Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oracle Serves Up Another Big Quarter

Technology investors got some bright news Dec. 19 as software industry mainstay Oracle shucked off concerns that slowing economic growth would cause key customers to throttle tech spending. An expansion into specialty software markets and a tight rein on expenses helped Oracle turn in a strong second quarter and issue an upbeat outlook for the third.

Oracle (ORCL)'s net income rose 35%, to $1.3 billion, or 25¢ a share, in the quarter that ended Nov. 30. Revenue increased 28%, to $5.3 billion, surpassing the $5.04 billion expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial (TOC). Excluding the cost of issuing stock options to employees, profit was 31¢ a share, compared with the 27¢ expected by analysts. Sales of new software licenses, a closely watched indicator of future revenue, climbed 38%, exceeding Oracle's forecast that the bookings would increase between 15% and 25%.

Troubles Trickling Down on Tech?

"We're selling more products to more customers in more industries," Oracle CFO Safra Catz said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts after the results were released Dec. 19. "Each deal is a little bigger than in the past." Oracle has been buying makers of specialty software for industries including retailing, utilities, and telecom, and Chief Executive Larry Ellison said during the call that Oracle plans to expand into additional industry areas. "That's our strategy for growth," he said.

Oracle also said revenue would increase between 21% and 24% in the current quarter, which ends in February, and that it would earn 29¢ or 30¢ per share, excluding option expenses. Analysts expected Oracle to earn 29¢ and revenues to increase by 18% in the third quarter.

The results could start to reassure investors concerned that the slower growth forecast for the U.S. economy will trickle down to hurt technology companies, and that banks and other financial-services companies will curtail new technology projects as they weather losses tied to subprime mortgage lending. Cisco Systems (CSCO) and other technology vendors have pointed to signs of weaker IT spending (, 10/15/07) that could extend into 2008.

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