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How this AP photographer captured a unique splash at the swimming worlds with an underwater camera
Bill Gates is raving about WHAT?! (Ad)
Delays in promised Western military aid to Ukraine are costing lives, the defense minister says
MILAN FASHION PHOTOS: Feben, Rave Review promote looks for women of all shapes, ages and sizes
Bill Gates is raving about WHAT?! (Ad)
Caribbean leaders meet with Haiti's prime minister. Foreign force deployment is on the agenda
What recession? Professional forecasters raise expectations for US economy in 2024
AI Stock Caught Trading Under Secret Name (Ad)
Stock market today: Asian shares mostly decline, while Tokyo again touches a record high
AT&T will give $5 to customers hit by cellphone network outage
S&P 500   5,088.80
DOW   39,131.53
QQQ   436.78
How this AP photographer captured a unique splash at the swimming worlds with an underwater camera
Bill Gates is raving about WHAT?! (Ad)
Delays in promised Western military aid to Ukraine are costing lives, the defense minister says
MILAN FASHION PHOTOS: Feben, Rave Review promote looks for women of all shapes, ages and sizes
Bill Gates is raving about WHAT?! (Ad)
Caribbean leaders meet with Haiti's prime minister. Foreign force deployment is on the agenda
What recession? Professional forecasters raise expectations for US economy in 2024
AI Stock Caught Trading Under Secret Name (Ad)
Stock market today: Asian shares mostly decline, while Tokyo again touches a record high
AT&T will give $5 to customers hit by cellphone network outage
S&P 500   5,088.80
DOW   39,131.53
QQQ   436.78
How this AP photographer captured a unique splash at the swimming worlds with an underwater camera
Bill Gates is raving about WHAT?! (Ad)
Delays in promised Western military aid to Ukraine are costing lives, the defense minister says
MILAN FASHION PHOTOS: Feben, Rave Review promote looks for women of all shapes, ages and sizes
Bill Gates is raving about WHAT?! (Ad)
Caribbean leaders meet with Haiti's prime minister. Foreign force deployment is on the agenda
What recession? Professional forecasters raise expectations for US economy in 2024
AI Stock Caught Trading Under Secret Name (Ad)
Stock market today: Asian shares mostly decline, while Tokyo again touches a record high
AT&T will give $5 to customers hit by cellphone network outage

TransDigm Group Q1 2023 Earnings Call Transcript


View Latest SEC 10-K Filing

Participants

Corporate Executives

  • Jaimie Stemen
    Director, Investor Relations
  • Kevin Stein
    President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Jorge Valladares
    Chief Operating Officer
  • Michael Lisman
    Chief Financial Officer

Presentation

Operator

Thank you for standing by and welcome to the TransDigm Group's 2023 First Quarter Results Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speaker's presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to hand the call over to Jaimie Stemen, Director of Investor Relations. Please go-ahead.

Jaimie Stemen
Director, Investor Relations at TransDigm Group

Thank you and welcome to TransDigm's fiscal 2023 first quarter earnings conference call. Presenting on the call this morning are TransDigm's President and Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Stein; Chief Operating Officer, George Valladares; and Chief Financial Officer, Mike Lisman. Please visit our website at transdigm.com to obtain a supplemental slide deck and call replay information.

Before we begin, the company would like to remind you that statements made during this call which are not historical in fact, are forward-looking statements. For further information about important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. Please refer to the company's latest filings with the SEC, available through the Investors section of our website or at sec.gov. The company would also like to advise you that during the course of the call, we will be referring to EBITDA, specifically EBITDA as defined adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share, all of which are non-GAAP financial measures, please see the tables and related footnotes in the earnings call for a presentation of the most directly comparable GAAP measures and applicable reconciliations.

I will now turn the call over to Kevin.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Good morning. Thanks for calling in today. First, I'll start-off with the usual quick overview of our strategy. A few comments about the quarter and discuss our fiscal '23 outlook, then George and Mike will give additional color on the quarter. To reiterate, we are unique in the industry in both the consistency of our strategy in good times and bad, as well as our steady focus on intrinsic shareholder value-creation through all phases of the aerospace cycle.

