UPDATE 2-TCS gives upbeat growth outlook
* March quarter profit meets expectations at 29.3 bln rupees
* Expects to beat industry group estimate for sector for FY13
* Grew faster in U.S. versus company average in constant currency
* Raising wages in India by 8 pct (Adds fund manager comment, details)
By Aditi Shah and Harichandan Arakali
April 23 (Reuters) - Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, India's top software services exporter, posted a 23 percent rise in March-quarter profit and gave a relatively upbeat outlook, a sign it may be better positioned than rival Infosys Ltd in a fragile global economy.
The company, part of the Tata Group salt-to-steel conglomerate, said growth in the fiscal year that started this month is on track to exceed the 11-14 percent sector revenue growth forecast set by India's National Association of Software and Service Companies, or Nasscom.
"Our deal closures have been good, the pipeline is good, and we are seeing traction, so we would continue to maintain that we'll come ahead of Nasscom estimates," Chief Executive Officer N. Chandrasekaran told reporters in Mumbai.
TCS also said it is raising wages for workers in India by 8 percent. Infosys, by comparison, said it was freezing wages.
Infosys, once seen as the bellwether of an Indian IT services industry that now generates $100 billion a year in sales, is losing its sheen after delivering two consecutive quarters of disappointing forecasts.
Infosys shares fell as much as 12.5 percent when it gave a weaker-than-expected revenue outlook in its April 13 earnings report.
"The negative impact created by Infosys may be diluted to a large extent," said R. K. Gupta, managing director of Taurus Asset Management, which manages about 33 billion rupees and holds both TCS and Infosys shares.
TCS posted March quarter profit of 29.3 billion rupees ($558 million), meeting expectations, based on international accounting standards, while revenue rose 30.5 percent from a year earlier to 132.6 billion rupees.
Analysts had forecast a net profit of 29.03 billion rupees for the company, whose customers include Citigroup Inc and BP Plc, on revenue of 132.57 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
India's IT services sector earns about 70 percent of its revenue from exports to the United States and Europe, and economic weakness in both has created uncertainty.
Last week, however, fourth-ranked HCL Technologies Ltd reported March-quarter profit that beat expectations, while U.S.-based Accenture Plc has said it sees increasing demand across all geographies in technology outsourcing.
TCS sales grew at 3.3 percent in the United States on a sequential basis in the March quarter, Chandrasekaran said. This compared with the company average of 2.3 percent.
Sales to financial clients remained unchanged from the previous quarter, and the company added three large orders in the banking, financial services and insurance sector, he said.
In contrast, Infosys saw unanticipated cuts in spending from some financial clients during the quarter ended March.
"Pricing is going to be more or less stable," Chandrasekaran said.
Tata Consultancy's staffing level grew nearly 40,000 in the fiscal year that ended in March, the most additions ever, and the company employs over a quarter of a million people. It said it plans to bring on about 50,000 recruits in the current year.
Wipro Ltd, India's No. 3 IT services exporter, is expected to report that March-quarter profit rose 9.5 percent to about 15 billion rupees on Wednesday.
TCS shares, which have a market value of $41 billion, closed down 2.2 percent ahead of the results, while the main index fell 1.6 percent.
($1 = 52.5250 Indian rupees) (Additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Prashant Mehra in Mumbai; Editing by Tony Munroe)
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