Updated from 12:43 9.m. EDT
Shares of software maker
plunged Thursday as investors reacted to the firm's
Weighed down by foreign exchange pressures, the
specialist missed Wall Street's revenue estimate when it reported its results late Wednesday. The firm posted fourth-quarter sales of $1.47 billion, down from $1.54 billion in the same period last year, and below analysts' projection of $1.52 billion.
Symantec, which competes with
, also felt the effects of a $7.4 billion goodwill impairment charge, which impacted its fourth-quarter figures by $400 million. As a result, the firm swung to a loss of 30 cents a share from earnings of 22 cents in the prior year's quarter.
The results did little for the company's share price, which plummeted 14.8% to $14.99, far outpacing the broader decline in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq slip 1.87%.
It wasn't all doom and gloom, however. Excluding charges, Symantec posted earnings of 38 cents a share, up 6% on the same period last year, and above analysts' estimate of 35 cents.
Symantec actually had a good March quarter in spite of the economy, according to Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. Specifically the analyst pointed to strength in Symantec's consumer business, where sales grew 4% in constant currency to $443 million.
"Overall, we would characterize these results as commendable," he wrote, in a note released Thursday. "Despite some bear chatter, the all-important consumer business posted a very good quarter."
Symantec is also demonstrating good cost controls, according to the analyst, who maintained his "outperform" rating for the firm, and raised its price target from $18 to $20.
In an interview after the market closed Wednesday, Symantec CEO Enrique Salem told
that he is seeing solid demand for enterprise backup, storage management, and data loss prevention technologies.
"All customers have critical data that they need to protect," he said. "I think you always see the amount of malicious activity increase in downturns."
Most recently, the conficker worm and the trojan.h threat have raised consumers' awareness of the need for security software, according to Salem.
Symantec, which recently launched version 3.0 of its Norton 360 software, is also eyeing more opportunities in enterprise security, data protection and software-as-a-service (SaaS). "We have some pretty big plays in all three areas," said the CEO. "You can expect us to do a lot more around SaaS and move more of our products onto the platform we acquired when we bought MessageLabs."
However, at least one analyst warned that there are still plenty of hurdles in Symantec's path. "Large dealscontinue to decline as customers continue to favor shorter-term contracts," wrote Todd Weller of Stifel Nicolaus, in a note released Thursday. "This is putting pressure on license revenue, which declined sequentially for the third consecutive quarter."
Symantec expects revenue between $1.44 billion and $1.55 billion for the first quarter, in line with analysts' estimate of $1.51 billion. Excluding charges, the firm expects earnings between 34 and 36 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial are predicting earnings of 35 cents a share.