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Convergys (NYSE:CVG)

Q1 2014 Earnings Call

May 13, 2014 9:00 am ET

Executives

David Stein - Head of Investor Relations

Andrea J. Ayers - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Member of Executive Committee

Andre S. Valentine - Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Frank Atkins - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

William A. Warmington - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Josh Vogel - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

Operator

Welcome to the Convergys First Quarter Earnings Teleconference. [Operator Instructions] Today's conference is being recorded. I will now turn the call over to Mr. David Stein, Vice President of Investor Relations. You may begin, sir.

David Stein

Thank you, Shirley, and good morning. Welcome to Convergys' first quarter 2014 earnings call and Web presentation. This call is the property of Convergys. Please note that slides accompanying today's prepared remarks are available on the Convergys Investor Relations website under Events and Webcasts.

Today's call contains forward-looking statements that address our expected future performance and that, by their nature, address matters that are uncertain. These uncertainties may cause our actual future results to be materially different than those expressed in our forward-looking statements. We do not undertake to update our forward-looking statements as a result of new information or future events or developments.

Please refer to yesterday's earnings release and our most recent filings with the SEC for additional information regarding uncertainties that could adversely or positively affect our future financial results. This includes the risk factors provided in our Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013.

Also during the call, we'll discuss non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted free cash flow, adjusted operating income, adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EPS. A reconciliation of these non-GAAP measures is available in the news release and on the convergys.com website under Investor Relations.

With me on the call today are Andrea Ayers, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Andre Valentine, our Chief Financial Officer. Andrea will provide a summary of our operating performance, and Andre will cover our financial results and business outlook. Then we'll open the call for your questions.

Now I'll turn the call over to Andrea.

Andrea J. Ayers

Good morning, and thank you for joining us today. We're happy to announce our first quarter results and to update you on our progress integrating the Stream business. Let's begin with an update on the Stream integration.

We closed the acquisition on March 3. Having operated the Stream business for 2 months, I am pleased to report that we are on track to meet all of our strategic objectives for the transaction. We expected the acquisition to significantly diversify our client base, and it has. We gained an impressive list of some of the biggest and most recognized brands in the world. Initial feedback from our clients has been very positive, and we are actively pursuing cross-sell opportunities.

We expected the acquisition to add quality operations across geographically diverse regions, and it has. We have expanded our international presence, particularly in Europe, and increased our near-shore offerings in Latin America. This allows us to better serve our U.S. multinational clients and other clients based outside the United States.

We expected the acquisition to enhance our already broad set of capabilities, and it has. We've broadened our language skills, added lead generation capabilities and doubled in size our best-in-class technical support services.

This is definitely an exciting time for Convergys, and we are very pleased with the quality of the Stream business as well as the progress we're making on the integration work so far.

Our augmented senior leadership team has many years of experience managing quality operations around the globe. They're working together with our regional teams to meld best practices into our standard global operating model. We're on track to realize the cost synergies anticipated at the time we announced the transaction. Our expanded Convergys team is energized and moving forward to become the premier provider of customer management services in the world.

Financial results in the quarter reflect our continued strong execution across the combined business, with improvements to revenue and adjusted earnings. Revenue of $606 million represents an increase of 23% compared with $494 million in the first quarter last year. This includes approximately $86 million of revenue from the Stream business in March.

On an adjusted basis, EBITDA also increased 23%, to $75 million. Adjusted EPS from continuing operations increased 14%, to $0.32 a share compared with $0.28 per share last year. And contributions from Stream have been immediately accretive to adjusted earnings.

Consistent with our disciplined capital deployment strategy, in January, we paid a dividend of $6 million. And yesterday, we were pleased to raise our quarterly dividend 17%. On an annualized basis, this translates to $0.28 per share.

In terms of returning capital to investors via share repurchase, as of today, $133 million is authorized, and we remain committed to modest purchases as market conditions warrant.

Now let's review our first quarter operating progress in more detail.

