Alltel Corp. bucked the general market's downward trend for the week, boosted by a major bank contract from its Information Services unit.
The unit, which contributed 30% of the Little Rock-based firm's revenues last year, struck a seven-year, $276 million outsourcing services contract with Colonial Ltd., an Australian-based financial services company.
Shares of Alltel's stock rose on word deal, and closed at $34.625 Friday, up 75 cents for the week.
In addition to the contract's size, observers were heartened by Alltel's striking of a deal overseas. They said several U.S.-based outsourcing firms have made a priority of expanding their international profiles, but the market recently has been lackluster.
The Colonial contract "is certainly important for Alltel," said Dathan Gaskill, an analyst at Stephens Inc. in Little Rock. "They have had a long dry spell."
"It's been a while" since Alltel struck an overseas outsourcing deal, agreed Michael Montgomery, executive vice president of global banking services at Alltel.
However, he said, the company has had success selling its software and its integration services to banks abroad and in the United States.
Competition for international business is heating up. One example: EDS Corp., the nation's largest supplier of bank outsourcing services, recently hired longtime Alltel executive Stephen Bova to run a new New York operation focused specifically overseas business.
Experts said the foreign markets could get even hotter in response to renewed interest from U.S. banks in outsourcing.
"Outsourcing has been less pervasive outside the U.S., but now foreign banks are looking at trends and experiences here," said Lawrence Willis, consultant at First Manhattan Consulting Group in New York. "These things go in cycles."
One sign of the U.S. market's receptiveness to outsourcing is that one of the business' newest entrants, Peerless Group Inc., is meeting with initial success.
The Richardson. Tex.-based company has signed new outsourcing contracts with First Command Bank, Fort Worth, and Texas Community Bank, Dallas.
Peerless, which went public last year, has successfully communicated the strengths of its products to highly conservative community-bank market, said Barry W. Randall, analyst at Dain Bosworth Inc. in Minneapolis.
He expects the company's revenues to grow 25% in the coming year. Peerless has improved its ability to raise revenue with its new check imaging capabilities, he added. Peerless stock, which is traded on the Nasdaq exchange, closed at $6.1875 Friday.
In the overall market, technology stock indexes were lackluster compared with the preceding week.
The Goldman, Sachs & Co. index of U.S.-traded technology firms, which lists many bank vendors, lost 3.96 points, to close at 121.23. The Nasdaq composite dropped 32.89 points in the week and closed at 1,334.31. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 57.34 points and closed Friday at 6,931.62.