February 18, 2010 / 9:29 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Sapient sees Q1 rev above Street, posts strong Q4

* Q4 adj. EPS $0.11 vs est. $0.08

* Q4 rev $191.3 mln vs est. $173.7 mln

* Sees Q1 service rev $177 mln-$181 mln

* Shares up 6 pct after market (Recasts; Adds executive and analysts comments, updates shares)

By Mansi Dutta

BANGALORE, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Technology consulting and interactive marketing company Sapient Corp SAPE.O guided first-quarter revenue above estimates on flush customer budgets and posted forecast-beating quarterly results, sending its shares up 6 percent after market.

“We feel good about the business and our prospects for high growth in coming years,” Chief Executive Alan Herrick said on a conference call with analysts.

This year should be incrementally better than 2009 as budgets are in the process of being released, he said. “You are seeing a shift in technology budgets to marketing-related IT.”

Herrick added that while pricing pressures seen in 2009 were continuing to flow through the books, the second half of 2010 should see a modest improvement.

The company is well-positioned in two areas — IT and advertising — that have some good secular growth trends, Stifel Nicolaus analyst George Price said.

Sapient, which competes with Accenture Plc (ACN.N) among others, forecast first-quarter service revenue of $177 million to $181 million, and said it expects adjusted operating margin of 7 percent or more.

“To me the real key is, can they show good margin improvement,” Price said and added that first-quarter margins were a little bit below what he had expected.

Adjusted operating margin for 2010 is expected to be in the range of 11 percent to 12 percent, Sapient said.

Analysts were expecting total revenue of $175.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

For the fourth quarter, the company posted a profit of $70.1 million, or 51 cents a share, compared with $25.7 million, or 20 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding special items, the company earned 11 cents a share.

Revenue rose 11 percent to $191.3 million, of which service revenue accounted for $183.5 million.

Analysts were looking for earnings of 8 cents a share, excluding items, on revenue of $173.7 million.

Overall general improvement in discretionary business spending in both IT and advertising helped the fourth quarter, Price, who has a “buy” rating on the stock, said.

Sapient also announced a special dividend of 35 cents per share.

Shares of the Boston-based company were trading up 4 percent at $8.74 in after-market trade. They closed at $8.36 Thursday on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Mansi Dutta; Editing by Ratul Ray Chaudhuri and Unnikrishnan Nair)

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