In terms of our revenue, we grew with 15 of our top 20 clients year-over-year while also adding select new logos. Call volumes were stronger than expected early in the first quarter, and revenue growth remained strongest in the Philippines. Broad-based growth across vertical markets included: volume increases with several clients in the communications industry; strong growth with several technology clients; and volume increases with multiple existing clients and new client ramps in the financial services, retail and health care industries.

In terms of new business, during the first quarter, we signed new business worth $75 million of 2014 revenue. Stream clients contributed approximately $20 million of this total in the quarter. Wins include providing multiple services to new and existing clients in the communications, technology, retail and health-care industries. These include business-to-consumer and business-to-business call types. We continue to see solid demand across verticals. And as expected, sales activity is increasing with the addition of the Stream pipeline.

In terms of our profitability in the first quarter, on an adjusted basis, operating income was up 39% compared with last year, and operating margin improved 100 basis points. The margin improvement was driven by revenue growth, including higher-than-anticipated growth with a number of clients. Other drivers included increased delivery from lower-cost geographies and additional efficiencies from deploying our standard Global Operating Model.

In summary, the Stream transaction has enhanced our market leadership position. Our enhanced geographic footprint and capabilities position us to deliver superior customer benefits and enhanced value for our clients and our shareholders. We continue to drive growth by investing in what matters most to our clients, and we remain committed to returning capital to investors.

I would like to thank our diverse, loyal and expanded base of clients for their trust in Convergys as we partner to support their customers and to strengthen and grow their businesses.

Now I'll turn the call over to Andre to provide more detail on our financial results.

Andre S. Valentine

Thank you, Andrea, and good morning. First, I'll review our results from continuing operations and then provide our business outlook for 2014. As a reminder, our reported results include contributions from Stream for the month of March.

Revenue in the first quarter was $606 million, which was up $112 million compared with last year. Excluding the Stream contribution in March, revenue increased 5% year-over-year. This strong growth was driven by higher-than-expected volumes early in the quarter with clients in the communications, health-care and retail verticals. While we had an excellent first quarter, we do not expect this overperformance to continue into the second quarter. Volumes have softened in the past few months, consistent with our normal seasonal pattern. Also recall that we expect headwinds from the U.S. Postal Service program, which completed in the first quarter, along with continued migrations of legacy customer interaction systems.

In terms of footprint, our expanded regional mix of contact center employees at the end of the first quarter was: 46% in the Philippines; 26% in North America; 12% in India, Southeast Asia and China; 10% in EMEA; and 6% in Latin America.

Turning to profitability. On an adjusted basis, operating income was $52 million in the first quarter, up $14 million compared with last year. Adjusted operating margin was 8.6% in the quarter, which is a 100-basis-point improvement compared with last year. The profit improvement was driven primarily by the impact of higher client volumes early in the quarter.

Adjusted EBITDA increased $14 million, to $75 million. And adjusted EBITDA margin improved 10 basis points, to 12.4%.

GAAP results in the first quarter included: $15 million of Stream transaction costs; $10 million of integration expenses, $3 million of amortization of acquired intangible assets and $2 million of depreciation from the fair value write-up of Stream property and equipment. GAAP results for the first quarter last year included $1 million of amortization expense from prior acquisitions.

In terms of non-operating items, other income in the quarter was an expense of $2 million versus income of $2 million last year. The expense in the first quarter of 2014 is the result of foreign currency revaluation impacts. The income in the first quarter of 2013 reflected interest earnings on the large cash balance at that time.

Moving to net income. In the first quarter, adjusted EPS was $0.32, up from $0.28 in the same period last year. For the second quarter, given the revenue headwinds I mentioned a moment ago, we expect adjusted EPS to be similar to our first quarter result. Implied in this is 2 additional months of Stream contribution, offset by a sequential reduction in margin due to the seasonal reduction in volumes and additional training and ramp costs to support second half growth.

