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) -- Shares of

Concur Technologies


hit a 52-week high last week, and a tepid forecast for the first half looks to have hamstrung the stock in the near-term.

The Redmond, Wash.-based travel expense software provider reported mostly in-line results for its fiscal fourth quarter ended in September late Wednesday, but the stock fell in Thursday's session as Wall Street came to terms with an outlook that indicates a slowdown in topline growth and flat margins in the first half of fiscal 2011 as the company continues the expansion of a new product platform.

"The transparency of the model is not as clear as it was in the past and with near-term revenue guidance below the Street, we believe near-term upside in the shares is limited," said Morgan Keegan in a note lowering its rating on Concur's stock to market perform from outperform. "We believe that shares have been priced for 'perfection' and this was not a 'perfect' quarter based on the FY11 guidance."

Indeed, the shares were looking pricey headed into the report, and remain so despite Thursday's nearly 6% decline to $49.90 on volume of 3.4 million, almost seven times the issue's trailing three-month daily average of around 515,000. Last week, the stock reached a 52-week high of $54.71, and even now is trading at a forward P-E multiple of 52.5X based on the current consensus estimate for fiscal 2011.

That ratios compares to forward P-E multiples of 17X and 13X for competitors like





(ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report

; although it should be noted that Compuware and Oracle are more diversified companies than Concur.

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Most of the Wall Street commentary on Concur after its report has an apologetic quality to it as the analysts reconcile their positive views of the overall company with where the stock goes from here if growth slows down. Year-to-date, Concur shares are still up more than 24%, good for a trailing P-E multiple of 114X.

"We believe the medium-term story is intact but the near-term outlook is admittedly cloudier given the topline guidance," said BMO Capital Markets, which maintained a market perform rating on the stock with a 12-month price target of $48.

A majority of analysts were in wait-and-see mode even before the report, and now 16 of the 25 analysts covering the stock rate it as a hold. The median 12-month price target sits at $50.50, and even as it downgraded the stock, Morgan Keegan kept a $51 view on the shares intact.

Jefferies is a Concur bull with a buy rating and $58 target on the stock, and its comments cast the company's performance and outlook in a "good, not great" light while maintaining the company could ultimately do better than it's currently projecting.


Guidance implies rev growth will accelerate in F2H11

the second half of fiscal 2011 and that operating margins will expand," the firm said. "We think it is possible that the company exits FY11 close to is LT

long term growth target of 25% and we think both acceleration and that growth rate will be scarce in CY11

calendar year 2011.

The outlook that tripped the stock up Thursday might look pretty good if expectations weren't already so high. Concur said it expects year-over-year revenue growth of 17% in its current fiscal first quarter ending in December, down from a 20% year-over-year growth rate in the September quarter, when revenue totaled $77.5 million.

The company sees non-GAAP earnings of 18 cents a share for the quarter, a penny below the average estimate of analysts polled by

Thomson Reuters

. The consensus view is for revenue of $80.1 million in the December period, and Concur's 17% growth rate implies a total of $79.1 million.

Concur bulls might want to consider that the stock's run-up in the past six months or so has been much more gradual than the action in the overall equities market, which has rallied since the start of September but hit a very rough patch over the summer when doubts about the pace of economic recovery crept in.

Concur shares were trading in the low-40s in mid-April, and the company's got a streak of at least nine quarters of meeting or beating Wall Street expectations for its quarterly results, so there's a chance the company could outperform its own guidance, especially if its efforts to expand its international presence and further penetrate the small-to-medium-sized business market bear fruit.


Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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Michael Baron


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