Off topic: Any translation agency listed on the market?
Thread poster: Eva Blanar

Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 21:36
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Dec 7, 2005

Do you have knowledge of a translation agency listed on a regulated market (such as a bourse, NASDAQ etc.)? It would be interesting to see the market assessment and any changes therein... (I just have a bit of time, thanks, Santa Claus!)

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xxxec_2005
Local time: 21:36
English to French
SDL Dec 7, 2005

Hi Eva,

SDL, the company that recently bought Trados, is listed on the British market. More info on their Web site : http://www.sdl.com/company/company-financial-overview.htm.

Hope this helps!


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:36
German to English
No agencies as such Dec 7, 2005

Eva,

SDL has already been mentioned (listed on the LSE). There's also L-3 (NYSE listed, I think), which recently bought Titan.

However, neither of these companies is really a translation agency as such. L-3 makes the bulk of its revenues and earnings from other activities, and translation and interpreting are merely ancillary services. Doesn't stop L-3 from being one of the top five language service providers worldwide, though.

SDL positions itself not as a translation company, but as a provider of global information solutions. Translation is part of the process, of course, and translation tools are part of the technology infrastructure.

Lionbridge is listed on NASDAQ, but here too, translation is only a part of the company's operations.

Personally, I have serious doubts about whether a translation agency is an attractive proposition to the financial markets. Translation is an inherently unscalable activity, so organic growth is severely limited in that area. That's why companies such as SDL and Lionbridge have moved into end-to-end solutions for global markets, including elements such as software internationalization and localization, software testing, lifecycle management, and fulfilment.

There have been rumours for some time that Transperfect/Translations.com might be considering an IPO, but my feeling is that they'll have to put their product offering on a far broader base before an IPO could be a successful proposition. Plus, I think that a company - however large - that clearly has to resort frequently to platforms like ProZ in a desperate attempt to find translation suppliers for large projects simply doesn't have the critical mass to be a public company.

These are my entirely personal remarks and should not be construed as reflecting the policies or positions of my company.

BTW, if you want to do some crystal ball gazing, why not take a look at the client industries. I think they're the ones that matter far more than the "translation industry" (if such a thing exists...).

And one final thought: the chances that a listed company will actually write anything worthwhile in its MD&A are pretty low, I think


Robin


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
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Service companies Dec 7, 2005

I believe the reason translation agencies are not listed is because they are service companies. For example, you are not selling a product which can be transformed and last 100 years. When you sell a service you are selling the person carrying out the service, so when the person dies, imagine what would happen in Wall Street!

The question would be: are there any law firms listed, or one of the big 4 accounting firms? If they are, what is their model?

These other companies Robin mentions have diversified into areas that sell a 'product'. Yes, Bill G. turned software into a product, how? he put it in a box. This is what happens with localization, because it is part of the process of an end-product so there are specific parameters, the software has to work properly, etc.

However, we do have a clear example of a 'product' sold by translation agencies, the sworn translation. Maybe, an ISO could even be created for it.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:36
German to English
Service companies can be listed Dec 7, 2005

I believe the reason translation agencies are not listed is because they are service companies... The question would be: are there any law firms listed, or one of the big 4 accounting firms? If they are, what is their model?


There are plenty of service companies listed on stock exchanges round the world, for example retail, B2B and financial services companies. Hundreds, thousands of them.

There are two main reasons why accounting firms and law firms aren't listed:
1) They're generally prohibited by law from being public companies in many legislations
2) They're not interested in being public.

However, we do have a clear example of a 'product' sold by translation agencies, the sworn translation. Maybe, an ISO could even be created for it.


Sworn translations are a small part of the translation market. And what's the difference between a sworn translation and one that isn't? And how could it possibly affect the issue of whether the provider is listed or not. And how could you develop an ISO standard that covers something that's regulated differently in every country? That's not the purpose of ISO standards...

Robin


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
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(personal) Service companies Dec 7, 2005

RobinB wrote:
There are plenty of service companies listed on stock exchanges round the world, for example retail, B2B and financial services companies. Hundreds, thousands of them.


I agree. Could you give one example of such listed company that could be compared to a translation company? i.e. where the service provided is extremely bonded to the person carrying it out?

RobinB wrote:
There are two main reasons why accounting firms and law firms aren't listed:
1) They're generally prohibited by law from being public companies in many legislations
2) They're not interested in being public.


