Business-to-business software makers rallied Wednesday on a range of news that included two upgrades and a customer win. Shares of Ariba ( ARBA) shot up 59 cents, or 14.6%, to $4.64 in recent trading after J.P. Morgan H&Q and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey upgraded their ratings on the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company. FreeMarkets rose $1.90, or 9.4%, to $22.10 after the company announced a long-term contract with electronics retailer Best Buy ( BBY). Wedbush Morgan Securities also issued a survey of FreeMarkets customers and modestly increased financial estimates.
B2B competitor Commerce One ( CMRC) also rose 12 cents, or 6.6%, to $1.93. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey supply chain analyst Christopher Rowen upgraded Ariba from neutral to outperform, citing confidence in the company's new management and new spend management products. Rowen also noted that Ariba reiterated guidance Tuesday at the Robertson Stephens technology conference. CFO Jim Frankola confirmed that the company expects to break even in the third quarter ending in June and turn a pro forma profit in the fourth quarter, which ends in September. "For the first time ever, we can envision ourselves buying ARBA solutions if we worked at a major corporation," Rowen said in a research note. His firm hasn't done any banking with Ariba. J.P. Morgan H&Q analyst Ian Morton also raised his rating on Ariba from market performer to long-term buy. Morton cited the stock's valuation, noting that shares have fallen 47% in the past month. His firm hasn't done any business with Ariba. FreeMarkets, another former B2B favorite, said Best Buy signed a long-term contract for its e-sourcing products after completing a successful pilot that began in June. In addition, Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Nathan Schneiderman's survey of 24 FreeMarkets customers found that the Pittsburgh-based company enjoyed "truly exceptional levels of customer satisfaction." Schneiderman, who has a buy rating on FreeMarkets, said the key issue for the company this year will be acquiring new customers. He raised his 2002 revenue estimate from $214 million to $216 million and 2002's cash earnings estimate from 30 cents to 32 cents a share. Schneiderman also raised his 12-month price target from $27 to $30. His firm hasn't done any business with FreeMarkets.