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SAP earnings beat estimates

Sales in Europe were especially strong, rising 24 percent, the software maker says.

Business software giant SAP on Thursday reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings, driven largely by increased sales worldwide.

The company said that net income for the quarter, which ended Sept. 30, reached $366 million, or roughly 94 cents per share. Those results represent a 15 percent increase over the same period last year, when the company had profits of $317 million, or 81 cents per share. The results also easily bested analysts' average earnings expectations of 92 cents per share, according to a poll by Thomson First Call.

The Walldorf, Germany-based company, which specializes in tools that help businesses with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), said its revenue grew to $2.23 billion for the quarter, an 8 percent increase compared with the third quarter of 2003. SAP reported that its third-quarter software sales were powered by higher demand worldwide, and it reiterated that it expects a 10 percent gain in sales for the year.

SAP reported that its European sales rose 24 percent compared with the third quarter of last year, bolstering hopes for a rebound in the market. The company said that its Asia-Pacific sales grew by 23 percent during the period, while sales in the Americas fell by 2 percent, despite strong demand in the United States, where sales increased by 6 percent.

"Each of the three regions reported year-over-year growth, resulting in a more balanced performance than we have previously seen this year," Henning Kagermann, SAP's chief executive, said in a statement, referring to Europe, Asia-Pacific and the United States.

SAP's positive earnings report follows similar news from rival Siebel, which announced third-quarter results Wednesday.

Siebel reported a quarterly net profit of $19.4 million, or 4 cents per share. That compares with a net loss of $59.3 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier, when the enterprise software maker was weighed down by restructuring charges. Siebel announced quarterly revenue of $317 million, down from the $321.4 million it reported for the third quarter of 2003.