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Edited Transcript of GDI.TO earnings conference call or presentation 1-Mar-19 2:00pm GMT

Q4 2018 GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc Earnings Call

EDMONTON Mar 7, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc earnings conference call or presentation Friday, March 1, 2019 at 2:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Claude Bigras

GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director

* David Hinchey

GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - SVP of Strategic Development

* Stéphane Lavigne

GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - Senior VP & CFO

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Conference Call Participants

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* Frederic Tremblay

Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst

* Martin Landry

GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst

* Neil Linsdell

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations

* Zachary Evershed

National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Associate

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the GDI Integrated Facility Services Fourth Quarter and Year Ending December 31, 2018, Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded on Friday, March 1, 2019.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Stéphane Lavigne. Please go ahead.

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Stéphane Lavigne, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [2]

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Thank you, Bernard. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to GDI's conference call to discuss our results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended December 31, 2018. My name is Stéphane Lavigne. I'm Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of GDI. I'm with Claude Bigras, President and CEO of GDI; and David Hinchey, Senior Vice President, Strategic Development.

Before we begin, I'd like to make you aware that this call contains forward-looking information, and we ask listeners to refer to the full description of the forward-looking safe harbor provisions that is fully described at the beginning of the MD&A filed on SEDAR last night.

I will begin the call with an overview of GDI financial results for Q4 and fiscal 2018, and then I will invite Claude to provide his comments on the business.

In the fourth quarter, GDI recorded revenue of $303 million, an increase of $56 million or 22.5% over Q4 of last year. GDI also generated record quarterly adjusted EBITDA of $18.4 million, up by $4.3 million or 30% versus the fourth quarter of last year. Adjusted EBITDA margin was 6.1% compared to 5.7% in Q4 2017, and organic growth was at 10.8% in the quarter versus 2.4% last year, coming mainly from Jan USA and the technical segments.

For the full year, GDI recorded revenue of $1.1 billion, an increase of $134 million or 13.8% compared to 2017 with an organic growth of 6.6% compared to 2.2% in 2017. Full year adjusted EBITDA was $60 million, up by $9.8 million or 20% versus last year, representing an adjusted EBITDA margin of 5.4% versus 5.2% last year.

We'll move to our segments now. Our Canadian Janitorial segment recorded revenue in the fourth quarter of $135.5 million, up by $5.8 million or 4.5% over last year, with a solid organic growth rate of 4.5% in the quarter. Adjusted EBITDA stood at $8.6 million, the same as last year, or 6.3% of revenue versus 6.6% in Q4 2017.

For the full year 2018, that segment recorded revenue of $531 million, up by $27 million or 5.2% over last year, with an organic growth being 4.5%. Adjusted EBITDA was $35.4 million, up by $500,000 over last year, with EBITDA margin of 6.7% or -- as compared to 6.9% in 2017.

Our Janitorial USA business segment had a very strong quarter also, recording revenue of $68.9 million, an increase of $20 million or 40.6%, with an organic growth rate of 28.5% in the quarter. Adjusted EBITDA was $5.4 million or 7.9% of revenue versus $4.5 million in Q4 2017.

For 2018, the segment delivered revenue of $230 million, an increase of $41 million or 21% over 2017, on the back of a strong organic growth rate of 10.8%. Adjusted EBITDA for 2018 was $17.2 million, an increase of $2.7 million or 18.7% over 2017 or a margin of 7.2% versus 7.4% in the prior year.

Our Technical Service segment had a great fourth quarter, recording revenue of $86.4 million, an increase of $28 million or 47.8% over Q4 2017, with an organic growth rate of 13%. Adjusted EBITDA was $5.7 million in the quarter, up by $3.4 million over Q4 2017, representing an adjusted EBITDA margin of 6.6% compared to a margin of 3.9% in Q4 2017.

For 2018, revenues stood at $287 million, an increase of 23.5% or $54.7 million over 2017, with an organic growth rate of 5.4%. Adjusted EBITDA was $13.9 million, an increase of 100% over 2017, with adjusted EBITDA margin expanding from 3% in 2017 to 4.8% in 2018.

Finally, our Complementary Service segment reported revenue of $20.4 million in Q4, up by $4.4 million or 27.9% versus Q4 2017, with an organic growth rate of 10.9%. Adjusted EBITDA was $860,000 and came in slightly lower than our fourth quarter of 2017.

For 2018, revenues in the segment were $71.9 million, an increase of $16.9 million or 28.5% over 2017, with an organic growth rate of 14.2%. Adjusted EBITDA grew to $3.8 million in 2018, up by $800,000 or 25.2% over the prior year.

Now I will turn -- I would like to turn the call to Claude who will provide further comments on Q4 and 2018.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [3]

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Well, thank you, Stéphane. And good morning, all, and thank you for taking the time to participate to our earnings call.

I'm very pleased to report that each of GDI's business segments performed extremely well in the fourth quarter and for the whole year of 2018. I'm also pleased to report that we surpassed the $1 billion revenue mark in 2018, finishing the year at $1.1 billion, an increase of $134 million or 13.8% over last year.

Each of our business segment delivered at least 5% of organic growth, resulting in a consolidated annual growth rate of 6.6%, showing that our businesses are growing comfortably in the [extent] of our general economy and gaining market share in the regions we operate.

In 2018, GDI also delivered record adjusted EBITDA of $60 million, an increase of 19.5% or almost $10 million over in 2017. Consolidated adjusted EBITDA margin increased by 20 basis points from 5.2% to 5.4% in 2018. This is the second year in a row that we have recorded adjusted EBITDA growth of approximately $10 million, representing 20% to 25% annual increases, which is coming from both top line growth and margin expansion.

Our Canadian Janitorial segment is the incumbent janitorial service provider in most major markets in Canada, and as such, the business segment is subject to a higher degree of market pressure. This being said, the business is performing well, and it's fairly steady. You all remember that at the beginning of 2018 our team in Central Canada and in the West faced the task of managing a substantial 27% minimum wage increases in Ontario, for example, that came in effect in January 1, 2018. And at the time, I believe that many of you on the call that morning expressed concern, but I'm also pleased to report today that our Janitorial business segment demonstrated its resiliency to market changes and delivered strong results during the year.

Our Janitorial USA business segment had an exceptional year with an organic growth of 10.8% and a recurring adjusted EBITDA of $17.2 million for 2018. As our scale and geographic footprint grows in the U.S. market, we have been able to successfully win new business and are positioned to effectively service larger contract opportunity. And we are seeing this in strong organic revenue growth.

In early January 2019, we acquired AMPM Facility Services based in Boston. This transaction extended our global footprint into New England markets and adds a strong and seasoned management team to the GDI family. I'm excited with this latest addition to GDI in the U.S.

I want to express my satisfaction and delight of seeing the management team and leadership in the U.S. that has worked extremely hard in 2018 to deliver those results as well.

Our Technical Service segment also had an exceptional year, reporting revenue of $287 million, an increase of 23.5% or $54.5 million over 2017. Almost half of the growth revenue was generated organically, both from cross-selling to GDI Janitorial client base and from sales to new clients. We began building our Technical Service business across Canada with the acquisition of Ainsworth in late '15 and Airtron at the end of '16. And I'm very proud of what was accomplished over the last 2 year by the leaderships and management.

With 7 acquisition to date, including Gordon Latham in British Columbia, which closed in December 2018, a good deal of effort spent on integration and business optimization and a strong focus on top line growth, today our Ainsworth business is the largest service-focused, multitrade provider in Canada. Ainsworth now has revenue approaching $300 million and EBITDA margin that as of 2014 Q4 has surpassed the goal we had set for the business 2 years ago. This business segment is highly strategic, alongside our traditional Janitorial business. That team is executing well on the business plan, and we expect to see continued positive results going forward.

Our Complementary Service segment, which is now composed primarily of our product manufacturing and distribution business, had a strong year with revenue of $71.9 million, an increase of $16.9 million over 2017. This business continue to demonstrate steady and profitable growth and continue to successfully grow its business with clients both from within and outside the GDI family.

In summary, I feel that 2018 was a very good year for GDI. We continue to execute on our business plan of growing into one of the largest and leading fully integrated facility service provider in North America. We are successfully growing our businesses organically, and we are executing on our acquisition strategy with the completion of 6 acquisitions in 2018 and 1 in early 2019. All these acquisition are strategic and serve to either expand our business geographically or reinforce our market leadership in regions where we have a strong presence.

