Updated from 3:53 p.m. EDT
, widely seen as a possible takeover target, will make strategic acquisitions, cut costs and move aggressively into new markets, said newly appointed CEO George Shaheen at the company's financial analyst day on Thursday.
"We're going to position this company for growth," he said. "We will invest in products and services our customers want and need, make strategic acquisitions, and maintain and put together a balance sheet that displays our strength."
But Shaheen and other top executives indicated that a substantial share buyback, which could be a cure for the company's underperforming stock and mollify angry shareholders, will probably not be in the cards for the immediate future. Instead, said CFO Ken Goldman, the company will maintain its $2.2 billion horde of cash to use for potential acquisitions and to demonstrate to customers that the company is solid and too strong to fold and leave them in the lurch.
That answer angered institutional shareholders, who later peppered management with a series of increasingly hostile questions over the need for such a large cash holding. Many of those questions went unanswered.
Shaheen, who took over in April following the ousting of previous Siebel CEO Mike Lawrie, did not give details about any acquisition plans the company might have, which is especially ironic given that Siebel's stock has been heavily traded recently as
rumors about a buyout by
and then by Carl Icahn swirled around the company.
Management has consistently refused to comment on takeover rumors, but on Thursday Siebel filed a document with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
, which noted both the takeover talk as well as the routine nature of considering various business options. "We believe that the unusual intensity
of takeover rumors in this instance and the heavy trading volume of our stock over the past several days warrants clarification," the filing said.
However, the filing also appeared to confirm some of the recent rumors: "Similarly, potential opportunities have recently been presented to us that continue to be evaluated and discussed in a manner that is consistent with our past practices and the fiduciary duties of our officers and directors, with the goal of determining what the Board of Directors believes is in our stockholders' best interests."
However, the company stated "there are none under current consideration that have progressed to the point at which the full Board of Directors has met to consider them." But asked during the analysts' meeting to elaborate on the brief filing, management refused.
Shaheen indicated that he will reorganize, or at least make changes to, the company's sales staff. "Our sales force is overly complex and not as nimble as it used to be. Frankly, we get in our own way," he said.
The company promised an intense focus on profitability, and said cost-cutting will be a significant part of the effort.
"In some cases we let expenses grow ahead of revenue," admitted CFO Ken Goldman, who added that he expects to cut $14 million in costs in this quarter, including a saving of $3 million via the layoff of an unspecified number of employees.
However, because $14 million in planned additional expenses, including $6 million for annual merit increases, will offset some of the savings, costs in the second quarter will be $310 million, $1 million higher than costs in the first quarter.
Goldman said the company expects to achieve an operating margin of 15% by the end of this year, and "20% plus" in the future. Even hitting the lower target will require pushing revenue to $350 million, compared to $299 million in the March quarter, Goldman said.
But Siebel has not achieved a growth rate that high in about eight quarters, noted one shareholder, who suggested that the company would be more likely to reach a 15% operating margin by making deeper cuts in spending.
Shaheen came under some personal criticism by two shareholders, one of whom said that the CEO's relatively small equity stake in the company "is an embarrassment."
Sounding rather irked, Shaheen retorted, "I'm not here to discuss my personal portfolio," and added, "I believe in this company."
According to recent filings with the SEC, Shaheen, a board member for 10 years, owns just 3,750 shares directly, and another 50,280 shares via a trust. When he became CEO last month, he was granted 2 million options and 350,000 shares of restricted stock. Siebel has a float of 471.7 million shares, according to recent data on Yahoo! Finance.