Jack Henry & Associates warned last week that its earnings for the current quarter would be about half of what analysts had expected.
The Monett, Mo., provider of data processing software said its net income for the quarter, the second of its fiscal year, would be 17 to 21 cents a share, down from expectations of 40 cents. In the same quarter a year earlier, the company produced earnings of 38 cents a share.
"We knew that 1999 was going to be slow, and we have been telling people that for a long time, trying to gear them for a slowdown," said Michael E. Henry, chairman and chief executive officer of Jack Henry.
The company blamed year-2000 conversions for hampering sales of new software and lowering earnings, and said it expects a turnaround soon.
"This quarter is the bottom for us," Mr. Henry said. Pent-up demand for new technology should reverse the sales slowdown after the turn of the new year, he added.
"The pipelines look good going into the new year, and the turnaround has already begun on the sales side," he said. "You just do not see it quite as much on the earnings side because of the timing of everything."
Most investors in Jack Henry treated the news as a nonevent. The stock actually rose 5%, to $41.50 on Wednesday, the day the company issued its warning. The stock was trading at $44 at midday on Friday
Kevin Dyches, an analyst at Prudential Securities, said most investors already had factored in an earnings slowdown at some point, despite the lofty projections made by financial analysts, himself included.
Mr. Dyches, who had expected Jack Henry to earn 40 cents a share in the current quarter, shaved his revenue expectations by 13%, to $42.5 million. He is expecting $3.65 million in net income, down 56% from his previous estimate.
With 2,600 customers, Jack Henry is one of the largest providers of core banking software and outsourcing services to community banks. With the advent of Internet banking, Mr. Dyches said, he believes Jack Henry has an enormous opportunity.
The company's Internet banking software has been designed with the same technology architecture as its core banking software, making it easier for a bank to install a fully integrated Internet banking system. Banks do not have to rely on one vendor for core systems and another for the front end Internet software piece, Mr. Dyches said.
The Internet system, which gives customers a real-time view of their accounts through several distribution channels, has been sold to 290 banks, 240 of which have installed it.
"They are a leader in that business," Mr. Dyches said, referring to the Internet software banking market.
Mr. Dyches said he expects sales of the Internet banking software to be brisk in 2000, given that Jack Henry has a loyal customer base of more than 2,000 banks. Internet banking software should add $150 million of recurring annual revenues to Jack Henry's bottom line in 2005, he said.