Computer Sciences Computes

Computer Sciences (NYSE: CSC  ) , better known as CSC, is the No. 3 computing services company, behind IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and Electronic Data Systems (NYSE: EDS  ) . The former has struggled to make revenue gains from anything but favorable currency translations that are bound to be a short-lived phenomenon. And the latter has been beleaguered by hefty debt, big contract problems, and a government investigation to such an extent that customers are canceling contracts or are hesitant to commit.

So, where are companies turning for outsourcing IT work then? Well, there's also Accenture (NYSE: ACN  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , but CSC is known for filling a niche that most of the other big outsourcing firms don't. You call in CSC and you're apt to get a rag-tag renegade-looking bunch of bleary-eyed hard-core hacks, who substitute a few extra scoops in the coffeemaker for a jumbo Starbucks, because they'd be working in the hole if they had to pay retail for every cup.

I'm not making that up. I worked with CSC programmers for years as an analyst in the insurance industry. Most were none too crazy about meetings, but when some extraneous machine language code reared its ugly head, they usually had someone who could get down to the ones and zeros.

And CSC has more than just eccentricity going for it, having done the best job among its competition of repositioning itself in the face of an industry slump. The result has been new contracts out the ying yang, or $17.2 billion in "major" awards in the past 12 months, to be more precise. That's 50% more than its previous record. And its purchase last year of Dyncorp, a defense contractor that goes way beyond IT, has contributed significantly to a 65% increase in contracts from the government.

The end result was a strong fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report that sent the stock up 8%. Revenue rose 30% to $4 billion for the quarter, which even on a constant currency basis, was still up 24%. And net income was $190.6 million, or $1.01 per share, compared to $162.7 million, or $0.93 per share, a year earlier. Even after today's run, I still see CSC as a stock to buy and hold.

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Fool contributor Mark Mahorney doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned.


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