Ellie Mae Banks on Housing Strength as Income, Sales Soar

By Markets Fool.com

The mortgage industry's fate is linked to the housing market's successes, and the companies that serve mortgage providers also rely on healthy levels of loan activity. By providing a platform that lenders can use, Ellie Mae (NYSE: ELLI) has cashed in on the strength in housing over the past several years.

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Coming into Thursday's third-quarter financial report, Ellie Mae shareholders had every expectation that the mortgage-management software and services provider would keep climbing, but even they didn't realize just how strongly the company would manage to perform. Let's take a closer look at Ellie Mae to see what the company accomplished, and what lies ahead.


Image source: Ellie Mae.

Ellie Mae's growth looks unstoppable

Ellie Mae's third-quarter results were exceptionally strong. Revenue jumped 46%, to $100.4 million, setting a new record for any quarter, and easily outpacing the roughly $92 million consensus forecast among those following the stock. Net income more than doubled, to $13.8 million, and even after making allowances for extraordinary items, adjusted earnings of $0.72 per share were $0.13 higher than most investors had expected to see.

Looking more closely at the company's financials, Ellie Mae continues to get more of its customers to adopt its systems, boosting its revenue. Overall, the number of users of Ellie Mae's Encompass system jumped 18%, to more than 159,500, and the amount of money that the company brought in as contracted revenue rose by nearly a third.

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Bookings for the quarter amounted to 12,800 seats, further extending Encompass's reach across Ellie Mae's network. Revenue per average user also climbed by nearly a quarter, to $640, showing that Ellie Mae is leaving no stones unturned in its quest to maximize the value of its customers.

One thing that's impressive is that Ellie Mae's per-share figures held up well despite an August offering of shares that boosted its share count. The company ended up selling 2.75 million shares of stock at $90 per share, and underwriters had an option to purchase another 412,500 shares at their discretion. Yet those additional shares didn't hold back the growth in earnings per share to the same extent that one might have expected.

CEO Jonathan Corr was happy with Ellie Mae's results. "Third-quarter results were strong across the board," Corr said, "with the team continuing to execute and mortgage volume remaining robust." The CEO also noted that its customers "increasingly seek to improve efficiency, compliance, and loan quality through our all-in-one platform."

What's next for Ellie Mae?

One move that Ellie Mae is making to take its growth into the next phase is to make changes at the upper management level. CFO Ed Luce will retire within the next six months, and Matt LaVay, who is currently Ellie Mae's senior vice president of finance, will take over as CFO next April. As Corr described it, "Ed played a critical role in Ellie Mae's evolution from a start-up to a fast-growing public company, and we are grateful for his contributions." Yet LaVay will face what could be an even more difficult task of taking Ellie Mae to the next level by sustaining and perpetuating strong growth trends.

For now, though, Ellie Mae looks like it's on track to keep performing well. In its guidance for the fourth quarter, Ellie Mae expects to bring in $87 million to $89 million in revenue, with adjusted net income weighing in at $0.48 to $0.49 per share. Those figures are all above the consensus forecast among investors, suggesting another strong performance when the current quarter's results come out next February.

Similarly, Ellie Mae boosted its full-year guidance, now expecting total revenue of $351 million to $353 million, up $12 million to $13 million from its previous prediction. Adjusted earnings of $2.17 to $2.18 per share compares quite favorably to previous guidance for $2 to $2.06 per share, showing just how well the company is executing.

Ellie Mae is likely to keep seeing fundamentally strong results as long as the housing market keeps growing and mortgage activity remains robust. Some believe that housing's days are numbered, but Ellie Mae has earned such widespread adoption that its business could hold up well even if housing performs less strongly at some point in the future.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ellie Mae. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.