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Crawford & Company (CRD-B) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

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CRD-B earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2018.

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Crawford & Company  (CRD.B 0.36%)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Feb. 26, 2019, 8:30 a.m. ET


Prepared Remarks:


Good morning. My name is Laurie, and I will be your conference facilitator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Crawford & Company Fourth Quarter 2018 Earnings Release Conference Call. In conjunction with this call, a supplementary financial presentation is available on our website at under the Investor Relations section. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer period. Instructions will follow at that time. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, this conference is being recorded today, Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

Some of the matters to be discussed in this conference call and in the supplementary financial presentation may include forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. These statements may relate to, among other things, our expected future operating results and financial condition, our ability to grow our revenues and reduce our operating expenses, expectations regarding our anticipated contributions to our underfunded defined benefit pension plans, collectability of our billed and unbilled accounts receivable, financial results from our recently completed acquisitions, our continued compliance with the financial and other covenants contained in our financing agreements, our long-term capital resource and liquidity requirements, and our ability to pay dividends in the future.

The Company's actual results achieved in future quarters could differ materially from results that may be implied by such forward-looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly release revisions to any forward-looking statements made in this conference call to reflect events or circumstances occurring after the date of the call or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. In addition, you are reminded the operating results for any historical period are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any future period.

For a complete discussion regarding factors which could affect the Company's financial performance, please refer to the Company's Form 10-K for the year ended December 31st, 2018 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, particularly the information under the headings Risk Factors and Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, as well as subsequent company filings with the SEC. This presentation also includes certain non-GAAP financial measures as defined under SEC rules. As required, a reconciliation is provided for those measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures.

I would now like to introduce Mr. Harsha Agadi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Crawford & Company. Mr. Agadi, you may begin your conference.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning and welcome to our fourth quarter and full year 2018 earnings call. Joining me today is Bruce Swain, our Chief Financial Officer. After our prepared remarks, we will open the call for your questions. I am excited to announce our results as our purposeful strategic investments designed to increase the pace of growth of the Company are demonstrated in our fourth quarter results, as we have invested in transforming our culture and vision, in our sales people to drive market share, in technology to become more efficient, and in product development to access large untapped market opportunities. We have started to deliver growth in many areas of our business, which is translating into higher gross profit as well.

For the full year 2018, we delivered revenue growth of positive 1.4% after adjusting for the GCG business disposal, FX, and accounting changes in our UK Contractor Connection business. When normalizing for severe weather from prior year hurricanes in the US and Asia-Pacific regions, 2018 organic revenue growth was 3.4%, which is confirming the acceleration from prior years. This accelerating growth trajectory, which we are now firmly on, is a direct result of our unwavering focus on growing our core businesses. We have built the foundation to position Crawford to achieve our goal of delivering 5% revenue growth and 15% earnings growth annually as we solidify our position as the leading claims outsourcing company globally. Our confidence comes from major wins with new clients and increased delivery of new services to existing clients.

Central to delivering our growth commitment has been the cultural renaissance we have engineered across our entire organization globally. We have refocused all of our employees on delivering value to our clients and communities that we serve every day across the globe. To effect this change, we have reviewed our core values and realigned our organization around our refresh corporate mission and vision, which will drive how we go to market, how we service our clients, and who we attract to come work with us.

Our mission is to restore and enhance lives, businesses, and communities. This is the epicenter of our existence. Our vision is for Crawford to be the leading provider and most trusted source for expert assistance, serving those who insure and self-insure the risks of businesses and communities anywhere in the world. We're also working to better understand our client needs and offer solutions to help them tackle the complex changes that they face.

As a result, we are investing to develop solutions while enhancing our existing solutions with a technology edge, including drone capabilities, intuitive looker interfaces, Internet of Things, virtual reality loss capture and training, RENOVO, robotic process automation, variance analytics, and our Job Track tool, just to name a few. We're not waiting for disruption. We're meeting disruption head-on and doing it in a way, which lowers our CapEx. As part of this, we have shifted our investment in technology toward transformational efforts versus maintenance spending. Additionally, we're taking our disruptive solutions and seamlessly integrating them into our client solutions to help them meet their own customers' needs more effectively. Overall, we're moving our organization to be more data-enabled, so we can focus our efforts on what matters most to our clients, which is timeliness, quality, productivity, and insight.

As you know, we reorganized the Company to Global Service Lines at the start of 2018. The objective of our reorganization is to enable our team to deliver value to our clients across all lines of business, while also improving our depth of service in the key geographies where we do business. This has been an important component of our return to growth as our sales team is enabled to deliver the full breadth of Crawford's value to our clients. Our Global Service Lines also position Crawford to be a stronger partner to our clients as technology drives the evolution of our industry.

