Tough climate mars Oracle results

Oracle yesterday reported first-quarter financial results that were down in both profit and revenue terms from the same period...

Oracle yesterday reported first-quarter financial results that were down in both profit and revenue terms from the same period last year. Chief financial officer Jeff Henley blamed "the worst technology climate we've seen since 1974-1975".

Net income for the quarter was $386m (£252m) - excluding an impairment charge related to its investment in interactive TV platform provider Liberate Technologies - compared with net income of $511m (£333m) in the same quarter last year.

Including the impairment charge and using US accounting principles, Oracle's net income for the quarter came in at $343m (£224m).

Revenue from software licence sales fell by almost a quarter from the previous year to $549m (£358m). Revenue from licence updates increased by 9%, to $620m (£404m).

Larry Ellison, Oracle's chairman and chief executive, reiterated his position that Oracle is not losing market share to competitors and blamed the results on the poor economy and other factors.

However, despite the poor economy, Oracle's operating cashflow remains strong despite the poor economy, and its profitability remains high.

"We continue to believe that we should see gradual improvement on our year-on-year growth comparisons in these coming quarters, though the rate of recovery could be a bit slower than I had said a quarter ago," Henley said, adding that it was tough to predict how business will fare in the months ahead.

Henley predicted that revenue for Oracle's second quarter would probably be down by between 4% and 7% from the previous year, but better than the 10% revenue decline in the quarter just ended.

Oracle's results outside of the Americas showed "significant weakness", according to Henley. In Europe, sales were hampered by the introduction of a new compensation plan for Oracle's sales teams, which in the longer term should help the company, he said. In the Asia-Pacific region, especially Japan, business also suffered.

Asked why that might be, Ellison said Oracle sells indirectly to customers in Japan through its channel partners. "Because we're going through the channel, the downturn tends to hit us later and harder. We don't think the competitive climate has changed in Japan, it's just a general slowdown," he said.

Oracle's installed base of customers has continued to grow, helping to boost revenue from licence update rights and support services, Henley said in the statement. Revenue from product support services generated $349m (£227m) in the quarter, while consulting revenue was $432m (£281m) and education revenue came in at $63m (£41m). First-quarter operating margins fell to 29% from 33% a year earlier.

Oracle has about 200,000 database customers worldwide, and about a quarter of those have upgraded to its newest database, Oracle9i. Ellison expected half of its customers to have upgraded by the end of the year. Only about 100 customers have gone live with its Real Application Clusters software, although 1,000 customers have signed up for the product.

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