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Edited Transcript of ZAL.OL earnings conference call or presentation 29-Oct-20 7:30am GMT

·22 min read

Q3 2020 Zalaris ASA Earnings Call OSLO Oct 29, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Zalaris ASA earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, October 29, 2020 at 7:30:00am GMT TEXT version of Transcript ================================================================================ Corporate Participants ================================================================================ * Gunnar Manum Zalaris ASA - CFO * Hans-Petter Mellerud Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO ================================================================================ Presentation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hans-Petter Mellerud, Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good morning. My name is Hans-Petter Mellerud. I am the CEO of Zalaris. Please also welcome our CFO, Gunnar Manum, who is here with me today for this webcast presentation of Zalaris Q3 2020 results. We are using Teams for this purpose and hope that we will deliver on your expectations. There is a Q&A function that you can use to ask questions that we will respond to at the end of the presentation. Please observe that the presentation is being recorded. You will find a link to the recording on the investor part of our website. Without further ado, let us move on to the presentation. Despite short-term impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, Team Zalaris continued weathering the storm, delivering Q3 of all customer commitments, maintaining stable revenue levels and negligible churn, again, providing the robustness of our now 20-year-old business model of long-term agreements with securing recurring revenue streams. As our favorite mountain, Gaustatoppen, the location of the Zalaris Norseman Xtreme Triathlon finish line, our business is being built stone by stone. Our continued EBIT focus is continuing to pay off. We delivered a 49% increase from Q3 last year. This is an all-time high Q3 EBIT since 2014 and our IPO. We signed several new agreements, including our first U.K.-based deal for multi-country payroll outsourcing services to a leading FTSE250 gaming and software company. Last but not least, our operating cash flow almost tripled in the quarter compared to last year. Thank you to the whole Team Zalaris for doing a tremendous job. Despite short-term impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, Team Zalaris delivered revenue of NOK 189.7 million, which is in line with the same quarter last year. EBIT continued on the journey towards our communicated 10% target to NOK 13.3 million, which is 7%. This is an increase of 49% compared to Q3 last year. As mentioned earlier, this is the best Q3 ever since our IPO in 2014. Our FTEs continued to decrease, resulting from our efficiency improvement programs. It is stabilizing now and will be managed carefully to match our incoming deal flow and backlog over. Our business model with long-term agreements and recurring revenue is increasingly in favor among investors. We have offered software-as-a-service and business process-as-a-service delivery models since we were founded 20 years ago. In an age of searching IPOs, it is interesting to reflect over that we are delivering profits today, what others still must realize in order to justify their valuations. Working from anywhere has become the new normal driving the need for fully digitized people processes. Delivering payroll and HR services on the basis of one common IT platform, supported by local competent resources, has been key to our success and 19 year of uninterrupted growth. From the outset, our goal was to help customers reduce their direct process costs by 20% to 30% by outsourcing their payroll and HR processes to us. At the same time, enabling them to operate seamlessly across borders. With COVID-19, everyone have been learning what working from home or anywhere means. Reducing cost and focusing capital expenditures to projects with defined short-term payback is a natural consequence of every company bracing themselves for the unknown of the pandemic. Add to this, the overall mega trend of increased focus on human capital management and corresponding growth in cloud-based HR solutions. Team Zalaris is extremely well positioned to support existing and new customers navigate and position themselves in this situation. Our innovative product and services portfolio cover the whole payroll and HR value chain. Our customer base of medium and large-sized customers is diverse in all our market-facing countries. The number and value of customers impacted directly by COVID-19 in transportation and tourism is limited. Our largest market unit is Germany, delivering 62% of our revenue, slightly down from last quarter when it accounted for 64%. Germany and the U.K. are our markets with the largest potential. Poland and U.K. are our fastest-growing market units. Poland has doubled revenue since our acquisition in 2017, and is soon 100 employees strong. However, we shall not forget that our potential in the Nordic is still large. If we were to achieve the same penetration in Sweden, Denmark and Finland, as we have in Norway, we could double our total revenue. During the quarter, we signed several new agreements. After struggling for quite a time, we are finally seeing that our acquisitions and efforts start to pay off with the signing of a breakthrough agreement for outsourced multi-country payroll services for our U.K.