We're also investing in new capabilities and solutions to open large market opportunities that we are uniquely positioned to exploit. Key to this is our introduction of industry verticals and integrated solutions. Our Total Construction Solution launched in the first quarter of 2018 is focused on the unique needs of the construction industry. The market acceptance has been excellent as we now have over 30 new clients. Our hospitality solution focused on the lodging and restaurant industries launched in July of 2018 and has seen steady market adoption. Additionally, we have launched our transportation solution focused on trucking in January and plan to launch solutions targeting the real estate and retail verticals in the second half of 2019.

Importantly, we have identified industries where we expect continued growth and a higher frequency of losses, which will provide a favorable market drop for our solutions. Our industry vertical solutions have increased our client engagement to create a more focused solution that addresses long-standing industry challenges. Our industry solutions provide Crawford a market-leading position as well as critical differentiation where we can demonstrate our expertise and drive distinctive business value for our customers.

Our focus is to blend our deep claims experience with disruptive technologies to deliver world-class claims service. That said, we need to be more effective educating the market on our vast portfolio of solutions. In fact, our existing clients represent a large market opportunity. To drive better penetration, we are holding client events featuring Crawford's groundbreaking, disruptive solutions that I have previously reviewed. What we are finding is that these events create a robust dialog on how we can more effectively help our clients improve their own customer satisfaction, while also lowering their claims expense. Additionally, we continue to build client followership through our steady stream of thought leadership and white papers, which are beginning to open doors to our full suite of solutions.

Another important step in our transformation this past year was the sale of Garden City Group in June. This decision was a result of our strategic plan to be more laser-focused on our core business of providing outsourced claims solutions globally, while further solidifying our position as the market leader for claims outsourcing solutions. This transaction has freed up management time and resources to invest in the higher growth segments of our business where Crawford is the market leader and we see significant white space for growth.

Beyond our strategic initiatives, our management team has been focused on improving the Company's cash generation while delivering value to shareholders through a disciplined capital allocation strategy. In 2018, we generated over $52 million in operating cash flow, which is a 28% increase over the nearly $41 million that we generated in 2017. This cash flow improvement is net of $10 million in additional contributions to our US pension plan in 2018.

We utilized this cash flow to strengthen the Company's balance sheet as we paid down over $35 million in debt in 2018 and ended the year with the lowest debt in three years. In addition, we also repurchased $10 million of our common shares through 2018 and were opportunistic in January where we repurchased a further $16 million of stock as we continue to see our shares trading at a significant discount to intrinsic value. Over the last 13 months, we have repurchased approximately 5.5% of average company shares outstanding.

Lastly, we paid $13.5 million in dividends this past year, providing yet another meaningful and predictable yield to our shareholders. As you can see, we have made strong progress positioning Crawford, not only for growth, but also for continued leadership in the claims industry.

I would now like to turn the call over to Bruce to review the financial results of the fourth quarter in more detail.

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Harsha. Companywide revenues before reimbursements in the 2018 fourth quarter were $263.8 million compared with $298.8 million in the prior year's fourth quarter. On a non-GAAP basis, 2017 revenues excluding the disposed of GCG business would have been $282.2 million, resulting in a pro forma revenue decline of 7% in the 2018 quarter.

The 2017 period included approximately $22 million in additional catastrophe revenues from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the US and Debbie and Hato in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for the decline. Normalizing for the year-over-year variance in catastrophe business, pro forma revenue growth would have been 1.5% in the 2018 quarter.

Our net income attributable to shareholders of Crawford & Company totaled $11.9 million in the 2018 fourth quarter compared to a loss of $2 million in the 2017 period. Fourth quarter 2018 diluted earnings per share were $0.22 for CRD-A and $0.20 for CRD-B compared to a loss of $0.03 for CRD-A and $0.05 for CRD-B in the 2017 period. Non-GAAP 2018 diluted earnings per share were $0.32 for CRD-A and $0.30 for CRD-B as compared to 2017 diluted earnings per share of $0.31 for CRD-A and $0.29 for CRD-B.

The Company's operating earnings totaled $32.2 million in the 2018 fourth quarter or 12.2% of revenues compared with $24.8 million or 8.8% of revenues in the prior year period. Consolidated adjusted EBITDA was $41.4 million in the 2018 fourth quarter or 15.7% of revenues compared to $35 million or 12.4% of revenues in the 2017 quarter.

