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Front office firms post strong results

Leading front office software companies are on a roll, posting healthy fourth-quarter results driven by a growing market for their applications.

Leading front office software companies are on a roll, posting healthy fourth-quarter results driven by a growing market for their applications.

San Mateo, California-based Siebel Systems doubled earnings from a year ago, reporting net income of $19.9 million for the fourth quarter, or 20 cents per share. The earnings beat Wall Street analysts' estimates of 16 cents a share, according to First Call.

That compares to net income of $9.3 million or 10 cents a share a year earlier.

AMR Research in Boston predicts the market for front office software--provided by vendors including Siebel, Vantive, and Clarify--will reach $11.5 billion in the next four years, up from $1.2 billion last year. The software is used to manage marketing, sales force, and customer service departments.

Siebel's revenues rose to $123.2 million this quarter from $69.2 million a year ago.

The company reported fourth-quarter license fee revenues increased 72 percent compared to a year ago. Revenues from maintenance, consulting, and other services also jumped 97 percent from a year ago.

Excluding charges for acquiring Scopus Technologies in the second quarter of 1998 and several other deals, the company reported revenues of $391.5 million for the year, and $55.7 million in net income, or 56 cents a share.

Siebel's smaller rivals Clarify and Vantive also posted healthy quarters.

Clarify said net income for the fourth quarter was $3.5 million, or 15 cents a share. That compares to net income of $666,000, or 3 cents a share a year ago.

The San Jose, California-based company reported a 50-percent revenue jump for the quarter to $41.3 million from $27.5 million a year earlier.

For the year, Clarify reported net income of $7.3 million, or 32 cents per share, compared to net income of $3.9 million or 18 cents a share in fiscal 1997.

Santa Clara-based Vantive reported record revenue, but a profit decline.

The company posted net income for the fourth quarter of $2.2 million, or 8 cents per share.

That excludes a $1.2 million charge for the company's acquisition of the remaining minority interest in Wayfarer Communications. Earnings surpassed analysts expectations by a penny, according to First Call.

Vantive, which is now shifting the focus of its business back to call center applications, reported net income of $4.8 million, or 17 cents a share.

Fourth quarter revenues increased 26 percent to $47.4 million from $37.7 million a year ago.

For the year, revenues were $163.1 million, and net income, excluding charges, was $8 million, or 30 cents per share.

That compares to $117.3 million and net income, excluding charges, of $14.2 million or 52 cents a share in 1997.