Seeking Alpha
We cover over 5K calls/quarter
Profile| Send Message|
( followers)  
Better Than AdSense

Q4 2006 Earnings Call
February 22, 2007 5:00 pm ET


Mollie O'Brien - Investor Relations
W. Michael Long - Chief Executive Officer, Director
Lewis R. Belote - Chief Financial Officer


Imran Khan - JP Morgan
Mark May - Needham & Company
Jeetil Patel - Deutsche Bank
Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital Group
Paul Bieber - Piper Jaffray
Stewart Barry - ThinkEquity



Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the fourth quarter 2006 Move Incorporated earnings conference call. My name is Eric and I will be your coordinator for today. (Operator Instructions)

I would now like to turn our presentation over to our host for today, Ms. Mollie O'Brien with Investor Relations. Please proceed.

Mollie O'Brien

Thank you, Operator. Good afternoon and welcome to our call today. On the call are Mike Long, our Chief Executive Officer; and Lew Belote, our Chief Financial Officer. Today’s call is being webcast from the investor relations section of our website,, and will be available for replay shortly after we conclude. A copy of our press release issued earlier this afternoon is also available on our website.

Please be advised that some of the comments that will be made today constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act that involve potential risks and uncertainties concerning Move's expected financial performance, as well as Move's strategic and operational plans. These potential risks and uncertainties include, among others, decreases or delays in advertising spending and market acceptance of new products and services. Additional factors are discussed in the company’s annual and quarterly reports, which are filed with the SEC and available on our website.

All information discussed on this call is as of February 22, 2007 and Move undertakes no duty to update this information.

Results projected on the call today may differ materially from actual results and should not be considered as a guarantee of future performance.

On this call we will also be discussing some non-GAAP financial measures and talking about the company’s performance. Reconciliations of those measures to GAAP measures can be found in table attached to our press release.

I will now turn the call over to Mike Long.


Better Than AdSense What if there was a way to promote your company to a perfectly targeted group of potential customers, partners, acquirers and investors? What if you could tailor your pitch to them at the moment of maximum interest? And what if you could do this for a no-brainer price?

This is exactly what Seeking Alpha is offering with transcript sponsorships.

Seven types of companies are sponsoring earnings transcripts on Seeking Alpha:

1. Company sponsors its own earnings call transcript (example).

2. Company sponsors partner's transcript (example).

3. Company sponsors competitor's transcript (example).

4. Issuer-sponsored research firm sponsors client's transcript (example).

5. Investment newsletter sponsors transcripts of successful stock picks (example).

6. IR firm sponsors transcript of micro-cap company (example).

7. Consulting company sponsors company's transcript in sector of interest (example).

Your company's name and promotion could have been on this transcript! Learn more, or email Zack Miller for details.

W. Michael Long

Thank you, Mollie, and good afternoon, everyone and thank you for joining us for our fourth quarter and full year conference call.

During 2006, we achieved a number of important operational milestones but most importantly, we achieved the strongest financial results in the company’s history. The highlights for the year included: the launch of our new Move brand together with a new real estate search website,, designed to offer consumers the most comprehensive real estate search possible and to serve as a platform for our move-related consumer services; the introduction of entirely new business models into the new home and apartment listings category; and the completion of a two-year effort to relocate the company’s data center to Phoenix, Arizona, while completely upgrading the underlying hardware and software used by our sites.

These tasks were completed against a backdrop of steadily deteriorating conditions for new and existing home sales. Nonetheless, we were able to achieve revenue growth and improvements in profitability consistent with our stated objectives at the beginning of the year.

Specifically for the full year, we generated: revenue of $290.4 million, representing growth of 15% over 2005; EBITDA of $24.6 million, or 8.5% of revenue; GAAP net income of $18.6 million, which reflected our decision to monetize an equity stake we held in LoopNet, a company that went public in 2006; and finally, an end-of-year cash balance of $158 million.

After receiving the LoopNet proceeds in January, our cash balance today exceeds $172 million, leaving us with financial flexibility not imagined just a couple of years ago.

Our primary goal for 2006 was to create a consumer-driven growth in profitability platform,, that would position us for both sustainable market leadership and provide an essential advertising venue for real estate professionals and all product and service providers wishing to reach a large audience of movers.

The long-term benefits of the success of this strategy are obvious. However, the operational and financial implications of this commitment in the short-term are very material. Over the course of 2006, we have shared with you our assessment of those short-term implications, notably: first, a near total freeze on website feature and functionality evolution in the second-half of the year. While this was not a desirable outcome for us, especially with new market entrants deploying new consumer features, it was a consequence of needing to upgrade our underlying technology infrastructure and relocate our computing facilities. It was a successful but difficult project that precluded us from implementing new innovations as quickly as we would have liked.

Second, essentially starting over with our new homes and rentals businesses by abandoning our paid inclusion model in favor of a more consumer friendly vertical search approach. We believe it was the right call because it provides us with a much more attractive strategic profile, even though it introduced the certainty of near-term revenue loss.

And third, the retooling of Welcome Wagon, where we began the process of eliminating non-strategic and unprofitable revenue, even before we launched our new online product solutions. This created a confluence of our planned restructuring with the normal seasonality of fewer moves in the fourth quarter.

