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DST Systems (NYSE:DST)

Q1 2014 Earnings Call

April 24, 2014 8:30 am ET

Executives

Stephen C. Hooley - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Member of Proxy Committee

Gregg William Givens - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President, Treasurer and Member of Proxy Committee

Analysts

Peter J. Heckmann - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

David Togut - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

David J. Koning - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to the DST Systems First Quarter 2014 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

In the course of this conference call today, forward-looking statements may be made regarding DST and its businesses. Such statements are based on company's views as of today, and actual results could differ materially from forward-looking statements. There are a number of factors that could affect the company's future results, including those risk factors set forth in DST's latest annual and quarterly report filed with the SEC. All such factors should be considered in evaluating any forward-looking statements that may be made.

Now I would like to turn the conference over to our host, Mr. Steve Hooley, President and Chief Executive Officer of DST.

Stephen C. Hooley

Great. Well, thank you very much. Good morning, and thank you for joining DST Systems first quarter 2014 earnings call. Joining me today is our Chief Financial Officer, Gregg Givens. I will start with an overview of the quarter and then will turn it over to Gregg for some additional detail on our financial results.

We're off to a solid start in 2014, delivering another quarter of positive operating performance and progress on our strategic initiatives. We've been focused on making targeted investments to increase our recurring revenue and strengthen our business across key verticals while continuing to focus on daily execution. These efforts are achieving results that are right in line with our plan.

For the first quarter of 2014, we reported consolidated net income of $100.4 million, up from $93.2 million for the first quarter of 2013. On a non-GAAP basis, consolidated net income for the quarter was $47.5 million versus $45 million for the same period last year. Adjusted consolidated operating revenues were $505.2 million, an increase of $16 million or 3.3% compared to last year; and consolidated income from operations increased by 2.3% year-over-year to $72.7 million. Adjusted diluted earnings per share increased by $0.13 from $0.99 in the first quarter of last year to $1.12 this quarter.

The strong momentum we continue to experience across our 3 operating segments is a testament to the execution and focus of our teams. Our Financial Services segment continues to deliver solid results that reflect our focus on driving organic growth through our customer relationships. Segment operating revenues were up by 5.6% year-over-year, driven by increased revenues at ALPS, our asset gathering and asset management business, as well as growth at DST Brokerage Solutions. Our business investments at ALPS and DST Brokerage Solutions, in particular, have been paying off, driving increased revenues from new client conversions and existing client growth that were partially offset by cost outlays required to support those higher revenues. Revenue increases in Financial Services were partially offset by declines in mutual fund registered shareowner account processing for our core record-keeping business as subaccounting conversions continue to result in lower numbers of registered accounts. Consistent with prior guidance, we expect approximately 4 million to 5 million of registered accounts to convert to subaccounting during 2014. While the core record-keeping businesses experienced declines, our total mutual fund shareowner accounts increased by 1.2 million during the quarter to 98.1 million. In addition, we've been successful in reducing costs, consistent with the decline in volume of registered accounts. Our Financial Services operating margin for the quarter of 16.4% declined marginally over the prior year.

Moving now to our Health Services segment. We are pleased with the first quarter performance of this business, which continues to perform at a high level. We delivered positive results across the board, including a 15% increase in adjusted operating revenues. Higher membership levels led to a 7.5% increase in pharmacy claims paid during the quarter. We also saw higher revenues through the expansion of client relationships, including new discount card services, new full-service clients converting to our DST Health Solutions processing platform, and growth in both membership and transaction volumes among our existing clients. These gains are partially due to the positive impact of the Affordable Care Act. And finally, we benefited from the recognition of certain project and milestone-related revenues. Our Healthcare segment operating margins remained strong at 12.7%, compared to 12% last year. We are confident that our Healthcare businesses are positioned to capitalize on exciting market opportunities and that we can continue to grow in this vertical.

