Manhattan Associates Warns of Slowing Growth for 2017

By Dan Caplinger Markets Fool.com

Getting things where they need to be is Manhattan Associates'(NASDAQ: MANH) business, and the supply chain logistics company has worked hard to make the most of its lucrative opportunities in serving its customers. Yet Manhattan Associates is exposed to the health of the industries it serves, and lately, the retail segment that makes up such a large portion of the company's business has faced challenges. Coming into Tuesday's fourth-quarter financial report, Manhattan investors wanted to see stable growth. They largely got it looking backward, but sluggish expectations for 2017 caused some nervousness among shareholders. Let's take a closer look at Manhattan Associates to see what investors should think about its near-term future prospects.

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Manhattan Associates keeps growing -- for now

Manhattan Associates' fourth-quarter results were reasonably good. Sales climbed by more than 4% to $147.6 million, although investors had hoped to see a 6% growth rate from the supply chain specialist. Net income climbed at a more attractive 13% pace to $29.9 million, and adjusted earnings of $0.46 per share were a record for the company's fourth quarter and topped the consensus forecast among investors by $0.03 per share.

A closer look at Manhattan Associates' numbers showed steady growth throughout the business. Services revenue, which makes up the vast majority of Manhattan's business, climbed by nearly 5%. Software licensing revenue jumped a stronger 8%, but hardware once again lagged behind, posting top-line declines of almost 4%.

Geographically, Manhattan Associates again relied on the Americas for almost all of its revenue growth. Sales from the company's home territory were up 5.5%, compared to a drop of 2.5% for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa segment. Asia-Pacific sales inched higher by about 3%. The results were similar on the bottom line, as the Americas posted a nearly 20% jump in segment profit even as Europe retreated and the Asia-Pacific region managed to climb by just 5%.

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Manhattan Associates also had success in building up its customer list during the quarter. Seven new contracts came in with licensing revenue of $1 million or more, up from five last quarter. New customers included well-known companies like auto parts specialist AutoZone, and the company expanded its relationship with a host of customers ranging from Dick's Sporting Goods to luxury retailer Coach.

Can Manhattan Associates grow faster in 2017?

CEO Eddie Capel was pleased with the company's results. "Demand for our omni-channel, store, and distribution management solutions continues to be solid," Capel said, "and our associates continue to execute very well serving our customers." The CEO acknowledged tough macroeconomic conditions in the global market, but Manhattan Associates still thinks it can build on its leading position in its space.

The problem, though, is that Manhattan Associates' guidance for 2017 left some investors wanting to see more. Guidance for the full year began at $622 million to $632 million in sales, representing growth of just 3% to 5% from 2016 levels. Even more disturbing is the company's tepid guidance on the bottom line, with adjusted earnings guidance for $1.89 to $1.93 per share representing just 1% to 3% growth from last year's levels. By contrast, investors had been looking for sales growth at nearly double that pace, as well as earnings growth of nearly 10%.

As a result, investors in Manhattan Associates bid down the stock after the news came out, sending shares down by 2.5% in after-hours trading following the announcement. A broader recovery in its customers' industries could help the supply chain specialist tap into faster growth than it currently expects. But for now, Manhattan Associates will have to keep navigating choppy waters until investors have greater clarity on what the future will hold for the global economy.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Manhattan Associates. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.