These decisions are clearly not consistent with running a business on a strictly quarter-to-quarter basis, especially with many of them having negative short-term financial outcomes bunched in the fourth quarter. But with our slightly longer term view, we believe getting these difficult changes behind us in order to create a consumer driven growth-in-profitability platform will serve us well in the years ahead.

Historically, our fourth quarter revenue is flat to lower than the third quarter, and this year is no different. However, this year our new homes, rentals, retail advertising and Welcome Wagon business units were all being repositioned. Our revenue for the fourth quarter was $71.8 million, 8% higher than last year in spite of an 11% decline in revenue on a combined basis from new homes, rentals, retail advertising and Welcome Wagon.

Our fourth quarter results also reflect a considerable profitability inherent in our emerging mix of business models. EBITDA was $8.6 million for the quarter, or 12% of revenue. We were able to generate over $5 million in additional EBITDA on $5 million more revenue than the fourth quarter of 2005.

While we certainly do not expect to generate that level of contribution margin on all future revenue growth, we are encouraged by the prospects for near-term improvement in profitability.

As for the market, overall real estate sales experienced their first cyclical decline in almost 14 years. We have been tracking the market closely to ascertain any near-term effect on our business. I want to stress that we continue to believe that these more difficult market conditions are acting as a catalyst for many but not all market participants to shift their offline and largely wasteful ad dollars to more effective online venues like our sites.

But that is an important qualifier: not all market participants can or will embrace these changing market conditions by increasing their online marketing efforts. In fact, our focus over the last year on companies and on top-performing agents was driven by a belief that more efficient market participants would inevitably take share from less efficient participants in difficult markets.

Today our view is that top-producing real estate agents and brokers and large home builders are maintaining or increasing their commitment to online advertising, further rationalizing their large offline advertising commitment, offset by weakness in the resolve of second-tier real estate advertisers who are experiencing declining market share and tightening cash flows in the current market.

In the fourth quarter, we started to see some impact of the market conditions with slightly lower renewal rates among agents with the fewest listings. However, we also saw a significant acceleration in demand for our solutions among real estate brokerages and improving demand from home builders.

This market is not reducing the value or the attractiveness of our market opportunity but it is challenging us to create the right solutions for the right mix of customers and to segregate the effects on our business and market forces from our own internal restructuring and repositioning.

Before Lew discusses the details on the quarter, let me touch on recent developments in our primary business units, including an important organizational change we are making today.

Our fourth quarter performance was driven by results from and Top Producer. delivered revenue growth of 15% over the fourth quarter of 2005. Similar to last quarter, the growth rate excluding websites, which we de-emphasized, and virtual tours, which are now free, was a robust 30%. Our Top Producer unit also delivered revenue growth of 30% over the fourth quarter of 2005.

As many of you know, in our business, we sell products to individual real estate agents and also to brokers who make purchases on behalf of their agents. During the fourth quarter, we experienced continued momentum in demand from brokerage customers. We ended 2006 with 1200 broker customers, representing close to 140,000 agents, including those of NRT.

We added 500 broker customers in the fourth quarter alone. This compared to fewer than 100 broker customers at the end of 2005. This growth reflects a conscious effort on our part to accelerate the evolution of our revenue base toward higher performing agents and brokerage customers.

While there are some modest price concessions typically associated with these sales, we believe they will allow us to lower our selling cost and more rapidly increase the percentage of listings that are enhanced for consumers.

Despite this focus on higher listing count agents and brokerage customers, we still ended 2006 with 20% more individual agent customers than the previous year. During the fourth quarter, however, we did experience a slowdown in the growth of the number of agent customers. We expect this trend will continue into 2007 as we emphasize marketing efforts to top-producing agents and brokers.

One other trend we saw in the fourth quarter that we expect to continue into 2007 was heightened price sensitivity to our display ad products, such as featured home and featured agent, especially among lower volume agents.

Over the past several years, we have more than doubled prices for many of these products by creating more inventory or narrowing the geographic coverage of a particular product. Heading into 2007, we expect to focus on market penetration for these display ad products to achieve revenue growth.

Our Top Producer software business, as evidenced by its brand, is almost entirely focused on top-producing agents. It maintained strong momentum both operationally and financially in the fourth quarter. We finished the year with over 65,000 subscribers to our product, which continues to be endorsed by all the major real estate franchises, including Caldwell Banker, ReMax, Century 21, Prudential, and Keller Williams.

A year ago, Top Producer launched a pay-per-lead product called Top Marketer to enable our customers to attract more consumer inquiries. In recent months, we added a key product feature to Top Marketer called Market Snapshot, which allows agents to present consumers with real-time MLS data about homes on the market including time on market trends and list-to-sale price ratios for recently sold homes.

Customers told us they loved the Market Snapshot feature but they wanted to use it to better qualify all their inquiries and leads, not just those provided by Top Marketer. In response to this customer feedback, we have replaced the pay-per-lead product with a new monthly subscription service that is available to real estate professionals in approximately 150 markets.

We believe this change is better for our customers and will provide greater opportunity for revenue growth and margin expansion in out Top Producer business. Although we have only recently announced this change to our Top Marketer customers, we are encouraged by the early successes we have had in converting them to the Market Snapshot subscription service.

This leads me to the announcement of an important organizational change. Over the past four-and-a-half years, Allan Dalton has done a tremendous job building into our largest and most successful business. He is a proven builder of new businesses and has an unparalleled and well-deserved reputation as an innovator among real estate professionals. As of today, he will be leading a team that is developing an entirely new business venture that will launch in the third quarter of this year. We do not plan to share details on this new business until product launch, other than to say it could be transformational for both consumers and real estate professionals.

We believe the new venture represents a major opportunity and Allan Dalton is the perfect executive to build it. While Allan will be relinquishing day-to-day responsibility for, I am pleased to announce that Errol Samuelson has accepted the position of Executive Vice President of the real estate division. With Allan’s guidance and support, Errol has been running our Top Producer business for the past three-and-a-half years and is responsible for overseeing the incredible growth and transformation of that business. He will continue to oversee Top Producer and will now assume responsibility for sales, customer care, and industry relations.

Staying within our real estate services segment, during the fourth quarter we experienced mixed results in the ongoing transition of our new homes and rentals businesses. As expected, both businesses experienced revenue declines compared to last year.

On a combined basis, revenue declined 16% from the fourth quarter of 2005. The experience of the two businesses diverged during the quarter. Sequentially, the new homes business generated revenue growth slightly above the third quarter while our rentals business unit did not. We remain confident that our strategy is the right one. Namely that providing consumers with the most available new homes and rental listings content possible is essential for our future success and growth.

Having achieved a significant listing advantage, we must now get our advertising products performing better for our customers. The nearly six-month delay in updating after its initial launch in May has been a major factor in preventing the delivery of better performing ad products for new homes and rentals.

The featured listings do not drive traffic to customer sites as seamlessly as they soon will, and the showcase listings still do not offer our advertisers as much flexibility to customize their marketing messages as they would like.

The two other challenges in these units we have experienced relate to the distribution of traffic to our paying customers and away from the free basic listings, and the bid prices for our featured listings. Our teams are developing solutions to address each of these items and their efforts will be evident in the weeks ahead.

These product challenges may be the inevitable result of launching such a radically different product set from everything else that exists in the market, and it certainly did not help that we were not able to make changes to the site in the second-half of last year.

In spite of these delays, the good news is that our customers want these products. They need them to work better. We have every indication that both builders and rental owners will embrace our unique combination of subscription and cost-per-click marketing solutions, once we have these issues worked out.

Until we get our ad products performing better, however, we have delayed aggressively promoting these services to consumers. Thus, our traffic levels are clearly below the levels we expect to achieve once our marketing campaign begins.

In the near-term, we expect continued improvements on the new home side in the first-half of the year, with improvements on the rental side lagging by one to two quarters.

The move-related services segment produced little revenue growth and was not profitable during the fourth quarter. Given the material changes we are in the midst of making to Welcome Wagon, the results were not a surprise although the continued weakness in retail advertising was disappointing. Our sole acquisition during the year,, has been integrated effectively and has performed up to our expectations.

While macro issues did affect the segment during the quarter in the form of fewer moving households and lower demand mortgage related advertisers, we believe internal factors are more responsible for current and near-term performance. The opportunity for revenue and profitability improvements in this segment will be driven by better product offerings and better execution.

To that end, we recruited Eric Thorkilsen at the end of last year to lead this division. Eric has an extensive track record developing multimedia businesses in the shelter category for both Time Warner and Scripps Networks. As such, you can expect that our offerings in this division will include online as well as print and video solutions for both consumers and advertisers.

You should also expect us to augment our efforts in this division with one or more strategic acquisitions this year.

The Move network of sites remains the number one consumer destination for real estate and move-related information on the Internet. In recent months, we have experienced the effect of a slowdown in overall real estate activity as traffic to our sites as well as to other listing aggregator sites have been impacted by fewer buyers searching for real estate.

Having said this, we have maintained our clear leadership position in terms of unique users and the time they spend on our sites. When we begin our offline advertising campaigns next month, we believe traffic patterns will further extend our leadership position.

I would like to discuss a new initiative which we believe will have a profound effect on our consumer websites, a project called America’s On the Move. America’s On the Move represents an extension of the consumer-focused mission we articulated a year ago with the launch of While the Move network of websites holds a commanding position in the real estate segment with regard to overall consumer traffic, that leadership position must be resilient to new waves of technologies, business models, and competitors.

As consumers become more sophisticated online, their expectations for online real estate and neighborhood information grow and we are focused on enriching our consumer offering in order to meet and exceed those expectations.

America’s On the Move is an initiative that represents our total commitment to this task. America’s On the Move is both an internal rallying cry and a series of development efforts during 2007 that will leverage our unique content advantage, the local knowledge and expertise of our existing customers, various emerging technology platforms nominally known as Web 2.0, and our strong financial position in order to meaningfully shift the online paradigm for real estate.