Our Customer Communications segment continues to make progress although we have still not reached the level of consistency we would like. Operating revenues decreased $7.7 million year-over-year, primarily due to headwinds experienced by our North American business. Our North American operation declined due to previously announced client losses and organic declines among existing clients, as well as negative foreign currency impacts from our Canadian business, while revenues at our U.K. business increased by 1.9% due to new client growth and positive currency impacts. Operating income and margins were down in each region and in the segment as a whole. We continue to work to achieve our objectives for this business and position our Customer Communications segment for long-term profitability. As previously announced, we continue to work on the implementation of significant new business, which is now expected to begin generating revenues in early 2015. We are focused on improving margins and identifying opportunities to reduce costs and increase efficiency. While our results continue to be impacted by headwinds in the print industry, including print suppression and e-presentment, along with a high concentration of fixed cost, we remain committed to strengthening this segment's performance over time.

In our joint venture businesses, BFDS delivered earnings consistent with prior year as lower shareowner processing revenues associated with reduced level of accounts were offset by higher revenue from other ancillary services. IFDS experienced growth in revenues and accounts serviced, which continue to be offset by the conversion costs for new clients and our investment in new product development, which is vital as we continue to position this business for the future. Last year, we announced that IFDS U.K. signed a new customer and extended its current contract with one of their largest customers. The integration of these customers has begun and is delivering results. Once fully converted, IFDS will be providing administration, processing and technology and an expansion of services, which will include DST's BlueDoor system, as part of a wealth management platform for the U.K. market. The conversion of these customers will occur in stages over the next few years.

During the quarter, we monetized approximately $109.4 million in nonoperating investments, including $50.2 million from sales of marketable securities and $59.1 million in distributions from private equity funds and other investments. Prudent monetization and asset dispositions remain a critical part of our ongoing strategy, and we expect to continue pursuing these avenues opportunistically throughout the balance of the year.

Our capital allocation strategy will continue to balance investments in our business, reducing debt and returning capital to shareholders. We expect to continue to return capital in the form of regular quarterly dividends. Our capital allocation strategy has allowed us to reduce our debt levels by over 35% since March 31, 2013.

In January of 2014, our board authorized the 250 million share repurchase plan with no specified timeframe required for repurchases. Given certain agreements with the Argyros Group, which were announced on March 24, we did not repurchase any shares under this current share repurchase plan for the first quarter and have determined not to repurchase any additional shares under this plan in the near term.

Before turning the call over to Gregg, I want to briefly review the key points of the agreement that DST entered into with the Argyros Group. Under the agreement, DST has entered into a two-step process to help facilitate the disposition of a substantial portion of the Argyros Group's common stock ownership in DST. In order to implement the Argyros disposition and subject to certain conditions, DST will facilitate a registered secondary offering of $450 million of DST stock owned by the Argyros Group. Concurrent with the closing of the secondary offering, DST will repurchase $200 million of DST common stock owned by the Argyros Group. The full terms of this agreement can be found in our SEC filings.

With that, I want to turn the call over to Gregg for a more detailed discussion of our first quarter financial results.

Gregg William Givens

Thanks, Steve. On a GAAP basis, this quarter, we reported consolidated net income of $100.4 million or $2.37 per diluted share, an increase from the $93.2 million or $2.04 per share in the first quarter of 2013. The increase can primarily be attributed to strong performance by our Healthcare Services segment as well with higher investment income resulting from our monetization of investment assets. On an adjusted basis, our non-GAAP earnings per share this quarter was $1.12, as compared to $0.99 in the first quarter of 2013. The remainder of my comments will focus on our adjusted non-GAAP results.

Consolidated operating revenues for the quarter rose year-over-year to $505.2 million, an increase of 3.3% or $16 million. Adjusted operating income increased by 2.3% to $72.7 million, primarily due to higher operating revenues, which were partially offset by higher operating cost incurred to support the new business, as well as investments in new business initiatives. Consolidated operating margins were 14.4% in the quarter, which is consistent with the 14.5% consolidated operating margin in the first quarter of 2013.

