FactSet Research Systems Earnings Call Nuggets: FactSet Workstation and Acquisitions Analysis

FactSet Research Systems, Inc. (NYSE:FDS) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

FactSet Workstation

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: Can you just, Peter, provide some color on the strong net adds, client adds and user adds and just kind of contrast that with the ASV growth which was strong sequentially but from a seasonal aspect, was kind of the lowest year-over-year ASV that was – or your lowest amount that was added in the last three years. I’m trying to get to the nature of the new ASV and the new users. Are these people that are actually potentially buying pieces at the FactSet workstation or are they buying maybe StreetAccount standalone in certain firms that are really just Bloomberg firms that may never sign up with the FactSet workstation?

Philip A. Hadley – Chairman and CEO: Shlomo, it’s Phil. I’ll take that question. I guess when I look at our – the public information that we provided for you, as an analyst, it’s important for you to look at. Certainly, I’ve always emphasized gaining share in total ASV, gaining share in feeds and clients is always important and I think we had a very strong quarter when it came to gaining share in the marketplace. I think when I was looking at the data in what we think as our traditional FactSet business, we gained share and had a higher win rate than we’ve had in prior quarters. Just to clarify, one of the points you made, last year’s quarter included $11.5 million or somewhere about that in acquisition ASVs. So, on a year-over-year basis, this was a much better quarter than last year. And then I would also go on to throw at that that it’s important to say that the mix this year was more in our traditional business the way you think of terminals in the buy and sell-side.

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: So you had say more in the traditional terminals that people who might be starting off in a low dollar value that might be coming up later as a potential cross-sell?

Michael D. Frankenfield – EVP and Director of Global Sales: We wouldn’t count anybody in the web products. So anybody who is subscribing to a StreetAccount fee isn’t in our seat count. It gets counted in total ASV, but not in as far as seat gains. These are core workstations that clients are – relationships that we have greater than 24,000 and then ASV as the total number…

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: So in terms of like ASV growth, it was up about 6% given the strong net seat count, is it – why are we not seeing a higher ASV growth? Is it because they are coming in at lower price points initially?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: Well, if you think about the pricing for our product, the revenue streams come in lots of different flavors. There’s – the first seats are more expensive than the marginal seats, whether they are seats are on the buy-side or whether it’s on the sell-side dictates whether the product mix they might subscribe to. But traditionally our sell-side business isn’t anywhere near the revenue per seat than our buy-side primarily because the Analytics products are almost 100% purchased on the buy-side.

Michael D. Frankenfield – EVP and Director of Global Sales: Another way to think about it Shlomo, this is Mike, is that new users and new clients when they come on, come on at a rate much lower than the average ASV per user and the average ASV per client.

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: So that’s the question I was getting to, is it a bunch of new users that basically are coming in at lower price points than what you traditionally see and eventually you have a pretty good history of upselling?

Michael D. Frankenfield – EVP and Director of Global Sales: If you’re referring to the metric of average revenue per client, average revenue per seat, I don’t know how to track that, so I wouldn’t know. But it’s always a good thing when that actually goes down because it means we’ve got new client growth and new seat growth, which would always bring down that average.

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: Then just in general, the gross margin has stepped down, is this primarily the investment in people that you talked about is the significant hiring quarter?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: Shlomo, it’s Peter. In terms of gross margin, the two significant factors this quarter would be the stock-based compensation expense for the performance options related to StreetAccount. I think it’s also factual that most of our – a large percentage of our employee hiring is in the cost and services line. And that extends to employees who are in our content operations, software engineering and new consultants from college…

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: And just from macro perspective, are you seeing signs of new fund formation, hiring amongst your clients. What are you seeing on the ground?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: It’s still fairly muted. I would characterize the hiring that happened on the sell-side of this quarter as certainly higher than our expectations, but certainly not anything exciting versus prior years. So I would characterize that as a small positive. We’re seeing signs of headcount hiring on the buy-side business, but again, very very muted.

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: And then just when I make this calculation of buy-side growth versus ASV growth versus sell-side, and come out at buy-side growth at about 6%. And based on what you can calculate from your public numbers have been tracking between 9% and 11%, how should I think about that in terms of the ASV growth and the buy-side coming in lower than what (we think) this calculation looks like in the last four quarters?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: Shlomo, let me first start just by talking about methodology and then I’ll let Mike or Phil comment. With the dichotomy of the healthiness of the buy and sell-side over the year we have certainly recognized that that split has taken on a higher level of importance. We did two things this quarter. One is re-define the calculation of the split to define IB as IB only and IM as our global IM business plus our off platform content sales plus market metrics. The second thing we did is we extended the decimal places out a digit and we disclosed the quarterly history to allow for precise calculations for both ASV contribution and growth reach – growth rates from each segment. I think what you are using today is our most accurate view of that split.

Shlomo Rosenbaum – Stifel Nicolaus: So basically go back look at the calculation and come back to you if I see any problems from there?

Michael D. Frankenfield – EVP and Director of Global Sales: Yes. I think that the important point and same point on the last quarter Shlomo is that, that the way we are talking about the IM business includes market metrics in our off platform business and the comment that I made earlier to answer your question, what you think of is the traditional core business of FactSet the workstation to our core end users, did well this quarter.

Acquisitions Analysis

Timothy McHugh – William Blair & Co.: I guess just to follow-up on that last question, I think you gave us including this quarter then four prior quarters so we can do the year-over-year growth rate but I guess the 6.4% growth, just curious how that – how you define that buy-side portion now? How that compares, is that faster or slower than we’ve seen over the last two or three quarters? Obviously I know with acquisitions bouncing around but I guess just kind of an underlying or organic basis how would that compare?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: So I guess I would characterize the given – the comments I have made that the core business, sell-side, buy-side accelerated this quarter.

Timothy McHugh – William Blair & Co.: Then I guess just, Revere Data, I guess the implication with the drag on margins being 30 basis points this quarter – that it’s relatively breakeven if I back into that, is that just the small size of the business? Is there something you can do to bring that back up over time?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: Well, I think we obviously indicated that, what the impact we expected on EPS to be in Q1 and also for the year. The Q1 EPS impact being $0.01 and $0.02 for the year, I think, indicates to us that we think that we can improve its profitability over the next four quarters, because it’s not $0.04 for the year.

Timothy McHugh – William Blair & Co.: Then lastly, I know it’s hard to predict, but the tax rate now 29%, is that more of your view of the long-term, assuming the R&D credit continues to get renewed each year? Is that a fair tax rate to be using now, going forward?

Peter G. Walsh – EVP and COO: In terms of the long-term, if you believe the R&D tax credit will be reenacted, the midpoint of our guidance is the best rate to use in terms of a long-term tax rate. I will comment that then R&D tax credit has been in existence since 1981 and there’s only been one year since that time that the credit was not reinstated either on time or retroactively. The cadence of the renewals does play havoc with our consistency of EPS, often moving a recurring benefit into the one-time category, but if history repeats itself, since 1981 I think our ETR, our effective tax rate in the just completed quarter is reflective of our ongoing long-term rate.

A Closer Look: FactSet Research Systems Earnings Cheat Sheet>>