Updated from 3:37 p.m. EST
You have to admire Tom Siebel's nerve.
Fresh from his year as technology's highest-ranking Pollyanna, the chairman of the software firm that bears his name is once again predicting a rebound in IT spending.
Speaking at a Credit Suisse First Boston technology conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Siebel told attendees: "I think the Q4 environment is more robust than the Q3 environment for information technology." While he declined to give any guidance for
fourth quarter or 2003, Siebel did provide a modestly optimistic outlook for the sector in general, saying, "We see people using budgets in the fourth quarter -- and when we see the economy return to growth we'll see a return to investment."
"This is deja vu all over again and we know how it ends," said Mark Murphy, an analyst with First Albany. "The company will most likely make its fourth quarter numbers ?
but next year is still very much in question."
In a sign either of the clout Siebel still commands or the gullibility of tech investors, the news sent his company's shares up 50 cents, or 5.81%, to $9.10. Despite having gained some 70% from the 52-week low of $5.33, however, Siebel stock is still off by more than 63% for the year to date.
Several analysts noted that a strong fourth quarter, in and of itself, is no big surprise, and congratulated Siebel for restraint about 2003.
"I expect sequential improvement from Q3 to Q4, but this reflects typical buying patterns and seasonality," said Adam Holt, an analyst with J.P. Morgan. "At least he didn't comment beyond the fourth quarter. He, like most software companies, will be cautious regarding 2003 outlook"
Siebel has been lambasted repeatedly this year for predicting in January a pickup in information technology spending in the first half of 2002 and an economic rebound in the second half. The reality, of course, has been much different, in Siebel Systems' case resulting in layoffs and the above referenced stock disaster.
Just as they did in January, Siebel's comments Tuesday follow a resurgence in technology shares. The Nasdaq 100 has gained some 35% since its Oct. 8 lows, while recent data and anecdotal evidence have suggested an increase in demand across a wide range of sectors, including semiconductors, PCs, storage technology and wireless.
"I'm worried that there are too many 'I don't want to miss the move' buyers driving the market and that may result in disappointment and create risk," said Peter Coleman of SoundView. "They will be the first ones to sell."