Sybase Earnings Bounce Back

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2003-07-23

Sybase Earnings Bounce Back

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."

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Business for Sybase in Asia/Pacific regions suffering from the SARS outbreak—Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Taiwan—was down 20 percent for the quarter. However, because of healthy database sales in Japan, Asia/Pacific as a whole was up 6 percent, Chen said.

In other database goings-on, during the just-completed quarter, Sybase announced the general availability of Adaptive Server IQ 12.5, a highly scalable analytical engine featuring greater ease-of-use, enhanced support, lower overall total cost of ownership, and easier integration and interoperability.

As far as what future ASE updates would contain, Chen pointed to trends in relational database management system technology that could provide insights, including a heightened attention to security, focus on federated or edge computing, and a trend toward treating the database as more of a data management platform.

That data-management-platform trend is whats behind, for example, Oracle Corp.s anticipated move to more tightly integrate its Collaboration Suite messaging platform into Oracle10G, the next update of its database. Could the next update of ASE be mated with a messaging platform in a like manner? "I would not be surprised," Chen said. "I think the database, with the traditional managing of bits and bytes, is going to be expanded. The ability to do messaging, do real-time, be more secure … the database is really becoming a data management platform."

And given the melodrama of Oracles ongoing takeover attempt of PeopleSoft Inc., Sybases database is one that Chen thinks is looking better and better to potential customers.

"[The Oracle-PeopleSoft acquisition] will help us a lot with the PeopleSoft relationship," Chen said. "PeopleSoft customers would rather see a PeopleSoft-Sybase combination, rather than an Oracle-PeopleSoft combination. Why? Because its a dead end. … If you have PeopleSoft on Oracle, you have to think about what your future strategy will be. Either way its not good news."

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