Considering that it was reviewing a full decade's worth of stock option grants totaling more than 64 million shares, it's not surprising that business software and services supplier Sapient
As the raw data in our Fool by Numbers highlights, instead of the $6.3 million profit the company turned in last year, it basically broke even on a per-share basis by eking out a $100,000 profit this time around. Yet the performance was not so bad that Sapient couldn't dole out a $1.5 million bonus to unidentified employees in recognition for their work.
OK, there's a new management team. Sapient's audit committee found that the previous team engaged in a wholesale scheme to backdate stock option grants, the full extent of which is still unknown. That's why the company is reporting preliminary results. It's got a lot of rewriting to do, which apparently included the second quarter's preliminary results as well.
Revenues from the second quarter were marked down $1.4 million while expenses increased by $200,000, which when factoring in all the other amendments from changes in estimates, resulted in income from continuing operations decreasing by $2.5 million, or $0.02 per share. That doesn't sound too bad until you realize the company had reported only $0.03 per share altogether for continuing operations. In the third quarter, that performance worsened to a loss of $1.2 million.
While Sapient's shares have recovered 50% from their lows, the stock is still about 22% off of its highs over the past year. Thus it seems a little early to be backing up the managerial bonus truck.
Investors ought to be a little cautious going in here, too. Sapient expanded in Europe, with revenues growing 17% there and 9% in North American markets over last year. So there is still demand for the company's services. But the stock is trading at 34 times trailing earnings and 54 times 2006 earnings. At two and a half times the forward multiples of most of its competitors -- like Accenture
Betting that new managers can straighten things out would end up costing investors a lot if the economy sours again and businesses cut back on their IT spending. Considering that some market researchers like Forrester predict that global IT spending will increase by only 6% worldwide, "solid" in the U.S. but down in Europe, where Sapient has been experiencing growth, it seems to this Fool that the high expectations are a bit unwise.
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