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MSCI (MSCI) Up 0.9% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?

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A month has gone by since the last earnings report for MSCI (MSCI). Shares have added about 0.9% in that time frame, underperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent positive trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is MSCI due for a pullback? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at the most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important drivers.

MSCI Q3 Earnings and Revenues Beat Estimates

MSCI’s third-quarter 2021 adjusted earnings of $2.53 per share beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 5.9% and increased 15% from the year-ago quarter.

Operating revenues improved 21.6% year over year to $517.1 million and beat the consensus mark by 2.4%. This year-over-year growth was driven by 14.2% and 41.2% rise in recurring subscriptions (69.2% of revenues) and asset-based fees (27.4% of revenues), respectively.

Non-recurring revenues (3.4% of revenues) increased 50.5% year over year to $17.7 million.

At the end of the quarter, average assets under management were $1.36 trillion in ETFs linked to MSCI indexes. Total retention rate was 94.5% in the quarter under review.

Quarter Details

In the third quarter, Index operating revenues improved 25.7% year over year to $321.6 million, primarily driven by growth in recurring subscriptions (12.9%) and asset-based fees (41.2%).

Analytics operating revenues improved 6.2% year over year to $136.3 million. While recurring subscription revenues increased 6.4%, non-recurring revenues declined 5.2%.

ESG and Climate segment’s operating revenues increased 53% from the year-ago quarter to $43.7 million, primarily driven by strong growth from Ratings products, including Climate products.

All Other revenues, which primarily comprise of the Real Estate operating segment, were $15.6 million, up 22.4% year over year.

Adjusted EBITDA increased 22.9% year over year to $306.6 million in the reported quarter. Moreover, adjusted EBITDA margin expanded 70 basis points (bps) on a year-over-year basis to 59.3%.

Total operating expenses increased 19.8% on a year-over-year basis to $236.9 million. Adjusted EBITDA expenses were $210.5 million, up 19.7%, primarily reflecting higher compensation and benefits costs.

Operating income improved 23.1% from the year-ago quarter to $280.2 million. However, operating margin expanded 70 bps to 54.2%.

Balance Sheet & Cash Flow

Total cash and cash equivalents, as of Sep 30, 2021, were $1.3 billion compared with $2 billion as of Jun 30, 2021.

Total debt was $4.2 billion as of Sep 30. Total-debt-to-adjusted-EBITDA ratio (based on trailing twelve-month-adjusted EBITDA) was 3.7 times, higher than management’s target range of 3-3.5 times.

Net cash provided by operating activities was $215.9 million in the third quarter, up 8.1% year over year. Free cash flow was $201.1 million, up 6.9% year over year.

Notably, $1.6 billion is outstanding under MSCI’s share-repurchase authorization as of Oct 22, 2021. The company paid out dividends worth $85.8 million in the third quarter.

Guidance

For 2021, MSCI expects total operating expenses of $955-$975 million, up from the previous guidance range of $920-$940 million. Adjusted EBITDA expenses are expected between $840 million and $860 million, up from the previous guidance of $820-$840 million.

Capex is expected to be $50-$60 million.

Net cash provided by operating activities and free cash flow is expected to be $800-$840 million and $740-$790 million, respectively.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

In the past month, investors have witnessed an upward trend in fresh estimates.

VGM Scores

At this time, MSCI has an average Growth Score of C, a grade with the same score on the momentum front. Charting a somewhat similar path, the stock was allocated a grade of D on the value side, putting it in the bottom 40% for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of D. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.

Outlook

Estimates have been trending upward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions looks promising. Notably, MSCI has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We expect an in-line return from the stock in the next few months.


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