter. Our OEM businesses are moderating and automotive is a small part of the company. So it’s not one single vertical, but differing rates of growth and trends that are trending up based on the end markets.

Allison Poliniak-Cusic — Wells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Got it. That’s helpful. And then just touching on the divestiture, I know your comment about it not necessarily being quarter Nordson longer term. Is there somewhat of an impact — mix impact that you guys are thinking about when looking at these businesses as well in terms of the long-term profitability of the company or is that sort of just an insight at this point?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Joe, you want to take this one?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. So when you think about the divestiture, as Naga mentioned in his script, this divestiture which we hope to conclude I would say at the end of Q1 or early Q2, it will improve the ongoing earnings of Nordson. And specifically, I guess to your question, the IPS segment and will also improve therefore the profitability profile. But I would tell you, no different than Naga mentioned in his script, the most important I think impactful is the prioritization and the allocation of resources to those more attractive growth opportunities. And so that’s what really came through the NBS Next portfolio analysis and driving that focus in terms of a growth framework going forward.

Allison Poliniak-Cusic — Wells Fargo Securities — Analyst

Great. Thanks so much.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Matt Summerville with D.A. Davidson. Matt, your line is open.

Matt J. Summerville — D.A. Davidson & Co. — Analyst

Thanks. Couple of questions. Maybe just to follow-up on the last point, just internal review process that led to this divestiture announcement. Have you fully concluded that at this point? And should we expect any additional portfolio shaping actions here in the more immediate term?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Matt, thank you for your question. On NBS Next, portfolio analysis is a core part of NBS Next, which is really what we call strategic discipline. It is based on product segmentation and customer segmentation. It is an ongoing process. So based on what we looked at today with our PPS business, our decision was this part of the business doesn’t really fit the kind of long-term differentiation as well as the growth potential that we are looking to have in a business. So that’s sort of what it is. But there are parts of our PPS business in this analysis, we figured out that it has some pretty strong differentiation characteristics, some technical advantages, which we believe will allow us to continue to grow this business with the Nordson-like profitability.

So for the rest of the businesses, this is an ongoing process. And there’s not so much about what you’re not going to do, it is as much as what you’re going to do more up, right? So as you think about our businesses, each of our divisions are going through portfolio analysis. And they figure out what are the best growth opportunities, what will create the greatest value, how we’ll win and focus disproportionately our resources and investments in that part of the company. So it’s an ongoing process, and hopefully that you’ll see some color.

Matt J. Summerville — D.A. Davidson & Co. — Analyst

Yes. Thank you. And then as a follow-up. When you look at kind of your implied organic guidance for the first quarter, probably flat to maybe down slightly because you’ll have some FX tailwind and then some acquisition tailwind. Can you maybe talk about, square that up a little bit with respect to your trailing order entry being up mid-single-digits? And you mentioned some things may be around that correlation with timing, etc., can you maybe expand on that a little bit, Naga?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I guess, let me expand on [Technical Issue] maybe Naga, you can expand on the trend that you’re seeing in the orders. But you are correct, I mean, if you look at our Q1 guidance as it relates to the revenue, we assume there FX rate similar to what we had experienced in Q4. And so, therefore, when you look at the Q1 guidance, the FX and the acquisition will be favorable to about the same degree they were in our Q4 performance, which to your point, implies organic growth relatively flat on a year-over-year basis.

Now, I’ll point now that that organic growth of relatively flat is a significant improvement from the 7% decrease that we saw organically in Q4 and the 4% organic decrease in the full year 2020. Also, I would add, if you look at what the revenue forecast implies for Q1 2021, not only is it up 2% to 3% over 2020 Q1, but it’s also up over Q1 2019. So said differently, from a run rate standpoint, we’re starting out the year north of 2019 levels.

