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Ultimate Software (ULTI) Down 3.5% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Rebound?

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It has been about a month since the last earnings report for Ultimate Software Group (ULTI - Free Report) . Shares have lost about 3.5% in that time frame, underperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent negative trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is Ultimate Software due for a breakout? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at its most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important drivers.

Ultimate Software's Q3 Earnings Surpass Estimates, Hikes Recurring Revenue 2018 Guidance

The Ultimate Software Group, Inc. delivered third-quarter 2018 non-GAAP earnings of $1.33 per share, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. Moreover, the figure surged 27.9% from the year-ago quarter figure of $1.04.

Revenues increased 21.9% from the year-ago quarter to $287.8 million, almost meeting the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $287 million. The reported figure also came almost in line with the higher end of management’s projected range of $286 to $288 million.

Increase in recurring revenues drove year-over-year revenue growth. Synergies from PeopleDoc acquisition also aided growth. PeopleDoc buyout was concluded in the reported quarter. Notably, PeopleDoc unit will be termed as International Sales, going forward.

As anticipated, PeopleDoc is aiding the company to bolster presence across Europe. In fact, International Sales team delivered a robust quarter with notable customer wins from northern Europe, Central Europe, and Germany.

Quarter Highlights

Recurring revenues (accounted for 88.4% of total revenues) grew 25.4% to $254.6 million on a year-over-year basis, surpassing the higher end of management’s guided range of $250-$252 million.

Services revenues (11.6%) grew 0.6% to $33.2 million on a year-over-year basis.

Ultimate Software reported customer retention rate of 96% year over year.

In the reported quarter, enterprise team's attach rates for Onboarding, Time Management, Recruiting and Performance Management for new customers were reported at 100%, 78%, 85% and 63%, respectively.

For mid-market strategic team, attach rates for Onboarding, Time Management, Recruiting and Performance Management were reported at 97%, 83%, 78% and 78%, respectively.

The top line benefited from new strategic customer wins. Further, management is elated on the recognition of its HCM Suite bythe likes of Gartner, Nucleus Research, to mention a few. Growing clout of company’s AI platform, Xander is notable. Further, robust traction of UltiPro solutions including UltiPro Workforce Management and UltiPro Benefits Prime is a tailwind.

Ultimate Software’s strategic partnership with Deloitte Canada deserves a special mention. The alliance is aimed at providing UltiPro HCM suite throughout North America via Deloitte’s consultancy and technology service abilities. With the tie-up, Ultimate Software’s products and services offering complementary solutions are anticipated to have a broader market.

Operating Details

Non-GAAP operating income grew 8.4% from the year-ago quarter to $57.7 million. However, non-GAAP operating margin contracted 250 basis points (bps) on a year-over-year basis to 20.1%.

Management notes that the margin was ahead of the guided figure of 20% owing to lower costs. Further, management is of the view that PeopleDoc buyout impacted margins by 100 bps.

Non-GAAP net income surged 32.2% from the year-ago quarter to $42.4 million.

Balance Sheet & Cash Flow

As of Sep 30, 2018, cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities were approximately $141 million down from $188.1 million as of Jun 30, 2018.

The company bought back 241,470 shares for $55.7 million shares during the nine months ended Sep 30, 2018, as part of its Stock Repurchase Plan. The company has 1,342,005 shares remaining for repurchase.

Ultimate Software generated net cash from operations of $172.1 million for the nine months ended Sep 30, 2018. Free cash flow was $113 million for the same time period.

Guidance

The company notes that since PeopleDoc is being integrated with business, the forecast financials include the impact from the buyout.

For fourth-quarter 2018, Ultimate Software forecasts recurring revenues between $262 million and $264 million. Total revenues are projected to come in around $300 million. Non-GAAP operating margin is anticipated to come in at approximately 21%.

For fiscal 2018, management updated its recurring revenues guidance. Ultimate Software now anticipates recurring revenues to grow 24% year over year compared with the previous guidance of 23%.

However, the company continues to project total revenues for 2018 to grow 21% year over year. The company envisions reporting $1 billion of total revenues. Non-GAAP operating margin is still projected to be 21%.

The company issued preliminary 2019 guidance, wherein recurring and total revenues are anticipated to grow around 21% and 20% over 2018, respectively. Non-GAAP operating margin is expected to come in at approximately 20%.

Synergies from PeopleDoc buyout make management hopeful about achieving $2 billion in total revenues by 2021. Management anticipates International Sales unit to account for 5% of total revenues in 2021.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

In the past month, investors have witnessed a downward trend in fresh estimates. The consensus estimate has shifted -15.2% due to these changes.

VGM Scores

Currently, Ultimate Software has a strong Growth Score of A, though it is lagging a lot on the Momentum Score front with a C. However, the stock was allocated a grade of F on the value side, putting it in the fifth quintile for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of C. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.

Outlook

Estimates have been broadly trending downward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions indicates a downward shift. It's no surprise Ultimate Software has a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell). We expect a below average return from the stock in the next few months.




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