Well positioned for future growth

Ebiquity 30 March 2016 Update

Ebiquity

Well positioned for future growth

Results to December 2015

Media

30 March 2016

Price

135.5p

Market cap

£105m

Net debt (£m) at December 2015

28.7

Shares in issue

77.2m

Free float

99%

Code

EBQ

Primary exchange

AIM

Secondary exchange

N/A

Share price performance

%

1m

3m

12m

Abs

0.0

(2.9)

6.7

Rel (local)

(0.4)

0.7

17.6

52-week high/low

147.0p

122.5p

Business description

Ebiquity is an independent marketing performance specialist and a leading provider of a range of business-critical data, marketing analytics and consultancy services to advertisers and media owners on an international basis.

Next events

AGM

11 May 2016

Interim results

September 2016

Analysts

Martin Lister

+44 (0)20 3077 5700

Bridie Barrett

+44 (0)20 3077 5700

Ebiquity is a research client of Edison Investment Research Limited

Ebiquity has released its audited results for the eight months to its new December year-end. Following this, management has presented relevant unaudited pro forma data for calendar years 2015 (CY15) and 2014 (CY14). This report focuses on this data and provides the basis for our calendar year estimates. CY15 saw solid revenue growth of 10.8% (7.9% on l-f-l1), while underlying operating profit, PBT and diluted EPS all grew substantially, with EPS rising 63.4% to 10.8p (CY14: 6.6p), though this increase was magnified by a strong MVM Q115 versus an uncharacteristic slower start in Q114, which dampened the CY14 results. We maintain our CY16 estimate and initiate a CY17 estimate, which suggests 11.7p diluted EPS up 6.4% on our maintained CY16 11.0p estimate. The board is recommending a 0.4p final dividend for the reported eight-month period.

Year end

Revenue
(£m)

PBT*
(£m)

EPS*
(p)

DPS
(p)

P/E
(x)

Yield
(%)

12/14**

69.1

6.8

6.6

N/A

20.5

N/A

12/15**

76.6

11.2

10.8

0.4

12.5

0.3

12/16e

82.0

12.5

11.0

0.5

12.3

0.4

12/17e

88.5

13.9

11.7

0.6

11.6

0.4

Note: *PBT and EPS are normalised, excluding amortisation of acquired intangibles, exceptional items and share-based payments. **Unaudited pro forma.

Pro forma CY15 shows strong growth

Strong revenue growth was achieved in both the Media Value Measurement (MVM), up 15.4%, and Marketing Performance Optimization (MPO), up 49.2%, segments. The Market Intelligence (MI) segment declined 5.4%, although its dominant Platform division is now showing signs of improvement. Each of the group’s segments produced higher underlying operating profits versus CY14.

Maintaining CY16 and initiating CY17 estimates

There is growing demand for the group’s products and services, which address the increasing drive for greater transparency and accountability in the media trading market. Combined with favourable foreign currency tailwinds in 2016 to date, this adds comfort to our maintained CY16 estimates. Our initiated CY17 estimates include solid revenue growth of 7.9% and underlying diluted EPS of 11.7p (CY16e: 11.0p).

Valuation: Significant discount to proxy comparators

Although some level of discount might be expected against larger-cap companies, Ebiquity is trading at a significant discount to all our suggested metrics when compared to selected proxy comparators. While CY16e and CY17e normalised underlying EPS growth is likely to be affected by a rise in the tax charge due to the benefit of available tax losses now being almost exhausted, we believe that, in the medium term, Ebiquity can grow EPS at 10+% pa through organic growth, economies of scale and further acquisitions, although this could be affected by c two-thirds of group revenue being subject to currency fluctuations.

Investment summary

Company description: Independent marketing performance specialist

Ebiquity is an independent marketing performance specialist and a leading provider of business-critical media and marketing analytics to advertisers and media owners on an international basis. Its strategy is to become the leading and most respected independent provider of data-driven actionable insights to the global marketing community. Over the past six years, the group has made a series of significant acquisitions, which have established it with a global media presence. The group operates from 21 global offices plus an extensive partner and franchise network, and provides services to over 1,100 clients across 85 countries, including 80 of the world’s 100 largest advertisers. It benefits from one of the largest international media cost databases, plus the largest and one of the most comprehensive in the UK, which have been built over the past decade and represent a significant barrier to entry. The business is structured into three reporting segments:

MVM – 55% of CY15 revenue – which includes the group’s media benchmarking, financial compliance and associated services.

MI – 32% of CY15 revenue – which includes the group’s advertising monitoring, reputation management, research and insight services.