And then one other comment I would make is, and your observation, 5% on the order entry and the 5% on the backlog. That 5% is calculated on a constant dollar basis. So that’s really what’s driving our optimism and our attitudes and our positive outlook as we enter Q1 2021. Now, that being said, you could clearly see there is a difference between timing and lead times in terms of shipments and order entry and backlog. And so that all have to be taken into consideration when we give the Q1 guidance. But when we look at that backlog and that order entry trend, that’s what provides us that optimism heading into 2021.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Matt, what I would add to that is really — that timing really depends on various different businesses, right? There are several businesses, like our medical business is pretty much not a backlog kind of business, it’s more a book and ship kind of business. But if you contrast that within ICS business, that is more backlog-oriented. You get the order, then you have a large system that you have to put together. And then our aftermarket parts revenues are pretty much book and ship, and in our adhesive business is somewhere in between. It is more standard products that you’re customizing or configuring to sell. So depending on a business, depending on where it is, there is a correlation of timing that we talk about.

Matt J. Summerville — D.A. Davidson & Co. — Analyst

Thank you, guys.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Hammond with KeyBanc. Jeff, your line is open.

Jeffrey D. Hammond — KeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Hey, good morning.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Jeff.

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Jeff.

Jeffrey D. Hammond — KeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Maybe just give us a 5G update, we’re seeing new phones get rolled out with 5G. Just what are you seeing in terms of a capex cycle and on the mobile side as well as 5G infrastructure?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Let me talk about that broadly, Jeff. What we are seeing in the business is 5G-related, but more broadly, digital acceleration is really driving the electronics supply chain within our businesses. And most prominently, where we are seeing this kind of activity and digital acceleration is in the semiconductor side of the business. So in the semicon business, we’re seeing some incredible, a really nice demand patterns that are emerging for our test and inspection business, and that is really what you’re seeing the strength of.

In terms of 5G, some of the semicon are related to 5G, but not entirely, right? This is really mostly because of a contact-free economy that is beginning to emerge; virtual conferences, virtual investor discussions, how you order your Christmas gifts, how you order grocery. All of this is really an example of how this contact-free economy and digital acceleration that is really driving the growth of semiconductor. So you want to think about our electronic business not so much with the mobile revolution how you thought about our business then — in the last decade where mobile revolution was really the biggest growth driver for us. But going forward, you want to think about our electronic business more in terms of digital acceleration. So that would mean, two to three times GDP kind of growth over the long cycle.

And on infrastructure, it is still slow. We are continuing to get orders, we’re continuing to work on those things, but it is not at the same rate as one you would expect. So 5G in our mind is still an emerging opportunity.

Jeffrey D. Hammond — KeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. And then medical, you characterized as stable. I guess, I think this business is historically kind of a high-single-digit, low-double-digit grower, and maybe I’m just assuming stable means a little bit of growth. But I’m just trying to understand how you think the growth rate shapes up for medical and kind of these puts and takes around elective surgeries, maybe coming back as we get vaccine distribution versus kind of comps from PPE equipment, etc.?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So I think that’s a great question, Jeff. In terms of our medical business, there are really two parts to the medical business that sort of allow us to have flat-to-low single-digits, but you got to remember the context. Context really is, our med device customers are down 10%, 15%. So that’s the context. And so why are we doing better than in that context, it’s really because we have a fluid component business which is really serving the biopharma end markets as well as fluid components for COVID-type therapies, right?

So what you’re finding is our fluid component business is doing incredibly well, which is muting some of the declines we’re seeing in our interventional component business, which is directly correlated to the selective surgeries and elective surgeries. So big picture, if you think about our elective-selective surgery kind of related component business, it’s down a little bit, down a bit.

In the long-term, all of the drivers; aging population, single-use component, outsourcing our med device component, all of those are intact. As things normalize, we will return to mid-to-high single-digit kind of growth of this business, and that’s our expectation. And right now in this transition, if you think about elective surgeries, in July, they were down about 75%. They were 75% up pre-COVID levels, elective surgeries were. And our expectation was they were going to improve, but they have not. So as you know, as these elective surgeries improve, what you’re going to find is that we will benefit from it and we will return to our mid-single-digits, high-single-digits kind of growth in the medical business. So let me stop there. If you have any follow-up, I certainly will be happy to.

Jeffrey D. Hammond — KeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

No, that’s great. Just maybe last one. I understand the uncertainty. Just give us a sense of what you need to see or I don’t know if it’s just a couple more quarters before you kind of flip to a more full year kind of outlook? Thanks.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Joe, you want to take that?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Our hope is that our visibility will improve or I should say our confidence as it relates to the volatile time that we’re in with the pandemic here in Q1 and Q2. And so our hope is that by the time we have our Investor Day that Naga referenced, we will resume annual guidance at that time.

