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Edited Transcript of MEDP earnings conference call or presentation 25-Feb-20 2:00pm GMT

Q4 2019 Medpace Holdings Inc Earnings Call

CINCINNATI Mar 6, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Medpace Holdings Inc earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 2:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* August James Troendle

Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO

* Jesse J. Geiger

Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations

* Kevin M. Brady

Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Executive Director of Finance

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Conference Call Participants

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* Alexander Yearley Draper

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research

* David Howard Windley

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD & Equity Analyst

* Donald Houghton Hooker

KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Equity Research Analyst

* Erin Elizabeth Wilson Wright

Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director & Senior Equity Research Analyst

* John Charles Kreger

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Healthcare Services Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Medpace Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this call may be recorded. I would now like to introduce your host for today's conference call, Kevin Brady, Medpace Executive Director of Finance. Sir, you may begin.

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Kevin M. Brady, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Executive Director of Finance [2]

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Good morning, and thank you for joining Medpace's Fourth Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. Also on the call today is our President and CEO, August Troendle; and our CFO and COO of Laboratory Operations, Jesse Geiger.

Before we begin, I would like to remind you that our remarks and responses to your questions during this teleconference may include forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve inherent assumptions with known and unknown risks and other important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations, including the impact of the changes to the revenue recognition standards. These factors are discussed in the Risk Factors section of our Form 10-K and other filings with the SEC. Please note that we assume no obligation to update forward-looking statements in the future even if estimates change. Accordingly, you should not rely on any of today's forward-looking statements as representing our view as of any date after today.

During this call, we will also be referring to certain non-GAAP financial measures. These non-GAAP measures are not superior to or a replacement for the comparable GAAP measures, but we believe these measures help investors gain a more complete understanding of results. A reconciliation of such non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures is available in the earnings press release and earnings call presentation slides provided in connection with today's call. The slides are available in the Investor Relations section of our website at investor.medpace.com.

With that, I would now like to turn the call over to August Troendle.

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [3]

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Good day. Medpace performed well in 2019 and ended on a strong note. Full year revenue, new business awards and ending backlog were each up over 20%. Despite heavy investments in organic growth globally in 2019, we executed with what we believe is the industry-leading EBITDA margin among clinical CROs and generated free cash flow over 120% of EBITDA.

I would like to point out that our reported EBITDA is not inflated by adding back recurring and real operating costs, such as stock-based compensation, program cost to improve operating efficiency, restructuring costs, severance payments or integration costs.

On our Q1 2019 earnings call, I mentioned that our 606 basis net business awards were somewhat misleading that quarter and that bookings appeared to increase on a sequential basis, and yet net service-based awards, essentially 605 basis net bookings, were sequentially down.

The opposite happened in Q4. Net new business awards entering backlog in Q4 2019 at $281.1 million were sequentially down in total. But on a service, or essentially 605 basis, net new business awards were actually up 10% sequentially over Q3.

Our Q4 book-to-bill ratio on a 605 basis was the highest level achieved on the year. Our bookings were very strong in Q4 and right where we wanted them to drive 2020 revenue growth. We entered 2019 strong and exited even stronger.

I will now turn the call over to Jesse.

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [4]

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Thank you, August, and good morning, everyone. Net new business awards entering backlog in the fourth quarter increased 21.6% from the prior year to $281.1 million, resulting in a 1.22 net book-to-bill. For the full year 2019, net new business awards were $1.1 billion, an increase of 21.7%. Ending backlog as of December 31 was $1.3 billion, an increase of 21.3% from the prior year.

Revenue was $229.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, which represents year-over-year growth of 19.7% on a reported basis and 19.5% on a constant currency organic basis. Full year 2019 revenue was $861 million, which represents a 22.2% increase from 2018 or 22.4% on a constant currency organic basis.

EBITDA of $41.1 million increased 1.2% compared to $40.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Full year 2019 EBITDA increased 6.2% to $149.6 million compared to $140.9 million in 2018. On a constant currency basis, fourth quarter and full year EBITDA increased 0.5% and 4.3%, respectively, compared to the prior year.