Our non-GAAP results for the quarter and year have been calculated excluding the net operating results of the GCG business, which we sold in June 2018; restructuring and special charges, the loss on the disposition of GCG, goodwill and intangible asset impairment charges, and the impact of the adoption of US tax reform. During the 2018 fourth quarter, we recorded a $1.1 million impairment of an intangible asset and a $1.3 million adjustment to the loss on the disposal of the GCG business line, which was finalized in the fourth quarter. In addition, during the quarter, we completed our accounting under the 2017 US Tax Reform Act, and as a result, we recorded $3.6 million in additional tax expense primarily related to the remeasurement of certain deferred tax assets. All of these items were non-cash, and in the aggregate, totaled $0.10 per share in the 2018 fourth quarter.

I will now review the fourth quarter performance of each of our business units starting with Crawford Claims Solutions segment. Revenues from the Crawford Claims Solutions totaled $92.1 million, decreasing from the $114.5 million reported in last year's quarter. This was the result of approximately $22 million in additional catastrophe revenues in the 2017 quarter. On a constant currency basis, fourth quarter 2018 revenues were $93 million.

Operating earnings in the segment were $6 million in the 2018 fourth quarter or 6.5% of revenues compared to operating earnings of $9.7 million or 8.5% of revenues in the prior year quarter. This decline reflects the investments we have been making in our US business to drive incremental growth.

Revenues for Crawford TPA Solutions: Broadspire increased 2% to $102.2 million in the 2018 fourth quarter from $100 million in the 2017 period, largely due to the increased revenues in the US and Canada from new client agreements. 2018 revenues were not significantly impacted by foreign currency changes. Broadspire operating earnings were $12.9 million during the current quarter compared to last year's fourth quarter operating earnings of $10.6 million. The operating margin in this segment was 12.6% in the 2018 quarter and 10.6% in the 2017 quarter.

Before the sale, the GCG business line was a component of Crawford Specialty Solutions. We have included pro forma supplementary materials in the accompanying presentation that removes GCG from the 2018 and 2017 financial results to aid in comparability between the periods.

Crawford Specialty Solutions revenues were $69.5 million in the 2018 fourth quarter, down from $84.3 million in the prior year quarter. Included in 2017 segment revenues were $16.5 million from the disposed of GCG business line. In addition, the previously discussed change in customer contracts in our UK Contractor Connection business changed our accounting from a gross to a net basis and reduced revenues by $1 million during the 2018 fourth quarter. This change had no impact on operating earnings.

After adjusting for these two items, Crawford Specialty Solutions revenues would have grown 3.8% on a pro forma basis in the 2018 period. On a constant currency basis, 2018 fourth quarter revenues were $70.1 million. Operating earnings in Crawford Specialty Solutions totaled $15.3 million or 22% of revenues in the 2018 fourth quarter compared to operating earnings of $14.5 million or 17.2% of revenues in the 2017 fourth quarter.

The Company's cash and cash equivalent position at December 31, 2018 totaled $53.1 million compared to $54 million at the 2017 year-end. Our investment in unbilled and billed receivables has decreased by $43.5 million during 2018, reflecting the sale of GCG that reduced total receivables by $48.4 million.

Pension liabilities decreased by $12.7 million, reflecting cash contributions made in the US and UK during 2018, including a voluntary $10 million contribution made in the third quarter, in part to realize a one-time US tax benefit.

Our total debt dropped by $35.3 million from the 2017 year-end as the net proceeds of the GCG sale were used to repay outstanding borrowings. Our net debt at the 2018 year-end was $137.3 million, which reflects our financial strength and flexibility.

Cash provided by operations totaled $52.4 million for 2018 compared to $40.8 million provided by operations in the prior year. This increase in cash provided was net of the $10 million US pension contribution in the third quarter, and excluding this voluntary contribution, our operating cash flows would have been $62.4 million for 2018. This increased cash flow was primarily due to the collection of billed receivable balances during 2018 and other working capital improvements.

Our free cash flow was $22.4 million for 2018 and improved by $26.6 million year-over-year. This improvement was aided by a nearly $15 million decline in CapEx during 2018 in addition to our stronger operating cash flows. Looking forward, improving our free cash flow generation will continue to be one of the top priorities for the Company.

During the 2018 fourth quarter, the Company repurchased approximately 89,000 shares of CRD-A and 30,000 shares of CRD-B at an average cost of $9 and $8.99 respectively. On a full year basis during 2018, the Company has repurchased over 1.1 million shares of CRD-A and 94,000 shares of CRD-B at an average cost of $8.36 and $8.96 respectively. Subsequent to year-end, we entered into agreements to repurchase approximately 421,000 shares of CRD-A and 1.4 million shares of CRD-B at a price of $9.10 per share.

