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Nice Systems cuts 2014 profit and revenue forecasts

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli software provider Nice Systems trimmed its 2014 profit and revenue forecasts after first-quarter results fell short of expectations, driving its shares down more than 9 percent.

Nice has seen slowing sales growth of systems helping call centers and surveillance of buildings and transport networks. It is banking on analytical tools, which allow companies to delve into large amounts of data to spot fraud and fend off security threats, to deliver faster growth.

The January-March period was so weak that the company was forced to lower its 2014 outlook.

"I don't believe we can catch up," said Chief Executive Barak Eilam, who took over a month ago. He blamed some of the weak performance on the CEO transition, without elaborating.

"I am taking a more cautious approach and guidance is taking that into account in the second quarter and second half of the year," he said on Thursday.

Nice's Nasdaq-listed shares were 9.1 percent lower at $38.10 at midday while its Tel Aviv shares closed down 6.7 percent.

The company now expects 2014 revenue in a range of $995 million to $1.025 billion, down from a previous estimate in February of $1.01 billion to $1.035 billion. It forecast earnings per diluted share (EPS) excluding one-time items in a range of $2.68 to $2.80, down from $2.73 to $2.85.

Analysts had forecast 2014 revenue of $1.02 billion and EPS of $2.79, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In the coming weeks, Eilam said he would look to further define Nice's long-term growth strategy and review its operational model.

"We expect to grow both organically and inorganically," Eilam said. "We definitely look to be more aggressive into acquisitions; we think there are great opportunities out there."

The main acquisition targets will be in the fields of analytics and in cloud storage applications, he said.

FIRST QUARTER

The firm posted an EPS excluding one-time items of 57 cents in the first quarter, compared with 61 cents a year earlier. Revenue rose 1.9 percent to $229 million, led by sales growth in

the Americas and Europe.

Nice was forecast to earn 61 cents a share on revenue of $235.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company itself had projected revenue of $230-$240 million and EPS ex-items of 58-63 cents.

About 65 percent of its total sales are in North America, largely to big financial services firms. Analytics products comprised about 50 percent of Nice's first-quarter sales, up from below 40 percent in the same period last year.

Eilam said he was not concerned about the weak quarter since recent trends have shown that the second half is stronger than the first six months of the year. He said anti-laundering fraud prevention and cloud products were growing fast.

"Analytics-based solutions continue to play a key role in our growth," he told a conference call of analysts.

Oppenheimer analyst Shaul Eyal said it was "not the quarter to write home about".

"A combination of typical first-quarter seasonality coupled with the CEO transition might have derailed temporarily Nice's attention to consistent execution. Nice's underlying trends are still healthy, and it appears the hiccup is more internal than external," he said in a note to clients

For the second quarter, Nice predicts revenue of $230-$240 million and EPS ex-items of 55-62 cents, versus analysts' expectations of $243.9 million in revenue and EPS of 64 cents.

Nice said it would pay a quarterly dividend of 16 cents a share, unchanged from the fourth quarter.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Pravin Char)

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