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Earnings Madness: First Data, Check Point excel

First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC) tiptoed past Street estimates in its third quarter Thursday, earning $208 million, or 48 cents a share, on sales of $1.4 billion.

First Call consensus expected the computer services provider to earn 47 cents a share in the quarter.

First Data shares closed off 13/16 to 41 1/4 ahead of the earnings report.

In the year-ago period, First Data earned $187 million, or 42 cents a share, on sales of $1.28 billion.

"Explosive growth in Western Union International, strong growth and operating execution from our merchant alliances, and new card account conversions continue to fuel double-digit revenue and profit growth," said CEO Ric Duques in a prepared release. "Our record third quarter performance reflects the fundamental strength in our business and improved execution in each of our three core businesses."

First Data shares peaked at 51 1/2 in July after slumping to a 52-week low of 22 1/16 in October.

Eleven of the 15 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

First Call consensus expects First Data to earn $1.75 a share in the fiscal year.

Among other technology companies reporting earnings Thursday:

  • Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) stormed past analysts' estimates in its third quarter, raking in $24.7 million, or 60 cents a share, on sales of $57.7 million.

    The stock closed up 5 1/4 to a 52-week high of 98 1/8 ahead of the earnings report.

    First Call consensus expected Check Point to earn 56 cents a share in the quarter.

    The $57.7 million in sales marks a 64 percent jump compared to the year-ago period when it pocketed $16.9 million, or 45 cents a share, on sales of $35.2 million.

    "Business was strong in the third quarter as we continued to ride the growth in the Internet, extranet and intranet markets," said CEO Gil Shwed in a prepared release.

    Check Point shares hit a 52-week low of 17 7/8 last October.

    First Call consensus expects it to return a profit of $2.20 a share in the fiscal year. >