MPO – 13% of CY15 revenue – which consists of the group’s marketing effectiveness services and multi-channel analytics.

Valuation: Significant discount to proxy comparators

Although some level of discount might be expected against larger-cap companies, Ebiquity is trading at a significant discount to all our suggested metrics when compared to selected proxy comparators. We believe that in the medium term, Ebiquity can grow EPS at 10+% pa through organic growth, economies of scale and further acquisitions, although this could be affected by c two-thirds of group revenue being subject to currency fluctuations.

Financials: Sufficient resources to satisfy earn-outs

Net debt at end CY15 stood at £28.7m, up from £26.4m at 30 April 2015, after acquisition payments of £4.1m. We anticipate that net debt will decline to £26.0m at end CY16 and to £21.4m at end CY17. We believe that estimated deferred consideration of £4.85m outstanding at end CY15, plus consideration relating to the two acquisition events completed in early CY16 can be comfortably satisfied by operating cash inflow, available banking facilities and current cash resources.

Sensitivities

The major sensitivities, for which a material change in any of these could surprise either on the upside or the downside for the group, include:

maintaining a high level of recurring and repeat revenue;

that significant competitors do not emerge;

foreign currency exposure;

the level of advertising and media spend;

that overseas expansion does not destabilise existing operations; and

hardware and software reliability and business continuity robustness.

Results to 31 December 2015

Following the change in the group’s its financial year-end to 31 December from 30 April, audited results for the eight month to 31 December have been reported – it should be noted that this excludes the group’s busiest period from the statutory results and has a significant impact on reported performance. Providing further insight, management has presented relevant unaudited pro forma data for CY15 and CY14. This report focuses on this data and provides the basis for our calendar year estimates going forward. CY15 group revenue rose 10.8% (7.9% l-f-l,1 10.5% l-f-l CC,1 13.5% CC1) and underlying operating profit after central costs rose 55.9% (50.8% l-f-l,1 64.3% CC1) versus CY14.

Segmental revenue and operating profit analysis

MVM, the group’s largest segment, achieved 15.4% revenue growth (15.0% l-f-l CC,1 20.1% CC1) and saw an unprecedented level of activity during CY15 with high levels of engagement. With close control of costs, the underlying operating profit margin rose to 28.7% (CY14: 21.8%).

Like-for-like (l-f-l): previous period results adjusted to include results of recent acquisitions as if they had been owned for whole of the prior year. Constant currency (CC): calculated by restating current year denominated results at last year’s foreign exchange rates.

MPO, the group’s newest and fastest-growing segment, continued to record significant momentum, with 49.2% revenue growth (38.4% l-f-l CC,1 44.4% CC1). Continued investment in MPO, to enable growth to be sustainable over the longer term, resulted in an expected decline in underlying operating margin to 28.2% (CY14: 33.0%).

The MI segment declined 5.4% (-3.6% l-f-l CC,1 -3.6% CC1), being negatively affected by a slowdown in project work, though its dominant Platform division stabilised showed l-f-l CC1 growth of 0.4% and is now showing signs of improvement. This change in revenue profile, combined with ongoing cost efficiencies within the group’s data centres, positively affected underlying operating profit margin in CY15 to 14.9% (CY14: 13.2%).

Exhibit 1: Revenue and margin analysis

 

Pro forma

 

Estimates

 

 

Year to Dec/14

Year to Dec/15

% growth

Year to Dec/16

Year to Dec/17

Media Value Measurement

 

Revenue £000s

36,386

41,998

15.4

45,400

49,000

Operating profit £000s

7,950

12,057

51.7

13,050

14,050

Operating margin %

21.8

28.7

28.7

28.7

Market Intelligence

 

Revenue £000s

26,059

24,650

(5.4)

24,600

25,000

Operating profit £000s

3,452

3,668

6.3

3,700

3,750

Operating margin %

13.2

14.9

15.0

15.0

Marketing Performance Optimization

 

Revenue £000s

6,661

9,936

49.2

12,000

14,500

Operating profit £000s

2,196

2,802

27.6

3,650

4,300

Operating margin %

33.0

28.2

30.4

29.7

Underlying group

 

Revenue £000s

69,106

76,584

10.8

82,000

88,500

Underlying operating profit* £000s

13,598

18,527

36.2

20,400

22,100

Underlying operating profit margin* %

19.7

24.2

24.9

25.0

Central costs £000s

5,636

6,116

8.5

6,600

7,100

Underlying operating profit £000s

7,962

12,411

55.9

13,800

15,000

Operating margin % after central costs

11.5

16.2

16.8

16.9

Associate and finance £000s

(1,154)

(1,181)

(1,280)

(1,090)

Underlying PBT £000s

6,808

11,230

65.0

12,520

13,910

Underlying diluted EPS p

6.6

10.8

63.6

 

11.0

11.7

Source: Ebiquity, Edison Investment Research. Note: *Before central costs.

