Harris Interactive CEO Discusses F4Q2010 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Harris Interactive, (HPOL)
This article is now exclusive for PRO subscribers.

Harris Interactive (NASDAQ:HPOL) Q4 2010 Earnings Call August 19, 2010 5:00 PM ET


Michael Burns - VP IR & External Reporting

Kimberly Till - President, CEO

Eric Narowski - interim CFO, CAO, SVP and Global Controller


Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital

Jacques Soenens - Great Gable


Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for standing by and welcome to the fourth quarter and full year fiscal 2010 Harris Interactive earnings conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we'll conduct a question-and-answer session and instructions will follow at that time. (Operator Instructions)

As a reminder, this conference may be recorded. Now I'll turn the call over to Mr. Michael Burns. Sir, please go ahead.

Michael Burns

Thank you. Good afternoon and thank you for joining us to discuss Harris Interactive's fourth quarter and full year fiscal 2010 financial results. With me today are Kimberly Till, our President and Chief Executive Officer, and Eric Narowski, our Interim Chief Financial Officer.

The format for today's call will include formal remarks by both Kimberly and Eric on the state of the business and our performance for both the fourth quarter and full fiscal year. After the formal remarks, Kimberly and Eric will be available for questions.

A webcast replay of this entire call will be accessible via the Investor Relations section of our corporate website later this evening and will be archived there for at least 30 days. However, no telephone replay of this call will be provided. We will post a transcript of this call as soon as we can after the call.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that certain statements made during this conference call are forward-looking statements for purposes of the Safe Harbor provisions under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

These statements includes beliefs, predictions and expectations related to the company's future financial performance, other business and operating metrics, as well as statements regarding the company's future plans and operations.

They involve a number of risks, known and unknown, that could cause actual results, performance and/or achievements of the company to be materially different from the beliefs, predictions and expectations discussed on this call.

Factors that could cause the company's results to materially differ from the forward-looking statements made today and which are incorporated by reference herein are more fully described in today's press release, as well as the company's SEC filings, particularly under the Risk Factors section of the company's most recent annual report on Form 10-K as updated quarterly in our quarterly reports of Form 10-Q to reflect additional material risks.

You are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating such forward-looking statements and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on them. The forward-looking statements are only made as of the date of this presentation and the company undertakes no obligation to publicly update them to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

We also will be discussing non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA with the add-back of the restructuring and other charges. These items are reconciled to GAAP financial measures in today's press release and are posted on the Investor Relations section of our website.

I'd now like to turn today's call over to Harris Interactive's President and Chief Executive Officer, Kimberly Till. Kimberly?

Kimberly Till

Thank you, Mike. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us and for your interest in Harris Interactive. On today's call I'd like to cover two main areas. First, I'll provide an overview of our financial results for fiscal year 2010 including Q4 and highlight some of the key accomplishments we achieved during this fiscal year.

Second, after Eric delivers his remarks on our financial results, I'll provide an update on where we are on our roadmap for the future and our priorities for fiscal year 2011.

Now let's turn to our Q4 and fiscal 2010 results. Financial highlights include consolidated revenue for Q4 was $43.6 million, essentially even with the $43.5 million for last year's Q4. For the full year, consolidated revenue was $168.4 million, down 9% from fiscal 2009. Foreign currency exchange rate differences had a mutual impact on both Q4 and the full fiscal year results as compared with the same periods last year.

Even though revenue declined from fiscal 2009, it is important to note that despite this decline we improved our adjusted EBITDA margin with the add-back of restructuring and other charges from $6.9 million, or 3.7% of revenue, in fiscal 2009 to $8.9 million, or 5.3% of revenue, in fiscal 2010.

The revenue decline was contained in the first half of fiscal 2010 as consolidated revenue in local currency for the second half of the year was even with the second half of fiscal 2009.

Our consolidated bookings for Q4 were up 5% compared with Q4 of last year excluding foreign currency exchange rate differences. This growth was driven primarily by increased bookings in the US, UK and France.

