Jacobs Engineering Group (JEC) Q2 2012 Earnings Call May 01, 2012 11:00 am ET Executives Patricia Bruner - John W. Prosser - Principal Financial Officer, Executive Vice President of Finance & Administration and Treasurer Craig L. Martin - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director Analysts Jamie L. Cook - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division Rodney C. Clayton - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division Andy Kaplowitz - Barclays Capital, Research Division Joseph Ritchie - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division Steven Fisher - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division Michael S. Dudas - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division Andrew Obin - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division John Rogers - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division Avram Fisher - BMO Capital Markets U.S. Tahira Afzal - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division Andrew J. Wittmann - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division Robert Connors - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division Stewart Scharf - S&P Equity Research Presentation Operator
The company undertakes no obligation to release publicly any revisions or updates to any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.And now I'll turn the call over to John Prosser, CFO of Jacobs. John W. Prosser Thank you, Patty, and good morning, everyone. I will just go briefly through the financial highlights and cover a couple of points that were in the press release, and then I'll turn it over to Craig Martin, our CEO, to go through our growth strategies and business overview and outlook for the quarter. If you go to Slide 4, these are the information. Most of this was contained in the press release. As reported, we did have EPS for the quarter of $0.65 on net earnings of $83.9 million. These earnings were lower than expected and a little disappointing to us. Kind of the lower results were driven by really 3 items, 2 affecting margins, one on the G&A. The -- we had a lower field service activity for the quarter. That continues to wind down. But it was also exacerbated by the fact that we also had a number of deferrals of some turnaround activity that had been impacted in the second quarter but now have been postponed out and probably won't be initiated until fiscal 2013. Also, we found that because of the continued competitive market, that the work flowing in this quarter has a slightly lower overall multiplier rate in margin rate, and so our operating margin was down from prior quarter both on the professional services side and the field services side. And with the mix, it was also down. So those 2 things contributed to the lower-than-expected margin. And also, G&As were higher. While we usually will have a slightly higher G&A in the second quarter just because the first quarter tends to have a lot of holidays and such, we found that in -- the second quarter was driven also by just a lot of activity in hiring and delays in getting those people that we hired actually on to projects and billables. So most of the overrun in the G&As that we experienced were related to that, to labor and utilization and getting them utilized, which we think is a temporary activity. And as those people get onto jobs and such, we should be able to get our G&As more in line with expectations over the balance of the year.
Backlog was a very good reported increase year-over-year. We are up almost 8%. And quarter-over-quarter in total, we're up a little over 4%. Book-to-bill continues strong, 1.1 for the trailing 12.As you'll see when we file our Q probably later today or tomorrow, we will -- we saw the strong balance sheet. Net cash position is still strong at $380 million. And we did revise our guidance and lowered the top end of the range, so our guidance now is $2.80 to $3. We had previously had guidance out there of $2.80 to $3.20. So with the lower results for this quarter, we did adjust the top end of the range. Moving on to Slide 5, earnings history. Just point out that while we talk about long-term 15% average annual growth rate, we still are delivering that as we've gone through the recession and the downturn. And we still believe that that's a good goal and something that we expect to be able to meet going forward. On Slide 6, just talk about backlog a little bit more. The professional services backlog had very good growth. And as we've said in the past, that's really the leading indicator for our business. So as -- if you look at that year-over-year, it's almost a 14% growth in professional services, while the overall... [Audio Gap] [Technical Difficulty] Craig L. Martin We apologize for that. Isn't technology a wonder these days? I think we got cut off somewhere about the time I was starting my discussion. So I'm going to pick up there. If we've missed something when we get into the Q&A, please let us know. So I'm going to start on Slide 7 with the growth strategy. These are the same 5 points that we make every quarter because this is fundamentally our approach to the business. Nothing about it changes significantly from quarter-to-quarter. The first 4 bullets, our business model, our market diversity, our geographic diversity and our approach to acquisitions, I'm going to talk about in more depth as we go through the rest of the presentation. But I wanted to take just a minute to talk about the last bullet, driving down costs.
As you know, Jacobs has always taken the position that aggressive cost control is a good strategy for supporting growth and profitability, and we believe that continues to be the case. So we're very focused on cost control as we go forward. We've been pretty aggressive about recruitment and bringing in teams for the work that we see out in front of us. That's impacted our costs a little bit this quarter, as John mentioned. But overall, we see our cost posture as good, and the good news is, we see margins as starting to improve a little bit from a standpoint of new sales. So we think the opportunity to raise prices, particularly in the private sector, is out there as we speak. Public sector is going to remain a little more competitive, but that actually plays to our strengths. So we think the markets, from a cost perspective, will be a little bit better for us going forward.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com