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Experian - performance as expected, new buyback announced

Experian generated full-year revenue of $6.6bn, broadly in line with analyst expectations...

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Experian generated full-year revenue of $6.6bn, broadly in line with analyst expectations and reflecting organic growth of 7%. Growth was led by Consumer Services, up 11%, with a 23m increase in free members to 168m. All four geographical regions contributed to growth, with Latin America the standout.

Underlying operating profit rose 9% to $1.8bn, as margins improved from 26.6% to 27.4% - over half of the uplift was due to favourable currency moves.

Underlying free cash flow fell from $1.3bn to $1.1bn, mainly due to higher tax and capital expenditure. Net debt stood at $4.0bn or 1.8 times underlying cash profit, toward the lower end of the 2.0-2.5 times target range.

For the new year, organic revenue is expected to grow 4-6%, with a "modest" rise in margins.

The board declared a dividend of 37.75 cents per share, up 6%, in addition to a new $150m share buyback.

The shares fell 4.2% in early trading.

View the latest Experian share price and how to deal

Our view

Experian's full-year results were broadly in line with market expectations, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that this was a strong year and the new buyback reflects this.

Experian's broad range of products and margin resilience should hold it in good stead in various environments. But there are ongoing signs that lending criteria remains tight in the US and UK, and the revenue outlook points to a softening market over the coming year.

We've been pleasantly surprised by the extent of the success of the Consumer business. This division was given some real TLC in recent years and that work has paid off. We also view this area as a very strong asset for the long term. As people become more financially knowledgeable, with education around personal finance becoming more mainstream, Experian's primed to benefit.

Longer term, as the world continues to digitise, we think the data-led solutions that Experian can offer businesses and consumers will likely keep increasing in demand. Plus, the group's business products arguably become more essential in an uncertain environment. Identity, credit and fraud checks are hardly something businesses can ditch altogether.

There are further opportunities as new technologies take hold too. The large presence in Latin America is driving impressive growth as Experian looks to capitalise on a region that's undergoing major upgrades to its financial services sector. It all started when they bought a chunk of a Brazilian credit bureau, and the consumer services business now addresses half the adult population.

Technology is the cornerstone of a data business, and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the topic of the moment. The key to generating true value from AI is having unique data for it to learn from, and that's something Experian has a treasure trove of. AI is already being integrated into products, and we see plenty of opportunities to leverage this technology to add value.

Cash generation remains strong, with cash conversion coming in at 98% over the first half. The balance sheet's looking healthy too, with net debt relative to underlying cash profit below the target range. That gives scope to weather potential storms and paves the way for the new buyback they have announced for 2024. Of course, no returns are guaranteed.

The valuation is down from the highs seen a couple of years ago but remains broadly in line with the longer-term average. We continue to be supportive of Experian's range of products and the evolving importance of data in the modern world. With a long-term view, there's a lot to like. But, there are a few clouds ahead, and a significant drawback in borrowing and lending is likely to impact performance.

Experian key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. 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.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. 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.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Matt Britzman
Equity Analyst

Matt is an Equity Analyst on the share research team, providing up-to-date research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors.

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Article history
Published: 17th May 2023