Operating income for Q4 was $186,000, improved from a $58,000 loss in last year's Q4. For the full year we had an operating loss of $523,000 compared with an operating loss of $56.4 million for fiscal year 2009. So from an operating standpoint, we have essentially achieved breakeven performance on a global basis in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2011 we plan to achieve revenue and profit growth and I'll discuss this more later.

For Q4 we generated non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA with restructuring and other charges added back of $2.3 million compared with $2.5 million for last year's Q4. We ended the quarter with $14.2 million of cash and generated positive cash flow from operations for both Q4 and the full year.

Our outstanding debt as of June 30, 2010 was $15.6 million. We reduced the principle amount of our outstanding debt by $6.9 million during fiscal year 2010. We also accomplished many key initiatives in fiscal 2010 including the following.

We launched four new commercial products, including research life streaming. Research life streaming connects the conversations that people are having online and offline with the views they express and the actions that they take through a cutting edge research platform with social media research capabilities.

We've conducted a large number of client presentations on research life training and the initial reaction has been extremely positive. We expect to drive increased revenue through a number of specific products that sit on top of this research life training platform including products that enabled us to determine the impact to social media marketing and social media buzz in building and strengthening the consumer brand relationship.

It also enables us to deliver an ROO, our return on objectives analysis, that supports optimized social media and digital media programs and use GPS capabilities to support customer satisfaction research at the moment of truth right after the purchase or service experience.

We also recruited top talent with special expertise in several critical areas of market research such as branding, advertising, marketing and communications. Our new hires include Jeni Chapman, our new Global Head of Brand and Communications.

Jeni has deep experience in all aspects of brand and communications consulting and is a recognized expert in the area of branding and linkage of traditional media with new media such as social networks.

Douglas Berlon as head of our US Financial Services sector; Douglas has extensive experience in the financial services industry culminating in his position as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer and Retail Segment Manager of First Citizens Bank. Most recently he was head of Gallup's worldwide financial services practice.

Mike de Vere as head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications and healthcare sectors; Mike is a seasoned general manager with expertise in market research, business development, marketing and operations.

Mark [Dimer], another new hire as SVP of consumer goods, retail and restaurants. Mark has extensive consumer marketing, retail sales, research consulting and general management experience from leading consumer goods companies including -- experience at leading consumer goods companies including Phoenix Brand, [Juna Lieber], PepsiCo and marketing services firms.

Phil Sawyer as an SVP in brand and communications; he is a recognized expert in advertising and branding and has a proven track record of bolstering the advertising and communications vehicles for major US corporations.

Our ability to attract this kind of talent reflects positively on the strategy and plans we have in place to position Harris as the market research firm leading the transformation of market research with technology and innovation. These and several other key hires made in fiscal 2010 are playing leading roles in expanding our research capabilities through industry and market solutions area expertise.

A couple of other additional accomplishments include we successfully renegotiated our credit facility to achieve more favorable terms including reducing the number of our lenders from five to one, extending the maturity date of our term loan and revolving line and, through a new pricing grid, enabling us to achieve better pricing over time as our financial performance improves.

We also commenced the implementation of a global panel and survey platform worldwide which should provide us with cost efficiencies and improved data collections. We significantly redesigned and improved the Harris website, which provides a forum for better communicating our products, solutions and capabilities.

We also created the Harris Vault on the website which contains digitized versions of nearly 40 years of Harris [tolls] and they're searchable by topic, date and author. We have obtained better pricing from many of our suppliers through our aggressive sourcing initiatives and this is yielding substantial cost savings.

We have significantly revised our sell process and approach which is starting to have a positive impact on sales. Finally, we have strengthened the management team in Asia and enhanced our sales and research processes there as well.

So we have continued to make substantial improvements across many areas of the company. The focus in fiscal year 2011 will be on leveraging these improvements to drive increased sales and revenue while maintaining an attractive cost base. I will discuss this further after Eric provides greater detail on our Q4 and fiscal 2010 year results. So, Eric?

