Strong 4Q earnings propel Computer Associates shares

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Computer Associates International Inc. (NYSE: CA) picked up 3 3/16, or 7 percent, to 47 3/16 Friday after topping analysts' estimates by a penny a share in its fourth quarter.

The software developer raked in $457.8 million, or 83 cents a share, on sales of $1.62 billion.

First Call consensus expected it to earn 82 cents a share in the quarter.

On Friday, CIBC World Markets upgraded the stock from a "neutral" rating to "strong buy."

Company officials had preannounced better-than-expected sales and earnings in April.

Its shares closed off 2 3/16 to 43 1/16 ahead of the earnings report.

The $1.62 billion in sales represents an 11 percent jump compared to the year-ago quarter when it earned $422.7 million, or 75 cents a share, on sales of $1.46 billion.

Client/server sales jumped 25 percent from $640 million to $802 million and professional services revenue increased 121 percent to $93 million.

For the year, Computer Associates earned $1.3 billion, or $2.31 a share, on sales of $5.2 billion. Last year, it pocketed $1.2 billion, or $2.10 a share, on sales of $4.7 billion.

"We are especially pleased with the growth in the client/server area where the Unicenter product family continues to gain tremendous customer acceptance," said COO Sanjay Kumar in a prepared release.

Earlier this quarter, Computer Associates said it would buy Platinum Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: PLAT) for $3.5 billion.

The Justice Department gave the deal the thumbs-up earlier this week, clearing the path for the largest software transaction in history.

"This transaction is indicative of CA's continued commitment to offer clients broader solutions to achieve their business objectives," Kumar said. "CA is now the only independent software and services provider with expertise and comprehensive offerings in both the enterprise management as well as information management areas."

The stock marched up to a high of 61 5/16 in July before falling to a low of 26 in August.

Sixteen of the 27 analysts following the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

First Call consensus expects it to earn $2.60 a share in fiscal 2000.