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Dell third-quarter profit rises 28 percent

Computer maker Dell Inc. said Thursday its fiscal third-quarter profit rose 28 percent, fueled by strong demand of mobility products like laptop computers and strong sales of products made for corporations.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dell Inc. said earnings grew 27 percent in the third quarter, buoyed by growth in overseas markets like Brazil and by prices falling for memory chips and other components.

The results fell just shy of analyst expectations.

Dell, which posted results after markets closed Thursday, earned $766 million, or 34 cents per share, in the three months ended Nov.

2. That was up from $601 million, or 27 cents per share, in revised figures from the same quarter a year ago. Revenue grew 9 percent to $15.64 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting the Round Rock company to post profits of 35 cents per share on revenue of $15.34 billion.

For the first time in over a year, top executives were scheduled to speak with analysts in a conference call following the earnings release that could clarify the computer maker’s ongoing turnaround efforts.

It’s been a rough time for Dell since August 2006, when the computer giant first disclosed an internal accounting investigation and issued a massive notebook battery recall. A few months later, Dell lost its No. 1 position in the PC market to rival Hewlett-Packard Co. and has yet to gain it back.

Extensive changes have followed, including the return of Michael Dell as CEO, a global effort to make some of its consumer products available at retail stores — instead of only on the Internet — and plans to lay off 10 percent of its work force.

“We embarked this year on a long-term strategy to re-ignite growth, and our third quarter results indicate we’re making solid progress through investments in five key business priorities — consumer, emerging countries, notebooks, enterprise and small-medium business,” Michael Dell said in a statement.

Yet HP continues to expand and now leads Dell by nearly 5 percentage points, commanding 20 percent of the U.S. market, compared with Dell’s roughly 15 percent, according to the latest data from market researcher IDC.

During quarter, Dell shipped about 9.9 million computers worldwide, compared with HP’s 12.8 million, according to research firm Gartner Inc. And Dell had about 14.4 percent of the worldwide PC market, down from 15.9 percent a year earlier and below HP’s 18.6 percent.

Last month, Dell filed its restated earnings, regaining compliance with Nasdaq Stock Market regulations. The filing showed profit was $92 million, or 3 cents per share, less than reported for combined fiscal 2003 through the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

Dell’s fiscal years end in January.

Dell still faces an SEC investigation and shareholder lawsuits over its accounting.

The company incurred a $50 million charge, equal to 2 cents a share, for costs related to work force cuts. Another $28 million, or 1 cent a share, was spent in the quarter to resolve the accounting issues.

An annual shareholders meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at Dell’s main campus in Round Rock, Texas.

Shares closed up 45 cents Thursday at $28.14 and rose another 15 cents to $28.89 in early after-hours trading.