-based FTSE250 gaming company. Our new gaming customer appreciated our capabilities of providing seamlessly integrated multi-country payroll services to their new global HR solution. We signed the deal in a record short 3 months from start to close. Yes, you heard it right, 3 months, one of the fastest that we have done ever. So congrats to the U.K. team. Our agreement with Danske Bank for the provisional outsourced transactional HR services for their 2,200 Swedish employees, positions us as the leading provider of digitized people solutions to the Nordic finance industry, with 5 of the leading banks and 2 insurance companies under our belt. This is a segment that we will explore in our other geographies as well. We communicated a landmark win in the German municipality energy sector, signing a 5-year agreement with Stadtwerke Krefeld GmbH, for the implementation and delivery of a SuccessFactors based HR solution for their approximately 3,000 employees. I will discuss the market opportunities that opened up with this deal later in my presentation. Adding to this, we signed a fast-growing Scandinavian IT company with 1,200 employees as a multi-country customer. In addition, we signed several new smaller agreements, including energy company, Total E&P, for the provision of outsourced transactional payroll and HR in Norway. We are experiencing an all-time high interest in our outsourced multi-country payroll solutions, as customers are exploring the alternatives to reduce costs and optimize their global HR processes. Our pipeline is filled with opportunities fitting well with our offerings. While sales cycles in the past frequently have been 6 to 18 months, we see signs of urgency, combined with the benefit of digital sales meetings and virtual site visits, driving these down to more effective 6 to 9 months. Based on our historic win rate, we expect to close some of these opportunities by year-end. In Managed Services, we continue to see the impact of reduced travel expense processing and some reduced headcount resulting from COVID-19. The net effect of these reductions amount to approximately NOK 3 million to NOK 4 million for the quarter. We expect a partial return of this revenue when the situation normalizes. Much of Managed Services focus were on delivering on our business continuity plans. However, not losing focus on our margin improvement projects, significantly improving EBIT margins with almost 40% to NOK 14.8 million for the quarter. At the same time, we managed to keep churn minimal. The benefits of more than 90% of revenue being recurring shows in situations like this. In Professional Services, we see impacted companies adjusting their HR road maps, from larger transformative projects to more tactical projects with shorter payback time. This view is supported by market analysts as Gartner. Professional Services activity levels were stable with fair utilization of resources and revenue impacted by Q3, being the main vacation season with corresponding reduced available working days. Supporting customers with business continuity services continue to be a growing service for us. Many of our initial agreements for such services have become permanent arrangement and resulted in new customer relationships as our agreement with Rheinmetall in Germany. As mentioned previously, both Poland and U.K. show significant growth. EBIT levels were acceptable, taking into consideration Q3 being a quarter with consultants taking their annual vacation and thus reducing the available working days. When comparing with last year's levels, we shall keep in mind that there were certain periodization issues between last year Q3 and Q4. Thus, we expect a significantly better Q4 this year compared to Q4 last year and in line with the overall development. The long-term mission of our Professional Services customer relationships were confirmed over again with 83% of revenue coming from customers that were customers in Q3 last year. In Professional Services, we can see that the application maintenance services that is helping customers maintain their own payroll and HR systems, mostly on long-term or subscription basis, was to reduce somewhat as a percentage of the total in Q3. This revenue stream proves particularly important in times as this where customers are looking to work with proven non-suppliers or smaller projects with defined outcomes. So important to acknowledge, when evaluating our Professional Services business is that contrary to many consulting businesses, around 60% of revenue is recurring. And as mentioned on the previous slide, this is a key contributor to that 83% of our Q3 revenue in this segment came from customers that were also customers in Q3 last year. So with this, I hand over to our CFO, Gunnar Manum, who will take you through the financial part of the presentation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gunnar Manum, Zalaris ASA - CFO [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, Hans-Petter, and thank you all for listening in to this webcast. As Hans-Petter noted, revenue for the quarter was NOK 189.7 million, which was approximately in line with last year despite of some COVID-19 challenges. Marginally lower revenue as a result of lower volume or travel expense processing and change orders as well as some lower project activity