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Lawson Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:LWSN)

F4Q09 Earnings Call

July 9, 2009 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Barbara Doyle -Vice President of Investor Relations

Harry Debes - President, Chief Executive Officer

Robert A. Schriesheim - Chief Financial Officer

Stefan B. Schulz - Senior Vice President of Finance

Analysts

Greg Dunham for Tom Ernst - Deutsche Bank Securities

Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray

Peter Goldmacher - Cowen & Co.

David Bayer - Cantor Fitzgerald

Richard Williams - Cross Research

Brad Sills - Barclays Capital

Operator

Welcome and thank you for standing by. (Operator Instructions)

Now I'll turn the meeting over to Barbara Doyle. You may begin.

Barbara Doyle

Good afternoon to everyone on the call. Welcome to Lawson Software's fiscal 2009 fourth quarter conference call. This covers results for the quarter ended May 31, 2009.

With me as always on today's call are: Harry Debes, Lawson's President and CEO; Rob Schriesheim, Executive Vice President and CFO; and Stefan Schulz, Senior Vice President of Finance.

We will go through some prepared remarks and then we will take your questions after the remarks are concluded, as the operator described. Now please let me review the Safe Harbor statement.

We would like to remind you that this call will include forward-looking statements which are subject to risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements contain statements of intent, belief, or current expectations of [Lawson] Software and its management. Such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results and involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from the potential results discussed. Our SEC filings contain further information about the risk factors that could cause actual results to differ from management's expectations. We do not obligate ourselves to update forward-looking statements for circumstances or events that occur in the future.

I would also like to remind you that in addition to reporting financial results in accordance with generally accepted accounting principals, Lawson Software reports non-GAAP financial results. Discussion of our use of non-GAAP as well as a reconciliation of our non-GAAP results to GAAP is included in our press release.

Lastly, I would just like to remind you that our press release is available on our Web site at www.lawson.com/investor for your reference. We also have a supplemental summary of historical key business metrics posted on our Web site for your use.

Now let me turn the call over to Harry Debes.

Harry Debes

As usual, I will begin with some perspective on fiscal 2009 and also Q4. Rob will then cover some of the financial details and guidance for Q1. Then I will close the call with some final comments before we take your questions.

We started fiscal 2009 on an optimistic note because of the strong results in FY2008. In May and June of 2008 we saw no signs of a recession but by late August there was a real change. The economy started to slow and in September and October activity in our customer base slowed dramatically.

Considering how strong our May 2008 quarter was it was surprising how quickly the selling environment changed. Capital spending seemed to freeze. The housing and financial industries were the first to be hit, but then every industry began experiencing sales declines, including the software industry.

We reacted quickly by planning and executing a restructuring in November. We cut expenses were we needed to but we were careful to maintain our investments in product development and also in key internal infrastructure projects, which were key to improving our internal process efficiencies. We did not make short-sighted decisions and as a result we will see long-lasting benefits from these investments.

We worked our way through Q2 and Q3, even though it was difficult. In Q3, our February quarter, we saw benefits from our cost containment measures and posted a strong bottom line despite the global slowdown in IT spending. And then in our May quarter, Q4 2009, software sales strengthened. We generated license revenues in that quarter that were stronger than forecasted and as a result we not only posted stronger license revenue quarter but we also increased our deferred license backlog as we move into FY2010.

So here's the big picture on the year. For the full year our revenue declines by about $96.0 million but $44.0 million of that was entirely due to currency fluctuation. The rest was largely. The rest was largely due to the global economic slowdown. These are not things that we can control. But we can control how we respond to such issues and by taking actions early in our fiscal year, we were able to manage the impact on our profitability. We tightened our belt on many discretionary items. We also purposely downsized our services business to enable a larger services partner ecosystem.

In 2007, the first year after the Intentia acquisition, services were 47% of total revenue. In fiscal 2008 they were 45% and FY2009 services were 39% of total revenue. Today we have twice as many service partners as we had three years ago.

The bottom line is that despite lower revenue, our non-GAAP operating income was $91.0 million in FY2009, which is $6.0 million higher than last year. And on a GAAP basis our net income of $19.0 million was 38% higher than last year. We did this without the benefit of any acquisitions and the synergies such acquisitions attract.

So if you review our performance over the last four years, you will see that steady, predictable improvement has become part of our culture. We have made meaningful improvement in our operating margin in every year and we expect that trend to continue.

Now, let me cover our performance in Q4. On a sequential basis, total Q4 revenues increased 7% over Q3, led by a 35% increase in license revenues. Compared to last year, total Q4 revenues declined by 20% but that was due to three primary factors.

First, as I mentioned before, there was a significant effect of currency. Foreign currencies weakened against the U.S. dollar compared to last year, and that depressed our reported revenues in Q4 by about $20.0 million alone over the same period.

So when you normalize for the currency fluctuations, the 20% year-over-year decline

actually becomes 11%. And this 11% decline in revenues was driven by the economic slowdown and its impact on capital spending. The year-over-year decline in our software sales was pretty well in line with our peer group. In fact, we've actually been impacted less than some other firms because of our strong customer base and the slate of new software solutions we released during the last 12 months.

And third, as I mentioned earlier, we reduced our services staff and about 400 consultants during the year, partly due to the lower level of services bookings and partly to the strategic decision about partners, to which I alluded earlier.

Now, we may rehire some of these services personnel to meet specific demand as the economy improves, but we plan to keep services under 40% of total revenue and to use staff augmentation and third parties to supplement our capacity.

And despite lower sales in Q4, our non-GAAP operating margin increased to 15%, and that's up from 12% in the same quarter of last year.

Now I will cover a few key sales metrics for Q4. The total number of deals signed more than doubled, from 234 in Q3 to 502 deals in Q4. This was driven primarily by an increase in deal time with our existing customers.

The reason for this increase was that in December, with the economy in the doldrums, we designed our own stimulus program. It was a sales program that targeted existing customers with some special terms which allowed them to add new additional software products to their existing portfolio of Lawson solutions.

In Q4 about 70% of our total contracting was with existing customers and the average size of deals did not go down; in fact, it increased 10% to $66,000 from $60,000 between Q3 and Q4.

Because of the economy and because we had 30 fewer sales people than last year, we signed fewer deals with new customers than we did in Q4 of last year, but the deals we did sign increased in size. We signed 18 new deals in the quarter and the average size of these deals increased to $650,000 in Q4 from $391,000 last year.

In fact, we saw a general tendency towards larger deals in Q4. We signed five deals greater than $1.0 million compared to one in Q3 and four in Q4.

Healthcare, equipment service management, and strategic human capital management were our best performing business segments in the quarter.

Now I would like to cover a few other achievements. Lawson's history of developing innovative products and services continued, with several important releases in the quarter.

We announced Lawson Enterprise Search, a new product that significantly improves user productivity by making it easier for users to find and act on information from their desktop. It's like Googling your entire enterprise for information. It's simple, intuitive, and we believe that every S3 and every M3 customer will eventually want to acquire this new add-on solution.

We also released a new version of Lawson Smart Office that provides users new levels of productivity with new visual and graphical interfaces and the ability to integrate with external applications and Web-based business tools.

For the healthcare industry, we announced a new application called Lawson S3 Point of Use. This application integrates with Lawson Procurement to automate refurbishment of hospital supplies. It also automates supply usage to more accurately capture patient charges.

For our fashion vertical we delivered enhancements to our fashion PLM product that includes 20 new features.

And we also launched two new M3 analytic tools that deploy rapidly, in fact, within a matter of days, as well as some new online learning service offerings.

In addition to these product deliverables, we completed several important internal infrastructure projects, some of which have been going on for almost two years. We completed the implementation of our own Lawson S3 Version 9 Financials, our own Lawson Budgeting and Planning solution, our own Lawson Tell-it Management solution, and finally our own Lawson Services Automation solution.

These internal systems enable higher efficiencies, lower costs, and provide greater scalability for future growth. We also completed the build out of our offshore operations in Manila and that's been going on for about three years. The major investments in hiring and training at this facility are now complete. Today, 49% of all product development work is done in Manila and it is done at a 90% productivity rate. As for services, we increased the percent of billable work delivered from Manila from 8% in FY2008 to 13% in FY2009.

We will continue to fine-tune this operation for greater utilization and efficiencies, but we don't see short-term expansion from the 800 persons now employed in Manila.

In conclusion, while there is still plenty of opportunity for improvement and margin expansion, I am pleased with the progress we've made in fiscal 2009 and by the very strong showing we had in Q4.

I would like to thank our customers for their continued support and I also want to thank our employees for their unwavering commitment and dedication during these challenging times.

Now I will turn the call over to Rob for a review of our financial performance.

Robert A. Schriesheim

I will summarize our non-GAAP financial results, cover our future guidance, and then turn the call back to Harry for his closing comments.

Overall, we closed the year with strong Q4 results. Revenues of $186.0 million exceeded the high end of our guidance range of $182.0 million, and non-GAAP EPS of $0.10 come in at the high end of our guidance. We delivered 15% non-GAAP operating margin, achieving an important company milestone for the second consecutive quarter.

Given the environment, this performance demonstrates the success of the transformations we have made in our global operations.

Q4 operating margin increased by more than 300 basis points year-over-year despite significant headwinds on license and services revenues. The margin improvement was due to a greater mix of higher margin revenues, standardizing our business processes globally, and reduced expenses.

As Harry indicated, total revenues exceeded our guidance, driven by stronger than expected license contracting. Services and maintenance revenues came in pretty much where we expected. The guidance we provided during our April conference call assumed total Q4 revenues would be flat to up about 5% sequentially. Total revenues actually increased 7% sequentially, exceeding our expectations.

Improved pipeline close rates and the success of the customer stimulus program in the U.S. drove these better than expected results.

On a year-over-year basis, total revenues in Q4 were down 20% as reported, or down 11% adjusted for the effects of currency exchange rates in the quarter. Foreign currency fluctuations had the effect of reducing our international revenues. There was no material impact to Q4 non-GAAP EPS as currency impacted revenues and expenses equally.

In Q4 63% of our revenues were generated in the Americas, 33% in EMEA, and 4% in Asia/Pac. By a line item of revenue, Q4 license revenues were down 19% as reported, 12% at constant currency.

Harry discussed license revenue performance so I won't repeat that analysis.

Maintenance revenues were down 4% as reported but increased 4% at constant currency. We completed the bulk of the U.S. maintenance renewals and finalized the international maintenance renewal cycle in Q4.

We did see some minor erosion in renewal rates this year. This was not unexpected given the economy. We estimate a renewal rate of about 93% for customers in the Americas compared to 94% to 95% in 2008. The renewal rate for our international customer base was close to 90%. This is similar to last year but lower than where we were forecasting.

On a constant currency basis we still anticipate slight year-over-year growth in maintenance revenues in FY2010. However, weak foreign currencies at the time that the international contracts were renewed will result in year-over-year decline in reported maintenance revenues in FY2010.

Consulting revenues were down 34% as reported, or 25% at constant currency. Services have been heavily impacted by the economy and currency fluctuations this year, as the majority of our services business is conducted outside the U.S. Non-GAAP services gross margin was at 10% in Q4, down from 18% in Q4 2008. Sequentially, services margin improved from 1% in Q3 to 10% in Q4 as we brought our capacity more in line with current demand.

We were pleased that Q4 non-GAAP gross margin increased from 55% to 57% year-over-year, even with the drop in services margin. Our new business mix resulting in lower services as a percent of total revenues, continued growth in our maintenance business at constant currency, and slightly higher maintenance margins led to a 230 basis point increase in gross margin in the quarter.

Non-GAAP operating income of $28.0 million increased 4% year-over-year as reductions and expenses more than offset the revenue decline. Q4 non-GAAP operating expenses declined 22% year-over-year as reported, or 13% at constant currency, compared to revenues that were down 20% as reported, or 11% at constant currency.

By effectively balancing our costs, we were able to drive an increase in Q4 operating margin to 15%, up from 12% in Q4 of 2008. Because much of the reduction in our cost has been driven by permanent changes in our business processes, we have also created upside potential and operating margin when the economy recovers and revenue growth returns.

Interest income in Q4 was down significantly year-over-year to $446,000, from $2.8 million in Q4 of 2008. On a full-year basis interest income declined by $13.8 million. This decline was driven primarily by lower interest rates.

I point out interest income for two reasons. First, because it was a big impact to EPS that we were, in fact, able to absorb. Secondly, because we do not anticipate anything better in fiscal 2010 and several analyst models need to be adjusted for this fact.

We anticipate less than $1.0 million of interest income for the entire year in FY2010, given current rates. This causes our line item of net other income to flip to a net other expense of $1.2 million per quarter in FY2010, or $5.0 million for the full year.

Q4 non-GAAP net income of $17.0 million was down 4% year-over-year. The net income decline was completely driven by interest income as our non-GAAP operating income increased 4% year-over-year. Our non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.10 were flat year-over-year with a lower effective tax rate of 35% versus 38% a year ago, and 7% fewer shares outstanding offsetting the interest in income decline.

In Q4 we repurchased 2.2 million shares of stock for $12.0 million at an average price of $5.43. We repurchased a total of 13.7 million shares for $103.0 million during the fiscal year. A total of 31.7 million shares have been acquired since the share buyback authorization in November of 2006, representing 17% of our total shares. There is approximately $136.0 million remaining of our $400.0 million board authorization.

Moving on to the cash flow and the balance sheet. We had strong cash flow in Q4 and ended the year with a very healthy balance sheet. We generated more than $113.0 million of cash flow from operations in the quarter, driven by maintenance renewals and healthy software contracting. Our cash and equivalents balance at year end was $426.0 million with $178.0 million of cash net of debt.

Year end deferred license revenues rose to nearly $56.0 million from $50.0 million Q3, reflecting healthy contracting in the quarter. Total deferred revenues, including maintenance, rose sequentially to $293.0 million from $201.0 million in Q3.

So that's a summary of Q4. I would also like to highlight a couple of things regarding full fiscal year results.

Overall, we are obviously very pleased with the results for the 12-month period. We stated the expectation during our conference call in January when the severity of the economic recession was becoming evident, that we would continue to focus on expanding our operating margin despite unfavorable business conditions.

We met that commitment. On a full-year basis, we increased non-GAAP operating margin by more than 200 basis points, to 12%, up from 10% in FY2008, on revenues that were $96.0 million lower than the previous year, and our full-year non-GAAP EPS of $0.35 increased 6% over fiscal 2008, even after absorbing a $0.05 negative impact due to lower interest income yields.

Let me cover our financial guidance. We clearly had a strong fourth quarter with good license performance, strong build up in our deferred revenue accounts, and another good quarter of good, solid margin performance in a down economy.

Q4 services margin performance also improved sequentially, although stable and sustained services margin improvement will not occur until business conditions improve, especially in Europe.

Q1 of fiscal 2010, which is our seasonally weakest quarter, given the slower business conditions in Europe during the summer period, we anticipate total revenues will be between $160.0 million and $165.0 million.

We estimate GAAP EPS in the range of $0.01 and $0.03 per fully diluted share. Non-GAAP EPS is expected to be in the range of $0.05.

The Q1 non-GAAP EPS guidance excludes $9.0 million of non-recurring or non-cash pre-tax expenses, as outlined in our press release. This amount includes $2.1 million of incremental quarterly interest expense related to our convertible notes in compliance with new accounting standards.

Our guidance also includes a non-GAAP fiscal 2010 effective tax rate of 37%, compared to 35% in fiscal 2009.

With a rebound in the European economy forecasted to lag a U.S. recovery by several quarters, the changing proportion of our profits derived from the U.S., which is our highest tax jurisdiction, results in a higher global effective tax. We will apply this tax rate consistently each quarter in FY2010 for our non-GAAP calculations.

Now let me offer some color on our guidance. We forecast that Q1 revenues will decline year-over-year for two reasons: currency and expected economic conditions. Q1 revenues will be down 14% to 16% year-over-year as reported. Currency accounts for half of this decline. At constant currency we expect revenues would climb by 7% to 8%.

Secondly, the economy will likely continue to impact sales in Q1, particularly services. While all lines of revenue will be negatively impacted by currency, services revenue will also show a decline year-over-year on a constant currency basis. If you recall, the August quarter is the low mark for loss in services revenue every year, driven by summer holidays in Europe.

Our guidance assumes that the seasonally slow summer quarter in services will likely be compounded by the economy. We also expect services margin will be in the single digits in Q1 due to these factors.

Although reported revenues will decline, our Q1 EPS guidance of $0.05 is flat year-over-year. Currency will not have a material impact on operating margin or earnings.

We expect that Q1 operating income will increase year-over-year and will offset a $0.02 negative EPS impact from lower interest income and the higher tax rate.

We are not giving specific full-year fiscal 2010 financial guidance in this economic climate but will provide some qualitative insight as we begin our new fiscal year. We will continue our focus on operating profitably in FY2010. We have planned for multiple economic scenarios and believe we can achieve a modest level of operating margin improvement, regardless of the economic conditions.

We would also like to point out that many analyst models are not yet adjusted for the lower interest income forecast for fiscal 2010 and none are updated for the 37% global effective tax rate. Factoring in these two items would reduce current analyst consensus EPS by approximately $0.02 in Q1 and $0.04 to $0.05 for the full year.

In summary, we are pleased with the results in the fourth quarter as well as over the 12-month period. Not only have we completely transformed our business operations around the globe, we have also successfully managed the business through a particularly difficult economic environment. The organization did extremely well responding to all of the challenges we faced this year.

When I take a step back, it is clear that we have created value in the company over the past year that may not be obvious on the surface due to the impact of the economy and the currency impacts on our revenues. We have a much stronger business today than we did a year ago. Our business mix has been shifted in a very positive manner, our processes are less complex, our workforce is more efficient, and we are operating at much higher margins. In addition, the company is leveraged to the upside when the economy recovers.

While we still have challenges ahead of us, we are clearly seeing the benefits of a multi-year complex business transformation of results.

Now, I would like to turn the call back over to Harry for closing comments.

Harry Debes

Despite the economic slowdown, we continue to raise the bar on our own performance. Despite lower revenue we improved our operating margin and our net income. We delivered a strong set of new products and services. We completed key infrastructure projects that strengthened our company and added and then we ended the year with a very good fourth quarter.

We are very disciplined in our spending but we did not short change the most important investments on our list.

We are now entering fiscal 2010 managing the company under the assumption that this recession will begin to moderate in late 2009 or early 2010. As we see signs of an economic turn around, we will begin the hiring process for new sales account executives. We expect to gradually grow our sales force in fiscal 2010 but at a pace that will not negatively impact our plan to continue to improve our margins.

We are now ready to take questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Greg Dunham for Tom Ernst - Deutsche Bank Securities.

Greg Dunham for Tom Ernst - Deutsche Bank Securities

First question, around the license performance, the contracting number and the revenues were well ahead of our estimates, and I guess the question is around the stimulus program, was that only U.S.-focused, and if so, what are your plans for the rest of the world?

Harry Debes

Yes, it was a U.S.-focused program and we have a similar plan for Europe that begins in our second quarter.

Greg Dunham for Tom Ernst - Deutsche Bank Securities

And what should we view in terms of expectations for that stimulus program? I mean, the size of Europe relative to the U.S. in terms of licenses today, on a rough basis.

Harry Debes

Well, first of all I would tell you that Europe is probably in a deeper recession than the U.S. is today. So we've seen over the last year our revenue decline, and the vast majority of revenue decline year-over-year has been in Europe. As we mentioned in my comments and Rob's comments, much of that was impacted by currency because that's where we had a decline in the Euro, year-over-year.

However, there has also been an economic slowdown there that is perhaps greater than we expected, and because we sell primarily to manufacturing and distribution companies in Europe, I think those companies have been more impacted than the services businesses have been, as well.

And so, you know, our European business really has suffered in the last year. However, we don't think this is forever and we are not sitting on our hands, we're doing something to stimulate that business there and hopefully it will start to take effect in Q2.

I will remind everyone on the call that Q1 is the seasonal slow period because of European vacations.

Greg Dunham for Tom Ernst - Deutsche Bank Securities

Tending toward larger deals was interesting. That's not something we're hearing from other companies out there. Why do you think your business is tending toward larger deals, especially now, in this environment.

Harry Debes

Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. First of all, I believe that our focus on our verticals, as we've been talking about for the last few quarters now, is starting to take effect and when we sell to a vertical, we don't approach a vertical opportunity with one or two modules. It's an entire solution to their business needs.

A great example is our equipment service management rental business unit, which we really only launched about 12 to 18 months ago. We have had great traction there. We've pretty much won against SAP and Oracle in every engagement. I think it's six in a row where we have engaged. We have defeated them. And those tend to be fairly large-size transactions.

But in Q4 we also saw a very significant deal for our strategic human capital management deal and as is not uncommon, we've signed one or two fairly large health care deals as well.

So that's the first thing. I think the vertical full solution story goes a long way.

Secondly, I would tell you that companies can only defer an upgrade or a replacement decision so long. I think many organizations adjusted to the economic situation, starting in the fall of 2008. They made their own budget decisions. But then they also realized in order for them to drive greater efficiencies in their organization, they needed to upgrade their systems.

And when is a better time to upgrade your system? Is it when your business activity is at all time high, when your sales people and your management people are very busy servicing customers, or is it a better time when perhaps you have some down time in your business and you have some capacity to actually go through the effort that's engaged in implementing the RP system.

Because I asked this very question of those companies who signed large deals. Everyone of them, I engaged with them. And that was the decision, that was the analysis that they gave me. Look, our business is not disappearing. We have the means and the wherewithal to weather the storm. We plan to be stronger when the economy recovers. This is an investment in our future.

I'll also point you to a prime example of what I was just talking about. All the points I just made are illustrated in the deal that we announce on our Web site today, called Wagner, which is an ESM deal, another Caterpillar dealer. A private company, that for all the reasons I just talked about, deferred, deferred, deferred, but finally realized that this is the time to proceed.

Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of why.

Operator

Your next question comes from Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray.

Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray

Rob, your capex ran at about 4% of revenue for the year. I was wondering if you could just talk us through what types of investments that kind of elevated up to that level and how do you think it should trend next year? Do you think it's going to work its way back to kind of a more normal range of about 2%?

Robert A. Schriesheim

The investments this year were primarily infrastructure related. That's what drove the slightly elevated levels that we reported. As far as next year, I wouldn't expect for capital expenditures to be in the range of 2%. I think that is somewhat low. I think it will be somewhat lower than what was reported this year, though.

Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray

Just in terms of the guidance for 2010, I wanted to try to clarify your kind of pointing towards modest operating margin expansion. Is there any way you can put some parameters around that. Is something like 100 to 200 basis points a good starting point.

Robert A. Schriesheim

I think that's reasonable.

Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray

And then, if I could ask that question around Q1. The last three quarters your operating margins have been up year-over-year materially, and you also made additional headcount reductions during Q4, so I just wanted to try to clarify what level of operating margin are you expecting in Q1? What does that math work out to?

Robert A. Schriesheim

Well, if you do the math based upon the EPS that we gave you and the tax rate that we gave you, Q1 of 2010 works out, the implied margin is in the vicinity of 9%.

Stefan B. Schulz

In Q1 2009 the margin was about 6.5%.

Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray

And I just wanted to clarify your saying that in aggregate the net interest and other income for the entire year of 2010 should be a negative $5.0 million?

Robert A. Schriesheim

Yes, a negative $5.0 million. That's right.

Mark Murphy - Piper Jaffray

As we move forward, what kinds of signals or indicators do you expect you'll be looking for as a reference point that would cause you to kind of go on the offensive, maybe increase hiring or increase discretionary spending in certain areas?

Harry Debes

Well I think first of all general economic sentiment. I think pipeline expansion, you know, higher close rates, feedback from sales people about customers' willingness to make a decision and boards' willingness to free up the capital to fund the decision once it's made. I mean, there are many factors that go into that equation.

And it may be different for different business units, by the way. There may be reasons why we see the growth opportunities in one business unit versus another. So we may not do an across the board hiring, we may decide to hire earlier in a business unit where we see opportunity and then take our time in areas perhaps where the opportunity isn't as bright.

Operator

Your next question comes from Peter Goldmacher - Cowen & Co.

Peter Goldmacher - Cowen & Co.

Can you talk a little bit more about the vertical sales strategy, how you changed the organization from where it was a year ago and where you think you'll be in the next year, either deeper in certain verticals or adding new verticals and then help us understand how the human capital management is the upside surprise product in the quarter, given that I typically view that as a fairly horizontal sale.

Harry Debes

To your last point, it is in fact a horizontal. We just call it a vertical. But we sell human capital management two ways. Number one, as part of a solution, one of our vertical solutions, and that's quite often how it gets sold. For example, into health care or it gets sold into equipment service management.

However, it can also be sold as a stand-alone solution and that's exactly our largest deal in Q4 for strategic human capital, was in fact a stand-alone solution, not a Lawson customer, and a people-soft customer in fact. And it was a replacement. That customer has no other Lawson solutions installed yet. We think that there's a good possibility that this is an opportunity for us to expand our footprint.

But you're absolutely right, it's a horizontal, but we just talk about it like a vertical because we treat it as a business unit.

Now, to your other question about our whole strategy about verticals. Actually there wasn't that much change in our organization. We've been talking about this and heading down this track for about two years. In our investor presentations, in our analyst presentations, in our customer presentations, we've been saying we don't have the size and scale to do 30 things well but we think we can level the playing field, or even be better than our competitors, in five or six different vertical segments. And that's what we've done.

Now we asked our sales folks to start focusing on one vertical of which they become really good at. We told our marketing people that we want—expected them to create marketing messages and packages around a vertical solution set. We told our development people that we don't want a series of products that we have to somehow bundle together, that we want solutions that are targeted at a vertical.

And that's starting to come together for us now. It's just an evolution. And so perhaps, to put a finer point, we've appointed some leadership that owns these verticals. If anything, that was the change. There used to be sales leadership. Now we have more comprehensive, we call them general managers, of these vertical business units, because they're responsible not only for the selling but also for the implementation of the deals, because we think that level of ownership is better for the customer. It just offers them a richer continuous relationship with a certain set of Lawson personnel rather than a hand off.

So really it's been an evolution that's been going on for a couple of years. There's no dramatic change to the organization this year.

Operator

Your next question comes from David Bayer - Cantor Fitzgerald.

David Bayer - Cantor Fitzgerald

Two questions and they do link together. One is the competitive environment, you mentioned earlier and alluded to the fact that you have done a good job winning in bids against SAP and Oracle but I was sort of curious if you could talk a little bit about the competitive dynamics right now and what you are seeing in terms of pricing and just the behavior of the competitors.

And then I have a follow-up question to talk a little bit about the implications of your guidance. But I'll let you talk about the competitive question first and I'll come back and ask the other question.

Harry Debes

I haven't seen any behavioral changes as far as pricing is concerned or tactics. The good news is as the markets have consolidated, there are fewer competitors in the market today than there were five or ten years ago. So it's not really hard to anticipate what our competitors are going to do. I mean, the tactics are what the tactics are. You kind of know when you're competing against SAP what they're going to do and how they're going to position themselves and I suspect they know what we're about to do.

I think the reason that we have had some success and that I expect that we will continue to be successful is because we're being more selective where we engage. We choose not to engage in Oracle or SAP's sweet spots. Let's be honest, there are certain segments of the industry that they're very well positioned and they have a great solution. They have many customers, they have great references and they have a story to tell.

But that's not true for every vertical. And there are some verticals where we are, in fact, the gorilla in the space. So we just choose to be more proactive in those segments were we already have a bit of an advantage. And so it's not really surprising then, that we would win in health care or in some cases public sector. Or fashion or food. Because in most cases we have as good and sometimes a better story to tell, depending on the customer, etc.

So we don't see any change in tactics. We get this kind of question every quarter. I understand why it is the case, but frankly, there hasn't really been any noticeable change at all.

David Bayer - Cantor Fitzgerald

The second question has to do with the businessifications of the guidance for the first quarter and sort of maybe strapping that a little bit to the year, so let me be specific. If I assume that there was no impact from the special promotional programs put in place to encourage to take up some products you talked about at the user conference, assuming that had no impact on pipelines, then it would appear to me that you're being very cautious on license and on consulting service fees for this coming first quarter. Now, I'm making the assumption that the revenues short of chug along at sort of a reasonable run rate, and if that's the right assumption, I'm just wondering what that implies for the year as a whole for 2010 in your thinking now. I know you talked about 2010 gradually picking up, but it seems to me that you've ratcheted back Q1 pretty heavily and just wanted to let you have an opportunity to talk about that a little more.

Stefan B. Schulz

The first comment is in this economic environment it's challenging to give full year on some level even though we, like every other multi-national company, practice scenario planning. Multiple scenario planning. It is challenging.

Secondly, our services, as we pointed out numerous occasions, we have purposefully resized our services business and we obviously do expect our first quarter of fiscal year 2010, particularly since that's our summer quarter in Europe and our services is always weak in our first quarter, given the slow conditions because of the European holiday.

We do anticipate that our services revenues would certainly be down significantly in Q1 2010 versus Q1 2009, for all those reasons.

Harry Debes

And by the way, this is not unusual. Every year, and we explain that this is the case every year, our weakest quarter on revenue, and therefore everything else, is Q1. It always is. And there are many reasons for it but it's just the seasonal nature of our business.

When you have a quarter that starts in June and ends at the end of August and 45% of your revenue comes from Europe, where they're going to take 4 to 6 weeks vacation, both customers and employees, you're going to have an impact on your business.

And I notice that when I listen to SAP or I listen to Oracle, during that period of time, they have the same impact. So, for us it's just not unusual, not a surprise and for those people who have been following us for years, this is not a surprise either.

David Bayer - Cantor Fitzgerald

The seasonality is well understood. I don't think anybody on this call would be surprised by that. But just looking at it being down 13% or say 15% or something in that range a quarter, year-over-year—

Harry Debes

Can I just tell you that it's pretty much all in services. In my comments I mentioned that we have 400 fewer consultants today than we did last year at that same time. So 400 consultants over a course of a year, that's $80.0 million to $90.0 million over the course of the year. Divide that by four, that's $20.0 million.

Robert A. Schriesheim

Even if you assume that year-over-year, if you were to do a little reverse engineering and take our guidance, and even if you assume that year-over-year license revenues was relatively flat and that maintenance was down just a bit on a reported basis, solely due to currency, then the remainder, in order to plug to the 160 to 165 would be all in services, to Harry's point.

Barbara Doyle

And remember, that's two things. One, our overall purposeful downsizing of the services business, to be, on average for the year, plus this 40%. And then Q1 being less than that because of the seasonality.

Operator

Your next question comes from Richard Williams - Cross Research.

Richard Williams - Cross Research

I've noticed you are becoming a lead indicator, for one reason or another. And thinking along those lines, it seems that the bulk of the stimulus is due to hit later this year and then much more so in 2010. Can you give us a handle on what kind of impact your expect by vertical?

Harry Debes

I have no idea. I don't understand the stimulus package. I don't know if they're spending the money or not spending the money. I mean, we're all keeping our fingers crossed that somehow this going to work. But I'm not trying to be facetious here but I have no idea how the money is going to be spent by the federal government. I have heard that it's going to some health care initiatives which would be good for our health care verticals. I have heard that it's going to go to some public sector initiatives, which would be great for our public sector.

I haven't heard them say they're going to fund Caterpillar dealers or people who make shirts or people who make tuna fish. But if they do, that would be good for those verticals.

