Now that tax season is well behind us, and the agony of filling out all those tedious IRS forms is over, we can freely discuss tax preparation without having to worry about anyone throwing a temper tantrum. While the majority of Americans dread doing their taxes, Intuit
The latest results are in
Last quarter's results included a 13% increase in revenue and a 21% increase in earnings over the prior-year period. That's not too shabby, when you also consider that the financial software producer was able to eke out revenue growth in 2008 and 2009, despite the economic turmoil during those years. The quarterly results do benefit from seasonality -- after all, most accountants and individuals will need updated tax software before the IRS's mid April deadline. Still, there's a lot to like about this firm, despite its relationship to the dreaded tax return form.
Strong as a bull, at least financially
Intuit is in a strong financial position, as evidenced by its diversified revenue stream and solid balance sheet. TurboTax accounted for 31% of 2009 revenue. Other products include accounting software for small businesses, accounting firms, and banks ... an assorted sampler of tasty profit sources. Although Intuit carries nearly $1 billion worth of long-term debt on its balance sheet, it has enough cash and investments to pay off this debt on short notice. Also, Intuit's operating income more than covers interest payments on the long-term debt it holds, which is always a good thing.
While its profitability may fluctuate from quarter to quarter because of to seasonality, Intuit typically posts strong full-year profit margins. That's not easy in a competitive industry, against rivals such as H&R Block
Did you say "shopping spree?"
The old saying "you can never have enough money" may well be true. But in some cases, too much money can get a company into trouble, if management doesn't put it to good use. Instead of reinvesting in its own operations, paying off debt, or returning cash to shareholders through a dividend payment or stock repurchase, Intuit has chosen to become a serial acquirer, making five acquisitions in the last three years alone.
While there's always the hope that they'll create value, acquisitions more often seem to cause trouble. Intuit's ability to identify profitable takeover targets will ultimately determine whether its splurge is worthwhile for shareholders.
The latest acquisition includes privately owned online patient health-care solutions provider Medfusion. Health-care solutions are more of the realm of firms like UnitedHealth Group
This doesn't automatically doom the latest purchase, but at first glance, Medfusion does seem unrelated to its core business. Sure, further diversification of revenue is nice, but that could come back to haunt the company, if management later figures out it isn't able to compete in the health-care business. Keep in mind that this may not be Intuit's first dance on the acquisition floor -- but it will be its first foray into health care. Beware of trod-upon toes.
With strong revenue growth, high profitability, and a solid balance sheet, Intuit does sound like an investment that will involve a future capital gains payment to the IRS. However, the forecast becomes cloudier given its reliance on acquisitions to increase shareholder value, instead of dividend payments or stock buybacks. Though Intuit's acquisition binge may pay off in the long run, for now, investors should wait to see what the latest trip to the mall turns up.
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Fool contributor Gerard Torres does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. UnitedHealth Group is a Fool holding, a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool disclosure policy has a 240 MHz refresh rate.