OK, what about consultancy firms?

RobinB wrote:
Sworn translations are a small part of the translation market.


I agree. So? I am not saying agencies should be listed. I just meant that sworn translations are closer to a product than to a service.

RobinB wrote:
And what's the difference between a sworn translation and one that isn't?


The certified translator, stamps, register, delivery of hard copy, price, government regulations, international regulations...

RobinB wrote:
And how could it possibly affect the issue of whether the provider is listed or not.


I don't know. Seems you know more than I do, what about consultancy firms? I am not saying there are none listed, are there?

RobinB wrote:
And how could you develop an ISO standard that covers something that's regulated differently in every country? That's not the purpose of ISO standards...
Robin


That is exactly the purpose. Regulating procedures, standardizing, specially on a global basis.

[Edited at 2005-12-07 14:06]


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:36
German to English
Personal service companies Dec 7, 2005

Fred Neild wrote: I agree. Could you give one example of such listed company that could be compared to a translation company? i.e. where the service provided is extremely bonded to the person carrying it out?


None that I know of, even the consulting companies aren't that "personal", they can switch between consultants at any time. But a translation *agency* isn't personal, is it. After all, we're not talking about *translators* going public, but about intermediaries. And there are plenty of service intermediaries on the markets. Just think of all the banks, online bookstores, etc.

The certified translator, stamps, register, delivery of hard copy, price, government regulations, international regulations...


I don't think that "normal" translations are any less of a product. Possibly even more so, considering they're not bound up with so much red tape. I'm just trying to work out what the offering circular for a "sworn" translation agency would look like..

"1) Objectives of the Company

The primary objective of the Company is to solicit orders for "sworn" translations from end clients, to commission external freelance translators to execute the translations, and to deliver the translations back to the end client.

2) Risk Factors

a) Past Translator Stupidity is No Guarantee of Future Translator Stupidity

To accomplish its objectives, the Company relies totally on external service providers to provide the "sworn" translations. It generates its earnings by paying such external service providers a fraction of what it receives from its own clients. No assurance can be given that, at some point in the future, the external service providers will not turn round and collectively tell the Company to eff off. Such a development would materially adversely affect the Company's net assets, financial position and results of operations, and would force it into liquidation within a very short period."

Somehow, that just doesn't sound like a particularly attractive investment opportunity.

That is exactly the purpose. Regulating procedures, standardizing, specially on a global basis.



The procedures and requirements differ, often substantially, from country to country, and are generally regulated in quite some detail by national law. In other countries, of course, there are essentially no such things as "sworn" translations. This simply isn't the sort of area that ISO standards address.

Robin


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
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You win Dec 7, 2005

RobinB wrote:
None that I know of, even the consulting companies aren't that "personal", they can switch between consultants at any time. But a translation *agency* isn't personal, is it.


Sure, but by personal, besides the thing of The Translator, I mean a service with an inherent bond between performer and result. Also, when I see proposals from consulting firms they always include a CV of the team. In the translation case it is not personal enough because most companies keep outsourcing, like Transper..., and they really don't care about QA. We are not as professional as consultants (neither we earn as much). I believe we could learn a lot from them. I don't think McKinsey is listed or will ever be, not sure why. But if they are not, no T9N agency should be.

RobinB wrote:
I don't think that "normal" translations are any less of a product. Possibly even more so, considering they're not bound up with so much red tape.


I agree, but for that we should implement a Microsoft approach 'with boxes and downloads'. Maybe one day we will get there, or maybe it is not interesting.

RobinB wrote:
a) Past Translator Stupidity is No Guarantee of Future Translator Stupidity


Haha, OK you win. I have no arguments against that.


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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 21:36
English to Hungarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks a lot for the input Dec 7, 2005

Well, finally Santa Claus brought only a short break for me, so I won't have too much time to have a look, anyway.
Special thanks to RobinB, you really know what is what

It's a pity we don't have listed companies, though, I'd love to read the investor relations pages (I am baaad...). But really, it would be nice to see the development of the market over time: if there are people who invest into football clubs or even football derivatives (index), why not translation services? (Finally, translation is far less "personal", isn't it? On the other hand, the business itself might be more "hush-hush".)

At any rate, if I find something I'll let you know. Thank you for your attention.

[Edited at 2005-12-07 20:06]


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