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Advance America, Cash Advance Centers, Inc. (NYSE:AEA)

Q1 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

April 29, 2010 8:00 am ET

Executives

Jamie Fulmer – Director, IR

Ken Compton – President and CEO

Patrick O'Shaughnessy – EVP and CFO

Analysts

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

John Hecht – JMP Securities

Rick Shane – Jefferies

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

Ed Atorino [ph] – Chalkville [ph]

Operator

Good day, everyone and welcome to the Advance America, Cash Advance Centers first quarter earnings results conference call. As a reminder, this call is being recorded. At this time for opening remarks and introductions, I'd like to turn the call over to Jamie Fulmer. Please go ahead, sir.

Jamie Fulmer

Good morning. I'd like to remind you that during this call, our comments will include certain forward-looking statements. All comments on this call, other than those relating to our historical information or our current conditions will be forward-looking statements.

For example, any statements regarding our future expenditures and financial performance, our plans for product expansion, our business strategy, our expected developments in the cash advance services industry will be forward-looking statements. In this regard, please keep in mind that our actual future results could differ materially from our expectations as of today and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which may are not within our control or may not be predicted.

For more detailed discussion of some of these factors, please refer to the Risk Factor section of our Annual Report on Form 10K for the year-ended December 31, 2009, a copy of which is available from the SEC upon request from us or by going to our website at www.advanceamerica.net.

Now, I'd like to turn the call over to our Chief Executive Officer, Ken Compton.

Ken Compton

Good morning and welcome to our first quarter earnings call. Also joining me today are, is our company’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick O'Shaughnessy. Yesterday, the company reported the results of the quarter-ended March 31, 2010. As I said in yesterday’s release, we are able to maintain a solid performance throughout the quarter.

On the whole, we are experiencing growth and markets across the country, which we believe is evidenced by our model works and there is continued strong demand for the service we offer amid a change in landscape of available credit. In fact, if you remove the states affected by law and regulatory changes, same center growth rates were the best we have seen in some time.

I’d like to update you on few developments since our last call. Yesterday, our Board of Directors approved Advance America’s 22nd consecutive dividend as a public company. This dividend of six in a quarter of cents per share is payable on June 4, 2010 to stockholders of record as of May 25, 2010. At March 31 of 2010, we have returned approximately $375.7 million in cash to our stockholders since we became a public company to the payment of our quarterly dividends together with our stock repurchase program. This amount reflects our Boards consistent track record or returning value to our shareholders.

Concerning the 2010 legislative season, we remain extremely active in monitoring and evaluating regulatory initiatives in all the states and Washington D.C. for their various pieces of legislation under consideration that could possibly impact our future performance. Of course, more – much of the recent attention has been centered on the proposal to create a consumer financial protection agency or bureau, which may significantly impact the way millions of consumers access credit.

It is important to point out that this new financial regulation reform is not specific to pay any lending, but involves a series of reform that will broadly affect financial services. A concern of many companies across a wide array of industries is that the consumer protection is devised by this new federal agency may restrict availability of all forms of credit while raising cost.

Consumers would surely suffer paying more for financial products and many of the MRE feeling squeezed after the economic development in the United States during the last 18 months. I met a highly charged public debate on financial services reform and consumer protections.

We want to make one point very clear. Advance America strongly believes that a competitive and regulated financial environment is the best – is in the best interest of consumers. So far the debate on financial reform has failed to adequately disclose two important facts, Advance America and responsible lenders like us are already highly regulated at the state and federal level and provide critical access to credit in a tight market. Our company has long placed a premium on many of the elements at law makers are seeking to ensure through the creation of a consumer protection agency specifically simplicity, transparency and full disclosure of loan terms and conditions.

Our customers tell us that they chose our service because it’s cost competitive, but also because it’s highly regulated and transparent. They trust our service because it does not involve hidden fees or compensated [ph] terms and they know it can be the least expense of our option particularly compared to the cost of our overdraft protection, bounce checks, and late bill payments.

Customers also tell us that they are extremely satisfied with our products and services evidenced by the low number of compliance received by State Agencies regarding our company. In fact, last year out of a 100 – out of $11.5 million transactions, there were less than 100 customer compliance with State Agencies. We operate in 32 States that improve regulations on our industry instituting measures that compliment existing federal laws.

Further, the States have shown that they can effectively enforce these regulations. We believe these measures are worthy. Still, we look forward to continuing these constructed conversation with lawmakers, regulators and other public officials.