To summarize, here are some of the reasons why we believe this. About 90% of our net sales are generated by unique proprietary products. Most of our EBITDA comes from aftermarket revenues, which generally have significantly higher margins and over any extended period have typically provided relative stability in the downturns. We follow a consistent long-term strategy, specifically, we own and operate proprietary aerospace businesses with significant aftermarket content. We utilize a simple well-proven, value-based operating methodology. We have a decentralized organizational structure and unique compensation system, closely aligned with shareholders.

We acquire businesses that fit this strategy and where we see a clear path to PE-like returns. And lastly, our capital structure and allocations are a key part of our value creation methodology. Our long-standing goal is to give our shareholders private equity like returns with the liquidity of a public market. To do this, we stay focused on both the details of value creation as well as careful allocation of our capital. As you saw from our earnings release, we had a good start to fiscal '23 and increased our guidance for the year.

We continue to see recovery in the commercial aerospace market. Our Q1 results show positive growth in comparison to the same prior year period. We are encouraged by the progression of the commercial aerospace market recovery to date. And trends in the commercial aerospace market remain favorable as demand for travel remains robust.

International air traffic is closing in on the domestic travel recovery and China reopened its air travel in January with the lifting of its pandemic restrictions. However, there is still progress be made for the industry as our results to continue to be adversely affected in comparison to pre-pandemic levels since the demand for air travel is still depressed.

In our business, we saw another quarter of very healthy growth in our total commercial revenues and bookings. Bookings also outpaced revenues in all three of our major market channels, commercial OEM, commercial aftermarket, and defense. We also attained an EBITDA as defined margin of 50% in the quarter, contributing to this strong margin is the continued recovery in our commercial aftermarket revenues along with a diligent focus on our operating strategy.

Additionally, we had strong operating cash flow generation in Q1 of almost $380 million and ended the quarter with close to $3.3 billion of cash. We expect to steadily generate significant additional cash throughout the remainder of 2023.

Next, an update on our capital allocation activities and priorities. The capital allocation priorities at TransDigm are unchanged. Our first priority is to reinvest in our businesses. Second, to do accretive M&A, and third return capital to our shareholders via share buybacks or dividends. A fourth option, paying down debt seems unlikely at this time though, we do still take this into consideration.

We are continually evaluating all of our capital allocation options. As mentioned earlier, earlier, we ended the quarter with a sizable cash balance of close to $3.3 billion which leaves us with significant liquidity and financial flexibility to meet any likely range of capital requirements or other opportunities in the readily foreseeable future. Regarding the current M&A pipeline. We are actively looking for M&A opportunities that fit our model, acquisition opportunity activity continues and we have a decent pipeline of possibilities as usual, mostly in the small and mid-size range. I cannot predict or comment on possible closings but we remain confident that there is a long runway for acquisitions that fit our portfolio. Both the M&A and capital markets are always difficult to predict, but especially so in these times.

Now moving to our outlook for fiscal 2023, as noted in our earnings release, we are increasing our full fiscal year '23, sales and EBITDA as defined guidance both by $65 million to reflect our strong first quarter results and current expectations for the remainder of the year. The guidance assumes the continued recovery in our primary commercial end markets through fiscal '23 and no additional acquisitions or divestitures.

Our current year guidance is as follows and it can also be found on Slide 6 in the presentation. The midpoint of our revenue guidance is now $6.155 billion or up approximately 13%. In regards to the market channel growth rate assumptions that this revenue guidance is based on, for the commercial aftermarket, we are updating the full year growth rate assumptions as a result of our strong first quarter results and current expectations for the remainder of the year. We now expect commercial aftermarket revenue growth in the in the high teens percentage range, which is an increase from our previous guidance of mid-teens percentage range.

At this time, we are not updating the full year market channel growth rate assumptions for commercial OEM and defense as underlying market fundamentals have not meaningfully changed. Commercial OEM and defense revenue guidance is still based on our previously issued market channel growth rate assumptions, where we expect commercial OEM revenue growth in the mid-teens percentage range and defense revenue growth in the low to mid single digit percentage range.

