Stock Watch: MarchFIRST Plummets on Q3 Report

MarchFIRST (Nasdaq: MRCH) plunged 6 15/16 to 4 7/8 Tuesday following a weak third-quarter report and word of analyst downgrades.

The Chicago, Illinois-based Internet consultant said revenue for the quarter totaled $369.4 million, up 24 percent from a year earlier but below the $380.2 million recorded in the second quarter. Supplemental net income was $2 million, or one cent per share, below analysts’ consensus forecast of 20 cents per share.

The company posted a net loss of $436.75 million, or $2.86 per share, compared with earnings of $8.98 million, or 16 cents, in the year-earlier quarter.

Chairman and chief executive officer Robert Bernard said the quarter was challenging because of a market downturn, “changing e-commerce priorities” and a weak euro. “During this same period, MarchFIRST laid the foundation for long-term growth by completing our extensive integration process,” Bernard said.

Reports said analysts at several brokerage firms lowered their ratings on MarchFIRST, with Salomon Smith Barney cutting the stock to neutral from outperform, A.G. Edwards lowering it to maintain position from accumulate, and Merrill Lynch cutting it to near- and long-term neutral from buy. Barrington Research and Robert W. Baird also reportedly downgraded the stock.

Bernard, however, was optimistic, saying the company’s clients “have moved past the early adoption stages of their Internet initiatives, and are now looking to extend their enterprise and drive real business value.”

“With an experienced management team and the global scale and deep expertise needed to tackle large, complex projects worldwide, MarchFIRST is uniquely armed to help these companies succeed,” he said in a statement announcing the results.

MarchFIRST recently formed alliances with companies including Adidas, Sun Microsystems, Teradyne and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria of Spain. The company will continue to expand in Europe and Asia, Bernard said. In addition, earlier this month, MarchFIRST formed a joint venture with Tokyo-based advertising agency Dentsu.

Other priorities for the fourth quarter are looking for market opportunities in the wireless industry, and using alliances with technology companies to develop new products, the company said.

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