* European markets remain difficult
* U.S. drives 6.1 pct Q3 sales increase
* Shares down 5.4 pct
* Expects to appoint new CFO within weeks
PARIS, Nov 8 (Reuters) - French technology consultancy Capgemini was the biggest loser on France’s blue-chip CAC40 index after it reported slowing growth in the third quarter and said it expects a difficult end to the year.
Technology services companies have faced increased competition and strong pricing pressure in Europe, where companies and governments have cut IT budgets in response to slow growth and worries over the region’s debt levels.
There was little sign of improvement from some of its main markets, including France and crisis-hit Benelux, while orders so far this year were below analysts’ expectations.
“At 7.17 billion euros ($9.2 billion), the order intake was slightly disappointing at face value, due to the absence of major outsourcing deals in Q3,” one Paris-based analyst said.
Capgemini shares fell 5.4 percent by 1334 GMT.
The company stuck to its full-year target for organic growth of more than 1 percent and Chief Executive Paul Hermelin said: “We are on track to reach this and even do slightly better despite a fourth quarter which will be a little more difficult for us.”
Though Europe remains difficult, third-quarter sales rose 6.1 percent to 2.52 billion euros thanks to strong demand in the U.S, the Asia Pacific region and Nordic countries. Like-for-like sales grew 1 percent over the quarter.
The U.S, which became the company’s top market this quarter in terms of sales, reported 10.9 percent like-for-like growth while sales in France declined 4 percent and Benelux revenue fell by 13.8 percent.
“Our geographic mix is evolving bit by bit. The weight of Europe is gradually decreasing in the company,” Hermelin said.
The CEO added that he was still examining candidates to replace finance director Nicolas Dufourcq, who is due to leave the company to take the helm of France’s new public investment bank, BPI. Hermelin said he hopes to name Dufourcq’s successor within a few weeks.