Updated from 9:46 a.m. EDT

Robust sales of software licenses drove SAP ( SAP)to a strong third quarter and prompted the company to raise guidance for the rest of the year.

The Frankfurt-based software giant earned a profit of 334 million euros ($399.1 million), or 1.08 euros per share, a year over increase of 15%, the company reported earlier Thursday. The results were roughly in line with estimates, which called for earnings of 34 cents per American Depositary Share. The security represents a quarter-interest in a SAP share.

Total revenue increased by 13% to 2.01 billion euros ($2.4 billion), which was also about equal to Wall Street's expectations. (Dollar figures in this story value the euro at $1.19, although First Call estimates may be based on earlier valuations).

Most impressive, however, was the sharp rise in software license revenue in the U.S., as well as the rest of the world.

Global license revenue, a key indicator of new business, increased by 20% to 590 million euros, or $702 million. U.S. license revenue jumped 34% year over year, to 199 million euros, or $237 million. "The last time SAP grew license 20% year over year was more than four years ago," noted Prudential Securities analyst Brent Thill.

Concern over the modest bottom-line performance shadowed the bravura license results and the stock was up just 27 cents to $43.81 in recent trading.

The big increase in U.S. sales indicates that SAP is gaining ground on Oracle ( ORCL), its biggest rival in the $24 billion market for business software applications.

"SAP's results show ongoing market share gains against Oracle, despite continued pricing pressure and a difficult demand environment. As long as Oracle pursues large acquisitions in its consolidation strategy, SAP should continue to benefit from the resulting customer uncertainties," Thill wrote in a note to clients. Prudential doesn't have a banking relationship with SAP or Oracle.

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