DHI Group, Inc.

Q1 2023 Earnings Conference Call


spk01: Good afternoon and welcome to the DHI Group first quarter 2023 financial results conference call. All participants will be in listen only mode. Should you need assistance, please signal a conference specialist by pressing the star key followed by zero. After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. To ask a question, you may press star then one on your telephone keypad. To withdraw your question, please press star, then two. Please note, this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Todd Curley with MKR Investor Relations. Please go ahead.
spk05: Thank you, Operator, and good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to DHI Group's 2023 First Quarter Earnings Conference Call. With me on today's call are DHI's CEO, Art Zaley, and CFO, Kevin Bostick. Before I turn the call over to Art, I'd like to cover a few quick items. This afternoon, DHI issued a press release announcing its 2023 first quarter financial results. The release is available on the company's website at dhigroupinc.com. This call is being broadcast live over the internet for all interested parties, and the webcast will be archived on the investor relations page of the company's website. I want to remind everyone that during today's call, management will make forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Please note that except for the historical information, statements on today's call may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. These forward-looking statements reflect DHI management's current views concerning future events and financial performance, and they're subject to risks and uncertainties and actual results may differ materially from the outcomes contained in any forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause these forward-looking statements to differ from actual results include the risks and uncertainties discussed in the company's periodic reports on Form 10-K and 10-Q and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. DHI undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. Lastly, during today's call, management will be referring to specific financial measures, including adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA margin, and adjusted diluted earnings per share that are not prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Information about and reconciliations of these non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures are available in our earnings release, a copy of which you can find on our website at dhigroupinc.com in the Investor Relations section. I'll now turn the conference over to Art Zailey, CEO of DHI Group.
spk00: Thank you, Todd. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our 2023 first quarter earnings conference call. Thank you for joining us today. We are pleased to report that we delivered 12% revenue growth in the first quarter as employers continue to use our subscription-based offering to find, attract, engage, and hire the highest quality tech professionals. There continues to be a significant demand for technologists, even in this difficult environment, as companies continue to invest in technology initiatives. During the first quarter, employers in the United States posted job openings for approximately 813,000 tech jobs, and the tech unemployment rate remained near all-time lows at 2.3% in April, with approximately two job openings for every one tech worker looking for employment. Our two subscription-based offerings, Dice and Clearance Jobs, are career marketplaces that are focused on serving the technology job market and feature candidate profiles that incorporate technology-specific skills. Subscribers, which are either staffing and recruiting firms, large enterprises, or government agencies, use our proprietary tech skills mapping taxonomy and search algorithms to find the perfect match for their job posting from our 7.4 million technologist profiles. Now let me dig into the performance of our two brands during the first quarter. Starting with Dice, revenue for the quarter increased 9% year over year. Given the uncertainty inherent in today's economy, we refined our sales strategy as we entered the new year. First, we focused on existing client relationships. Many of our clients have been with us for over 10 years. They know our value proposition. Last year, we developed a customer health score to track multiple engagement KPIs and ensure that clients are seeing the maximum value from our platforms. If a client health score drops, we dive in to diagnose the problem. As a result, our overall Dice revenue renewal and retention rates remain solid at 92% and 105% respectively. The attrition we have seen continues to be concentrated on clients with less than $10,000 in annual spend. These are generally smaller staffing and recruiting firms. The second shift was to be laser focused in our new business team sales targeting efforts. As I like to say to our team, we need to sell to the customers that are buying. We use the Lightcast job analysis data feed to understand in real time which firms have significant tech hiring needs. Four industries are continuing to hire technologists aggressively, even in a recessionary environment. Aerospace defense, business consulting, finance banking, and healthcare. We have asked our new business teams to focus in on these specific verticals. For the quarter, we brought on new clients like Edward Jones, Bechtel, and the Department of Transportation. The third refinement has been to sell to larger, more stable customers. We know that larger clients can ride out a tough economy much more successfully than smaller ones. The positive results of this strategy are seen in our DICE annual contract value, increasing again this quarter by 11% compared to Q1 of 2022. This is a challenging economic environment, but we are building a better go-to-market strategy and ultimately a more valuable company through the changes we have made. Dice bookings grew at 2% year over year during the quarter. Because we maintained a healthy revenue renewal rate, this metric is a reflection of new business sales cycles continuing to be longer than what we'd normally experience in a non-recessionary economy. This makes sense as all CFOs are scrutinizing new vendor spend much more so than they did in the years past. Dice commercial accounts continues to be our most significant growth opportunity. with over 100,000 companies in the United States meeting our ideal customer criteria. The staffing and recruiting industry continues to be a significant growth opportunity for Dice as well, with over 18,000 staffing and recruiting firms operating in the United States. The latest staffing industry analyst forecast for tech staffing spend indicates 5% growth this year, down from last year, but still more than the pre-pandemic annual growth rate. Now let's turn our attention to clearance jobs, where we have two substantial growth opportunities that are less impacted by the current state of the economy. The first is the government contractor market. We currently have approximately 2,000 contractor clients, but we know that over 10,000 cleared employers can use our services. The second growth opportunity is selling clearance jobs subscription offerings directly to the multitude of US government agencies that need highly qualified technologists and are competing against the private sector for these candidates. During the first quarter, our CJ revenue increased 21% year over year, and our revenue renewal and retention rates remain strong at 95% and 109% respectively. We had another solid quarter for bookings, which grew 15% year over year, adding several new clients, including Sienna Corporation, Jaguar Defense, and the Electric Power Research Institute. Now let me quickly touch on what we're doing to drive increased adoption of our two brands. During the quarter, we launched a new feature on Dice called Invite to Apply. With this new feature, recruiters can signal to candidates that they have the right skills for a particular job. We also launched a new feature on Dice called Candidate Match Score. This algorithm looks at a candidate's skills and experience and grades the candidate for the job they are considering. The grading mechanism gives candidates more confidence to apply to a job, and we have already seen our apply rates jump as a result. In a tight labor market, we believe these types of features can improve a recruiter's ability to find and attract the highest quality tech talent. Given the explosion of interest in generative AI, We too started experimenting with ChatGPT to help candidates write a personalized cover letter as part of their application process. DHI Group has implemented artificial intelligence in our platforms for over a decade. In fact, our core search algorithms are based on AI models that we have patented in the US. We also continue to focus on expanding our technologist community through our brand advertising campaigns. These campaigns drove roughly 48,000 new Dice candidate registrations each month during the quarter. As a result, we now have about 6 million Dice members, and they made 1.7 million visits each month to the site. Adding tech professionals to our marketplaces attracts more employers, which in turn makes our platforms more valuable to tech professionals, creating a virtuous circle. We also continue to deliver product innovation and clearance jobs during the first quarter, launching a new feature that allows candidates to raise their hand and express interest in a position. This action is well short of completing an entire application, but is a key signal for recruiters building their candidate pipeline for any job search. Despite being launched late in the quarter, candidates have already used this new feature tens of thousands of times. and we have received very positive feedback from recruiters who are benefiting from it. During the quarter, we also continued to gain traction with Clearance Jobs' enhanced employer profile, which gives employers an advantage by boosting employer branding. While we are still in the early stages of rolling out this offering, we successfully sold several employer profiles in the first quarter, generating incremental revenue for each of these existing customers. We have just rolled out an equivalent enhanced employer profile offering for Dice customers in the second quarter. As I mentioned earlier, we know from our Lighthouse data feed that the aerospace defense vertical continues to be one of the sectors that is hiring tech talent aggressively despite this uncertain economy. As a result, we increased our clearance jobs subscription rate card pricing at the beginning of the year. We expect to benefit from this higher pricing as increased defense spending flows to new projects. Before I turn the call over to Kevin, I want to talk about our expectations for the rest of 2023. We continue to believe that clearance jobs will deliver double-digit bookings and revenue growth. We believe DICE will continue to deliver solid revenue renewal and retention rates, but we'll also likely see extended sales cycles and deferred decision making for new business relationships. With these headwinds to dice new business, we now expect full year DHI group revenue to grow between 5% and 6% year over year. With this in mind, we too plan to be cautious with our spending in this environment and are committed to delivering increased adjusted EBITDA margins as we move through the year. We delivered a 21% adjusted EBITDA margin in the first quarter And we expect that margin to steadily increase each quarter and to reach 25% as we exit the year. So in summary, despite the challenging macroeconomic environment, demand for technologists continues to be significant. And with our industry-leading offerings in our large target markets for both DICE and clearance jobs, we have several levers to drive bookings and revenue growth for years to come. On that note, let me turn the call over to Kevin financials, and then we'll take any questions you may have. Kevin?
