Big Pain at Veritas Software

Updated from 1:24 p.m. EDT

Veritas Software ( VRTS) continued to put its loyalists through the wringer Tuesday, warning that second-quarter earnings and revenue will miss estimates because of a falloff in demand among big business clients.

The news wiped out $4 billion of market cap in the Mountain View, Calif., data-storage software maker.

Veritas, which recently closed the books on a painful accounting blowup that cost its former CFO his job, said weak U.S. enterprise demand would leave revenue in the three months to June 30 between $475 million and $485 million and pro forma earnings at 18 cents to 20 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting pro forma earnings of 24 cents a share on revenue of $501.0 million. The miss sent the stock crashing through its 52-week low to a recent $17.03, down $9.52, or 36%.

Only three weeks ago, Veritas affirmed its old profit and sales forecast. That fact caused considerable lamentation among research firms, including Goldman Sachs, which said Tuesday's pounding partly reflected growing market distrust of management, and J.P. Morgan, which thought the company's restatement debacle might have taken up too much of its top executives' attention. The stock was cut to neutral from buy at Buckingham Research and Veritas had its 2004 earnings estimate dropped to 88 cents a share from $1 a share at UBS.

Twenty-percent-plus declines have become customary in the last several sessions among technology infrastructure companies warning of lackluster results. The preannouncement by Veritas, whose lucrative niche lining up data with applications makes it the 10th-largest software company in the world, comes on the heels of warnings by Conexant ( CNXT), Amkor ( AMKR), webMethods ( WEBM) and Emulex ( ELX), among others.

Veritas cut its estimate of second-quarter new software sales to a range of $263 million to $273 million and said the shortfall was the reason for the expected miss. Analysts had been looking for license revenue in the $300 million-plus range.

"As we have indicated previously, software license orders are generally concentrated in the later part of the third month of the quarter. At the end of the June quarter, our anticipated order flow weakened, contributing to lower-than-expected license revenues," Veritas said.

Various other big-name software vendors were also down. Microsoft ( MSFT) was off 47 cents, or 1.7%, to $28.10, while BEA Systems ( BEAS) fell 33 cents, or 4.1%, to $7.67. In the storage space, EMC ( EMC) fell 65 cents, or 6.7%, to $10.17, while Brocade ( BRCD) lost 32 cents, or 5.8%, to $5.22.

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