At the segment level, Financial Services operating revenues increased by $13.6 million or 5.6%. This was driven primarily by increased revenues at ALPS and DST Brokerage Solutions. Financial Services income from operations increased $700,000 or 1.7% over the prior year quarter. We had higher operating costs to support our revenue growth, as well as higher costs associated with new business initiatives. Excluding the effects of deferred compensation costs, the Financial Services operating margin was 16.7% in the quarter, which is a decrease from the 18.8% adjusted operating margin in the first quarter of 2013. The reduced operating margin is primarily a result of increased cost incurred to further enhance and improve our systems and service offerings.

Our Healthcare Services segment reported a $12 million or 15% year-over-year increase in operating revenues to $92 million. The increase in revenues resulted from higher processing volumes, as well as recognizing certain project and milestone-related revenues, most of which were related to conversions and implementations. Although we are happy with the revenue gains in our Healthcare Services segment, we do not expect the growth in the conversion and implementation revenue to continue at this rate for the remainder of the year. The increase in our processing revenues was driven by higher Medicare and Medicaid members, resulting in greater levels of pharmacy claims paid and continued growth in our discount card services. We also saw benefits from assisting clients with the Affordable Care Act, which has contributed to increased membership and increased medical claim transaction volumes, as well as new full-service clients that have or are converting to DST's medical claims processing platform. Healthcare Services income from operations increased by $2.1 million to $11.7 million during the first quarter. The higher revenues previously discussed were partially offset by increased staffing costs associated with the higher processing volumes and increased implementation costs associated with converting the new business and implementing new software systems. For the quarter, the Healthcare Services segment had an operating margin of 12.7%, as compared to 12% in the first quarter of 2013.

In our Customer Communications segment, operating revenues decreased year-over-year by $7.7 million, largely due to previously announced client losses and the effect of a client moving certain print production in-house in 2014. These decreases were partially offset by favorable foreign currency movements in our U.K. business. Overall operating income was $17.4 million, a decrease of $1.8 million from the same quarter last year, reflecting lower revenues in our North America business and higher costs incurred to support new customer work in our U.K. business. The first quarter operating margin for North America was 13.5%, which is in line with the 13.6% we had in 2013. In the U.K., our operating margin was 3% in 2014, which is a decrease from the 4.1% operating margin we had in the prior year quarter.

Our interest expense declined by 31% in the quarter, primarily from lower average outstanding debt balances, while our other nonoperating income benefited from the absence of a $6.6 million foreign currency translation loss that was recorded in the first quarter of 2013.

Overall equity in earnings of our unconsolidated affiliates decreased by $200,000 to $5.4 million in the first quarter. BFDS equity in earnings were $1.1 million, which is consistent with the prior year quarter. Equity in earnings at IFDS increased by 11% to $2.1 million, primarily from higher revenues from increased account service and reimbursements received for client conversion costs associated with previously announced new wealth management clients. Increased revenues at IFDS were partially offset by conversion-related expenses and the absence of earnings from an investment that was sold by IFDS in the second quarter of 2013.

Our income tax rate for the first quarter was 36.8% and is in line with our full year estimate of 37%. The primary reason for the tax rate increasing from the prior year quarter is a higher mix of domestic earnings. Keep in mind that on a quarterly basis, we can have variations of plus or minus 2% as a result of the mix of domestic and international income sources.

During the first quarter, we had $26 million of capital expenditures. On a full year basis, we believe our capital expenditures will approximate $130 million.

Turning to our share count. Average diluted shares outstanding for the quarter were 42.4 million shares, a reduction of 7% year-over-year as a result of share repurchases throughout 2013. We did not repurchase any shares during the first quarter of 2014. As Steve discussed, we will repurchase $200 million of shares in conjunction with the Argyros Group transactions.

At the end of the first quarter, we had $140.1 million of cash and $669.3 million of debt. The debt is comprised of approximately $395 million of fixed-rate debt and $275 million of variable-rate debt. At the end of the first quarter, we also had over $600 million of availability under our revolving credit agreements.

