Last week, Dun & Bradstreet CEO Robert Carrigan resigned as CEO, board member, and Chairman. In his absence, Thomas Manning has been appointed Chairman and interim CEO. Manning has been a board member since 2013 and Lead Director since 2016. He previously served as the CEO of Cerberus Asia Operations & Advisory Limited, CEO of Capgemini Asia, and CEO of Ernst & Young Consulting Asia. He was also a senior partner with corporate strategy firm Bain & Company where he led the global IT practice in Silicon Valley and Asia.
No reason was given for Carrigan’s departure beyond that it was a mutual decision.
“Over the last four years we have made progress transforming this company. We’ve improved our data and analytics, developed solutions and capabilities to serve new customer use cases, and modernized our products and platforms. The Board is confident in the strategic direction of the Company, and fully believes that this business can deliver sustainable mid-single digit revenue growth and expanding margins. Our number one priority is accelerating value creation for shareholders.”
- Dun & Bradstreet Chairman and interim CEO Thomas Manning
However, the company is not growing revenue and profits quickly enough. To address the slow growth, the firm engaged McKinsey & Company two months ago in a strategic and operational review “to help us find ways to speed up the time to realize value,” said Manning. “The first phase of their work validated our strategy and identified barriers to growth and cost opportunities. The next phase of their work will include a full portfolio and business assessment and we are open to considering all options for value creation that may be identified.”
McKinsey validated the basic DaaS strategy around premium company, contact, and risk data. McKinsey’s primary concern was the “breadth of our offerings and distribution channels” which increased the level of operational complexity. The updated strategy will look to “simplify and streamline the business.”
Dun & Bradstreet is also looking to “apply more specialization to our selling activities as we go deeper into the sales and marketing space,” said Manning. “As we expand our sales and marketing value proposition from being primarily a static data supplier to becoming a dynamic player in the digital sales, marketing and advertising space, we are working to make sure that our organization, go-to-market strategy and processes are aligned with that goal.”
The firm hired David Godfrey, who previously ran Global Sales at Gartner, to oversee go-to-market strategy and execution. He will be reporting into Manning.
James Fernandez, new Lead Director of the Board, said, “As Dun & Bradstreet continues its work to drive sustainable growth, the Board believes now is the right time to transition the Company’s leadership. We are pleased to have a leader of Tom’s caliber and experience to step in as interim CEO. The Board will continue to support the Company, and lend our expertise to the organization and Tom during this transition period as we conduct our search for a permanent successor.”
Q4 earnings increased 3%, but only 1% organically, to $527 million. Total revenue hit $1.75 billion in 2017 with 83% in the Americas. The firm maintained expense discipline resulting in a ten-basis point improvement in margins while investing $40 million on initiatives which “transform our technology platforms in order to meet our customers’ modern-day needs,” said CFO Richard Veldran. “Modernizing delivery of our solutions is a critical component of our strategy.”
Data-as-a-service delivery continues to increase. Nearly 30% of Americas revenue came via as-a-service solutions “which makes our data stickier and more useful for our customers and drives higher-value revenue.”
Amongst the 2017 initiatives were upgrades to D&B Credit and new D&B Optimizer solutions for Salesforce and Microsoft.
Deferred revenue was up 3% year over year before M&A activity and currency adjustments. Growth was attributed to D&B Credit, D&B Hoovers Q4, and the D&B Direct API. President and COO Josh Peirez noted that the D&B Credit Suite revenues were no longer declining and that the company is well-positioned in D&B Credit, D&B Hoovers, and D&B Direct.
“We think we’re well-positioned to address the competitive challenges. We’re also pleased that McKinsey has validated that opportunity and that strategy and helping us to make sure that we are packaging and bundling these things properly.”
- Dun & Bradstreet President & COO Josh Peirez
Taxes, which were 31.4% in 2017, are expected to drop to the mid-20s due to the US corporate tax reforms. The reforms will also allow the firm to repatriate $265 million to reduce debt levels.
No guidance was provided as the firm is beginning their operational review. Veldran promised more details on the Q1 call.
Dun & Bradstreet raised its quarterly dividend by two cents to $0.5225 per share.
The market reacted very positively to the announcements, driving Dun & Bradstreet’s stock price up nearly 8% after the earnings call.
Sales & Marketing Solutions (S&MS) rose 4% in the Americas to $240.1 million in Q4. Growth was led by Sales Acceleration products which rose 9% to $84.3 million. For the full year, Sales Acceleration grew 10% to $288.4 million in the Americas with the Avention acquisition contributing twelve points of growth. Legacy Hoover’s drove down organic Sales Acceleration revenue with traditional Hoovers revenue declining by mid-single digits.
Revenue for the new D&B Hoovers service (Dun & Bradstreet content delivered through the Avention platform) increased in 2017. However, the decline in revenue from the Data.com partnership will result in a decline in 2018 Sales Acceleration revenue. Data.com generated around $50 million in revenue in 2017 with the firm continuing to sell through August 2017, resulting in a flat year. Veldran projects a $15 million decline in Data.com revenue. Dun & Bradstreet is looking to recapture some of that decline as new D&B Hoovers and D&B Optimizer for Salesforce contracts.
Peirez is quite pleased with the trajectory of the D&B Hoovers business. “We think our products are far better than anything else in market. We continue to see the overwhelming majority of customers that are buying our D&B Hoovers product buying the higher level of the product with the integrations to CRM, so that’s extremely encouraging for us.”
The firm is also moving to migrate its Hoover’s customer base over to D&B Hoovers. In Q4, more than ten percent of the legacy base moved to the new platform as Dun & Bradstreet “started to move very aggressively in getting the customers upgraded,” said Peirez. While the D&B Hoovers Suite grew low-single digits in its first year, Peirez expects growth to accelerate in year two. The company has told users that the legacy platform will be phased out at the end of the year.
Advanced Marketing Solutions grew 2% in Q4 to $155.8 million in the Americas. For the full year, growth was 2% to $383.9 million. While revenue was up mid-single digits in H2, the product line was weighed down by H1 weakness.
Outside the Americas, S&MS grew 17% to $16.9 million in Q4. For the year, S&MS non-Americas revenue rose 18% to $60.4 million. Growth was driven by Sales Acceleration products, including the acquired Avention product line. Sales Acceleration products jumped up 24% to $7.5 million in the quarter and 39% to $27.7 million for the year.
The D&B Hoovers Suite rose 26% to $42.6 million in the Americas in Q4 and 22% to $166.5 million. Outside of the Americas, D&B Hoovers Suite rose from $0.6 million to $5.3 million in Q4 and $3.1 million to $16 million. While the classic Hoover’s product line had little overseas sales, the new D&B Hoovers product line, built on the Avention platform, benefited from a longstanding presence in the UK, Singapore, Australia, and India.