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Sales strong at Siebel as it sails into sunset

After a string of disappointing quarters, Siebel exceeded sales forecasts in its fourth quarter, which is likely to be its last as an independent company.

After a string of disappointing quarters, Siebel Systems announced that it exceeded sales forecasts in its fourth quarter, which is likely to be its last as an independent company.

Siebel reported preliminary results for the quarter ended December 31 showing total revenue of $US469 million, up 20 per cent from last year's fourth-quarter. Influenced by Siebel's earlier forecast of fourth-quarter revenue in the range of $US340 million to $US360 million, analysts polled by Thomson First Call had a consensus revenue forecast of $US364.9 million.

Siebel's sales of new software licenses also picked up dramatically from last year: Siebel put its license revenue for the quarter at $US214 million, up 33 per cent from last year's fourth quarter. License sales are a key measure for software companies, since they directly affect the future revenue the company will be able to expect from lucrative maintenance and support contracts.

Siebel did not forecast its per-share earnings, but it estimated that its fourth-quarter operating income will be between $US107 million and $US111 million, up at least 65 per cent from last year.

"This quarter represents our best revenue, profit and cash generation performance since the first quarter of 2002," Siebel chief executive officer, George Shaheen, said.

Siebel, a customer relationship management (CRM) software maker with headquarters is in the process of closing an acquisition by rival Oracle, which will pay $US5.85 billion for Siebel.

Oracle has said it expects the deal to close this month.

Siebel plans to release its full fourth-quarter financial report on January 23.