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Infosys Q3 FY 2014 Results: Traditional ADM Services Recover; PPS Businesses Yet to Make a Meaningful Contribution to Infosys 3.0

There are clear positives to this quarter’s results from Infosys, and its share price certainly picked up (is now the highest since March 2012), though it continues to look to address a number of challenges, some of which are company-specific issues.

This is the third quarter of improved topline growth. Management has raised revenue guidance for full FY 2014 to growth of 11.5-12% (up from prior guidance of 9-10%, and double the level of growth achieved in FY 2013). This would mean Infosys is getting back to Indian IT services market growth rates (NASSCOM predicted 12-14% for FY 2014).

So where has the growth come from this quarter? It is the last quarter of acquisitive growth from Lodestone (acquired Oct 2012) contributing 41% of the y/y growth (55% last quarter).  Infosys’ traditional areas of ADM (which underperformed for much of FY 2013) contributed a healthy 28% of the overall growth. This indicates the effectiveness of the recent drive at Infosys to go back to basics; its BITS businesses overall contributed 55% of the overall growth this quarter. Management commentary on client budgets emphasized their ongoing focus on initiatives cost optimization, is where Infosys BITS service lines play.

In terms of service lines, BFS and Manufacturing continue to be the growth engines. But Telecoms continues to be a major drag (down an estimated 9.6% y/y): it has declined from contributing 12.9% of revenue in FY 2011 to 7.9% this quarter.

The revised FY 2014 revenue guidance implies anticipated y/y growth in Q4 of between 8 and 9.9%, thus H2 overall will deliver slower growth than was achieved in H1. Accenture also saw a slowdown in its quarter ended November 30: the indications from these two bellwethers are of slower revenue growth in Q4 CY 2013: we shall know more next week when more results are published.

The operating margin of 25.0% is up 322 bps sequentially (up 150 bps excluding the one-time visa provision last quarter). Infosys has been stripping out costs by offshoring both billable (where relevant, depending on service type) and non-billable roles (notably in marketing: sales & marketing expense is 5.0% of revenue, down from 5.8% last quarter, with management referring to increased investment in sales). Narayanan Murthy commented on ensuring that “all jobs that can be done in lower cost locations are done in lower cost locations”. Increased pricing also contribute to the sequential margin improvement. Nevertheless, this is the sixth consecutive quarter when operating margin is down y/y.

Another factor contributing to the sequential improvement in margin is the 1.1% q/q decline in headcount (the last time this happened was four and a half years ago, in the June 2009 quarter), or 1,823 employees.

Infosys has been looking to get utilization up to its 78% to 82% target range, but it has again declined sequentially to 76.9% (from 77.5% last quarter).

Attrition continues to increase, to 18.1%; this may be part of the drive to weed out underperformers, but is also possibly indicates a trend in employee morale, in spite of the wage hikes from July 2013. There has been a string of departures of senior execs in the last six months (since the return of N.R. Narayana Murthy) and this is likely to have caused some short-term disruption.

As part of a reshuffle at the top, B. G. Srinivas and Pravin Rao have been appointed as Presidents, with B. G. Srinivas focusing on global markets and Pravin Rao focusing on global delivery and service innovation, on top of their existing portfolios. These are clearly the two front runners for the next CEO after S D Shibulal retires in May next year, unless Infosys elects to go for an external hire. One indication of the level of rethinking that is going on at Infosys is that just a couple of months ago it significantly expanded its Executive Council. That same Council is being disbanded from April 1 with the two new Presidents being given responsibility to put in place “appropriate governance sectors for their respective areas”. Historically, Infosys was a company where any major changes tended to focus on its long-term vision and were planned in detail beforehand; today it appears to be focusing on shorter term imperatives.

Infosys continues to enjoy a very strong balance sheet, ending the quarter with $4,236m in cash, up from $4,130m in the prior quarter.

Looking ahead, management shared its outlook for FY 2015 client IT spending; the tone was cautious, referring to “a mixed bag” across segments.

So what should we expect from Infosys in FY 2015? The company is clearly making progress on getting back to basics with its BITS offerings and it continues to enjoy the boost from the Lodestone operation; next quarter will indicate whether Lodestone is helping drive organic growth in its consulting business. It is still too early to tell whether the newer PPS offerings, on which Infosys places so much store, will pick up steam this year and begin to approach, even outstrip overall company growth. PPS businesses currently contribute 5.3% of company revenue, down from 7.1% back in FY 2012. PPS is key to Infosys' long-term vision, but two years on it is hardly a success story. Indian media is speculating on setting up a separate subsidiary for PPS; we would expect to see some inorganic growth in the next year. Meanwhile, there are several new key roles still to be appointed including a global Head of Sales. Infosys is looking in a better shape now than it was three quarters ago but it going through an unsettling period.

NelsonHall will be publishing an updated comprehensive Key Vendor Assessment of Infosys within the next few days. For details, contact [email protected]

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