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Xerox Services Q4 2013 Results: Needs to Improve Margin In 2014

Xerox Services financial performance in Q4 and full year 2013 had some clear positives.

Looking at signings:

  • Full year 2013 signings were up 20%, with BPO and ITO renewal rate at 92%, above the target range of 85% to 90% and 7 points higher than 2012. And new business signings was up 9% in BPO and up and up 23% in Document Outsourcing (DO)
  • In Q4 2013, overall signings TCV was flat y/y with fewer renewal opportunities in the quarter, though renewal rate was a strong 92% and new business signings were up 5%. For BPO, TCV of signings in the quarter was up 20% y/y, with strong growth in healthcare payor, healthcare provider, F&A, and Europe (the latter presumably driven by recent M&A activity in Europe). However, TCV of DO and ITO signings were down. In its ITO business, Xerox is focusing on executing on some large deals and improving margin.

Revenue growth in Services (DO up 4%, ITO up 2%, BPO down 3% in Q4) has decelerated, as expected. BPO revenues had a 1.5% impact from the student loan contract run-off. And Xerox has not had the benefit of acquisitive growth, which has traditionally contributed 2%-3% of Services revenue growth (under the former ACS model).

But Xerox continues to be challenged in its attempts to improve Services operating margin, once again lower than planned. As late as November 2013 (half way through Q4), in its investor conference, Xerox was guiding on achieving full year 2013 segment margin of 9.8% to 10% for Services … in fact, it achieved 9.76%, just getting into the bottom end of this. And it missed guidance for Q4: segment margin was 9.6%, below the targeted 10%.

Management acknowledges “although (margin decline was) driven by known issues, this is an area where we need to make more structural progress”.  So what were the contributory factors for the 160 bps y/y decline? The following factors have been given as major factors contributing to the y/y decline in Q4:

  • The student loan run-off, which had a 60 bps impact on segment margin – but this was not an unforeseen event!
  • Unforeseen extra expenses on healthcare platform contracts (MMIS, also healthcare exchanges), where Xerox allocated additional resources to projects. Given the newness and complexity of building a Healthcare exchange, and the challenge of doing so within a tight time constraint, one cannot fault Xerox for taking action to avoid the type of debacle seen in the federal exchange project. Having to do so also on MMIS projects indicates longer standing execution issues
  • Slower than expected ramp ups in wireless customer care, leading to volume pressures. It is not clear whether this is delayed or lost work.

This is the third quarter of sequential margin decline, and in a year when Xerox said it was increasing its focus on improving profitability of Services. Services segment margin has now declined every year since 2010. Xerox is now guiding on a margin improvement of 50 basis points in 2014, with this improvement becoming evident in H2 “as near-term margin pressure dissipates and the impact of our margin improvement actions accelerate” Q1 2014 margin is expected to be flat y/y, at around 9.3%.

In the November investor conference, Xerox outlined a five plank strategy for Xerox Services. Some of the initiatives to improve margin – for example further offshoring – are initiatives that the former ACS was talking about even before its acquisition by Xerox.

Xerox needs to demonstrate in 2014 that it is getting a firmer grip on improving profitability of Services, ideally with no more unexpected expenses.

Acquisition spend in 2013 was substantially below the plan of $300m to $500m for the year. The $60m Invoco acquisition closed in January. In 2014, Xerox expects to spend up to $500m in acquisitions (including Invoco). A focus of recent acquisitions has been expanding its customer management services BPO capabilities in Europe: will we see in 2014 acquisition activity that brings in IP in other areas of its portfolio?

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