In terms of cash flow, we generated $62 million of adjusted free cash flow in the first quarter. Stream-related items excluded from this metric are: $27 million in tax payments related to the repatriation of international cash, $22 million in Stream transaction and integration costs and $15 million to fund the escrow for future settlement of working capital.

We have less debt than expected post-transaction because of our strong free cash flow in the quarter. We financed the transaction entirely with cash using cash on hand and both existing and new credit facilities. This included $168 million of international cash, a fully drawn new $350 million term loan and $10 million from our existing accounts receivable securitization facility.

Recall that with the Stream acquisition, the company's debt facilities were extended or refinanced. Our $150 million AR facility was extended for 3 years and will now expire in January of 2017. The $300 million revolving credit facility was replaced with a $650 million facility consisting of the term loan and a $300 million revolver. The new credit facility matures in March 2019.

Earlier in the quarter, S&P and Moody's affirmed our credit ratings. This favorable outcome allowed the new credit facility to be issued on an unsecured basis at an interest cost of LIBOR plus 175 basis points.

Turning to the balance sheet. At the end of the first quarter, we had cash and short-term investments of $202 million, with about 60% of this held offshore.

At quarter-end, debt maturing in 1 year included $243 million related to Stream debt that existed prior to the transaction. This debt was repaid in early April. Excluding this item, our net debt would have been $252 million at the end of the quarter, and our gross leverage would have been less than 1.5x projected EBITDA, which is inside our target range of up to 2x gross leverage.

At the end of the quarter, we had $642 million of available liquidity.

With respect to future allocation of capital, we continue to have a strong financial profile, and our capital structure principles remain intact. Our strong cash flow generation and ample liquidity provide flexibility to allow us to continue investing in strategic growth while at the same time paying our increased dividend, continuing modest share repurchases and making payments towards retiring our debt.

Now I will discuss our business outlook for 2014. We expect another year of improvement in sustained revenue, margin and EPS growth. We are confident that we will deliver on our plan articulated at the time that we announced the Stream acquisition. For revenue, we now expect to exceed $2.9 billion, up more than 40% from last year. This expectation includes a modest increase in program churn during the first year of combined business operations.

Given the prorated contributions from Stream, we anticipate recognizing about 55% of full year revenue in the second half of the year.

In terms of earnings, we expect adjusted EBITDA of $350 million to $360 million compared with $251 million last year. We are confident that we will ultimately realize cost synergies of $25 million from the Stream acquisition. To do this, we are focused on driving scale efficiencies and eliminating duplicative functions.

We are planning for an adjusted effective tax rate of approximately 23% for the year. We assume an average of 108 million shares outstanding for the year. As a result, we expect 2014 adjusted EPS of $1.45 to $1.50, which is an increase of more than 30% compared with last year. This includes an accretive contribution from Stream of approximately $0.29 for the 10-month period.

Following the expected second quarter seasonal volume reduction, we anticipate a more pronounced sequential increase in second half 2014 profitability compared with the first half. As with revenue, we anticipate recognizing about 55% of full year EBITDA in the second half.

Adjusted free cash flow, excluding Stream acquisition-related impacts, is expected to approximate our adjusted net income for the full year.

Our business outlook does not include Stream-related acquisition impacts such as: fair value write-up depreciation, intangible amortization, integration costs or transaction costs. As we have said previously, the expense associated with the tax efficient repatriation of international cash related to the transaction is not in our guidance. Also not included in the guidance are the impacts of any noncash pension settlement charges or future share repurchase activities.

In conclusion, we are very pleased with the results for the first quarter and the good progress we are making in integrating the Stream business. Continued organic growth, the accretive integration of Stream and solid free cash flow generation are all working together to create value for our shareholders. We look forward to reporting further progress over the course of the year.

At this time, Shirley, please open the line for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Frank Atkins with SunTrust.

Frank Atkins - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

I wanted to ask about pricing. What does the pricing environment look like in the quarter? And what visibility do you have of that going forward?