The midpoint of our EBITDA as defined guidance is now $3.11 billion, or up approximately 18% with an expected margin of around 50.5%. This guidance includes about 50 basis-points of margin dilution from our recent DART Aerospace acquisition. We anticipate EBITDA margins will continue to move up throughout the remainder of the year. The midpoint of our adjusted EPS is increasing primarily due to the higher EBITDA as defined guidance and is now anticipated to be $22.17 or up approximately 29%, Mike will discuss in more detail shortly some other fiscal '23 financial assumptions and updates.

As our fiscal '23 progresses should the favorable trends in the commercial aerospace market recovery continue including the expansion of flight activity in China, we could see further upward revisions to our guidance.

We believe we are well-positioned for the remainder of fiscal 2023, we'll continue to closely watch how the aerospace and capital markets continue to develop and react accordingly. On the organization side I wanted to announce the retirement of Halle Martin, our General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Secretary. Halle has been an integral part of our team since 2012 and long before as outside counsel. Jes Warren has been promoted from her position as Associate General Counsel to fill this critical role as part of our robust succession planning process. Thank you, Halle, for all of your great counsel and dedication to TransDigm.

Let me conclude by stating that I'm very pleased with the company's performance this quarter and throughout the recovery of the commercial aerospace industry. We remain focused on our value drivers, cost structure and operational excellence.

Let me hand it over to Jorge, to review our current, our recent performance and a few other items.

Jorge Valladares
Chief Operating Officer at TransDigm Group

Thanks, Kevin, and good morning everyone. I'll start with our typical review of results by key market category. For the balance of the call, I'll provide commentary on a pro forma basis compared to the prior year period in 2022, that is assuming we own the same mix of businesses in both periods.

The market discussion includes the May 2022 acquisition of DART Aerospace in both periods. DART has been included in this market analysis discussion since the third quarter of fiscal '22. In the commercial market, which typically makes up close to 65% of our revenue we will split our discussion into OEM and aftermarket. Our total commercial OEM revenue increased approximately 20% in Q1 compared with the prior year period. Bookings in the quarter were strong compared to the same prior year period and solidly outpaced sales, sequentially the bookings improved almost 15% compared to Q4.

We continue to be encouraged by build rate steadily progressing at the commercial OEMs and the strong demand for new aircraft. However, ongoing labor instability and supply chain challenges across the broader Aerospace sector present risks to achieving OEM production rates.

Now moving onto our commercial aftermarket business discussion. Total commercial aftermarket revenue increased by approximately 31% in Q1, when compared with the prior year period. Growth in commercial aftermarket revenue was primarily driven by continued strength in our passenger submarket, which is our largest submarket, although all of our commercial aftermarket submarkets were up significantly compared to prior year Q1.

Sequentially, total commercial aftermarket revenues grew by approximately 7% and bookings grew more than 25%. Commercial aftermarket bookings were robust this quarter compared to the same prior year period and Q1 bookings significantly outpaced sales. Turning to broader market dynamics. Global revenue passenger miles remained lower than pre-pandemic levels but have continued to steadily trend towards upwards over the past few months. Airline passenger demand remained strong throughout the fall and holiday season. IATAs currently forecast calendar year '23 air traffic will be within about 15% of pre-pandemic. The recovery in domestic travel continues to be stronger than international travel, although international traffic is catching up.

In the most recently reported IATA traffic data for December, global domestic air traffic was only down 20% compared to pre-pandemic. For the US, domestic travel in December was within 10% of pre-pandemic levels. Domestic travel in China continued to lag other major air traffic regions and was down about 55% compared to pre-pandemic. However, the lifting of COVID restrictions and the reopening of China to international travelers bodes well for air traffic growth.

Roughly a year ago, international travel globally was depressed about 60% but in the most recently reported IATA traffic data for December international travel was only down about 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels. International traffic in North America and Europe were within 5% and 15% of pre-pandemic respectively. Asia Pacific international travel was still down about 50%, but should improve subsequent to the January reopening of China.

Global air cargo demand has continued to pull back over the past few months. As of IATAs most recent data, December was another month in which air cargo volumes showed year-over-year decline and we're below pre-pandemic levels. The recent easing of pandemic-related restrictions in China could be favorable for airco -- air cargo in '23, but it's too early to determine. Business jet utilization has come down from pandemic highs and it's continued to temper over the past handful of months. However, activity is still above pre-pandemic levels and business jet OEMs and operators forecast strong demand in the near-term. Time will tell how this plays out as there is softening optimism for the business jet market due to the uncertainty within the current macro and financial environment.

Shifting to our defense market, which traditionally is at or below 35% of our total revenue. The defense market revenue, which includes both OEM and aftermarket revenues grew by approximately 3% in Q1 when compared with the prior year period. Defense bookings are up significantly this quarter compared to the same prior year period and Q1 bookings strongly outpaced sales, which bodes well for future defense order activity.

Impacting our defense market revenues are the ongoing delays in the US government defense spend outlays. While these delays appear to be slowly improving, they do remain longer than historical average levels. Our teams are steadily making progress with the supply chain, but continue to face challenges, the lack of electronic component availability continues to be the primary focus for our teams. As Kevin mentioned earlier, we continue to expect low to mid single-digit percent range growth this year for our defense market revenues.

Lastly, I'd like to wrap up by stating how pleased I am by our operational performance in this first quarter of fiscal '23. We remain focused on our value drivers in meeting increased customer demand for our products. With that, I'd like to turn it over to our Chief Financial Officer, Mike Lisman.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

Good morning, everyone. I'm going to quickly hit on a few additional financial matters for the quarter and then expectations for the full fiscal year. First on organic growth and liquidity. In the first quarter, our organic growth rate was 15%, driven by the continued rebound in our commercial OEM and aftermarket end markets. On cash and liquidity, free cash flow which we traditionally defined as EBITDA less cash interest payments, capex and cash taxes, was roughly $400 million for the quarter.

We ended the quarter with approximately $3.3 billion of cash on the balance sheet and our net debt to EBITDA ratio was exactly, 6 times, down from 6.4 times at the end of last quarter. On a net debt to EBITDA basis. This puts us right at the five year pre-COVID average level. Additionally, our cash interest coverage ratios, such as EBITDA to interest expense are currently in line with where we've historically operated the business. We feel comfortable here given the benefit of our interest rate hedges and fixed rate debt instruments that were entered into in a lower interest rate environment.

As always, we continue to watch the rising interest rate environment and the current state of the debt markets very closely. During the first quarter, we completed an extension of our nearest maturity term loan pushing the maturity date from mid 2024 out into 2027, pro forma for this refinancing our nearest term maturity is now 2025. As a result of this refi, our interest expense estimate for FY '23 ticked up very slightly as you can see in today's updated interest expense guidance.

Over 75% of our total $20 billion gross debt balance is at a fixed rate through a combination of fixed rate notes and interest rate caps and swaps through 2025, this provides us adequate cushion against any rise in rates, at least in the immediate term. Going-forward, we expect to continue both proactively and prudently managing our debt maturity stacks, practically for us this means pushing out any near term maturities well in advance of the final maturity date. And then also utilizing hedging instruments, where we can in order to lock in the cash interest costs.

As we sit here today from an overall cash liquidity and balance sheet standpoint, we think, we remain in good position with adequate flexibility to pursue M&A or return cash to our shareholders via share buybacks or dividends during fiscal '23. With that, I'll turn it back to the operator to kick off the Q&A.


Questions and Answers

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Noah Poponak of Goldman Sachs. Your line is open, Noah.

Noah Poponak
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Hey, good morning, everyone.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Good morning.

Noah Poponak
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

How are you anticipating the commercial aerospace aftermarket revenue to progress sequentially through the year compared to the first quarter?

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

I would expect much like flight activity that it should keep trending upwards. That's our expectation. We'll see if that plays out.

Noah Poponak
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Okay. And you mentioned bookings ahead of shipments across the board. Do you have any quantification of that.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

We've historically not given book-to-bills across the end markets. Noah, but I think it's pretty healthy growth that supports the revised guidance on revenue for today. So we feel good about that, healthy growth and healthy outperformance and really positive book to bill ratios, across the end markets.

