Super Agency TransPerfect is first out the gate in 2021, reporting full-year revenue figures for 2020 that show the New York-based language service provider (LSP) to be in the pink of health despite having relinquished its crown to RWS as the world’s largest LSP by revenue. According to Phil Shawe, President & CEO, “TransPerfect’s billed revenue grew from USD 764m in 2019 to USD 852m in 2020 — up 11.5% or USD 88m.”
Shawe told Slator, “Revenue from recent acquisitions, meaning deals closed in 2019 or 2020, contributed USD 46m to our top line in 2020. This equates to slightly over half (52%) of our USD 88m in growth. Defining ‘organic growth’ as growth from our traditional businesses — excluding revenue from acquisitions made in 2019 and 2020 — TransPerfect’s organic growth was USD 42 of USD 88m (48%).”
He added, “Looking at year-to-date and quarterly revenue, TransPerfect was up roughly 10% year to date at the end of Q3 2020. Q4 2020 was up 15.1% over Q4 2019. This strong close to the year lifted our overall annual growth rate to slightly over 11.5%. Notably, TransPerfect’s Q4 2020 was the first time in history that the company billed over USD 250m in a single quarter.”
Asked if he has seen any signs of a rebound among Travel & Hospitality clients, which Shawe contrasted with a strong Life Sciences segment back in October, he replied, “After an initial pandemic-related slowdown, Travel & Hospitality demand has remained fairly steady in the second half of 2020.” Shawe shares the belief of most that people will become more comfortable with traveling as vaccination rates increase, and the LSP continues to work closely with their clients from the sector.
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In terms of regional growth, the TransPerfect CEO said the trend from Q3 2020 has continued; that is, growth is fastest in Asia, followed by Europe, and the Americas. Shawe attributed the company’s high Asian growth rate to three things: history, market saturation, and math.
“Starting from a smaller base in Asia, it is not surprising to see our largest percentage growth rates being achieved there,” he explained, adding that they started and have been growing in the US for nearly three decades and now have 55 offices across the Americas, 38 in Europe, and only 12 in Asia, thus far.
Media & Gaming
As Phil Shawe has often mentioned, TransPerfect’s M&A strategy hinges on add-on acquisitions for talent, skill set, and tech rather than buying for top-line growth. The company’s post-sale track record also shows that they tend to retain a target’s leadership; what Shawe called “joining forces with like-minded entrepreneurs.”
“We are considering deals which expand the scope of our capabilities in the Media & Entertainment and Gaming spaces”
As for TransPerfect’s M&A priorities in 2021, Shawe said they “will also consider deals that will allow us to expand into natural adjacent markets,” and likewise, “expand the scope of our capabilities in the Media & Entertainment and Gaming spaces.”
TransPerfect has been gradually ramping up M&A activity in the three years since concluding its ownership battle and may now be ready for bigger deals.
“We have been very fortunate to have paid off over 20% of our total debt, which we incurred in 2018 to consolidate our ownership”
The TransPerfect CEO told Slator, “Over the past two years, we have been very fortunate to have paid off over 20% of our total debt, which we incurred in 2018 to consolidate our ownership. Additionally, we have a significant amount available to us under our undrawn revolver [credit facility] to support our growth initiatives. This, combined with our natural free cash flow, gives us a high degree of confidence that, if and when the right deals come along, we have access to additional sources of capital — and the ‘dry powder’ to execute deals that we find attractive.”
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He also shared the company’s plans for TransPerfect’s AI services business, DataForce. Put simply: “We have no intention of selling DataForce, or any other division for that matter,” and will continue investing in AI, the CEO said.
As previously mentioned, while Lionbridge has sold its AI services business, other LSPs, TransPerfect among them, are going the other way. Because LSPs are uniquely positioned to enter the lucrative data-for-AI market, a number of early movers are now providing large volumes of quality, labeled data to companies developing AI products. (For a deep-dive into this highly attractive niche, download Slator’s 44-page report on the data-for-AI market.)
Shawe’s outlook for 2021 is one of cautious optimism, and he looks forward to a world that includes in-person contact — and that life will return to something that could be considered “normal” this year.
A press statement announcing TransPerfect’s FY 2020 results ended with the following shoutout to translators from the CEO: “We would also like to give a special thanks to all of our suppliers and translators who have stood with us during each year’s ups and downs for three decades — your contribution and partnership was never more appreciated than in 2020.”