The goals of the project are to extend our website capabilities beyond property search in order to reach consumers throughout their real estate life cycle, create an architecture of participation across the network that engages both real estate professionals and consumers, grow our audience substantially and improve our ability to monetize the users on our network.

Consumers will pick the online winners and we intend to use every resource at our disposal to win the battle for those consumers.

Before turning the call over to Lew for details, I will share our expectations for this year as well as for 2008. Despite the various business unit challenges I have mentioned, and in continuing contrast to the relatively poor home-selling conditions, our confidence in our ability to generate improving profitability has increased in recent months. So rather than suggesting a material improvement in profitability as we did last quarter, absent any market disruption, we believe we will be able to achieve full-year EBITDA closer to 15% of revenue on a revenue growth rate in 2007 of approximately 15%.

Turning to 2008, we continue to believe that greater than 20% revenue growth and greater than 20% EBITDA margins are achievable. Despite some expected challenges repositioning several of our businesses for profitable long-term growth, our market opportunity is in no way diminished. Therefore, we remain as optimistic about our prospects for 2008 and beyond as we have been on prior calls.

I would like to now turn the call over to Lew for financial details on the quarter. Lew.

Lewis R. Belote

Thanks, Mike. We grew revenue by 8% over the fourth quarter of 2005. Though our revenue was slightly less than our Q3 revenue, as we predicted on our November call, we continue to improved profitability. As Mike mentioned, the results continue to reflect widely different performance for individual business units with and Top Producer remaining our best performers.

EBITDA was $8.6 million, or 12% of revenue, compared to a loss of $2.8 million last year. Last year’s EBITDA included $5.9 million for former officers’ legal expense. Even excluding last year’s legal costs, it is a substantial improvement in our profitability.

For the quarter, we reported GAAP net income of $17.6 million. Included in the fourth quarter’s net income is $15.7 million in other income from the sale of investments and $5.3 million in expense from stock-based compensation under FAS-123R. Excluding these two items, our net income would have been $7.2 million compared to a net loss of $4.6 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

Even excluding last year’s legal costs, our net income for the fourth quarter of 2006 was $5.9 million higher than the fourth quarter of 2005.

Looking at our segments, in real estate services, which includes, Top Producer, new homes and rentals, we reported fourth quarter revenue of $53.6 million, an increase of 10% over the fourth quarter of last year. The operating margin in the fourth quarter was 24% compared to 31% in the fourth quarter of 2005. Excluding stock-based compensation, the margin would have been 28% for the current quarter.

The decrease in margin is mostly the result of the expanded product development related to the launch of our website as well as the transition in our business model for new homes and rentals. We expect the margin for this segment to improve materially during 2007. revenue, which is approximately two-thirds of the real estate services segment in 2006, grew 15% in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter of last year. Revenue growth in enhanced listings was offset by expected softness from templated and custom websites and in our virtual tour revenue. The decline in virtual tour revenue was attributable to the $1.3 million in Cendant non-recurring revenue included in last year’s fourth quarter results and our decision to offer virtual tour postings for free for all of our enhanced listing customers earlier this year.’s core revenue growth, excluding websites and virtual tour products, was 30% for the quarter. At December 31st, we had approximately 20% more individual agent customers than a year ago, while our rate of growth in individual agent customers declined slightly in the quarter, we did experience strong sales of company showcase, our listing enhancement product purchased by brokers on behalf of their agents.

We expect to perform at or above our long-term revenue growth target of 20% in 2007.

Fourth quarter revenue from our Top Producer software business grew 30% compared to the fourth quarter of 2005. We ended the year with over 65,000 subscribers to our CRM software solution. With planned enhancements and better integrated marketing solutions, we expect this business to also maintain revenue growth at or above our 20% long-term target.

As anticipated, revenue from our new homes and rental businesses declined from the fourth quarter of 2005. On a combined basis, revenue was down 16%. However, we believe that new homes has reached the end of its transition, as we saw the first quarter of sequential growth since we announced the changes to our sites.

Our rentals business may decline for the next two quarters before our product set and traffic levels generate improved results. We are not going to forecast a trough quarter for these businesses other than to say we expect both businesses to begin to generate year-over-year revenue growth during 2007.

Our move related services segment reported revenue of $18.2 million, which is flat compared to the fourth quarter of 2005. As expected, this segment was not profitable, due primarily to continued investments in Welcome Wagon, although we expect the segment as a whole to contribute to profitability in 2007.

Welcome Wagon’s revenue for the quarter was 5% lower than the fourth quarter of 2005. This decline in revenue is due to a decrease in the number of new mover products shipped and a decline in revenue from national advertisers. We shipped fewer books this quarter than in the fourth quarter of 2005, partly due to the fact that the market has slowed and fewer households are moving. We also made a conscious decision to ship fewer books because we ceased operations in smaller markets that we determined were not profitable or did not have desirable growth potential. Higher revenue per book during 2006 offset the decline in number of books delivered.

We expect Welcome Wagon revenue to decline slightly this year as we transition to new revenue models and eliminate non-strategic initiatives.

Revenue from our retail advertising business declined 14% from the fourth quarter of 2005. The lower revenue was partially due to the allocation of impressions within the site but was also impacted by continuing weakness in demand from finance related advertisers.

