Morningstar, Inc. (Nasdaq: MORN), a leading provider of independent investment research, today reported first-quarter 2021 financial results.
“Broad-based growth reflects strength across our business,” said Kunal Kapoor, Morningstar’s chief executive officer. “Our license-based offerings keep resonating with both public and private market investors, DBRS Morningstar remains focused on cementing its position as the leading alternative to legacy rating agencies, and our ongoing expansion of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) solutions fulfills rising interest in sustainable investing. Recent ESG-related efforts include delivering the data and research that asset managers need to comply with the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation. Moreover, we enhanced the transparency of our own corporate sustainability initiatives by releasing our inaugural Enterprise Sustainability Report, which describes our most material ESG risks and opportunities.”
First-Quarter 2021 Financial Highlights
- Revenue increased 21.2% to $392.8 million; organic revenue increased 13.0%.
- Operating income increased 51.0% to $67.2 million; adjusted operating income increased 50.3%, excluding intangible amortization expense and all mergers & acquisitions (M&A)-related expenses.
- Diluted net income per share increased 130.9% to $1.27 versus $0.55 in the prior period. Adjusted diluted net income per share increased 106.0% to $1.73, excluding intangible amortization expense and all M&A-related expenses.
- Cash provided by operating activities increased 31.8% to $64.2 million. Free cash flow increased 23.5% to $41.5 million.
Overview of First-Quarter 2021 Financial Results
Revenue for the first quarter of 2021 increased 21.2% to $392.8 million. Organic revenue, which excludes all M&A and foreign currency effects, grew 13.0% compared with the prior-year period.
License-based revenue grew 23.2% year over year, or 12.1% on an organic basis, which excludes revenue from Sustainalytics and other M&A activity. PitchBook, Morningstar Data, and Morningstar Direct were the primary contributors to license-based organic revenue growth in the quarter. Asset-based revenue increased 7.3% year over year, or 5.8% organically, with Workplace Solutions and Morningstar Indexes revenue growth more than offsetting the impact of previously-disclosed client losses in Investment Management. Transaction-based revenue increased 28.5% year over year, or 24.8% on an organic basis. DBRS Morningstar and higher year-over-year ad spending on morningstar.com were the primary contributors of growth.
Operating expense increased 16.5% to $325.6 million in the first quarter of 2021, which includes the expense contribution of Sustainalytics. Excluding Sustainalytics and other M&A, operating expense grew 7.4% as higher compensation and benefits, commissions, mutual fund operating costs (offset in revenue), and facilities expenses were partially mitigated by lower travel and professional fees. The decline in certain expenses versus the prior-year period, including $4.4 million of travel and conference costs, was primarily due to reduced travel and pandemic-related gathering restrictions. These favorable comparisons are likely to moderate through 2021. Additionally, accelerated product development efforts related to key product areas increased capitalized software development by $4.3 million, which had a favorable impact on operating expense in the quarter.
First-quarter operating income was $67.2 million, an increase of 51.0% compared with the prior-year period. Adjusted operating income, which excludes intangible amortization expense and all M&A-related expenses, was $92.3 million in the quarter, an increase of 50.3%, compared with the prior-year period. First-quarter operating margin was 17.1%, compared with 13.7% in the prior-year period. Adjusted operating margin was 23.6% in the first quarter of 2021, versus 18.9% in the prior-year period.
Net income in the first quarter of 2021 was $54.9 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, compared with $23.9 million, or $0.55 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2020. Adjusted diluted net income per share increased 106.0% to $1.73 in the first quarter of 2021, compared with $0.84 in the prior-year period, excluding intangible amortization expense and all M&A-related expenses.
The effective tax rate for the first quarter of 2021 was 20.4% versus 26.2% in the prior-year period. The decrease is partially attributable to a reduction in our reserves for unrecognized tax benefits in the first quarter of 2021. Also, the effective tax rate in the first quarter of 2020 was higher due to a non-deductible foreign exchange loss.
Product Area Highlights
The Company continues to execute its strategy and invest for long-term growth (performance of the largest product areas and key metrics are reported in the Supplemental Data table). On a consolidated basis, PitchBook, DBRS Morningstar, Morningstar Data, Workplace Solutions, and Morningstar Direct were the primary contributors of organic revenue growth in the first quarter of 2021. Highlights of these and other products include:
- PitchBook grew revenue by 36.0% and licenses by 38.5%, highlighting ongoing expansion of existing client relationships along with growth in new users. In the first quarter, PitchBook increased its coverage of European companies, including accelerating valuation coverage by nearly 200% versus the prior year. This improves its capability in an important geography for private market investing.
