ProQuest Co. has announced its company results for the first quarter of its 2002 fiscal year (ending March 31) as well as its projections for the rest of the year. The company has also filed a registration with the SEC to offer additional shares of its common stock. At a time when we're still seeing disappointing earnings reports from many companies, ProQuest reported reasonably solid revenue growth of 7 percent and an increase of 27 percent in earnings before taxes (EBIT).
According to the announcement, first-quarter revenues were $102.8 million, compared to $95.9 million for the first quarter of 2001. EBIT was $20.5 million, compared to $16.2 million for the same period last year. Net earnings from continuing operations rose 36 percent for the first quarter to $8.3 million, compared to $6.1 million for the same quarter in 2001. In a conference call with reporters and analysts, chairman and CEO James Roemer said, "I believe our performance was strong, especially within the context of the economy."
The company's ProQuest Information & Learning division, which primarily serves the library and education markets, saw revenues increase 8 percent over the previous year. But revenues from its electronic products increased 16 percent, clearly showing the current buying trend for information products. (The Business Solutions segment, formerly known as Bell & Howell Publishing Services, primarily serves the automotive market.) ProQuest projects companywide revenue growth of approximately 7 to 8 percent for the second quarter of this year, with full-year revenue growth of approximately 9 to 13 percent.
When asked about the state of library budgets, Joe Reynolds, president and CEO of ProQuest Information & Learning, said that overall the company expects that "budgets are likely to be flat this year," except for an anticipated increase in spending for electronic products. He said the company was seeing some positive signs but that it was too early to tell due to libraries' budget cycles.
Historical Newspapers, a ProQuest Information & Learning initiative to digitize the full run of several of the nation's leading newspapers, is reportedly "on plan." The New York Times is finished and is "ready to load," and The Wall Street Journal is being completed now. The company targets the first quarter of 2003 for completion of the projects for The Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post. Once completed, libraries and educational institutions will have electronic access to the newspapers dating back to 1851.
Reynolds indicated that the company had had good response to its XanEdu products and that revenues there were on target. XanEdu was launched to leverage the ProQuest content through the development of supplemental curriculum materials for the higher education market. Over 1,000 educational institutions are now using the service.
The proposed public offering the company announced is for 5.1 million shares of common stock, consisting of 3 million expected to be offered by ProQuest and 2.1 million expected to be offered by shareholders. ProQuest intends to use the net proceeds from the offering to repay debt under its credit facility. According to the announcement, the company "will not receive any proceeds from the sale of shares by the selling shareholders."