SAN FRANCISCO -- Sybase ( SY) handily beat third-quarter earnings estimates Thursday and said it would increase the rate of stock buybacks.The Dublin, Calif., middleware and database software company reported revenue of $255.3 million, up 22% from $209.1 million a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting $251.7 million. EPS was 37 cents on net income of $34.1 million, up 37% from an EPS of 27 cents on net income of $25.1 million in the same quarter of 2006. Shares were recently up $2.10, or 8.2%, to $27.61. Excluding items, EPS was 47 cents, far ahead of analysts' expectations for 40 cents. The company's earnings were higher than predicted "because all of our business segments grew," said CEO John Chen in an interview. Both licensing and maintenance were well up. The company's three business units -- database, middleware and messaging software -- came in strong. "We're firing on all three cylinders. Everywhere that is high-margin has done well," Chen said. License revenue was up 12% to $85.1 million. The company's new messaging software business brought in $34.3 million. Sybase said that fourth-quarter revenue will range from $280 million to $290 million and that EPS, excluding items, will be 54 cents to 56 cents. Analysts were expecting a top line of $288.8 million and EPS of 53 cents.
Sybase said cash flow for the year would be $210 million. Because of increased cash flow, the company will increase the rate at which it buys back shares to about $50 million or more per quarter, up from a rate of $20 million to $25 million, Chen said. The company repurchased $32.8 million in stock during its most recent quarter. Due to the company's cash balance, it has
recently come under pressure from an activist investor to return more cash to shareholders. Sybase had $713.3 million in cash and investments at the end of September. Excluding items, operating margin was 22% for the quarter. The company has been expanding operating margin at the rate of 100 basis points per year, Chen said. "You should expect that we will continue to expand it by 100 basis points." "We believe we can drive double-digit EPS through revenue growth, margin expansion and more aggressive buybacks," Chen said.