Eric Narowski

Thank you, Kimberly, and good afternoon, everyone. I will now take you through our financial results for both the fourth quarter and the full fiscal year.

Our consolidated revenue for Q4 was $43.6 million, up $171,000 when compared to last year's Q4. Foreign currency exchange rate differences had neutral impact on Q4 consolidated revenue. To better understand Q4 revenue we'll now look at it geographically and in local currency compared to last year's Q4.

US revenue was down 6% driven mainly by a 15% decline in healthcare as a result of a bookings decline that the business experienced in Q3, which, in turn, impacted Q4 revenue and a 10% decline in public affairs and policy due to lower spending by association and non-profit clients.

These declines were offset by increases in technology, media and telecomm, 9% and financial services, 8%, as well as in our service bureau research, 47%.

UK revenue was up 7% driven primarily by a large tracking study that was renewed last quarter after a one-year postponement and fully delivered this quarter. The main revenue was up 2% driven by strong sales in Q3, a portion of which was converted to revenue in Q4; French revenue, which was up 34% primarily due to continued success in selling to new clients across several sectors. Driven revenue was down 29% driven by slower sales growth later in the quarter, which had less time to convert to revenue within the quarter.

Asia revenue, comprised of our Hong Kong and Singapore operations, was up 65%, driven largely by the positive effects of the management changes we made in fiscal 2010. Our consolidated bookings for Q4 were $35.7 million, down 2% when compared to last year's Q4. Excluding foreign currency exchange rate differences, bookings were up 5%.

To better understand Q4 bookings we'll now look at them geographically and in local currency compared to last year's Q4. US bookings were up 2% driven by increases in technology; media and telecomm, up 137% as a result of new leadership and sales resources; financial services up 28% as a result of our Q4 sales push, offset in part by a 27% decline in healthcare as a result of that group requiring additional time to rebuilt the sales pipeline.

UK bookings were up 22% driven primarily by the timing of a large recurring tracking study that was sold in Q4 but was sold in Q3 of fiscal 2009 along with continued success in selling to new clients across several sectors.

Canadian bookings were down 11%. French bookings were up 8% and Germany bookings were up 5% both primarily due to continued success in selling to new clients across several sectors. Asia bookings, comprised of our operations in Hong Kong and Singapore, were down 13% driven primarily by a timing difference and recognition of a renewal of a large tracking study that was sold in Q4 but was sold in Q3 of fiscal 2009.

Operating income for the quarter was $186,000 compared with a $58,000 loss for the fourth quarter of last fiscal year. This improvement in operating income is a result of our continued focus on maintaining an appropriate cost structure and the increase in Q4 revenue I mentioned earlier.

Our net loss for Q4 was $1.3 million or $0.02 per fully diluted share compared with a net loss of $735,000 or $0.01 per fully diluted share for the same prior year period. Our net loss in Q4 of fiscal 2010 included a $724,000 loss on extinguishment of debt in connection with the mending and restating our credit agreement.

Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA with restructuring and other charges added back was $2.3 million for the quarter, down slightly compared with $2.5 million for last year's Q4. Cash generated from operations in Q4 was $4.5 million, a 32% improvement over the $3.4 million cash generated from operations in Q4 of last year.

Consolidated revenue for fiscal 2010 was $168.4 million, down 9% when compared to $184.3 million for fiscal 2009. Foreign currency exchange rate differences had a neutral impact on the fiscal 2010 consolidated revenue as compared with fiscal 2009.

The decline in revenue from fiscal 2009 is largely due to the impact of the global recession on the revenue in the first half of the year as consolidated revenue and local currency for the second half of fiscal 2010 was even with the second half of fiscal 2009.

To better understand our fiscal 2010 revenue, we'll now look at it geographically and in local currency compared to fiscal 2009.

US revenue was down 14%, driven mainly by a challenging first half of the fiscal year as a result of the global recession. UK revenue was down 11%, primarily driven by the reduction of the scope of a large tracking study. Canadian revenue was down 6%. Similar to the US, this decline was driven mainly by the challenging first half for the fiscal year as a result of the global recession.

French revenue was up 33% primarily due to the continued success that France has had in selling to new clients across several sectors. German revenue was down 6%. German revenue was essentially flat for the first nine months of fiscal 2010 compared with the same prior year period, so overall decline in fiscal 2010 compared to fiscal 2009 was driven by the timing of Q4 sales, which had less time to convert to revenue in the fourth quarter.

Asia revenue, comprised of Hong Kong and Singapore operations, was up 7% driven by the positive effects of the management changes we made in 2010. Our operating loss for fiscal 2010 was $523,000 compared with a $56.4 million loss for fiscal 2009.

Our fiscal 2010 operating loss included $623,000 in restructuring and other charges while our fiscal 2009 operating loss included a $40.3 million will impairment charge and $12 million in restructuring and other charges.

Our net loss for fiscal 2010 was $2.2 million or $0.04 per fully diluted share compared with a net loss of $75.3 million or $1.41 per fully diluted share for fiscal 2009. Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA with restructuring and other charges added back was $8.9 million for fiscal 2010, up $2 million when compared to $6.9 million for fiscal 2009.

As of June 30, 2010 we had cash of $14.2 million and $15.6 million in outstanding debt. During fiscal 2010 we generated $6.5 million in cash from operations, an improvement of $4.3 million of cash consumed by operations in fiscal 2009. Our cash position is strong and we expect that it will improve over time as our revenue rebuilds and profitability improves.

Looking ahead into fiscal 2011, we continue to believe that we have sufficient liquidity to meet our current operating needs as well as our debt service requirements. We expect to be in compliance with all of our debt covenants, including minimum cash balance and our total consolidated leverage and interest coverage ratios.

I will now turn the call back over to Kimberly. Kimberly?

Kimberly Till

Thank you, Eric. When I look back on fiscal 2010 I believe we have made significant progress in stabilizing the US and Asia businesses. France had an excellent year and is well positioned for growth in fiscal 2011 and Germany is on track.

Although we still need to improve the performance of our Canada and UK businesses, plans are being developed and implemented which should bring these businesses to profitability on a sustainable basis in the coming quarters.

Then every business worldwide should be profitable and phase one of our roadmap, turning around all parts of the business, will be accomplished. Given this, our number one focus for fiscal 2011 is rebuilding revenue.

Key drivers of revenue growth in fiscal 2011 include our new products and capabilities, particularly research life streaming, the new leadership we put in place in underperforming areas of the business, and improved sales resources and processes.

We believe the research life streaming platform is a highly differentiated, competitive offering for the market research industry in two attractive and growing segments of the market: social media and mobile. We intend to exploit the research life streaming platform to grow incremental revenue as well as to drive sales of our existing offerings, including brand and corporate reputation.

We expect that our efforts to strengthen the expertise and capabilities of our sector and country leadership and enhance our sales resources and processes will increase our sales and delivery capabilities and, in turn, drive revenue.

Additionally, we will continue to focus on our cost structure in fiscal 2011. We have several operational initiatives underway that we believe will further improve our cost base which should contribute to improved profitability in fiscal 2011.

From a timing standpoint we expect that Q1 will be our weakest quarter. Q1 has historically been our weakest quarter as there tends to be less activity in our industry during the summer months.

By the end of Q2 we believe that many of our initiatives will begin to positively impact our financial performance, which should put us on track to deliver both revenue and profit growth in fiscal 2011.

Lastly, I'd like to update you on where we are with our CFO search. We've conducted a rigorous search process to recruit a permanent CFO with strong, strategic acumen in addition to superior finance and accounting skills.

We've been extremely selective and have had the luxury of doing so given the strength of our financial team we have in place. Our search process is nearing completion and we will make an announcement as soon as we can.

Now I'll turn the call back over to Mike for questions.

