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Accenture Optimistic About Growth in 2009

The company's guidance for the next fiscal year is higher than analysts expected.

SAN FRANCISCO - Shares of Accenture (ACN) - Get Accenture Plc Class A Report edged up Friday following better-than-expected 2009 guidance issued late Thursday.

Shares of the company were recently up $1.51 or 4.1%, to $38.68 on a day when the tech-heavy

Nasdaq

was down 1.5%.

For the full year, the company projects top-line growth of 9% to 12%, implying revenue of $27.6 billion to $28.4 billion. EPS is expected to range from $2.85 to $2.93. Analysts were expecting revenue of $25.35 billion and earnings of $2.88 a share.

Revenue projections assume a negative impact of 2% to 4% from foreign currency exchange.

Accenture is targeting new bookings in the range of $26 billion to $29 billion, vs. $26.8 billion in bookings for the year just ended.

In the fourth quarter ended in August, bookings for outsourcing jumped 127% year over year to $4 billion, while consulting bookings rose 17% to $3.6 billion.

Accenture reported revenue growth of 17.7% to $6.56 billion and EPS of 67 cents, a penny better than analysts' expectations.

Some of Accenture's best news came in the current quarter. In early September,

Bristol-Meyers Squibb

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inked a 10-year, $550 million contract with Accenture - "a very large deal in these times," notes Technology Business Research senior analyst Eugene Zakharov in a note late Thursday.

"TBR believes Accenture's fundamentals are strong and the company is well-positioned to weather competitive and economic headwinds," Zakharov wrote.

The market for outsourcing and consulting services is highly competitive, Chairman and CEO William Green noted in the conference call. But the landscape hasn't changed significantly from

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Hewlett-Packard's

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recently completed buyout of

Electronic Data Systems

, he added.

"We certainly haven't seen anything that has been catalyzed" by the acquisition, Green said. "Everyone's sort of in their relative places in the market and just pedaling away on the best opportunities."

Yet the merger poses problems for Accenture, which had partnered aggressively with H-P, Zakharov notes. "Time will show the impact of HP-EDS merger."

H-P has recently been touting its expanded outsourcing and integration services capabilities that EDS brings. In outsourcing, EDS's strength has been in basic outsourcing services.

Yet Accenture's primary competitor for advanced consulting and integration work - called business transformation outsourcing - comes from

IBM

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, which reports third-quarter results in October.

"IBM and Accenture continue to fight for the dominancy in the systems integration and consulting worlds, with IBM being a formidable competitor ... keeping Accenture awake at night," Zakharov wrote.

A more difficult economy in the coming year looms as a risk to Accenture's outlook, particularly in consulting, several sell-side analysts noted Friday. But some see the firm as ahead of the pack.

"In a more difficult demand environment, we expect ACN to be among the winners, leveraging its ... global and industry diversification," JPMorgan analyst Tien-tsin Huang wrote Friday. Accenture is an investment banking client of the firm.