Unisys Profits, Excluding Charges, Drop Sharply

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Computer services company Unisys Thursday said fourth-quarter profits, excluding a charge to cover job cuts, fell sharply from a year ago as companies deferred technology spending.

But Unisys said it saw a pick up in its U.S business during the quarter. As a result, Unisys said it was sticking by its earlier first quarter and full year 2002 expectations for earnings growth.

"We saw encouraging signs of stabilization in our U.S. business where orders showed good gains in the quarter," Unisys Chairman and CEO Lawrence A. Weinbach said in a statement.

Unisys said before items, it earned $34.4 million, or 11 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, down from $129.2 million, or 41 cents per share in the year-earlier quarter. The year-earlier figure was restated to reflect the company's departure from the commodity personal computer business.

The results exclude a pre-tax charge in the fourth quarter of 2001 of $276.3 million for 3,750 job cuts including an early retirement program and a $127.6 million pre-tax charge in the year-ago period to cover its restructuring.

Including the charges, the company posted a net loss of $169.4 million, or 53 cents per share, compared with fourth-quarter 2000 net income of $39.1 million, or 12 cents per share.

Unisys said revenue in the fourth quarter fell 7 percent to $1.56 billion from $1.68 billion in the year ago period.

Unisys in December said that it was comfortable with fourth-quarter analyst estimates.

Analysts expected earnings of 11 cents per share within a range of 10 cents to 14 cents per share, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

During the December meeting with analysts, the company also said it expected first-quarter earnings to fall to between 5 cents and 10 cents a share due to weakness in Japan, where it has large customers and a joint venture with Japanese trading house Mitsui and Co.

According to Thomson Financial/First Call, analysts foresee earnings of 8 cents per share.

Unisys also said it was comfortable with previous forecasts for the full year 2002 of earnings growth 50 percent above 2001.

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