Experian's underlying revenues fell 2% in the three months to 30 June, with growth in North America and Brazil partially offsetting declines in other geographies.
The group expects second quarter underlying revenue growth to be in the range of flat to -5%, while costs remain unchanged.
The shares were broadly flat in early trading.
Experian is caught between two competing forces.
On the one hand demand for data driven decision making has never been stronger, and Experian is right at the heart of that trend. However, many of the group's customers are very cyclical, and that means economic conditions are going to impact revenues. And the economic backdrop is likely to remain challenging for some time.
Credit checks are still Experian's bread and butter and lending has tailed off in some markets as consumers batten down the hatches ahead of any economic storm. That's negatively impacting demand for Experian's credit bureau data. Decreased marketing activity has also affected the targeting businesses, which while smaller than they once were, still account for a reasonable slug of sales.
However, the current crisis has accelerated many existing trends, from online shopping to working from home. Most of them generate a huge volume of data, or require significant data analysis to function effectively. In the long run that can only be good news for Experian.
Experian's got a good track record when it comes to expanding into new sectors and geographies in recent years.
New healthcare and automotive businesses were boosting business-to-business (B2B) sales before the pandemic. While Automotive sales will always struggle in an economic downturn, the new sectors should provide long term growth opportunities. Latin America has also been a particular success, accounting for around 16% of profits last year despite economic and political turmoil in Brazil, the region's biggest market.
We also think the consumer business has turned a corner, although coronavirus seems to have disrupted progress in the UK. Experian's free membership has been driving increased cross-selling of advanced credit products and price comparison services in the US.
The launch of 'Experian Boost' in the US, where consumers supply additional non-standard data like mobile phone and utility contracts to boost their credit ratings, has been something of a masterstroke. Not only have CreditMatch sales improved substantially, but it also provides Experian with a unique and wholly new dataset for its business-to-business division.
Given the large quantities of sensitive personal data Experian holds, perhaps our biggest concern (aside from a coronavirus driven slowdown) is the group's exposure to cybercrime. Rival Equifax has already been caught out, and higher regulatory costs would be far from ideal.
Nonetheless, we believe Experian is a high-quality business with a bright future. Big data is an increasingly important part of an ever-growing number of industries, and Experian's long term growth trajectory is testament to its willingness to innovate and enter new markets.
Unfortunately that potential comes at a price, a price to earnings ratio well above the long run average. That adds a degree of short term risk. Anything other than perfect delivery risks a de-rating and painful share price fall, and means the shares offer a prospective yield of just 1.4%.
Experian key facts
- Current 12m forward P/E ratio: 36.6
- 10 year average 12m forward P/E ratio: 19.9
- Prospective yield: 1.4%
We've introduced this section in response to recent survey feedback.
Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.
First Quarter Trading Update
Underlying revenues in North America rose 4% in the first quarter, accounting for 63% of the group total. That was driven by a 10% rise in Consumer Services, where identity monitoring and credit education products performed particularly well. Business-to-business (B2B) sales grew 1%, reflecting strong mortgage volumes and demand for Experian's Ascend Decisioning and Analytics platform.
Latin American underlying revenues fell 1% year-on-year, and accounted for 14% of the group total. Again Consumer Services was the standout performer, with growth in the Brazilian business of 104% - albeit from a relatively low base. B2B sales fell 5%, affected by fewer credit reference requests and weaker demand in Spanish Latin America.
The UK & Ireland (15% of group revenue) saw underlying revenue fall 15%. Consumer Services revenue fell 18%, with credit monitoring subscriptions falling at the beginning of the quarter. B2B sales fell 15%, as lending declined significantly. There were some signs of recovery later in the quarter.
EMEA/Asia Pacific saw sales fall 20%, and accounted for 8% of the group total. EMEA was severely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, particularly in Italy and South Africa. In Asia Pacific, India was particularly hard hit, although some recent product wins should deliver results in the next financial year.
Given the current uncertainty the group is not producing guidance for the full year.
Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Thomson Reuters. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.
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