Despite results that looked OK at first glance, consulting bigwig Accenture's
Accenture reported that net revenue for its second quarter climbed about 15% in U.S. dollars (10% in local currencies) and net income spiked up 70%. The latter number is somewhat deceiving, though, as ongoing reorganization charges and benefits make year-over-year comparisons a little more involved.
Looking at operating income, and stripping out those reorganization adjustments, you see growth of only 5% ($436 million vs. $415 million). Taking that adjusted operating income and comparing it with revenue gives you an operating margin of 11.4% in this year's February quarter, vs. 12.6% in last year's. And that's what has the analysts' knickers in a twist.
Profits were hurt by a decline in gross profit (about 2.2%) that was attributed to three primary factors. First, delays in a project for the National Health Service of Britain created a $24 million loss for the quarter. What's more, this contract is creating some balance-sheet issues, and management didn't seem especially confident that the matter would be resolved quickly.
The two other factors were cost overruns pertaining to "developing reusable assets" and certain inefficiencies relating to staffing. That latter point is notable; it's been going on for a little while now. Given the still somewhat uncertain state of the consulting industry, many companies have held back on hiring until they're more comfortable with the economic situation.
If you step back and take a more holistic look at Accenture, you'll certainly find things to like. Bookings seem to have stabilized, and the company appears to still be committed to achieving operating margins of 13% or better.
While competition from the likes of BearingPoint
Valuation also seems pretty reasonable for a company with exceptionally high returns on capital and an attractively large "economic moat." That is, of course, assuming that margins get back on track.
If they do, the company's diligence in repurchasing shares (both from partners and in the open market) and its more than $3 per share in cash are just two more things to like about Accenture. As such, investors who like a bit of value with their growth (or vice versa) might want to take a look for themselves.
For more on the world of (snort) business intelligence (chuckle), check out these prior instances of Foolishness:
- Accenture: Performance Delivered
- EDS: Earnings Don't Surprise
- Watson Wyatt Avoids the Spitzer Wrath
- Accenture's Balancing Act
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).