spk02: Thank you, Art, and good afternoon, everyone. Let me take you through our financial results for the quarter. We reported total revenue of $38.6 million, which was down 3% sequentially and up 12% year-over-year. Total bookings for the quarter were $53.6 million, up 6% year-over-year. Dice revenue was $26.9 million, which was down 4% on a sequential basis and up 9% year over year. Dice bookings were $37.6 million, up 2% year over year. We ended the quarter with 6,171 Dice recruitment package customers, which is down 2% from last quarter and down 1% year over year. Our average annual revenue per DICE recruitment package customer was up 2% sequentially and 11% year-over-year to $15,672. Approximately 85% of DICE revenue is recurring and comes from annual or multi-year contracts. Our DICE revenue renewal and retention rates remain strong during the quarter, with the revenue renewal rate at 92% and the retention rate at 105%. These metrics continue to demonstrate the value of the DICE products in recruiting technology professionals. Clearance jobs revenue was $11.7 million, up 1% sequentially and 21% year over year. Bookings for CJ were $15.9 million, up 15% year over year. We ended the first quarter with 2,078 CJ recruitment package customers, which is up 1% from the fourth quarter and up 8% year over year. Our average annual revenue for CJ recruitment package customer was up 3% over last quarter and up 11% year over year to $20,520. Approximately 90% of CJ revenue is recurring and comes from annual contracts. For the quarter, our CJ revenue renewal rate was 95%, and CJ's retention rate was strong at 109%. These outstanding renewal rates demonstrate the continued value CJ delivers in the recruitment of cleared professionals. Turning to operating expenses. First quarter operating expenses were $38 million compared to $33.7 million in the year-ago quarter. This increase is due to our investment in our sales team. as well as third-party marketing spend to drive increases in marketing qualified leads. In addition, we continued to invest in our broader brand awareness campaigns to drive technologist growth on our platform. For the quarter, we had an income tax benefit of $514,000 on a loss before taxes of $54,000. Our tax rate for the quarter differed from our normal expected rate of 25%, due primarily to a $472,000 benefit from the vesting of shared base compensation. For the quarter, we had net income of $460,000 or one cent per diluted share. For the prior year quarter, we had net income of $1.3 million or three cents per diluted share. Adjusted diluted earnings per share for the quarter was zero cents compared to one cent for the prior year quarter. Diluted shares outstanding for the quarter were $45.2 million compared to $47.2 million in the prior year quarter. Adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter increased 16% to $8.1 million, a margin of 21% compared to $6.9 million or a margin of 20% in the first quarter a year ago. Operating cash flow for the first quarter was approximately zero. The first quarter is traditionally our highest quarter for working capital consumption. There are several reasons for this. First, we pay out our annual bonuses in February. Secondly, we pay December and January commissions in the first quarter, both months of which are the highest booking months in the year. Third, first quarter is when approximately 80% of our employee equity grants vest. which in turn drives share purchases by DHI to cover the income tax withholdings. In addition to these considerations, this year, we also had our CARES Act payment due in January, which was a deferment of employee taxes during the pandemic. From a liquidity perspective, at the end of the quarter, we had $5.4 million in cash and total debt of $46 million under our $100 million revolver. Net borrowings during the quarter was $16 million compared to $10 million in borrowings in the prior year quarter. The difference between the two quarters was largely driven by the fact that we paid a portion of our 2021 bonuses in December of 2021 for tax purposes. Borrowings are currently down $5 million to $41 million as we continue to generate positive working capital. We continue to target approximately one times leverage for the business. Deferred revenue at the end of the quarter was $58.8 million, up 4% from the first quarter of last year. Our total committed contract backlog at the end of the quarter was $124.2 million, which was up 17% from the first quarter last year. Short-term backlog was $97.5 million, an increase of $9.7 million or 11% year-over-year. Long-term backlog that is revenue to be recognized in 13 or more months was $26.7 million, an increase of $8.5 million or 47% from the prior year. During the quarter under our share buyback program, we purchased approximately 743,000 shares for $3.5 million. an average price of $4.76 per share. As a reminder, during the first quarter, we finished our previously authorized $15 million buyback program and started a new $10 million program that runs through February 2024. Of the $10 million authorized, 8.2 million remained available at the end of the quarter. In addition, we purchased approximately 899,000 shares for $5.3 million to cover income tax withholdings associated with divesting of employee shares during the quarter. As Art mentioned, the current economic uncertainty continues to lengthen our sales cycle and impact our new business teams. As such, for 2023, we now expect our total revenue to grow in the 5% to 6% range year over year, with the second quarter revenue growing at 4% to 5% year over year. Like most other companies, we are continuing to manage our expenses closely as we focus on EBITDA and cash flow for the balance of the year. With that, we expect adjusted EBITDA margins in the second quarter to be similar to the 21% we had in Q1, with margins expected to expand to 25% as we exit the year. We also expect to continue reducing our debt outstanding throughout the year. To wrap up, we are very pleased to see our retention rates remain strong, driving our revenue growth in 2023. Our customers recognize the value of our platform and their need to stay on it to be successful. Additionally, the fact that we continue to add a significant number of new technologists each quarter to our marketplace further validates our offering, adding value to the marketplaces that we have built, setting us up for continued bookings and revenue growth for years to come. And with that, let me turn the call back to Art.
