The impact of COVID-19 on revenue, profitability and award activity was material but also erratic and inconsistent across vendors
Federal IT vendors tracked in TBR’s Public Sector IT Services Benchmark generally reported at least some erosion of top-line growth or profitability in CY2Q20 that was directly or indirectly attributable to the pandemic. Many providers were compelled to revise downward revenue or margin guidance for their current fiscal year, though for some, the COVID-19 impacts during the quarter were less substantial than originally expected. In an early response to the coronavirus outbreak, vendors quickly shifted their focus to operational stability, cash preservation and maintaining program delivery.
Among the contractor set TBR follows, the vendor bookends for CY2Q20 fiscal performance were Maximus (NYSE: MMS) and General Dynamics IT (GDIT) (NYSE: GD). Maximus’ sales rose more than 23% year-to-year as the company fully leverages the citizen engagement centers it purchased from GDIT in late CY18. Maximus’ 2020 Census contract, which is expected to generate $360 million in revenue during the company’s FY20 (ending Sept. 30), continues to ramp up to full operations, providing most of Maximus’ federal segment growth in CY2Q20.
Also of note was ManTech (Nasdaq: MANT), which also appeared to fully elude the pandemic by posting 17.8% year-to-year growth (16.4% on an organic basis) in CY2Q20 and continued hiring aggressively to quickly scale new engagements and execute on key classified contracts. Conversely, GDIT suffered a 12.7% year-to-year decline in sales in CY2Q20, the fifth straight quarter of revenue contraction since the company completed the CSRA acquisition and sold its call center business to Maximus. COVID-19 drove a slowdown in award activity in CY2Q20, worsening delayed contracting actions GDIT has struggled with since late CY19. GDIT project teams were often unable to enter customer work sites, dampening sales (and margins) in CY2Q20, while the company has yet to replace revenue lost by the completion of several legacy programs in CY19. While growth at many of the remaining federal IT competitors TBR tracks was tempered in CY2Q20, most delivered at least marginal top-line growth while deflecting, to varying degrees, pandemic-related profit pressures.
New projects to aid the federal COVID-19 response did provide a handful of vendors with new revenue streams, but classified programs (particularly in the intelligence space) were a commonly cited challenge area. Many classified clients closed their sites to all but mission-critical employees during CY2Q20, generating growth and margin pressures that varied according to a vendor’s exposure to the classified arena.
The process for getting employees cleared for new classified projects or for simply getting clearances for new employees was also made more difficult by the pandemic, keeping some vendors from generating new revenue from some recent awards. Deploying project teams to nonclassified defense and civilian programs was also problematic, causing significant portions of vendor workforces to remain idle or underutilized and deferring revenue recognition, though this trend was less intense outside the classified space. Still, the federal government remained open during the early months of the pandemic, and most programs remain fully funded even as the coronavirus created a government shutdown of a different sort with effects that are and will remain unpredictable, even into CY21.
While the coronavirus hit during CY1Q20, the bulk of the pandemic-related turmoil in relation to program delivery, business development and operations was expected during CY2Q20. Federal IT vendors adapted quickly to manage the direct impacts of COVID-19 by shifting large swaths of their workforces to telework, activating new incident response protocols, and rolling out new virtual collaboration tools to maintain communication with clients and project teams. The resiliency of the federal IT market and proactive response to the crisis to ensure service continuity offset some of the headwinds to vendor fiscal performance, but uncertainty about the continued impact of the pandemic remains.