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6/19/2012
08:17 AM
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Oracle Rushes Out Q4 Results, Top Exec Departs

Oracle shares fourth quarter financial results earlier than expected, beats expectations, and quells reorganization rumors.

Oracle shared stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter and full-fiscal-year financial results Monday, an announcement made three days earlier than expected as reports of an executive shakeup were sending the company's stock price skidding.

Oracle shared its numbers in a hastily arranged conference call with financial analysts after the close of the stock market Monday. The call was originally slated for Thursday. "Since we were ready, and in an effort to permit us to speak more freely, we though you wouldn't mind if we released [our results] today," explained Oracle president Safra Catz.

The company's stock price was down as much as 58 cents Monday, but the solid numbers sent the price up 3% in afterhours trading. Oracle reported $4.0 billion in new software license revenue for the fourth fiscal quarter ended May 31, a 7% increase over the same period in 2011. Software license updates and product-support revenue increased 5% over the prior-year period to $4.2 billion.

Oracle hardware systems and hardware-related support revenue declined 14% to $1.5 billion, but hardware represents only 14% of the company's total revenue, versus 75% for software and 11% for services. Oracle is also purposely shedding its unprofitable commodity hardware business established by Sun before its acquisition in 2009.

[ Want more on Oracle's cloud computing strategy? Read Oracle Cloud Apps Unleashed: The Good, Bad, And Ugly. ]

Despite what Catz described as "a wild close cycle" tied to economic conditions in Europe and "currency headwinds" given the strength of the U.S. dollar, Oracle reported total revenue of $11 billion for the quarter, 1% ahead of the prior-year quarter and slightly above Wall Street expectations of $10.8 billion in revenue, according to Thompson Reuters.

Oracle's total software and software-related service revenue for the full fiscal year was $26.1 billion, up 9% from fiscal 2011. Total annual revenue, including hardware systems and services, was $37.1 billion, up 4% from 2011.

Several publications reported Monday that Oracle had parted ways with senior sales executive Keith Block, executive VP of Oracle's North America sales and consulting organizations. One analyst was even quoted as saying a "massive" reorganization was underway.

The stories speculated that Block may have antagonized Oracle's top brass with derogatory remarks that emerged in the California trial between Oracle and HP tied to Oracle's decision to stop making software for HP servers running Intel Itanium chips. In instant messaging shared as evidence during the trial, Block said Oracle "bought a dog" when it acquired Sun Microsystems for $7.3 billion two years ago. In another exchange, Block slighted Oracle president Mark Hurd.

Oracle did not address Block's status during the call with analysts, but the Wall Street Journal has since reported that Block is no longer with the company, citing a source close to the company.

Mark Hurd took pains during the call with analysts to portray the company's sales organization as fully prepared for fiscal year 2013.

"Just to be clear, we are not lining up our salesforce; they are already lined up," Hurd said. "This is the earliest I'm aware of that we've had territories and comp plans aligned. Everyone has a boss, a territory, and a compensation plan."

Hurd went on to say that veteran Oracle executive Joanne Olsen has been assigned to run the North American apps business and that there have been "no changes" in the hardware sales force.

Reviewing Oracle's positive news, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison noted during the call that Oracle's cloud computing business, which was formally introduced earlier this month, was already at a $1 billion run rate and second only to one company in the cloud--though he stopped short of naming Salesforce.com.

Oracle executives also took jabs at IBM, saying Oracle's software business has surpassed IBM's, and that the company expects to encroach on high-end suppliers including IBM and Teradata. "We expect our Exa-systems business to double in the current year ... and we're improving those systems at a much faster rate than, say, IBM is improving its Power systems," Ellison said.

Ellison said Oracle would exit the current year selling about the same unit volume of its Exa- line products as IBM sells in its Power server line. He also noted strong sales of the Exalytics analytic appliance, Oracle's alternative to SAP's Hana in-memory system.

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