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Accenture Beats Estimates

Updated from 4:24 p.m. EST

Accenture (ACN) posted first-quarter results Thursday that beat top- and bottom-line estimates, thanks in part to a sizable share repurchase during the period.

Accenture also indicated second-quarter sales could come in slightly lighter than currently expected, but left full-year sales targets unchanged and raised earnings guidance to reflect the share repurchase.

Highlighting higher-than-expected bookings during the quarter, company executives struck a bullish tone about the future prospects of the information-technology service provider.

"The global demand for consulting and outsourcing is strong," CEO William D. Green said in a postclose conference call. He noted "improving market conditions in terms of demand and pricing." And, he added, "We are feeling more optimistic about pricing than we have for a very, very long time."

Executives pointed out more activity in technology spending, "refreshment" of business applications and success competing against Indian off-shore outsourcing companies.

Accenture said net income rose to $214.9 million, or 36 cents a share, from $196.3 million, or 32 cents a share -- and 30 cents a share on an options-adjusted basis -- a year earlier.

Net revenue grew 12% from a year ago to $4.17 billion in the first quarter, which ended Nov. 30.

The EPS figure beat the consensus estimate of 34 cents gathered by Thomson First Call; revenue results also exceeded analysts' average expectations of $4.1 billion. Accenture had forecast net revenue of $4 billion to $4.2 billion and earnings of 32 cents to 34 cents a share under generally accepted accounting principles. But the company's guidance did not account for 46.4 million shares that Accenture subsequently repurchased at a discount in a Dutch tender offer.

Altogether, Accenture purchased 52.2 million shares at a cost of $1.15 million during the quarter, which contributed to a penny of upside to earnings per share.

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