Is It Time to Sell Ebix?

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Is it time to sell Ebix (Nasdaq: EBIX  ) ? You won't find many reasons to do so from the insurance software-as-a-service provider's quarterly results. Revenue increased 13% year over year to $47.7 million. Earnings grew 14% to $18.1 million after excluding one-time non-recurring gains in the second quarter of 2011. The stock has soared 35% since the beginning of June.

However, re-evaluating a highflier like Ebix every now and then makes sense for investors. The stock might be nearing its top after a great run. Then again, Ebix could be poised to continue its winning ways. Which view is on target? Let's look at both sides.

Sell side
Some might say to sell simply because the stock has risen so quickly. However, Foolish investors examine the company's underlying business rather than just stock prices to determine the best course of action.

Probably the main business concern for Ebix is how well the company will be able to integrate its recent acquisitions. Ebix bought PlanetSoft and Fintechnix in June. PlanetSoft focuses on streamlining processes such as underwriting for life and property and casualty insurance companies. Fintechnix is an information technology company that provides products to improve front- and back-end operations for Australian financial services companies.

Due in large part to acquisitions like these, Ebix carries an extraordinarily high amount of goodwill and intangibles on its balance sheet. Fellow Fool Rex Moore recently pointed out the potential dangers with Ebix maintaining a high ratio of intangible assets to total assets. Since that article was published, the intangible assets ratio for Ebix has increased to 82%. The risk for investors is that if the company ever writes off large amounts of these intangible assets, shares could plummet.

Ebix also faces competition in several areas. Since the company receives around 80% of its revenue from its exchanges, rivals in the exchange markets present the greatest challenge. Privately held Aplifi (formerly known as Blue Frog) is a primary competitor in the life insurance and annuity exchange markets. IVANS is the Ebix's main rival in the U.S. property and casualty exchange market.

Earlier this year, Aplifi announced that Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW  ) will use its life insurance electronic application platform. This is a shot across the bow for Ebix, since it also partners with Genworth in several areas.

Buy side
On a positive note, the rest of the company's financials are solid. Solid revenue and earnings growth? Strong cash flow? High profit margin? Low debt? Check them all off the list.

Perhaps the best reason to buy Ebix is its customer relationships. Major insurance companies such as Manulife Financial (NYSE: MFC  ) , Prudential (NYSE: PRU  ) , and many others partner with Ebix to help streamline insurance processing for agents, brokers, and customers.

These customers tend to stay with Ebix. The company claims a 99.5% customer retention rate. Since Ebix generates around 80% of revenue from recurring subscriptions, this high customer retention results in predictable cash flow.

Growth opportunities exist in the U.S. and internationally. Ebix estimates that 89% of life insurance applications and 78% of annuity applications in the U.S. are still processed via paper rather than electronically. The world insurance market is significantly larger than the U.S. market, yet Ebix only receives 30% of revenue from international customers.

Second-quarter results reflected only one month of revenue from newly acquired PlanetSoft and Fintechnix. These additions should boost revenue going forward. Ebix CEO Robin Raina says that the company expects to make a few more accretive acquisitions this year with a focus on growing exchange business across the world. These could present positive catalysts for the stock.

Taking sides
In my view, Ebix should continue its upward momentum. The high intangibles ratio is somewhat concerning, but the company's other strengths are compelling.

The stock appears to be valued attractively at current levels. The forward P/E of 13.52 seems cheap considering the consensus analyst estimates of 20% annual growth over the coming years.

It wouldn't be surprising if some big players might eye Ebix as a potential acquisition target. Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC  ) is one that comes to mind. The large IT firm already competes in the property and casualty market. It also has more than $1 billion in cash and short-term investments, more than the current market cap of Ebix.

Sure, Ebix has shot up a lot in a short time. Investors probably couldn't be blamed for taking some profits off the table. If you're patient, though, this stock looks like it has more room to run.

Ebix is one of several technology companies to excel in a niche market. Learn about another great company that fits this bill in The Motley Fool's special report "The Only Stock You Need to Profit from the NEW Technology Revolution." Get your free copy now!

Fool contributor Keith Speights owns no shares in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ebix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ebix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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