Our balance sheet strength gives us flexibility to enhance shareholder value through a combination of investing in our business, share repurchases and dividends.

I'll now turn the call back to Steve for concluding remarks.

Stephen C. Hooley

Great. Thanks, Gregg. Before we open the call for questions, I want to reiterate our excitement about the progress and momentum we've carried into 2014. Our businesses are operating at high levels and delivering results through the focused execution of our strategic initiatives. I'd also like to take a moment to thank our management teams and employees around the world for their hard work on behalf of our clients in helping to enhance value for our shareholders. I look forward to updating you as we continue to execute against these objectives.

And at this point, we'll go ahead and open the call for questions. Operator?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Peter Heckmann with Avondale Partners.

Peter J. Heckmann - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

So on -- within the Healthcare segment, it sounds like the Affordable Care Act benefit was primarily around some consulting revenues, some system upgrade revenues, but I do see you had a sequential increase in covered lives. Do you expect to see some additional benefit in the second quarter? Or are your comments suggesting that, that 15% growth rate in the first quarter is going to be probably the highest of the year? Does that suggest you don't expect additional follow-through in growth in covered lives?

Stephen C. Hooley

Yes. So, Pete, you hit the nail right on the head relative to where we saw the benefit. It was in consulting. It was in system delivery and additional lives and in activity. And the majority of the -- of new lives come on to our customers' platforms during the fourth quarter and the first quarter. So we do typically see in the first quarter our strongest quarter. And you're correct, we do not expect to see a continued growth rate. We're very pleased with the 15%. I think it's very clear that our customers are doing a great job with their customers, but we don't expect that to carry for the rest of the year.

Peter J. Heckmann - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Fair enough. And then on the retirement-defined contribution side, can you remind me -- for a period of time there, you were disclosing kind of a contracted backlog number, and I noticed some of those conversions have occurred. Could you remind me what the contracted backlog looks like on defined contribution, and how you would characterize the selling environment or if there's been some mergers and acquisitions in that space, and how you anticipate that market evolving over the next year?

Stephen C. Hooley

Yes. So -- and I think we will keep the comments really to this year, Pete, 2014, because we get to -- you get into '15 and '16 and, as you've pointed out here, there is movement. So we expect this year to convert, directionally, 400,000 participants onto the platform. And again, this is previously sold business with conversions that are just -- have been lined up, right, as we've talked about. Our 401(k) business is probably the most difficult conversion that we have across all of our businesses. They're complex, and they take a lot of time. So that's what we expect. I mean, the other thing that I would just remind you for the third quarter here and everyone is, during the second quarter, we have the annual purge of accounts. And so we do expect that we'll see our reported number of accounts will decline during the second quarter.

Peter J. Heckmann - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

That's helpful. And then last question, I'll get back in the queue. It looked like assets under management administration related to ALPS were up very, very nicely. I'm sure there's some market component there, but can you talk about -- or help us think about market action versus net flows to the ALPS products last year and -- so we can kind of think about how they might grow this year?

Stephen C. Hooley

Yes. So you're right there's 2 components. Well, first of all, we're very happy with the growth that ALPS are doing a good job there. And actually, that's one of the areas, Pete, where we're making some investment. We think there's a good opportunity for the company in that space, and so we have been investing there. And we're seeing the results of that investment. They are the 2 components: both market action and new flows. We don't break it out, but I would tell you that they are attracting new money. And I -- again, if I had to put a number on it, Pete, I would say that roughly 40% of the growth is tied to market action last year. And again, it's your guess what it will be this year.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of David Togut with Evercore Partners.

David Togut - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

There seems to be a thematic shift, I think, from last year, this year. Last year, you talked a lot, Steve, about streamlining cost reduction. It seems like the focus this year is a lot more on investing to grow. So if I have that correct, can you give me some context on how you're thinking about streamlining versus investing? Where are we in the streamlining process? And is there more operating leverage left in the business for the balance of this year and looking into '15?

