Home » Accenture (ACN) Q4 2014 Results Earnings Call Transcript

Accenture (ACN) Q4 2014 Results Earnings Call Transcript

With that said, let’s now turn to some of the details starting with new bookings. New bookings for the quarter were $8.3 billion resulting in $35.9 billion in new bookings for the full fiscal year which was at the very top of the business outlook range provided in June and represents an all-time high in annual new bookings.

Consulting bookings were $3.9 billion, with a book-to-bill of 1.0. Outsourcing bookings were $4.4 billion with a book-to-bill of 1.2.

Taking a closer look at our new bookings, there are several additional points worth nothing. For the fourth consecutive quarter, consulting bookings landed within our target book-to-bill range and reflected good demand for systems integration and management consulting.

For the year, consulting bookings of $17.1 billion were the highest ever with management consulting and systems integration both achieving a strong 1.1 book to bill and technology consulting also delivering a solid year at 1.0.

Solid outsourcing bookings

We continue to be pleased with another quarter of solid outsourcing bookings. Results in technology outsourcing reflected an uptick compared to quarter three and BPO bookings continue to reflect healthy demand.

Also there were a number of record highs with our new bookings results in fiscal 2014, in both consulting and outsourcing and in outsourcing, particularly in BPO which had a 1.7 book to bill, CMT Financial Services and H&PS set record highs as well.

And finally we continued our track record of winning large transformational projects with nine clients with bookings in excess of $100 million bringing the total for the year to 39.


Turning now to revenues. Net revenues for the quarter were $7.8 billion, an increase of 10% in U.S. dollars and 8% in local currency, reflecting a positive 1.5% FX impact, consistent with the assumption provided in June.

Consulting revenues for the quarter were $4 billion, up 6% in USD and 4% in local currency. Outsourcing revenues were $3.8 billion, up 15% in USD and 13% in local currency.

Looking broadly at the major drivers of growth in the quarter, outsourcing was a highlight coming in even stronger than we expected driven by strength in both BPO and technology outsourcing. In addition, we continued to be pleased with the strong contribution of our digital-related services to our overall growth.

Turning to the operating groups. The momentum in communications, media and technology continued with 12% growth, the highest in 10 quarters. Broad-based growth was driven by three notable areas: E&HT, outsourcing and the Americas.

In Products, the 12% growth was broad-based across all industries and in both consulting and outsourcing. H&PS grew 9% in the quarter, coming from both public service and more notably Health, where we continued to deliver double digit growth in consulting and outsourcing.

Financial Services grew 8%, up from last quarter led by very strong growth in outsourcing and within our banking and capital markets industries. Resources was flat in quarter four and while we still have some work to do, we were encouraged by progress in several areas. We had growth in three of the four industries while natural resources continues to be challenged globally.

Income statement

Moving down the income statement. Gross margin for the quarter was 31.7% compared with 33.2% for the same period last year, down a 150 basis points. Sales and marketing expense for the quarter was 11.8% of net revenue compared with 12.6% of net revenues for the fourth quarter last year, down 80 basis points. G&A expense was 6.1% of net revenues, compared with 6.7% of net revenues for the fourth quarter last year, down 60 basis points.

Operating income was $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, reflecting a 13.9% operating margin equal to the operating margin for the same period last year. Our effective tax rate for the quarter was 30.1% compared with 24.6% for the fourth quarter last year. The higher rate in the fourth quarter was primarily due to lower benefits related to final determinations of prior year liabilities and a higher level of reserve additions.

Net income was $760 million for the fourth quarter compared with $727 million for the same quarter last year. Diluted earnings per share were $1.08 compared with EPS of $1.01 in the fourth quarter last year. This reflects a 7% year-over-year increase and includes a negative impact of $0.09 from a higher tax rate this quarter.

Turning to DSOs, our days services outstanding continued to be industry leading. They were 36 days, up from 35 days last quarter. Free cash flow for the quarter was $1.5 billion resulting from cash generated by operating activities of $1.6 billion, net of property and equipment additions of $101 million.

Moving to our level of cash. Our cash balance at August 31 was $4.9 billion compared with $5.6 billion at August 31 last year. The current level reflects the cash returned to shareholders through repurchase and dividends as well as the acquisitions we made in fiscal 2014.

Other key operational metrics

Moving to some other key operational metrics. We hired approximately 80,000 people in fiscal 2014 ending the year with a global headcount of more than 305,000 and we now have over 205,000 people in our global delivery network. In quarter four our utilization was 88% consistent with last quarter, Attrition, which excludes involuntary terminations, was 15%, up from both quarter three and the same period last year.

Now turning to our ongoing objective to return cash to shareholders. In the fourth quarter we repurchased or redeemed approximately 8.2 million shares for $658 million at an average price of $80.36 per share. For the full year we repurchased or redeemed 32.6 million shares for $2.6 billion at an average price of $78.52 per share.

Finally, as Pierre mentioned, our Board of Directors declared a semi-annual cash dividend of $1.02 per share. This dividend will be paid on November 17 and represents a $0.09 per share or 10% increase over the previous semi-annual dividend we declared in March.

So before I turn things back over to Pierre, let me just briefly reflect on where we landed for the full year across the key elements of our business outlook.

Again new bookings were $35.9 billion at the top end of our guided range. Net revenues grew 5% in local currency for the full year, at the top end of our most recent guided range and in the upper end of the range provided at the beginning of the year.

As a reminder, fiscal 2013 we had two unusual items that impacted certain metrics. The following year-over-year comparisons exclude those impacts and use fiscal 2013 adjusted results. Operating margin was 14.3%, within the guided range we provided at the beginning of the year and spot on the guidance we provided most recently.

EPS was $4.52 at the midpoint of our most recent guided range and at the upper end of the range provided at the beginning of the year and reflects 7% growth over fiscal 2013, consistent with our objective of growing EPS faster than revenue.

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