Updated from 8:15 a.m. EDTShares of Infosys ( INFY) continued their march higher after the Indian tech outsourcer beat second-quarter earnings estimates and raised full-year guidance. The stock recently gained $3.31, or 4.5%, to $76.37. It has appreciated a hefty 81% in two years but was still off about 7% from its 52-week high, partly because of two consecutive disappointing quarters before the solid second-quarter report Tuesday. Infosys' second-quarter profit rose 42% from a year ago to $138 million, or 49 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call consensus by 3 cents. Sales rose 38% from a year ago and 10% sequentially to $524 million, about $15 million ahead of estimates. The Bangalore-based company put third-quarter earnings at 53 cents a share on sales of $556 million to $558 million. Analysts were looking for earnings 50 cents on sales of $547 million. For the year, Infosys put earnings at $2.04 or $2.05 a share on sales of $2.14 billion, up from a previous estimate three months ago of $1.96 to $1.99 a share on $2.06 billion to $2.08 billion in sales. Analysts were predicting earnings of $1.96 a share on sales of $2.12 billion. Infosys, the largest Indian offshoring supplier that trades in the U.S. and widely viewed as a sector bellwether, said it added 34 new clients during the quarter to reach a total of 450 active clients. Total employment was 46,196 at Sept. 30, up a net 6,390 from the end of the first quarter. On a gross basis, Infosys added more than 8,000 employees -- a record for the company, noted CEO Nandan Nilekani. He also highlighted the company's double-digit sequential sales growth, which follows previous quarters of only single-digit growth.
Infosys plans to hire between 5,000 and 5,400 employees on a net basis for the remainder of the year. "The pricing environment is stable with an upward bias. We have maintained margins despite record hiring of employees during the quarter," the company said in a press release. "Liquid assets have gone up by $ 114 million. The rupee has depreciated during the quarter creating a more benign margin environment." Infosys posted a gross margin of 43.3% and operating margin of 27.9% in the quarter. During the quarter, Infosys won its single largest multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract from ABN Amro ( ABN), which the company said highlights its belief that the offshoring of large deals is a megatrend. The company will start collecting revenue under the five-year deal in the fourth quarter. The company's sales from Europe increased to 23.7% of sales from 21.4% in the same quarter a year ago but was flat with the first quarter. The majority of the company's revenue - 65.4% -- in the second quarter came from North America, up from 63.6% in the first quarter and flat with the same quarter a year ago. Application development and maintenance comprised half of the company's total sales in the quarter, while Infosys' fledgling consulting business grew to 3.8% of sales from 3% in the same period a year ago. Nilekani said Infosys expects its consulting business, started less than two years ago, to start making money in the fourth quarter. Large multinational consulting firms such as Accenture> ( ACN) have started beefing up their offshore presence, threatening Indian players such as Infosys. But Nilekani argued that his firm has an advantage as a global offshoring company adding capabilities in contrast to multinationals that he says are doing internal re-engineering to expand offshore.