NCR Corporation (NCR - Free Report) reported better-than-expected results for fourth-quarter 2017. The company’s non-GAAP earnings from continuing operations of 92 cents per share surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 86 cents. The figure was toward the higher end of the company’s guided range of 83–93 cents. However, it declined 14% from the year-ago quarter.
Management was optimistic about its increased operational efficiency, which resulted in margin expansion and boosted the bottom line.
The company’s revenues of $1.782 billion came ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.744 billion but decreased a marginal 1.1% on a year-over-year basis.
The company’s Software revenues on a reported basis were up 1% to $508 million. The increase was primarily due to a 6% and 3% increase in Cloud and Professional Services, respectively, which was partially offset by an 8% decline in Software License revenues.
Services revenues increased 4% to $619 million on a reported basis. The increase was primarily attributable to “channel transformation” initiatives, which resulted in growth of hardware maintenance and implementation services.
Hardware revenues, however, decreased 7% year over year on a reported basis to $655 million.
Segment revenues from ATM, SCO and IPS declined 21%, 1% and 63%, respectively, which negatively impacted the overall hardware revenues. The decline in ATM revenues was due to low backlog toward the beginning of the quarter.
However, revenues from POS surged 23%, which slightly offset the decline of the other three segments. The increase in POS revenues was primarily attributable to the introduction of products and replacement of the existing products.
Non-GAAP gross profit for the quarter decreased 0.6% year over year and came in at $527 million, primarily due to weakness in the ATM business and introduction of products. Nevertheless, non-GAAP gross margin increased 20 basis points (bps) to 29.6%, owing to improved productivity in the Services segment.
Non-GAAP operating expenses during the quarter came in at $284 million, reflecting an increase from $266 million in the year-ago quarter, primarily due to increased sales investments as part of the company’s focus on expansion of its strategic offers.
Increased expenses resulted in a decrease in income from operations, which on a non-GAAP basis, was $243 million, down from $264 million a year ago. Also, operating margin contracted around 100 bps on a year-over-year basis.
Non-GAAP net income from continuing operations was $142 million compared with $168 million in the year-ago quarter.
Balance Sheet & Cash Flow
The ATM and POS manufacturer exited the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of approximately $537 million, up from $405 million in the previous quarter. Receivables were $136 million.
However, NCR has a highly-leveraged balance sheet. The company ended the quarter with $2.94 billion of long-term debt in its book compared with $2.93 billion reported in the previous quarter.
In the fourth quarter, operating cash flow was $484 million and free cash flow was $402 million.
The company did not repurchase any shares in the quarter under review. However, during fiscal 2017, the company repurchased $350 million of its common stock.
Management was positive about the 46% year-over-year increase of the company’s net annual contract value (ACV) which specifies the net bookings for cloud revenue. This was encouraging as it is a testament to the fact that NCR is “on track to approach double-digit top line cloud growth in 2018.”
Notably, non-GAAP EPS for fiscal 2017 came in at $3.20, showcasing an increase of 6% from the previous fiscal.
For fiscal 2018, the company anticipates revenues to be flat to up 3%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $6.65 billion.
Non-GAAP earnings per share are expected to be in the range of $3.30-$3.45. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $3.32.
Per the new US tax reforms, the company expects effective tax rate for 2018 to be 24%. The company expects free cash flow for fiscal 2018 to be around 90% of the non-GAAP net income.
Management expects to repurchase shares worth $300 million in 2018 backed by a strong free cash flow.
Coming to the first-quarter outlook, NCR expects revenues in the range of $1.74-$1.79 billion. The company expects non-GAAP earnings per share for the first-quarter quarter in the range of 41-47 cents. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at 59 cents per share.
Notably, NCR’s fourth-quarter 2017 results surpassed expectations.
The company’s focus on growth of cloud segment and modernization of services business are proving to be worthy specially in a scenario where its ATM segment is not performing well. NCR is also focusing on its strategy related to hardware manufacturing, aimed at reducing costs and headwinds from hardware cycles.
Moreover, the addition of products including the likes of “Picklist Assist” for identifying fruits and vegetables purchased by a customer has enriched its solutions portfolio as well.
Furthermore, management stated that customers like JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Free Report) intending to “open up 400 new branches and expand to 15 to 20 new markets” is another tailwind for the company pertaining to its expertise on related Hardware and Software products.
However, weakness in the ATM market and increased costs pertaining to introduction of products and other sales-related investments continue to be a drag on the company’s financials.
Zacks Rank and Key Picks
NCR carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
Two better-ranked stocks in the broader technology sector are Micron Technology, Inc. (MU - Free Report) and The Trade Desk Inc. (TTD - Free Report) , both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Long-term EPS growth rate for Micron and The Trade Desk are projected to be 10% and 25%, respectively.
The Hottest Tech Mega-Trend of All
Last year, it generated $8 billion in global revenues. By 2020, it's predicted to blast through the roof to $47 billion. Famed investor Mark Cuban says it will produce "the world's first trillionaires," but that should still leave plenty of money for regular investors who make the right trades early.
See Zacks' 3 Best Stocks to Play This Trend >>