Professional services giant Accenture (ACN 0.23%) reported financial results on Dec. 19, covering the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. The company edged out Wall Street's estimates across the board, and Accenture's stock has simply continued its upward climb since this report was released.
The company's shares have gained 81% over the last three years, driven by 23% higher revenues and 30% stronger earnings per share. Alongside the first-quarter report, Accenture's management explained how the company hopes to continue these healthy business trends over the next few years.
Local focus in a global business model
On the earnings call, CEO Julie Sweet noted that Accenture's eight largest single-country markets currently account for nearly 80% of the company's total sales. Accenture posted double-digit growth in Japan, Brazil, and Singapore in the third quarter. In that collection of recent winners, only Japan sits among the company's eight-largest target markets. Accenture would love to add more billion-dollar markets beyond this solid core, and management is pulling several levers to make it happen.
"Leveraging our global network of more than 100 innovation hubs that we have built over the last few years, we can bring innovation from every corner of the world to our clients," Sweet said. "We see growth and significant differences by country while at the same time our global footprint gives us the opportunity to leverage our learnings and our talent from around the world to accelerate outcomes for our clients."
For example, the company is helping large utility companies in France and Italy adapt to the evolving low-carbon requirements in Europe with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools. Under Accenture's guidance, these utilities collect tons of operating data from connected devices in important places such as power plants, transmission hubs, and natural gas pipelines.
The incoming treasure trove of information can then be analyzed to help Accenture and its clients identify bottlenecks and problem areas that require further attention. Accenture built these projects around lessons learned in similar situations around the globe, and the Italian and French programs are sure to uncover new wrinkles and solutions that can then be applied to future contracts elsewhere.
Accenture's stock climbed 49% higher in 2019, driven by a steady beat of above-expectations earnings reports. That's no mean feat at a time when many technology giants are struggling due to the China-U.S. trade tensions, Brexit troubles, and more. This stock has been crushing the broader market from a longer-term perspective as well, delivering 135% growth in five years while the S&P 500 could only muster a 58% increase.
The stock may be priced for perfection, trading at 28.6 times trailing earnings and 31 times Accenture's free cash flows, but that's no problem as long as the company keeps delivering on that promise. Accenture is a five-star stock (out of five) in our Motley Fool CAPS system for good reason. This is a strong business led by a high-quality management team, and this first-quarter report only underscored Accenture's top-shelf status.