EBITDA margin for the fourth quarter was 17.9% compared to 21.2% in the prior year period. For the full year 2019, EBITDA margin was 17.4% compared to 20% in 2018. The decrease was primarily attributable to higher employee-related costs and reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, GAAP net income was $29.8 million compared to GAAP net income of $22.8 million in the prior year period. For the full year 2019, GAAP net income was $100.4 million compared to $73.2 million in 2018.

Adjusted net income of $32.2 million in the fourth quarter increased 14.5% compared to $28.1 million in the prior year. Full year 2019 adjusted net income of $113.3 million increased 18.7% compared to $95.5 million in 2018. Adjusted net income growth was primarily driven by revenue growth, lower interest expense and effective tax rate, partially offset by higher employee-related costs and reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses.

GAAP net income per diluted share for the quarter was $0.78 compared to $0.61 in the prior year period. For the full year 2019, GAAP net income per diluted share was $2.67 compared to GAAP net income per diluted share of $1.97 in 2018.

Fourth quarter 2019 adjusted net income per diluted share of $0.85 grew 11.8% versus fourth quarter 2018 adjusted net income per diluted share of $0.76. For the full year 2019, adjusted net income per diluted share was $3.02 compared to $2.59 per diluted share in 2018.

Regarding customer concentration, our top 5 and top 10 customers represent roughly 19% and 29%, respectively, of our total 2019 revenue.

In the fourth quarter, we generated $56.9 million in cash flow from operating activities, and our net days sales outstanding decreased compared to the third quarter from negative 12.5 days to negative 14.7 days.

We ended the quarter with $131.9 million of cash. And in February 2020, our Board of Directors authorized a share repurchase program of up to $100 million.

Moving now to our newly established 2020 guidance. We are forecasting total revenue in the range of $975 million to $1.05 billion for the full year 2020, representing growth of 13.2% to 16.7% over 2019 total revenue of $861 million.

Our 2020 EBITDA is expected in the range of $170 million to $178 million, representing growth of 13.6% to 19% compared to EBITDA of $149.6 million in 2019.

We anticipate our 2020 effective tax rate to be in the range of 19% to 21%. We have assumed 38.1 million fully diluted shares for 2020 and there are no stock repurchases in our guidance.

We forecast 2020 GAAP net income in the range of $123.4 million to $127.4 million and GAAP earnings per diluted share in the range of $3.24 to $3.34.

With that, I will turn the call back over to the operator so we can take your questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of John Kreger with William Blair.

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John Charles Kreger, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Healthcare Services Analyst [2]

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August, thanks for those initial comments about finishing the year strong. If you kind of look back and reflect on that success, does it feel like the market is more active or that you are winning more?

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [3]

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I think the market has remained active. I think it's been strong all year. Again, we've talked about how there was a real strength a bit over a year ago, 1.5 years ago, and then it just settled into a very strong and active market. We actually had elevated cancellations in Q4, sort of like we did last Q4. And we replaced it and actually had very strong bookings in the end, where we wanted them to be on a service basis. So I think the market remains very strong and compatible with -- even with substantial cancellations being able to refill everything.

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John Charles Kreger, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Healthcare Services Analyst [4]

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Excellent. Jesse, one for you, just kind of expanding on the guidance. So realizing you're only giving a GAAP guidance, can you give us what, if anything, you expect in terms of unusual spending or investment spending maybe as it might compare to '19? Would you expect any unusual items to be sort of larger or smaller than last year?

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [5]

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Yes. Thanks, John. I guess the only item I'd point out is just the headcount growth. We grew headcount around 20% each of the past 2 years. We're very comfortable with the current level of staff to support existing and near-term upcoming projects. So as our 2020 projections -- revenue projections are lower than the past couple of years' experience and we've effectively caught up on the hiring, we are continuing to invest in people to sustain long-term growth, but at a lower rate than in 2019. So this will lift some margin and tend to offset the additional office lease cost this year.

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John Charles Kreger, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Healthcare Services Analyst [6]

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Okay. And just to clarify, are you assuming the headcount grows in sync with revenue or perhaps a little bit slower?

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [7]

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Generally in sync, perhaps a little bit slower, but it'll depend on how the year progresses. And the lease cost for the building comes on, just as a reminder, second quarter at about a $2 million clip per quarter. So first quarter does not have that incremental cost. Q2, Q3 and Q4, about $2 million a quarter.

