Signs of a Recovery?

Analysts may currently be at odds over the future of IT spending in 2003,
but three tech firms are ready to start the New Year with upbeat news,
announcing Monday that they expect to exceed guidance for the quarter that
ended Dec. 31, 2002.

Integration software provider webMethods issued a
preliminary statement Monday, saying that its fiscal third quarter 2003
results are likely to exceed the upper end of the company’s previous
guidance for a pro form loss of six cents to zero cents per share.
Consensus among analysts call for a loss per share of about three cents.

webMethods also said it expects total revenue to be greater than its
previous guidance of $46 million to $51 million for the quarter.

Meanwhile, storage giant EMC said Monday that it now
expects its earnings to come in at about 1 cent to two cents per diluted
share for fourth quarter 2002, though after including an approximately $160
million pre-tax charge related to its restructuring that number is expected
to be a loss of about two cents to four cents per share. Analysts are
looking for a two cents per share loss for the quarter.

EMC is looking for revenues for the quarter to exceed $1.47 billion.

Finally, Mercury Interactive , which specializes in
business technology optimization, is expecting pro forma diluted earnings
per share for its fourth quarter to come in between 25 cents and 27 cents a
share, though including a write-off of $5 million connected to investments
in non-consolidated companies brings the diluted EPS on a GAAP basis to
about 20 cents to 22 cents. Analysts are looking for EPS of 20 cents.

The company is anticipating total fourth quarter revenue of about $116
million to $118 million.

All three companies will release full details for the quarterly results
later this month.

The upbeat pronouncements come in the wake of varied opinions from analysts
on the outlook for tech spending in 2003. A Goldman Sachs Group report
issued Thursday — based on a survey of 100 IT managers who influence tech
decisions at top companies around the world — found that tech spending is
likely to drop in 2003. The December survey found 37 percent of respondents
predicting a drop in their spending, leading to a prediction by the firm
that IT spending will drop by 1 percent. The majority of respondents, 66
percent, also said that their companies will only begin investing in IT
again when revenue and profitability increases. Another 43 percent said it
will be at least a year before IT budgets begin to climb.

But other surveys, like on by Aberdeen Group — also released last
Thursday — suggests instead that Worldwide IT spending will grow by a
modest 4 percent in 2003 and will continue at that level through 2006.

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