As this process continues, we’re eager to share our perspective on how to balance consumer protections on preserving affordable and attainable access to credit. As I have discussed previously, new laws have recently gone into effect in South Carolina, Washington. As projected, the laws have significantly impacted the way we operate in those states.

You will remember when these laws were originally passed and signed into law, we expressed optimism that they provided a more stable regulatory environment and which to continue operating our products and services to consumers. We also stated that we expected our performance in these states to be negatively affected as a result of these changes, which has been a case.

If you look specifically at South Carolina, the effects of the database and other provisions have been severe. We’re considering other states where we have experienced similar changes. We also know that having strong reform legislation place provide the long-term platform for us to probably operate our business.

In addition, new regulations in Kentucky go into effect this week. While we continue to see growth of 5.7% and most states across the country. These new state laws along with its continuing effects of legal and regulatory changes and in genuine, will likely continue to have a negative effect on our results for some period of time.

Finally, in Arizona legislation permitting cash advances is scheduled to expire on June 30th. Legislative efforts to renew or extend this law have proven unsuccessful. We’re currently exploring alternatives for continuing the service customer demand in Arizona and we’ll update you on our next call.

Now, I’d like to shift the discussion to our expanded services. In late 2008, we began accepting online cash advance application to Advance America’s website where customers may either one, apply for Cash Advance from us and come to the centre complete their transaction; or two, apply for cash advances from a third party lenders that have been deposited, that will be deposits directly to their bank account.

We expect to continue to grow this distribution channel to attract new customers. Through the end of the first quarter, our online services have generated approximately 127,000 loans and approximately 34,000 new customers online since the initiative began.

Over last three years, we began to offer prepaid debit cards and money transfer services as an agent for third-party vendors. We believe these products increased custom satisfaction and enhanced revenue.

During the first quarter, we registered over 51,000 prepaid cards, an increase of a 100% over the first quarter of 2009 and loaded on these cards approximately $49 million for our customers. Since the inception of this offering, we have registered approximately 600,000 prepaid cards and loaded over $420 million.

During the first quarter, we reported over 330,000 MoneyGram transactions, but with a face value exceeding $87 million. Our MoneyGram services will continue to grow – excuse me – all MoneyGram services continue – we offer continue to grow including sands, express payments and receipts.

In addition to the services, I’ve briefly outlined, we’ve also recently launched utility bill payment in three states with promising results. We plan to rollout this feature in additional stage throughout the year.

As we continue to expand our service offering, our marketing efforts remain focused on helping hardworking families and supporting communities. For the first quarter of 2010, total marketing expense was 3.6 million or 2.5% of revenues compared to 2.2 million or 1.4% of revenues for the quarter in 2009.

As many of your are aware, our marketing expense – expenses tend to vary from quarter-to-quarter beginning on the timing of various – depending on the timing of various initiatives. We project that the marketing expense for the full-year of 2010 will be approximately 3% to 3.5% of revenue. I will now turn the call over to Patrick for an overview of our financial results for the quarter and the year ended March 31, 2010.

Patrick O'Shaughnessy

Good morning. For the quarter ended March 31, 2010, our total revenues decreased 7.7% to $144.4 million compared to $156.4 million for the same period in 2009. These comparisons include the results of operations in Virginia, Washington, and South Carolina, where recent law and regulatory changes have negatively impacted the company’s revenue and profitability in those states.

Revenues in these three states were 15.3 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, compared to 34.2 million for the same period in 2009. As Ken mentioned based on our past experiences in state similarly affected, we expect to experience performance headwinds in these states for the next several quarters.

But as Ken also mentioned practically every other state in the country is showing good growth. Excluding the results of these three states from both years’ revenues increased by 5.7% for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, compared to the same period in 2009. For the first quarter, total revenues for centers opened prior to January 1, 2009 and still open as of March 31, 2010, decreased 1.9 %, compared to the same period in 2009.

Again excluding revenues from Virginia, Washington and South Carolina for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, total revenues for the company centers opened prior to January 1, 2009 and still open as of March 31, 2010 increased 9.7% compared to the same period in 2009.

As Ken said this is the highest same performance what we’ve seen in several years. The provision for doubtful accounts as a percent of total revenues for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, decreased 8.8%, compared to 13.5% for the same period in 2009. As we discussed in yesterday’s release, loss reserves were lower during the quarter ended March 31, 2010, compared to the same period in 2009, due primarily to lower losses and lower loan balances for the Company’s open-ended line of credit product in Virginia.

We began operating the line of credit product in the fourth quarter of 2008 and stopped offering new lines of credit this quarter. During the first quarter, the company received proceeds of a $0.5 million from the sale of previously written-off receivables and did not sell any receivables during the same period in 2009.