With better sales, campaign management and several new ad products, we expect to improve our revenue growth in this business in the second-half of 2007, though we will be slightly below our corporate revenue growth target.

Our home plans business experienced further revenue declines and contributed to the reduction in segment profitability. This business is directly impacted by lower demand for new homes as consumers postpone purchasing blueprints and designs. Our plans and planning sets are being more fully integrated into our consumer websites, which should improve product sales and allow us to generate more valuable impression inventory.

Our unallocated or corporate expense for the fourth quarter was $11.4 million, a decrease of $8 million from the same period in 2005. Excluding the effect of stock-based compensation of $2.9 million in the quarter, as well as the legal expense related to the defense of former officers of $5.9 million and the litigation settlement charge of $1.8 million in the fourth quarter of the prior year, corporate expense decreased by a net of $3.2 million. This is a direct result of our continued focus on operating costs.

The relocation of our data center operations from southern California to Phoenix, which reduces our risk and operating costs and increases our processing capability, was a significant undertaking. It cost us approximately $6 million in operating expense in 2006 and incurred close to $20 million in capital expenditures over the last 18 months.

It has also consumed considerable internal resources and necessitated a software code freeze for a number of months, which impacted our ability to release new products in the second half of the year. This is now behind us and there will be no comparable expense incurred in 2007.

Looking at our consolidated results, our gross margin in the fourth quarter of 78% was consistent with the last two quarters and with our expectations for the year. Taking our expenses line by line, sales and marketing expense in the fourth quarter of $27.7 million was $4 million higher than the fourth quarter of 2005, reflecting increased traffic distribution costs and personnel. We expect sales and marketing expense will increase in 2007 as we launch our branding campaign, but we believe that it will remain approximately the same percentage of revenue. The primary increase in 2007 will be for our brand-building campaign that will launch next month.

Product development expense in the fourth quarter was $8.3 million, or almost 12% of revenue, and was $1.5 million higher than the fourth quarter of 2005. We expect product development expense in 2007 to remain approximately the same as 2006 in actual dollars.

General and administrative expense of $20 million for the fourth quarter was $4.4 million lower than the fourth quarter of 2005. The decrease was primarily due to a $5.9 million decrease in legal costs related to the defense of former officers, partially offset by $4.3 million in stock-based compensation expense. Costs associated with data center relocation were $1.1 million in the fourth quarter. We expect G&A expense in absolute dollars will decline in 2007.

Our cash and short-term investments at December 31st were $158 million, an increase of $6.7 million from the third quarter and $5.5 million from December 2005. We did not receive the proceeds from the sale of our LoopNet investment in January so our balance today exceeds $172 million.

Capital expenditures were $19 million for the full year, of which $6.1 million were capital lease arrangements, so they are not reflected in our statement of cash flows, though they are reflected on our balance sheet.

Our sources of cash during the quarter were as follows: $8.6 million in EBITDA contribution; $1.7 million from the exercise of stock options; and $1.9 million in interest income. These were offset by $4.3 million in capital expenditures, a $500,000 reduction in working capital, and $750,000 in payment on capital leases and restructuring charges.

We are encouraged by profitability trends, even with the softness in the real estate market and will continue our focus on growing our business and on our market leadership position.

At this point, I would like to turn the call back over to Mike for final comments.

W. Michael Long

Thank you, Lew. Let’s go straight to questions. We are very interested in your questions. Operator.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions)

Your first question comes from the line of Imran Khan with JP Morgan. Please proceed.

Imran Khan - JP Morgan

A couple of questions. Number one, I was wondering if you could talk about you said that you were seeing some heavy activities from some agents, heavy user. I was wondering what percentage of your revenue comes from the agents who are the heavy users.

Secondly, I was wondering if you can give us some color. I think last quarter you talked about that you were working on releasing some new product. I was wondering what kind of success you were seeing and when can we see the rollout of all those products. Thank you.

W. Michael Long

As far as providing a specific breakdown as far as our agent mix and our revenue mix and our realtor business, we do not provide that but I can give you some color on it, and that is that we have had -- if you look at our Top Producer business, as I mentioned earlier, its brand is Top Producer. It is very focused on upper-end agents, say the agents that would be in the top 20% of the 1.3, 1.4 million agents who are licensed and members of the National Association of Realtors.

In, there is a much broader base of users but the bias starting a year ago was very much towards selling companies that are brokers who aggregate large groups of agents and that program has been incredibly successful. We started the year with very few broker contracts. We call it company showcase, less than a hundred, and we ended the year with 1200 and there is a strong focus on the, in that case, the top 5,000 brokerages in the country. We are building momentum, because we had over 500 sales in the fourth quarter alone, so that tends to be aggregating top-producing brokers and agents.

As far as individual agents in, they tend to have higher renewal rates, and looking at those renewal rates over the second-half of the year to see how those renewal rates distinguish from renewal rates of say agents that might have less than 10 listings. Our definition of a top producer would be more than 10 listings and of course, there is quite a few that we market to that have 25 to 50 listings.

There was a weakness that showed up in the under-10 listing small agents in the fourth quarter. However, we were quite encouraged by the top-producing agents who had more listings. They either maintained and in some cases, their renewal rates went up.

I do want to suggest, I want to share with you that we still sell into the second tier of agents of particularly trying to identify those who have the potential to become top-producing agents and build an early relationship with them, but many fail or many of those lose market share and during tight markets and obviously cash flow right before Christmas for those lower producing agents became an issue for them, and many of them, if their renewal came up, they chose not to renew.

As far as new product releases, we are -- under the name America’s On the Move is our internal project for moving our sites up to, allow me to use the term, Web 2.0 compliance. We have a very large backlog of new product enhancements that we are waiting to move into production, phasing in over this quarter and next as a result of the freeze on our website in innovation for the second-half of the year because of our data center move to Phoenix.

We expect that enhancement rate to actually accelerate over the course of the year based on implementing a lot of very exciting new tools and services in the Web 2.0 world, so expect to see a lot of new features introduced by this quarter across the board with that pace actually accelerating in the second quarter.

Imran Khan - JP Morgan

Thank you.


Your next question comes from the line of Mark May with Needham & Company. Please proceed.

Mark May - Needham & Company

Company Showcase has obviously been a significant driver of last year, going from I think you said 100 to 1200, and with your comments about pricing, what should give us confidence that you can continue to generate 20% growth at this year, I guess in focusing on the additional opportunity that you see in the company showcase side of the business. I had one other question.

W. Michael Long

As far as Company Showcase, we clearly have momentum there and we do not see any reason why that will not continue. I am not suggesting it would be over 500 sales a quarter going forward, because I think the fourth quarter was extraordinary, but we have a -- I feel very comfortable about the momentum of those sales.

Now, associated with those sales is we do, since the broker steps up and enhances the listings on behalf of their agents, we do get economies of scale and selling cost, and the broker is very aware of that and we tend to offer modest discounts, discounts compared to if we sold that inventory or enhanced that inventory directly with individual agents.

So there are price concessions relative to agent sales to brokers and we factor that into both our revenue growth and our profitability going forward, and we think the tradeoff is a good one.

As far as maintaining growth of at or above 20% in both and Top Producer, I think Company Showcase, the focus on selling the top-producing agents who tend to have higher renewal rates, the benefit of our -- because there is a lag between sales and revenue recognition, because these tend to be annual subscription products, will show up -- those sales in 2006, the revenue recognition will actually show up in 2007, so there is a significant subscription revenue backlog here. So that leads us to believe that revenue growth at or above 20%, we are quite comfortable with that.

Mark May - Needham & Company

Another question on Welcome Wagon; you talked about ceasing operations in smaller markets. You also talked about possibly making an acquisition this year. Could you talk to us -- have you restructured the business? Obviously you brought Eric in. As you have ceased operations in smaller markets, one might think that you are restructuring the personnel and where people belong within the organization. Has that occurred, or when you are talking about making acquisitions, it seems like maybe you are going the other route, you are actually looking to make pretty sizable investments in that business. Could you give us an idea of where you stand in terms investment versus restructuring?

W. Michael Long

I will start with a few comments and Lew, feel free to add. The Welcome Wagon business model, as we have shared with you in the past, it primarily generates this revenue from an offline product, essentially a new mover book that shows up several weeks after a move. The advertising in that book is sold at some very high cost sales expense associated with that -- an individual salesman calling on small businesses to sell the advertising inside of this new mover book.

That model has very, very challenging profitability, so we are convinced that that model can be converted to online and that we will convert offline advertising to online advertising and that we will be able to generate advertising sales from local and national advertisers through our online network, and using the Welcome Wagon to represent our commitment to community and the place where our consumers, both the consumers that are moving but also the people who already live in the communities where those consumers are moving to, can meet each other but also get exposed to very timely and un-intrusive advertising messages from local and national advertisers.

So that transition is requiring a lot of dislocation inside of Welcome Wagon, a lot of personnel changes, reducing the size of the sales force that is on the street, and then converting the book to essentially an online offering. But that will take time. I am very confident that Eric will get that mission accomplished.

The type of acquisitions that would be made associated with Welcome Wagon will be businesses that can accelerate that transformation along the lines of what I just described.

Mark May - Needham & Company

Thanks for that answer. I will let someone ask the Allan Dalton question.


Your next question comes from the line of Jeetil Patel with Deutsche Bank. Please proceed.

Jeetil Patel - Deutsche Bank

It is actually Damon for Jeetil. Just going back to Welcome Wagon again, as you look out long term into late ’07 and beyond, do you think that the optimal business model for Welcome Wagon is you have completely phased out the books and it becomes a purely online base model? Or is there some value to having the actual print books out in the market?

The second question is on your comments regarding the traffic slowdown, overall activity that you have been seeing, not just the moves across real estate sites. Your branding campaign that you are going to be doing in ’07, you would assume that traffic picks up. Does your guidance factor in a sort of incremental traffic growth or traffic reacceleration? And the traffic slowdown that you saw in the fourth quarter, is there some way to help us understand how that impacted new agents allocating dollars, or related to the CPM based ads where you still have [inaudible]?

