SAP

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, which preannounced strong third-quarter revenue earlier this month, on Thursday reported a 25% climb in earnings for the period and raised guidance for 2003.

The Walldorf, Germany-based business software maker reported income for the third quarter calculated according to general accounting principles climbed 25% to 252 million euros, or $293 million, from 202 million euros a year ago. On a per-share basis, GAAP net income came in at 81 euro cents, vs. 65 euro cents a year ago.

Excluding charges, SAP said it earned pro forma net income of 260 million euros, or $303 million, in the third quarter, compared to pro forma net income of 207 million euros a year earlier. On a per-share basis, pro forma net income came in at 84 euro cents per share, vs. 66 euro cents a year earlier.

Third-quarter software revenue rose to 433 million euros, or $505 million, virtually flat from 435 million euros in 2002. However, figuring in currency fluctuations, software revenue was up 7%. Total revenue came in at 1.65 billion euros, or $1.92 billion, down 3% from a year earlier.

A review of two analyst estimates showed earnings estimates ranged from 68 euro cents to 77 euro cents, and revenue ranged from 1.6 billion euros to 1.7 billion euros for third quarter.

For full-year 2003, SAP said it expects pro forma earnings to be in the higher end of the range of its previously issued outlook of 3.45 euros per shareto 3.60 euros per share.

The company's pro forma operating margin for 2003 should increase 2 percentage points from 2002, up from the previous estimate of an increase of between 1 and 1.5 percentage points. SAP did not give revenue guidance.

Shares of SAP fell in early trading, fetching a bid price of $36.31 and an ask price of $36.42, down from the previous day's close of $37.15.