Oracle exec now Netscape COO

The hire, along with expectations of a strong earnings report for the company next week, is met with enthusiasm by Wall Street.

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Shares of Netscape Communications rose sharply today as Wall Street reacted to its announcement that it had named a new chief operating officer, as well as to growing expectations of a strong third quarter and talk of an alliance with Citicorp, analysts said.

In a move aimed to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to its enterprise customers, Netscape said yesterday that it had hired an executive from Oracle to run its world sales, strategic partnerships, professional services, and training areas.

Barry Ariko, formerly executive vice president and member of the executive management committee at Oracle, has been named executive vice president and COO at Netscape. Ariko will report directly to CEO Jim Barksdale.

Netscape is due to report its third-quarter earnings next Tuesday, and BT Alex Brown analyst Mary McCaffrey said she was encouraged that the company has not made any warning of disappointing results.

McCaffrey added Netscape's new chief operating officer should help bring direction to the company's growing enterprise software division.

She said also that the company's earnings could be accompanied by word of an alliance with Citicorp, noting that Netscape may have reached an agreement for Citicorp to provide financial services for its Netcenter portal site.

Netscape's stock was up 4 points to 29.0625 in midday trading and was the most actively traded issue on Nasdaq.

The company maintains a two-pronged business strategy that involves both its enterprise software and its portal site, which it is trying to position to be one of the premier gateways onto the Net.

At times, the intensity of the portal wars have overshadowed Netscape's software side, which includes Web servers and e-commerce software.

The move to hire Ariko demonstrates Netscape's commitment to software sales, Netscape spokeswoman Allison Johnson said.

Analysts said Ariko should help shore up Netscape's enterprise software business, which the company has been trying to build as a way to offset business lost in the Internet browser market.

"To suggest that this signals a strong commitment to aggressively growing the enterprise side of our business is absolutely correct," Johnson added. "We see the opportunity to be uniquely positioned because we have both [enterprise and portal strategies]."

When Netscape decided in March to put Mike Homer in charge of its portal effort, it also began a search for an executive vice president in charge of sales, according to Johnson.

Ariko joined Oracle in April 1994 and was responsible for the company's global sales practices as head of its Americas operations.

Reuters contributed to this report.