spk00: Thank you, Kevin. I'd like to thank all of our employees again for their hard work this past quarter. It is a pleasure to be part of such a great team. With that, we're happy to take your questions.
spk01: We will now begin the question and answer session. To ask a question, you may press star then 1 on your telephone keypad. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the keys. To withdraw your question, please press star then 2. At this time, we will pause momentarily to assemble our roster. Our first question is from Eric Martinuzzi with Lake Street. Please go ahead.
spk04: Hey, guys. So, good news on Q1 and bad news on the guide. If we go back 90 days ago when you gave the outlook for 2023, you know, it was a challenging environment when you gave that view. So just curious to know what happened in the subsequent 90 days as far as what you heard from the sales force, maybe what you heard from the prospects, because it sounds like it was a new business issue as opposed to a retention issue.
spk00: That is exactly right. Just to put the big picture out there, you nailed it, Eric. we believe that our existing customers have been renewing at the same basic range that we've seen in the last two years since we've made substantial improvements to our account management processes. So this is a phenomenon that is definitely focused on new business team activity. And what we're seeing is that the sales cycles continue to be lengthened. And what we did for our forecast this quarter, which is a little bit different than what we did for our last forecast that we announced, was we took the low point in terms of bookings performance for the new business teams during the quarter, and we flatlined it for the remainder of the year. Our previous forecast basically had an anticipation that there would be a better environment in the back half of 2023. We've basically eliminated that part of the forecast. And Kevin, if you have any additional thoughts, please jump in there.
spk02: No, that's completely accurate.
spk04: Okay. And then you talked about areas, healthy industries. I was kind of surprised maybe to hear that banking and finance, you characterized as healthy. There's definitely, at least in the regional banks, the last two months have been kind of a banking crisis there. Do you feel like that the folks you're talking to in the banking and finance, is this a different part of the market that you're seeing healthy banking and finance as opposed to what I would have assumed was a more challenging vertical?
spk00: Actually, we have seen that the banking industry acknowledges that their move to online and mobile user experience is mission critical for them. And so we've seen a healthy amount of pipeline activity and actual converted clients this first quarter. We did mention one name in the banking industry, but we've picked up about, I'd say, 10 banks as new customers in the first quarter. And clearly, it is an area that is under duress continuously, but I think that there is a healthy view of what is mission critical for the long-term success of these banks that actually do survive. And we haven't picked up any regional banks, just to let you know.
spk04: Okay. And then I know you talked about sales cycles lengthening due to macroeconomic concerns, but do we have issues of sales execution, or do you feel like the team's doing the best they can given the environment?
spk00: That's always a great question as to whether or not it is execution or it is a matter of just the overall environment. And so we... believe that the team is executing as best as they can. I would tell you that what we've seen is that any lead that we enter into our system is now worked as hard as possible because there's almost a feeling that it's a precious commodity for us. Okay.
spk04: The cash outlook for given the revised forecast for the year, our cash from ops in Q1 was roughly breakeven. What are we thinking about for FY23?
spk02: Yeah, so we don't provide specific guidance on components of the statement of cash flows, but we do think as a guide here that we will get down to roughly that one times leverage. So we think we'll generate enough cash to continue deleveraging. We also will generate enough cash that we will continue to execute the buyback program, which is based on a grid. But that $8.2 million remaining is probably a pretty fair proxy of what we will spend for the balance of this year or maybe even, you know, a little bit into 2024 as it does expire in mid-February of 24. Got it.
spk04: Okay. Well, thanks for taking my questions and good luck.
spk01: Thank you very much, Eric. Appreciate it. Thank you. Again, if you have a question, please press star, then 1. The next question is from Zach Cummins with B. Reilly Securities. Please go ahead.
spk03: Hi, Art and Kevin. Thanks for taking my questions. I mean, just starting off with DICE, nice to see the renewal rates there, but a little bit of a downtick in your overall customer count. I mean, can you just speak to... Is it really just more of a loss of customers at the lower end of the market and not enough to backfill that? Or how are you thinking about overall Dice customer count moving forward?
spk00: It is exactly that. I think that we're seeing the same phenomena that we saw during the COVID period of 2020 when the economy basically shook the tree and the smallest customers fell out. And that's what we are seeing with Dice specifically. We know that the churn is associated with these accounts that are less than 10,000. So they are literally two-thirds of our average account size on Dice. These companies are generally the smaller staffing recruiting firms. But it is exactly as you're describing it, Zach.
spk03: Got it. And when it comes to your more targeted approach for Dice, I mean, can you talk about the progress in terms of targeting those four verticals that are still hiring tech talent at this point?
spk00: Yes. I'll tell you that we have this data feed called Lightcast, and it basically tells us on a daily, weekly, monthly basis the number of tech job openings by company in the United States. So we look at the top – of the list and we know that the top of the list largely consists of those four verticals. Now what are we doing? We are tuning our marketing and our sales approach to those four verticals. As one example, we have campaigns, digital marketing campaigns that are vertical specific that are going out to our various digital channels like Google 360 and LinkedIn. We also have tailored our marketing materials so that they are vertical specific. We have our email drip campaigns now geared towards those four verticals. So we're trying to align all of our marketing activities towards these verticals to encourage those decision makers within them to essentially reach out, fill out a form on our site, and that's when the sales team jumps in and starts to engage.
spk03: Understood. And then shifting over to Clarence Jobs, continue to see nice performance from that business. It sounds like just given the position of strength that you're in right now, you were able to implement additional price increases. So I'm just curious of how that could potentially impact ARPU as we keep progressing in the coming quarters.
spk00: Well, we hope that it absolutely does improve our ARPUs. And just to make sure that you're aware, Zach, this is for new business activity, so we're not going back to reprice up the existing customer accounts This is what the new business team is selling as part of the relationships that they're building. So that ARPU change will take place over the course of time, but it was intended to essentially make sure that we're getting the full value for what we've delivered in terms of capabilities on CJ.
spk03: Understood. And then final question. Oh, yeah.
spk02: I was just going to add color. It also will be embedded in our retention rates for existing customers, Zach. You know, we do, to Art's point, we don't immediately go out to existing customers, but it becomes kind of that new pricing threshold as we renew contracts each year.
spk03: And then final question for me is just given the challenges that you're seeing on the top line, nice to see the – adjusted EBITDA margin expansion that's expected here, especially in the second half of the year. So can you just talk about some of the areas that maybe you're dialing back investment right now and how that's going to flow through into better margins as we exit this year?
spk02: Yeah. So I'll hit on a couple points, Zach. First, we're evaluating every part of third-party spend. And so whether that's different software agreements, whether that is things like T&E, We are evaluating all of that. We're looking at our marketing spend and understanding what is the appropriate spend in this environment. As an example, a significant amount of our marketing spend is actually around getting technologists onto our platform. Sorry, there's an emergency going on here in Denver with a storm. We believe that we don't need to spend as much marketing spend to get technologists onto our platform in this environment. The other thing I would say is we do look at the people side. We scrutinize the structure of the organization, span of control, areas like that. As people leave the company, we evaluate backfills. What I would say right now, we have very few open backfills because we realize we can become a better, smarter company. We're looking across the board at all of our expenses and and really targeting those that we believe will be impactful on the financial side, but not impactful on the business side.
spk03: Understood. That's helpful. Well, thanks for taking my questions, and best of luck with the rest of the quarter.
spk00: Really appreciate it, Zach. Take care.
spk01: This concludes our question and answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Art Zailey for any closing remarks.
spk00: Well, thank you, Gary. Thank you all for joining us today. As always, if you have any questions about our company or would like to speak with the management team, myself and Kevin, please reach out to Todd Curley, and he will help you arrange for a meeting. And thanks, everybody, for your interest in DHI Group, and have a great day.
spk01: The conference is now concluded. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.

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