More Fallout for BEA Systems

The stock of enterprise software developer BEA Systems (Nasdaq: BEAS  ) lost about 17% when the company reported its third-quarter results back in November. Unfortunately, the problems have spilled over into the fourth quarter and the stock plunged again, dropping more than 9%. While the company is getting some traction in its new technologies for service-oriented architecture (SOA) deployments, the growth investors had hoped for in 2007 will likely be deferred.

In last week's fiscal fourth-quarter earning report, revenues increased 15% to $391.8 million. There was 8% growth in license revenues, which is important since it is a source of ongoing maintenance and service fees. The company did not report its net income figures because of the internal investigation of its stock options program. Of course, this is not rare in the tech world.

The core business of BEA is so-called middleware, which helps operate Web applications (like e-commerce sites). The company also has software for corporate portals, which allow businesses to organize internal information.

These firms generate nice streams of cash, and have solid customers like Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , FedEx (NYSE: FDX  ) , Genentech (NYSE: DNA  ) , Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) .

The problem? It's tough to find growth. So over the past few years, BEA has been investing lots of resources into SOA; essentially, this means using Web-based approaches to integrate different systems. The result is a powerful technology called AquaLogic, which is getting lots of traction. Last year, it contributed about a quarter of BEA's license growth -- more than $110 million in revenues.

Going forward, management sees revenues in the fiscal fourth quarter of $350 million to $364 million. For the full year, it expects to maintain its revenue growth target of 10%-15%. However, the company believes that the growth will be "back-end loaded."

Why? Well, the conference call was a bit fuzzy on this, but management is having execution problems in the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

Something else to consider: SOA implementations are complex, expensive, and time-consuming, and there is also serious competition -- so it is probably not easy landing new customers. Thus, as I mentioned in my article last November, BEA does not have any obvious catalysts in the short run, making it very difficult for the stock price to gain any momentum.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article.

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