Jeffrey D. Hammond — KeyBanc Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. Thanks so much everyone.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Andrew Buscaglia with Berenberg. Andrew, your line is open.

Andrew E. Buscaglia — Berenberg Capital Markets — Analyst

Guys, I wanted to ask on — digging a little deeper in that electronics component within ATS. So there’s a — last year, there was a lot of optimism brewing into 2020, and obviously, there is a lot of things that navigate, you’re dealing with trade and then the pandemic. So I guess, into this year, I guess, how do you view things on a relative basis versus historical cycles for that segment? And so as the year progresses, I guess, what are some of the times we should be look out forward, seeing how that business shapes up?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Andrew, thank you. The electronic business — what has happened with our electronic business is something that we’ve been talking about a lot. If you think about historical, go back a decade ago, over the last decade, Nordson benefited by this incredible mobile revolution where you went from 30 million phones to about 1.5 billion phones worldwide. It was an incredible time of change, incredible amount of things changing in the mobile technology. Nordson played, contributed incredible technology and value to our customers, benefited from it, and that’s what we saw.

As you think about the next decade, and that’s sort of what we have in right now, that mobile revolution is a once in a lifetime kind of event. And what you’re going to see is a much more normal kind of growth, still pretty strong growth, two to three times GDP. And so the way we plan and think about our businesses, we think about two to three times growth across the electronic supply chain. Not just mobile, but really in our view as we work with our customers and what we see in our businesses. What we find the greater drivers are digital acceleration, which we’ve talked about. That contact-free economy, virtual conferences, virtual way of doing business, virtual way of buying grocery, virtual way of ordering Christmas gifts. Many different ways you think about this virtual economy, this contact-free economy is continuing to grow, which is leading to digital acceleration on infrastructure in capabilities. Certainly all of this adds to supply improvement and order trends that are across the supply chain. And Nordson has done a really nice job over the last decade to diversify from just one particular product category to multiple semiconductors, components, end products, PCBs.

So we’re diversified across the electronic supply chain. And so we will benefit from that. And we’re diversified into test and inspection. And so what you really see is this digital acceleration, all of this leading to complex devices, complex components leading to 100% inspection, in line inspection in some cases, all leading to our test and inspection business doing really well. So our expectation is two to three times. And it is a different kind of growth when compared to what you experienced in the last decade.

Andrew E. Buscaglia — Berenberg Capital Markets — Analyst

Yeah, okay. With this NBS Next, using data to kind of understand your business a bit better. You obviously found a divestment in there, but what about — is this influencing any change potentially on the acquisition side as to maybe another adjacent sub-segment that you’d like to be in or is the focus going to remain on test and inspection and medical?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

So as you think about it, we didn’t talk about this when we clarified our focus is going to be on test and inspection and medical, but really, that is what was behind. We did not — at that time, did not publicly talk about NBS Next because we were still in the process of building it. But really what drove our focus to focus on test and inspection and medical is really a concerted view inside the company on how the portfolio was and where was the greatest growth opportunities, what was the most differentiated parts of the company which had the greatest growth potential is sort of what it led us to this focus around test and inspection and medical.

We have opportunities scale up both these businesses and have a meaningful impact on growth of the company. Should we ever get in a place where we run out of ideas in scaling up these two businesses, we have a innovation team within the company that is always looking for new market spaces that have characteristics that are very similar to Nordson. Do we like the company, do like the market, what is the growth potential, what is the level of differentiation. So should we ever run out of ideas, we don’t rule out the opportunity to expand into a newer space should that need to happen.

Andrew E. Buscaglia — Berenberg Capital Markets — Analyst

Thanks, Naga.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Andrew. Appreciate the question.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Saree Boroditsky with Jefferies. Saree, your line is open.

Saree Boroditsky — Jefferies — Analyst

Thank you, and good morning.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Saree.

Saree Boroditsky — Jefferies — Analyst

As part of the NBS Next portfolio analysis, was there any businesses or product lines that you thought were being underfunded that you want to focus on growing organically going forward?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

I think that’s a great question. That is one of the things that we’re really laser focused on is this decision also — there are two ways to think about this. One, it’s a consistent disciplined way of looking at opportunities in the company. But more importantly, that analysis and that decision making now happens at our division level. At the company level, it is great to understand where you want to be. But it is even more powerful when you look at the businesses and you look at sub-segments within the business where the greatest opportunities are.