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Operator [8]

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Our next question comes from the line of David Windley with Jefferies.

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David Howard Windley, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD & Equity Analyst [9]

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Is -- has there been any change in the composition of your backlog, including average duration of backlog? And I'm kind of getting at whether or not you expect your conversion rate to stay relatively stable or change.

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [10]

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I don't know if there's going to be a big change. We did have -- but we've had stuttering cancellations probably at an elevated level several times in the last, well, 3 out of the last 5 quarters. So that kind of throws a curveball in there, but I would not expect a meaningful change in our conversion rate. I don't think it's going to be going up or particularly going down much, but it could trail down slightly.

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [11]

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Yes. I think about 18%, Dave, is a good working assumption.

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David Howard Windley, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD & Equity Analyst [12]

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Okay, great. And that segues into my second question nicely, which is around quarterly cadence, if you care to give us any specifics. You mentioned the cancellations fourth quarter, but also in some other quarters. Were those studies that were in-flight or not yet contributing revenue? And should we think about those impacting no near-term quarters in terms of the level of growth relative to the full year?

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [13]

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Yes. I don't think it'll have that big of an impact on the near-term quarters. If anything, it's a headwind a couple of quarters out. So we're kind of sticking to the annual guidance here. We're not giving any quarterly commentary. As you know, we can be a bit irregular quarter-to-quarter. But the cancellations in the fourth quarter could create a little bit of a headwind in the second half of this year. But if the business environment remains strong, we may not feel much of the impact there. So that's, I guess, the only thing I'll comment on the phasing of revenue. And then on the cost side, we have the campus costs kicking up in Q2 that we do not have in Q1.

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [14]

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Yes. We've had to hedge a little bit on the revenue growth because of the cancellations. And I think the environment remains relatively consistent. And I think that we would achieve a third consecutive year of growth -- top line growth over 20% this year if it wasn't for cancellations being elevated. But if that's kind of the new normal, then we'll just have to grow through it.

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David Howard Windley, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - MD & Equity Analyst [15]

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Got you. And then last question, the -- your Slide 6 with the 4 bar charts and focusing on EBITDA. It stands out to me, at least, that in 2018, margin kind of steadily grew through the year in 2019. The quarter-to-quarter change -- sequential change in margin was fairly dramatic and more choppy. Would you expect 2020 to be smoother? Or will it have some of the same factors that influenced 2019?

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [16]

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It should be pretty smooth.

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [17]

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It should be pretty smooth. The one wildcard is just the out-of-pocket expenses and kind of how those play out quarter-to-quarter. Those can be a little bit choppy.

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Operator [18]

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Our next question comes from the line of Erin Wright with Crédit Suisse.

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Erin Elizabeth Wilson Wright, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director & Senior Equity Research Analyst [19]

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When you're thinking about capital deployment here, I understand you've historically been focused on largely organic growth efforts. But how are you evaluating the potential opportunities out there from an M&A standpoint? Are there any -- does anything interest you or expanding into other areas or expanding in central lab? Just curious what your thoughts are on that front.

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [20]

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We're not.

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [21]

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Yes. Thanks, Erin. Yes, we're still focused on organic growth. We do look at what's out there, but there's nothing that's in the market that we're interested in that we aren't already doing organically, whether that's growing across the geographies that we're in or adding and expanding our laboratory capabilities, et cetera. We're doing all of everything we want to do organically.

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [22]

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Yes. And especially, it's just a distraction. We've got plenty of growth opportunities organically, and it's just a distraction to go after acquisitions.

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Erin Elizabeth Wilson Wright, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director & Senior Equity Research Analyst [23]

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Okay, good to hear. And then also on -- heading into 2020, there are some kind of anomalies going on. It's an election cycle. We also have coronavirus. I mean have you thought about sort of -- or anticipated any sort of fluctuations maybe in decision-making that you've historically seen around your core biotech customer base heading into an election cycle? And then also on coronavirus, is there anything embedded in your expectations? Can you remind us of how you're thinking about your overall exposure there?