Now that we have surpassed the $1 billion revenue threshold, our sight are firmly set on our goal of reaching $2 billion over the next 3 to 5 years, while maintaining our culture of discipline in business margin and acquisition multiple and on extending our leadership position in the market on quality of service and positive customer experience.

We are working extremely hard on building a better and more profitable GDI globally. We are also managing our balance sheet in a conservative way. Our leverage ratios are well within our comfort zone, and we are well positioned to continue to execute on our business plan.

That concludes my remarks, and I would ask the operator to open up the lines to analysts for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Martin Landry with GMP Securities.

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Martin Landry, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [2]

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First question is on your acquisition in Boston. Like you said, it looks like it's your entry in the New England market. Can you talk to us a little bit more about this acquisition, what you liked about that business, is the local management team staying on place and maybe an order of magnitude of revenue, if you can?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [3]

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Okay. Well, Martin, it's Claude. Listen, I would say I will give you a first part of the answer, and then maybe David can complement on some flavor on revenues, et cetera. We have been very focused on developing the business in this region. And the company that just joined the family we've been in contact with them for some 3 years now, so we're very happy that we could conclude this transaction. Yes, the management stays in place. The management is very active, beautiful customer distribution, very strong margins. So we are hoping that this would be our good platform to continue developing this area.

David, maybe if you want to add up a few things?

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David Hinchey, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - SVP of Strategic Development [4]

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Yes. And thank you, Claude. And Martin usually we don't disclose specific financial information on acquisition for competitive reason. I can understand for modeling that might be helpful, so I'd say a range of revenues in U.S. dollars would be $20 million to $30 million. And just to complement what Claude said, this is a -- it's a very well-respected business in its market. And we're expecting very, very (inaudible). As their team, they are staying around with us. They're very excited about the -- about joining the GDI family, and we're very optimistic for the future with them with us.

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Martin Landry, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [5]

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Good. And does that give you enough critical mass in that region? Or are you going to need to bolt on maybe a little bit more before growing organically?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [6]

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Well, Martin, you know what, our strategy -- I don't want to make it too simple, but our strategy has always remained the same: identify targets, make the acquisition, integrate and grow the density with other acquisition in the same sectors and develop the GDI formula, if you allow me to say. So yes, I think the answer is yes, we would continue to grow in this market, and -- but now we have a sustainable platform on which we can really start building. And without doing forward-looking statements, even in the last 2 months, we saw very positive results happening from this transaction. So I hope I answered your question properly. It's both.

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Martin Landry, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [7]

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Okay, okay. And maybe switching gears, looking at your balance sheet, on your cash flows. Usually, in the last 2 years, we've seen you getting a bit of a boost on your operating cash flow from a reduction in your working cap in Q4, and it didn't happen this year. I'm just wondering, are your collection times with your clients getting longer? And is there anything you can do to improve or reduce your accounts receivables?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [8]

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Stéphane, maybe you can take this one?

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Stéphane Lavigne, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [9]

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Yes. Martin, for sure, we saw that in the last couple of years. This year with the quarter being that strong, and so like we generated more revenues, so we needed to technically invest in working cap. There was some huge projects also in Q4. So I'm going to say that's increasing our AR. The DSOs are a bit up, given just that nature of the timing of these contracts, and we expect this to be back in line in 2019, definitely. And it's something that we are working hard is definitely trying to reduce our kind of order-to-cash cycle to make sure that we're able to invoice that as soon as possible and collect. But there's no AR issues at all. It's just a matter of financing the growth of the business and the mix of the business we have in the quarter.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [10]

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Allow me to just add on this. Absolutely, we are always focused on increasing performance of the business unit on financial management (inaudible). It's always a focus.

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Martin Landry, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [11]

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Okay. And just the last question is on technical services. We've seen a good margin improvement there. As -- was there anything special in the quarter that boosted the margin that we should be careful looking into '19? Or just in terms of modeling purposes, you've -- we've seen, sequentially, a very nice increase every quarter in your profitability in that segment. So just do you think that's sustainable going into '19?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [12]

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Yes. Well, actually, if you allow me, we had good successes and strengths coming in towards services to GDI customer, and so that's a very good thing. And over the last 2 year, we have strengthened the business. We exposed the brand. So -- and it's result in more business opportunities. So I can say that we are looking forward continuing to build the business with margin in line with our traditional business. And yes, Q4 was strong, but we have a very strong backlog. So depending on the quarters, depending on how much we execute, but I can say that we are pretty confident, Martin, that the business will deliver sustainable margin, in line with our expectations.

