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BEA sales supremo exits as regions fizzle

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One of the executives credited with helping stabilize BEA Systems is quitting as the company continues to iron out troubling kinks in its global sales operations.

Tom Ashburn, president of worldwide field operations, is retiring, and BEA executives in charge of sales, services, and marketing will now report directly to chief executive Alfred Chuang.

Ashburn, a Hewlett Packard veteran of 33 years before BEA, was appointed head of the newly created worldwide operations in 2004, which consolidated BEA's direct sales, reseller and partner programs, marketing and professional services.

Ashburn had briefly served as executive vice president of worldwide services. His quick-fire appointment came as Chuang stepped back to focus on products and innovation.

Both changes were announced as top business and technology executives quit the company amid a crisis over direction and missed quarterly revenues. At the time BEA's declared goal was to grow from $1bn to $3bn revenue by 2009.

In a measure of how far BEA has come since those dark days of 2004, BEA Thursday announced a 16 per cent increase in annual revenue for fiscal 2007 to $1.4bn and 14.7 per cent growth for the quarter to $391m. Results are not complete as BEA has yet to tally up full impact from options-related expenses.

Ashburn's exit, though, comes with BEA still trying to fill senior leadership positions in Japan, and Australia and New Zealand. The vacuum is having a negative impact on business, judging by fourth-quarter results, announced Thursday.

BEA experienced a 14 per cent drop in revenue for Asia Pacific as it searches for a head of its Japanese operations and a general manager for Australia and New Zealand. Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) saw one per cent growth as BEA beds in new regional level management and appoints country managers in German and Italy.

Expressing his disappointment with regional performance, Chuang promised improvements ahead for Wall Street analysts. "We expect the EMEA region to stabilize... we hope to place a head of Japan sometime this quarter," he said. "With those [executives] in place we will see more operational excellence in geographies. It's very frustrating for us."

Chuang also admitted disappointment with flat year-on-year revenue from the company's WebLogic Platform during the fourth quarter. The newer AquaLogic middleware apparently accounted for 25 per cent of all BEA revenue for the period.

Looking ahead, BEA faces a flat first quarter, with overall revenue expected between $350m and $364m.®

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