Paychex Inc. (PAYX - Snapshot Report) reported earnings per share of 44 cents in the first quarter of 2014, which scraped past the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 43 cents per share. On a year-over-year basis, the reported earnings per share increased 5.5%.
Paychex reported total revenue (including Interest on funds held for clients) of $607.9 million for the quarter which not only increased 5.1% from the year-ago period but also came marginally ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $607.0 million. Excluding Interest on funds held for clients (down 1.0% from the year-ago quarter), revenues comprising Payroll service and Human Resource Services increased 5.3% from the year-ago quarter to $597.9 million.
Payroll Service segment revenues increased 2.4% from the year-ago period to $395.2 million primarily driven by higher checks per payroll and revenue per check. Checks per payroll increased 1.6% from the year-ago quarter. The company witnessed modest growth in revenue per check positively impacted by price increases, which was partially offset by discounting. Management said that during the period, the client retention rate remained satisfactory.
Buoyed by the growth in client base in the retirement services, HR Solutions and eServices products, Paychex’s Human Resource Services segment generated revenues of $202.7 million, which increased 11.3% from the year-ago quarter. Moreover, price increases positively impacted segment revenues for the quarter.
Paychex has been expanding its Payroll and Human Resource Services in the South American countries leveraging a joint venture in Brazil. Moreover, the company has acquired a payroll provider in Germany to gain traction in the country. Management expects these initiatives to drive growth for Paychex in the long run.
Paychex’s total expenses increased 3.7% from the year-ago quarter to $352.8 million, primarily due to compensation-related expenses. Moreover, higher expenses related to investment in product development and supporting technology and higher sales-related costs played its part in the rise in expenses. Nonetheless, total expenses as a percentage of total revenue decreased 80 basis points (bps) on a year-over-year basis due to higher revenue base.
Paychex reported operating income of $255.8 million, up 7.2% from the year-ago period, attributable to modest revenue growth supported by better cost management and capacity utilization. Operating margin was 42.0% versus 41.2% in the year-ago quarter.
Excluding Interest on funds held for clients, Paychex’s operating income came in at $245.1 million or 41.0% of total services revenue which increased from $227.9 million or 40.1% of total services revenue.
Net income for Paychex increased 6.3% from the year-ago quarter to $162.8 million or 44 cents per share.
Balance Sheet & Cash Flow
Paychex exited the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $111.6 million versus $107.3 million at the end of the previous quarter. Corporate investments were $447.6 million compared with $398.2 million in the previous quarter.
Additionally, Interest on funds held for clients decreased 1.0% year over year to $10.0 million as a result of lower average interest rates earned, partly offset by an increase in average investment balances. Paychex has no long-term debt.
Paychex reiterated its outlook for the fiscal 2014. Management expects 3%–4% increase in Payroll Service revenues from the year-ago period. Human Resource Services revenues are expected to increase in the range of 9.0% to 10.0%.
Total service revenue is expected to increase in the range of 5%–6%. Interest on funds held for clients and investment income for fiscal 2014 are expected to be impacted by the low interest rate. However, investment of cash generated from operations is expected to persist, thus increasing investment income.
Net operating income as a percentage of service revenues is expected to be 38.0% for fiscal 2014. The effective income tax rate for fiscal 2014 is expected to be in the range of 36%–37%. Net income is expected to grow 8% to 9%.
Paychex reported better-than-expected first-quarter results primarily boosted by modest revenue growth and margin expansion. Moreover, Paychex’s reiteration of its fiscal 2014 outlook signifies that it is relatively well-paced in contrast to the current macroeconomic sluggishness.
Moreover, we remain encouraged by management’s positive commentary regarding continued investments in product development and focus on building its sales force to support revenue growth. We also believe that the company’s expansionary initiatives through joint ventures and acquisitions should bode well for its long-term growth strategy.
Product launches are also expected to provide additional support. Moreover, Paychex’s focus on small and mid-sized businesses looking for HR solutions could provide the company with opportunities.
However, unfavorable interest rates and stiff competition from Automatic Data Processing (ADP - Analyst Report) and Insperity (NSP - Snapshot Report) remain the possible headwinds for the company.
Currently, Paychex has a Zacks Rank # 3 (Hold). Investors can also consider Micron Technology (MU - Analyst Report), which carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).