Why the oilpatchs pain could be CGI Groups gain

MONTREAL — CGI Group said Wednesday the recent drop in energy prices presents an opportunity for the IT services company to win new business from customers in the oilpatch who are looking for ways reduce costs.“There is a lot of interest in how costs can be managed or brought down rapidly against a dropping commodity price,” CGI chief executive Michael Roach said Wednesday during a conference call ahead of the company’s annual meeting.There is a lot of interest in how costs can be managed or brought down rapidlyIt’s an approach that Montreal-based CGI used several years ago to attract business from U.S. states that were undergoing fiscal challenges.Meanwhile, Roach said the lower Canadian dollar — which has tumbled along with the price of oil — improves CGI’s competitive advantage in the global market for IT services.Armed with lots of cash and access to credit, Roach said the company is on the hunt for acquisitions again. Areas of focus for acquisitions are the United States and Britain.CGI Group Inc poised to deploy capital, upgraded at ScotiaHere are 30 stocks to own in 2015CGI said earlier that cash generated from operating activities in the September-December quarter increased more than five-fold from a year earlier to $339.2 million. CGI also said its net debt at the end of December was $1.9 billion, down $965.9 million from a year earlier.Net income in the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31 increased 24.5% from a year earlier to $236.3 million. That equalled 74 cents per diluted share, one penny below analyst forecasts but up from 60 cents per share or $189.8 million a year earlier.CGI’s revenue was down $100 million from a year ago to $2.54 billion. Revenues declined 12% in the United States and 9% in Canada. However, excluding extra work a year earlier from federal Obamacare and state health care exchanges, the sales were flat according to Roach.The results propelled CGI’s shares to hit an all-time high of $50.65 in intraday trading on Wednesday. They were up $3 or 6.39% at $49.92 later in the session.The IT services company announced separately that it will renew a stock buyback program that expires Feb. 10, but it hadn’t repurchased any of the publicly traded A shares between February 2014 and Jan. 23, 2015.Maher Yaghi of Desjardins Capital Markets said the results were in line with expectations, although revenues and contract bookings were below expectation and an area of ongoing concern.“That may raise questions about the sustainability of the revenue base or potential for organic growth,” he wrote in a report.

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