I don't know.

Richard Williams - Cross Research

But the electronic records, for example, in the health care segment, do you have a play into that?

Harry Debes

No, we don't. We are an ERP vendor, we are at the back office supplier to health care. We are not the clinical side or the payment side or the patient side.

Richard Williams - Cross Research

Are they still forwarding cash? Do you get any kind of qualitative sense of change over the last couple of quarters with them?

Harry Debes

I think it's a very, first of all, industry and then individual customer thing. I've been on the road for the last couple of days visiting customers who have recently made decisions to upgrade, or some who have recently completed major implementations or upgrades, who are very pleased with the investment they have made and are seeing immediate returns and benefits. So clearly there are organizations that despite the economy choose to spend on investments, call it, in their infrastructure and in their future, similar to what we've done.

Let's face it, the last 12 to 18 months wasn't the best time of all times for us to be spending tens of millions of dollars on our infrastructure projects but in order for us to achieve our long-term efficiencies and margin opportunities, we needed to do that, because if we didn't use modern technology and totally innovative systems, our manual effort would be much higher and we would have a higher error rate and our efficiency would be down.

So companies are going through exactly the same exercise. But it's a very individual thing, depending on the well being, first of all, I think of the industry, and I will tell you right now, manufacturers generally are hurting. But then it's also an individual issue. How highly leveraged is a firm today? And if they are highly leveraged they're probably nervous about paying the bills, paying more interest expenses, keeping their employees. And even though they may need to upgrade systems, maybe they simply can't; it's a survival issue for them.

So we have customers that have laid off 30% to 40% of their staff in the last 12 months. I certainly don't feel good about asking them to spend $2.0 million or $3.0 million at this time. I think we want to work with those customers because we want them for the longer term.

Operator

Your next question comes from Brad Sills - Barclays Capital.

Brad Sills - Barclays Capital

On services you mentioned that you are seeing the channel, the SIs pick up more of the services business, which is good. Can you comment on any programs that you're seeing there that have kind of been successful with partners, in particular that have resonated well with customers?

Harry Debes

Yes. Well, of course, we've had a long-term relationship with IBM as a global SI partner and we have partnered with IBM on a number of large deals, the largest of which is the thinning deal in Canada. And we certainly, somewhat to our surprise, we partnered with Eccentra. Now I would never have imagined that because you know Eccentra is typically in SAP's camp and deals where there's an RFP Eccentra pretty much steers the deal to SAP. However, we were pleasantly surprised that, while I think driven by a customer's desire to use our solution but they had a prior working relationship with Eccentra, that we've actually partnered with Eccentra on a very large deal in Europe, which we think will also be very successful and could lead to bigger things to come.

We have had a long-term relationship with DeLoitte that continues to go very well. And then there are a number of regional services providers. We have really put an effort, both in the U.S., in Asia, and in Europe to increase the number of business partners. And that's why in my comments I said we now have twice as many partners. Not just in numbers of partners, but in terms of resources that these partners have employed. So the capacity of Lawson resources on the street has more than doubled in the last couple of years.

I will tell you that I still think there is opportunity for even more because I still hear from customers, sometimes they wish that they had access to more resources. So it's great to hear that and that's a message we will continue to take to our partner community to encourage them to invest and train their people to become certified.

Brad Sills - Barclays Capital

On renewals, internationally you said you noticed a slight uptick in attrition there. Are these customers that you think you can come back to in a year or two? What was the conversation like there and in the sales cycle?

Harry Debes

Some of them were very small. I mean, some of those customers were very small and they were stressed financially and they were cutting back everything and one of the things was maintenance, which I think is walking the tightrope and it's entirely possible that they come back.

We did also experience some higher rate of bankruptcies among the customers in Europe in particular than we have had in previous years. Two or three times as many. And so that's distressing to hear but it is what it is. We didn't lose any significant customers. I do not recall losing a $200,000 or $300,000 maintenance renewal contract in the last two years. And there's no name that comes to mind in the last renewal cycle that was of that magnitude. Typically, a number of smaller accounts.

Barbara Doyle

And I would remember you, we're not talking about hundreds of basis points of corrosion in the renewal rates. We're talking about 93% versus 94%, 95%. So in this economy, that's certainly not unexpected and really not even that bad.

Harry Debes

But it is possible that as things improve some of these customers can come back. But it wasn't so much that they were switching to another solution. This was economic hardship.

All right, in that case, thank you everyone for joining the call and we look forward to speaking with you in a few months time.

Operator

This concludes today’s conference call.

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Source: Lawson Software, Inc. F4Q09 (Qtr End 05/31/09) Earnings Call Transcript
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