Paranormal Systems? Message Board Foretold Peregrine's Warning - TheStreet

Peregrine Systems (PRGN) appears to have sprung a major leak.

Following the publication of a report about odd goings-on at the Peregrine message board on Yahoo! Finance,

TheStreet.com

has received a copy of a controversial message about Peregrine that Yahoo! deleted from its archives, and which Peregrine and Yahoo! have refused to discuss.

This deleted posting, not previously available to most investors, suggests that at 5:27 p.m. EST on Jan. 2 -- six hours before Peregrine warned in a press release that it would fall far short of financial targets for the fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31 -- someone with inside knowledge of the company's then-nonpublic revenue disappointment blurted out the bad news on the Yahoo! board.

The posting also includes details of further bad news for the software company -- specifics that didn't come out with the company's official preannouncement. Peregrine, which has cut 800 employees over the past year, could cut an additional 500 employees from its roster, according to the Yahoo! message, and even more if the economy slows. The company has about 4,000 workers.

Peregrine, which sells a wide range of enterprise software, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the details of the newly uncovered posting. The company, whose stock plunged from $14.51 to $9.27 the day after the early January preannouncement, was trading at $9.56 Friday, down 32 cents.

Deep Warbler?

In a

lighthearted item about Peregrine published Friday morning -- based on descriptions of the posting at issue rather than the message itself --

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speculated that the prescient poster on Yahoo!, writing under the name "paragreen69," was either someone with access to inside information at Peregrine, or an imaginative, fiction-writing short-seller who just happened to get lucky with his or her prediction of immediate doom.

But close inspection of the actual posting makes the lucky-liar theory look extremely doubtful. Details of the 5:27 p.m. posting prove to be remarkably accurate when compared with the 11:26 p.m. press release from Peregrine, the company's first official indication of third-quarter bad news.

The company markets products in three major areas: management and tracking of a company's assets and services; employee intranet portals, and business-to-business relationship management software. Peregrine, whose stock has declined from a 52-week high of $33.55, gave three major reasons for the shortfall in a conference call with analysts on Jan. 3: weakness in Europe due to management problems, falling demand in its managed service provider sales channel, and weakness in its business-to-business enterprise.

"Challenging global economic conditions, particularly in Europe, continued to impact our business this quarter," said Peregrine CEO Steve Gardner in the company's press release about the third quarter. "The European economy has yet to show signs of recovery, and although business activity levels increased in North America, most customers continue to defer as much purchasing activity as they can into future periods."

Mouth of the South

In the Yahoo! posting that front-ran that press release, paragreen69 put specific and accurate numbers on that disappointing trend. Represented as a communication from Gardner and introduced with the line "Straight from the CEO's mouth," the Yahoo! message reads, "We missed our external revenue targets by a wide margin (about $40 million) and we missed our internal targets by a wider margin." The "best guess," according to paragreen69, was that the company would post $175 million to $180 million in third-quarter revenue.

In fact, the company said six hours later than it expected $175 million in revenue for the third quarter, or about $45 million below Wall Street's consensus.

Furthermore, according to paragreen69's report, the company would post an operating loss of $14 million to $16 million for the quarter, or a per-share loss of 6 cents to 8 cents, well short of analysts' expectations of a 10-cent profit.

Peregrine's official announcement forecast a net loss of 7 cents to 8 cents a share.

In one final set of details, paragreen69's posting mentions expectations of headcount reductions of "perhaps another 400 to 500" employees "as we trim back on some areas of the business that are not performing." The posting closes with, "I do think we will need to go deeper than that as the economy slows."