Sybase Earnings Bounce Back

Vendor says customer interest in its mobile technologies drove a increase.

Sybase Inc. dragged itself out of its first-quarter slump. On Wednesday the company said that second-quarter 2003 revenues of $192 million—including license fees of $63.9 million—exceeded First Call consensus revenue estimates of $186.5 million.

Net income was $14.6 million, with earnings per share of 16 cents. Even though the quarter showed revived business compared with the years first quarter, Sybase profitability is lagging compared with a year ago. Net income for the second quarter of 2002 was $20.2 million, with earnings per share of 21 cents.

Chairman, President and CEO John Chen credited both emboldened customers and growth in the companys mobile, wireless and Wi-Fi businesses for the quarter-to-quarter business pickup. "We are encouraged by our second-quarter results," said Chen, in a statement. "An increasing number of customers are exploring new IT projects and initiatives involving Sybase, which gives us good reason to be optimistic. Were particularly excited about the strength in our mobile and wireless business and our new Wi-Fi initiatives."

But during the question-and-answer portion of a call with analysts, Chen admitted that he just didnt know whether or when the slide in year-over-year profitability would recover. "I dont know whether it will or wont continue," he said.

But business was brisk at the Dublin, Calif., companys iAnywhere Solutions Inc. subsidiary—which churns out mobile technology. Business was up 17 percent over the first quarter and 15 percent over year-ago figures. Chen pointed to a number of product releases and new relationships that account for this.

One of the big deals in the mobile arena for Sybase is that Microsoft Corp. announced last month that it is putting support for Sybases AvantGo application into its upcoming PocketPC update so that when users of devices such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s iPaq bring up their home screens, theyll behold an AvantGo button. That will be a big win for AvantGo, although it scarcely needs it—the application already has some 9 million users, Chen said.

During the recently completed quarter, Sybase also rolled out SQL Anywhere Studio 9, a mobile database featuring support for Macintosh computers—a platform Sybase has been enthusiastically pursuing of late—as well as enhanced Web services and .NET functionality and an index consultant designed to speed development time.

Speaking of databases, Sybases flagship ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise) enterprise database "surprisingly" gained some strength during the second quarter, Chen said during the analyst call. ASE business was up 18 percent over the first quarter and 6 percent over year-ago figures.

"Very interesting," Chen said in an interview with eWeek Online. "For the longest time, everybody was saying the database market was slow, the growth was slow, and the pricing is extremely competitive. Then, I thought that was by and large quite true. Especially when the economys bad and people arent building new applications, they dont need a new database.

"But most of our new database customers were secured overseas over the past few quarters, in particular in China.

"We thought that in China, with SARS and all that, the whole database business wasnt necessarily going down very rapidly, but it wouldnt jump up. But we see substantial year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter growth."