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Siebel sheds 12 percent

Siebel Systems (Nasdaq: SEBL) shed 12 percent Tuesday after an analyst reiterated a "strong buy" but said the company's growth drivers are shifting.

Shares were off 9.38 to 69 Tuesday morning. The company flew past estimates in its third quarter.

Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Brent Thill said that while Siebel remains the gorilla in the software for customer relationship management, or CRM, growth in core U.S. enterprise accounts is slowing more than most had expected.

Growth in U.S. enterprise was about 40 percent year-over-year and 15 percent sequentially, down from 60 percent year-over-year growth and 20 percent sequential growth in 1999.

The company's new primary growth engines are in mid-market and international sales, and should more than make up for losses in the company's core domestic business with large enterprises, Thill said.

"It appears U.S. enterprise accounts are digesting the first wave of major CRM applications, leaving the door open for (Siebel) and other vendors to round out the CRM vision with additional applications," Thill said, adding that the company's spring product release could provide the next catalyst.

Thill said the company's unequaled success in past years has had investors asking whether its "torrid growth" can continue, and noted that the company has said it believes the current perception of an economic slowdown is analogous to the widespread Y2K fears: more hype than reality.

"While no company is completely insulated from a total economic meltdown, we believe (Siebel) would hold up better than most because... (it) has assembled the broadest platform of products enabling ... long-term customer relationships.." Thill said.

Earnings Roundup: Siebel Systems flies past 3Q forecasts