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Oracle Sees No Slowing in Earnings, Deal Size

Oracle, the world's No. 3 software maker, said on Wednesday it is on track to meet its quarterly and long-term financial targets and that it will start shipping a new product early next year.

Oracle's headquarters in California.
AP
Oracle's headquarters in California.

Safra Catz, Oracle's president and chief financial officer, told analysts that she is standing by the financial outlook she issued in September. She had forecast that sales of new software would rise 15 to 25 percent from a year earlier during the current quarter.

She made the comment at an investor meeting in San Francisco, responding to a question by a Wall Street analyst about how confident she was in her outlook for the company, given the credit crisis shaking the rest of the market.

Earlier, Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison told thousands of customers in a packed auditorium that the software maker plans to start shipping the first in its new line of Fusion business management programs early next year.

The lead product will be a marketing tool called Sales Prospector which is based on software that Oracle acquired when it bought Siebel Systems. It will compete with products from rivals Salesforce.com , SAP and Microsoft .

Investors' concerns about the impact of the credit crisis were renewed last week when Cisco Systems said that its business was suffering as a result of "dramatic decreases" in orders from U.S. banks roiled by the home mortgage lending crisis.

Catz said that issue is old news, localized to specific banks, and that nothing in recent months has surprised her or led her to revise her outlook from September.

"There has been an issue with the banks for months, I don't know what is so surprising," she said.

Ellison said that the company's new generation of software will analyze corporate databases, identify what products customers buy, then tailor sales pitches to them.

Oracle has spent more than $20 billion acquiring makers of business management software over the past three years, the most well-known of which were PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems.

It has said it would incorporate the best programs from each company it bought into what it now calls its Fusion Applications suite.

Robert Stimson, an analyst with WR Hambrecht, said that Oracle was far ahead of schedule in delivering its first Fusion programs. Many analysts had expected the first programs to come out at the end of next year.

"The bet on Oracle's stock has always been on whether they could execute on their strategy. They are showing they can," he said.

The company promised analysts to keep bottom-line earnings per share growing at a healthy clip.

"We are going for 20 (percent). If we shoot ahead of it in any year, it is just the way it is. We are not slowing down and don't expect us to," Catz said.

Since completing its acquisition of PeopleSoft in late 2004, the company has grown earnings significantly faster than the 20 percent Ellison at that time pledged to investors.

Oracle's strategy is to sell its big corporate customers more applications and, with them, the company's underlying database platform. "Our strategy will be selling customers we already have other stuff," she declared.

"A few quarters ago I said our deals are getting chubbier. I said it exactly that way so you would remember it," Catz told analysts. "The deals continue to get chubbier."

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