ManpowerGroup Earnings Call Nuggets: Right Management, Growth Rate Progress

On Friday, ManpowerGroup (NYSE:MAN) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Right Management

John Healey – Northcoast Research: I wanted to ask about the Right Management business a bit. It looks like you guys are calling for 6% to 8% revenue growth and it looks like it’s all constant currency. I was a little bit surprised that maybe there was a bit more growth may be coming outside of the U.S. for that business. Hoping you could refresh us on the mix of that business domestic versus international and may be what you’re hearing from your large customers as it relates to that business unit.

Jeffrey A. Joerres – Chairman and CEO: Yeah, you did see Right go from basically 3% to 6.5% increase in revenue from second quarter to the third quarter. We do see that the U.S. companies tend to be a bit more aggressive earlier in how they can downsize. We’re also not calling from massive downsizing because we do believe companies are still fairly lean, but given the economic drop back we think that – backdrop they really will go after it. So, we’re seeing most of that occur in the U.S. It takes longer to sometimes formulate those plans through some forms of social plans in Europe. So, our mix of business is still skewed towards the U.S., particularly on the career management side. Mike, I don’t know if you have the exact number, but I know we’re running probably around 50% of our business if not more coming out of the U.S. on career transition.

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Mike Van Handel – EVP and CFO: Yeah, a little bit more than that. Probably closer to 60% on career transition, so a little bit more skewed towards career transition. And overall, the mix would be about 70% career transition; about 30% talent management. Of course, the talent management is the discretionary spend and we are seeing companies be a bit more hesitant. The sales cycles are going out longer. So, we are seeing things slow a little bit on that side while the outplacement side, which we said earlier was up about 18%. So, we are seeing that tick up a little bit as companies pull back a bit.

Jeffrey A. Joerres – Chairman and CEO: Right and because this is a little bit different of a soft patch at this time than what I would consider a down, we are still seeing wins in the talent management area and interestingly, a fair amount of them in Europe and fairly large wins in the context of a talent management. So there is bit schizophrenia out there as I think would be anticipated given that the environment is some uncertainty, but things are still kind of holding in there.

John Healey – Northcoast Research: I wanted to ask about the restructuring a bit. I feel like when any company talks about restructuring their immediate reaction is things are bad in the business or the outlook is bleak. But when I hear you guys describe it, I think you used the phrase ‘agility initiative.’ I have spent some time with you guys in past. I’ve always felt like that there was a phase that you were going to enter where – or maybe you looked at the branch network and the go to market strategy and tried to become a bit more nimble. Is it fair to say that some of this restructuring and recalibration of the first to the market is strategic and has nothing to do necessarily with the current economic environment that we’re in and this was probably a part of your game plan altogether? Just trying to understand the initiatives and just trying to understand the thought process a bit more.

Jeffrey A. Joerres – Chairman and CEO: Sure. Good question. I mean no doubt, as I stated in some of the prepared remarks, our strategy is still intact. We want to make some different roads maybe to get to the end of game. So we had been positioning and many of you who have listened to us for a while, positioning what we are doing with national sourcing centers, what we’re doing in trying to really take and through our branding strategy look at Manpower and how do you deliver that in a much more efficient way in kind of a transactional commodity where some of the Experis things are a little part of that and then there are some of the rare candidates. So, when you look at the simplifying and the efficient delivery models, we’ve been working on this for about two years and we would have anticipated driving some of this into the organization. Now, having said that, we are looking for not a normal recovery; meaning, as I have said, there is not going to be a catapult out, if you look at 2010, we were running 20% to 25% constant currency growth for a little while, we don’t see that and what we want to be able to do is to bring our leverage point, where it might have been leverage at 15% or 18%, what if you get 8% and you are able to get your cost basis, your delivery system to get that same kind of leverage at 8% that you might have gotten at a mid-teen. Those are the things that we are working on, they were in our plans, but we’re going to be accelerating them, and accelerating them quite rapidly because we do see some challenges in Europe, and frankly, the U.S. was still doing well relative to the rest of the world. Still have some things that could put a little bumps in our road like the Affordable Healthcare Act and a few other thing. So our view is, we are going to – agility has been talked about within the organization, we’re just going to increase agility and simplicity in a pretty dramatic fashion.

Growth Rate Progress

Timothy McHugh – William Blair & Company: First, just want to – you mentioned kind of for the fourth quarter here that it still assumes a slightly weaker growth rate, but can you talk a little bit just about how can the growth rate progress this across the quarter. I know you said something about Italy stabilizing, but I guess for the overall business, did you see increasing signs as the quarter went on or are we just facing easier comparisons, just some more color there would be helpful?

Jeffrey A. Joerres – Chairman and CEO: It depends a little bit upon which country and where you are at, because there is a little bit of everything in there. I would say, as we look at the quarter and you really have to look at it on an average daily sales basis, because the number of days moved around within the month. If I average all of the countries together, things were fairly stable throughout the quarter itself and in some cases, a little better in September than in July and August. But it depends a little bit upon which market you go to. So, if you look at the U.S. market, we certainly have seen things fairly stable throughout on an average daily basis. September looked a little bit better than what we saw in July and August. As we look to the first few weeks of October, we see some improvement as well in terms of the U.S. market. Part of that is, as you know and as we’ve talked about, we have taken – have exited some clients in the U.S. and that’s part of the reason why our business is down year-over-year just from a pricing standpoint. So we are starting to anniversary some of that, so that is what is helping us a little bit as we move into the fourth quarter. But I think the market itself seems to be getting a little bit more strength overall. So, I think moving in a favorable direction in the U.S., although I would say not a dramatic shift either at the same point. The French market on the other hand, I would say, July and August looked pretty much the same. Things got a little bit weaker in September and the first few weeks in October look to be weakening a little bit further. So, we have a little bit different story in the French market. Then as you look beyond the Mainland Europe, I would say, if I would put the rest of it together, I would say, things were fairly stable across, bouncing around a little bit, but no discernible trend in terms of getting significantly improving or getting significantly worse overall through. So, I think as we look to the – as we think about the fourth quarter, we do think that – you put all of this together, things are probably going to be softening just a bit, not dramatically. Of course if it does, we have to revisit the earnings guidance overall. But at this point, we are looking for a fourth quarter that revenue-wise maybe decelerate just a little further but not dramatically further.

Timothy McHugh – William Blair & Company: Then Mike, one more kind of numbers question. The tax rate which was lower than expected this quarter and excluding the French issue or French reclassification, you’re guiding to kind of 31% for next quarter. Is that type of tax rate sustainable or there are some specific items helping you in the short term here?

Mike Van Handel – EVP and CFO: There are some specific items. We did do some reorganization of some of our units for business reasons. But we are also able to free up some tax losses and that helped drive down the overall tax rate. So, it is a cash impact, which is good. As we look forward though, I think we’ll see that tax rate, that underlying rate move from 31% in Q4 up to something that’s probably going to be closer what we would see as a normalized tax rate between 36% and 38%, all before that French business tax that you called out.

A Closer Look: Manpower Earnings Cheat Sheet>>