AP News

Accenture hits all-time high as 4Q results beat

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Accenture climbed to an all-time high on Friday as the consulting firm's fourth-quarter results topped Wall Street's view. It also gave a full-year forecast above analysts' estimates.

THE SPARK: Late Thursday Accenture PLC reported that it earned 88 cents per share on revenue of $6.84 billion, which excludes reimbursements. Analysts surveyed by FactSet predicted earnings of 87 cents per share on revenue of $6.75 billion.

The company foresees full-year earnings of $4.22 to $4.30 per share. Wall Street expects $4.17 per share.

THE ANALYSIS: David Grossman of Stifel Nicolaus said in a client note that he believed the market was underestimating Accenture's potential growth in 2013, as economic conditions are starting to improve.

The analyst reaffirmed a "Buy" rating and raised the company's price target to $79 from $76.

Jefferies' Jason Kupferberg lifted Accenture's price target to $66 from $65 and reiterated a "Hold" rating. The analyst says the company's consulting bookings were better than expected in the fourth quarter.

"Accenture remains a share-taker, and continues to benefit from a highly diversified client base," he wrote.

SHARE ACTION: Accenture's stock rose $5.19, or 7.9 percent, to $70.57 in afternoon trading. The shares touched $70.64 in earlier trading, an all-time high. For the year to date, the stock is up 21 percent.

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