By Harichandan Arakali and Aradhana Aravindan
BANGALORE/MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's No.2 software services provider Infosys Ltd
Many investors had dumped shares in the company after a string of disappointing quarters eroded Infosys' reputation as the sector bellwether, putting pressure on CEO S.D. Shibulal to win more deals and make the firm more profitable.
"We continue to gain confidence from a strong pipeline of large deals," Shibulal said in a statement on Friday. "We remain cautiously optimistic about the January-March quarter."
The Bangalore-based company unexpectedly raised its sales forecast for the year ending March 31 to at least $7.45 billion, including $104 million in additional revenue following its acquisition of Switzerland-based consultancy Lodestone Holdings.
That would be a rise of 6.6 percent from a year earlier, compared with a previous forecast for a 5 percent increase.
New deals, including 13 in Europe, helped boost Infosys' revenue. Spending on IT services by capital markets clients such as investment banks and brokerages has also improved, Ashok Vemury, head of Americas and manufacturing, told reporters in Bangalore after the earnings announcement.
Clients that have signed big contracts with Infosys, including Harley-Davidson Inc
However, some analysts said it was still too early to predict a recovery for the company.
"We are positively surprised by Infosys' performance, and need to study the durability of Infosys' comeback," JPMorgan said in a research note.
Infosys, for years an investor favourite for exceeding its targets, stopped providing quarterly guidance in July. It now provides only an annual revenue forecast.
Analysts had expected Infosys to trim its annual sales growth to as low as 3.3 percent after the company warned last month that U.S. clients had cut back on projects and delayed signing big deals.
"The market was slightly predatory, given that the last two times the company has disappointed, but this time the organic guidance is better ... which I think will be taken positively," said Rikesh Parikh, vice president for markets strategy and equities at Motilal Oswal Securities in Mumbai.
Graphic on Infosys results http://link.reuters.com/geq25t
For expert views on Infosys results, click http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/infosys-results-instantview-idINDEE90A02E20130111
PROFIT BEATS ESTIMATES
Infosys, whose customers include Bank of America Corp
In October-December, Infosys said revenue rose 12 percent to 104.24 billion rupees from 93 billion a year earlier. That compares with analyst estimates of 96.8 billion rupees. The firm added 53 clients during the quarter, the strongest pace of additions in at least five years.
With about 60 percent of its business in the United States, Infosys is vulnerable to swings in U.S. corporate sentiment and has been hit hard by project deferrals. The company is also particularly exposed to discretionary spending in the financial sector. Its premium pricing has also put off some customers.
Shares in Infosys ended with gains of nearly 17 percent at 2712.10 rupees, posting their biggest ever percentage gain on NSE. The BSE IT index rose 9.34 percent.
In 2012, shares in Infosys slumped 16.2 percent, underperforming those of larger rival Tata Consultancy Services Ltd
Tata Consultancy is expected to report a profit gain of about 12 percent in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data. India's top software exporter, part of the $100 billion Tata Group, will report its earnings on Monday.
Fourth-ranked HCL Technologies Ltd
India's $100 billion-a-year IT and back-office outsourcing sector earns about three-quarters of its revenues from customers in the United States and Europe, and faces intense competition from global rivals including IBM
(Reporting By Harichandan Arakali; Editing by Ryan Woo and Tony Munroe)