Stephen C. Hooley

That's a great question, David. And I kind of go back to, we're an operating business, right. And so that's what our roots are. That's what we do, and so I would tell you the streamlining and optimization is an ongoing process. I think the teams did a very good job last year. In the Financial Services sector, we kind of stopped the slide of -- on an operating income percentage basis, and we had a gain for the first time in a number of years. We pretty dramatically improved the profit margins in our Healthcare business and the same in our Customer Communications business. And so is there still some operating leverage left? Yes, there's always operating leverage left. And part of what our teams do, day in and day out, is figure out how to optimize their businesses to generate that. But you've also picked up on the fact that we are making some investments in a number of businesses, where we believe there is good growth opportunity. So on the Financial Services sector, I talked about ALPS as a place where we've made some investments. Clearly, in our brokerage business, we're making some investments, as well as our retirement business. And we spoke last quarter about data analytics and the fact that we think there's an opportunity there for DST and our customers, and we've been investing in that business. The other place that we've been making consistent investments is in the health care space, and the investment really comes in 2 ways, right. One is the investment in getting new customer and new revenue converted, and the other is around really building out our platforms or developing new capabilities. So I think this year, again, we plan to hold the gains that we made in profit margins last year across all the segments and balance that with the -- with investments to -- that allow us to grow.

David Togut - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

So then with that as a backdrop, should we think of 2014 as an above-trend investment year with the possibility for operating leverage again in '15?

Stephen C. Hooley

I think the above-trend piece will be -- is something that Gregg addressed on the last call. We are going to have more capital expenditure this year, and I'll ask Gregg to update you on that in just a moment. So I think the capital expenditure will be above trend in 2014. I'm not sure that, from an ongoing investment in the operating businesses, we should really think about it as an above trend or as a bubble year. I mean, we plan to invest in these businesses as long as we see growth opportunities. And again, if you get into the segments, I would tell you business by business, David, it's episodic, where we're making investments and where we believe the business has more optimization. Gregg, do you want to just update on that capital, where we're at?

Gregg William Givens

Right. So for the year, for 2014, we're expecting, directionally, $130 million of capital expenditures. That's going to be incrementally up about $30 million over what our prior year run rates were, and that $30 million is designated really for 2 specific items. It's a refresh of our generator plant at our data center, plus the acquisition of new equipment to support the new customer that's going to be coming online at -- in the Customer Communications segment at the end of this year.

David Togut - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

Great. And just a quick final question for me, can you just walk us through the handoff in Customer Communications between where you are now with the loss of customer and the impact on revenue? And then beginning in next year, with the new customer conversion, should we expect to see some margin expansion next year with the new customer? Or will you still be in sort of investment mode around getting that customer up and running in early '15?

Stephen C. Hooley

Yes. So I'll ask Gregg to talk to the specific numbers, but let me back up, David, and just give you a little bit of a flavor on kind of profit margins in this segment because I know it's been something that we've been talked about. So last year, in the North American business, for the first time, we had double-digit operating income, which was -- has been a target for a long time. We're very pleased that the team was able to achieve that. I would tell you that, that's our goal again this year, and I would also tell you that it is very revenue-dependent. As you know, these businesses are heavily, heavily fixed cost and heavy capital users. In the U.K. business, we believe there is still expansion of margin that will happen. Now that's a much smaller business, but we expect, during the year, that we're going to be able to continue to marginally increase that operating income percentage. Gregg, do you want to talk to the actual number?

Gregg William Givens

Yes. So look, we really don't have a practice of disclosing the revenue impact of new customers coming onboard, but what I can share with you is that this customer and a couple of other smaller ones that we're implementing, when they're fully onboard at the end of this year, directionally, they're going to add approximately $400 million packages to our production or to our sales. And so we'll see that happen at the end of this year, and the revenue impact of that will be felt in 2015.

Operator

Your final question comes from the line of Dave Koning with Baird.

