Computer Associates Curbs Its Loss on Higher Revenue - TheStreet

Updated from 5:12 p.m. EDT

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

reported better-than-expected operating results as it boosted sales from year-ago levels.

Using generally accepted accounting principles, the software maker lost $238 million, or 41 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $410 million, or 71 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding $300 million in special items, CA reported a break-even operating result, up from a loss of 29 cents a share a year ago. In April, CA forecast a loss of 4 cents a share in the quarter.

CA said revenue was $772 million, up from $730 million a year ago and slightly ahead of forecasts.

"In an information technology spending environment that remains cautious, we are pleased with CA's performance in the fourth quarter," said Computer Associate chief executive, Sanjay Kumar, in a statement. "We achieved quarterly operating break-even earlier than anticipated and exceeded our performance for the fourth quarter, compared to the third quarter, in key measurement areas."

Kumar attributed the quarter's results to its recent adoption of a subscription-based method of accounting -- which recognizes revenue over the life of a contract and gives customers more flexibility.

"By offering customers shorter-term licensing, CA is able to let customers document the value of our solutions before making long-term commitments," Kumar said in a statement. "At the same time, the recognition of revenue over the life of the related contract is substantively benefiting our shareholders by providing a more predictable revenue stream and more visibility into the company's operations."

While the average contract size has declined, the volume of CA's transactions is increasing, Kumar said. Still, he noted that customers were buying to satisfy immediate needs, rather than to build forward capacity.

In April, CA said it would consolidate its brands into five units to improve customer satisfaction. That was a complaint of dissident shareholder Sam Wyly, who lost a proxy battle for CA's board last summer.

CA said cash from operations in the quarter exceeded $579 million, bringing full-year cash from operations to $1.25 billion, above previous estimates. This was the fifth straight year it topped $1 billion.

The software company said it expects 2003 revenue to come in between $3.20 billion and $3.26 billion with diluted operating earnings in the range of 10 cents to 13 cents a share.

In the first quarter, CA expects $770 million to $775 million in sales. The company also said it will break even or perhaps post a profit of a penny a share.

Both the

Securities and Exchange Commission

and the Justice Department are looking into CA's past accounting practices. CA said it's cooperating with the inquiries and looks forward to putting them behind it.

In April, CA settled a civil lawsuit with the Justice Department over its $3.5 billion purchase of Platinum Technology in 1999. The suit alleged that CA was actively involved in decision-making for Platinum before the merger had passed antitrust review. Under the settlement, CA paid the DOJ $638,000 but was cleared from any admission of wrongdoing.

Also last month, CA said that the Justice Department closed a similar inquiry into the company's $4 billion acquisition of Sterling Software in March 2000, without taking action.