And as our division leaders have set their strategic growth priorities, what we are finding is that our leaders are making those decisions. The company has done a really nice job of staying invested in customer passion and staying invested in innovation. So I wouldn’t say there is a complete switch. But are we discovering opportunities? Yes. And I think I am more excited about the fact that now these decisions are made much closer to the customer, much closer to action and knowledge, and I think that’s probably the shift that we are making.

Saree Boroditsky — Jefferies — Analyst

Thank you. And then lastly, as we think about the backdrop for industrial spending next year, what are you hearing from customers as far as appetite for capital spending?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

As we talked a little bit about our industrial business, it remains challenged. But we are starting to — from the middle of the year to now, sequentially, the orders have continued to improve and continued to grow, and we see some of that in our industrial businesses. So as we think about it, it remains a dynamic environment, but our expectations are that it is trending up and we expect some recovery in the first quarter.

Saree Boroditsky — Jefferies — Analyst

Great. Thanks so much for answering my questions.

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Saree, I would just — so I would just add to your comment on the NBS Next. If you look at our SG&A, we did take several actions during the back half, particularly of 2020, to lower our structural cost. That said, those actions were very strategic, focused on business as identified and areas identified through the NBS Next framework. At the same time, it also allowed us areas where we want to invest, as Naga mentioned. So if you look at our product development cost on the full year and in the quarter, it was actually flat for the full year, up in the quarter. So there are areas where we continue to invest and there are areas where we are taking the strategic, I would say, structural cost reduction actions.

Saree Boroditsky — Jefferies — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Mike Halloran with Baird. Mike, your line is open.

Michael Halloran — Baird Equity Research — Analyst

Good morning, everyone.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Mike.

Michael Halloran — Baird Equity Research — Analyst

So some thoughts on the margin profile as you look through fiscal ’21. Maybe just help us some puts and takes, how you think about incremental margins? What some of these structural cost improvement initiatives can provide as a tailwind mix? Any other puts and takes when you think about, obviously, the divestitures is coming up that will help with the mix. But beyond that, how should we think about advancing the key buckets in the fiscal ’21?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Mike, I think in general, let me give you a broad — broadly how we think about this, and then Joe can walk you through the puts and takes and all of that, right? So in general, the expectation for us is that as our revenues grow, our expectation of incremental should be north of 45%. That’s sort of how we are thinking about it in the business. So that allows us with a 54% gross margins and ability to invest back in the business to continue to grow.

So with that, why don’t I give Joe to talk to you about the details of the various puts and takes.

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So when you think about the incremental margins, I mean, our guidance here in Q1 I think our high incremental margin sequentially and I should say on a year-over-year basis, because that is where you’re seeing the benefits of some of those structural cost reduction actions in the Q1 numbers. But I will go back to Q4 and I’d just point out, I mean, quite pleased with the IPS, 30% OP as a percent of sales and that was nice sequential incremental margins there when we look at it compared to Q3.

And so just it highlights that that particular business, some modest growth can really drops nice incremental margins north of 50%. And so that 30% goes back to the Q4 2019 level, but also even if you look at Q2, Q3 back in ’19 when that business is north of $300 million due in 29%, 30% margins is something it can do. So it was nice to see that bounce back from a Q3, which was a little bit depressed. Some of those items being viewed as temporary. It was nice to see that they were temporary in nature.

Michael Halloran — Baird Equity Research — Analyst

And then on the capital deployment side on the external, obviously internal is the priority, but what does the acquisition side look like? How are you thinking about buybacks, anything like that? And what the prioritization looks like in ’21 as well as what the opportunity side how realistic would be to move the needle on the acquisition side?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So from a priority standpoint, as you mentioned, organic generally generates best return at the lowest risk. And so we continue to organically invest in business. That being said, it’s relatively capital light and doesn’t demand a lot from our free cash — of our cash flow from operations, which are quite strong. And so we are committed dividend payer, as you know, and dividend increaser. We would like to do share buybacks to offset dilution. But beyond that, we are really focused on the acquisition side.