W. Michael Long

Let me see if I can parse this. I think there were at least three questions there. One is that the Welcome Wagon business model, we still see the need for an offline product. It is the cost of selling of the advertising in the offline product using offline sales is what makes the current business model unattractive. We want to source the advertising relationship online in the future and we want to deliver the advertising message, both online and offline, and significantly reduce the selling costs associated with that business.

Your second question on the traffic slowdown, we look very carefully at how we compare relative to other listing aggregator sites. We almost tracked exactly with them in many regards and because of the reduction in the number of buyers in the market right now, the traffic has come down in the listing aggregated category.

We look even more importantly at the amount of time that users spend on our sites and we maintain a huge lead there. So the stickiness of our sites is just multiple times those of our closest competitors.

The effect that that traffic has on our monetization is very limited in our real estate businesses in particular, because most of our revenue today there is generated from subscription products and not tied directly to the amount of traffic.

Over time, we hope to create more balance there but right now, it is not a major factor as far as a negative factor in our revenues as far as the traffic.

The marketing campaign that we will be launching later this quarter does have not only brand building but it has as one of its very specific objectives and return on investment of that marketing campaign, increasing traffic to the entire Move network, both to move-related services as well as to our real estate services offerings.

We actually believe that our traffic levels as the year progresses, even if the real estate sales activity in the country remains soft, will actually increase and return to historical levels and then we actually are quite confident in these campaigns that we actually would see traffic growth as we approach the second-half of ’07.

Lewis R. Belote

We are also, as we introduce a couple of new products, the community pages that we talked about in the past, while we are expecting that to generate additional traffic, to I think the question you asked, are we dependent upon that to hit the 2007 forecast we are talking about, no but we do think that that branding will bring more recognition to our sites and ultimately more traffic.

As we get the product sets right and the advertising that is attractive to our customers right, we think ultimately that is what helps us get the 20-20 in 2008 and beyond.

W. Michael Long

Just to clarify a point, in our new homes and apartments businesses, we are trying with this whole suite of new products, advertising products that we introduced there, we are trying to create a more direct connection between traffic generation and revenue. Like I mentioned earlier, we do not have those ad products working right yet. We pursue the strategy of generating the most possible content on those sites and in some respects, our customers’ advertising has been lost by maybe almost an over-response to trying to provide consumers with the most possible choices in the rental/new homes category. So we are doing some redesign there, still satisfying our commitment to consumers that we are going to have the most content on our site, but better positioning our advertisers and their messages that are paying to help fund that site.

Jeetil Patel - Deutsche Bank

Okay, and just a quick question; when are the Welcome Wagon pages expected to be launched?

W. Michael Long

We are launching in 10 markets, 10 test markets this quarter.

Jeetil Patel - Deutsche Bank

Thank you.


Your next question comes from the line of Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital. Please proceed.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital Group

I will ask the question then; regarding the new business unit, I know you said you are not going to give any detail, so I will try to respect that, but could you just answer a couple of questions, if you could, around it. In particular, is the revenue that you hope to generate from this business, is it incremental or will it ultimately cannibalize your existing business?

Secondly, the investment that would be required for this entity or this business, has that already been factored into your assumptions in terms of the investment? Have you already been spending in this area?

Lastly, you guys have -- I know you have had the data center move and some issues in terms lockdown of code or whatnot, but are you comfortable you have enough bandwidth in terms of programming talent and project management to be undertaking what sounds like a fairly extensive project right now when you still clearly have a lot of balls in the air on some of the core businesses? That would be great, if you could respond to those. Thanks.

W. Michael Long

Great questions. As far as the -- we see all the revenue associated with this new venture as incremental and not cannibalizing. As a matter of fact, we see this new venture actually helping supplement existing product and service sales as well. And you are right, I am not going to discuss what it is.

We will be launching in the third quarter and we are not going to prepare our competition anymore than we have to, because we think this is such a significant opportunity.

The investment associated with this launch has been factored into our assumptions and a full business plan has been reviewed internally and I am very comfortable with it.

I will say that it is one exciting dimension of this venture is that it is addressing both consumers and professionals, so we like the scope of it.

Then, as far as the technical and project talent on board, we have taken the very serious commitment here of dedicating a team to this new venture so that they are -- and we have been fortunate to be able to backfill the extraordinary talent that we are putting into this new venture with what we think talent that is certainly capable of continuing the strong legacy that has been established in

So we have taken the dedicated team approach for this new venture for two reasons. One is to make sure that it achieves its full potential as soon as possible, and two is to limit the disruption this new venture might have on other things we are doing in the company. So we have incrementalized the resources there as well.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital Group

Do you think that this focus on this new project has led to some of the postponement of not launching some of these other products or projects or businesses in and around your existing entities right now?

W. Michael Long

No, I don’t.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital Group

We are not really in a trade-off situation here? This is really incremental?

W. Michael Long

No, we are not and I think that those delays have been self-inflicted and we cannot attribute them to the new venture.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital Group

Great. Thanks, guys.


Your next question comes from the line of Aaron Kessler with Piper Jaffray. Please proceed.

