Acxiom Expects Q4 Revenue, Earnings Shortfall

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Fourth-quarter sales and earnings at Acxiom Corp. will fall short of expectations, the company said yesterday.


Attributing the drop to the war in Iraq and a weak economy, Acxiom said it expects revenue for the 2003 fourth quarter ended March 31 of $238 million, up slightly from $225 million a year earlier.


Acxiom's stock closed down nearly 21 percent in trading yesterday.


"While our fundamental value proposition remains outstanding and new contract signings were strong, we have seen more clients delay programs and projects and remain very conservative in all areas of discretionary corporate spending," said company leader Charles Morgan. "It is important to note that our cash flows have remained strong and exceeded our prior guidance. This strong cash flow performance has allowed us to continue to reduce debt and buy back Acxiom stock."


More than a dozen companies have blamed war in Iraq and the economy for a shortfall in quarterly results in recent days. Another marketing services company, Harte-Hanks Inc., warned earlier this week that it would miss analysts' estimates for the first quarter, saying it has been hurt by the war in Iraq and continuing economic weakness.


Harte-Hanks said the first three months of the year have been weaker than expected, and it expects earnings per share to be down 3 cents to 5 cents from the year-earlier period.


Meanwhile, Group 1 Software, Lanham, MD, reaffirmed its guidance yesterday for fourth-quarter and full fiscal year revenue and earnings. Guidance for the fourth quarter ended March 31 called for revenue in the range of $27 million to $28 million, as compared to $24.1 million reported in the prior year's fourth quarter. Achievement of these projections would result in revenue for the full fiscal year in the range of $102 million to $103 million. The company said it expects to announce its earnings in mid-May.


Group 1's stock closed down more than 14 percent in trading yesterday.


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