SS&C Technologies Holdings (NASDAQ:SSNC) announced stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter 2019 results late last week. And though shares of the financial services software leader initially popped in response, the top tech stock has all but given up its post-earnings gains as investors reconciled the quarterly beat and a recently raised dividend with the company's apparently tepid forward guidance.

Let's take a closer look at how SS&C ended the year, starting with its headline numbers, as well as what investors should be watching in the coming quarters.

Metric Q4 2019 Q4 2018 Change

GAAP revenue

$1.204 billion

$1.111 billion

8.3%

GAAP net income

$141.6 million

$58.7 million

141.2%

GAAP earnings per diluted share

$0.54

$0.23

134.8%

Data source: SS&C Technologies. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles.

On a non-GAAP basis, which on the top line means adjusting for the impact of the adoption of new accounting standards, SS&C's quarterly revenue increased 7% year over year to $1.212 billion. Adjusted net income grew 17.1% to $284.6 million and rose 13.7% on a per-share basis to $1.08. These results were well above guidance provided in October for revenue in the range of $1.154 billion to $1.184 billion and adjusted net income of $0.95 to $0.97 per share.

As measured by segment, software-enabled services revenue grew 4.2% year over year to $974.5 million, while license and maintenance revenue grew 30.3% to $229 million. Meanwhile, SS&C also completed its previously announced acquisition of Algorithmics from IBM in early December, and raised its quarterly dividend by 25% to $0.125 per share.

SS&C chairman and CEO Bill Stone said the company "finished 2019 strong," elaborating:

Going into a new decade, we are confident in our financial strength and the resiliency of SS&C's business model. The financial services and healthcare markets we serve are complex and demanding. The investments we make in expertise, talent, innovative technology, and value-add services have and will pay dividends well into the future.

Stock market data in red and green on an LED display.

Image source: Getty Images.

Moving forward

For the first quarter of 2020, however, SS&C told investors to expect revenue of $1.15 billion to $1.19 billion, the midpoint of which represents just 1.7% year-over-year growth. That should translate to adjusted net income of $248.5 million to $264.5 million, or roughly $0.93 to $0.99 on a per-share basis. Most analysts were modeling first-quarter earnings and revenue near the high end of SS&C's target ranges.

SS&C also provided its initial full-year 2020 guidance, calling for adjusted revenue of $4.692 billion to $4.852 billion, adjusted net income of roughly $1.085 billion to $1.14 billion, and -- based on its average expected share count -- adjusted net income per share of $3.99 to $4.22.

To be fair, SS&C has soared more than 40% from last year's lows, likely leaving some traders keen to take profits off the table in light of the company's conservative forward view. Given the recent momentum of its underlying business and SS&C's persistent habit of underpromising and overdelivering, however, I won't be the least bit surprised if the stock continues to drift higher from here.