FTI Consulting Loves Misery In Its Companies

By Gregory S. Davis | July 18, 2008 AAA

In the world of business, it seems that when the going gets tough, the tough hire a consultant. Given our present economic cycle, the demand for restructuring and the need of legal guidance has many of the top Fortune 100 companies and law firms clamoring for services provided by FTI Consulting (NYSE:FCN).

Investors who are too focused on figuring out when financials will finally hit rock bottom may find more attractive options by following consulting firms that financial and legal firms turn to for information and advice.

Delete Doesn't Mean it's Gone
FTI Consulting has a strong reputation for helping companies in need of a turnaround. FTI also has been gaining recognition as an expert at recovering hard to find electronic information for legal disputes. The information is typically in emails, text messages, voicemails and other financial documents that may have been deliberately deleted or lost. FTI made news recently with its acquisition of software maker Attenex Corp. Attenex makes software to help companies find emails to be used in litigation.

Growth by Acquisition
FTI made no fewer than seven acquisitions during the first quarter, snapping up firms focused on global real estate and the construction industry. The credit crises, bad debt and development projects that are simply running out of capital before completion are all factors leading real estate firms to restructure, fight through litigation and identify new sources of short-term funding with the help of FTI's consultants. (To learn how these deals can make or break an investor's returns, read Analyzing An Acquisition Announcement.)

Valuation
FTI generated revenue of $307 million for the first quarter, which was up nearly 35% from the same period a year ago. Its operating margin followed suit upward to 19.25% from 16.88%. Corporate Finance/Restructuring and Forensic and Litigation Consulting continue to be the biggest contributors to revenue, but Technology and Strategic communications are its fastest growing segments.

Competition
Huron Consulting Group (NYSE:HURN) is another service provider to law firms. With 1,500 employees is roughly half the size of FTI. For the first quarter of the year Huron's revenues increased 20% to $139 million over the same period a year ago. Despite the spike in revenue, its operating margin was down slightly from the previous year to 13.7% due to the increased compensation paid out to employees who were promoted. (To put this important component of equity analysis to work for you, read Analyzing Operating Margins.)

Huron made several acquisitions last year similar to FTI's by focusing on consulting practices specializing in finance, accounting and restructuring. Huron is distinguishing itself by acquiring management consulting firms who focus on improving hospital performance. It acquired hospital consulting firm Wellspring Partners LTD last year and recently announced the acquisition of Stockamp & Associates to increase its presence in the hospital consulting market. Other competing consulting firms include CRA International (Nasdaq:CRAI) and Navigant Consulting (NYSE:NCI).

Conclusion
Lawyers need support and in tough economic times as their workload beings to increase so do the profits of consulting firms who can gather, consolidate and analyze information they need. Chasing performance is not a sound investing discipline so investors must first discern if more trouble lies in front of us before making their investment decision.

For more on this lucrative career, check out Consulting - Everybody's Doing It, Should You?

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