Novell

(NOVL)

beat analysts' first-quarter expectations by a penny, even as the bottom line fell sharply from a year ago, but the company projected a tough year-over-year comparison for the second quarter.

The company, which is based in Provo, Utah, expects earnings to rise in the second half of fiscal 2001 as it completes its transition to becoming an Internet services software company.

Before an accounting change, the software company earned $3.3 million, or a penny a share, in the latest first quarter. Four analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected the company to break even for the latest quarter.

In the year-ago period, the company earned $44.8 million, or 13 cents a share. Traditionally, the first quarter is the weakest for Novell, with earnings increasing through the year and peaking in the fourth quarter. The company attributed the results in the year-ago first quarter to software license purchases ahead of the anticipated Y2K computer problems.

Novell's revenue for the quarter ended Jan. 31 fell to $245 million from $316 million last year. The company projected "poor year-over-year comparisons through the first half of fiscal 2001," but expects growth to resume in the second half of the year.

On the

Nasdaq

, Novell closed at $8. In after-hours trading on

Island

, the shares lost 3 cents to $7.97.