Goldman Sachs

has lost its patience. It decided not to wait for

Nice Systems

(Nasdaq:NICE) to hold its promised videoconference and released estimates about 2001 without guidance.

The bank concludes that Nice remains the leader in the market of digital recordings and reiterated its Market Yield rating.

A week ago the bank published a report on NICE. The Israeli company had just warned that its fourth-quarter 2000 results would disappoint, prompting Goldman Sachs to downgrade its recommendation. But the bank did not update its forecast for 2001, saying it preferred to wait for the company's videoconference.

Well, Nice hasn't held its videoconference yet to guide analysts on 2001, and Goldman had it. Official results for the fourth quarter of 2000 will only be forthcoming on February 21. So analysts Elan Zivotofsky and Shimon Levy note that their forecasts for the second half of 2001 could turn out to be conservative, if the IT and telecoms industries improve.

Because Nice did not provide a forecast for 2001, it is difficult to accurately predict its performance in the coming year, the analysts explain. They add that since visibility is low, they choose to wax conservative.

In practice, the bank lowered its forecast for 2001 and predicted that EPS will come to just $1.1, less than have the previous forecast of $2. If accurate, Nice's annual growth in 2001 will come to only 15%.

Nice retains digital-recording crown

Zivotofsky and Levy expect that Nice's EPS in 2000 will come to $1.48, against the $2.1 predicted by most investment houses to date.

The two believe that the company's revenues in the first quarter of 2001 will come to $37 million, a mild drop against the previous quarter and against the first quarter of 2000. The analysts predict that the company's losses will total 12 cents per share in the first quarter of 2001, but believe that Nice will return to profit in the second quarter of 2001, in which EPS is expected to come to 18 cents.

On the market rumor that Nice will merge with another company, possibly

Comverse Technology

(Nasdaq:CMVT), Zivotofsky and Levy say that Nice's market cap is $250 million, less than 2.2 times its cash including long-term assets. Rival

Comverse Infosys

, the digital recording unit of Comverse, comes second to Nice in market segment. They conclude that consolidation makes strategic sense, at some stage.