Why Acxiom Corporation Stock Plummeted Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Acxiom Corporation (NASDAQ: ACXM  ) fell 20% Thursday after the enterprise data and analytics specialist released disappointing fiscal fourth-quarter 2014 results.

So what: Quarterly revenue was roughly flat from last year, at $277 million, which translated to a net loss of $0.38 per diluted share. On an adjusted basis -- which excludes a $29 million non-cash impairment charge related to the writedown of goodwill and other long-lived assets associated with its European operations -- Acxiom turned in earnings of $0.24 per diluted share. Analysts, on average, were expecting adjusted earnings of $0.20 per share on sales of $278.57 million.

For the current fiscal year, Acxiom expects revenue to fall roughly 5% from last year, or to roughly $1.04 billion. This should result in fiscal 2015 earnings per diluted share of $0.75 to $0.85. By comparison, analysts went into the report modeling fiscal 2015 earnings of $0.82 per share on sales of $1.1 billion.

Finally, Acxiom announced it had agreed to acquire LiveRamp, a privately held service for "onboarding customer data into digital marketing applications," for approximately $310 million in cash.

Now what: Acxiom blamed the forward guidance miss on lost IT Infrastructure customers and the exit of its analog paper survey business in Europe. Still, Acxiom CEO Scott Howe insisted, "Fiscal 2014 was a year of innovation and transformation." Howe went on to state that the company will focus in fiscal 2015 on "continuing to innovate and invest in our product portfolio," while at the same time growing the user base for its recently launched Audience Operating System.

Even after today's plunge, shares of Acxiom don't look particularly cheap, trading around 25 times last year's adjusted earnings and 27 times the mid-point of this year's expected range. For now, I'm perfectly content watching Acxiom's progress from the sidelines.

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