The company is providing initial guidance for 2019 as follows; consolidated revenues before reimbursements between $1.05 billion and $1.1 billion; net income attributable to shareholders of Crawford & Company between $46 million and $51 million or $0.85 to $0.95 per diluted CRD-A share and $0.78 to $0.88 per diluted CRD-B share; consolidated operating earnings between $90 million and $100 million, and consolidated adjusted EBITDA between $130 million and $140 million.

With that, I would like to turn the call back to Harsha for concluding remarks.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Bruce. 2018 was a very successful year for Crawford as we launched our Global Service Lines, implemented industry verticals and solutions, advanced our cultural renaissance across the Company and reinforced our One Crawford values, implemented cutting-edge technologies such as RENOVO, robotic process automation, drones and much more, accelerated innovation by partnering with early and growth stage start-ups, sold the Garden City Group business line, improved free cash flow and reduce debt to the lowest level in three years, and finally, celebrated 50 years as a public company with a foundation of predictability and stability. To conclude, we are starting to prove that we can grow revenues and gross profits. We must show that we can translate this growth into operating earnings growth and improved profitability.

Looking forward, we have four primary objectives for 2019. The first is growth as we must increase the velocity of revenue growth through continuous innovation as we work to deliver our goal of achieving 5% revenue growth and 15% earnings growth annually. I'm pleased to say that we're on our way as we have won several new client engagements in 2018 as well as more recently in 2019.

The second is systems readiness as we prioritize IT investments across the globe in order to position Crawford to be at the forefront of innovation and disruption. This has resulted in a forecasted reduction in maintenance CapEx.

The third is people readiness where we need to continue to attract, develop, engage, and retain the most caring and capable people who deliver the Company's mission every day. In fact, a recent internal company survey confirmed the highest level of employee engagement since I came on as CEO in 2015 as we have driven a cultural renaissance at Crawford and the journey continues.

And lastly, we need to remain fiscally responsible as we continue to focus on improving the Company's free cash flow while maintaining prudent expense management and the most conservative balance sheet in the market while maximizing our return on invested capital and providing a stellar return to shareholders, all of which will position the Company to achieve our mission of restoring and enhancing lives, businesses, and communities while delivering on our financial targets of 5% revenue and 15% earnings growth annually. 2019 will be known as a year of growth.

Thank you again for your time today. Operator, please open the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:


(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Mark Hughes of SunTrust.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Mark.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Could you talk about the growth prospects in the TPA Solutions: Broadspire? The up 2% this quarter was sort of at the lower end of the recent range. It sounds like you've won some new business, but what do you see developing there?

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think, first of all, Mark, yes, we're up positive and maybe a little less than, say, the previous run rate. We've had the same number of clients, but we've had a slightly lower volume of claims coming out of the clients. So not to be terribly concerned. The number of new clients we have signed up, they're all starting up at various times throughout this year. Some have started in January; some in February; some in March; some in April. So we expect a robust pickup on the TPA Broadspire side.

In addition, when we reorganized into GSLs, Danielle Lisenbey who runs our TPA business globally has now direct control over the UK, over Australia, over Canada, over Norway, just to name a few countries where there is now going to be more and more impact, if you will, in the workers' comp, disability, medical bill review, as well as medical management. So we see that 2.5% or 2% is OK, but I think we're going to see a bigger pickup here coming up.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Bruce, did you give a overall fourth quarter organic number, excuse me, ex the tax and the currency and the accounting change? I know that for the full year, it's 3.4%. What was it for the fourth quarter, did you say?

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. In the fourth quarter, we were at 1.5%.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Okay. The...

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We're still rolling over Irma, Harvey, Maria, and the remnants of it and we had some other activity in other parts of the world, but having said that, it's in the positive direction.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Understood. The CapEx outlook for 2019, you were down pretty meaningfully in 2018. Where do you see that shaking out this year?

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I mean, our CapEx should probably be in the $25 million to $30 million range. That's probably a decent number to think about going forward.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We've continued I think, Mark, moving only in one direction, and so I think we have gotten more efficient, and as I said on the call, in my prepared remarks, we have positioned majority of our CapEx toward innovation, disruption, and client solutions as opposed to the maintenance CapEx that was going on on some legacy systems as we're moving to common platforms more and more on a monthly, weekly basis.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Bruce, what was the CapEx for 2018? I apologize. I don't have it in front of me.

