Adobe Systems' ( ADBE) third-quarter profit plunged 35% largely because of acquisition and stock-options costs, but the software maker's results topped expectations. Additionally, the Photoshop publisher gave guidance for the fourth quarter that essentially met analysts' growth targets. Investors cheered the Thursday report, sending Adobe's stock up $2.71, or 8%, to $36.36 in recent after-hours trading. In the quarter ended Sept. 1, Adobe earned $94.4 million, or 16 cents a share. In contrast, the company earned $144.9 million, or 29 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Thanks in part to the company's acquisition of Macromedia -- whose results weren't included in the year-ago results -- Adobe's sales jumped 21.7% to $579.2 million. Excluding options, amortization and certain other costs, Adobe would have earned 29 cents a share, compared with 31 cents a share last year. On this basis, analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting the company to earn 26 cents a share on sales of $595.1 million. Adobe's
guidance , which the company reaffirmed in August, called for earnings of 13 cents to 16 cents a share -- 25 cents to 27 cents, excluding options and acquisition costs -- on sales ranging from $580 million to $610 million. Looking forward, Adobe expects to earn 19 cents to 22 cents a share -- 32 cents to 34 cents excluding options costs -- in its fourth quarter on sales of $655 million to $685 million. At the midpoints, that works out to a pro forma profit of 33 cents a share on sales of about $670 million.
That's slightly above the Street's average forecast, which called for a profit of 32 cents a share, excluding charges, on $668.6 million in sales. In the
same period last year , Adobe earned $156.3 million, or 31 cents a share, on sales of $510.4 million. Excluding certain costs and gains, the company would have earned 30 cents a share in that quarter. Shares of Adobe closed regular trading up 12 cents, or less than 1%, to $33.65.