Foreign currency impact turning positive

The eight month results to December 2015 reflect the continued impact of foreign exchange on the group’s recent performance. CY14 and CY15 average rates moved from €1.240 to €1.377, offset by US$1.648 to US$1.528. A 10% strengthening in sterling against the US dollar and the euro would increase PBT by £0.12m and £0.10m respectively. With c two-thirds of group revenue (HY Oct 2015: €29%; US$:24%; and other: 11%) being subject to currency fluctuations, sterling’s weakness if maintained in 2016 (24 March 2016: €: 1.266; US$ 1.413) should reverse the currency headwinds of the past two years to positive and provide added comfort to our CY16e estimates.

New CEO to move group to next development stage

This January, Michael Karg was appointed CEO. He replaces Michael Greenlees, who was CEO for eight years and decided that, having built Ebiquity into a world-leading international marketing analytics company, it was the right time for new leadership to take the business to the next stage of its development. Michael Karg was previously with Razorfish, the digital business transformation agency of Publicis Groupe (PUB.PA), where he was most recently CEO, international. He has worked globally over a 15-year career with Razorfish and Digitas, advising some of the world's largest companies on their omni-channel marketing strategies. While at Razorfish, he was responsible for growth and development in Europe, India, China, South-East Asia and Australia. Michael Greenlees will remain on the board as an executive director until an orderly handover and transition has been completed, and will serve the company in an advisory capacity for two years from 30 April 2016.

Financials: Sufficient resources to satisfy earn-outs

Over the past six years the group has made a series of significant acquisitions, which has established it with a global media presence with one of the largest international media cost databases. Most of these have been purchased with an initial cash payment followed by multi-year earn-out payments based on the performance of the acquired business. Acquisitions in earn-out mode at 31 December 2015 had an estimated remaining deferred consideration totalling £4.85m, of which £3.42m is due in FY16. Since then, on 11 March 2016 the group acquired outstanding 50% interest in its Irish media associate, Fairbrother Marsh for an initial cash consideration of €0.15m with a maximum consideration of €2.0m, payable in cash, based on performance to December 2020. In addition the group has extended management incentivisation at its August 2013 acquisition Stratigent by increasing the total cap on consideration by US$1.5m, payable 25% cash and 75% shares. With the available banking facilities (see below), current cash resources and our estimated strong operating cash inflow, we believe the prospective deferred consideration earn-out payments can be comfortably satisfied.

Banking facilities

In July 2014, the group refinanced its banking facilities. The committed facility, totalling £40m, comprises a term loan of £10m, of which £6.25m was outstanding at 31 December 2015, and a revolving credit facility (RCF) of £30m, of which £29.0m was drawn down at 31 December 2015. Both the term loan and the RCF have a maturity date of 2 July 2018. The £10m term loan is being repaid on a quarterly basis to maturity. These facilities may be used for deferred consideration payments on past acquisitions, to fund future potential acquisitions, or for general working capital requirements. In addition, the group has an accordion option to increase these banking facilities by a further £20m.

Valuation: Significant discount to proxy comparators

There are no quoted companies that are directly comparable competitors to Ebiquity’s business. In the MVM division, we regard the main competitors as Accenture Media Management, part of the Accenture group (ACN.N), and media agencies themselves. For the MI segment, which operates in a highly competitive and mature market, we believe that the main competitors are Nielsen Media Research, owned by Nielsen Holdings (NLSN.N) and Kantar, a subsidiary of WPP (WPP.L), plus smaller local market service providers.

We have identified a selection of companies that have interests in businesses with similar disciplines, eg media research, marketing analytics/intelligence, consultancy and advertising. While these proxy group companies are significantly larger, Exhibit 2 provides some benchmarks for a realistic rating that investors could attribute to Ebiquity.