Paul Bieber - Piper Jaffray

This is Paul Bieber for Aaron. Thanks for taking my question. A couple of quick questions. What is the pricing structure of the Market Snapshot subscription service and what are your expectations for penetration of the installed base?

Secondly, you made some comments about price sensitivity. I was not sure in which segment you were referring to, so I was hoping that you could repeat your comments about price sensitivity.

W. Michael Long

Yes, two things. Let’s go back to top market and Market Snapshot. Market Snapshot is sold on a subscription basis for about $80 a month, so it is a recurring revenue subscription service. We are incorporating Market Snapshot into Top Marketer as well as into the featured CMA offering, which is essentially an ad position on We are not incorporating Market Snapshot into featured CMA.

The second question was the price sensitivity. I was referring primarily not to our showcase products but to our featured homes and featured agent products, which we have historically increased almost exponentially by creating more inventory. I mean, the price increases for those products have been in some cases 100% per year. What we are really communicating is that we do not think that is sustainable anymore and that we are focusing less on price increases in those two particular products and more on focusing on market penetration.

Paul Bieber - Piper Jaffray

Any update on the PPC initiative?

W. Michael Long

Would you repeat that? On the what initiative?

Paul Bieber - Piper Jaffray

The pay-per-click initiative?

W. Michael Long

Okay, the focus is to make it work in new homes and rentals and the strategic plan is in. Once it is working there and we are comfortable that we know what we are doing with the CPC business model, then we will move it into as well.

Paul Bieber - Piper Jaffray

Thank you.

W. Michael Long

We do not want to cannibalize our existing subscription business until we understand the CPC business.


Your next question comes from the line of Stewart Barry - ThinkEquity Partners. Please proceed.

Stewart Barry - ThinkEquity

This is Rob in for Stewart. Just a couple of questions. First of all, on Welcome Wagon, I am just wondering if there is anything driving the incremental revenue per book that you had mentioned, other than the elimination of the under-performing geographies.

Lewis R. Belote

Well, that is part of it, Rob, in that when you eliminate the lower revenue, but we also focused on those markets where new movers are going to. While we had books in some smaller markets, and I do not want to disparage any or prop any up, some markets in the Midwest, as an example, were not drawing new movers to them as rapidly as some in the Southeast, so we focused on those markets and have been successful in improving that.

Also, the national advertisers, while the national ads have not performed up to the level we had hoped at this point, it has helped increase revenue per book.

Stewart Barry - ThinkEquity

I know when you talk about that part, you generally talk about getting the books out within several weeks of a move. I know that you are getting the data from GetGo. Is there any way to accelerate data acquisition to get the books out more quickly? Could that be a catalyst?

W. Michael Long

Well, GetGo is a part of the Welcome Wagon business. We actually gather the data from public records in many, many places, and yes, we are looking at models to obtain that new mover information much quicker so that we can get a book or online advertising directly in front of those new movers as they are considering a move instead of just after they move.

The key tradeoff there is the quality of the moving address information and so we want to accelerate so that we have the information close to the actual time of the move without sacrificing quality.

Stewart Barry - ThinkEquity

Finally, on the data center costs related to the move this quarter of $1.1 million, would it be fair to say that most of that will drop off in the first quarter?

W. Michael Long

We said that explicitly that the $6 million approximately we spent this year disappears January 1st.

Stewart Barry - ThinkEquity

Great. Thank you very much.

W. Michael Long

Operator, are there anymore questions?


Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have no more questions at this time.

W. Michael Long

Well, we would like to thank everyone for your patience in joining us on this call. We are really looking forward to 2007 and we will see you on the next call. Thank you.


Thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This concludes our presentation. You may now disconnect. Have a good day.


Better Than AdSense

What if there was a way to promote your company to a perfectly targeted group of potential customers, partners, acquirers and investors? What if you could tailor your pitch to them at the moment of maximum interest? And what if you could do this for a no-brainer price?

This is exactly what Seeking Alpha is offering with transcript sponsorships.

Six types of companies are sponsoring earnings transcripts on Seeking Alpha:

1. Company sponsors its own earnings call transcript (example).

2. Company sponsors partner's transcript (example).

3. Company sponsors competitor's transcript (example).

4. Issuer-sponsored research firm sponsors client's transcript (example).

5. Investment newsletter sponsors transcripts of successful stock picks (example).

6. IR firm sponsors transcript of micro-cap company (example).

7. Consulting company sponsors company's transcript in sector of interest (example).

Your company's name and promotion could have been on this transcript! Learn more, or email Zack Miller for details.

Copyright policy: All transcripts on this site are copyright Seeking Alpha. However, we view them as an important resource for bloggers and journalists, and are excited to contribute to the democratization of financial information on the Internet. (Until now investors have had to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees for transcripts.) So our reproduction policy is as follows: You may quote up to 400 words of any transcript on the condition that you attribute the transcript to Seeking Alpha and either link to the original transcript or to All other use is prohibited.


If you have any additional questions about our online transcripts, please contact us at: Thank you!

Source: Move Q4 2006 Earnings Call Transcript

Check out Seeking Alpha’s new Earnings Center »

This Transcript
All Transcripts