The company closed or consolidated 92 centers in 17 different states during the first quarter including 53 in Virginia. We had approximately $1.8 million of centre closing costs during quarter ended March 31, 2010 compared, to $3.4 million during the same period in 2009, excluding any increases in the provision for doubtful accounts.

These closing costs consisted primarily of lease terminations, fees, de-imaging costs and fixed asset impairment costs, including impairment cost of $2.2 million during the first quarter of 2009. The response to new state loss and local market conditions, we continue to carefully monitor our underperforming centers to determine its consolidating or closing additional centers is in the best interest of our stakeholders.

General and administrative expenses for the quarter ended March 31, 2010 was 16.7 million, compared to 14.1 million for the same period in 2009, an increase of 18.5%. This increase is the result of higher government relation expenses and higher legal expenses. Included in the legal expenses for the first quarter of 2009 was a benefit of $800,000 due to an insurance reimbursement for legal fees.

For the quarter ended March 31, 2010, the company’s income tax expense was 44% of income before taxes, compared to 41.1% during the same period in 2009. The increase in the income tax rate is primarily a result of a one-time reduction in state tax expenses recognized in the prior year and other discrete items.

Net income for the quarter ended March 31, 2010 decreased 10.9% to $13.5 million compared to $15.1 million for the same period in 2009. Basic and diluted earnings per share were $0.22 for the quarter ended March 31, 2010 compared to basic and diluted earnings per share of $0.25 for the same period in 2009.

During the quarter ended March 31, 2010, the company generated cash flow from operations after the funding of advances receivable of $42.5 million compared to 60.9 million during the same period in 2009. As of March 31, we had $75.2 million borrowed under our revolving credit facility compared to 141.1 million as of December 31 2009.

With regard to some of the key operating metrics for the first quarter, the average amount of the cash advance made during the first quarter of 2010, excluding any installment loans in Illinois and lines of credit in Virginia, increased to $367 from 360 during the first quarter of 2009.

The average fee on all cash advances made with approximately $55 during the first quarter of 2010 compared to $53 during the same period in 2009. The total principle amount of cash advances originated during the first quarter was approximately 839 million compared to $874 million during the same period in 2009, again excluding installment loans and lines of credit.

The average duration on all cash advances completed was approximately 18 days for the first quarter of 2010 compared to 17.4 days for the first quarter of 2009. As of March 31, 2010, the company had an operating network of 2,495 centers and 72 limited licensees in 32 states, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Now, I will turn the call back over to Ken.

Ken Compton

Thank you, Patrick. At this point, we will conclude the presentation and turn it back over to the operator for any questions you may have.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from David Burtzlaff from Stephens. Your line is open.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Ken, few questions here. Patrick the G&A expenses can you give a little more color there and kind of the breakdown I mean where are all these I mean where the extra spending coming from over a year ago?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

One thing there was, there is higher spending, but the results saw benefit of $800,000 in the last year quarter, but excluding that we continue to increase expenditures for both legal, outside legal expenses, primarily related to some of our losses and increased consulting and lobbing costs, government relations expenses that was spending in DC [ph].

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay. So it’s not, is it not federal level spending than on government relations?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

It is that have been in the past, yes.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay. And then on advertising, is there a timing issue there, I mean did it up so much or what that means that maybe the second quarter will be a little lower?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

It’s difficult to predict how it will spread through the year, but we certainly, we don’t use a lot of advertising during the first quarter and this year we didn’t do a lot of direct mail, but we haven’t done in the past direct mail drops during the first quarter that we hope that will benefit as throughout the second quarter.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

And I would add I don’t think that we – you should think that the second quarter would necessarily be lower I would keep in mind this 3 to 3.5% for the year and you have seen that overtime, you know it depends on how it dropped – our initiative may hit at the end right before right after a quarter, so I wouldn’t read much more into rather than kind of keep focused on where you think will be for the year.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay. And then in this – in the three states can you kind of give a break down of where that almost 19 million came from because – from my understanding, I mean the South Carolina database didn’t go into effect until the beginning of February, so it’s really only two months and then Washington, yeah I mean if it’s an eight loan limit, most of those customers would not even have hit – would not really have had a chance to hit that eight loans within the first quarter?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Right.

Ken Compton

Well, he’s looking for that, remember Washington also has a database.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Washington also has a database. So we saw that right away and it’s incredibly difficult to predict how these states are going to perform when these laws changes as you might imagine, but the revenue in South Carolina was down about 2.1 million quarter-over-quarter. Revenue in Washington was down about four million quarter-over-quarter and the revenue in Virginia since we see it operating the lines of credit, which were a big – a big source of revenue in the first quarter last year was down 13 million in revenue.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay. And so that – that I...