Exhibit 2: Proxy comparison table

Main business

Price

Mkt Cap

Hist

Historic

Historic

P/E

P/E

P/E

p/$

£m/$m

YE

EV/Rev

EV/EBITDA

Year 1

Dec/16*

Year 2

Accenture (US)

Management consulting

114.3

71,769

Aug/15

2.0

13.0

21.9

21.2

19.9

comScore (US)

Digital marketing intelligence

29.9

1,692

Dec/15

4.2

16.3

19.6

15.2

15.2

Experian

Information services

1213.0

11,642

Mar/15

4.2

12.1

19.8

19.7

19.6

Omnicom (US)

Media agency

81.3

19,488

Dec/15

1.6

10.9

17.2

15.8

15.8

Nielsen (US)

Media/marketing analytics

52.0

18,931

Dec/15

4.3

17.5

18.1

16.4

16.4

WPP

Media agency

1596.0

20,663

Dec/15

2.0

11.9

15.3

14.2

14.2

Average

3.0

13.6

18.7

17.1

16.9

Ebiquity

Media/marketing analytics

135.5

105

Dec/15

1.7

9.4

12.3

11.6

11.6

Source: Thomson Reuters, Edison Investment Research. Note: Prices as at close on 24 March 2016.

Ebiquity’s management suggests that the potential addressable market for the group’s products and services is c $30bn within an estimated $600bn global media marketing and advertising market. In addition, management expects that the potential addressable market for the group’s products could reach $100bn by 2018. This implies a significant growth opportunity for Ebiquity, especially as the group has positioned itself well to scale its business globally following the series of acquisitions over the past six years. We believe that Ebiquity has the expertise and capability to grow revenue c 5-10% pa over the medium term, with the main growth drivers being MVM, where the group benefits from the scale of its media cost databases, which are significant barriers to competitive entry, and MPO, which is the group’s fastest growing area and where management expects to invest substantially to promote future growth.

Although some level of discount might be expected against larger-cap companies, Ebiquity is trading at a significant discount to all our suggested metrics when compared to selected proxy comparators. While CY16e and CY17e normalised underlying EPS growth is likely to be affected by a rise in the tax charge due to the benefit of available tax losses now being almost exhausted, we believe that in the medium term, Ebiquity can grow EPS at 10+% pa through organic growth, economies of scale and further acquisitions, although this could be affected by c two-thirds of group revenue being subject to currency fluctuations.


Exhibit 3: Financial summary

£'000

2013

2014

2015

2015

2014*

2015*

2016e

2017e

Year

Year

Year

8 months

Year

Year

Year

Year

Period ending

30-Apr

30-Apr

30-Apr

31-Dec

31-Dec

31-Dec

31-Dec

31-Dec

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

PROFIT & LOSS

Revenue

 

 

64,046

68,452

73,874

43,310

 

69,106

76,584

82,000

88,500

Cost of Sales

(29,359)

(30,008)

(32,383)

(22,514)

N/A

N/A

(35,500)

(38,200)

Gross Profit

34,687

38,444

41,491

20,796

N/A

N/A

46,500

50,300

EBITDA (norm)

 

 

11,734

12,768

13,463

1,151

 

9,572

14,161

15,650

16,950

Operating Profit (before GW and except.)

 

10,441

11,339

11,729

(3)

 

7,962

12,411

13,800

15,000

Intangible Amortisation

(2,308)

(1,873)

(2,030)

(1,327)

(1,997)

(2,000)

(2,200)

(2,300)

Exceptionals (inc share based charges)

(628)

(4,854)

(3,883)

(5,329)

(5,818)

(6,768)

(1,000)

(1,000)

Other (inc share of profit of associates)

26

19

12

13

10

18

10

10

Operating Profit

7,531

4,631

5,828

(6,646)

157

3,661

10,610

11,710

Net Interest

(975)

(1,191)

(1,171)

(800)

(1,164)

(1,199)

(1,290)

(1,100)

Profit Before Tax (norm)

 

 

9,492

10,167

10,570

(790)

 

6,808

11,230

12,520

13,910

Profit Before Tax (FRS 3)

 

 

6,556

3,440

4,657

(7,446)

 

(1,007)

2,462

9,320

10,610

Tax

(1,393)

5

(538)

1,332

N/A

N/A

(2,600)

(3,000)

Profit After Tax (norm)

6,879

8,082

8,877

(214)

N/A

N/A

9,520

10,360

Profit After Tax (FRS 3)

5,163

3,445

4,119

(6,114)

N/A

N/A

6,720

7,610

Minorities

(119)

(421)

(496)

(107)

N/A

N/A

(330)

(430)

Net Income (norm)

6,760

7,661

8,346

(336)

N/A

N/A

9,190

9,930

Net Income (FRS 3)

5,044

3,024

3,623

(6,221)

N/A

N/A

6,390

7,180

Average Number of Shares Outstanding and equivalents (m)

72.6

74.4

75.8

77.0

N/A

N/A

77.2

77.2

EPS - normalised (p)

 

 

9.3

10.3

11.0

(0.4)

 

N/A

N/A

11.9

12.9

EPS - normalised and fully diluted (p)

