UPDATE 2-Huron backs 2010 outlook after a slow start; shares up

Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:52am EDT

* Q1 EPS $0.12 vs est $0.22

* Q1 revenue down 8 pct

* Sees pick-up in demand for consulting

* Shares up 9 pct (Adds details from conference call, background, share movement)

April 29 (Reuters) - Huron Consulting Group Inc (HURN.O) reported a larger-than-expected fall in quarterly profit, weighed down by its health and education consulting segment, but the company is still hopeful of meeting its financial targets for 2010.

"We are conscious of the pick up in revenue over the last three quarters that will be necessary for us to achieve guidance," a company executive said on a conference call. "We remain confident with our guidance."

Shares of the Chicago-based company rose as much as 9 percent in morning trade on Nasdaq.

Huron said it was "cautiously optimistic" about the performance of its health and education, and financial consulting segments in the quarters to come and expects revenue to pick up despite a slow start.

The company expects increased demand for its consulting services in the healthcare sector due to the healthcare reforms, and sees accounting services remaining strong for the rest of the year.

Net income for the first quarter was $2.5 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with $7.1 million, or 35 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Earnings from continuing operations were 14 cents a share.

Analysts expected the company to earn 22 cents a share, including options expense, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue was $138.9 million, trailing analysts' view of $141.9 million. Revenue from the company's health and education consulting -- its largest segment -- fell 16 percent to $76.9 million.

Marginal pick-up in demand in higher education practices and delayed starts in certain projects dragged the company's revenue from health and education consulting segment, Huron said.

The quarter also saw a 20 percent fall in revenue from the company's financial consulting segment -- an area which was expected to benefit from the increase in number of investigations and restructuring stemming from the financial crisis.

For 2010, the company expects adjusted earnings of $2 to $2.20 a share, on revenue of $600 million to $640 million. GAAP earnings per share from continuing operations is seen at $1.55 to $1.75.

Analysts expect earnings of $1.67 a share on revenue of $617.1 million.

The consulting firm competes with FTI Consulting Inc (FCN.N), Navigant Consulting Inc (NCI.N) and private players like Ernst & Young [ERNY.UL] and PricewaterhouseCoopers [PWC.UL], among others.

The company, founded by two dozen partners from the collapsed accounting firm Arthur Andersen, was rocked by an accounting scandal last July, forcing the top management to quit. Shares of the company were up $2.02 at $24.13 in morning trade Thursday on Nasdaq. Excluding Thursday's gains, the stock has lost 5 percent of its value since the beginning of the year. (Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal, Ratul Ray Chaudhuri)