Huge problems in its European operations have led Equifax Inc, the business information and transaction processing group, to issue a profit warning for the fourth quarter. Shares in the Atlanta, Georgia-based company slumped almost 20% to $35.625 after it forecast fourth-quarter earnings per share of $0.31 – compared with analystsÆ estimates of $0.41. Management in Europe gets the blame for the shortfall and the company’s declaration that decisive steps have been taken to overcome the problems including key management changes suggest a cull of those held responsible. Equifax is also writing off its 40% investment in RequesT UK Ltd, a start-up telephone and consumer internet service provider. The company acquired its stake for an undisclosed sum only five months ago (CI No 3452). RequesT is dismissed as being outside the main business line and Equifax says it was continuing to require capital while not meeting its economic value-added objectives. On its mainstream operations, Equifax blames managers in Europe for incorrectly projecting revenue and profit from various long-term marketing contracts. Among its other European problems were cancellation or postponement of several projects which could not meet production schedules, increased bad check losses in the check services operation, and a provision for bad debts. For 1999, Equifax predicts continued revenue and earnings growth, with earnings per share for the year likely to increase 17% to 19%.
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