 

9.0

10.1

10.7

(0.4)

 

6.6

10.8

11.0

11.7

EPS - FRS 3 (p)

 

 

7.0

4.1

4.8

(8.1)

 

N/A

N/A

8.3

9.3

Dividend per share (p)

0.0

0.0

0.4

0.4

0.0

0.4

0.5

0.6

Gross Margin (%)

54.2

56.2

56.2

48.0

N/A

n/a

56.7

56.8

EBITDA Margin (%)

18.3

18.7

18.2

2.7

13.9

18.5

19.1

19.2

Operating Margin (before GW and except.) (%)

16.3

16.6

15.9

0.0

11.5

16.2

16.8

16.9

BALANCE SHEET

Fixed Assets

 

 

64,852

74,173

77,908

73,594

 

N/A

73,594

72,944

72,614

Intangible Assets

60,506

69,547

73,274

68,354

N/A

68,354

67,204

66,074

Tangible Assets

3,061

3,162

3,194

2,928

N/A

2,928

3,028

3,278

Other

1,285

1,464

1,440

2,312

N/A

2,312

2,712

3,262

Current Assets

 

 

29,504

33,386

39,174

33,073

 

N/A

33,073

37,347

44,372

Trade Debtors

13,890

15,683

17,390

16,283

N/A

16,283

17,615

19,200

Other

8,505

11,182

12,489

8,035

N/A

8,035

8,349

9,150

Cash

7,109

6,521

9,295

8,755

N/A

8,755

11,383

16,022

Current Liabilities

 

 

(26,551)

(29,184)

(29,161)

(27,473)

 

N/A

(27,473)

(25,183)

(23,543)

Trade Creditors

(4,611)

(4,989)

(3,866)

(3,538)

N/A

(3,538)

(4,000)

(4,200)

Other

(19,761)

(21,252)

(21,473)

(19,134)

N/A

(19,134)

(16,382)

(14,542)

Short term borrowings

(2,179)

(2,943)

(3,822)

(4,801)

N/A

(4,801)

(4,801)

(4,801)

Long Term Liabilities

 

 

(25,689)

(33,858)

(39,263)

(36,785)

 

N/A

(36,785)

(34,889)

(34,449)

Long term borrowings

(20,238)

(26,235)

(31,880)

(32,615)

N/A

(32,615)

(32,615)

(32,615)

Other long term liabilities

(5,451)

(7,623)

(7,383)

(4,170)

N/A

(4,170)

(2,274)

(1,834)

Net Assets

 

 

42,116

44,517

48,658

42,409

 

N/A

42,409

50,219

58,994

CASH FLOW

Operating Cash Flow

 

 

7,526

6,799

7,927

5,028

 

N/A

11,515

13,948

14,414

Net Interest

(701)

(841)

(1,623)

(588)

N/A

(1,009)

(1,290)

(1,100)

Tax

(1,582)

(1,159)

(1,618)

(892)

N/A

(1,062)

(2,600)

(3,000)

Capex

(1,244)

(2,552)

(3,128)

(1,328)

N/A

(1,986)

(3,000)

(3,300)

Acquisitions/disposals

(7,264)

(9,308)

(5,462)

(4,107)

N/A

(4,530)

(4,130)

(2,000)

Financing

259

(94)

127

261

N/A

344

0

0

Dividends

0

0

0

(291)

N/A

(291)

(300)

(375)

Net Cash Flow

(3,006)

(7,155)

(3,777)

(1,917)

N/A

2,981

2,628

4,639

Opening net debt/(cash)

 

 

11,869

15,308

22,657

26,407

 

N/A

31,563

28,661

26,033

HP finance leases initiated

0

0

0

0

N/A

0

0

0

Other

(433)

(194)

27

(337)

N/A

(79)

0

0

Closing net debt/(cash)

 

 

15,308

22,657

26,407

28,661

 

31,563

28,661

26,033

21,394

Source: Company data, Edison Investment Research. Note: *Pro forma data as supplied by Ebiquity.

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Frankfurt +49 (0)69 78 8076 960

Schumannstrasse 34b

60325 Frankfurt

Germany

London +44 (0)20 3077 5700

280 High Holborn

London, WC1V 7EE

United Kingdom

New York +1 646 653 7026

245 Park Avenue, 39th Floor

10167, New York

US

Sydney +61 (0)2 9258 1161

Level 25, Aurora Place

88 Phillip St, Sydney

NSW 2000, Australia

Wellington +64 (0)48 948 555

Level 15, 171 Featherston St

Wellington 6011

New Zealand

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