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer

The CapEx for 2018, give me one second, was right at $30 million.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Okay. So flat to down.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So that would be the high end of our range, if you will...

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer


Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer 2019.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

The share buybacks have -- pretty robust, down 5.5% in terms of share count is meaningful. As you think over the next 12 months, are you thinking that's going to be a priority -- the priority? Is there much M&A that you're looking at out in the market?

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer

It's certainly -- share buybacks is certainly something that we look at in terms of our capital deployment strategy. We're obviously going to be investing back in our business, be that through investing in the new solutions that we've developed and CapEx on the innovation front, and also looking for M&A opportunities where it makes sense. So we're always on the lookout for that and we're evaluating potential targets continually, I would say. Obviously having a meaningful yield to our shareholders is important to us and keeping our dividend yield at a healthy level is important, and then looking at share repurchases as well, particularly where we see the shares trading at a significant discount to intrinsic value, we'll look to be opportunistic there.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So I think Mark, in addition to Bruce's remarks, here is what I will say. We as a management team propose a capital plan in our final Board meeting to the Board. The Board is involved heavily in capital allocation decisions, which any Board should be and I'm part of the Board. And I would say to you when we're looking at buying shares back or investing in an M&A transaction, we look at alternatives to make sure every dollar that's going out is going to generate the highest possible return based on the choices available at that time. So the discipline on CapEx has increased as each year has gone by under my leadership. But in addition to that, I would also say that buying back shares, as Bruce said, as long as there is intrinsic value and there is a sufficient discount to what we believe is true value, we will continue to see where opportunities exist for us to pick up shares.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

And then I'll ask one sort of a big picture question. You mentioned that you need to be more effective or you need to educate your clients more so that they're aware of the variety of services that you offer. I think you're trying to roll out new services that are a little more disruptive in the marketplace. What gives you confidence that you're on the right track there, do you -- what early markers have you seen that your education initiatives are bearing fruit and that these new services, the take rate is going to be sufficient to support your growth goals?

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Right. So first of all, here is what I would say, is every one of our clients, whether it's a carrier or broker or a Fortune 500 company, is continually trying to dial down the cost of, I'll call it, loss-adjusting expense or leakage as they call it, and they're also looking for a solution that is top quality and promptly, which means accurate and fast. And for us to do that, we have, as we mentioned, a slew of new solutions using technology and leveraging technology.

We are also taking this technology and, one, testing and even partnering with our clients and with certain start-up firms to test the validity. So I'm just going to give you a couple of home-grown examples. We deployed RENOVO, our CAT adjuster deployment system in the events of Florence and Michael and it was rather successful, so successful that we're already moving on RENOVO Phase 2 to get this even better. I just came back from Dallas at our annual Crawford CAT Services Conference where RENOVO was not only displayed, but a number of adjusters, there were hundreds of adjusters, who were raving about our new technology and why they have left the other competitors to sign up and join our workforce because of the ease of doing business.

And another example would be predictive analytics that we're applying to litigated claims and we're able to settle these claims a little faster, and it's gaining a lot of appreciation and traction, if you will, with the carriers. On the TPA side, because of predictive analytics, we have increased the medical bill savings as well as workers are coming back even faster, all of this resulting in simplistically superior financial outcomes.

So what we're doing is going back to the continuum of claim from the FNOL to the total solution and mitigation of the claim. We are inserting pieces of technology, marrying it carefully with our world-class force of adjusters so that the adjusters are actually using the technology to leverage and actually process more claims in a single day and even more accurately. So there is a whole trial, testing, deployment, partnering, and doing it in a very efficient manner through all of this. And we have several of those that we spent a fair amount of time on in 2018 and it was worthwhile to invest and some of those results are already coming through in Q4, as you can see.

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Thank you.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.


Thank you. I will now return the call to Mr. Agadi for any additional or closing remarks.

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you again for the questions, Mark. I want to offer a special thank you to all adjusters of Crawford & Company around the world and all of the employees like me and others who support the adjusters in their day-to-day jobs in adjusting claims and therefore restoring and enhancing lives, businesses, and communities. God bless.


Thank you for participating in today's Crawford & Company conference call. This call will be available for replay beginning at 11:30 AM today through 11:59 PM on March 26th, 2019. The conference ID number for the replay is 5283639. The number to dial for the replay is 1-855-859-2056 or 404-537-3406. Thank you. You may now disconnect.

Duration: 40 minutes

Call participants:

Harsha V. Agadi -- President and Chief Executive Officer

W. Bruce Swain -- Chief Financial Officer

Mark Hughes -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

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