Tucows (TCX 0.97%), which operates domain-registration, mobile-service, and high-speed fiber internet businesses, is set to report first-quarter earnings on May 9. And with the company's stock currently up about 160% in the past 12 months, expectations are running high. Here are three areas I'll be watching closely to see if the company can keep its growth party going.
How the integration of eNom is progressing
This will be the first quarter Tucows will report since it agreed to acquire fellow domain-registration provider eNom for $83.5 million in January. The acquisition of eNom doubled Tucows' number of domains under management to 29 million, making it the world's second largest domain registry, behind GoDaddy.
While eNom was generating roughly $15 million in annualized EBITDA, Tucows says it should be able to grow that to $20 million by the end of 2018 by streamlining the combined operations.
As domain services is already Tucows largest segment -- contributing 61% of total revenue -- adding eNom to the fold will provide a significant boost to the top line. Analysts are expecting Tucows' revenue to rise around 85% in the first quarter, with an average estimate of $84.3 million.
What to watch for: any signs of hiccups with the eNom integration that could throw off Tucows' efforts to meet its EBITDA growth target. Also, with the stock trading at record highs, missing revenue estimates could have an out-sized effect on the stock.
Growth of Ting Mobile and Ting Internet
Tucows' capital allocation strategy is to use the robust cash flow generated from its large domain business to fund its smaller but much faster-growing mobile and high-speed internet ventures.
Contributing around 37% of Tucows' overall revenue, Ting Mobile offers discount phone service without a contract. Over the past two years, Ting Mobile has grown its subscribers by 60% from 94,000 to 151,000, with 4,000 of those accounts added in the fourth quarter. The company cites the brisk growth of Ting Mobile as being primarily responsible for its 43% increase in adjusted EBITDA in 2016.
What to look for: continued strong subscriber growth, plus any updates on how the company's marketing and advertising efforts are performing. Also, keep an eye on the company's churn rate, which was 2.5% in the fourth quarter. With part of Ting's appeal being its top-rated customer service, any uptick in that number could indicate that the competition is beginning to catch up.
Ting Internet, which provides high-speed fiber internet access to a handful of small communities, was only launched in 2015, so it's the tiniest piece of Tucows' overall revenue -- only around 2%. But longer-term, its potential is enormous. Ting Internet is currently operating in just three towns but will be adding service to Centennial, Colo., and Sandpoint, Idaho, in 2017. These first five towns will ultimately provide Tucows with 85,000 serviceable addresses, and the company expects 50% uptake within five years of launching in any given community.
What to look for: how the buildout of the network is coming along in various cities, and any update on the total number of serviceable addresses. Most importantly, the company is expected to announce expansion to additional communities sometime this year.
More rapid EBITDA growth ahead
The company's only formal 2017 guidance was for adjusted EBITDA of $50 million, which would reflect around 66% growth over last year. Tucows says this target is based on the integration of eNom, continued strong growth in Ting Mobile, and small organic growth in the domain business.
What to look for: If you're only going to provide guidance for one number, you probably ought to hit it. While it's only one quarter's results, listen for any hints on whether the company is on track to meet its 2017 goal.
Tucows has been on an amazing run as of late. As for any company growing through acquisitions, the results here will probably be lumpy from quarter to quarter. But Tucows' long-term strategy of using the steady cash flows from its domain segment to fund growth in its Ting businesses and large share buybacks appears to be a recipe for continued market-beating returns.