Updated from 4:46 p.m. EDT

Siebel Systems


offered a mixed bag of news for investors on Wednesday, posting the expected first-quarter loss while hinting that the second quarter could be better than Wall Street expects.

Siebel swung from last year's profit of $30.9 million, or 6 cents a share, to a loss of $4 million, or a penny a share, in the March quarter. Total revenue dropped 9% year over year to $298.9 million, while software revenue plunged to $74.9 million from $126.8 million.

Excluding various items, the company earned $3.2 million, or a penny a share.

Earlier this month, Siebel warned investors of a wide miss for the quarter. Revenue in the March quarter, the company said at the time, would range from $297 million to $300 million; Wall Street was expecting $337.48 million.

Discounting acquisition charges, the company forecast a profit of $2 million to $4 million, or break-even to 1 cent a share. Analysts had projected a profit of 5 cents a share.

Within a week, CEO Michael Lawrie was forced out, replaced by long-term board member George Shaheen, whose

initial debut left investors disappointed that he had presented few specific ideas on how he plans to revive the company's flagging fortunes.

In a lengthy call late Wednesday with analysts after the earnings announcement, CFO Ken Goldman said the company had deliberately set second-quarter projections in line with First Call consensus, although "we believe we can do somewhat better." The company expects revenue to range from $300 million to $330 million, with earnings per share of 3 cents or 4 cents.

Before the announcement, analysts were expecting a profit of 4 cents on sales of $319.6 million.

At least one analyst noted that the company's goal of license revenue of $90 million to $100 million seemed quite aggressive, given Siebel's recent performance, but Goldman stuck by his estimate, saying that a sequential increase of better than 20% is possible.

Since news of the weak quarter broke a few weeks ago, a group of institutional investors has pressed for the company to buy back shares as a means of raising the stock's price; some even suggested selling the company.

Asked about those options, Shaheen and Goldman refused to comment about a sale, but did say the board has discussed various options related to a possible buyback. However, they said they were not yet ready to make a decision, and indicated that their first priority is to improve the company's business.