Noah Poponak
Analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group

Okay and just last one the EBITDA guidance revision is the same as revenue at the midpoint, so it implies a 100% incremental on the additional revenue. I know it's not that simple, but can you just walk me through how the EBITDA is able to be the same as the revenue on the guidance revision? Yes. I think, Noah, what you're seeing there is just the upsides mainly in the commercial aftermarket space, which is our most profitable end market of the three. And then separately, some better cost performance, right? You're not typically getting 100% drop through to your point, but we are doing slightly better on the cost than we expected, but that's what you're seeing there. Okay. I appreciate the time. Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Robert Stallard of Vertical Partners. Your line is open Robert.

Robert Stallard
Analyst at Vertical Partners

Thanks so much, good morning.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Good morning.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

Good morning.

Robert Stallard
Analyst at Vertical Partners

Kevin, you mentioned that the M&A pipeline is still looking pretty active. I was wondering if you're seeing any sign of these higher interest rates starting to impact the appetite of financial buyers?

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Yeah. I think we've seen some impact over the last six months or so I think you see that in a general lack of activity, although we've been busy evaluating different targets. I think we see that changing though as there seems to be some important properties coming to market in the next six months or so. I think this should change. So we remain relatively optimistic as always, but I think that it gives you some indication of what we're looking at in the future.

Robert Stallard
Analyst at Vertical Partners

And one for Mike, in related topic actually you mentioned there is some debt due in 2025, if you were to refinance that today, what sort of interest-rate, would you expect to pay on that?

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

It's hard to say something like what we got on the December refi we just did a month or two ago, the interest rate ticked up by about 1.0% from LIBOR plus 225 to SOFR plus 325 and debt markets are a little bit better given what's come out on inflation and the Fed rate move, since that December raise. So maybe you do a little bit better than that, but it's hard to say that's just the guess.

Robert Stallard
Analyst at Vertical Partners

Yeah, that is great, thanks so much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Scott Deuschle of Credit Suisse. Your line is open. Scott.

Scott Deuschle
Analyst at Credit Suisse Group

Hey, good morning. Kevin, I wanted to get your thoughts on M&A outside of A&D. Is that something you'd ever do? And if you were to do something outside of A&D, should we expect you to start small? Or could we see you start with something bigger?

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Well, we don't like to speculate on that. We have studied what it would look like to acquire something outside of M&A, but of A&D, but we think it's best to stay focused on Aerospace. There are still so many great opportunities and a number of them coming up, like I said, in the next six months that, keep us very focused on the pure play, Aerospace and Defense. For intellectual reasons and also because we may have to one day and a distant future we do look at other areas, but none of them have appeared interesting enough to overshadow our desire to keep growing in Aerospace and Defense.

Scott Deuschle
Analyst at Credit Suisse Group

Great, that's really helpful. Then for Mike, you showed some really good leverage on SG&A this quarter. I think your sales were up 17% but SG&A was actually down. So, curious if you could outline a bit, what is the cost mitigation efforts are that you're running there. And then how SG&A might trend as we move throughout the year. Thanks.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

Yeah, we really look at the EBITDA line. Historically, we've not gone back and looked and commented specifically on gross profit purchases SG&A trends, just given the accounting puts and takes there. And as we think about forecasting for the year, we really look at EBITDA as defined ratio and feel good about it in the 50.5% or maybe slightly better that we gave the guidance for today and it's hard to comment specifically where SG&A can go for the balance of the year on a quarterly basis.

Jorge Valladares
Chief Operating Officer at TransDigm Group

Yeah. I would just add. I think in general, as we've had. And we have performed in past downturns in the uptick. We did a lot of heavy lifting with restructuring as a result of the COVID pandemic. And the teams have done a nice job managing to the lower cost structure and supporting the additional demand and I think we'll continue to do so throughout the year.

Scott Deuschle
Analyst at Credit Suisse Group

Great, thanks guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of David Strauss of Barclays. Your question please David.

Josh Corn
Analyst at Barclays

Hi, good morning. This is Josh Corn on for David. The working capital was fairly neutral in Q1, do you still see the $150 million drag for the year? Thanks.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

We do. I mean, as we come back to pre-COVID levels that's going to go in over the course of the year. It's kind of lumpy and how it happens in the progression and forecasting, it's tough, but we do expect that amount to go back in.

