Updated from 5:01 p.m. EST

BEA Systems

(BEAS)

will post stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, the business software maker said after Thursday's closing bell.

The upside surprise pushed the stock up 48 cents, or 4.6%, to $10.87 in after-hours trading on Instinet.

In preannouncing its results, the company said it expects to earn a profit of 11 cents to 12 cents a share on sales ranging from $335 million to $340 million, excluding various items. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were looking for an 11-cents-a-share profit on sales of $329.8 million.

"During the fourth quarter, BEA experienced very strong order activity, which allowed us to exceed our license revenue targets for the fourth quarter and to build better-than-expected visibility heading into the new fiscal year," said BEA's CEO Alfred Chuang.

BEA's license revenue, which had been a major concern of Wall Street, will range from $150 million to $155 million, an increase of 14% to 18%. Earlier, the company had projected license revenue of $140 million to $146 million.

A year ago, BEA posted software license sales of $131.8 million.

Chuang added that he expects license revenue in the first quarter to grow year over year by 10% to 15%, or to $127 million to $133 million.

The upside surprise pushed the stock up 48 cents, or 4.6%, to $10.87 in after-hours trading on Instinet.

BEA's announcement comes after at least six software makers reported strong fourth-quarter results only to issue weak first-quarter guidance. BEA likely escaped the downturn because it is in the midst of an upgrade cycle of two of its key products.

The company will report final fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 23.