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ICE Group Q2 Earnings Beat, Margins Shrink on High Expense

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IntercontinentalExchange Group Inc. (ICE - Free Report) or ICE Group posted second-quarter 2014 operating earnings of $2.10 per share. This outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.02 but came in lower than the year-ago quarter figure of $2.19 per share, primarily on higher share count.



However, operating net income surged 51.1% year over year to $243 million. This excluded after-tax integration cost related to NYSE Euronext acquisition worth $16 million in the reported quarter, while merger costs and duplicate rent expense of $7.6 million was recorded in the year-ago quarter.

Including these items, ICE Group recorded reported net income of $226 million or $1.95 per share versus $154 million or $2.09 per share in the year-ago quarter.

The quarterly results of ICE Group reflected robust year-over-year top-line growth, driven by incremental revenues from the NYSE Euronext acquisition, which was culminated in Nov 2013. However, equally higher expenses limited margin expansion. Nevertheless, the sale of non-core NYSE technologies businesses and successful completion of the initial public offering (IPO) of the Euronext business supported cash flows and capital position.

Total net revenues escalated about 102% year over year to $750 million, but notably lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $795 million.

The year-over-year upsurge was mainly attributable to a 44.2% spike in consolidated net transaction and clearing fee revenues which stood at $460 million. However, average daily volumes fell 19% year over year in the first half of 2014, reflecting a decline of 26% in June, 15% in May and 13% in April.

Consolidated market data fees revenues increased 140% to $96 million, whereas total listing fee revenues from NYSE Euronext was at $83 million, lower than $91 million in the prior quarter. Furthermore, consolidated other revenues, which now includes NYSE Euronext-related technology services revenues and fees from trading license, regulatory and listed company services, escalated to $111 million from $13 million in the year-ago quarter.

Conversely, total operating expenses rose a whopping 188% year over year to $423 million, primarily due to increased operating expenses as well as NYSE Euronext acquisition-related transaction costs and compensation and benefits.

Operating income jumped 45.3% to $327 million. Reported operating margin came in at 43.6%, plunging from 60.5% in the year-ago period. The effective tax rate dipped to 28% from 30% in the year-ago quarter.

Financial Update

At the end of Jun 2014, ICE Group’s consolidated operating cash flow surged to $836 million from $382 million in the year-ago period. Capital expenditures totaled $47 million, up from 16 million in the year-ago period, while capitalized software development costs grossed $40 million, up from $9 million in the year-ago quarter.

As of Jun 30, 2014, the company recorded unrestricted cash and investments of $2.1 billion (up from $961 million at 2013-end), of which $1.3 billion remains locked for redemption of 2015 Eurobonds. Meanwhile, total outstanding debt stood at $3.9 billion from $5.1 billion at 2013-end.

No shares were bought back during the quarter. In Jul 2014, the board of ICE Group expanded its share repurchase program by $600 million, of which $350 million worth of shares have been bought back so far in third-quarter 2014. Including the prior authorization, the company has $700 million shares available for repurchases.

Cash and cash equivalents totaled $2.06 billion at the end of Mar 2014, up from $961 million at 2013-end. Moreover, total assets dipped to $68.5 billion, whereas total equity rose to $13.3 billion, both from 2013-end levels.

Dividend Update

Concurrently, the board of ICE Group declared a third-quarter 2014 dividend of 65 cents, payable on Sep 30, 2014, to shareholders of record as on Sep 16.

On Jun 30, 2014, ICE Group paid its first-quarter 2014 dividend of 65 cents to shareholders of record as on Jun 16. The company returned about $75 million to its shareholders through dividends in the reported quarter.

Guidance for 2014

Management detailed its financial targets for 2014. Total operating expense in the third quarter of 2014 is projected within $390–395 million.

For full-year 2014, the ICE segment projects operating expenses of about $1.55–1.56 billion, and includes acquisition-related transaction and integration costs.

About $23–24 million of quarterly interest expense is estimated for the second half of 2014.

Depreciation and amortization expense is expected in the band of $80–85 million during the third-quarter and $330–335 million in 2014 (about $35 million lower than the prior estimate).

Moreover, ICE Group anticipates capital expenditures and capitalized software expenses to be $165–175 million in 2014 (lower from prior estimate) and $40–45 million in third-quarter 2014. The yearly estimate includes $75–85 million related to real estate costs in 2014, about $5 million higher than the prior projection.

Shares outstanding are now estimated in the range of 114–116 million in the third quarter of 2014 and 114.5–115.5 million in 2014. Consolidated tax rate is expected in the band of 27–30% in 2014.

ICE Group also aims to achieve $550 million worth of run-rate expense synergies from the NYSE acquisition, about 70% of which is expected to be gained by 2014-end.

Stocks to Consider

ICE Group presently carries a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell). Better-ranked stocks in the financial space like Euronet Worldwide Inc. (EEFT - Free Report) , Moody’s Corp. (MCO - Free Report) and FleetCor Technologies, Inc. (FLT - Free Report) , all carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), are worth considering.

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