within Professional Services in Germany was offset by higher NOK value of our foreign currency denominated revenue. Managed Services generated stable recurring revenue during the quarter with no churn, but as mentioned, with some lower COVID-19 related volumes, such as travel expense processing. Adjusted EBIT was NOK 13.3 million compared to NOK 8.9 million last year, an increase of 49%. And the margin increased by 2.3 percentage points to 7%. We have seen a gradual improvement in margin following the implementation of the EBIT improvement program, as seen from the quarterly development in the EBIT margin for the last 12 months, and further improvements in EBIT margins is expected going forward. The underlying cost base has been reduced by approximately NOK 42 million year-to-date, when adjusted for currency effects and differences in cost capitalized to customer projects. This is a reduction of approximately 9%. The positive EBIT effect on the cost reduction and efficiency initiatives will become more visible in the P&L with increased revenue and the larger new BPO projects are being implemented. We continue to target an EBIT margin of 10%. As noted, there was a good improvement in adjusted EBIT and adjusted EBIT margin during the third quarter. Through the EBIT improvement program initiated in 2019, employee costs and other operating expenses have been significantly reduced, when adjusted for currency effect and differences in costs capitalized compared to last year. This has also contributed to an increase of operating cash flow. However, as noted on the previous slide, the full effect of these cost reductions on the profit -- over the loss, including personnel expenses, will materialize later. Net financial income was negative NOK 12.3 million compared to negative NOK 41 million last year. This includes an unrealized currency loss of NOK 5.2 million on the EUR 35 million bond loan compared to a loss of NOK 8.1 million last year. This resulted in a net loss for the period of NOK 1.8 million compared to a loss of NOK 6.6 million last year. Moving on to the cash flow for the quarter. The operating cash flow was NOK 21.3 million compared to NOK 8.8 million in last year before payment of deferred VIT of NOK 8 million relating to the COVID-19 relief scheme, as was noted in the second quarter. The company made the repayment of interest-bearing debt in the German subsidiary of NOK 16.5 million during the quarter. And the cash balance ended at NOK 116.3 million at 30th September, an increase of NOK 51.5 million from the same date last year. Moving on to the balance sheet. The net interest-bearing debt was NOK 280.7 million, marginally higher than last quarter due to the Euro-NOK appreciation. As communicated in the second quarter, based on current financial performance and position of Zalaris, the Board will propose a dividend of minimum NOK 0.5 per share for 2020. And that concludes the financial section, and I hand over to Hans-Petter to present the outlook for Zalaris. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hans-Petter Mellerud, Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, again, Gunnar. So over our 20 years in business, we have developed HR technology solutions as part of our Managed Services outsourcing and SaaS offerings. These solutions have primarily been bundled with our services. An exception is our eFile personal archive solution where we lately have seen an increasing interest from the market. With a rapidly developing market for HR tech, supported by customers' demand for cloud-based solutions, we are continuously looking at how we can scale our business and leverage the investments that we have done to our advantage. We have just started a process to productize our offering of HR tech with the goal to faster scale our revenue stream with a structured product-based approach for our solutions for digital forms and workflows, our integrated workforce management solution, including time and absence and workforce planning; our web-proven travel expense solution, driving the efficiency for both users and the travel expense processing shared service center; our innovative visualization of payslips; and last but not least, the above mentioned eFile, helping customers safely store and access employee documents in compliance with GDPR requirements via their cloud HR solutions. Our target market for our suite of solutions will initially focus on customers using SAP solutions for payroll. SAP is a global powerhouse in enterprise software with over 425,000 customers in 80 -- 180 countries. And nearly 80% of multinational companies use SAP. While SAP's foundation is an ERP system, it is also a global leader in human capital management, as we have discussed this numerous times before. And we see that one of the key reasons for SAP's success is their extremely high market reach through its more than 21,000 partners. So with SAP's payroll solution having more than 10,000 installations worldwide in 99 countries, the platform also pays more than 100 million people and produces thousands of critical employee reports and statements each month. So to add to this, SAP's cloud-based HR Solutions SuccessFactors Employee Central, which we also deliver recently reported their 4,000th installation. Our product portfolio is perfectly targeted at assisting SAP payroll customers on their journey to the cloud, leveraging investments in their existing configurations of time, travel and payroll