And it’s been a challenging 2020 and the M&A market. That being said, quite pleased that we are able to make progress with the Fluortek, with vivaMOS and then the announced divesture as well. I will tell you that we are no different than the factories who are learning how to operate and produce products safely in this environment. The M&A community is also figuring out how to do deals in this environment. And so the market for M&A, I would tell you, our activity level is improving. And so we do remain active. We are very strategically focused based on the NBS Next framework that Naga has reviewed with you and where our growth opportunities are. So we are actively, I would say, Mike, actively working to deploy capital through the acquisitions. And the pipeline is growing, as I would characterize it.

Michael Halloran — Baird Equity Research — Analyst

Appreciate the time and the color. Thank you.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Mike.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Christopher Glynn with Oppenheimer. Christopher, your line is open.

Christopher Glynn — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

Thanks. Good morning. I had a question about the — just want to kind of go through high level, revisited the T&I momentum and review the compounding dynamics you have there. I am really curious about what you are driving in terms of succession pattern of new capabilities versus adoption of the iterations, the technology iterations you’ve introduced over the past year plus, and how those two factors converge towards this idea of 100% online testing capabilities.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, and I think it’s a great question, Chris, and it’s an area that we are doing a lot of work in and it is an area that has a lot of promise for the company. Just sort of if you step back a bit, if you think about our test and inspection business today, it has two major — maybe three major product technologies. First is X-ray inspection. Second one is acoustic imaging. Third one is mechanical testing where we do some wire bond testing. We do optical inspection as well, but it is a smaller part of the company. So major product lines really be are X-ray imaging, think about acoustic imaging and then think about mechanical testing.

We fundamentally believe that the acoustic imaging and X-ray imaging are going to continue to grow for us as these devices get more complex and a couple of applications. So if you take a little bit one more step deeper into the product application. So if you think about a complex semiconductor package that is being manufactured. In the past, they were sampled and you ensured that the manufacturing process was stable and the product quality was really good. But as these devices get a lot more complex, now you’re really interested in because these devices now have greater functionality, the risk of failure and the potential impact on the customer’s experience is so high that these semiconductor packages are now getting inspected 100%. So that’s sort of a need.

In terms of what is it that customers are looking for. The customers that are really looking for not only whether the bonds were made, but they are more looking for all the things that they need? Is it in there? Is it in the right size? So now all of a sudden, 3D metrology with X-ray inspection becomes a lot more greater and real and online rather than what was a good feature to have.

So as it translates to the company what it really means is, do we have the resolution, which we’ve always been really good at? Do we have the speed? And do we have the lowest signal noise level, right? So those three things really now matter. As you think about the new acquisition we made, it was a technology acquisition that’s CMOS sensor, image sensor, and it provides all of those things. It provides a unique combination of higher speed, higher resolution and lower noise.

And so as we build out our inspection capability, you’re going to find those and technologies that allow us to help our customers inspect things more in real time and at a faster rate, higher resolution and lower noise level. And we’re going to add capability that allows us to do more 3D metrology than we have done in the past. So that’s another one that’s coming about.

And I would say the third is today our business is very focused on electronics. We do and we’re beginning early stages of diversifying that exposure into adjacent end markets. And this vivaMOS acquisition allows us to now think about, is it possible for us to become a component supplier. It allows us to sell our image sensors and allows us to sell our tubes into end markets to other OEMs in end markets that we don’t have a right to play in, but we have a right to be a component supplier because we have the best resolution in the market. We have the best lowest noise level on the market. We have highest speed. So it’s an exciting time in the test and inspection business. It’s an area where we will continue to invest in.

One that we did not talk about is some early days here is this defect classification is another big thing, right? I talked to you about image, speed, low noise, but also defect classification is important because that allows our customers again to identify whether it’s a good chip package or a bad chip package. So a lot of details there, but hopefully that gives you how we’re thinking about the business, where it is headed. It clearly has some good opportunities for organic growth and opportunities for us to acquire.

Again, we’ll be really thoughtful as always around what we acquire, how we acquire. We’re going to be disciplined around acquiring things that makes Nordson stronger. We’re not going to acquire for growth sake, we’re not going to acquire undifferentiated commoditized products in test and inspection. We’re going to be very focused around what makes Nordson strong, which is precision technologies, customer intimacy, really customer critical applications and how we add value and create value. And so that’s where we’re going to be focused on.