Josh Corn
Analyst at Barclays

Thanks. And it looks like overall aftermarket revenues were back pretty much to pre-pandemic levels, can you give us a sense of where volumes are?

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

I think we're still 20% to maybe 30% off in volumes. There is still a lot of regions as Jorge, reviewed that have not fully come back.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Peter Arment of Baird. Please go ahead Peter.

Peter Arment
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Thanks, good morning, everyone. Nice results. And I'm sorry if I missed your opening remarks, but just on China. Just kind of assumptions around what you expect there. Just as we get the reopening traffic picking up pretty materially hopefully widebody activity comes back, just remind us kind of the mix that we should be thinking about with China and just how you kind of incorporate that in your forecast. Thanks, guys.

Jorge Valladares
Chief Operating Officer at TransDigm Group

Sure, I'll take that one. From our perspective, we're still in the early innings of China opening up, obviously this past month. Our teams as they always do, do a bottoms up analysis and planning process as we enter any fiscal year and there was some recovery expected baked into our forecast in our plan. We'll see how it plays out. Generally, we don't have and we don't track specific regions. We think we're fleet weighted and obviously it's a big market. So hopefully that will be helpful as we progress throughout the year.

Peter Arment
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

I guess just to follow up quickly, on just the widebody activity, could you make a comment Jorge, just on what you're seeing regarding some of the airlines behavior on widebody. Thanks.

Jorge Valladares
Chief Operating Officer at TransDigm Group

Yeah. I don't think we've seen much shift again the opening for China international travel is pretty new. You would logically expect the widebody usage to improve given those types of routes, but we're still again in the early innings of this.

Peter Arment
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Appreciate the color. Thanks so much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Gautam Khanna of Cowen. Your line is open, Gautam.

Gautam Khanna
Analyst at Cowen

Hey, guys. Good morning.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Good morning.

Gautam Khanna
Analyst at Cowen

In the past if sometimes given color on, discretionary versus nondiscretionary aftermarket demand, any color there or by channel distribution versus direct.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Yeah. I think most of our revenues are on direct sales, in general, we're seeing good strength and good recovery across all of the individual sub-markets.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

And on the discretionary versus non-discretionary point we think consistent with what we've said in the past we are mostly non-discretionary when it comes to the commercial aftermarket bucket.

Gautam Khanna
Analyst at Cowen

And that's where you're seeing kind of the incremental strength within the non-discretionary. I'm just curious like [multiple speakers].

Jorge Valladares
Chief Operating Officer at TransDigm Group

I think we're seeing strength across the board in all of the submarkets.

Gautam Khanna
Analyst at Cowen

Okay. And just curious what you're seeing in terms of inflation this year from your suppliers, what if you have a $1 value could give to us and what you're doing to offset the pricing?.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

I don't have a specific dollar value, to give you. In general, we really focus on productivity. We are seeing inflationary pressures from the supply chains. We've got all of our teams have individual decentralized procurement organizations that are doing a nice job working with the supply chain, trying to minimize the level of inflation. And we continue to work the productivity to offset that and you're seeing that flow through in terms of the lower cost structures.

Gautam Khanna
Analyst at Cowen

Thanks guys.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Sure.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Matt Akers of Wells Fargo. Your question please, Matt.

Matthew Akers
Analyst at Wells Fargo & Company

Yeah, hi, thanks, good morning. I wonder if you could elaborate the comment you could see a further upward revision in the guidance as we go through the year. How much of that kind of uncertainty is, is China versus kind of OE build rates or sort of -- I don't know if you can kind of quantify what the biggest buckets of that uncertainty could be?

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

I think it's probably a big piece from China. But clearly, OEM is not performing at where it was prior to the COVID outbreak. So there is room, really in all of the market segments for improvement.

Matthew Akers
Analyst at Wells Fargo & Company

Okay, got it. And then I guess on your cash balance, it's going to come down from where it was during COVID but still higher than what we saw a few years ago, is how much higher, should we expect you to kind of leave that, just so you have kind of the optionality in case the deal comes through or something like that.

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

Yeah, obviously, we're sitting on more than we've had historically to your point, we feel good about the M&A pipeline, as Kevin said. And what's -- what's coming. We do have far more than we need to operationally run the business, but it's something we think about quite a bit just in terms of the capital allocation priorities that -- that Kevin provided and want to make sure we have enough firepower for potential M&A in the -- in the current environment.

