"Better late than never," goes the old saying. Some may beg to differ after seeing the earnings results posted by S1 (NASDAQ:SONE) late in the afternoon last Thursday. S1 is the fifth and final company from last month's online banking roundup to report its earnings for the first quarter of 2005. But after taking in the news, many investors probably would have preferred "never" to "late."

Not convinced? Think no news can be so bad that investors would rather be kept in the dark? Well, just take a look at the vertical drop in S1's stock price that followed the company's earnings report. That's what a 17% decline looks like, people. (And if you've never seen one before this, count your blessings and just look away.)

The reason for the decline comes in two parts. First, the company "missed estimates" for both sales and earnings. Earnings per share were flat against the year-ago quarter at just $0.01; the Street had been expecting $0.03. Revenues actually increased 11% to $62.4 million -- but again, the Street wanted more. And when you consider that two of S1's competitors, Digital Insight (NASDAQ:DGIN) and Online Resources (NASDAQ:ORCC), just finished reporting profits gains of 38% and 450%, respectively, it's pretty easy to see why investors were disappointed with S1's profits decline.

The second reason for S1's fall was analyst downgrades. On Friday, both Piper Jaffray (NYSE:PJC) and Friedman Billings Ramsey (NYSE:FBR) took the stock down one notch from "outperform" to "market perform." In making the downgrades, both firms cited S1's lackluster prospects for future profits. S1 predicted that in Q2, it will earn about $0.02 per share, whereas analysts had been expecting $0.06.

Even worse: If you caught my last column on S1, you'll recall that as recently as March, S1 was expecting to earn between $0.20 and $0.40 in fiscal 2005. Since we're now looking at a likely $0.03 for the entire first half of the year, however, hitting even the bottom rung of that range is looking pretty unlikely.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company mentioned in this article.