Pitney Bowes Earnings Call Insights: Revenue Guidance, Drupa

On Monday, Pitney Bowes Inc (NYSE:PBI) reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Here’s what the C-suite revealed.

Revenue Guidance

Ananda Baruah – Brean Murray, Carret & Co.: I guess, Murray and Mike, the first thing is given the sort of revenue results for the March quarter and some of the trends in enterprise, I guess can you talk about the confidence for sort of maintaining the revenue guidance for the year, the revenue guidance range? Thanks. Then I have a follow-up.

Murray D. Martin – Chairman, President and CEO: As we look at what we have across the year, we see our revenue improving as we move out into the year. We did have some significant negatives in the first quarter on delayed purchases and we would expect some recovery on that later in the year.

Ananda Baruah – Brean Murray, Carret & Co.: I guess you are referring probably Murray to equipment sales, can you just give us some –

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Murray D. Martin – Chairman, President and CEO: Production mail in particular was where we saw the largest weakness. We had the large ticket deferrals. We didn’t really see anything there in lost business, it was really more of deferral and it sort of reminds us of a number of years ago we had that and then it came back afterwards. So we’re seeing some sectors, you see in Europe with the situation there, that there are delays and then some delays again in the financial services sector in the U.S.

Ananda Baruah – Brean Murray, Carret & Co.: Are there other sort of I guess signals from your customers that they are expecting to kind of get back to doing business in the second half of the year? You are just pausing now for cautionary reasons or are we just – is it sort of just saying, we’re hoping like normal seasonal patterns kind of uphold in the second half?

Murray D. Martin – Chairman, President and CEO: We are seeing them looking at how they will manage their structure during the year. Then we have Drupa which is going on now, which is what stimulates a lot of effect that’s the big show in the production mail and print section, where all the customers go. So a lot will hold back until then so that they can see everything that’s new and exciting out there and so we’ll be showing them how the integration of all our – in fact technology goes into place and we expect positive outcomes from that. Although of course with a large ticket it does have a little lag on the installed side, but that’s what gives us some confidence that we will be inside that range.

Ananda Baruah – Brean Murray, Carret & Co.: Just one on the OpEx if I could. The OpEx, you are actually a little bit better on OpEx dollars this quarter than I had modeled. But you spoke to sort of pulling investments forward in a number of areas beginning this quarter. How should we think about I guess those things balancing out? Can you give us some sense of how those – the incremental OpEx dollars might be spread? The last one actually is was there an outstanding – was there a Drupa expense that was material that will go away starting the September quarter as well? Thanks.

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: It’s Mike. Just to respond that, what we noted was, yes, we do need to accelerate some investments because of the opportunities that have presented. Obviously Australia is a good example with Volly up one. But what we are doing is enhancing some of the strategic transformation efforts we had underway to generate benefits. We may not get a perfect matching in the second quarter between those investments and savings but we certainly think for the full year there should be no net impact of the investments because of the additional savings opportunities that we have. With respect to Drupa its an expensive show to attend, but not one that we see as material to our overall operating expenses.

Ananda Baruah – Brean Murray, Carret & Co.: I know you don’t give quarterly guidance so I just want to kind of push around that little bit if I could, just because you are talking about increasing the OpEx but maybe not seeing some revenue till the back half of the year. I guess what I would suggest Mike is that we should expect OpEx probably as a percent of revenue to go up and then for sort of modeling flattish revenue, sort of assuming streets and the ballpark on revenue then that could actually suggest all things equal that you might see EPS actually decline a couple of pennies a penny or so in the June quarter. Is that logical thinking?

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: OpEx is always driven in large part by the revenue relationship right, so our focus is on continuing to manage the cost down and obviously balance that with the investments we have to make.

Drupa

Shannon Cross – Cross Research: Following up on Drupa I was at your booth over there. Clearly you were highlighting a lot of the new stuff that you actually had at pre-Drupa event as well. I am just curious do you think you had any of the so called Drupa effect in your numbers this quarter or do you think it was more sort of economy driven on the production mail side?

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: I think it was probably 50-50 there are some deals that do hang until Drupa, but then certainly the instability in the market in Europe had an effect on us, and some of the financial services in U.S. I think held up somewhat as well, so I’d say it was a mix. I wouldn’t put it all on Drupa, so I’d say half economic and half Drupa.

Shannon Cross – Cross Research: Then I wanted to talk a little bit about the improved sales trends in your SMB businesses with Connect+ and all of that. You talked about improved customer retention rates. I’m just curious just sort of if you are doing things differently that are driving more sales or if it’s actually indicative of maybe a little bit of a turn in terms of the health of the SMB market?

Murray D. Martin – Chairman, President and CEO: Sure. There are several things that we are doing on that front. One is we talked about the pbSmart products and the opportunity to bundle together those products with our traditional products, and we’ve seen that have a positive effect on customer retention when we enhance the overall value proposition by providing them both our digital and traditional physical products. The other is particularly at the high-end of the marketplace. We focused on placing more new equipment. In fact, our lease extensions are down about a quarter versus the prior year, about 25% versus the prior year and we’ve seen increased placement of the Connect+ new machines, and so that plus some of the channel actions we are taking to both do our traditional direct selling, adding more telemarketing capability as well as adding some dealer capacity in the U.S. I think are all part of the helping that overall improvement in the sales rates.

Shannon Cross – Cross Research: Then Mike, I had a question on your CapEx. You noted higher CapEx. Was that related to Volly or was that planned?

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: The majority of the CapEx, almost all of it was related to rental assets, about half of that was in the DMT business in Europe and the other half was metering assets.

Shannon Cross – Cross Research: And is there a reason why rentals are sort of relatively lot stronger, is there a different sales proposition that is –

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: The production mail one is a little bit unusual. It was a large multi-year deal. The rental assets related to meters are consistent with more placement of new equipment.

Shannon Cross – Cross Research: And then my last question, sorry I got about four in here. But can you touch just a little bit about the magnitude of the investment that you are talking in terms of the increase in Volly and then if we can assume? We’ll start to see revenue from Volly, once you launch it, whether this year or early next year. Is it sort of that the revenue will start albeit probably pretty small, but will start coming through sort of immediately upon launch?

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: Yes. I would say the best way to look at it if you recall, when we gave annual guidance, we said we expected Volly to cost us an additional $0.05 to $0.10 versus the prior year and we will probably tend more towards the higher end of that equation than the lower end. We are also investing in e-commerce in terms of building out that capability more broadly. So those are the two primary areas where we would see the increased investment and then we mentioned that we’re launching a new web connected metering product, more towards the lower end of our product line in the second quarter. So there is some additional launch costs associated with that.

Shannon Cross – Cross Research: And then revenue will start when Volly kicks in?

Michael Monahan – EVP and CFO: Volly is going to build on revenue, something like the Australia deal, where we it’s more of like a licensing arrangement. It will be a multiyear of revenue stream. Volly in the U.S. would build as we bring in consumers then you have them enable bills to be delivered digitally. So that will be a slower build I would not anticipate that to be a meaningful revenue contributor in 2012.