Matthew Akers
Analyst at Wells Fargo & Company

Got it, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Seth Seifman of JP Morgan. Please go ahead, Seth.

Unidentified Participant
at TransDigm Group

Good morning, this is Rocco Barbara on for Seth. Now that leverage is 6x range that has been stated in the past to be the general ballpark range for the company, how do you think about new acquisitions and/or capital deployment moving forward? Also where would you consider returning cash again?

Michael Lisman
Chief Financial Officer at TransDigm Group

Yes. It's hard to say exactly. Like I just mentioned, we're always looking at the capital deployment options, right? We're doing that today. We do it quite a bit, obviously, monthly, and we want to be strategic with our capital and make sure we have enough at all times for M&A if it comes. And then also, it's the shareholders' capital. So we want to be efficient with it. And if we don't find a use for it, give it back. With regard to the leverage ratio, we are at about 6x, which is historically where we were in a lower interest rate environment. I think we're -- as I mentioned, we feel comfortable where we are today at the 6x level and given the benefit of the hedges. It's hard to say if we tick up from here if we went and found a good acquisition candidate and use a little bit of debt, you could always do that, though you'd then be adding EBITDA. So I think it's safe to say going forward, given that we have the hedges and also that our interest rate hasn't moved much because of those, it's probably likely that we stay sort of at the 6x ballpark with some movement this way or that way, consistent with the last five years of history or so. But no real material change with the approach to leverage expected.

Rocco Barbara
Analyst at JP Morgan Cazenove

Great. Then as a quick follow-up. You had mentioned earlier that you expect EBITDA as defined margin to kind of expand as we go through this year. Should we be expecting that expansion to continue in the out years? Or are we approaching a range where the margin will begin to plateau?

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

We are still navigating 2023. We'll give guidance on '24 and beyond when it's appropriate. But obviously, our model is to keep expanding, keep improving our business.

Rocco Barbara
Analyst at JP Morgan Cazenove

Great, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Andre Madrid of Bank of America. Your line is open Andre.

Andre Madrid
Analyst at Bank of America

Hi everyone, thanks for the time, good morning. I kind of wanted to take a look back at the supply chain. Obviously, there's a lot of financial stress in the lower tiers. Do you guys see that as a room for opportunity when it comes to M&A? Just kind of wanted to gauge your outlook on that.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Not really. We don't look to vertically integrate. We look to acquire phenomenal aerospace and defense businesses that we can further improve, buying parts of the supply chain vertically integrating, usually doesn't meet our criteria for highly engineered, unique aerospace components with aftermarket content, and we like to stay very disciplined in that approach. That's been the secret to our success, I think, in our M&A culture.

Andre Madrid
Analyst at Bank of America

All right, that's helpful. I'll keep it at one. Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from the line of Pete Osterland of Truist. Your line is open Pete.

Pete Osterland
Analyst at Truist Financial

Much[phonetic] more this morning. Thanks for taking my question. Just wanted to ask, how are you managing through the current labor market environment? Has attrition been manageable? Do you need additional hires to meet the growth you're anticipating this year? Or have there been any challenges related to productivity?

Jorge Valladares
Chief Operating Officer at TransDigm Group

Yes, I'll take that. I think generally, the teams have done a really nice job. We continue to focus on capex and productivity. Over the last couple of years, we've been able to invest in the business, and find different automation opportunities to take labor out of the process here and there. I think in general, the labor market conditions have been improving over the last couple of months, most teams have plans in place to support potential OE production rate increases as we're all hoping will occur. So I don't see any significant issues. And I'd say, in general terms, it's probably improved a little bit the last couple of months.

Pete Osterland
Analyst at Truist Financial

All right, I'll leave it at one. Thank you.

Kevin Stein
President and Chief Executive Officer at TransDigm Group

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. At this time, I'd like to turn the call-back over to Jaimie Stemen, for closing remarks. Madam.

Jaimie Stemen
Director, Investor Relations at TransDigm Group

Thank you all for joining us today. This concludes today's call. We appreciate your time and have a rest of your day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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