Andrea J. Ayers

It is really pretty stable. What we find is our large clients are very sophisticated buyers. They pay for value. They understand the investments required for a scale player in technology, geographic footprint capabilities to do that. So we see it pretty stable. We have seen a trend over the last 3 years or so to more at-risk in the pricing model, which just, in my mind, plays really strongly to our strengths as a leader in the space and our ability to invest in a Global Operating Model and the technology to be managing that. In those more at-risk environments, you have to be really good at what you do and really able to manage kind of at scale globally to make sure you're making the appropriate returns. And so we see more of that in the last 3 years. But really, no change in the quarter, no change this year. Pretty stable environment from a pricing perspective.

Frank Atkins - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Okay, great. And in terms of the capital structure and the decision to increase the dividend, can you talk about what you're comfortable with from a leverage perspective and what your plans are going forward?

Andre S. Valentine

Yes, Frank. This is Andre. We've been pretty consistent in saying that we're comfortable that this business can support up to 2x leverage on a gross basis. As you noticed, we're at about a little bit less than 1.5x right now. And certainly -- so as we think about the dividend, that is something we're committed to for the long term. And this is our third -- since we initiated our dividend back in May of 2012, it's our second raise. So I can see -- while I'm not predicting, I think that's something that we will continue to look at to be shareholder friendly there. We also want to be shareholder friendly through modest share repurchases. Certainly not as aggressive as we had been in the past, and we were, frankly, overcapitalized, but we certainly have flexibility both because of our strong free cash flow, our ample liquidity and our debt covenants to do modest share repurchases over time.

Operator

Our next question comes from Bill Warmington with Wells Fargo.

William A. Warmington - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

So let's see. The $75 million new business figure for the quarter looks like $55 million in that was from the legacy Convergys piece. And then, $50 million -- so that's down versus the $70 million from the first quarter of '13. So I wanted to ask about what was going on there, and then also to ask more broadly what type of quarterly new business you're assuming for the $2.9 million-and-above revenue guidance.

Andre S. Valentine

Bill, this is Andre. Yes, so the new business signings number for Q1, I think it's pretty much, if you look at the legacy Convergys, in line with our typical average. If you go back over a number of Q1s, they can tend to be a little lumpy. You're right to point out that Q1 of last year was particularly strong. So it's a tough comparison from that perspective. Certainly, to get to our revenue guidance, there is more revenue to be sold and operationalized this year, like there would be any time that we were announcing Q1 earnings. But we -- it doesn't require an unusual amount of new business and operating that business this year.

Andrea J. Ayers

I also would say that we feel very good, Bill, about what types of work and the variety of work that is in the pipeline. And what I mean by that is we saw growth across pretty much every one of our vertical types. And so financial services, technology, health care was particularly strong for us. We're seeing it in the communications sector. We saw volume increases with multiple companies in that sector. And we're seeing all levels of complexity of work in there. So both business-to-consumer- and business-to-business-related work, which really plays to our ability to handle any kind of transaction that they want to handle at scale. So I'm pleased, when you look kind of behind the scenes, of the variety and the depth and the complexity of what's in there.

William A. Warmington - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

How are the volumes coming in versus what the clients were expecting?

Andre S. Valentine

Well, certainly, they were stronger than expected early in the quarter, and that's what most of our overperformance came from. I'd say now they -- we've seen a kind of a normal seasonal pattern, with a reduction as we were exiting the quarter, and that was probably more in line with our clients' expectations at that time.

William A. Warmington - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Got it. And one balance sheet question. I just want to make sure I got the pro forma balance sheet correct. So there would be $441 million in pro forma debt and $189 million in pro forma cash for a net of $252 million. Is that the right math?

Andre S. Valentine

It's close. So the cash is $202 million, and the pro forma debt if you pull out the Stream items, are -- is -- it's a little high. Well, it's got to be, what is that, $454 million, I believe. And so let me give you the components of that. That would be our term loan of $350 million, our AR securitization of $10 million. And between our converts, that's roughly $60 million and then capital leases of about $34 million.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We'll go ahead with the next question. It comes from Josh Vogel with Sidoti.