Michael Burns

Thank you, Kimberly. Operator, if you can open the queue for any questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital.

Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital

I think what I'd like to do is just focus a little bit though on where we're going, particularly in 2011 and if you can maybe key in on a couple of things. You mentioned some of the new initiatives. I guess what I'm kind of focusing on is how much of a positive impact can we expect from some of these things?

Number two, it seems that we have a fair amount of cyclicality or volatility within some of the geographic regions and end markets. I know we talked in the past about building the book of business so we can see sustained performance on these segments and I guess I'm just curious with some of the management changes you put in place in some of the operating groups, how close are we to getting to that point of reaching a sustained level of activity and greater predictability and forecastability of the operating results?

Kimberly Till

When you look at how some of the changes that we've made in the leadership and adding sales resources, sales processes and things like that and when they'll likely have an impact, as I said, when you look at Q1 -- this is true for the market research industry in general -- given the summer months, many of our clients are on holiday in a way. So it tends to be a much, much slower quarter.

So I would anticipate starting in Q2 onwards. All of the changes that we put in place, all of the contact with clients, the selling in of research life streaming, I would anticipate all of that would start to have a positive impact Q2, Q3 and Q4.

Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital

When you talk about -- I know we talked in the past about objectives and I know you've talked about adjusted EBITDA numbers. When do we start to see adjusted EBITDA margins move up [first] couple digits as you see the model evolving today and what needs to happen for that to take place?

Eric Narowski

Yes, we don't want to get into specifics about when that would happen but as we see improvements we will see improvements in our EBITDA percentage as we go throughout the year and going into next year.

So definitely we see significant improvement in that but right now in the timing of that it is a little bit hard to tell when that will come into play.

Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital

Last question, you mentioned the 2011 initiative to reduce the cost structure. Can you quantify that a little bit better on what dollar impact that's going to have to benefit 2011? I think, Kimberly, you mentioned we'll start to see that from Q2 onward. But are we talking about a $5 million incremental savings or can you kind of put some sort of framework around that?

Kimberly Till

Yes, I think it's a little bit too early to quantify. We've said in several of the earnings calls that we're focusing on building out a global platform where we're able to consolidate several of the different country's operations leveraging common back end.

We've also done quite a bit of offshoring of our operations in the last 1.5 years or so. So we would anticipate that -- I can't quantify exactly for you right now the impact of fiscal year '11 but we think that it'll generate pretty significant savings.

Eric Narowski

Correct and then the main focus -- the main focus, as we said, is the revenue generation for next year and the continued focus on the cost containment as where we are in the business and the refinement on a global basis.


(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Jacques Soenens - Great Gable.

Jacques Soenens - Great Gable

Just a question to build on the last gentlemen's question; next year the number one focus is on rebuilding revenues. You singled out your new product offering as it relates to life streaming. We've talked about this a little bit in the past. Can you give us some color into any specific progress? Have there actually been -- are you just showcasing it now or have there actually been new client wins with this product offering?

Kimberly Till

It's still very much in the early stages. So we officially launched it in June. But we have been showing it almost like in a beta stage to a number of very significant clients, a lot of the Fortune 500 type of companies. Every single meeting the response has been extremely positive.

So what we're trying to do is work together with the clients to take the platform and adapt specific products on top that they can use for very specific market research needs. So it's still very early stage but we have around 20 or so active proposals out with clients right now already and we've already had a significant win, not so much research life streaming but research life streaming driving the selling of some of our core basic market research solutions.

So very, very early stage but all of the indications are very, very positive on what the potential for it is.

Jacques Soenens - Great Gable

Is it more appropriate for one section versus another or are you finding more success in those 20 active proposals in one section versus another or is it broad based?

Kimberly Till

It's very broad based. I mean, it does have to do with social media, so if you look at consumer goods companies there are a lot of healthcare applications. It kind of depends on the relevance of social media and what people are saying on social media, places like facebook, Twitter, YouTube and how that relates to the particular brand.

