Looks like Compaq Computer is going to eke out a profit after all, thanks to cost-cutting and better-than-expected sales. Compaq's fourth-quarter sales will exceed $8 billion, compared with earlier forecasts of $7.6 billion to $7.8 billion in revenue, and a loss of 3 cents per share, the company said last week. A year ago, Compaq (CPQ
--NYSE) posted fourth-quarter revenue of $11.52 billion and a profit of 30 cents per share. Demand was higher than expected, and the company is benefiting from its move to a lower-cost, Internet-based sales model that makes it more competitive with Dell Computer, Lehman Brothers analyst Dan Niles says. The prospect of profit is especially good news for Compaq because it suggests the company could carry on alone if its proposed merger with Hewlett-Packard is scuttled by shareholder or regulatory opposition. Many analysts, including Niles, feel the odds are stacked against the deal.