McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (NYSE: MHP) is a global information services provider doing business in the education, financial services, and business information markets. The company does everything from selling textbooks to providing credit ratings and even operates television stations. Operating in three distinct segments – Education, Financial Services, and Information & Media – the company has several strong brand names in McGraw Hill Publishers, Standard & Poor’s, J.D. Power & Associates, and formerly BusinessWeek (which was officially sold to Bloomberg L.P.). In FY 2010, McGraw-Hill's revenue was $6.1 billion.
McGraw-Hill operates under three main business segments:
McGraw-Hill is in essence a provider of information through a variety of mediums and in a number of fields. Positive trends such as continued strong demand for information, population growth, college enrollment, globalization, financial sector expansion, and technology all provide tailwinds for the company.
Businesses of the world need capital, and they often raise it through the issuance of debt. Financial services companies that provide this capital rely on objective, trusted opinions to understand how much risk they are assuming and what may represent an appropriate interest rate. McGraw-Hill’s Standard & Poor’s provides such a service, and an increase in businesses capital needs correlate with a rise in demand for S&P’s ratings. The growth in the global issuance of rated debt has grown at a compound annual rate of approximately 23% since 2002, providing a tremendous tailwind for S&P.
Capital markets have also become more complex and rapidly changing, providing both a challenge and an opportunity for the company. While increasing complexity and change makes it more difficult for S&P to provide reliable and consistent ratings, it also boosts the demand for ratings from investors, who face the same daunting task of analyzing more complex securities and obligations.
Complex structured finance products typically involve an entity (corporation or government) using "safer" and more reliably creditworthy assets such as accounts receivable as collateral for debt. Such a transaction enables the company to obtain a lower interest rate on issued debt by isolating the "safe" collateral asset from the company itself (the less safe alternative). For instance, a company rated B by S&P may be able to use its accounts receivable to obtain an A investment grade rating on debt. The number of assets used in such transactions has increased in the past two decades. Whereas only around 20 asset classes were “packaged” for securitization in 1990, over 200 are currently available. Structured obligations are typically highly complex than standard issuances of corporations and governments, and as a result, investors enjoy the benefit of a trusted, easily understood rating from S&P.
The trends of general growth and increasing complexity in the global capital markets will likely continue worldwide. Markets continue to emerge, global economic expansion continues to fuel demand for capital and, as a result, firms and investors seek more sophisticated means of securitizing asset classes, which in turn bring in more ratings fees for S&P. S&P continues to expand internationally to capitalize on these trends, though the majority of its revenue still comes from the United States, the world’s largest and most advanced capital market.
Over the past decade, print publications have suffered a vicious cycle of decline. New, cheaper, easier-to-access mediums, most notably the Internet, have led to lower generally lower circulation and readership of traditional publications like magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals. As this happened, advertisers simultaneously began leaving or paying less for exposure. These compounding factors have produced eroding margins and declining profits for many companied depending on revenue from traditional media advertising.
McGraw-Hill’s Information & Media segment has suffered much the same fate, though it has seen top-line growth through acquisition (such as JDPA).
However, the company has also been able to capitalize on technological innovation by introducing new products itself. The company's Information & Media division, along with competitors, has moved towards building out their own Internet properties and expand its online presence. The low barriers to entry and extreme competition for viewership on the Internet may likely lead to permanently lower margins.
The broader impact of the Internet on McGraw-Hill's business may have a generally positive net effect. These advances have facilitated the flow and accessibility of information about investments available throughout the world. The globalization of the financial world boosts demand for S&P’s services as it practically necessitates a credible rating system to compare different geographic regions on a standard scale. S&P provides a convenient and trustworthy way for sizing up all opportunities and making sense of the vast amount of information flowing among market participants.
The company maintains market share dominance in its two largest segments, Education and Financial Services, each of which have a number of formidable competitors. The most notable competitors by segment are: