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Nice Rises to 2007 High as Web Attacks Aid Sales: Tel Aviv Mover

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Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Nice Systems Ltd. closed at the highest level in more than four years after the Israeli maker of analytical telecommunications software reported “record” sales as demand for Internet security applications rose.

The shares of the Ra’anana, Israel-based company advanced 1.1 percent to 137.80 shekels, the highest level since November 2007, at the 4:30 p.m. close in Tel Aviv.

Companies from Sony Corp. to Citigroup Inc. have been targeted in web attacks in the past year, with about $37 billion lost to online fraud or theft in 2010, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. Sales of computer applications used to recover fraudulent payments will rise 9 percent annually through 2015, Interactive Data Corp. estimates show.

“Nice is strongly placed in the field of fraud detection and video surveillance activity,” Ori Licht, head of research at I.B.I.-Israel Brokerage & Investments Ltd., said by phone today.

Nice said fourth-quarter sales rose 14 percent to $213.6 million and net income fell to $15.2 million from $17.4 million a year earlier as operating expenses grew. The company forecast 2012 adjusted revenue of between $930 million and $950 million.

“We ended the fourth quarter with very strong bookings, a record backlog, and a healthy pipeline,” Zeevi Bregman, president and chief executive officer of Nice, said in a PR Newswire statement.

Nice’s revenue growth was spurred by an almost 30 percent rise in sales to the Asia Pacific region in 2011, Dafna Gruber, vice president and chief financial officer, said in an phone interview today. “We believe the Asia Pacific region will continue to be a growth driver for us, as well as Latin America.”

Hacker Attacks

Nice spent a record amount on acquisitions last year, following the $150 million purchase of Merced Systems Inc., whose fraud-detection technology is used by companies including Coca-Cola Co., and Dell Inc.

“They’re at the right place at the right time in terms of market dynamics,” Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets & Co., said by phone from New York yesterday. Demand from customers such as Citigroup and BT Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest fixed-line phone company, will have supported Nice’s profit, he said.

Credit-Card Information

Sony, the world’s second-largest maker of video-game machines, saw its worst hacker attacks in April, when intruders compromised more than 100 million customer accounts in the second-largest online data breach in U.S. history. Sony suspended those services until July and budgeted 14 billion yen ($178 million) in costs last year.

Citigroup said about 3,400 customers lost about $2.7 million when their credit-card information was accessed by computer hackers last year.

Gruber said Nice will continue to look for acquisitions that will expand its product offerings to customers. ’’We have both the capacity and the resources to continue with our strategy of growth through acquisitions.’’

Increased demand for customer-service software from companies such as BT Group has also shored up Nice’s profit, according to Daniel Meron, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Tel Aviv, who rates the stock “outperform.”

“Nice continues to benefit from ongoing investments in customer interaction to improve service and contact-center efficiencies,” Meron wrote in an e-mailed report sent yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tal Barak Harif in New York at tbarak@bloomberg.net; Shoshanna Solomon in Tel Aviv at ssolomon22@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at cmaedler@bloomberg.net

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