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Medpace Holdings, Inc.  (NASDAQ:MEDP)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Feb. 26, 2019, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Medpace Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session and instructions will follow at that time. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this call may be recorded.

I would now like to introduce your host for today's conference call, Kevin Brady, Medpace's Executive Director of Finance. You may begin.

Kevin M. Brady -- Executive Director of Finance

Good morning, and thank you for joining Medpace's fourth quarter 2018 conference call. Also on the call today is our President and CEO, August Troendle; and our CFO and COO of Laboratory Operations, Jesse Geiger.

Before we begin, we would like to remind you that our remarks and responses to your questions during this teleconference may include forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Security Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve inherent assumptions with known and unknown risks and other important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations, including the impact of the changes to the revenue recognition standards. These factors are discussed in the Risk Factors section of our Form 10-K and other filings with the SEC.

Please note that we assume no obligation to update forward-looking statements in the future even if estimates change. Accordingly, you should not rely on any of today's forward-looking statements is representing our view as of any date after today.

During this call, we will also be referring to certain non-GAAP financial measures. These non-GAAP measures are not superior to, or a replacement for the comparable GAAP measures. But we believe these measures help investors gain a more complete understanding of results. A reconciliation of such non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures is available in the earnings press release and earnings call presentation slides provided in connection with today's call. The slides are available on the Investor Relations section of our website at investor.medpace.com.

With that, I would now like to turn the call over to August Troendle for opening remarks.

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good day, everyone. I have two topics to comment on before Jesse reviews the fourth quarter and full year 2018 results. Number one, business environment. We saw a significant softening in both RFP flow and overall business environment in the fourth quarter. I believe this is stabilizing in Q1, and we anticipate continued growth in revenue, although at a slower pace than experienced in 2018. Our cancellation rate in Q4 was roughly twice the run rate of the first three quarters of 2018.

Number two, margin. We did not experience the margin contraction we forecast last year, due to a rapid rate of revenue growth. However, we are confident our margin will contract in 2019. This should be apparent starting in Q1. Given our past commentary, the margin expectations built in the consensus projections are irrationally high. Jesse will now review our financial performance for 2018 and our 2019 guidance.

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

Thank you, August. And good morning to everyone listening in. Today, we are presenting the fourth quarter and full year on both the ASC 606 and ASC 605 basis. This will be the last quarter we present this way before fully transitioning to ASC 606 only in the first quarter of 2019.

Net new business awards entering backlog in the fourth quarter under ASC 606 were $231.2 million, resulting in a 1.2 net book-to-bill. On an ASC 605 basis, net new business awards were $146.7 million, representing a net book-to-bill of 1.15. For the full year 2018, net new business awards were $899.4 million. On an ASC 605 basis, full year net new business awards were $581 million representing an increase of 36.4%.

Pending backlog ASC 606 was $1.1 billion, under ASC 605 backlog increased 19.4% over 2017 to $626.1 million. Revenue under ASC 606 was $192.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $704.6 million in the full year 2018. Net service revenue under ASC 605 was $127.9 million, which represents year-over-year growth of 28.6% on a reported basis or 29.1% on a constant currency organic basis. Full year 2018 net service revenue was $478.1 million, which represents a 23.7% increase from 2017 or 23.4% on a constant currency organic basis.

Adjusted EBITDA was $39.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2018, and $137.8 million for the full year. Under ASC 605, adjusted EBITDA was $38.6 million, which increased 43%, compared to $27 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. Full year ASC 605 adjusted EBITDA increased 37% to $148 million, compared to $108 million in 2017. On a constant currency basis under ASC 605, fourth quarter and full year adjusted EBITDA increased 38% and 36.2% respectively, compared to the prior year. Adjusted EBITDA margin was 20.7% for the fourth quarter of 2018 and 19.6% for the full year. Adjusted EBITDA margin for the quarter under ASC 605 increased 300 basis points to 30.2% versus 27.2% in the prior year period.

For the full year 2018, adjusted EBITDA margin also increased 300 basis points to 31% from 28% in 2017. These increases were primarily attributable to higher revenue, partially offset by higher employee-related costs. We increased employee headcount 19.1% to 2,909 employees at the end of the year. And we will continue to hire across the Company throughout 2019.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, GAAP net income was $22.8 million under ASC 606 and $22.5 million under ASC 605, which compares to GAAP net income of $11.3 million in the prior year period. For the full year 2018 GAAP net income was $73.2 million and under ASC 605, GAAP net income was $81.6 million, compared to $39.1 million in 2017.

