December 21, 2017 / 3:18 PM / a year ago

Accenture's digital push boosts earnings, shares hit record

(Reuters) - Consulting and outsourcing services firm Accenture Plc’s (ACN.N) quarterly earnings and revenue topped Wall Street forecasts, as investments in fast-growing digital and cloud services paid off.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors look at devices at Accenture stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 26, 2013. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo

Shares of Accenture, which have risen about 30 percent this year, rose 4 percent to a record high of $157.93 in on Thursday morning.

The company also lifted its forecast for yearly earnings per share and gave a forecast for current-quarter revenue largely ahead of analysts’ expectations.

Revenue from Accenture’s digital, cloud, analytics and security-related services - a group it calls “the New” - made up 55 percent of overall revenue in the first quarter ended Nov. 30.

“The primary driver of our growth in the quarter continues to be the New,” Accenture Chief Financial Officer David Rowland said on a call with analysts.

Indeed, much of Accenture’s recent growth has been driven by digital and cloud services, which include everything from managing clients’ social media marketing strategies to helping them move operations to the cloud.

Another bright spot for Accenture was revenue from the healthcare and public services industry, which rose nearly 9 percent and exceeded growth in prior quarters.

The result came despite warnings from the company of weak client spending amid uncertainty around U.S. healthcare law.

“Based on the results of last quarter, businesses were feeling more confident and the spending clearly improved since last quarter,” Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson said.

Accenture has also grown rapidly by buying smaller companies and has invested some $3.4 billion on about 70 acquisitions over the past three years.

About half of that amount was spent in fiscal year 2017 alone as Accenture ramped up digital and cloud investments, helping it gain market share from Cognizant (CTSH.O) and IBM Corp (IBM.N).

The company expects to spend another $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion on acquisitions in fiscal year 2018.

The Dublin-based company expects an annual tax rate of 22 to 24 percent, down from a prior expectation of 23 to 25 percent.

The forecast does not include the impact of an expected overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which cuts the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent.

Net income attributable to Accenture rose 11.8 percent to $1.12 billion. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.79, ahead of analysts’ average forecast of $1.67 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net revenue rose nearly 12 percent to $9.52 billion, topping analysts’ expectations of $9.26 billion.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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