Slowdown and uncertainty are the two most overused buzzwords on the Street these days. Inevitablely, they have popped up again like bad apples in an announcement from

Mind CTI

(Nasdaq:MNDO).

The Yokneam-based company revealed that it can't meet its original first quarter forecasts. "Customers are delaying orders until the markets stabilize," Mind CTI founder, CEO and president Monica Eisinger told TheMarker.com. "Even as late as December we weren't feeling the slowdown. The atmosphere was business as usual. We just starting in the last month to receive signals from customers, including companies that had already placed orders, that they're delaying orders because of financing difficulties."

For the fourth quarter, Mind presented 6 cents per share earnings on revenues of $4.6 million. For the first quarter, it now forecasts earnings of only $2.5 million, with a 10% margin of error in either direction, the company cautions. Piper Jaffray had estimated revenues of $5.2 million, a forecast the company will miss by no less than 55%.

Worse, the company is shifting back into the red. Mind predicts a first quarter loss of 5 cents per share, instead of initially anticipated earnings for the 12th quarter running.

Mind develops billing and customer care software for Internet-based telecommunications networks. Its chief rivals are giant

Amdocs

(NYSE:DOX) and

Portal Software

(Nasdaq:PRSF).

Unlike Amdocs' long-term provision, installation and service projects that can each be worth millions, Mind CTI opts for quick off-the-shelf deals, installed over weeks, not years. Eisinger says that's the best model for the company and there's no reason to change it. She foresees the slowdown actually playing into Mind's hands, because its systems are less costly to implement. That was another reason the company did not correctly anticipate the dimensions of the slowdown, she explains.

"Some 60% of the quarter's revenues are only finalized in the last month of the quarter," she explains why the warning came so late. Moreover, the customers holding back aren't only the small fry, they are the big customers too. Mind isn't losing custom to rivals, she says. It's that the companies are spending less.

Asked if Mind CTI might begin cutting back staff or costs, she agrees that it will be tightening its belt, but at the cost of advertising budgets, representations at exhibitions and so on. The company has no intention of firing any of its 180 workers around the world, she says. Of these, 140 operate out of Israel. "We are financially very strong and don't want to find ourselves in a situation where the economy improves and we're short-handed," she says. Firing? if anything, she says, Mind CTI will be hiring from the wave of people being kicked out of struggling hi-tech companies.

Mind CTI will be publishing its first-quarter results on April 25. For now, Eisinger is cautiously not revealing forecasts for 2001. But the company is not entirely comfortable with analyst forecasts of $28 million in revenues and profits of 27 cents per share for the year. Eisinger says the company will hold an assembly of all its salespeople before April 25, to try to consolidate an estimate for the year's performance.