Shares of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. ADP scaled a new 52-week high of $155.36 during the trading session on Mar 15, before closing a tad lower at $155.31.
Shares of the company have charted a solid trajectory in recent times, appreciating over 35.7% in the past year, outperforming an 18.2% rise of the industry it belongs to and a 4.3% gain of the Zacks S&P 500 composite.
Notably, the company has witnessed an 11.4% rise in share price since it posted strong second-quarter fiscal 2019 results.
Let’s find out what’s supporting the rally.
Transformation Initiatives: A Key Catalyst
ADP boasts a strong business model, high recurring revenues, good margins, robust client retention and low capital expenditure. The company’s strong pipeline of new business bookings is an added positive. Also, it continues to innovate, improve operations and invest in its ongoing transformation efforts.
As part of its transformation initiative, ADP has launched differentiated "Next Gen" platforms aimed at strengthening its position in HCM innovation, and improving its U.S. up-market and international product suite. ADP’s other notable and recent transformation-related achievements include accelerated DataCloud penetration, increased investment in inside sales, mid-market migrations, service alignment initiatives and voluntary early retirement program.
Backed by these initiatives, the company is witnessing margin expansions and improvement in innovation abilities.
Strategic Acquisitions Bode Well
ADP is strengthening its foothold in the global human capital management (HCM) market through strategic acquisitions like Celergo, WorkMarket, Global Cash Card and The Marcus Buckingham Company. These buyouts have strengthened ADP’s customer base and helped it expand operations in international markets.
The company continues to pursue acquisitions that strategically fit its overall business mix and are easy to integrate over the long term.
Solid Balance Sheet
ADP’s strong balance sheet makes the stock attractive to investors. Effective management execution has helped ADP build cash and cash equivalents of $2.79 billion as of Dec 31, 2018. It continues to use excess cash to aggressively buy back shares and pay dividends. In the first six months of fiscal 2019, the company paid dividends worth $605 million and repurchased shares worth $526.6 million.
We believe that this strong cash position will not only help ADP continue with its shareholder-friendly activities but also pursue strategic acquisitions and investments on product development in the long run.
Upbeat Fiscal 2019 Guidance
ADP raised its fiscal 2019 guidance for adjusted earnings and adjusted EBIT margin growth while reaffirming the same for revenues (which is expected to register 6-7% growth).
Adjusted earnings per share are expected to register a 17-19% improvement compared with 15-17% growth anticipated earlier. The company expects adjusted EBIT margin growth of 125-150 bps compared with 100-125 bps guided previously.
Zacks Rank and Other Key Picks
Currently, ADP has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Some other similar-ranked stocks in the broader Zacks Business Services sector are Interpublic IPG, Omnicom OMC and Paychex PAYX, each carrying a Zacks Rank of 2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Long-term expected EPS (three to five years) growth rate for Interpublic, Omnicom and Paychex is 2.7%, 4.7% and 8.8%, respectively.
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