- Morningstar Data grew revenue year over year by 14.4%, or 10.2% on an organic basis, driven primarily by sales of Fund Datafeeds and Morningstar Essentials, a bundled offering of Morningstar’s proprietary offerings like the Morningstar Rating™ and the Morningstar Style Box™, in the U.S. and Europe.
- Morningstar Direct year-over-year revenue growth of 9.9%, or 6.9% on an organic basis, was driven primarily by increased sales of Morningstar Direct in the U.S. and Europe, and supported by the addition of new ESG data points in Direct.
- Advisor Workstation grew revenue 4.6%, or 3.9% on an organic basis. A resurgence in client demand due to Regulation Best Interest and ongoing development of Morningstar’s new financial planning solutions continues to build momentum.
- Sustainalytics continued to capitalize on robust demand for ESG research, data and analytics, with particular strength in green bond validations in the first quarter of 2021. In support of clients preparing to comply with the new EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), Sustainalytics released a data package mapping its research to the 60 indicators defined by the regulation, while Morningstar’s broad suite of ESG solutions, including Morningstar ESG Indexes and research on sustainability and corporate governance risks, addressed other key aspects of the SFDR.
- Investment Management revenue declined 3.6%, or 6.1% on an organic basis due primarily to previously reported client losses.
- Workplace Solutions grew revenue by 18.9%, driven primarily by market gains and growth in Managed Accounts as assets under management and advisement continued to climb in Morningstar Retirement Manager.
- Morningstar Indexes revenue increased by 21.1%, or 20.0% on an organic basis, resulting from continued momentum across products and regions. Strong net inflows spanned both beta and strategic-beta products, while clients seeking alternatives in the face of fee pressure continue to support demand for licensed index data.
- DBRS Morningstar year-over-year revenue growth of 27.0%, or 23.5% on an organic basis, stemmed primarily from a recovery in the structured credit markets, which tightened in the first quarter of 2020 due to pandemic-related concerns. Stronger issuance activity in both commercial mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities were the primary drivers of performance within structured finance asset classes. Continued momentum in issuance of Canadian corporates and global financial institutions also contributed to revenue growth in the quarter.
Balance Sheet and Capital Allocation
As of March 31, 2021, the Company had cash, cash equivalents, and investments totaling $433.7 million and $404.2 million of long-term debt, compared with cash, cash equivalents, and investments of $464.2 million and $449.1 million of long-term debt as of Dec. 31, 2020.
Cash provided by operating activities was $64.2 million for the first quarter of 2021, compared with $48.7 million in the prior-year period driven by higher cash earnings and strong working capital management. Free cash flow was $41.5 million in the first quarter of 2021 compared with $33.6 million in the prior-year period. In the first quarter of 2021, the Company paid $13.5 million in dividends, and repaid $45.0 million of total debt.
Comparability of Year-Over-Year Results
In addition to the contributions from Sustainalytics, and the intangible amortization expense and the M&A-related expenses discussed above, certain other items affected the comparability of first-quarter 2021 results versus the same period in 2020.
- First-quarter 2021 organic revenue excludes revenue from Sustainalytics and other acquisitions.
- Foreign currency translation increased revenue by $8.3 million, or 2.6%, and operating expense by $7.5 million, or 2.7%, in the first quarter of 2021. This resulted in an increase of $0.8 million in first-quarter operating income.
Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures
The tables at the end of this press release include a reconciliation of the non-GAAP financial measures used by the Company to comparable GAAP measures and an explanation of why the Company uses them.
2021 Shareholders’ Meeting
Shareholders, prospective shareholders, analysts, and other interested parties are cordially invited to attend our 2021 Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, which will be held at 9 a.m. Central time on Friday, May 14, 2021. In order to facilitate participation from our shareholders around the world, our annual meeting will be held via a live webcast. The meeting will cover the official business described in our proxy statement and include presentations from our management team, along with a question-and-answer period. To register for the meeting, please visit: https://cvent.me/NxnKkW
Morningstar encourages all interested parties — including securities analysts, current shareholders, potential shareholders, and others — to submit questions in writing. Investors and others may send questions about Morningstar’s business to firstname.lastname@example.org. Morningstar will make written responses to selected inquiries available to all investors at the same time in Form 8-Ks furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission, generally every month.