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Operator [13]

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Our next question comes from the line of Frederic Tremblay with Desjardins Capital Markets.

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Frederic Tremblay, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [14]

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Just making sure I understood your comment on the Technical Services margin correctly. I think in the past you mentioned a target of, I think, 5% to 6% EBITDA margin for that segment. Has that changed given the 6.6% that you saw in Q4? Or you're still reiterating that sort of target that's around there?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [15]

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Well, Frederic, there's no such thing as -- how can I say this? The goal is to have -- achieve the highest margin possible, so this is the target. But this being said, we expect the business to deliver within our margin expectations. And I -- we always said in the beginning that our goal for the technical is first to deliver the same margin levels as our traditional Janitorial, so this is what we are aiming for.

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Frederic Tremblay, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [16]

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Okay. And just coming back on the Boston acquisition. Can you talk a bit about their customer base? Is it mainly office, industrial, retail? And appreciate also the detail on the revenue. I was wondering if you could maybe tell us if that business has grown organically in the past 2 years and what that organic growth rate was.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [17]

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Well, listen, I think, like David stated earlier on, we are a little bit savvy on our comments on acquisitions for strategic purposes and market competitive opportunity. But I can tell you this, this business has not grown outside of being an organic growth business and towards within a fully diversified customer base, mainly commercial, mainly office, industrial and commercials area. It does a little bit of institutional. So -- and it's well diversified also geographically around the Greater Boston area. But again, we do not disclose much. I'm sorry for that, but maybe, David, you can give a little bit more color?

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David Hinchey, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - SVP of Strategic Development [18]

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I think you covered it well, Claude. It's a very healthy business, and it's growing well organically.

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Frederic Tremblay, Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division - Analyst [19]

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Okay. And last question for me. As you look at all your -- all of your segments, where do you see the best opportunities to increase efficiency and margins going forward? I'm asking that because I'm seeing Complementary Services at 4.3% EBITDA margin. That's the lowest we've seen this year. I don't know if there's seasonality there or if there are opportunities to make some changes in that segment. Just curious about what your view is on that.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [20]

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When I said -- I think that we have to -- listen, it will take 10 minutes to explain each business segment, Frederic, but I can tell you that we have a business case for every business segment. And yes, this business is focused on growing, acquiring market share and geography but also on improving the performance at every business unit. So each business has a business plan, and we focus on developing it. Our expectation that our businesses will provide satisfactory results, so it's hard for me to tell you this one will perform better. On the Complementary Service segment, I can tell you something. This business 3 years ago wasn't in existence, and now it delivers almost $4 million of EBITDA. So maybe I'm not reading it the same way as you did, but this business is growing very nicely. We did some restructuring to concentrate our business, and we have strong expectations for it. This being said, technical, which was built up for the last 2 years, now I think we're -- now we are at a point where we continue to grow geographically and also work on our margin to make sure that the margin are at where we expect them. Janitorial Canada is -- as you know, our presence in the market is fairly strong, but we have -- like I said last year in our Annual General Meeting, we are pulling to -- we are developing a strategy of reaching some markets, and I think this would be a good source -- very good strong source of growth for GDI Canada. And GDI in the U.S. is developing our market share and making sure that we are optimized and we built our geographical presence. So again, it's not a question of preferred. Each business has its goal to achieve.

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Operator [21]

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Our next question comes from the line of Neil Linsdell with Industrial Alliance.

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [22]

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With the success that you're having, I'm just trying to figure out, how much of this is -- it's just everything is coming together with the work that you've been doing over the past year or 2. And -- but how much of it is -- are you changing any of the processes that you're doing? You've talked a lot about the cross-selling opportunity. So how big of a deal is that? Are you changing the way you're doing it or -- as you're learning more about these businesses? And how far along are you in that process?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [23]

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Well, that's an interesting question. I would be tempted to say a little bit of humor. You know what, everything happens [without] intervention. But I think you're very smart to know that there's a lot of hard work behind it from everybody. Yes, our strategy, we are adapting our strategy according to markets. We are also -- as you said, we are -- now we understand also better what is the winning formula in cross-selling. We also optimize our approach in the market on the technical side. We are developing, like I said, strategies on Jan Canada because we strongly believe that there's still a lot of room to grow, but we just have to be smart about it. So it's a mix of the strategy, better learning and putting processes that -- and we optimize our process. This is absolutely, like Stéphane said earlier, now our focus in '19, for example, in the Tech Services is really from order to cash to make sure that we have the leanest, strongest, most efficient process. This is a very important piece we are evolving. And we continue to develop our sales team in order to make sure that we capture every possible opportunity in Canada.

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [24]

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Is there anything specifically can you talk about as far as things that you've changed as you've learned through this process though?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [25]

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Because we -- how can I say this? Usually, changes happen slowly, and it's one little change at a time. We did not change process dramatically in each businesses, but we slowly tickle and tweak and adjust and make decisions based on what's best for the business and the market. So I have -- we do not have a need for spectacular move that we did that's changed the flavor of the day. It's the sum of a lot of components that are coming together. But now this being said, maybe, Stéphane, maybe you can give a little bit more on that front on the BI project that we're developing? Or maybe you'll be more accurate to give you -- to give us specifics.

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Stéphane Lavigne, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [26]

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Yes. We're putting kind of a new business intelligence software on top of our -- all our business to make sure that, like, we develop good benchmark, good KPI, good forecasting tools, good analysis tools. So because we have different business units and segments, we're combining all of that into 1 platform that we'll be able to, I would say, manage efficiently and track the performance of the business and be able to benchmark and challenge all the businesses with better tools. So we're investing a lot in this right now.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [27]

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Yes. And you know what, we just like -- I'm sorry, go ahead, sir. Before we go...

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [28]

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I'm just wondering if that's a multiyear project and how far along you are on that because it seems to be, obviously, paying off.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [29]

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Well, allow me to just do one thing before we move to the project by itself. One of the very important things that we have put in place is we're a strong believer in management efficiency. So one of the -- I think one of the major thing we have -- what we hope to do is to develop a management structure in each business unit that is committed but is delivering and that is focused on delivering the business. So that, if you ask me, I think this is probably the most important thing that we were able to do with the businesses, make sure that the proper leadership and proper management and the proper focus are in place with strong financial -- strong, strong financial analytics and review. And those 2 things -- just those 2 things together, they can do a lot of the work. Now on the BI side, Stéphane, if you can maybe give more clarity on where we are and how long it's going to take.

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Stéphane Lavigne, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [30]

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We started that, Neil, last summer -- or late spring, early summer. So we're completing right now Phase 1, and we have a Phase 2 that will go to this year. So we would expect that the bulk of this project would be done by the end of this year.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [31]

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Yes. So at the end of the day, we have not started to collect -- to answer your question on the BI project, we will start to collect the investment probably in 2019 and '20.

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [32]

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Okay, that sounds good. And just maybe I'll just finish off with the one more. Like over the last year or so, there's been a lot of problems or concerns with minimum wage increases, labor shortages, passing through prices on contracts. Are there any kind of major sticking points right now that you're trying to deal with? Or are -- is basically everything kind of working in your favor now?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [33]

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Well, working in our favor, I think, it's...

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [34]

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Overstatement, sorry.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [35]

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Okay. Well, listen, we have to work hard, but we have the attitude to work closely with our customers to overcome any issues that they may have on the financial side of projects. I think it's to stay close with [just your] customers, and yes, we were able to go through these increases, both in Ontario and in the West. I think it's really to do -- you know what, it's to unroll the strategy, point by point, items by items, there is no favorable context that I can say that made us be more successful. But please, hopefully, all the governments won't put more pressure every 6 months in the business. I think we had our fair share for the last couple of years on this front.

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [36]

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Okay. So nothing major headaches in those areas that you could share with us, labor shortages, okay?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [37]

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No. Listen, each businesses or each strengths we have our challenges, we have our concerns and we have our -- and it's normal to be concerned, and it's normal to be anxious about it. And I think it's healthy for the business. Yes, we have labor shortage in some areas in Canada. We're developing tools to have a better access to labor. We are developing strategies to retain our people, but it's part of the working business. No, we don't have to close a division because we have no labor to execute. But it gives pressure on the operators to really, really perform the best that they can because those realities are in the markets.

