TransPerfect Posts Strong Q1 2020 but CEO Expects ‘Significant Headwinds’

World's Largest Translation Company TransPerfect First Quarter 2020 Results

Still the world’s largest language service provider (LSP) by revenue, TransPerfect broke the three-quarter-of-a-billion-dollar mark for the first time with its 2019 full-year revenues.

As a privately-owned company — unlike a number of its closest rivals — TransPerfect is not required to disclose financial results. Nonetheless, the company has regularly shared revenue figures with the public ever since around 2014.

In Q1 2020, TransPerfect billed revenues of USD 190m, up 14% from the same period in 2019. Given TransPerfect’s size, this growth rate equates to an increase in revenues bigger than what many mid-sized LSPs generate in a full year (ca. USD 24m).

In a company press release, TransPerfect CEO Phil Shawe described the quarter as “our best-ever start to the year.” This, of course, was before the coronavirus outbreak led to “much of global business shutting down as a result of the pandemic,” as Shawe put it.

Shawe now expects “a softening in overall demand for Q2, followed by a gradual return to normalcy for the remainder of 2020.” He cautioned that TransPerfect will likely experience “significant headwinds” in Q2, mirroring disruptions in the wider language industry.

“We expect a softening in overall demand for Q2, followed by a gradual return to normalcy for the remainder of 2020”

TransPerfect also said in the release that it is “working hard to avoid implementing layoffs or other measures that economic downturns often require and remains hopeful these can be avoided or minimized.”

Shawe told Slator that the company is doing “as well as can be expected” amid the global pandemic. He said most of the company’s employees have transitioned to remote working and the business has remained fully operational.

Asked if they had experienced any issues with subcontractors, Shawe replied, “None to speak of  — our accounts payable efforts have been slowed somewhat based on the lockdown orders and the availability of staff to pay bills. However, we’re still managing to process some checks and wires, and our accounting department is getting more adept at working remotely with each passing week.”

On a regional basis, Shawe said the impact had followed the spread of the virus: “Asia was the first market in which demand softened and for which remote working became the new reality. We are already seeing a modest return to normalcy in Asia, and we are hoping the rest of the world is able to follow this same pattern.”

How Demand Is Faring Across Sectors 

Pinpointing some of the hardest-hit sectors, Shawe said that reduction in demand was most pronounced within “the industries you’d expect,” such as the travel and hospitality and brick-and-mortar retail sectors. Retail is seeing “a refocus on e-commerce, and this can generate opportunities for TransPerfect,” he added.

“A swift and immediate decline in requests for on-site conference interpretation”

Unsurprisingly, Shawe also identified a “swift and immediate decline in requests for on-site conference interpretation.” The lockdown has naturally halted in-person events and the conferences sector, although TransPerfect is still providing remote interpreting for virtual meetings.

Within the comparatively corona-resistant niche of media localization, Shawe observed an increase in voiceover and dubbing requests, which are serviced remotely via TransPerfect’s GlobalLink Media.NEXT platform. In addition, “the demand for video game localization is increasing rapidly.”

According to Shawe, life sciences is also faring well and demand in this sector “remains as strong as ever. We haven’t seen a major disruption in translation requests from clinical trials, which may be because we work on a number of studies at different stages of maturity.” TransPerfect is now also providing translation work for Covid-19 related clinical trials, Shawe said.

“We haven’t seen a major disruption in translation requests from clinical trials”

Although some clinical studies have been paused during the lockdown, many are able to continue virtually, facilitated by electronic and cloud solutions, such as TransPerfect’s eTMF (electronic trial master file) solution.

Another LSP that competes strongly in life sciences, RWS, recently noted lower activity in certain segments of life sciences due, in small part, to “some disruption to our clients” from Covid-19. RWS also said that there had been a more recent uptick relating to clinical trials for new coronavirus vaccines as well as translation of training material for antibody testing devices.

Erratum: an earlier version of this story stated that TransPerfect began sharing financials in 2017. They have, in fact, being doing so since 2014.