NB: JC, did I write this?! Post surpassed by events - if we knew then what we know now...

RJH writes...

"You know, I could lay a big line on you and we could do a lot of role-playing, but the simple truth is, is that I find you very interesting and I'd really like to make love to you."

From the film Tootsie

When Dustin Hoffman utters this to Jessica Lange, quoting her own feelings on chat-up lines back to her, all he gets for his hard-won knowledge is a drink in the face.

It's a bit like what has happened to the analysts who follow the mid-cap firm iSoft Group plc; and they have struck back.

iSoft's premium rating was destroyed in one fell swoop this morning on the back of a warning that a major customer, the UK's National Health Service (NHS), was deferring revenues expected by the firm. Previously adorned by many analysts with "outperform" and "buy" ratings, iSoft shares lost over 40% of their value within minutes of the open. Yes, that's 40%. The analyst reaction to the iSoft announcement, savage as it was, was clearly an accessory to this grievous bodily harm.

Analysts believe that management knew about, or should have known about, such a bad miss (about 20% of expected turnover) much earlier than today. And, last week, when there was an indication that a problem was coming - another software vendor involved in the same NHS tender warned for the same reason - iSoft still remained silent.

Analysts wrath thus stems from management's non-communication but also, one would hope, from their own timidity in not breaking ranks earlier with their suspicions. This was an example where (with one exception) they missed a trick in not warning their clients ahead of the iSoft announcement.

So iSoft has had to take a hammering; but to unconcerned witnesses the damage is clearly not to be found in iSoft's operations - they are, as before, in a growing market and sublimely cash generative. The shares are now on a sub-10 PE multiple (based on underlying earnings) and there is £72m of cash on the balance sheet. Strategic plans may have been slowed but the show is clearly on the road.

Rather the damage is to management's credibility. But as a bunch of guys who were spun out of KPMG they will doubtless manage to draw on their consultant's training to slickly present themselves back into favour quicker than you can say "client expenses" or "lap dancing club".

Read the accounts yourself; consider also the iSoft attractions as a take-over target (there have been stories); and see if the opening quote really has no resonance. Didn't Dustin and Jessica get back together in the end?

Disclosure: the writer owns post-warning iSoft shares.

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