Symantec Profit Beats Expectations, Sending Shares Higher

Symantec, the world's biggest security software maker, posted a lower fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts' forecasts, sending its shares markedly higher .

Rob Owens, an analyst at Pacific Crest Equities, said the 2008 outlook was roughly in line with Wall Street estimates but that strong fiscal fourth quarter results showed Symantec was bouncing back from recent problems that have hurt results.

"The fourth quarter is evidence of stability across Symantec's business," he said. "The guidance is roughly in line with what we were thinking."

Fourth-quarter net profit for the fiscal quarter ended March 30 fell to $60.9 million, or 7 cents a share, from $118.8 million, or 11 cents a share, a year ago due to a $51 million charge related to job cuts and other restructuring actions.

Excluding items, the company said it posted a per-share profit of 24 cents. This was above the average analyst forecast of 20 cents on revenue of $1.27 billion, as compiled by Thomson Financial.

Symantec has sought to restructure its business after a tough few years marked by a number of executive departures and questions over the company's $13.5 billion deal for Veritas in 2005.

Analysts have said the acquisition has proved tough to integrate into the rest of Symantec's operations and was partly to blame for disappointing earnings in past quarters.

Fourth quarter revenue rose to $1.36 billion from $1.24 billion as the Cupertino, California-based company's consumer business grew 11%. That division accounts for about 30% of Symantec's overall revenue.

Symantec Chief Executive John Thompson said the company's flagship Norton Internet Security anti-virus software generated robust demand and that the enterprise side of the business did better than expected.

He also said sales of the newly-released Norton 360 product were strong and that the company has not seen much impact from Microsoft'sjump into the security software market.

"We have seen no appreciable impact of Microsoft," he said in a telephone interview. "From our vantage it has been a non event."

For its current first quarter the company estimated earnings per share before items at 18 cents to 20 cents and revenue before items at $1.295 billion to $1.325 billion.

For fiscal year 2008, the company estimated earnings per share before items of $1.10 to $1.15 and revenue of $5.65 billion and $5.75 billion.

The Wall Street view was for first-quarter earnings per share before items of 24 cents and revenue of $1.29 billion and 2008 earnings per share before items of $1.09 and revenue of $5.40 billion.