Christopher Glynn — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

That’s great detail and great bang for the buck on the question. Thanks. Just a little housekeeping to close-up. D&A and bias on working capital through the cash flow statement for fiscal ’21, any comment there, Joe?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So quite pleased with our progress on working capital liquidation there in 2020, particularly the strength in Q4. We improved, I would say, our efficiency around the AR side. And so when you look at the cash flow statement, you’ll see it was on the AR and it’s not just selling 3% or 5% less than we did in Q4, I should say. It was really improving the DSI. As we implement NBS Next and see that rollout, I think going forward, there’s an opportunity on the inventory side. So really anxious as we go into 2021 to continue to focus on the cash flow, and do feel that there’s some opportunities from an inventory efficiency side there.

Christopher Glynn — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

Thanks. Do you have a D&A figure for fiscal ’21?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

D&A, I don’t have a figure yet, it’s going to depend on the timing of this [Indecipherable] or I should say, the screw and barrel divestiture.

Christopher Glynn — Oppenheimer & Company — Analyst

Okay, thanks.

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah.

Operator

Your final question comes from the line of Chris Dankert with Longbow Research. Chris, your line is open.

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Hey, good morning. Thanks for fitting me in here. Ran over this quickly, but just want to make sure I’m understanding the dynamic when we’re looking at the ATS business specifically, as you characterize medical stable, test and inspection up double-digits, high singles, that really does kind of give the sense that dispense was extremely weak in the quarter kind of despite some of the other strength going on in PCBs and semis. Am I thinking about that, right? And I guess, just what was the key driver of the weakness in the quarter on that core dispense business and advanced technology?

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think it’s a good question, Chris. Our dispense business, as you think about it, benefited in the last decade from this mobile revolution, this incredible investment on mobile revolution. And so we are benefiting from some projects that are related to semiconductor in that business, certainly benefiting from some projects in some newer features, but not to the same extent as we’ve benefited in the past. So you had a competition there for that business that we’re working our way through.

In general, our expectation for that business is as this competitions get worked out, what you’re going to find is, it’s going to be a nice 2% to 3% grower. It’s not going to be the same kind of grower that it was, but the company was very thoughtful in diversifying into test and inspection. And so test and inspection, all of a sudden, is a really nice growth engine for us in the semiconductor side, and we’ll benefit from it. And hopefully, that gives you how we’re thinking about it internally.

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

That’s fair. That’s fair. Thanks, Naga. And then I guess, just lastly from me. When we look back at the other half the business, dispensing I guess the coatings business versus hot melt, my assumption is that coatings is down pretty substantially, even really driving the weakness in the fourth quarter here and hot melt was much more stable. Is that correct? Again, just kind of thoughts going forward.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, yes. I think — but you want to remember our coatings business was one of those businesses that had order substantial amount of orders slipped from third quarter of ’19 to fourth quarter of ’19. So if you think about fourth quarter by itself, yes, the coatings business had a significant headwind. But if you look at it from second half perspective for the coatings business, it was about mid-teens. Still pretty high and was essentially one of the things. So there is a comp issue and there is an industrial exposure issue. And you’re right about being in a much better place.

Joe, do you want to add some color to it?

Joseph P. Kelley — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I will just add one thing. Your two questions there, the fluid dispense within ATS and then the ICS business within IPS — sorry, sequentially, we are seeing some nice improvements there. Those are the businesses that have the heavier industrial exposure. And so when you talk about Naga’s comments as we went through the back half of ’20, we saw that steady improvement in order rate. So while it’s down year-over-year, from a trend standpoint, those businesses are seeing some improvements sequentially.

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Got it. That’s all very helpful color. Thanks so much guys, and best of luck in the ’21 here.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Chris.

Operator

This concludes our question-and-answer session. I will turn the call back over to Naga for closing remarks.

Sundaram Nagarajan — President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thank you for your time and attention on today’s call. We are well positioned going into fiscal 2021. We remain focused on our long-term objective of making a strong Nordson even stronger as we deploy NBS Next growth framework to prioritize organic and acquisitive growth opportunities while also unleashing an owner mindset within our customer-focused divisions. We wish you a happy holiday season. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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