through providing a unified layer of user-friendly applications, accessing these mission-critical functions integrated into their new global HR solutions. We've developed a new channel strategy with a goal to leverage the SAP distribution channels as well as the established partner network, and you will hear more of this as we proceed. Then let us take a look at the significance of our 2 recent deals and the corresponding markets that they address. When we made the decision in 2017 to acquire sumarum and ROC, we saw an opportunity to convert existing market presence and customer relationships to recurring revenue streams in the new markets, Germany, Poland, U.K. and Ireland. Together, this increased our accessible market with almost 7x to the Nordic market. As you know, we have spent much time on integration and struggling, delivering on our own expectations. Over the last 6 months, we have seen a significant change. Our common energy is tuned to this strategy in all markets, as everyone sees the benefit of having long-term relationships with customers, securing a stable work environment and secured jobs. Including in our efforts is revisiting how we can improve sales efficiency across the group. This has resulted in setting up a central senior level sales function reporting to me, responsible for supporting and driving sales of our Managed Services offering in all our markets. We have also adjusted organizations on country level, including strengthening of our sales capacity. So it is just with great joy that, as we previously mentioned, could sign our first breakthrough multi-country deal based on our platform with the previously mentioned U.K.-based FTSE250 gaming and software company in the last quarter. And also, as previously mentioned, our pipeline is very promising, and we expect to see other examples of our efforts succeeding soon. So stay tuned. For agreement with the German municipality of Krefeld sold together with SAP is another example of visualizing the type of market segments opening up for us. We will be implementing and supporting our new SuccessFactors HR solution for the municipality's utility at delivering water and energy services with approximately 3,000 employees. Contract term is 5 years. Germany's municipality sector employs more than 2.5 million employees, of which more than 850 (sic) [850,000] are employed in similar company entities as the Stadtwerke Krefeld. There are 400 registered others Stadtwerke in Germany with Krefeld being first out. This is a great opportunity for us to achieve a good market share in this segment that we estimate having an annual potential value of around NOK 1.5 billion. So coming at my last slide, let's sum up. We continue our daily work on being a better version of ourselves, represented by our hashtag, besting myself. We will continue driving margin improvements through our ongoing project for operational efficiency, including maximizing the use of our near offshore and automation capabilities. We will continue work scaling own Zalaris payroll software as a service and outsourcing models successfully into Central Europe as well as U.K., Ireland, and build on existing and new partnerships and produce -- productize our own solutions with the goal of delivering our 20th year of uninterrupted growth. We will deliver on an expected increased demand as a result of COVID-19 for solutions that support reducing operating costs and allow flexibility to work from anywhere. This is back to the outsourcing basic value proposition on which we have built the majority of our Managed Services business, and where we have seen strong signs in Q3 with pipelines rapidly filling up with good deals, fitting our solutions portfolio. We also expect acquisition opportunities to surface and intend to be an active player in this market. This is key to meet our growth aspirations. We have learned a lot from our previous acquisitions. And as also mentioned in our Q2 presentation, ready for new projects. And last but not least, build on our experience of handling COVID-19 being a more agile, team-oriented and demanding organization, setting clear targets and following up on the results. So thank you. And with this, we open up for questions. ================================================================================ Questions and Answers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gunnar Manum, Zalaris ASA - CFO [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And let me start off with the question immediately. Last week, SAP came with a profit warning relating to future growth. What is the relevance of this for Zalaris? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hans-Petter Mellerud, Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. I think it's -- we -- I saw this. I think it's important to see that even SAP is our -- one of largest suppliers. Our business is very different from SAP. They base their business primarily from selling licenses and solutions. We have communicated also in our report that we see a slowdown in large transformation projects and in directional more tactical projects, seeking to reduce costs and having a shorter-term payback. And as we have also communicated, we have been able to take advantage of this in the market, providing business continuity services. And we now see that our pipeline has never seen this high-growth as we currently see in the moment. So we see the current situation as a really good situation where we expect to grow going forward. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gunnar Manum, Zalaris ASA - CFO [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And another question. Could you please give us some flavor on the underlying revenue development? What would the revenue growth rate had been without COVID-19 effects? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hans-Petter Mellerud, Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. I think that is, of course -- it's a difficult question. I think we see this into 2 elements of it. As we have communicated, also in the presentation, we estimate the direct COVID-19 impact of being NOK 3 million to NOK 4 million for the quarter in lost revenue. And we should also comment that this revenue that is lost, where we still carry the majority of the costs if we were to have that revenue. So it would have a highly incremental margin impact. Having seen that, with the slowdown in decision-making, we have seen numerous larger Professional Services projects implementing new solutions for our customer slip. We have been on -- now selected as the provider, and the customer has postponed the project because of COVID-19 and their focus on other more pressing topics. So that has definitely had the revenue impact, but it is difficult for us at the moment to comment on that. But also to repeat myself from the last question, even though it's -- we see a short-term slightly negative impact. We see that COVID-19 has also given us a lot of positive values as a business. We have come together for once -- much better as a team. So we have this internal motivation part. But we also see that customers are really appreciating the fact that we are able to deliver business continuity in the services that we deliver to them. And thirdly, as again reported, we see that there is a surge of companies looking to reduce costs and to use the solutions that we have to digitize their people process. So in the medium term, we think that the COVID-19 will strengthen our growth. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gunnar Manum, Zalaris ASA - CFO [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Has the COVID-19 made the implementation of the efficiency programs easier or more difficult? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hans-Petter Mellerud, Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO [6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think COVID-19 has made it somewhat easier because it all became clear for us also as a management team that we had to act. And I also mentioned this in my previous replies that what it has learned us all is how agile and action-oriented that we can be if we need to. And you could say that, well, why don't you do that in your -- if you don't have a pandemic and that's, of course, something that we can ask ourselves and something that we shall learn from also moving forward. But the fact is that we have really excelled as a team. Everyone in Team Zalaris has stood up for what was needed from them, and that has led to us delivering on plans much faster. It has led to all parts of the organizations, vacuuming their responsible -- their areas of responsibility for improvements. And we have been able to realize some short term gains. But more important than that, also identifying future gains that is on our road map to be realized. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gunnar Manum, Zalaris ASA - CFO [7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And one final question. You mentioned M&A. And what types of -- which geographies? And what type of businesses would you acquire, if you were to acquire? And what size? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hans-Petter Mellerud, Zalaris ASA - Founder & CEO [8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. I think -- yes, we have lots of lessons learned now from our previous acquisitions. I think, first of all, in terms of size, last time, the 2 businesses that we bought totally added -- almost doubled our revenue. So it was a quite sizable endeavor. I think in the short to medium term, we will look for somewhat smaller companies that would be smaller, more one location type of companies that would be easier to integrate into our organization. And having said integration, we will also have a more flexible and reflective approach to integration in our next attempt. But the overall focus of our acquisition when, looking at and evaluating acquisition targets, is the level of recurrence in their revenue streams and the fit with our core business being payroll and transactional HR processing. So that is the key segment that we are looking for. Companies delivering services that are as close as possible to what we have as our core business, ideally in some of our target geographies being new geographies, that is in other key European countries as France, Spain, Benelux. But we'll also open up for acquisitions that will increase our volume in existing geographies as we -- also as we've communicated in our last quarterly presentation, we have significant organizational capacity in our existing geographies to handle additional volume. And thus adding volume to these businesses, will have a significant contribution to our margin. Okay. So with that, I think we say thank you. And wish you back to our Q4 in February. And in the meantime, we hope that you will all stay really safe. Thank you.