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

We will break those out in the queue, but I think you will see the – in the first quarter South Carolina was about break even and the other two states for loosing money for us.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay so, and you why not just exit Virginia altogether?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

I suppose we think, we continue to think that there is demand there and that, eventually it will come back.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay. All right and then finally the store plan, I mean do you have any more store – where do you think the stores go from here, in terms of are you going to open any more stores maybe in Canada or what – or close more do you have any kind of numbers?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

I think we announced that if a year end that we anticipate we would open about 50 stores this year. And where those will be really has yet to be determined.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

We probably got 305 centers they were looking at.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay and you didn’t open any during the quarter then?

Ken Compton

Did not.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

No we did not.

David Burtzlaff – Stephens

Okay. All right, thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from John Hecht from JMP Securities. You may begin.

John Hecht – JMP Securities

I have only one question about Virginia, Washington and South Carolina, you did break down the revenue decline, but I’m guessing with – going to ask about Washington and South Carolina may be given your experiences in Florida and Indiana few years back. Do you expect it – those would be good examples, would you expect these revenues to continue to decline before they ramped up again or is there a little bit of information you could give us given historical expenses what you might expect to occur in these states?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Yeah. I think, if you look at in history and I think we’ll see the same thing here. When the database goes in you eventually lose a significant portion of your customer base may be depending on the 25 or 30% of your customer base. It doesn’t continue to decline through there, it’s sort of a one time hit, but it takes a long time to recover from that that one time hit and I think when you look at, you know Ken mentioned, when you look at state where we have seen as before like, as he mentioned Florida what you end up with is a payer and stable consumer law that doesn’t get challenged often and we can be extremely profitable in states like that. But going through the database process is a painful experience for our business.

John Hecht – JMP Securities

Okay. And then strong same store sales when excluding those three states at almost 10%. And you did give your average loan balances of 367 versus 360. But I’m wondering any exclusion of those three states did you see to drive that strong same-store sales? Did you see more customers or was it a higher loan balance per customer, was it a combination here at?

Ken Compton

There is primarily more customers, more transactions. They are actually part of the reason why the average loan balance looks up including the State of South Carolina, where the new law effectively changed the loans – the maximum loan size from $250 to 500. Under the old law, we could do two transactions per customer, so the per customer balance necessarily changed, but the per loan balance didn’t change. And that’s what it’s making the average loan balance across the country look higher, generally speaking it’s not that much.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

(inaudible) Almost, I think what you said was in prior South Carolina, we could do prior two, $300 checks, and afterwards you can do one 550.

John Hecht – JMP Securities

Okay.

Ken Compton

And I think you may have said two, but it was two or 300 verses one or 550. So...

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

I guess the point is that’s really what’s making the average loan – for the most part making the average loan balance look higher than most of growth is more customers, more transactions.

John Hecht – JMP Securities

And drilling into that a little bit more, I mean is there any data that would suggest some of the outcome from recent legislation changing, the ability for credit card providers to provide credit to consumers or if anything to that regard is driving new customers in the store or is it’s just getting some of the old customers that one on the sideline during the recession I think coming back?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

You Know, I would say there is no data that anecdotal evidence, it would suggest that we believe there is new customers coming into our space. We haven’t been before and they anecdotal evidence is really our demographic data, which is showing that we’re – the average income of our customers is increasing fairly dramatically, which I think is also leading to better credit quality. And then maybe that those are people that either just in this recessionary time and deciding this is a cost savings to them versus their prior habits of using overdraft for paying rate fees and they are just trying to save some money, it could also be with there – their credit is limited or constrained because of inability to get credit cards or increased cost of credit cards or just lower balances on credit cards. And finally, I think we’re seeing for the first time in our industry consolidation and fewer stores and fewer competitors in from a lot of these markets.

John Hecht – JMP Securities

Great. Thank you for the detail.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Sure.

Operator

Our next question comes from Rick Shane from Jefferies. Your line is open.

Rick Shane – Jefferies

Thanks guys for taking my questions. I have two questions, the first is that as you execute your plan to add 50 stores this year. How should we think about where that runs through the P&L. Are there some obviously occupancy expenses are going to drift higher related to that. Are there one-time expenses or sort of set up expenses that we need to be thinking about. And then also the big variance on the quarter we as far as we’re concerned was on the provision side and you talked a little bit about how loan balances are down and lower reserves related to installment run, can you just delve into that a little bit more deeply, so we understand how that – what that suggest about the core business versus the businesses you’re exiting?