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [24]

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Yes. We haven't seen any real slowdown in funding or any sort of pullback in the biotech funding environment. So the market continues to be strong at the moment. How that plays out towards the end of the year is still a wildcard, but we're keeping a close eye on funding of active programs and the funding health of new opportunities. And right now, we're seeing no signs currently of anything retracting. As far as the virus is concerned, it has impacted our operations in Asia, particularly Mainland China and Hong Kong. We've been able to maintain sufficient operating capacity to serve our clients' needs. We continue to monitor the situation. If it stays contained, we will -- we do not anticipate a meaningful financial impact, and we believe any negative economic impact is covered within our current guidance range. We'll keep an eye on it.

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [25]

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Yes. And I mean, it changes by the day. We woke up and Sunday, we had Italy. Our main office in Italy is in Milan, and the office is now shut, people working from home, a lot of monitoring visits canceled. And Italy is a bigger market than China, although we have laboratory operations as well as clinical in both Beijing and Shanghai, which has been frustrating. So there's a lot of moving parts. We believe that it will not be material. But things change by the day, so it's really kind of hard to predict anything. We do not have any particular specific hedge in the guidance based upon coronavirus effects because we do think it will be nonmaterial in the end. But it is a difficulty, obviously.

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Operator [26]

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Our next question comes from the line of Sandy Draper with SunTrust.

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Alexander Yearley Draper, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - MD of Equity Research [27]

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A lot of my questions have been asked. So maybe just on the share repurchase. I appreciate, Jesse, you said it's not in the guidance. But August, in the past, you have typically said your view of share repurchases to be very opportunistic when you feel like there's a dislocation, not sort of a steady cadence. With this new authorization, is there any change in your philosophy about how you think about share buybacks?

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [28]

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Yes, this is Jesse. Sandy, no change in our philosophy. We will continue to be more opportunistic than systematic from quarter-to-quarter. The authorization is there just so that we can take advantage of opportunities as they present.

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Operator [29]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from the line of Donald Hooker with KeyBanc.

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Donald Houghton Hooker, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Equity Research Analyst [30]

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Great. So you guys are working through a pretty material expansion in Cincinnati, as you've mentioned a number of times. Can you update us in terms of your location and facility capacity elsewhere? I think you have some facilities in Texas and overseas as well. Can you update us more broadly on your facility capacity given your rapid growth?

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August James Troendle, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [31]

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In the U.S., we do have operations. We do have sort of offices in Dallas, Denver and Blaine Blame, Minneapolis. Relatively small compared to the Cincinnati operation globally. We have offices around the world. I think it's too numerous to count.

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [32]

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And just from a capacity utilization standpoint, there's varying degrees of excess capacity in each of those offices depending on the growth rates in that jurisdiction and just where we are. And we're -- every year, we're outgrowing some number of offices and we're either expanding in a current location, taking on another floor or we're moving to a new location to expand. And that's happening regularly around the world and kind of in the run rate. The only reason we've called out so much attention to the Cincinnati expansion is it is such a large bolus of incremental capacity that we're doing here all at once at our campus as opposed to the regular cadence of office expansions that happen around the globe for us.

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Donald Houghton Hooker, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - VP and Equity Research Analyst [33]

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Super. And then maybe on Slide 7, you give your pie charts of your customer concentrations and whatnot, and there was a little bit of a lift in the large pharma bucket from 7% to 10% if I'm reading this correctly. And you alluded to an acquisition of one of your clients. I guess would we think, in your guidance, there's maybe a -- I presume maybe a hiccup in terms of one of your clients being acquired? Or that -- what is the nature of that specifically? And how does that play in to you financially?

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Jesse J. Geiger, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - CFO & COO of Laboratory Operations [34]

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Yes, there's no hiccup or soft spot to overcome as a result of that transaction. We had a small biotech customer that was acquired by a large pharma in 2019. It's about 4% of our revenue with that customer for the year. And we've reclassified that, as you noted, on Slide 7. We do have a strong relationship with the acquired company, and we're continuing to perform work on the active studies, which extend into the next few years.

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Operator [35]

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I'm showing no further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the call over to Kevin Brady for closing remarks.

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Kevin M. Brady, Medpace Holdings, Inc. - Executive Director of Finance [36]

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Thank you for joining us on today's call and for your interest in Medpace. We look forward to speaking with you again on our first quarter 2020 earnings call.

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Operator [37]

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Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect. Everyone, have a wonderful day.