* Strong U.S. IT demand expected in 2014, to boost Indian IT services sector
* Infosys to benefit, as highly exposed to U.S., but outlook still lags sector
* Fast-growing rivals Tata Consultancy, HCL to also reap rewards
* Infosys kicks-off IT sector results, reports June-quarter figures Friday
* Possible changes to U.S. immigration legislation loom over sector
By Harichandan Arakali
BANGALORE, July 10 The strongest growth outlook for U.S. demand for information and communication technology since the 2008 financial crisis is likely to help Narayana Murthy revive Infosys Ltd, the Indian IT giant he founded, but the updraft will also boost its faster-growing rivals.
India's second largest computer services exporter, once seen as a bellwether for India's $108 billion IT industry, derives 62 percent of revenues from North America, a larger share than competitors Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, HCL Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd.
Technology consultancy Forrester Research forecasts an improving economy to spur U.S. businesses and government bodies to increase information and communications technology purchases by 6.1 percent in 2014, the steepest gain since growth of 5.8 percent in 2010, which followed a contraction in demand during the global financial crisis.
Growth in 2013 is forecast at 5.7 percent.
"The demand environment is now quite solid," said Ganesh Natarajan, CEO of mid-sized Indian IT outsourcer Zensar Technologies. "This is the right time for all the pent-up customer demand."
Infosys last month returned Murthy to the helm more than a decade after he stepped down as chief executive to help reverse falling market share and end two years of disappointing results.
The Bangalore-based company, which reports its June quarter results on Friday, has struggled to reap the rewards of an initiative to generate a bigger share of its revenue from proprietary software, and has lost market share to Tata Consultancy and HCL in recent quarters.
CONCERNS OVER U.S. VISA RULES
Several analysts expect Infosys to retain its April forecast of 6-10 percent revenue growth for the fiscal year that ends next March. Morgan Stanley, however, last week said Infosys may cut that forecast to 4-6 percent.
Infosys' outlook lags the 12-14 percent growth estimated for the sector in financial 2013/14 by the National Association of Software and Services Companies, an Indian industry group.
"IT services from a macro perspective is looking good. Now within the gamut of IT companies, all of them may not uniformly benefit," said Tarun Sisodia, a director at IT industry advisory firm Chanakya Niti Consultancy Pvt Ltd.
Looming large over all Indian IT companies is the possibility that the United States, the sector's biggest market, will implement as early as next year new visa rules that will make it more costly and difficult to send workers there.
Infosys also faces management challenges. The head of sales said on Tuesday he had left, and investors have voiced concerns that the company is too reliant on its founders for leadership.
"A people disadvantage exists today at Infosys," Sisodia said. "There is a people advantage at Tata Consultancy."
Shares in Infosys have risen 4.1 percent since Murthy returned to the company on June 1, in line with gains in the IT sector. (Editing by Tony Munroe and Miral Fahmy)