Accenture PLC Earnings Call Insights: Demand Environment and First Quarter Details

Accenture PLC (NYSE:ACN) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Demand Environment

Rod Bourgeois – Bernstein: So your revenue growth took a step in the right direction in the August quarter, but bookings were down year-over-year in Consulting and Outsourcing and your fiscal ’14 bookings guidance calls for flattish bookings versus fiscal ’13. So, overall, are you seeing overall stable to improved demand trends as implied by the August quarter revenue growth results? If you are seeing overall stable to improved demand, is this not showing up in recent and projected bookings due to a drop in duration or some other factor in your outlook?

David P. Rowland – CFO: Rod, I’ll start with a few comments and then I’m sure, Pierre, will have a few things to add. In terms of the demand environment, one key measure we look at is our opportunity pipeline. We saw – have seen good expansion in our opportunity pipeline across most aspects of our business over the last 90 days during the fourth quarter and that is indicative of the level of client discussions that are taking place and the way our services and offerings are resonating in the marketplace. So we do feel good about our pipeline and we think it’s well-positioned for what it needs to be to support the revenue range next year. As it relates to the bookings, the bookings we triangulate with our revenue growth based on what we believe we made from a book to bill standpoint, our conversion assumptions, et cetera. We believe that the book to bill range that we guided to will support the revenue. On the Consulting side, while we feel good about our pipeline overall, at this point in time it is a little bit more early stage and for that reason we see quarter one Consulting bookings being pretty consistent with what we have seen the last two quarters. But yet we feel very good about the pipeline overall. It just has that early stage characteristic at this point in time.

Pierre Nanterme – Chairman and CEO: Yes. Just to add, I like the way you have been framing that forward, which is indeed, I think the demand is – I would characterize it as stable with some pockets of improvement here and there. By and large we are pleased with our pipeline that the way it’s shaping. But the overall demand I would characterize as stable plus, if you will…

Rod Bourgeois – Bernstein: Then just as a follow-up, can you specify at least roughly how does your fiscal ’14 revenue growth guidance breakdown between the Consulting and the Outsourcing business, and also, is your revenue growth in fiscal ’14 more likely to be stronger in the first half of the year or the second half of the year? Are you assuming it’s reasonably level-loaded across the year?

David P. Rowland – CFO: Yeah. Ron, in terms of the breakout, we are — we believe Outsourcing will be in the mid to single — a high single-digit positive. On the Consulting side, anchoring to the 2% to 6% range, we see that on the low-end is being flattish to low single-digit positive. In terms of the revenue phasing, we do see our revenue building as we go through the year, coming off the range that we guided to for quarter one and then building from there. There are a couple of our operating groups, in particular, that for different circumstances are going to have lower growth in quarter one, financial services being one and health and public service being the other. I believe, I called both of those out in the script but yet, those are two operating groups that we feel very good about the positioning of the business, the pipeline, their contracted revenues and we’re very optimistic that their growth will be much stronger as they progress through the year.

First Quarter Details

Tien-Tsin Huang – JPMorgan: Just to build on your last – those last comments there, David. Just trying to better understand Q1, I heard the FS and health and public sector, you exited the year about 4.5%, low-end is down 2%. Is it really just those two segments that might push you negative there, because we maybe argue that some of the revenue convert a little bit faster and pull forward some revenue into 4Q, just trying to better understand how much of that down to low-end is conservative versus some – there are some specifications, if that make sense…

David P. Rowland – CFO: I think, Tien-Tsin you know – again I think you hit the nail on the head again. It’s – the situation we find ourselves in quarter one is that we do have this cycle, this you know short-term cycle that H&PS and FS are going through, whereas prior to quarter four, they were contributing at a very high rate relative to our overall growth. We also have resources in CMT which improved in the fourth quarter and we feel good about how those businesses are moving alone to return to positive growth. We think both of those operating groups will be positive for the year, but yet as we look at quarter one, they are still very much working their way back up to where they want the business to be and where we want the business to be. So, really quarter one just a reflection of H&PS and FS going through this period of lower growth, and then given some allowance for the fact that CMT and Resources are continuing to build, but we’ve got a little ways to go.

Tien-Tsin Huang – JPMorgan: We will get that in 1Q and then jumping into 2Q is always a little bit tricky, but sounds like the second half implied guidance should be relatively strong? I guess my follow-up, there is no question there, my follow-up I guess I’ll ask acquisition wise. Did you give roughly how much some of these acquisitions could contribute to fiscal ’14 topline? Then just generally speaking, there has been a lot more chatter up here about acquisition that Accenture might be pursuing. I know Booz & Company has come up, but can you comment on that in general, just your appetite for a larger acquisition?

David P. Rowland – CFO: Tien-Tsin, I’ll just comment briefly. In terms of the contribution to the top line, it’s still roughly in that 1% range, and I’ll pass it over to Pierre, and he will certainly want to add some thoughts on acquisitions in general.

Pierre Nanterme – Chairman and CEO: Yes. Thanks, Tien-Tsin for the question. But indeed we are executing our strategy against what we always shared with you from an acquisition standpoint. Our strategy in term of acquisition and finance trajectory was to deployed around 15% of our free cash flow around acquisition and we’re always been clear that it might be a little more or little bit less depending on the opportunities in the marketplace and how attractive they might be for us to invest for the future. It’s happened that this year indeed, we found pretty attractive opportunities in the marketplace and we deployed in the range of $800 million. So, this is consistent with our strategy and indeed moving forward we will continue to execute this targeted strategic acquisition, deploying around 50% of our free cash flow. We have the cash to deploy a little bit more and of course, we’re going to look at the good opportunity for us and for our shareholders to invest wisely.

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