David J. Koning - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

I guess, first of all -- and this is a little bit like David's question, too, just on margins and costs and stuff. But basically, last year, Q1 was the low in Financial Services in terms of EBIT. And it stepped up materially in Q2, and then the rest of the year, EBIT was reasonably stable. And I'm just wondering if that same pattern is going to emerge this year. That really has never been the pattern in the past. I look back the last 5 years, it was pretty stable EBIT throughout the year. And then before that, it used to ramp through the year and end with a really strong Q4. So I'm just wondering, are we in a new type of pattern, where Q1 is the weak EBIT quarter of Financial Services and then Q2 ramps materially and then it kind of stabilizes the rest of the year?

Stephen C. Hooley

Here's what we -- I think Q1, we're pleased with the results in Financial Services, and I do expect that it's going to improve as the year goes on. We do not expect to see the level of material uptick this year that we saw last year, and so I think that was a bit of an anomaly. And to your point, if you look back over history, that's not the way that it's played out. I would expect this year is going to be more along the historical lines.

David J. Koning - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Okay, okay, great. One thing you've talked about in the past quite a bit is just the safety of the tax-advantaged registered accounts. What we have seen is a very, very gradual slow decline in the number of tax-advantaged accounts, maybe a couple percent a year, so nothing big or really worrisome. But I'm just wondering, maybe just updated thoughts on the safety of those and if those actually can grow again or if we should just expect mild declines over time.

Stephen C. Hooley

Yes. Dave, I -- so there's 2 questions there. One is the decline of those accounts, and the other is around the growth. Let me take them in the opposite order if I can. So relative to growth on those accounts, I do not believe we're going to see significant growth in tax-advantaged accounts on a direct basis, all right. And again, I think the shift on how those accounts are being sold and that they're being sold by financial intermediaries and new accounts are ending up on a brokerage platform and has a subaccount. So they end up on our mutual fund platform as a subaccount. We are seeing some of that growth in our brokerage system, where we provide a subaccounting platform. So I don't think, on a direct basis, we're going to see growth in that account base. To the point you've made, we are seeing a slow decline of those accounts. We've talked about in the past the fact that we do have broker/dealers and customers that are looking at those accounts. There are some challenges with moving those accounts, like the fact that there's a trustee involved. And so at this point, again, our projection for the year hasn't changed relative to 4 million to 5 million accounts moving to subaccounting, and it's just very hard for me to project for you whether that -- the movement of tax-advantaged accounts will accelerate. At this point, we don't have it in our 2014 forecast.

David J. Koning - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Got you, okay. And then the $200 million kind of negotiated buyback, have you already kind of set a price or timing? Like when should we expect that? And, yes, I don't know if there's a price that you predetermined already.

Stephen C. Hooley

Sure. So the timing in all the arrangements for the transactions are going to be addressed in definitive agreements that are being negotiated by the parties in accordance with the letter of intent that we previously disclosed. We were making good progress on the agreements with the Argyros Group, and we're, obviously, going to keep those discussions confidential. We will make appropriate announcements and filings when the parties have concluded the negotiations and the final agreements have been signed. And so yes, at this point, I think that's really all we're prepared to say around the agreement with the Argyros Group.

David J. Koning - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Okay. And just finally, I guess this is more of an accounting question than anything, but you sold about $109 million of investments and the gain was $90 million. So it seemed like that those were on the books for, I guess, $19 million or whatever the -- pretty small amount, but your investments line on the balance sheet went down by about $100 million. And so I'm just wondering, is -- I guess I'm just wondering, were those only on the books for about $19 million or something like that? And if so, I guess, why did the investments line go down so much sequentially?

Gregg William Givens

Yes. So the available-for-sale securities that are included in the investments line, those are actually on the books at market value. And so what we saw was a decline in overall market value of a lot of those securities during the first quarter of 2014. So some of that is actually market action as opposed to actually selling the underlying security.

Operator

And there are no further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the floor back over to Mr. Steve Hooley.

Stephen C. Hooley

Well, great. Well, thank you, all, for joining us today, and we look forward to speaking again in the next quarter.

Operator

Thank you. This does conclude today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

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