Internet-based education software maker SkillSoft Plc (NASDAQ:SKIL) released its second-quarter earnings numbers on Wednesday. Did I say released? That's much too bland. SkillSoft actually, almost literally, spun out its earnings numbers with the kind of dexterity you normally only expect from one of Marvel's (NYSE:MVL) more famous arachno-hominid superheros.

Right from the get-go, almost before the words "net income of $1.4 million, or $0.01 per basic and diluted share" were out of its mouth, SkillSoft's PR department started spinning. You see, it wasn't really only a penny. I mean, yes, it was a penny. But only because the company took a $0.02 charge to buy some "technology." Then add in another $0.01 charge for some other one-time expenses. It really was the fault of all those petty charges that kept SkillSoft from earning more than a penny.

Oh, and -- sotto voce here -- there wouldn't have been any penny at all, but for SkillSoft increasing its estimates of the tax deductions it expects to take this year, dropping its estimated tax rate from 28%-32% down to 4.5%-6%. Honestly, by the time I reached the end of the first few paragraphs of SkillSoft's report, I was no longer certain whether the results were good or bad. Sure, the charges that depressed its profits were noncash, but it seems like at least part of the profits the company had in the first place were noncash as well. All I know for certain now is that SkillSoft really, really wanted that penny of profit.

I guess that's understandable. Profits have been pretty few and far between for this little software company. SkillSoft had $0.03 in profit last quarter -- but it hasn't had an even marginally profitable fiscal year since 2001. Which made this quarter's penny plenty precious to SkillSoft.

Sadly, in this day and age, a penny doesn't go as far as it used to. Spin though it might, Wall Street took one look at SkillSoft's profits, huffed "It's still just a penny," and passed it by. Result: After dropping 9% in the hours leading up to its earnings release, SkillSoft slid another 2% in early Thursday trading.

For another perspective on SkillSoft and its possible future as an acquisition target, read:

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no interest in SkillSoft but owns shares in Marvel.