Josh Vogel - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Just looking at some of the merger announcements out there, if AT&T buys DIRECTV, how do you think that would affect your business with both? Do you think there's an opportunity there for more volume? Or do think that AT&T may want to diversify away a little bit of the volume to other providers? I know it's very early in the game, but I was just curious of your thoughts there.

Andrea J. Ayers

Yes, usually when something like that happens, they gravitate toward the scale players that perform well, and we are certainly a scale player that performs well. So we won't really speculate on what they're going to do. But typically, our scale and ability to handle any type of transaction that they need to handle where they want it, right, and do that in a quality manner is usually a strength when something like this happens, as opposed to smaller providers out there that really don't do everything that they need done where they want it and don't do it at scale. So it really melds into that vendor consolidation play a little is what we normally see.

Josh Vogel - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay, great. And then with regard to Comcast and Time Warner, do you do any work with Time Warner currently?

Andrea J. Ayers

Yes, not -- I'm going to talk about specific clients. Again, general comment I'd make is normally, these things work well if you're a strong performing vendor.

Josh Vogel - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. And if I missed it, I apologize. But I think you said the bookings from Stream in Q1 were about $20 million. I was just curious what their typical quarterly run rate in new signings are.

Andre S. Valentine

That's in the zone of typical. And again, they're going to -- they would have the same lumpiness across quarters as we would. But I think that's within a reasonable range for them, Josh.

Josh Vogel - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. And then just lastly, just from a modeling perspective, with a full quarter's worth at these debt levels, if they don't change, can you just give us an idea of what the step-up in the interest expense would be from Q1 to Q2?

Andre S. Valentine

Yes. So if you look at it, Josh, we were running, prior to the Stream acquisition, roughly $3 million of interest expense per month. We had 1 month of having a debt outstanding in March. That took it to $4 million. You can pretty much think that's about $1 million a month.

Operator

Our next question comes from Shlomo Rosenbaum with Stifel.

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

Could you -- I had 2 questions to start out. First, can you talk a little bit about the individual organic growth rates in the various verticals, just to give us a sense as to how the industries in general are doing? If you could be a little bit more specific on the particulars?

Andre S. Valentine

Yes, we'll provide a little color there for you, Shlomo. Technology continues to be very strong from a growth perspective. I think that's just because there's an awful lot going on in that space, and that is a place where we're seeing a lot of vendor consolidation activity. Communications, I would say, was fairly flat. Not much of a contribution from Stream, frankly, to the financial services vertical. So what you see there, what we're reporting there, is a nice reversal of trend, frankly. And then in the other verticals like health care and retail, as we mentioned, a pretty strong, solid, upper-single-digit growth there.

Andrea J. Ayers

Yes, we're seeing some nice new logo activity in the health-care vertical.

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

And what exactly are you doing over there that's contributing to that growth?

Andrea J. Ayers

No, we invested some time back, Shlomo, in some expertise in the health-care industry because we identified it as a fast-growing industry. Just based on the regulatory changes that were taking place there, they need more help now than they used to from providers like us as they're moving to that more consumer-driven model. And so it was talent, tools, offerings and capabilities investments that we now see kind of paying off as we increase our footprint and focus on that space. And so think of that as an investment track that we began about 5 years ago.

Andre S. Valentine

[Indiscernible]

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

So are we talking about providers? Are we talking about payers? Are we talking about the government? Who are we talking about?

Andrea J. Ayers

You're primarily talking about the payers market, Shlomo, is where we see the best ability for us to utilize our scale, services and, frankly, to make a decent return. You have to be very targeted when you think of health care in order to make sure we're making the right return and, frankly, that we're able to provide the value.

