In a week marked by a wave of fourth-quarter earnings announcements, bank technology stocks continued their relative immunity to problems from the Asian markets.
Investor uncertainty has created a drag in the general markets that has been felt by some U.S. bank technology providers, said Bill Burnham, analyst at Piper Jaffray Inc. in Minneapolis.
But an initial spate of positive earnings reports from these providers suggests the Asian troubles are unlikely to hinder their revenue gathering in the short term, as few maintain a significant presence there, he said.
A number of companies announced earnings last week:
Transaction Systems Architects Inc., which sells software for processing credit card, automated teller machine, and other electronic financial transactions, reported net income of $7.2 million, or 25 cents per share for its fiscal first quarter, which ended Dec. 31.
The earnings, which came on revenues of $61 million, are a 67% improvement over the same period last year.
Omaha-based Transaction Systems derives 12% of its revenues from Asia. Through the most recent quarter, it grew 15% in the region "despite the economic challenges," said William Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the company.
Fiserv Inc. reported fourth quarter income of $24.2 million on revenues of $269.5 million. The figures are up 50% and 28% respectively from the year-earlier period.
For the year, the Brookfield, Wis.-based provider of bank outsourcing and software had net income of $90.8 million on revenues of $974.4 million. These figures bettered those of 1996 by 47% and 22%, respectively.
The company met its earnings-per-share targets of 45 cents for the quarter and $1.70 for the year.
Fiserv, whose growth through the years has been based largely on acquisitions, is in the process of buying Network Data Processing, which provides processing services to the insurance industry.
Terms of the stock pooling deal were not disclosed. Network Data, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has about $14 million in annualized revenues.
The acquisition would be Fiserv's 10th since the beginning of 1997.
"We are having one a heck of a run," said George Dalton, chairman and chief executive officer of Fiserv.
Stephen T. McClellan, analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., compared the Network Data deal to Fiserv's move into brokerage services last year, saying the company wants to develop an insurance capability "before the demand starts to build."
He rates Fiserv a "buy," and said the company is working on a data processing deal with Chase Manhattan Corp., which he expected to be consummated this year.
Paymentech Inc. of Dallas, a payment processor, reported net income of $6.7 million, or 19 cents per share, in its second fiscal quarter, down around 27% from the same quarter in 1996.
Richard Weingarten, analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, said its earnings were below expectations. "Some of their larger cataloguers did not have a great Christmas," he said.
In addition, he said Paymentech assumed "additional expenses since being made independent from First USA."
Mr. Weingarten noted that many card processors are bouncing back from tough treatment in the market through much of 1997.
The card processor stocks are returning "to more realistic levels," he said. "Most of them are trading at discounts to the market right now. I think they are better than the average company in the market."
NetBank Inc., the holding company for Atlanta Internet Bank, lost $839,000, or 15 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter. For 1997, the company lost $5.6 million or $1.66 per share.
The results were an improvement over the prior year's. In the fourth quarter of 1996, the company lost $2.6 million, or $2.09 per share. For all of 1996, it lost $3.8 million or $4.33 per share.
D.R. Grimes, chief executive officer of the all-Internet bank, said he expects it to break even by midyear. "We still beat the analysts' expectations," he said.
He added that the company's deposits expanded 28%, to $72 million, in the fourth quarter.
Computer Sciences Corp. met consensus expectations for revenues with $1.6 billion in its fiscal third quarter.
However, the company's quarterly operating income of $106.6 million fell $2 million short of expectations.
Mark Wolfenberger, analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, attributed the shortfall to lost momentum in new contract signings.
He said Electronic Data Systems Corp., a data processor that competes closely with Computer Sciences, turned up the heat by using operational cost savings to get more aggressive on pricing.
EDS stole the spotlight in 1997 by signing more than $16 billion in new contracts.
"I think that is hurting Computer Sciences right now," said Mr. Wolfenberger. "We saw the same event happen to EDS 18 months ago."
He sees fundamental weaknesses across the board for large-cap companies in computer services.
"We tend to like smaller cap names," Mr. Wolfenberger said. "Even though they're illiquid, they are showing us fundamental improvements that we think will eventually merit higher stock prices," he said.