In the mercurial world of bank technology stocks, SunGard Data Systems Inc. has proven to be one of the year's better investments.
The Wayne, Pa.-based company, which provides investment support systems and disaster recovery services to financial institutions, has seen its share price rise 43% since January.
Last week SunGard's stock hit an all-time high of $29.875 on news that the company had received antitrust clearance to buy Infinity Financial Technology Inc. for $313 million in stock.
According to a report from Richard G. Jacobs, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott Inc., the acquisition would create "by far the leader in the fast-growing area of financial trading and risk management systems." The deal is expected to be approved by SunGard shareholders before the end of the year.
Analysts generally view SunGard as a solid investment. The company, which is expected to end this year with revenues of about $848 million and earnabout $1.1 billion next year, generally is rated a "buy" by the Wall Street firms that track it. Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co. recently reiterated its "strong buy" rating.
To SunGard executives, the ratings are not a surprise. The company, which has made 50 acquisitions since going public in 1986, is made up of diverse units that ensure it "is not vulnerable to any one product, market, or region," said James Ashton, senior vice president at SunGard's Asset Management Systems unit.
SunGard's structure in some ways resembles that of Fiserv Inc., another bank technology vendor whose growth has been driven largely by acquisitions.
SunGard is organized around three major units: investment support, disaster recovery, and computer services. About 40 smaller organizations report to these organizations.
The company's governing principle is that "small companies operate better than large ones," Mr. Ashton said. "The theory is to allow each company to remain somewhat independent and keep the entrepreneurial flavor."
He added, "If you look at the track record of earnings and stock appreciation and at the ways that analysts measure companies," then SunGard "ranks pretty high."
Though acquisitions lie at the core of its recent success, SunGard's day-to-day business also has been good of late.
It just sold a multicurrency asset management and accounting system to Bank of Montreal, and is expected to announce a similar deal with a major Japanese bank today. The deals were made possible by the acquisition earlier this year of Premier Solutions Inc. for $30 million.
SunGard's Asset Management unit, of which Premier is part, has been growing at 20% per year. This is consistent with the growth its parent has sustained since forming in 1983.
In the disaster recovery group, SunGard is spending $20 million on a facilities upgrade that includes the purchase of a new Hitachi supercomputer.
The company, which already has spent $40 million this year on disaster recovery infrastructure improvements, derives over a quarter of its revenues from this group, according to Mr. Jacobs.
Janney Montgomery Scott Inc. expects SunGard to register earnings per share of 96 cents for this year. It expects the figure to rise to $1.15 in 1998.