BMC Software ( BMC ) Thursday said it returned to profit in the third quarter but that was not enough to prevent a sharp decline in its share price.

On a GAAP basis, the company earned $36.4 million, or 16 cents a share, compared with a loss of $44.4 million, or 20 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 3% to $386.8 million.

Excluding items, the Houston-based company had net earnings of $49.6 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with $43.0 million, or 19 cents a share, a year ago.

The company's guidance was EPS of 18 cents to 23 cents and revenue of $380 million to $395 million. Analysts had forecast EPS of 21 cents and revenue of $389.4 million.

License bookings were $191.1 million, a 30% increase over the second quarter of fiscal 2005 and a 19% decrease over the third quarter of fiscal 2004.

The company forecast fourth-quarter EPS of 17 cents to 22 cents, less than the consensus estimate of 23 cents a share.

Shares fell $1.50, or 8.8%, to $15.50 in the premarket.