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [38]

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Okay. Yes, I'm thinking more of like skills -- skill trade that you have more on the Technical Services side of that.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [39]

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Oh, I understand. Well, you see, because -- actually, the labor shortage on the traditional business we see it a little bit more because these are more blue-collar and base-skilled staff. They're getting harder to recruit. On the technical side, I can tell you that we provide a very, very, very attractive environment to our workforce, and we bet on that leadership. And the technical service is very, very people focused, and I think this has been a successful tool for us. So yes, we have some pressure, but we are able to attract talent, and hopefully, we'll continue in the next couple of years because we intend to double this business, so we need people.

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Neil Linsdell, Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., Research Division - Head of Research and Equity Research Analyst of Consumer Products & Special Situations [40]

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Okay. And just final question on those types of areas, especially labor issues. Is it the same on both sides of the border?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [41]

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Depending on the -- you know what, it's more regional. It's not so much country side. It's regions. Like in the West, we have a little less issues than we used to have. In Québec, it's a challenge in Québec. In Ontario, I would say it's relatively stable. In the U.S., I would say that Eastern Seaboard is stable. But if you're going towards the Midwest, I think that there are some -- we have some issues. For example, in the Chicago area, et cetera, it's a bit more difficult, so we have to really work out our strategies accordingly.

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Operator [42]

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Our next question comes from the line of Zachary Evershed with National Bank Financial.

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Zachary Evershed, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Associate [43]

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I have a question on the Technical Services project revenues. We saw a big jump in that year-over-year. And I was wondering if you could speak to the seasonality of projects, how sticky the business is and what we can expect going forward from the projects.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [44]

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Well, Zach, the good news is the backlog has been growing steadily. It has doubled from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Hopefully, I'm not doing a forward-looking when I say that. My point is, as we see now, we execute on a certain level of revenue per month on projects where we are happy to see it. So we don't expect big lumps. For sure, example, quarter-over-quarter there are some -- not seasonality, but there is reality that there is a Christmas and the New Year, so Q1 is always a little bit less -- there's less thing happening than probably Q4. But this being said, what we are seeing is we have a very strong backlog, so we expect our project revenue to be consistent throughout the quarters as we have a lot of work ahead of ourselves.

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Zachary Evershed, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Associate [45]

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That's great color. And speaking to Neil's question about pressure on labor shortages, do you see a bit of a trade-off between limiting your organic growth in terms of taking on new contracts and hiring versus margin expansion? And then, would you have to pay people more to take on all the contracts that you want to take on?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [46]

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Okay. Well, listen, no, we have to win on that front without increasing our cost structure, like it's imperative. It's -- these businesses -- I mean, on the traditional side, those businesses are built upon a very rigorous financial management approach. So we are developing more tools to attract more -- I would say like this is, we are developing strategies to have a better exposure to the labor market than trying to attract with better wages. Example, in Québec, as you know, wages are close to $17 an hour, and we have a frictional chômage and so on. I don't know. Help me here. Chômage in English?

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Stéphane Lavigne, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - Senior VP & CFO [47]

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Unemployment.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [48]

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Unemployment, thank you. We have a more focused impression on unemployment. So there's no question that we want to increase our labor cost, but we have to be more aggressive on recruiting labor.

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Zachary Evershed, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Associate [49]

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Beautiful. And last one for me. The financial target, $2 billion in revenue, are you still thinking of that as a range of $1.7 billion to $2 billion? Or are you focused on the $2 billion number in 3 to 5 years now?

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [50]

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Well, my wife tells me every day don't live in the past. So now we have $1 billion done. Now we are heading for the $2 billion.

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Operator [51]

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Gentlemen, there are no further questions at this time. Please continue with the presentation or closing remarks.

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Claude Bigras, GDI Integrated Facility Services Inc. - President, CEO & Non-Independent Director [52]

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Well, thank you very much, again, for taking the time. And yes, I am extremely, extremely happy to see that all the effort that the management and leadership has put in the business is starting to really show its true colors. And we're looking to a 2019 and where we're going to be extremely focused to deliver value and continue on our business plans. And I'm pretty confident that people will continue to deliver on those. So thank you very much again. And I did not have the chance, I would like to wish you a happy new year.

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Operator [53]

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Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your line. Have a great day, everyone.