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Dell profit jumps on strong sales to businesses

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Dell Inc. said Thursday that strong demand from business customers helped drive the PC maker's profit up 52% in its most recent quarter.

The Round Rock, Texas, company reported net income of $441 million, or 22 cents per share, for the quarter ended April 30. That's up 52% from $290 million, or 15 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Excluding certain accounting charges, Dell reported earnings of $824 million, or 30 cents per share, in the quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, who typically exclude one-time items from their estimates, were looking for 27 cents.

Sales rose 21% to $14.9 billion, versus a forecasted $14.3 billion.

"Commercial demand continued to build in the first quarter and Dell is optimistic the trend will continue throughout the year," the company said.

Dell (DELL, Fortune 500) said it expects demand from corporate customers to remain strong as businesses upgrade IT equipment. But the company also said sales could slow in the current quarter due to seasonal factors.

Sales to large businesses rose 25% to $4.2 billion, driven by demand for servers and technology services. Revenue from public agencies rose 22%, while sales to small and medium businesses rose 19% in the quarter.

Dell's consumer business, traditionally its smallest division, posted a 16% sales gain.

The results reflect a growing recovery in corporate spending on information technology, which slumped along with global economic activity last year.

On Monday, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500), the world's largest technology company, said its PC sales jumped 21% in the most recent quarter.

However, HP reported a 6% decline in sales versus the prior quarter, suggesting that Dell is gaining market share, according to Dinesh Moorjani, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech.

Despite the upbeat results, Dell (DELL, Fortune 500) shares fell over 4% in after-hours trading to $14.32.

"Investors were looking for greater margin improvement," Moorjani said.

Dell's gross margin widened to 16.9%, up from 16.6% last quarter and but down compared to last year's 17.6%.  To top of page

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