Though its chips remain down, Accenture
The IT-services and consulting company posted fiscal-2010 second quarter revenue of $5.2 billion, representing a modest 2% year-over-year decline. Without favorable currency effects, however, revenue would've fallen by 8%.
The company's consulting business, which contributed more than half of net revenue, was once again the weakest link. That's no surprise, since these services depend largely on growth-type projects, and we all know that businesses (or clients, from Accenture's perspective) have until recently been more focused on cutting costs and riding out the rough patches.
Meanwhile, earnings per share of $0.60 slipped about 5% from the year-ago period, even as a lower share count and beneficial foreign exchange boosted results.
In contrast, free cash flow, which strips out such items as depreciation and the company's sizeable share-based compensation, rose nearly 7%, to $616 million. Because employee stock options represent a very real, albeit future, claim on company profits, investors might consider that Accenture's "true" financial performance lies somewhere between EPS and FCF results.
Other bright spots in the quarter include a revenue gain in the Financial Services operating group. That squares with recent results from competitors Infosys
Moreover, Accenture's prospects appear to be improving in general. Speaking on the conference call, management observed, "With the first half of fiscal 2010 now behind us, we believe we have turned the corner, but remain cautious about the pace of the upturn …." Such optimism sounds far less hedged when you consider that the company plans to add 50,000 people to its workforce this year.
Looking ahead, even Accenture's recently sluggish consulting business could soon enjoy a boost. According to management, businesses are beginning to "raise their sights," eyeing various growth and marketing projects.
Another development that's got my attention is the company's recently announced launch of a new data management platform, designed to help clients design and implement smart grid systems. Currently in use by utility Xcel Energy
While this development may not soon be material to results, Accenture's ongoing partnership with companies such as Oracle (the two have worked together for nearly 20 years) speaks to the future stability of its revenue stream. In other areas of techland, companies such as Cisco
Speaking of the long term, I continue to view Accenture favorably. On valuation, its shares are certainly more attractive than those of India-based competitors such as Wipro
Are you the sort of investor who could stomach that development? You'll just have to consult yourself on that.