But if you look at something like the oil industry and British petroleum, when the oil spill happened, as you know, there was a tremendous amount of activity in the social media networks about that brand, about the overall set of competitors in that space. So you can actually use it for a number of different companies, not just the consumer companies.

Jacques Soenens - Great Gable

Just for clarification, is BP, the oil spill, is that an example or is that someone that Harris actually worked with?

Kimberly Till

We don't publically disclose our client base. But, as you know, we have clients in all of the main industry sectors and the large companies. I'm just using it as an example because we have also been prototyping the product and been looking at a number of those current things in the market ourselves just to measure consumer reaction to them and also to measure the progress of consumer sentiment.

So if you're looking at a brand that's active in the marketplace, as BP has been, you can look at it before the company makes certain communications, certain advertising, corporate speeches and thing and then you can look at the reaction immediately after and measure impact. So it's just one of the examples that we have looked at.

Jacques Soenens - Great Gable

One more question as it relates to the life streaming because it seems like it's a pretty unique and interesting product that's gaining traction. When we think about profitability, when we think about pricing, is this a higher-priced product and can it be sold ala carte depending on what a customer wants or is it just a standard package?

I'm just trying to think about the going forward profitability in the next year when revenue growth becomes such a key focus versus historically the products have been sold on a profitability level.

Kimberly Till

So the pricing of it right now is not extremely premium priced. It's more early stage and so it's really sold primarily as an add-on to other studies that you would be doing. So if you were doing a classic quantitative study on some brand thing you might add this social media component on top.

But we are at such an early stage and we have so many ideas in the pipeline of individual products that can sit on top of this platform. I think it's a little bit too early to tell exactly how the pricing is going to evolve over time.

When I look at impact on 2011, my sense is it is having a huge impact on our ability to sell our core market research solutions. So, again, brand and communications, corporate reputations, stakeholder management and so it gives us a way to introduce something very new and cutting edge and something that almost every company is looking at, the social media space and what is the impact of my advertising activities in that space.

This is a new way to give them some measurements on that but then it also opens a conversation with us about all of the core capabilities that Harris brings. So we found it's a very, very good driver of our existing portfolio as well as the incremental revenue that we'll be getting from selling it itself.


Your next question comes from the line of Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital.

Steve Kohl - Mangrove Capital

One quick follow-up; one of the questions I was trying to get at a minute ago was this idea of building a book of business which gives you guys the ability to accurately forecast your results going forward to a better band.

I guess I'm curious as to your thinking of where we are now in that cycle. I know you talked about the roadmap and the three phases for the business. I guess from the perspective of forecasting, though, where are we on that? I mean, is this -- when are we going to be able to get to a point where we can see forecasts out of Harris again and have some comfort with them whether it be on a quarter-annual basis?

Eric Narowski

Yes, we're not in a position right now to start giving guidance. But, again, in terms of our internal forecasting, we continue to try to improve that, evolve that. As you well know, customer research is a very hard thing to forecast and we do have a variety of procedures or methods internally.

Our goal is to continue to work on different products that's syndicated products, more tracking and long-term products to give us some annuity type of work. It is more easily forecastable because it's already booked versus the more shorter-term projects and that's good for the forecasting.

So we continue to do that and we continue to look at that. So as things more stabilize and we get some of these products in place and we get some traction I do anticipate that our forecasting ability will get better internally and we will try to get more visibility to that, to everyone as well when we feel comfortable that it's more projectable.


At this time, I'm showing no additional questioners in the queue. I'd like to turn the program back over to Michael Burns for any additional or closing remarks.

Michael Burns

Well, thank you very much, everyone, for joining us today. We look forward to speaking with you again in October when we announce our first quarter fiscal 2011 results.


Thank you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude today's program. Thank you for your participation and have a wonderful day. Attendees, you may now disconnect.

Copyright policy: All transcripts on this site are the copyright of 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 www.SeekingAlpha.com. All other use is prohibited.


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