Adjusted net income under ASC 606 was $28.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $95.5 million for the full year. Under ASC 605, adjusted net income of $27.8 million in the fourth quarter increased 88.2%, compared to $14.8 million in the prior year. Full year 2018, adjusted net income of $103.8 million increased 71.7%, compared to $60.5 million in 2017. Adjusted net income growth was primarily driven by revenue growth, partially offset by higher employee-related costs.

Under ASC 606 GAAP net income per diluted share was $0.61 and adjusted net income per diluted share was $0.76 for the fourth quarter of 2018. For the full year 2018, GAAP net income per diluted share was $1.97, and adjusted net income per diluted share was $2.59. Under ASC 605, GAAP net income per diluted share for the quarter was $0.60, compared to $0.30 in the prior year period. For the full year 2018, GAAP net income per diluted share was $2.20, compared to GAAP net income per diluted share of $0.98 in 2017.

Fourth quarter 2018 adjusted net income per diluted share of $0.75, grew 92.3% versus fourth quarter 2017 adjusted net income per diluted share of $0.39. For the full year of 2018, adjusted net income per diluted share was $2.81, compared to $1.52 per diluted share in 2017.

We remain focused on serving small and mid-sized biopharma customers, it represent a large portion of our total business and a segment of the market where we see continued opportunities for growth. Regarding customer concentration, we will maintain a well diversified mix with our top five and top 10 customers representing roughly 22% and 33% respectively of our total revenue for the year.

Turning now to our leverage and liquidity positions, as well as free cash flow conversion. In the fourth quarter, we generated $39.4 million of cash flow from operating activities and our net days sales outstanding on an ASC 605 basis increased, compared to the third quarter from a negative 3.7 days to negative 0.9 days. Our net debt position at year end was $57.2 million composed of gross debt of $80.4 million and cash of $23.3 million. Our net leverage ratio is approximately 0.4 times 2018 adjusted EBITDA.

Moving now to our newly established 2019 guidance. The guidance we are presenting today is based on ASC 606 and using the exchange rates as of December 31st 2018. We are forecasting total revenue in the range of $783 million to $807 million for the full year 2019, representing growth of 11.1% to 14.5% over 2018 total revenue of $704.6 million.

Following 2018, where we grew headcount organically by 19.1%, we plan to continue to make investments in people and grow headcount rapidly to position the company for future growth. Our 2019 adjusted EBITDA is expected in the range of $137 million to $145 million, compared to adjusted EBITDA of $137.8 million in 2018. We anticipate our 2019 effective tax rate to be in the range of 22% to 24%. We have assumed $37.6 million fully diluted shares for 2019 guidance and no stock repurchases in our guidance.

We forecast 2019 GAAP net income in the range of $85.2 million to $89.2 million and GAAP earnings per diluted share in the range of $2.27 to $2.38. On an adjusted basis, we forecast 2019 adjusted net income in the range of $97 million to $101 million, and adjusted EPS in the range of $2.58 to $2.69.

With that, I will turn the call back over to the operator, so we can take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) And our first question comes from John Kreger with William Blair. Your line is now open.

John Kreger -- William Blair -- Analyst

Hey. Thanks very much. Well, I guess you certainly gave us -- got our attention at the beginning of the call. Could you maybe just elaborate on your sort of macro demand commentary. So it sounds like you saw a slowing in Q4, but a bit of normalization in the first quarter? Can you just -- based upon your experience in the industry, does this feel like to sort of normal volatility around year-end or do you think there's something else driving it?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I don't know, I think there is volatility. I don't know that that's a year-end phenomenon, I think that Q4 was a little bit of volatility for whatever reason, and we certainly had a elevated in conjunction with slowing in RFP flow, we saw a number of cancellations. We talked about, one on the last call that already happened in the quarter and we had a number of cancellations that drove a substantially higher overall cancellation rate, a number of them do their reprioritizations and changes in market expectations. So I don't know, I don't write it off as a end of year cyclical thing. But I do think that there was some chop in fourth quarter.

John Kreger -- William Blair -- Analyst

Okay, thanks. And then, can -- given your margin commentary, can you just remind us what your philosophy is in terms of balancing, you know, managing growth versus maintaining? What you do as a -- as an appropriate return business?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think we've many times said that we don't target a specific margin, but we have repeatedly said that our margin was running too high in 2018. In fact, we had, I think projected a mid '20s margin rate on a 605 basis, that did come up some -- during the year and we were talking about a go-forward expectation of the margin moving to the upper '20s, mid to upper '20s. So I don't think the margin put into our guidance here should be a surprise at all. I think it's absolutely consistent with what we've been saying quarter-after-quarter. And we did need to increase our headcount to enable significant double-digit growth going forward. And I think we are catching up on that. I think we're in pretty good shape now and continue to hire. So I don't put a specific dollar number on it, and it really depends upon lot of factors in terms of how fast we are growing in the business environment, but we certainly would favor ability to grow faster over a higher margin.

John Kreger -- William Blair -- Analyst

Understood. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our following question comes from David Windley with Jefferies. Your line is now open.

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Hi, August and Jesse, thanks for taking the questions. So the follow-up there on John's question on your macro demand commentary, August the -- I guess it sounds, maybe like the chop in fourth quarter was perhaps more driven by reprioritization then it was lack of funding, but I'd be curious for you to confirm that?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, it's always hard to separate those two. But yes, the projects that were canceled did not run out of funding, there was not a payment issue and we've not seen the slowing of movement into backlog and progression of steady starting. So I would say overall funding environment is much better than we saw a year or so back when we saw a slowing of things, we got a couple of years ago. But certainly, I think that funding environment is always a factor in decisions around many of our clients prioritizations.

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

And is -- so to maybe appreciate the answers and maybe reposition that question a little bit, I would have thought that the volatility in raising funds that the market has seen in the fourth quarter and in January, would have had a lag before you would begin to feel that, and so your answer kind of is consistent with that. As we sit at the end of February, you said that things have improved, but the funding environment really hasn't, at least not yet. Is funding beginning to creep into potential booking discussions?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Like it's always there, and I said things have -- I think stabilized, I didn't say snapped back.

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Okay.

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

So I don't -- we don't see as much chop as we saw in the fourth quarter, I think things are -- so yes, I guess, putting it together with, you're saying the funding hasn't accelerated, well we haven't seen a particular acceleration either, but I -- how much of fourth quarter was a one-off and how much is continuing sort of thing, I think take some time to sort out.

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Okay and as you think about -- I guess, thinking about backlog policy, the bookings that you would have included in your fourth quarter book-to-bill, I would think would have been, kind of, solidly in your funnel in the third quarter, a lot of it. And so the slowdown in RFP activity in the fourth quarter would probably be, kind of, producing the results that we should expect in book-to-bill in the first quarter. So am I right there? And could you give us some parameters around how we should expect book-to-bill to start-off the year?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

The environment is still such that we should be out to make our kind of target, one point I think under 606 by 1.2 book-to-bill, barring substantial increase in cancellations. Now, we saw that and when I talked on the last call, I said, I thought we would replace everything, despite having an accelerated cancellations, we actually had a number of additional cancellations and the environment did softened a little bit in terms of things progressing into backlog.

So bookings came at little bit lower in Q4 than I would have expected, Q1 I don't know, but softening RFP flow does have quite a bit of delay, and I would say, it's something that affects things one to two to three quarters out. So it is quite a ways out and things kind of moved through the funnel and can be held up at any time due to funding, it'll be held out.

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Okay.

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

You got a definite go and we're waiting for it, we're moving toward the start date and then, hey, let's put that on hold, because we've got some financial or prioritization changes.

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Great, thank you for that. I'll leave the floor.

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, David.

Operator

Thank you. Our following question comes from Donald Hooker with KeyBanc. Your line is now open.

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

Great. So, just one last question on this topic, you all feel like their win rates are pretty stable. So kind of just slowing and stabilization and all these sort of market movement you're talking about. It is probably something that's being seen broadly by your peers?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I don't know seen broadly by our peers, I think we have a different segment that we sell into than our peers. I think it's very different even when they talk about their biotech part of their business. It could be a different area of biotech. We tend to have quite a bit of concentration in pre-fund, pre-revenue biotech. So I think it's such a different and it's maybe such a small -- where we are such a small part of most of the others. It's difficult for that to maybe show up at all in their kind of numbers. So it's hard to know whether they're seeing the same thing or not, but I would think that some of that dynamics, certainly in their smaller biotech clients would be seen. Yes, I don't think it's unique for us.

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

And on win rate -- in the fourth quarter it was consistent with the year and with our longer term?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think our win rates been fine, it does bounce around quite a bit, but I think it's been relatively stable, yes.

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then maybe I'm not sure if will, Jesse, if you're willing to sort of help us a little bit with the margin dynamics in 2018. I think when we think about gross margins kind of what is the sort of our implied gross margin in your sort of guidance for EBITDA?

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

Yes, sure. Don, so we've got about, yes, I think about our gross margin in the 28% to 29% range, that's inclusive of both the internal direct cost and the out-of-pocket expenses.

