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So far, 2012 has been a good year for shareholders of
Accenture(ACN - Get Report). The $44 billion consulting firm has rallied more than 21% since the first trading session of the year, besting the broad market by a big margin.
Accenture is a consulting, technology, and outsourcing firm that provides service to 96 of the world's 100 biggest companies, boasting a geographic footprint that spans 50 countries. That global reach among the biggest firms is a very good thing for Accenture; after all, courting consulting contracts is often a case of who you know. Potential clients know that Accenture knows everyone.
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Accenture's business is built around helping clients make more money. That's critical. Because ACN quantifies the improvements that it brings to the table at each engagement, it's more likely to continue to renew its contracts, even when firms are tightening their belts.
And unlike many consulting firms, which are formed as lucrative partnerships, Accenture's publicly traded status means that it throws off mountains of cash with effectively no debt. The downside of that cash pile -- $5.6 billion at last count -- is that it may prove temping for management to put to work with a risky investment (like a series of goodwill-filled, asset-light acquisitions).
A historically decent dividend payout should help the firm avoid that compulsion.