Ken Compton

Okay. Here the – on the Centre growth question first. There is not a lot of what I would call sort of set up cost, we will consider most of that capital expenses coming in, but there is – but new stores have generally operated the losses for 18, 24 and sometimes even longer period of time before they get the profitability. You saw that as a big drag when we were opening three or 400 centers a year. It probably won’t be a big drag opening 50, but it will be added costs without added Centre gross profit for some period of time in those stores.

Your second question I think primarily is around the Virginia line of credit that we started offering last year in this month, so a lot of change there. The Virginia rules are fairs somewhat dynamic and we’re moving to respond to the changes there fairly often. But we – as you may recall we put it a line of credit product as did a lot of our competitors last year, they started in the fourth quarter of 2008 and started to ramp up pretty dramatically in the first quarter of 2009. We probably didn’t underwritten this tightly as we should actually experienced high revenue growth but also high losses associated with that product. The rules have changed in terms of how you can offer that product several times now and we’re no longer offering it also new customers, because those changes in rules. So now we’re experiencing revenue problems in Virginia, but the loss rates are stabilized. Is that (inaudible).

Rick Shane – Jefferies

I mean I guess if we – if we were to back I mean the provision was down 40% on a year-over-year basis, now fine revenues and loan buying short down is well but not really as dramatically. If we look at that 40% decline how much of it do we explain by the changes in Virginia, changes in volume overall and then third is potentially an economic improvement.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Yeah. I think in the first quarter it’s virtually all due to Virginia and lower volumes. I do think that, we – generally speaking we think that we’re doing a better job of collecting the – and cash loses and we look at the provision, again excluding the trouble states, our cash loses are lower. But, when you look at the provision change in the first quarter, you can explain most of it with just lower volumes in the Virginia line of credit.

Rick Shane – Jefferies

Okay. Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from Isabel Sterk from CK Cooper. Your line is open.

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

Hi guys.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Good morning Isabel.

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

I wanted to find out if you are still planning on closing your 100 centers for the year or are we kind of done now?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

We will continue to monitor, we’ve already closed, I think I mentioned the 93

Ken Compton

Yeah, 92.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

During the first quarter 92. So, we may – which we sort of targeted for closing at the end of year and that’s why – that was the 100 we discussed, but we will continue to monitor it and clearly where we think it’s in best in effort, interested stake holders will close a bit more consolidated business force.

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

Okay. And then do you offer patent online loans in Maryland at this time?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

We – I don’t believe we do.

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

Okay. And also.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

That’s no.

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

Okay. Could you also talk about our recent regulatory developments in Wisconsin and Colorado and how that might – might impact you?

Ken Compton

Well, yes and the details of – first of let me answer Colorado first, there are no developments because nothing is been decided. There is still in section that’s pretty active out there. So it's probably inappropriate to comment on what may or may not happen. Wisconsin did get a low patched I don’t think its made it, hold me – I don’t think it has made it to the Governors desk yet. So it is not official, but I think it is a – it’s, you know we’ll disclose the details of that in appropriate time, but I think that law will be fine.

Isabel Sterk – CK Cooper

Okay. And that’s it from me. Thank you.

Ken Compton

Thank you.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Thank you, Isabel.

Operator

Our next question comes from Ed Atorino [ph] from Chalkville [ph]. Your line is open.

Ed Atorino – Chalkville

Good morning guys.

Ken Compton

Good morning Ed.

Ed Atorino – Chalkville

Obligatory comment about cash flow and balance sheet – you’ve paid down a fair amount of debt and....

Ken Compton

Yes.

Ed Atorino – Chalkville

Do you guys want to get debt free?

Ken Compton

I wouldn’t say it’s – it’s a goal of ours to be debt free, but I think if we don’t find any alternative uses of our capital we could very easily be debt free in the next year or so.

Ed Atorino – Chalkville

So I guess in fact the question debt versus stock?

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Right now, we don’t have a share repurchase plan in place it’s one of the things that our board continually discusses. And obviously, if you look at our history, we have a great history with this board of returning capital to shareholders when it makes sense.

Ed Atorino – Chalkville

Thanks guys.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Thank you.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. I’d like to turn the conference back over to Mr. Ken Compton.

Ken Compton

Thank you very much I appreciate everyone’s participation in today’s call.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen. That does conclude today’s conference. You may now disconnect. Thank you for participating. You have great day.

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