DigitalGlobe Inc Sets the Stage for Growth With Another Solid Quarter

DigitalGlobe released sharp fourth-quarter results Thursday after the bell, beating estimates on both revenue and earnings. Shares of the high-res satellite image and geospatial solutions provider are up a modest 2%.

Quarterly revenue rose 9.4% year over year, to $185.7 million, which was both on the higher end of Digital Globe's expectations, and above analysts' consensus for sales of $180.2 million. Net income fell 21% during the same period, to $10.7 million, or $0.14 per share, helped by DigitalGlobe's decision to repurchase more than 2.2 million shares of stock for $60.1 million during the quarter.

To explain the year-over-year drop, however -- and keeping in mind the impending focus on growth we noticed in last quarter's report -- DigitalGlobe dedicated 2014 to investing heavily in what CEO Jeffrey Tarr describes as "building the world's leading earth observation capability to a new era of growth, margin expansion, free cash flow and improving returns."Also, it helps that Wall Street was only looking for quarterly earnings of $0.06 per share.

For the full-year 2014, revenue rose 6.8%, to $654.6 million, which resulted in net income -- available to common shareholders -- of $13.9 million, or $0.18 per diluted share. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization was $286.2 million. Analysts were modeling full-year 2014 revenue and earnings of $649.5 million and $0.11 per share, respectively.

WorldView-3 is (still) up and runningAfter the widely anticipated launch of WorldView-3 last August, calibrations for thecutting-edge satellite were formally completed on October 1, 2014. That means Q4 was also the first-full quarter to recognize revenue under DigitalGlobe's EnhancedView Service Level Agreement with the NGA at an annualized rate of $337.1 million -- an increase of roughly $50 million per year from the previous rate.

WorldView-3, for its part, is collecting images of Earth at an incredible resolution of 30cm, or five times the detail of its nearest competitor. Yesterday, DigitalGlobe also announced its 30cm imagery is now available to all customers following a mandatory six-month waiting period imposed by the U.S. Department of Commercefrom the time WorldView-3 was first considered operational. This opens up what DigitalGlobe described last summer as a $400 million-per-year global addressable market comprised of commercial clients who formerly had to rely on expensive, time-inefficient high-res imagery from aerial surveyors.

They're notthat oldThat's not to say everybody needs the highest-resolution imagery DigitalGlobe offers. That's why, in December, DigitalGlobe was happy to report that it extended the useful lives of two of its older satellites as a result of its annual satellite life review. The first, WorldView-1, was extended by 2.5 years to 13 years, and is now expected to reach end of life in the fourth quarter of 2020. The second, WorldView-2, was extended two years to 13 years, and is now expected to reach end of life in the fourth quarter of 2022.

In the end, these extensions have the effect of reducing both non-cash amortization of deferred revenue and depreciation expenses. And according to DigitalGlobe, this will "drive improved capital efficiency, lower capital expenditures, and better cashflows."

A clearer view of the futureFinally, DigitalGlobe provided its first look at fiscal 2015, saying it expects full-year revenue of $725 million to $750 million, with adjusted EBITDA of $355 million to $375 million. Capital expenditures should also fall by roughly 40%, to $110 million. By comparison, analysts were modeling 2015 revenue of $739 million, or roughly in line with the mid-point of DigitalGlobe's expected range.

All things considered, from its top- and bottom-line beat to its solid forward guidance, DigitalGlobe delivered an impressive performance. As it scales back on investments and focuses more on improving financial results going forward, long-term investors should finally be able to kick back and enjoy the view.

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