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Equifax Inc. (EFX) is a leading global provider of information solutions for businesses and consumers. It has a large, diversified group of clients and customers, which includes financial institutions, corporations, governments, and individuals. The company’s products and services are based on comprehensive databases of consumer and business information derived from numerous types of credit, financial, employment, income, public record, demographic and marketing data. It utilizes proprietary tools in order to analyze all available data to create customized insights, decision-making solutions, and processing services for its clients. Equifax also helps consumers understand, manage, and protect their personal information and make more informed financial decisions. In addition, EFX is a leading provider of payroll-related and human resources business process outsourcing services in the United States.

The business currently operates throughout three global regions: North America (U.S. and Canada), Europe (the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal) and Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay). It also maintains support operations in Ireland, Chile, and Costa Rica. What’s more, the company currently holds an investment in the second largest consumer and commercial credit information company in Brazil and offers credit services in Russia and India via joint ventures.

Competition

The market for its products and services is highly competitive and is subject to constant change. The competitors vary widely in both size and the nature of the products and services offered.

Competition for Equifax’s consumer information solutions and personal solutions products differ by both application and industry. Generally, two other global consumer credit reporting companies are mentioned in the same breath, most notably Experian and TransUnion, both of which offer a product suite similar to EFX’s credit reporting solutions, and LifeLock, a national provider of personal identity theft protection products. There are also a large number of smaller competitors, which offer similar products in specialized areas (such as fraud prevention, risk management and application processing and decisioning solutions) and software companies offering credit modeling services or analytical tools.

The company’s competitive strategy is to emphasize improved decision-making and product quality, while remaining competitive on price. Its marketing services products also compete with companies that offer demographic information products, including Acxiom Corporation (ACXM), Harte-Hanks, Inc. (HHM), and infoGROUP, Inc. It also competes with Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) with respect to certain credit analytical tools.

Too, competition for its suite of commercial solutions products primarily include Experian, The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation (DNB), and Cortera, Inc., in addition to the providers of these services in the international markets it serves.

The overall competition for the company’s employment and income verification services includes large employers who serve their own needs through in-house systems to manage verification as well as regional online verification companies, such as Verify Jobs and First Advantage, along with other human resources and tax services. Industry peers for TALX Employer Services include payroll processors, such as Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP), Paychex, Inc. (PAYX), and Ceridian Corporation. Meanwhile, it squares off against large employers and smaller regional firms at its Tax Management Services unit, including Barnett Associates, Thomas & Thorngren, and UC Advantage. Talent Management Services competitors include assessment service providers that offer proprietary content, chiefly Previsor, Inc., Development Dimensions International, Brainbench, Inc., human resources consulting firms AON Corporation (AON), Towers Watson (TW), as well as Right Management Consulting and assessment or test publishers that have proprietary delivery platforms Devine Group, Inc., Hogan Assessments Systems, Inc., and SHL Group plc.

While Equifax maintains that not every business offers the same diverse mix of products and applications, certain competitors may have a larger share of particular geographic or product markets, or operate in geographic areas where Equifax does not currently have a presence.

Performance

Although shares of Equifax took a hit during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, they have since rebounded quite nicely. Indeed, the information provider has realized solid growth in all areas, ranging from risk & verification services to fraud prevention, which has materialized into strong top-line advances of late. Moreover, stringent cost controls and healthy market share gains have allowed the bottom line to follow suit.

In addition, a rising tide of credit card issuances should aid the company going forward, as it could lead to a boom of prospective customers seeking their FICO scores. Therefore, a slow-but-steady economic recovery ought to augur well for EFX’s prospects over the long haul.

However, investors would be wise to note this business has a degree of risk, since it is closely linked to consumer credit. Thus, another economic downturn or tightening across broader markets may limit the company’s ability to generate good returns.

For a more detailed look at Equifax Inc.’s prospects and the investment merits of the stock, subscribers should peruse our full-page report in The Value Line Investment Survey.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.