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Out of 605.

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

That are running on a 606 -- on a 606 basis, and then about 11 or so percent SG&A, can get you down to that 17% or 18% adjusted EBITDA margin on a 606 basis, at the midpoint of guidance.

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

Got you, and seems like you had a strong year in 2018 at project. So you're hiring a catch-up to that, and I guess maybe conceptually as we go beyond 2018, maybe be, is it fair to think maybe you're caught up there and we maybe see some sort of real (ph) scale on gross margins and SG&A beyond that or is it -- is just sort of just kind of a one-off investment year or how do we think about kind of the longer-term vision around margin progression?

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I think we've messaged that longer-term, we expect our margin to be at a lower rate than it has been in 2018. And so I think it's more of a -- the normal than the unusual, going forward we expect lower margin.

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

Okay, great. Last question for me sort of obviously nice improvements on the balance sheet in recent quarters, it looks like you're going to be totally out of debt. I guess in the next few quarters, if you keep paying down debt is the play book going to be paid down debt all the way down and then start repurchasing shares or how does the use of cash proceed going forward?

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

Yes. So, we'll -- you're right, we'll continue to pay down debt. As a priority, we should be out of the facility this year in 2019, if cash flows continue, we are investing organically in the business and that's reflected in the margin guidance. Beyond debt paydowns, we do have the $50 million share buyback authorization from our Board, how and when we execute against that will depend on a number of factors and market conditions. If you look at our short, but history on share repurchases we will be opportunistic at some point there as opposed to being more systematic on a quarterly basis.

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our following question comes from Jason Twizell with MFG (ph). Your line is now open.

Jason Twizell -- MUFG Securities -- Analyst

Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone. Just quickly, you've talked about the cancellation rate accelerating, is there going to be some challenges around staffing utilization in the first quarter and resulting in kind of a different seasonality in earnings -- earnings ramp that we've seen in prior years. Is it going to be more second half related?

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

I mean, the cancellations will impact short-term revenue. Our utilization has been higher than we've wanted it to be. So that does create some opportunity to add a little bit of a -- little bit of question there, but as far as the quarterly phasing of its impact and we're really just commenting on the full-year period and how the business evolves throughout the quarters will really be a function of how successful we are in the rate of hiring, that we're trying to achieve through the year versus how the revenue performs. It's really all the commentary will give on a quarterly basis.

Jason Twizell -- MUFG Securities -- Analyst

Okay, thanks. And then just quickly on the outlook for therapeutic mix changes in 2019, you're still seeing -- expecting growth in the oncologies. (inaudible) expect there to be other therapeutics that are going to be increasing in the mix?

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

Yeah. Oncology remains very strong for us. But also we're seeing good opportunities across the different therapeutic areas. So shouldn't see any large swings in exchange.

Jason Twizell -- MUFG Securities -- Analyst

Okay. Alright, thank you.

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

Thanks, Jason.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) And our next question comes from Sandy Draper with SunTrust. Your line is open.

Sandy Draper -- SunTrust -- Analyst

Hey, guys, thanks very much. Maybe just a follow-up to -- figures to Don's question around the spending, I'm just trying to get a sense of the level spending. How much of this is sort of people CRAs in order to support the business or are there discrete sort of IT or infrastructure investments that you're making for the long-term growth or is it really just you need more bodies in order to support the trial growth? Thanks.

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

It's primarily people, people and support costs related to people.

Sandy Draper -- SunTrust -- Analyst

Okay. And then turning, Jesse, as you pointed out, you've hired a bunch last year, but you are still maybe a little bit behind and it is continuing to add bodies to support the growth?

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

That's right. Yes.

Sandy Draper -- SunTrust -- Analyst

Okay. That's my follow-up. Thanks.

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

Thanks, Sandy.

Operator

Thank you. And I'm not showing any further questions at this time, I would now like to turn the call back to August Troendle for any closing remarks.

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Alright, thank you everyone for participating in this call on Medpace's 2018 results and look forward to speaking to everyone after Q1 closes in a few months. Thanks everyone.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for participating in today's conference. This does concludes the program and you may all disconnect. Everyone have a great day.

Duration: 29 minutes

Call participants:

Kevin M. Brady -- Executive Director of Finance

August James Troendle -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Jesse J. Geiger -- Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Laboratory Operations

John Kreger -- William Blair -- Analyst

David Windley -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Donald Hooker -- KeyBanc -- Analyst

Jason Twizell -- MUFG Securities -- Analyst

Sandy Draper -- SunTrust -- Analyst

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