I met a couple of really sharp consultants the other day and asked who they worked for. When they said Accenture (NYSE:ACN), I wasn't surprised. I have worked with several Accenture consultants over the years and found them to be top quality, highly skilled consultants. As a business owner, I realized quickly that hiring quality personnel is the most important factor in ensuring a company's success.
I am always on the lookout for investing ideas and decided to perform further due diligence on Accenture to determine if an investment opportunity exists. The results of my analysis revealed that Accenture is well positioned for future growth, fundamentally strong, has a loyal client base and employs top notch consultants. Please review the following reasons I am bullish on the name.
Latest Performance Results Are Strong
Accenture reported outstanding fiscal Q2 results last Thursday. The company beat the street's estimates on both EPS and revenue. EPS for its most recent fiscal year was $3.40, a gain of 28% from the previous year's EPS of $2.66. Accenture's EPS has increased nine out of the last ten years. The company has a very low debt level and generates an annual return on equity of 48.0%. The company raised its fiscal year 2012 EPS outlook to a range of $3.82 - $3.90, above analysts' estimates of $3.82. Accenture appears to be firing on all cylinders.
A Market Leader With Strong Global Presence
Accenture is a global leader in management consulting with more than $25 billion in net revenue. Accenture clients include more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500. Nearly all of the company's top one hundred current clients are long term customers of over five years. Accenture operates in over 120 countries with more than 246,000 employees.
The key advantage for Accenture is the quality of its people in my mind. Accenture is a well-respected company which attracts highly talented people. As an auditor for Ernst & Young, I was always impressed with the professionalism and thoroughness of the Accenture consultants I interacted with. The retention rate of the company's clients proves this out. Furthermore, Accenture is well-diversified geographically, giving it an edge over the competition. The depth and breadth of Accenture's reach provides the company with a virtually unmatched solutions knowledge base that is invaluable in the consulting business.
Accenture's ability to stay on top is a testament to its excellence of execution. The competitive environment is intense. Regarding technology services, one of Accenture's main competitors is International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM). IBM's Global Services Business Unit is a top notch organization. Lesser competitors include Electronic Data Systems Corporation Electronic Data Systems (NASDAQ:EDS) and Computer Sciences (NYSE:CSC). These companies are smaller, but not to be taken lightly.
Accenture's outsourcing business has grown in significance for the company over time. Accenture's outsourcing competitors include Tata Consultancy Services Limited (NYSE:TCS) and Infosys Technologies (NYSE:INFY). Accenture is the top provider of outsourcing. Accenture has done a fantastic job attracting new clients and retaining existing clients. Furthermore, the company has managed to increase the scope of services with existing clients. The company is performing well in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
Fortress Balance Sheet
Accenture generates high returns on equity which have averaged an outstanding 62% over the last five years. The company had no long-term debt and more than $5 billion in cash on the balance sheet as of February 29, 2012. In fiscal 2012, Accenture expects to generate strong free cash flow of $3.2 billion to $3.5 billion. This is equivalent to an 8% free cash flow yield based on the company's current market capitalization. Accenture's stock price is up 20% year to date. ACN has a dividend yield of 2.1%, with a 5-year annual dividend growth rate of 31%. As an investor, these are very appealing statistics.
Investor Focused Management
Accenture has generated $13.6 billion in free cash flow, paid out $2.5 billion in dividends and repurchased $10.7 billion of stock over the past five years. The company just upped its annual dividend to $1.35 a share. The raise provided a nifty fifty percent dividend increase, bringing the current yield to 2.1%. Management plans to continue returning profits to shareholders through further share repurchases and dividend payments. Accenture has $5.5 billion authorized for future share repurchases. There is nothing I like better than a company focused on returning wealth to shareholders.
Based on the above facts, the accent on Accenture's future seems brighter than ever. The company is the market leader in its industry, has strong fundamentals, a fortress balance sheet and good prospects for future growth. Moreover, Accenture has handsomely rewarded faithful investors with dividend increases and share buybacks. With the market's recent run, I believe this stable blue chip stock with a beta of .8 provides a positive risk/reward scenario for long term investors.
Use this information as a starting point for your own due diligence and research methods before determining whether or not to buy or sell a security. If you choose to start a position in any stock, I suggest layering in a quarter at a time on a weekly basis to reduce risk and setting a 5% trailing stop loss order to minimize losses.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in ACN over the next 72 hours.