E-business players herald spending return

29 Jan 2004

CRM software vendor Siebel Systems has dashed its own expectations by reporting a solid fourth quarter that surpassed earlier predictions. Last October the company, which employs approximately 60 people in Galway, forecast revenues in the range of US$335m to US$355m, licence revenues in the range of US$120m to US$140m and earnings per share of between five and six cents. However, in this month’s fourth quarter results, the company saw revenues reach approximately US$365m, licence revenues reach US$150m and earnings per share at approximately eight cents. The results will come as good news to beleaguered staff in Siebel in Galway, where 40 jobs were shed two years ago on the back of disappointing quarterly results.

In preliminary figures for its fourth quarter, German e-business software maker SAP reported a slight increase in software revenues, indicating a more gradual recovery in corporate software spend than the dramatic return most analysts have been predicting based on Siebel’s dramatic recovery. SAP’s software revenues of €958m were up by 4pc compared to last year. The company, which employs 300 people in west Dublin, said that the software results were achieved mainly through strong performance in the US and Germany.

Intel, which employs more than 4,000 people in Ireland, posted a record-breaking fourth quarter, with revenues of US$8.74bn, surpassing a previous record of US$8.73bn set in the third quarter of 2000, at the height of the global technology boom. Intel’s fourth quarter net income was US$2.2bn, up 31pc sequentially and up 107pc year-over-year. Earnings per share were US$0.33, up 32pc sequentially and up 106pc from US$0.16 in the fourth quarter of 2002. Revenue for 2003 was US$30.1bn, up 13pc from US$26.8bn in 2002. Net income was US$5.6bn, up 81pc from US$3.1bn in 2002. Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2004, the company predicted that revenue is expected to be between US$7.9bn and US$8.5bn.

Proving that original is always best, after posting a net loss of US$8m this time last year, Apple Computer posted a net profit of US$63m in its first quarter results. This followed a year that saw its iTunes music service log more than 10 million downloads as well as widespread adoption of Mac OS X and sales of its computers and iPod music player increasing exponentially. Revenue for the quarter reached a four-year high of US$2bn, up 36pc from the same quarter a year ago. Gross margin was 26.7pc, down from 27.6pc in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 44pc of the quarter’s revenue. “It was an outstanding quarter for Apple, with double-digit unit and revenue growth and more than 730,000 iPods sold,” said Steve Jobs (pictured), Apple’s CEO.

Despite reporting solid first quarter results and promising record new orders in the next quarter, big five technology consultancy Accenture has warned that earnings in the second quarter of fiscal 2004 may be as much as 22pc below analysts’ expectations. Earnings in the second quarter are likely to be impacted by charges related to disposing of real estate, other fixed assets and consolidating operations in the US and UK of between US$75m and US$100m. It is not clear yet how the consolidation may impact the company’s 500 workers here.

Nokia has exceeded its sales and profit guidance for the fourth quarter of 2003, ahead of issuing its Q4 and annual results later this month. Mobile phone sales in the quarter rose to almost €7bn, a 4pc year-on-year increase and better than the company’s previous guidance that suggested sales would be flat. The company attributed this improvement to better-than-expected market development. This factor, along with a favourable product mix, allowed the mobile phone division’s operating margin to continue at the rate of between 24 and 25pc for the quarter. The company shipped 55.3 million units during the three-month period.

By John Kennedy