Bear Stearns upgraded Equifax (EFX) to outperform.
Analyst Kevin Gruneich says the information management company's 33 cents first quarter earnings per share is in line with his and the consensus estimates, but the core of Equifax's earnings are even better. He notes 19% growth in credit report volume, 50.5% growth in mortgage services, and continued emergence of its Consumer Direct unit, where growth totaled 89.7%.
Gruneich says revenue rose 16.5%, aided by acquisitions; management puts organic revenue growth at 10%. He says an operating margin decline focused on North America; this was due to the lower-margin acquisition of Naviant, a consumer profile and e-marketing company that Equifax purchased for $135 million in August. Gruneich sees $1.50 2003 earnings per share, and $1.70 for 2004. He has a $29-$30 target.