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(Reuters) - Consulting and outsourcing services provider Accenture Plc slightly raised its full-year profit forecast, but the revised outlook was still largely below market expectations, sending the company's shares down as much as 4.5 percent.
Accenture has invested heavily in its fast-growing businesses, such as digital and cloud services, amid stiff competition from Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp and IBM Corp.
Revenue in its consulting unit, which has a higher profit margin than its outsourcing business, increased 2.6 percent in the second quarter ended Feb. 28, the slowest growth in more than a year.
"The consulting business tends to provide a higher profit profile and so if you've got greater contribution from areas like outsourcing, it is more difficult for the company to continue to raise margins over time," said Edward Jones analyst Bill Kreher.
Accenture plans to spend about $1.5 billion on acquisitions in the year ending August, Chief Financial Officer David Rowland said on a call with analysts on Thursday.
Up to Wednesday's close, the company's shares had risen 8 percent this year and hit record levels earlier this week, as investors awaited the quarterly report.
"High investor optimism was met with just ho-hum results. I do not think it is more than that. It is a natural pause," Kreher said.
Accenture said it expects adjusted profit of $5.70 to $5.87 per share for its year ending August, slightly higher than its prior forecast of $5.64 to $5.87 per share.
However, the company narrowed its full-year revenue forecast growth range to 6 percent to 8 percent in local currency, from its previous 5 percent-8 percent range.
The new forecast points to revenue of between $34.86 billion to $35.51 billion.
Analysts on average are expecting a profit of $5.87 per share and revenue of $34.60 billion according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Accenture said second-quarter net revenue rose 4.7 percent to $8.32 billion, as it benefited from strong demand for its digital, cloud and security-related services, which made up more than 45 percent of revenue.
Net income attributable to Accenture fell to $838.8 million or $1.33 per share in the quarter, from $1.33 billion, or $2.08 per share, a year earlier.
Profit in the year-ago quarter benefited from a $553.6 million gain on the sale of some businesses.
The company's profit in the second quarter was hurt in part by a higher tax rate and increased operating costs, up 4.3 percent to $7.62 billion.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.30 per share and revenue of $8.34 billion.
Dublin, Ireland-domiciled Accenture's shares were down 4.5 percent at $120.71 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar