The bull market of the past 10 years has been a huge boost to Wall Street, and the companies that help the financial industry thrive have themselves enjoyed strong performance. FactSet Research Systems (FDS 0.31%) now plays a key role in providing key financial information for brokers and other investment professionals. With no sign of any slowdown in the market's upward track so far, FactSet has been able to sustain impressive performance over the long run.
Coming into Tuesday's fiscal fourth-quarter financial report, FactSet shareholders were hoping that the company would keep on producing the solid growth that it's been giving them for a long time. FactSet's results were consistent with what we've seen in the past, but the stock's drop makes it clear that not everyone is convinced that the good times can last forever.
How FactSet fared
FactSet's fiscal fourth-quarter results looked familiar to those who've kept their eyes on the company for a while now. Sales came in at $345.9 million, up about 6% from year-ago levels and roughly matching what investors had hoped to see from the financial information provider. Adjusted net income was up 14% to $85.5 million, and that produced adjusted earnings of $2.20 per share. That figure missed the consensus forecast among those following the stock by $0.01 per share.
FactSet kept making progress at roughly the same pace it has in the recent past. Organic revenue was higher by about 5%, slowing only very slightly from recent quarters, and FactSet once again said that research and analytics products led the increases, along with strength in wealth management and content and technology solutions. Annual subscription value rose to $1.39 billion, with the company posting its largest quarterly organic annual subscription growth figure in its history.
Recent trends in FactSet's business generally continued apace. The sell side of the company's research business saw slightly faster growth in annual subscription value, coming in at 7.3%, compared to a 5.4% rise on the buy side. Annual subscription value from domestic operations was higher by 5.3%, but international operations played a slightly larger role in promoting expansion, with a 6.7% increase from year-earlier levels. That disparity has narrowed recently, but it's still wide enough to show that globalization is an important contributor to FactSet's overall growth.
FactSet kept bringing in new clients. The company now serves 5,142 users, up 167 in just the past three months. User counts jumped by nearly 2,400 to almost 91,900, and retention rates came in at 91% on a count basis and more than 95% on a value basis.
CEO Phil Snow said he was pleased with how FactSet's business has done: "We are proud to have reached many milestones in fiscal 2018. We celebrated 40 years as a company, with 38 years of consecutive revenue growth and 22 years of consecutive adjusted EPS growth." The CEO was particularly happy at record subscription-value growth during the quarter.
Can FactSet stave off the next market pullback?
FactSet thinks that the future remains bright. As Snow put it, "We enter fiscal 2019 with strong momentum and an expanding suite of innovative workflow solutions to drive our growth plans."
The company's guidance for fiscal 2019 reflects that optimism. FactSet believes it should see revenue of between $1.41 billion and $1.45 billion, with gains between $75 million and $90 million in organic annual subscription value and professional services revenue. EPS should come in between $9.45 and $9.65 on an adjusted basis, representing roughly 12% growth from final figures for fiscal 2018. Yet those numbers weren't quite as strong as most investors had hoped to see, and that seemed to awaken renewed concerns about whether FactSet will be able to sustain its success if something negative happens with the financial markets.
FactSet shareholders appeared to respond by moderating their future expectations, and the stock was down almost 4% at midday on Tuesday following the report. Until a downturn in the financial industry actually happens, though, it'll be hard for long-term investors to assess exactly what the impact on FactSet could be.