Oracle revenue up, but charges drag down profit

Fueled by growth in new software licenses, Oracle revenue for its fiscal third quarter, ended Feb. 28, increased 17% from the same period last year, hitting $6.4 billion, though earnings declined due in part to restructuring charges incurred by the company's purchase of Sun Microsystems.

Oracle reported third-quarter earnings of $1.2 billion, a drop of 10% compared to the same period last year.

Excluding special charges, earnings per share grew 9% to $1.9 billion or $0.38 per share, with $6.5 billion in revenue. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had on average predicted earnings per share of $0.38 and $6.35 billion in revenue.

New software license revenues, which are considered a key indicator of growth and market temperament, grew 13% to $1.7 billion.

Software license updates and product support revenue continued to be key for Oracle's performance, rising 13% to $3.3 billion, or just over half of all revenue.

Total hardware systems revenue was $458 million, but the figure does not represent a full quarter, as the Sun deal closed in January.

Oracle's work on integrating Sun is going well, and Sun products will make "a significant contribution" to Oracle's fourth-quarter earnings, co-President Safra Catz said in a statement.

Oracle's Exadata data warehousing machine is "the fastest-growing product" in company history, with nearly $400 million in the sales pipeline, co-President Charles Phillips said in a separate statement.

It's become a tradition for Oracle executives to bash applications rival SAP during earnings calls, but Thursday's call featured an especially large dose of trash talk.

CEO Larry Ellison bashed SAP's technology, particularly its ABAP programming language. Oracle's Java-based Fusion Applications -- set for release in the second half of this year after a long delay -- will give his company a major edge, Ellison said.

Fusion Applications will be sold as on-premises software, integrated appliances, and in on-demand form.

"We're going to go compete with SAP's 25-year-old technology. Once we deliver Fusion, we're going to be well-positioned to challenge for the number-one slot [in applications]," Ellison said.

He neglected to mention that SAP developers nowadays also have the option to program in Java.

Ellison acknowledged that Fusion Applications have been a long time coming but said it was for the best.

"We did not make the mistake of trying to rush this out early. Were we late with Fusion? Yes, we were late." But that is preferable to releasing a poor product, he said.

With the Sun deal complete, Oracle's broader strategy involves selling customers integrated systems spanning hardware, storage, middleware and applications.

To this end, "there will be other clusters like Exadata ... coming out pretty much for all of the software we sell," Ellison said.

Oracle partnered with Hewlett-Packard on the original Exadata machine, but jumped to Sun technology for the second version, which is aimed at transaction processing as well as data warehousing.

Oracle wants to compete with IBM's "biggest, best box," Ellison said. "We're going to get better and better at large-scale transaction processing."

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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