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

Okay, great. And then just on the Stream. The $0.29 contribution to EPS guidance is what it sounds like. That's mathematically what you'd get to for 10 incremental months on -- out of the $0.35 they expected in the first 12 months that you guys gave out in December. I was just wondering, normally when I think of synergies and how they're achieved, the synergies kind of build and early on, there's usually investments that need to be made in order to achieve those synergies. Is the implication over here that if you're mathematically tracking towards that, that you're actually getting better on the synergies than what you had expected initially? Or are you just getting an earlier jump on them? Or how should I think of that?

Andre S. Valentine

I think that, Shlomo, largely they're coming in as expected from a timing perspective. And so we're not really surprised at how they're coming in. Frankly, they're coming in as we thought they would when we came up with that $0.35 contribution in the first 12 months. And so that's why, yes, you're right, mathematically, the $0.29 contribution that we're seeing here, so this 10-month period in 2014, is perfectly in line with what we expected.

Andrea J. Ayers

Yes, Shlomo, I would say we're getting exactly what we thought we were going to get.

Andre S. Valentine

And of course, you mentioned investments to get them. Certainly, some of those investments, most notably severance and so forth, are showing up as integration expenses. So they're not being netted into, if you will, the adjusted earnings numbers.

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

Okay, that's a very good point. Just on some of the -- about -- in the, excuse me, P&L items. It looks like all the amortization is being excluded. Has all the amortization historically been intangibles related to acquisitions? Normally, I'd expect just acquisition-related intangibles to get excluded.

Andre S. Valentine

Yes, that's all that we had. So the -- we were having roughly $1 million per month historically in amortization expense, and that was all related to previous acquisitions largely around a customer list as we did those acquisitions.

Shlomo H. Rosenbaum - Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division

Okay. And then just following up on a question that was just asked beforehand in terms of the incremental interest expense. So all else remaining equal, we should expect $6 million a quarter, all in, on the interest expense? Is that what we came out with?

Andre S. Valentine

That's exactly right. And I did make -- I misspoke there when I talked about the amortization, Shlomo. I said $1 million per month. It's $1 million per quarter. Sorry, got excited.

Operator

Our next question comes from Frank Atkins with SunTrust.

Frank Atkins - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

A quick follow-up. Now that we have Stream in the business and some additional European exposure there, can you talk a little bit about seasonality and how that may change or not going forward in 2Q and 3Q?

Andrea J. Ayers

Yes, I think what you'll still see is pretty much the seasonal pattern that we had in the base business to begin with, which is we're always busier in that fourth quarter rolling into a strong first quarter, and then a little more muted in the second quarter. That's true from the verticals we support and kind of the business mix right now. We're not anticipating large changes in the pattern.

Andre S. Valentine

And you would see that -- if you looked at Stream's previous public report, and their -- they cycle through things pretty much the same way we did.

Frank Atkins - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Okay, great. And then turning quickly to the Philippines, can you talk a little bit about where capacity stands there? Maybe a little bit, if you could, about the hiring and the turnover environment?

Andrea J. Ayers

Sure, happy to. We're still investing and very happy with the operations in the Philippines. We're the largest in that geography. And I think I mentioned in my remarks that it was -- the majority of our growth occurred there. So we're still seeing very strong demand environment for the Philippines and very happy with our team and the operations that we're running there. From a hiring perspective, we have a terrific brand image. And so we tend to focus on being the employer of choice in the markets where we do business and serve. I can honestly say, we are definitely that in the Philippines. And so we are seeing the ability to find the talent we need to be able to do the work for our clients that we expect to be able to do and to continue to grow there. It's an area we're still investing in footprint and capacity.

Operator

At this time, I'm showing no further questions. I'll turn the call back over to the speaker.

David Stein

Okay. Shirley, thank you. And at this time, if there aren't any more questions, I want to just thank you all for participating on the call, and have a good day.

Operator

Thank you. This does conclude today's conference. We thank you for your participation. At this time, you may disconnect your lines.

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