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Continued from here:
Company: First Derivatives (FDP:LN)
Last TGISVP Post: Here
Market Cap: GBP 494 Million
Price: GBP 2,038p
My last write-up was bang in the middle of a sickening price reversal. While FDP got nearly sliced in half at the time, my price target’s been massively adrift ever since. Clearly, I was wrong to speculate FDP’s consulting business* might eventually grind to a halt – as banks continue to retrench, we’re actually seeing an increasing reliance on IT outsourcing, while reduced head-count & market evolution demanded ever greater technology capacity & automation. [*Let’s not forget consulting (64% of revenue) remains FDP’s primary business, and its margins are far less scale-able than software]. And revenue’s continued to forge ahead, at an average 28% pa in the last three years, assisted by FDP’s serial acquisition strategy (three new acquisitions & a consolidation of Kx Systems in the last 18 months, or so). Earnings growth trailed though, as FDP essentially bought revenue/technology (rather than profits…with new Big Data & IoT opportunities also being touted) & the share count’s been diluted almost 25% in the last couple of years. [Even on a revenue basis, those acquisitions look damn expensive – averaging over 7 times sales, vs. a 4.2 P/S multiple for FDP]. But FY-2016 was clearly a real gang-busters year, boasting 41% revenue & 33% EPS growth.
However, we’re still seeing a huge disconnect between EBITDA & operating free cash flow margins (Op FCF: Operating cash flow, less net PPE/intangible expenditure). But presuming software is the ultimate driver of the business, EBITDA will become increasingly relevant: A decent compromise for now is to use an adjusted margin, averaging the latest 19.9% EBITDA margin & Op FCF margin of 7.2% (noting a prior year margin of just 2.6%) – a 13.6% adjusted margin deserves a 1.33 Price/Sales ratio. And noting FDP’s financial strength (with net debt of just £15 million), we can adjust for (surplus) cash & also add a debt adjustment. [Based on this adjusted margin, I calculate another £23 million in debt (at an assumed 5% rate, for acquisitions etc.) would still limit finance expense to 15% of adjusted margin – as usual, let’s apply a 50% haircut, just to be conservative]. Of course, we also need to value FDP as a growth stock: While earnings growth has accelerated to 33%, we should still recognise the huge/ongoing disconnect vs. cash flow (& reported earnings, which are now about 40% lower than adjusted diluted earnings) – limiting ourselves to a 20.0 Price/Earnings ratio, based on adjusted diluted EPS, seems only prudent (or maybe even generous):